Text adapted from correspondence between Creina Alcock and Julia Meintjes, 2011.

Fiyani John ‘Johanni’ Masondo

Born in 1965, Fiyani John Masondo, who signs as Johanni, has spent most of his life as a farm labourer, picking up skills that are never put to use, although they would make an impressive CV. Farm labourers, of course, don’t get to have CVs. They have a temporary existence, based on temporary jobs, with long spells of nothing in between.

Two of Fiyani’s employers were murdered – which meant the end of work. Other jobs were seasonal or affected by the market slump. He’s not a talkative person, so one has to work alongside him, digging in a field, to discover the wide range of knowledge he has acquired about farming. His experience has been diverse and practical. He’s learnt and observed – and lost another job.
In 1999, during another spell of unemployment, Fiyani signed on for temporary work with a poverty relief programme, clearing land for the plough. When that work came to an end, he joined a copper wire class, sitting with twelve-year-olds and learning from the beginning.

It wasn’t easy for a man with such a strong sense of manhood. He is independent, stubborn, slow, and methodical – and he faltered learning to bead (traditionally seen as a woman’s activity). He would come into his own with the use of brass beads on copper baskets for metal is perceived as a male element. Fiyani was comfortable with brass, a ‘male’ decoration – heavy and assertive, forged out of rock.

Necessity has made him come to terms with glass beads, and his skilled coloured beading has drawn admiration from the women. But that’s a necessity. His real love is metal – and his best work is metal with no beading at all.

Text adapted from correspondence between Creina Alcock and Julia Meintjes, 2011.

Nozi Ntshaba

Born in 1944, Nozi Ntshaba has a slow way about her and pays much attention to simple questions, thinking them out, making them profound with her replies, and although she registers everything that happens around her, she inhabits a space of her own.

Her life hasn’t been easy. After her husband, Ngqubezakhe Dladla, abandoned her with a small daughter, and their co-wife, Nozi Ntshaba struggled to make ends meet. Today she lives in a communal Zulu homestead in the company of children and other Dladla wives. It’s a protected environment, and she is happy, although her pace hasn’t changed, nor her manner. She is a productive gardener, and over 40 years after she started doing crafts, she is still doing perfect work. Her output is small, and she has never met a deadline, but there is always a demand for quality, so she is allowed to work by different rules.

Text adapted from correspondence between the Mdukatshani Trust and JMFA, 2021.