After many years Bright Malatjie, from Pilgrim’s Rest, decided to follow his passion for art to make a living from stone sculpture. He now also has plans underway to help others to discover and make the most of any latent artistic talent which they might have.
Since the beginning of this year, stone sculptures by Malatjie have been on display at a roadside stall on the road along to the entrance to Uptown, where he also works on his trade most days of the week. “I started loving art while I was still in primary school,” said Malatjie. “In secondary school, I wanted to take it further and entered into a competition for Mpumalanga Schools.” Although the school he attended in Pilgrim’s Rest did not even offer Art as a subject he managed to take first place in the competition in both Grades 11 and 12. The prize was supposed to include a trip overseas but, to his disappointment, it was cancelled after a teacher strike.
Two years ago Malatjie watched a Zimbabwean, now his friend and mentor, doing stone carving locally. “Last year I said – Okay, let me go for what I love. I went and sat with him and asked him to give me one stone,” explained Malatjie. “I produced something and he looked at me and said – are you an artist?” On that day Malatjie’s new venture was launched with the help of his new friend who tutored him in the use of the special handmade tools and various techniques. He is now working on a project to help other potential young artists to discover their talents and get the mentorship they need. “You might not know that you are an artist – until you try it!” he emphasised.
Fortunately, Malatjie’s other skill as a gold panner has made up over the years for the overseas trip he missed out on as a scholar. To date he has won five trips overseas to compete in International Gold Panning Championships, the latest being to Scotland in 2017.