Ceramicist pays it forward

A world-renowned ceramicist, who cut his teeth as a cleaner in a Swaziland pottery studio, is so grateful for the opportunity he was given that he has dedicated his life to helping others learn the craft.

POTTERS’ PRIDE: Swazi-born master ceramicist Meshack Masuku holds his nine-month old son as his workshop apprentices, from left, Asiphe Gaxela, 20, Buseka Gaxela, 17, Freddie Luffun, 21, and Sityhilelo Ngozi, 25, look on Picture: DAVID MACGREGOR
POTTERS’ PRIDE: Swazi-born master ceramicist Meshack Masuku holds his nine-month old son as his workshop apprentices, from left, Asiphe Gaxela, 20, Buseka Gaxela, 17, Freddie Luffun, 21, and Sityhilelo Ngozi, 25, look on Picture: DAVID MACGREGOR

Over the years, 62-year-old Meshack Masuku has mentored dozens of young people by offering them apprenticeships in his studio.

“My entire life was inspired by mentorship,” he said.

“I would not be where I am today if I was not mentored when I was young.”

A relative of the late Swazi King Sobhuza II, Masuku grew up in the rural Lubamba Royal Kraal tending cattle and helping his extended family.

“Our home was a community home, as a child’s life was not just about our [immediate] family and our house was there to take care of others.

“A lot of people were taken in . . . we worked not just for ourselves, we also took care of others.”

Masuku said his life could have taken an entirely different path, had he not met renowned potter Joe Faragher, who offered him a cleaning job and mentored him to become a ceramicist.

“I owe it all to Joe, that is met Masuku, said spending the past two years learning ceramics at Meshack’s Ceramics and Trading in Kenton-on-Sea had changed his life forever.

“Thanks to Meshack, I will be able to look back one day and say: ‘thank you Lord’ for the opportunity he gave me.”

Luffun, 21, is not alone and his new family include three young people from Port St Johns, who are also being mentored by Masuku.

Masuku said he was hoping one day soon to empower Asiphe Gaxela, 20, Buseka Gaxela, 17, and Sityhilelo Ngozi, 25, by opening a Wild Coast studio for them using equipment he was given by the family of his mentor, Faragher, when he died five years ago.

“As a young boy I used to make things with clay but never thought I could make a living doing it,” Ngozi explained.

Based at a smallholding on the outskirts of Kenton, Masuku said life was about paying it forward – just like land owner Simon Oliver had done in 2009, when he offered him space to live and work as an artist in residence at The River Roost.

“I would not be where I am today if people did not mentor and help me. Teaching others helps them to become self sustainable too.” — davidm@dispatch.co.za

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