Zimbabwe-born Nkosi Jubane is recognised as one of SA’s foremost scrimshanders. The 41-year-old, now a SA national, lives in Silverton and is a familiar face wherever knifemakers gather.
Initially he didn’t know about scrimshaw when he enrolled in fine arts at an art centre in Zimbabwe after completing school. After two years of doing water colours, oils, figure drawing and sketching, a neighbour who
sculpted in black serpentine stone encouraged him to experiment with engraving images on the stone.
Coincidentally, a curio trader with a shop in Bulawayo went to the art centre to look for artists to train in scrimming. The trader, a knifemaker himself, had taken a course in scrimshaw in the USA and saw the potential for it in his business. He was referred to Jubane who soon started scrimming knife handles, ostrich eggs and giraffe bone to be sold in the shop. The young artist had found his niche. And loved it!
A year later, in 1996, Jubane moved to SA and started asking around. He met a number of knifemakers and started doing work for them. He also learned how to make knives himself and soon started saving for his own machines. Now a knifemaker in his own right and a member of the Knifemakers’ Guild of Southern Africa, he produces fine blades but scrimshaw is still his first love.
He is a versatile artist, working in colour as well as black and white and uses both the line and stippling methods. Amongst his favourite subjects are portraits, the human form and wildlife, including fish and birds.
As his canvas he normally uses hippo and elephant ivory (if and when it can be legally obtained) and bone, especially giraffe. Nkosi also scrims on man-made ivory substitutes and is quite at home carving wood and ivory, although scrimshaw remains his primary passion.
Some of this gifted artist’s works are free-standing pieces of art but many of his commissions are for embellishing knife handles. * Contact Nkosi Jubane at nkosijuban@ gmail. com or 076-502-7262.
Nkosi Jubane (Photo: Herman Jonker) Nkosi Jubane can scrimshaw whatever scenes a customer requests (above and below) on the handles of knives or other personal items.