The craft of survival in South Africa

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28-year-old Luckias Danford shows off his art made out of recycled materials on Saturday, hoping to make a couple of sales from the street corner they occupy in Groenkloof, Pretoria to buy food for him and his six brothers. Photo: Anlerie de Wet

Occupying the corner of Florence Ribeiro Avenue and Middel Street, Pretoria are a group of seven Zambian brothers. They have been coming to this corner every day for the last five years. Not to beg or ‘steal’ jobs, but to run a recycling arts and crafts business.

The eldest brother, Jack Danford said he started the business in Johannesburg 15 years ago, but found Pretoria to be a better market with less competition.

“There are more tourists here in South Africa that appreciate our art and won’t find it in their home country, where in Zambia there are many who make a living from the same business.”

As the years went by he got his brothers into the country one-by-one and taught them the skills of his crafting as it became more difficult for him to be the only bread winner in the family.

Selling their art pieces is their only form of income. If they don’t work every day they don’t eat and neither does their family back home.

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The Danford brothers started using beads with their art in 2007 and it is the only element of their work that they have to buy. Photo: Anlerie de Wet

The youngest brother, Luckias Danford started working for the family business since he was 11. “I always admired my older brothers while making the crafts. I wanted to be like them and make beautiful things out of other people’s rubbish.”

The Danford brothers started by making wire cars. Slowly they became more creative and skilled by making vintage wire cars with tin cans used to give it colour. Now they make flowers, animals and massive wire art pieces in any shape and form their customers’ desire.

Although businesses in the suburban Groenkloof area know the family and tend to help them with storing their crafts, people from outside the area tend to give them a hard time.

“They don’t trust us. They think we will steal their money and they are rude to us,” said Jack.

But yet all the brothers are humble and share a passion for their work.

“Yes, we have to do this to survive, but I want to do it. It’s something I do from the heart,” said Luckias.

Pitched & Unpublished: 4 October 2015.

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