Two Bags of Clay and a Used Kiln
That’s what Victor Shabalala physically started with in late 2015 when launching Zimele Original Ceramics.
But he had something more: A vision borne from his years of experience as a ceramic artist, painter, sculptor and native of this breathtakingly beautiful rural region of South Africa that is home to the Drakensberg World Heritage Site.
Victor is the only son of farm labourers. He grew up just a short distance from Zimele’s current location in the Cathkin Valley and as a child sculpted clay art alongside the banks of the Little Tugela River that meanders past the studio. Following a brief retail career in Johannesburg, he returned home to pursue his artistic passions with Ardmore Ceramic Art.
When his employer relocated a few hours away, Victor found himself torn between his craft and his community. It’s painful being far from family, which led Victor to start Zimele Original Ceramics on the grounds of a former orphanage in Loskop.
In the Zulu language, “zimele” translates to “independent.” Beginning with one small work room, the studio continues to expand upon this distinct promise with a dedicated gallery, work area and office space.
Victor is also a 2019 graduate of the SAB KickStart Programme, which is South African Breweries’ flagship enterprise development initiative. Since this programme’s founding in 1995, SAB has supported 25,000 entrepreneurs and empowered 3,500 South African small businesses with technical, product, financial and development support, as well as one-on-one mentoring and commercialisation assistance.