Chair fit for a king is complete

2013-11-06 00:00

LITTLE does he know, but Prince George, third in line to the British throne and the first child of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, will soon receive a chair handcrafted in kwaDukuza by Kuber “Tambuti” Singh.

Upholstered with genuine leather, the finished chair has been French polished, not varnished or stained. “My wife Anitha does the polishing and we use an old English polish we are still keeping in the family.”

Now the chair will be bubble-wrapped and couriered to the royal address in London. “It must be gone from my workshop by the end of the month,” Singh said.

In August, when Singh first began work on the chair, he told The Witness: “I set out to make an artistic work … I make the item as a labour of love and I want that love to be visible.”

Singh was continuing a family tradition of making handcrafted furniture for the British royals from tambuti wood that goes back to 1972 and Princess Anne’s marriage to Mark Phillips.

“My father was invited to the wedding but couldn’t go, so he made a gift instead,” said Singh. “It was a writing desk made from tambuti with a lid that opened.”

The invitation came about because his family are, according to Singh, also royals, with links to the royal Singh family of Agra.

Since then Singh has made a jewellery box for Princess Diana on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981 and another which he presented to Queen Elizabeth when she visited Durban in 1995.

Following the death of the Queen Mother at the age of 101 in 2002, Singh made a wooden cross in her memory.

When Prince William and Kate Middleton married in 2011, Singh presented them with a “handcrafted table on which they can keep a Bible, or a candle, or whatever they want”.

All these items were made from tambuti wood. “Tambuti is the king of the trees,” says Singh, whose late father first began working with the wood in 1956.

The wood also has health properties. “It is an oily wood,” says Singh. “You will not have any sinus problems thanks to that oil.”

The ins and outs of making a chair for a future king

How many man-hours did it take to make the chair?

“It was a labour of love. Sometimes I would leave it for a few hours or work on it when I felt like touching it. When I wanted to give it a touch of love.”

How much wood was used in the making of the chair?

“It is an artistic work and it is difficult to say whether it used so many cubic metres of wood. I would look for the right pieces of wood out of my stock of tambuti for each part of the chair. One would fit for the back or that one for the leg.”

Did you work from a design?

“It was based on a design for a king’s chair, but I minimised it in my mind for a child. A chair for a child that will one day grow up to be a king.”

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