A day full canary yellow aircraft with peppermint green dots

A day full canary yellow aircraft with peppermint green dots

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Rural doctors and taxis and buses and art lovers drive this dust road to Tshivhuyuni frequently. One always find children stringing back and forth to school, women swinging gracefully under heavy loads of firewood or washing on their heads, drive slower at a certain stretch to avoid the Nguni cattle taking their afternoon nap in the middle of the road. That is all to be expected. Until one day when a canary yellow one-man aircraft with peppermint green dots rise out of the settling dust. You stop and let the 19 year old Pilato Bulala usher you in.

“I will fly over those trees there,” he shows me the open veld. “I won’t fly there where the electric cables and wires will catch me,” he explains. The aircraft is made out of scrap zink. It flies the South African flag, has controls and sits on a dilapidated bicycle frame.

This school boy is the quintessential inventor. “Look,” he says and climbs into a red oxide zinc- bakkie, a Toyota from the front and a Volkswagen from the back. It has a Gauteng number plate, not from here. “I made this car in 2010. Now I am looking for a brush cutter engine for the airplane and bakkie, then I will drive around here and fetch wood. This fish there,” he points to the large sharp toothed creature, “I made it for the Police. They made a movie which had to show a dangerous fish”. It is all very clear.

No tools nor electricity

Pilato has neither power tools nor electricity. Every detail is made with zinc and wire. He displays his items on a raised plot on the roadside between artists Thomas Kubayi and Justice Mugwena at his sister Roselyn’s house. He used to live with his mother Agnes Radzengani Rasengani who works for Akanani Rural Development project but “no one drives on that road”. He wished for people to see his inventions. That is why, one day, he brought all these to Roselyn’s house. There is also a zinc cow a crocodile and small helicopter he made appear from the roof.

You see I make many things

Pilato goes to a secondary school behind his sister’s house. He doesn’t take science. What happened to your one eye Pilato, I asked? “We don’t have a stove in our house. In 2010 I went to the bush to get firewood. I tore one piece of wood and carried it home. It was sharp, I fell and the piece of wood pierced my eye. When I got home they called the ambulance. I went to hospital. I didn’t know what was going on. Now the eye can see only light, but I am good now, it is not a problem, you see I make many things, it is not a problem at all”.

That afternoon the sun slipped like a red lead ball behind the blue mountains. I went home with a new sense of humanness.

Always on the look-out for engins

Since that day Pilato has attended a week-end workshop at Thomas Kubayi’s Vutsila Art Centre and has spend a few days at Madi a Thavha mountain lodge where he made many more fishes and earrings and children’s toys, while always on the look-out for engines for his plane and car.


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