Sa­muel Muz­imbi’s makeshift stand, hung with his self-made shoes and ac­ces­sories, has been a land­mark in Melville, Jo­han­nes­burg, for 11 years

The Africa Report - - CONTENTS -

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.


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

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