DAY IN THE LIFE
Samuel Muzimbi’s makeshift stand, hung with his self-made shoes and accessories, has been a landmark in Melville, Johannesburg, for 11 years
Samuel Muzimbi, South African shoemaker
Nobody can make enough money from the arts in Zimbabwe and that is what I wanted to do, and so in 2006 I moved to Johannesburg. This was 12 years ago and I have not left since. I currently stay in Auckland Park with my wife, who works as a childminder. This is where I also have my workshop, Big Fish Arts, where I make my bags, belts, wallets and shoes. I grew up in a working-class home in Chitungwiza, a small town in Harare. We call it Chi Town. I remember growing up there, playing soccer on the streets and being a naughty teenager. I always liked to draw. I drew on everything that I could find in the house. I do not remember ever drawing at school. Then I did not even know that art was a thing that one could study. One day I went to a market in Harare and saw a man who was selling bags and wallets. When I asked him if he had made them, he told me that he did not and that these he had imported from Johannesburg in South Africa. I was young then but I knew that I wanted to go to Johannesburg. I did not know how to make any of those things but I knew that that is what I wanted and somehow I had the inkling that I was good at it. I have been selling my bags, belts, wallets, shoes and paintings from the same spot on 7th Street in Melville for 11 years. My brother Sheppard helps me mind the store when I have orders to make at the workshop. I started by making belts and then moved on to wallets, shoes and bags. Everything is designed and sewn in my workshop at home. Some of the things I sew by hand and some by machines. A lot has changed in Melville because life changes all the time. I have seen many shops that open and close and some have stayed for as long. Peak season for the business is really unpredictable but Melville sees a lot of tourists lately so sometimes I make good money.
LONG TIME AWAY
On a perfect day, sketching the shoe and sourcing the material to make it takes about three days. Sometimes, depending on the design of the shoe, it takes me longer to source the material. On some of the shoes I use leather for the sole and then on some I use recycled motor tyres. I prefer the recycled motor tyres to normal shoe sole as it lasts and looks really beautiful. I take orders sometimes and that pair would be made to the specification of the customer but mostly I design the shoes myself and make them however I want. My entire family is in Chi Town. I go back at least twice a year to see Nashe and Nyasha, our children, who are staying with their grandmother. I miss them very much but I have to work. Every time I go home I always feel as if I do not belong there because I have been away for so many years. I love Zimbabwe but I have not thought of going back to work there because the art industry is still as it was 12 years ago, non-existent. Interview by Lidudumalingani