Durban - Two sand sculptures on Durban’s beaches depicting the Malaysian passenger planes that were lost in tragic circumstances have grabbed newspaper attention overseas.

Five hundred people perished in the two tragedies when Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean in March and MH17 was apparently shot down over Ukraine last month.

Now, the sculptures have attracted the online attention of the big circulation Daily Mail of the UK, which posted the pictures of the artwork under the headline: “Bad taste? Artists sculpt crashed Malaysia Airlines planes out of sand at popular South African beach... then charge tourists to have their photo taken with them”.

However, the sculptor, Innocent Zungu, said on Tuesday he was not charging people for viewing his work although making sand sculptures was his way of making a living. He said God had given him the talent to stay away from crime.

It took him two weeks to make the sculptures and they were not meant to offend families of the victims, he said, adding that his conscience was clear and his work did not mean he was insensitive to the tragedy.

“I first saw the planes on television when the respective disasters occurred. I saw messages of condolences from all over the world, even here in South Africa, so I thought I needed to do something.

“I then went to an internet café where I viewed the aircrafts and observed the colours of the flags,” he said.

“I then took my time to make the planes and it is touching to see people stop by making their silent prayers for the victims and their families.”

The 24-year-old from Hluhluwe in northern KwaZulu-Natal said the most generous tip he had had since creating the planes on the beachfront was R100 from a UK tourist.

“I don’t charge people to view my work. They decide what they want to give me and I’m grateful for every cent I get,” he said.

Zungu has been involved in the art for seven years now and has been doing cars and animals, including the Big Five.

A spokesman for the eThekwini Municipality, Thabo Mofokeng, said that to keep the beachfront under control, sand sculpture artists paid a fee for a permit and that municipal security monitored the area from time to time to ensure that no one worked without one.

Daily News