Many artists spend days alone toiling in patience and determination for they believe in the worth of their craftsmanship. This is also the case in many rural areas in South Africa where many of the artists still struggle to make their art viable due to lack of market.

Pilato Bulala is one such artist – he is talented, but his art-crafts remain hidden in his gallery at Zama-Zama section of Tshivhuyuni village, Limpopo.

Bulala collects discarded cans, iron and other related debris and fashions them into art pieces which art lovers to his studio from different corners of the world have appreciated. Through the years, he has had visitors from Germany, England, Holland and most African countries who have all admired and bought some of his work.

A recent visit to his home-based gallery by international art lovers from Holland revived his faith that he was not only creating his work to gather dust in his gallery. The visit was arranged by Madi a Thavha, a hub of promotion for Vhembe District’s artists, and it brought a group of visitors from Holland to his studio and gallery.

“Pilato is a highly talented and skilful artist whose art is rooted in the context of post-Apartheid and new Africa,” said Alex Theunissen.

“It’s not easy to ignore an artist of his calibre. His art is unique in a way that – while every piece is rooted to a story – it has an international appeal.”

Theunissen said that if Bulala was to be given a space to exhibit his art during any of international galleries, he would immediately gain international stardom.

“But it has to begin at home; people from his area need to appreciate his art as well, because this man is a rare talent. While we will spread the word about him in Holland and try and see if we will manage to secure some exhibition spaces from him in Holland, we urge him never to lose hope in what he is doing. His art pieces are excellent and unique.”

Pilato was excited about the recent foreign visitors.

“I am happy that a group of art lovers have visited me and I am enjoying a good time with them. People from overseas always visit me. Some of them buy my art pieces but they cannot do so in large numbers because they are mostly made from iron material which I collect from the scrapyards – it’s heavy.”

When Pilato started off as an artist, he had no space to store and exhibit his artefacts and figurines. However, he had a sister who let him use the front side of her yard as a display area. Even today, Pilato does not have electricity at his new home.

“I strongly believed that my world would soon open up and more people would stream into my gallery to view and buy my artefacts and figurines.”

According to Madi a Thavha, Piplato had coined a word ‘scraptures,’ because most of his work is made from scrap metal and iron which he collects by the roadsides, scrapyards and the bushes.

Madi a Thavha’s managing director, Marcelle Bosch, has this to say about Pilato: “We have been supporting this determined young man with training and marketing ever since. He has been to several of Madi a Thavha’s exhibitions and workshops where he learned to weld, how to make tin jewellery and got some exposure to national and international craft markets. He recently went to a couple of trade and tourist shows in Johannesburg too.”

One other thing that is important about this artist is that he is able to express himself in an amazing way when he speaks about his art and ‘scraptures’. He becomes very enthusiastic when he welcomes visitors to his mud-brick rondavel gallery, describing every ‘scrapture’ and the social history behind it.

Bulala can be phoned on 072 343 1202.


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