by Antoinette du Plessis 3 March 2006

Jeff Mwazha is a Cape Town sculptor who makes portrait sculptures, sometimes larger than life, from chicken wire rolled and compressed and shaped into solid masses, with minimal use of paint to indicate features. He has made several sculptures of Nelson Mandela, his inspiration and role model. Originally from Harare in Zimbabwe, Jeff says that he started by making toys as a young boy. He came to South Africa in 1994. 

Jeff has been working with Streetwires, a Bo-Kaap co-operative, for some years. Two of his works, Madiba and Mohammed Ali were exhibited recently at the 9th Cape Town Design Indaba. 

Wire sculpture is a vibrant, ever-changing art form operating at street level, where artist and client meet for fast-paced, on-the-spot exchanges. Often the addition of beads gives works a direct, decorative appeal to tourists who want to take home a piece of “authentic Africa”. Rivalry is intense, trends immediate and short-lived, constant innovation the only survival mode. 

In this environment of constant change and instant replication, Jeff has distinguished himself with a signature style, not easily imitated. Created with technical skill, transcendent artistic vision and avoidance of superficial embellishment, his creations speak to the viewer with direct, honest simplicity. His use of color is so sparse it could be called austere, the galvanized silvery grey intensified and shimmering through deep layers of wire. 

Jeff uses found photographs as source material. With a seemingly effortless ability to achieve recognizable likenesses, one is amazed at the expert way in which he manipulates wire, an unforgiving medium in less skillful hands.
All images © the artists, right to use or reproduce text in any format reserved worldwide, 
© vgallery cc 2006
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