Sakumzi and Msindisi Nyendwana: painting a brighter future on the walls of Motherwell

by Kelly Macbeth Mackay

“I want to inspire anyone reading this article not to lose hope. I am who I am because of hope, love and passion” – Sakumzi Nyendwana

Creative expression is a fundamental human need, yet art supplies and funding is a privilege that can be taken for granted. Imagine if the tools you use as a creative outlet were stolen from you. What measures would you take to get them back?

Sakumzi and Msindisi Nyendwana, brothers born in the Motherwell Township in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, watched funding donated by an international donor to build an art centre in Motherwell be absorbed by greed and money laundering in their community.

Their response? Create their own home into a gallery for their community and open it to travellers from all over the world. They moved their personal belongings into one shared bedroom and used their main living space to showcase their artworks to inspire the community themselves.

As my sister and I sat listening deeply to the explanations of each intricately detailed piece – art which both embraced South Africa’s challenging past and empowered its future- we absorbed the stories of pride and strength explained for each piece, both sat entirely in awe of the creative precision yet the breadth of passionate expression these brothers demonstrated within their work.

“We openly welcome any support that can add value to the success of our community development work. We want to put Motherwell on a world map in terms of attractions and beauty, and the tool we trust is art” – Sakumzi Nyendwana

Their dedication to bettering their community is something everyone should be devoted to. If we all adopted this mentality then not only would we live in a sustainable world, but we would share the collective ambition of simply doing better.

I spoke with Sakumzi directly about how he started and where Hand-in-Hand Visual Arts Studio is today.

When did you and your brother start Hand in Hand Studio?
I started the love of art in 1994 at grade3 in primary school and continued in high school but couldn’t progress because there were no art classes/subjects at school. But I didn’t lose hope and continued making bucks out of signage because I was unemployed, so to further my skill I joined an art culture organisation called Arp which was funded by an international donor to uplift potential talent, but I couldn’t complete the fine art course because the place was disbanded due to maladministration. In 2012 I managed to transform my own room into an art studio and named it Hand-in-Hand.

Is funding often stolen from the community?
There’s a lot of maladministration through our communities because we are living in a sad situation where there’s trash all around the streets. There’s always an annual budget allocated for waste control and arts and culture, but nothing ever comes from it. So yeah, there’s a lot of corruption.

Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because I love art and am passionate about it. Art is a good therapy to heal wounds and also educate the nation. As someone who meets people from different cultures and destinations on a daily basis, I can say that art is an international language. Art means a lot to us because we are who we are today because of it; this is not just art but a way to communicate, heal and educate.

What’s the response from your community?
As people who grew up in the Motherwell township, it was not easy for us to pursue art as a career. We were overlooked and taken as lazy, crazy brothers but through passion, perseverance and hard work we managed to gain respect, love and support from the community through using art as a tool to transform communities. So it’s a great achievement to educate that art is a dignified career and we can change the stereotype if we can work together in educating and beautifying our communities.

Any other creative projects going on in Motherwell?
We’ve got plenty of talent but there’s a lack of motivation. The only project that strives for change and skill exchange is Hand-in-Hand concept that was developed by me and my bro in order to work with anyone who has a vision for change in order to bridge the gap where necessary.

What’s next for Hand in Hand?
Our next step is to make international relations and opportunities because our future outlook is to exhibit and create murals around the world.

What would you do with paint donations?
I will archive the dream of creating a mural or artistic route that carries our past, present, future. The best part of this project is the fact that it combines children and adults within the community’s development because all the work we do is to educate and exchange the skill of storytelling via art with the mission of beautifying communities, transferring and building self-worth.

What are your hopes for the future of Motherwell?
In 5 years I wish to see Motherwell on a world attraction map and to see a lot of development in terms of skill development and education.

Who have you collaborated with?
As you know, our studio attracts mostly people from abroad and we have a session whereby we walk around the township and visit all the nearest creative people for them to share their story and also showcase their craft. We do a walkabout around the community and show the paintings on the walls created during an art Exchange project together with Luc and other local creatives.

What are you currently working on?
I’m working on creating an event in celebrating youth day. The theme of the event is “Art in the Park” and the vision is to create a platform for artists and crafters to exhibit or showcase their work. The park will form a part of the artistic route that will start from our studio to the nearest area and end at the local primary school where I went to school. I am passionate about giving back to them because it was where I realised I was an artist, and often hold workshops with the school.

Who are Hand-in-Hand?
We’re a group of people working to collaborate, create and share beautiful, vibrant art with the community and the world. So far we’ve transformed two illegal dumpsites into major attractions within our township and have done many murals around Port Elizabeth. We have also been featured in exhibitions and galleries as well. Currently, we’re working to create a walking tour within our township filled with amazingly unique art and murals that portray our culture and history- past, present and future.

“I never imagined that our project would get this far and I will never stop creating art and exchanging the art skill in order to educate and also prevent the youngsters from getting bored and doing drugs.”
– Msindisi Nyendwana

Get involved!
“We would really appreciate any assistance from those reading this article on our biggest mural yet. It is approximately 40 meters in length and 2meters high. It is a blank wall outside of our community rugby and cricket stadium and will conclude the tour and history walk if the township. We would really appreciate any assistance in co-hosting a beautiful piece within our township for the community and visitors alike to be able to learn and grow from our culture and history through art.”
– Sakumzi Nyendwana

Get in touch!
Trip adviser: Hand in Hand Visual art studios
Facebook: Sakumzi Nyendwana
Facebook Page: Hand in Hand visual art studios