Passionate and hardworking rural inventor

Pilato Bulala

One crisp day in 2014, a canary yellow ‘fly-machini’ with peppermint green dots rose out of the dust at Tshivuyuni village in Limpopo. This aircraft is made of scrap zinc, flies the South African flag, has controls and sits on a dilapidated bicycle frame.

You see, I make many things

The young creator, Pilato Bulala, has only one eye that can see, “but” he says, “you can see, I make many things, no problem”. This young man is the quintessential inventor. “Look,” he says, and climbs into a red-oxide zinc-bakkie, a Toyota-Volkswagen-hybrid sporting a Gauteng number plate, “I made this car in 2010.When I find an engine, I will drive around and fetch wood for my mother”.

What happened to your one eye Pilato, I asked? “We don’t have a stove in our house,” he explains, “in 2010 I went to the bush to get firewood. I fell while carrying it and a sharp piece pierced my eye. Now this eye can see only light”.

That was in 2014 and this is how we discovered Pilato Bulala

We have been supporting this determined young man with training and marketing ever since. He has been to several of Madi a Thavha’s exhibitions and workshops where he learned to weld, how to make tin-jewelry and got some exposure to national and international craft-markets. He has recently been to a couple of trade and tourist shows in Johannesburg too.

He coined the word ‘scrapture’ and is now building his own small, rural gallery

Pilato finished school in 2017. He has since coined the word “scraptures” and have started to build his own house and rural gallery in the village Dzamadzama, a few hundred meters from where the gallery of the famous, late sculptor John Baloyi used to be.

In this small thatched hut, he displays his scraptures of birds, fishes, animals, rural-women telling stories of traditional life and modern problems or characters commenting on life in South Africa, like his recent “Winnie resisting Dompas’ piece. Everybody likes his funky tin earrings and necklaces made from recycled beer cans.

A shining jewel

The Toyota-VW hybrid is now parked in the front-garden, on it he has written; “Never give up!” a fitting description of the untiring, persistent spirit that makes him one of the shining jewels of Limpopo. Despite many hardships he keeps up, always with an open, friendly smile.

My mother, my rock

Pilato started off having no power tools or electricity. Every detail of the fly-machini and hybrid bakkie was made with zinc and wire after school hours. He displayed his scraptures at his sister’s house on the roadside close to renowned artists Thomas Kubayi in Tshivhuyuni at first. He lived with his mother Agnes at the time, a beautiful, strong rural woman with a big, warm heart, who is his rock and most ardent supporter. She still decorates his stands’ traditional mud-floors with natural oxides and cow dung and still grow mealies and pumpkins in his garden up to this day.

The groovy Ribola art route signboards – made by Pilato too

In 2017 the Ribola art route management team commissioned him to make the signboards along the rural roads to indicate places of interest in this part of the world. With the profit of this project he bought a smartphone, learned to use Facebook and started building his small gallery in Dzamadzama, now a favorite stop for guests on our lifestyle tours through rural Limpopo.

As for the fly-machini

Well, it now sits on display between the art-works of renowned Limpopo artists at Madi a Thavha mountain lodge as a constant reminder to all of us to follow our dreams like Pilato, and to not even let the sky be our limit!

Contact details

  • Pilato Bulala (born 1995)
  • Phone nr: 072 343 1202 on Whatsapp and Facebook
  • Now in Dzamadzama village -500m from well known late artist John Baloyi’s former art centre, Limpopo province.