OPPORTUNITY THROUGH ART
By: Nomtsikelelo Mthabela
Like many South African townships, Stanger in KwaZulu-Natal is plagued by crime, violence and unemployment.
But despite all the challenges that this township faces, the youth are proving that you can look beyond your circumstances by starting small, whilst dreaming big.
Phumlani Mkhize is one young man who was driven to succeed from a young age. At the age of 9 he started showing a keen interest in art, visiting galleries almost every weekend.
“Art for me is more than just creating a beautiful portrait. It’s about expressing myself and telling a story that people can also relate to so that they can understand me better and the work that I do as an artist,” said Mkhize.
Growing up in a community where poverty was prevalent, his family did not understand his love and passion for art. They did not support it as they were worried about how he was going to make a living for himself.
“I don’t see myself as a failure for leaving engineering. What I see is a young dreamer who had a better vision for his future and wanted to own his identity by being unique,” said Mkhize.
This marked the beginning of a fruitful journey. Mkhize enrolled to study fine art at the Durban University of Technology and specialized in wood carving and sculptures. Apart from studying, he saw a gap in the market for jewellery designing and started to make and design jewellery pieces and sell them to students on campus who were not able to afford the expensive earrings and neck pieces that retail stores sold.
His business soon became an instant hit and the demand grew, which resulted in him gaining recognition from gallery owners such as the late Micheal Zulu, who sharpened and honed his entrepreneurial skills.
He uses items that one would normally throw away without even thinking twice, like bottle caps, plastic and old broken zips. His earring prices range between R10 to R25 a pair.
“I want to supply my jewellery line to large retail stores like Woolworths, Legit and Mr. Price and also open my own art gallery and share my wealth of knowledge with up and coming artists,” said Mkhize.
He has showcased his work at the Sustainable Living Exhibition for the past three years and has also been featured in various publications. His work has also attracted international art lovers.
This is definitely a man that’s on a mission, proving that perseverance gives birth to success.