A metal artist’s steely determination welds a future from scrap
The only thing more creative than Pilato Bulala’s inventions is how he describes them. His yellow aircraft? It’s a scrapture – a word Bulala coined for his impressive sculptures made from scrap material. The impressive model, built from zinc sheets and wire mesh, is just a taste of this artist’s repertoire. In the village of Tshivhuyuni in Limpopo, Bulala has established a reputation for his creativity despite his limited resources and visual impairment. The maroon bakkie in his yard bears his mantra in bold painted letters – NEVER GIVE UP.
The wire cars Bulala played with as a young boy inspired him to start crafting. He later embarked on his career using recycled metal and cables to make art – without any electricity or power tools. But in 2010, Bulala damaged his left eye while collecting firewood. He refused to be set back by the accident. “Nothing will stop me,” Bulala says. “Not even losing sight.” With the support of sponsors, he’s since attended workshops on welding and jewellery-making. With earrings made from cans and life-size sculptures of cars, Bulela empowers himself.
In his informal home gallery, Bulala’s pieces range from depictions of rural life to South African politics. He’s recreated the iconic figure of Hector Pieterson lying in a fellow student’s arms, using bolts, wire, and bits of metal. It’s a reminder of the struggle of our country’s youth. Thanks to young innovators like Bulala, their dreams for a better future won’t go to waste. Today, the artist’s work is a prominent feature of the Ribola Art Route. “My goal is to be known all over the country,” Bulala says. “Dreaming big keeps me going.”