Isibindi the rhino comes to life

2013-08-06 00:00

LOOKING at the beautiful gold and bronze scales on the armour of Isibindi, the three-quarters life-size rhino, which a group of Russell High School pupils are decorating for Wildlands Conservation Trust’s Rhino Parade, it’s hard to believe that the pieces were once cans holding soft drinks and beer.

The pupils went from store to store at the Victoria Road Centre collecting cans for the project, which aims to use mainly recycled materials.

“When we were looking for cans, there was this old man who was collecting stuff,” one of the pupils, Sanelisiwe Khumalo said. “He asked us what we were doing and we told him about the project. When he heard the story, he offered us some of his cans. He wanted to make a difference.”

Visual arts teacher, Alana Leigh, who is overseeing the rhino project, explained that the cans were brought back to the school, washed and disinfected, before being cut up — a job not one of the girls wanted.

“It was so horrible,” Sanelisiwe said, “they poke you and it’s hard to cut them.”

Their efforts have definitely been worthwhile. Each tiny scale has been cut and shaped and then spray painted with bronze, gold and copper paint. Once dry, the scales are stuck onto the rhino in layers.

Interestingly, the team is only painting one side of the scales, allowing the original colour to reflect off the metallic leaves. The effect is spectacular.

Sanelisiwe and her fellow pupils — Nomfundo Mkhwandzi, Noxolo Makathini, Silungile Dludu, Peaceful Khumalo, Yamkela Madibi, Nonjabulo Khumalo, Malwande Guliwe, Sanele Mbanjwa, Nonjabulo Shezi, Sphumelele Hadebe, Malwande Bhengu and Nonkululeko Khumalo — have also been hard at work creating glass mosaic tiles from pieces of broken glass.

Each of the red, blue, white and metallic-coloured tiles has to be sorted and then stored, ready for use in cupboards made by the girls from papier-mâché.

These tiles will eventually join the host of different coloured beads that have already been pasted onto the rhino with flexi-tile.

The girls have also been experimenting with tea bags to see what would work best to make a long-lasting saddle for Isibindi (which means courage in Zulu). After some trial and error, the team, and their teacher, decided to go with empty tea bags painted with varnish or resin.

Leigh said her young charges were incredibly dedicated. They not only worked on the rhino during the school holidays, but can be found down in the art department every afternoon after school.

“It’s our baby, we are the mothers,” Nonjabulo explained.

Although the Wildlands Conservation Trust’s Rhino Parade has been in existence for some time, it’s the first time that a school has been involved.

Lauren Laing, brand and communications manager for Wildlands Conservation Trust, said the organisation hopes that, through the Rhino Parade, they can create public awareness about the rhino poaching crisis in southern Africa, and raise money to support rhino-conservation efforts.

“The project is close to the hearts of those passionate about conservation, as it is being designed to honour the brave souls — field rangers — who risk their lives every day to stand between bullets and our rhino,” she added.

• To find out more about the Wildlands Rhino Parade project, go to


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