The matchstick magician fuels passion

Mbaiwa uses burnt match sticks to make great artwork PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG
Mbaiwa uses burnt match sticks to make great artwork PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG

Many visual artists are always on the look out for new and creative ways to make their work more appealing and sellable. For Isaac Mbaiwa, a 34-year-old man from Senete village, collecting burnt match sticks and using them to make artwork is how everything is unfolding for him.

Mbaiwa uses PVA adhesive to attach and align the matchsticks onto a plywood board. He then uses soldering iron to draw on the board.

The artist, who also doubles as a roadside entrepreneur, told Arts & Culture that at first he used to burn wires in fire and then use them to create images on the wood.

“I am not using any pencil, I just need fire,” he highlighted. He said he usually takes three to four months to finish an artwork if he is not busy with other things.


Looking back, Mbaiwa said he was an art student at senior school, but went on to study Software Engineering and Microsoft Technology at Botho University.

He said after completing a two-year government internship programme and with the job market unable to absorb him, he decided to revisit his passion for art and make a living out of it. The artist, who completed his BGSCE in 2004, added that the inspiration behind using burnt match sticks was from a dream he had a few years ago and decided to bring it into reality.

Mbaiwa further indicated that he started by picking burnt matchsticks on the streets. “Because that was consuming a lot of my time, I started to buy matches,” he revealed.  He said he was inspired to work harder after selling his first artwork to the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport And Culture Development for P20, 000. He was then able to buy matchsticks and burnt according to his preferences. He said this type of artwork falls under crafts category and requires a lot of patience. Mbaiwa believes that the only reason he was able to endure was merely because he was passion driven.

He added that he wants to make 100 artworks and exhibit them both locally and internationally as he has now reached commercial level. Mbaiwa said because he didn’t have enough funds he decided to open a grilling business on the side also to sustain himself.

Mbaiwa noted that most of his artwork ideas are inspired by culture, therefore with every art piece he thrives to show and give people an idea of how people used to live like back in the days.

He was however quick to express disappointment over people who never own to their promises when it comes to buying his artwork.

Mbaiwa said he has always had a vision that gave him the name Incorruptible Seed Art gallery. “I would like to open an art gallery to further teach this dimension of art and craft”.

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