There are few things that can lay claim to being truly and uniquely South African. Wire art, the sculpting, and crafting of works of art using wire, beads, tin cans and other recycled goods as a medium is one of those things.
No-one is exactly certain how wire art came about. The most likely origins of this art-form are the tranquil hills of Maputoland and Zululand in rural Northern KwaZulu-Natal, in the North-East corner of South Africa. For many years, due to a lack of resources to buy proper toys, the young herd boys of these regions have been fashioning their own out of discarded coat hanger wire, tin cans and whatever else they can get their hands on.
Today, this genre is a thriving and legitimate art form in its own right, with many ‘wiremasters’ supporting their families by selling their creations on street corners, at craft markets, in shops and selected art galleries. Products range from working wire radios in a number of shapes and sizes to CD stands, key rings, wire picture frames, baskets, vases, wine racks, egg cups and beaded sculptures. In fact, the scope and range of wire art products are almost limitless. A common thread running through all these creations, and one which sets them apart from most other art forms, is the fact that the majority of wire art is designed not only with ornamental value in mind but also to be functional in one way or another. These are genuine, original handcrafted examples of African art that not only look great but often also serve a purpose in the home or office.