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Modise finds precious resource in wood

KOKETSO KGOBOGE
Modise Monyeki at work.PIC: KOKETSO KGOBOGE
PALAPYE: Modise Monyeki has been carving sculptural pieces out of wood for 16 years. He ekes his living at a quiet house, isolated in a neighbourhood where the infamous floods of 1995 swept in and residents were relocated.

Monyeki was born in Mokobeng. He did his primary and junior secondary studies in the tiny Tswapong village. After completing his Form 3, he moved to the cattlepost. He spent two years as a shepherd.

During the time he would spend some days alone at the cattlepost and boredom got the better of him. Until one day he picked a piece of wood, and started carving an image of a giraffe.

He got consumed in the art piece only to be reminded by dusk and an aching back how quickly the day had gone by. After that one piece that was far from perfect, the obsession took over.

Carving became a hobby and before he knew it, he had countless exceptional pieces. His grandmother used most of the items to decorate. She inspired him to sell some. For a tiny village, business was meagre and all he could sell were wooden spoons, pestle and mortars. Other pieces were expensive for the villagers.

In 2007, he moved to Palapye to advance sales. Instead, he got a job as a security guard and a year later he quit.  He found another at Morupule B working as a labourer during the construction phase of the plant.

He never stopped carving though; he did it at any opportune time.

In 2013, when his contract elapsed, he concentrated on his carving business and never

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looked back. Selling a single piece could cover his monthly wages and he pledged to himself he would never be employed again.

The father of three, a boy and two girls, said he had more reasons to advance his carving business. His raw materials are free, he made his own tools and his only expenses are glue, varnish and sandpaper.

He said an art piece takes him a day or two to complete. He sells from his house and at times at different events. He also sells to the hotels and the lodges in the village. He relies on word of mouth for marketing and he is satisfied with the response.

 “I put a lot of hours in my work and I love my products. I can’t even pick a favourite. 

I am always home working and people visit to buy,” he said.  “Business is pleasing, but it could be improved. I am working on improving the number of pieces and then I will find space in a busy area, probably at one of the new malls where I could sell from.”

The 35-year-old said he gets inspiration from everything that happens under the sun. Amongst his unique hand carved items are the disciples of Jesus that were inspired by drawings from the Bible, animals, figures, heads, and other contemporary images shaped by traditional forms.



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