We hear about painters and graphic designers, filmmakers and poets, but every now and then we come across an artist who has chosen an unorthodox way to express their creativity. Sibhekile Ndlangisa – jewellery manufacturer and entrepreneur – is one of those artists. We caught up with him at his studio, Sibhekile Jewellers, in Durban’s Station Drive precinct to find out what makes him tick.
Hi Sibhekile. Thanks for chatting to us! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I grew up in a village in the Drakensberg, just outside of Bergville. I didn’t really know much about jewellery – as you can imagine, jewellery in the village is a distant thing – but I was always interested in making things with my hands; art in particular. My grandmother was an artist and I used to make models of the Big 5 with clay from the river, but I didn’t want to go into a traditional type of art like painting or sculpting.
After matric, I went to DUT but I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I went to the Faculty of Art at City Campus. I went to the studio and they showed me all these jewellery catalogues and I thought it was fascinating. I knew that if someone showed me how to make these pieces, I’d remember it. I fell in love with jewellery manufacturing there and then, and never looked back.
You’ve come so far in 5 years. From graduating DUT to running your own business in Durban’s Station Drive with two interns under your wing.Tell us, what motivates you?
I think it’s the love of the art itself. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you don’t even realise the sacrifices that you are making. I just try to enjoy myself and my work, and keep moving forward. From visualising a new piece, transferring it onto paper, solving challenges to creating the finished product – it’s all about the journey. For me, the joy that comes from that journey.
We can tell that you’re the type of guy who is always looking to take your work to the next level. What goals do you have for the future of Sibhekile Jewellers?
At the moment it’s about refining my art to take my work further. Last year I started Sibhekile’s Jewellery School with the help of the Department of Arts and Culture. Twice a year, I close my business to offer a two-week intensive jewellery making training course in townships around KZN. I hope to take it a bit further and have the school in-house where I can offer more formal learnerships.
Wow! So not only are you running a business, but you’re doing outreach work at the same time. That must have its challenges?
Funding is a challenge. Banks are not interested in funding artists. In KZN we don’t have funders for learnerships. In Joburg, Free State and even Limpopo, the mines fund learneships. In KZN, we don’t have that. The only way for someone to train in jewellery making is through the university. It’s a long, difficult route and it’s expensive. There are too many stumbling blocks for young artists.
So jewellery manufacturing is obviously a tough industry to get into. What advice do you have for aspiring jewellery manufacturers who are looking to make it in your field?
Jewellery manufacturing is art. You need to love what you do and be passionate about it. Everything else just falls into place. You need to work hard and you need to believe in what you do. The love that you put in will come through in your work and the results will follow.
Sibhekile, it’s been an honour. Just one last question: What is an iKasi Original to you?
From where I’m standing, it sounds like a movement of young people who want to make things work. They want to make things move. They want to take things into their own hands. They want to make a stand. I love the idea. It’s young people who, irrespective of your background or where you come from, just want to take action about your future. It’s passion, love, fire! It’s a movement that I want to be part of.