When Masuwe Lodge opens in May, our central living area will be graced with a wonderful recycled tin ‘chandelier’ made by local craftsman Gift Sithole. Amidst the chaos of building, perched on timbers destined for decks, Gift and I sat and chatted about his craft and his family.
Gift is a Vic Falls local and the oldest of three boys all of whom have carved a career in the arts – he tells me it’s in their genes as his mother is an artist and his father … well, his father practiced the age-old art of fortune telling!
Like many African boys Gift grew up making toy cars out of tin and wire, he would spend hours on the details and his friends were often envious. Unlike most boys however, Gift decided to turn his self-taught passion into a career and he now has a home studio and a shop at Elephant’s Walk Shopping and Artists Village. With many years of experience, Gift has honed his skill and these days he takes rolls of wire, strings of beads, precious gemstones and shapes them into beautiful jewellery, objects for the home and some whimsical pieces too.
Masuwe Lodge commissioned Gift to make something special for our main lodge and he has been working on it for a few weeks now. Our chandelier is made out of perfumed body-spray cans, about 2500 of them have been recycled into a 2 x 3 metre (approx. 6ft x 10 ft) drop. Gift has a couple of craftsmen working with him and while we chat the production line comprises – Gift working the tin snips, Kayata punching holes and Sipho wiring it up.
Our chandelier provided quite a bit of work for the team, but there are other people behind the scenes too. When we asked Gift to design something unique he put a call out to a network of guys around town who collect up the cans. Anything aluminium is good to work with as it doesn’t rust and Gift assures us it has a long life. Gift chose the body-spray cans for us so we have silver, gold, orange, red and pink highlights and they look fantastic and make a wonderful tinkling sound when the wind blows.
Back in town I stopped by Elephant’s Walk to check out Gift’s shop; his work is very much inspired by nature whether it be a beautiful gem stone with copper from the earth or the shape of a bird or a baobab tree. Remarkably our tin chandelier is not Gift’s biggest creation. With Gift as lead sculpture, he and fellow artists created Twalumba the tin rhino in just 6 days. Twalumba was made from tin cans (with a horn of recycled snare wire) for the Harare International Festival of Arts back in 2013. These days Twalumba stands outside the Artists village welcoming visitors; she is a symbol of environmental hope and resistance. Her name means thank you in Tonga.
If you are keen to meet Gift, your Masuwe guide will be happy to stop by the Elephant’s Walk as you tour the town. If you are keen to learn his craft then Gift is happy to host workshops either in town or at Masuwe (please pre-book) and he promises he will have you whipping up your own tin art to take home … an amazing memento of your time in Victoria Falls.