For the art of wood sculpture to be passed on to future generations, trees had to be replenished.
This was the lesson sculptor Meshack Raphalalani – who scooped the top prize at the national leg of the World Wood Day Foundation competition last week – sought to share through his sculpture.
The foundation aims to raise public awareness of wood as an eco-friendly material and encourage research and res-ponsible wood use for a sustainable future.
“(We want) to manage funds and grants for World Wood Day (celebrated annually on March 21) and global research, education and promotion of wood culture,” the organisation, affiliated with the International Wood Culture Society, said.
Raphalalani said: “My carving shows a man with a plank (or piece of wood) on his one shoulder and a tree seedling in his other hand. It is supposed to show that, if you use something, you must put it back, so that your children can use the same things and create the same art,” said the 65-year-old Tshakhuma, Limpopo, man.
He said his clan, the Mbedzi (Hungwe), were canoe makers.
“So this thing is in my blood. These canoes were used to paddle through the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers and into the Vhimbi (Indian Ocean). My people would trade with other tribes,” he said.
His early clansmen made and sold artefacts manufactured from gold, copper and elephant tusks.
The raw materials were processed at Mapungubwe and they traded the finished products at Sofala at Humubvumo.
“You have heard of that golden rhino (found in Mapungubwe)? That was a teaching aid for young boys from my people. The rhino horn is symbolic of fertility.”
According to his online Gallery 181 – an art gallery in his home province – Raphalalani, who trained as a teacher, uses mostly dry, hard wood as a medium.
“In general, his art was … influenced by this exposure to the works of artists such as Michelangelo, Vincent van Gogh and by South African sculptors, Michael Zondi and Nelson Mukhuba… His dream is to see his work cast in bronze.”