Making objects of beauty from waste

Webster Chikazunga.

Webster Chikazunga is a wire artist from Joe Slovo who has big dreams of opening his own non-profit organisation one day.

The 33-year-old Zimbabwean-born artist makes animals and other ornaments using wire, cans and a bunch of other recyclable materials. He and five partners work from his small home in Joe Slovo where they turn things people throw away into objects of beauty.

“I grew up in Zimbabwe and resources were very limited. My friends and I would always make toy cars using wires but, of course, we were not that good then. What started as a childhood hobby has now become my only source of income. I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years now,” he says.

Webster believes that through his art, he is, in his own way, doing his bit to save the planet.

“What I am most proud of in what I do is that we use materials that people would often discard. In a way, we are cleaning the environment around us and also creating something beautiful.”

He says he loves what he does, but it’s hard earning a living as a wire artist: some of his pieces can take up a lot of his time and need materials he has to buy. He lives with his father whom he supports with the money he makes from his wire art.

He wants to teach his skills to the youth of Joe Slovo and Phoenix, and he says there’s a need in the area for a place where local artists can exhibit their work.

“My dream is that one day there can be like a container or a community centre that focuses on showcasing people’s artistic talents, maybe like they do at Guga S’thebe Arts and Culture Centre in Langa.

“The youth in the area get into very bad things like drugs and crime, and I think this would be a great way for them to stay out of trouble and learn a skill. This is something that they can be proud of.”

Webster wanted to speak to mayor Patricia de Lille about his plans when she visited Joe Slovo last week, but he says he was unable to do so because of her security detail.

“I made her this,” he says, holding up a small wire rhino with the initials MD (Mayor De Lille) on it. “I wanted to show her the work we do here and what beauty can come out of the rubbish we throw away. This is my dream and I hope one day, someone can take a chance on this and see how it will benefit the community.”