- Artist Reon Zeff is bringing delight to those promenading along Cape Town's Blouberg coast with his elaborate sand sculptures.
- With the beaches closed intermittently during the Covid-19 lockdown he struggled for the first time ever to keep a roof over his head, as corporate demand for his specialist skills was halted.
- Instead, he hauled some sand closer to the verge so that he would not be in violation of the regulations and brought a sliver of joy to people who had saved for a beach holiday, but could not go into the sea.
"I can show you the world," sand sculptor Reon Zeff sings cheerfully when asked what kind of sand sculptures he likes making.
"Any sea life, castles... they enthuse me," says the chatty 51-year-old artist.
People returning to the beaches in the Blouberg area in Cape Town have been treated to sand sculptures of a fat walrus and a smiling fruit bat, near the landmark Ons Huisie restaurant.
The joyful responses make his day, but the past months have been bleak as artists such as himself struggle to make ends meet.
After building up a portfolio of clients for corporate events, and treating passersby to his handwork in his spare time, the lockdown was the first time he had worried about being able to keep a roof over his head.
"I've been doing this for over 20 years," Zeff told News24. "I studied art, and qualified. I've done work for the film industry, made logos for corporate events.
"I've lived in New York. I've been all over the place," he said.
"I just use my God-given gifts and I thank him every day," he said.
But after not missing bond payments for 17 years, things almost came crashing down for him during the lockdown as demand for his specialist skills dried up.
Beaches were also closed intermittently, and he had to dig deep to keep up his cheerful demeanour as the bills piled up.
He said his solution was to get to the beach before the beach ban kicked in again, and pull some sand up to a verge, where technically he was not on the beach, and so not violating the Disaster Management Act.
Some of his admirers would give him a contribution for the pleasure of being able to watch him work.
"Even R10 is everything right now," said Zeff, echoing what many people are dealing with as the pandemic strangles income-generating opportunities.
He first started with sand sculptures when he pulled a discarded ice cream stick out of the sand.
Gathering sand around him with it while he was day dreaming, the sand started to take shape, and became a huge stepped pyramid.
People on the beach went over the watch him, and a new passion was born.
He came back to South Africa and had been doing his corporate work creating sculptures such as massive cars, car engines, company logos, and Bruce the shark from the film Finding Nemo, according to his website.
The lockdown period when the beaches were closed were "very depressing" and he tried to cheer people up while he worked.
Sad holidaymakers who had saved up for the whole year would sit near him for hours watching him, not able to put their toes in the water. "All they did was come and watch me for days," he said.
He said that with the beaches open again, there is a lightness again.
People pass him asking: "Morning Reon, what are you doing today?"
"It's humbling," said Reon.