11 December 2017
Breaking News

Turning scrap into gold

Written by  Daniel Namwini

Lilongwe, November 05, 2017: For many people, damaged metal sheets, pipes and scrap metal from worn out products are unwanted materials that can no longer be used to accrue any value. 

But for 33-year-old Samuel Ndalema, these metals are priceless treasures he holds dearly. The young man discovered ways of turning this scrap into valuable items that are keeping him afloat in terms of living a decent urban life.  

When Ndalema wakes up every morning, all he thinks of is what to make out of the materials which to others are regarded as useless.

He reveals that he makes different kinds of decorative materials such as oil drum sofa sets, chairs, metal birds, fish and bicycles. These products are used in houses, gardens and other places where important events such as weddings, meetings and conferences take place.

Ndalema calls himself a metal artist, rightly so because what he does with any piece of discarded metal is amazing. It’s pure art at its best.

“I make many things out of used oil drums, scrap metal from cars and pipes which people can put in their gardens, houses and many other places to decorate their surroundings,” he says.

Ndalema says that everything is about being innovative, bringing together things that people see as worthless.

For instance, take one of his products: a metal bird. The artistic arrangement of its ruffled feathers and stretched wings leaves one fully immersed in aesthetic appreciation to this piece of art.

His beautiful products are enjoyable to see. One can hardly blink to their attraction.

 “Everything that I make out of these materials attracts some people who come and buy them from me,” says Ndalema who comes from Chibalala Village, Traditional Authority Makwangwala in Ntcheu District.

Although Ndalema does not document his financial earnings from this business, he says he rakes a modest amount that takes care of his family’s basic and daily needs.

The lowest price for most of his products is K25, 000 while the highest goes as far as K170, 000.

For example, the price of metal birds depends on the size and design a customer wishes. The small one goes at K25,000 and the big one at K50,000.

For the oil drum sofa set, the current price is at K170, 000.

Such is the value the young man gets from used metal materials he buys from local markets and hardware shops in Limbe, Blantyre.

Ndalema vividly recalls one major highlight that he says was a springboard to prominence and growth for his art work.

It was in 2013 when he made a Tractor-like braai stand which was sold at MK 70, 000. 00.

“I was making small artworks before then. But the production of the tractor-like braai stand was massive and it attracted many customers.

“It was the first amusing artwork since I started making these decorative materials,” says Ndalema, a husband and father of one.

His workshop is called Tehilla Metal Art. It is located in Mbayani Township, Blantyre. He says he markets his artworks using a Facebook page bearing the name of the shop.

The young man says he did not go through any formal training to attain the skills in metal artworks.
After obtaining his Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) in 2004, Ndalema went further to pursue a mechanical engineering course at one technical and vocational school but he did not make it because he was not good in science subjects.

However, Ndalema owes his success in metal works to one man, a Levison Tangale.

“I do not know where he is now but he is the one who helped me in gaining different skills in metal works,” he says.

After failing at the technical school, Ndalema met Tangale who was doing welding around townships in Blantyre. He asked for an opportunity to learn some welding skills from him.

“We agreed that I should be paying him some money if I were to start learning from him and it worked,” says Ndalema.

The young man has never looked back since then.

The fruits of these gained skills have secured him two plots of land and he is paying for his wife at Malamulo College of Nursing.

Despite registering some successes, the metal work business still encounters some challenges. There is lack of demand and good markets because very few people are familiar or appreciate metal artworks, according to Ndalema.

The other issue is that it is difficult to sell the items once off and the flow of cash is erratic because most customers pay in instalments.

“I find it hard to balance up what I have spent and gained,” he explains.

Ndalema hopes for the best in the future and he is optimistic to make it big. He draws inspiration from people in different artworks but two stand out to be influential.

One is Andrew Chiwaula, a Zimbabwean metalwork artist based in Blantyre.

“He is very good in metal art and he is the one who encouraged me to settle down in this art,” says Ndalema.

Another one is Thoko Liwimbi, owner of Haraba Art Café behind Phekani House also in Blantyre.

“I like that art shop very much. It has a collection of different art works and I have learnt many things from the owner,” he says. 

It is the inspiration from these two artists that the young man molds his colourful dream for a successful venture.

“My plan in the next five years is to open shops in all cities where people can access my art works,” Ndalema says.

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