Unique art relies on cow horns

UNIQUE: Bonginkosi Tshabalala. 19/05/09. © Sowetan.
UNIQUE: Bonginkosi Tshabalala. 19/05/09. © Sowetan.

Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

Bonginkosi Tshabalala is creating beautiful gold and silver jewellery adorned, uniquely, with discarded cow horns.

His jewellery ranges from earrings to neckpieces and finger rings.

He has been in the industry for nine years.

Tshabalala, a qualified jeweller, is a junior lecturer in jewellery design and manufacture at the Durban University of Technolog - his alma mater.

"My jewellery is unique in that it has a contemporary South Africa edge to it if compared with commercial jewellery that all looks the same," Tshabalala says.

"I combine my goldsmith's technique with other objects to create jewellery," says the artist. who was born in Jabulani, Soweto, and now lives in KwaZulu-Natal.

Tshabalala says his interest in cow horns began in 2000 when he was doing his second-year artist's project.

He was given the task of findinga local artist and learning more about the work he was doing. If he liked it he had to apply it in creating a piece of jewellery.

He visited a local traditional healer and discovered that the man used cow horns to make medicine containers.

Impressed, he applied this to his jewellery and it worked perfectly for him.

He is still working to improve his jewellery and introducing new features to make it more beautiful.

His one concern is that it is very difficult to source cow horn because of African beliefs. He says most South African tribes slaughter cows for rituals and celebrations attached to the ancestors.

"Once the beast has been slaughtered, its horns are placed on the roof above the door and this acts as a signal to the ancestors that the sacrifice has taken place," he says.