Art in the shifting sand

2014-08-11 00:00

IT takes him one day to create King Kong from sand. But it’s his Captain Jack Sparrow skeleton chilling on a couch that attracts the most attention.

Themba Ngcobo (35) has been creating beautiful sand sculptures for the past 14 years. “Everything, aside from the found objects for creative detail, are 100% man-made,” he smiles.

This quietly spoken resourceful artist uses mielie meal for shading, costing him R10 for a bag from Shoprite. For eyeballs he collects neon-yellow Powerade bottle caps and for teeth he uses polystyrene. “I cut them and shape them so they look like real teeth.”

As soon as the sun rises, Ngcobo is down on the beach shaping sand, creating textures and using his wonderful imagination, or his inspiration from creatures he marvels at in B-grade action movies. “In summer, I can sometimes work until 9 pm. I usually leave when the sun sets in winter. The beach has good security now so we feel safe if we work late.”

To begin his full day’s work, Ngcobo says he needs to have a full stomach to feel good, to be able to focus “building art” with sand all day. “Sand sculpturing takes a lot of patience and care. I do this for the love of art. The money comes in the end. I like my beach spot here in front of the children’s pools and the fun fair. I like that I am my own boss. I am a disciplined artist, even if I have flu I am here. We work hard at this art. It is hard that the next day your art is gone and you can feel heartbroken, but you just start all over again. What else can you do?”

Ngcobo likens his creative work space to having a small beach art gallery for which he pays rent to the city of Durban for his work permit. As a talented artist, he has made magnificent sand sculptures from rhinos to horses, giant anacondas, luxury cars and handsome architectural buildings like the tall blue-mirrored building in the city, 88 Field Street. “I can make nearly anything from sand,” smiles Ngcobo. “If it is your child’s birthday I can make a birthday card or a big sand cake with their name on it.’’

During the week, he lives at Duncan’s Beach Shelter in Pickering Street because his home with his family in the Valley of 1 000 Hills is too far from the beach. He says he used to trade “with the Zulu mamas on the street”. He sold traditional sculptures like elephants and rhinos, but then decided to make a change. “It was a good idea for me to move down onto the beach to make these sand sculptures. There are so many of us now. There is space for all of us. We are the sand art community and everyone knows each other here on Durban beach.”

• To view Ngcobo’s sand sculptures, where donations for his creations are most welcome, he is based near the pier opposite the children’s paddling pools on New Beach, below the Durban fun fair.

BEACH GALLERY: Durban sand sculptor Themba Ngcobo with his Captain Jack Sparrow artwork.

PHOTO: Suzy Bell

THE Daily Mail last week described the sculptures of the two Malaysian Airlines aircraft on Durban’s North Beach as being in bad taste.

Innocent Zungu has depicted the planes involved in the MH370 disappearance over the Indian Ocean in March and the MH17 crash after being shot down over Ukraine last month.

Asked why he chose the planes as a subject matter, Zungu said he wanted to remind people to pray for those who died on flight MH17.

were planes in bad taste?

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