Sculptor, Ezerael Tavhana works from a home-workshop where he lives in the Nzhelele valley in Venda in the far North of South Africa. Dzanani is his closest town with an internet-shop. The Nzhelele valley cuts through mountainous communal land of rural Venda. Here, the community’s goats and Nguni cattle still graze on street shoulders.
Sculptures emerge from the wood
Ezerael sculpts the wood of indigenous trees that has been ‘dried and treated by the sun and the rain”. He is fond of working with Kiaat or Wild Olive, wood he can get in his immediate environment. “I do not have a car but go to the field with my chainsaw and select cartable pieces from dead trees. I then carry them on my shoulders to the workshop . Although I occasionally use natural stains on my sculptures, I prefer to leave the wood to speak for itself,” explains Ezerael. “I can walk with an idea or message in my head for weeks before I touch a particular piece of wood. When I have a clear picture in my head, the sculptures rapidly emerge from the wood”.
Ezerael was a student of his father, the late and well-known sculptor, Paul Tavhana who passed away in 2010 at the age of 85. He is the only of Paul’s eight children who followed the footsteps of his father. He is a member of an artist Co-op that Paul started, but is now the only active member left. Ezerael has been a dedicated artist his whole adult life. He basically works in isolation and from his perspectives on this part of the world. “Everything I know of woodcarving and storytelling I have learned from him,” he says.
My father told me stories
“My father used to tell me stories every evening, that made me fall in love with arts and crafts and story telling. Through art, music and carving it is easy for me to tell stories. I now do both music and carving for a living.” Ezerael takes part in gospel music activities in his community and also like the traditional art of story telling through songs.
He makes wooden sculptures, some larger-than-life angels and fishes, and functional art out of indigenous wood found in the Nzhelele valley and surrounding Soutpansberg mountains.
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