Meet the artists

Meet Thembeni Mkhize

THEMBENI MKHIZE, or "MaMkhize" (a term of respect given to her as an elder), is an individual artist who works with Loving Africa, creating handmade figures in her very unique style using wire, fabric and beads. Her meticulously sewn mermaid figures first drew us to her -- below she elaborates on the creative process involved in making them. MaMkhize lives near Durban, where she was discovered by our Local Art Researcher, Mzwakhe Mbuyazi. Her interview, conducted by Mzwakhe, follows.

PLACE OF BIRTH: Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa

Could you describe your art-work? I work with fabric and beads, or sometimes just beads. I enjoy mostly creating human figures or animals using a combination of wire, fabric and beads. The theme of my art-work is mostly traditional.

How did you decide to become an artist? I got married to my late husband after his former wife had passed away and left him with three children. My late husband then went to the Big city of Durban to find employment. I was suddenly left with three children of his late wife and two of my own to look after. My husband disappeared and he did not come home for years. He only came back when he was sick and immediately passed away. I had to make ends meet for these children. It was then that I joined a local community art skills training centre. I learned to work with beads as well as clay. I was able to sell my art work and provide for these children.

What inspired you to choose your design? I don’t think I chose the art that I design, but I think it’s the art that chose me. I say this because I have been fortunate enough to be able to have encounters as well as experiences that I consider to be rather not familiar to other artists. I am able to see some of my creations in my dreams.

What do you like about the art that you do? My art is simply unique. It takes time and dedication to make but in the end its rewarding enough to know that no one create the same art as me, because I did not copy it from someone else, but I seeit my dream and start creating it.

STORY OF THE MERMAID ARTWORK

What is the story behind the mermaid? To cut the long story short, this took place when I was a teenager. I was walking along the beach when I saw a human like figure along the coast of the sea. It was a young women seating next to the rocks in the sea. I could only see her top half. I could not seek from her abdomen downwards. She waved at me as if she was calling me to come closer. At first I though it was a young lady who had been robbed, as she appeared to be half naked. I wanted to go and give her the towel that I had with me so that she could cover herself. But as I got closer. I realized that she had no legs. I could not get closer to her as I was then terrified. I ran away in fear.

Thereafter, I would have dreams about this lady and she would be having conversations with me. In fact I still have these conversations with her in my dreams.

Before I make any order of the mermaid I go to the sea to ask for her permission to create her image. Sometimes she grants me permission, but sometimes she refuses. In the past few years I have learned to judge if she agrees or if she refuses. I judge this by the response of the sea at that particular moment.

Is there anyone to whom you are teaching artistic skill you have? I have tried to teach other people, but they never seem to get this type of art correct.

Is there anyone that you are looking after through your art? I have managed to put my two children through school. One of these children is now doing her final year at the University of Cape Town.

Do you complete all of your work on your own, or do you have assistance? At this stage I complete all my artwork.

Are there new designs that you are interested in creating in the future, or new materials with which you want to work? At the moment this is what I am comfortable with, but as I believe that I am guided by my ancestors, I may be guided to create more material in the future.

Meet Maxmore Murwira

MAXMORE MURWIRA is one of the few male artists who works with Loving Africa, working in the bead & wire medium. Max is based in Durban, where he was discovered by our Local Art Researcher, Mzwakhe Mbuyazi. His interview, conducted by Mzwakhe, follows.

BORN: 15 January 1970

PLACE OF BIRTH: ZIMBABWE

How did you decide to become an artist? I have always been involved in art, in one way or another, but I concentrated more on my art-work when I arrived in South Africa 8 years ago as it would become my bread and butter.

What inspired you to choose your design? If you are an artist you have to always improve on your art. When I first started creating art, I used to only work with wire. I did not use beads, but as time changes, an artist needs to become more inspired and inspire more people through the art. I discovered that adding beads to my art-work brings more meaning to the art and I am able to express myself even more clearer using colours.

When you think of your childhood, what do you remember the most? As a child I always enjoyed creating my own toys with wire. These toys were in the form of cars and/or trucks. We used to have competitions to see who would have the most beautiful creation. That used to be my idea of fun.

What were your hopes and dreams for the future when you were young? As any other child I used to dream of becoming a driver or a pilot, but when I completed school reality took charge. I worked for a textile company where I was responsible for designing fabric (Java fabric).

What are your hopes and dreams now? I have always worked hard to make sure that my art is different to any other that is sold elsewhere to the tourist. I would like to have my work sold all around the globe and have no limitations. I would also like to get more work or orders from around the world. I know that if I can achieve that, then I would be able to create more jobs for other artists or other young people who wish to become artists.

Is there anyone to whom you are teaching artistic skill you have? For the last 8 years I have taught my skills to over 15 people. These people are now independent artists like myself. I am currently training 5 people.

Is there anyone that you are looking after through your art? I am the main source of income in my family, and through my art, I support 11 members of my family (back at Zimbabwe) which include my parents, brothers and sisters and my three children.

Do you complete all of your work on your own, or do you have assistance? I am currently assisted by my five assistants whom I am also still training. I also rely on them when we get big orders from some of the South African chain stores. During this period we work on collaboration and I supervise the art-work on quality after it has been completed.

Are there new designs that you are interested in creating in the future, or new materials with which you want to work? Any designs that I make for now will always be of wire or wire and beads. The reason for this is because I can create anything with wire and beads and there are no limits to what I can create. If it is imaginable then I can definitely create it.

Meet Wired Women

Art Aids Art announces the founding of a Wired Women, collective of talented bead & wire artists from Lwandle. As part of our mission to support underrepresented artists, Art Aids Art sponsored this group of women filled with talent, skills and ambition, but lacking a name, studio or marketing outlet. With the help of a micro-business loan to provide tools and materials, and assistance in locating a safe, comfortable workspace, Wired Women began operations in the Lwandle Arts & Crafts Centre, near Cape Town, in August, 2006. Art Aids Art also assisted in the development of a name and logo, and has begun marketing Wired Women products. The first item sold within days and a major order from Australia was shipped just weeks later. Special thanks to Nadeem Davids, Art Aids Art's Public Relations Director in Cape Town, for his effective networking to make this possible. And congratulations to Nozabalise, Sindiswa, Nontando, Tembeka and Nomthandazo – the Wired Women!