Simbi – An Amazing Potter with a Heart for Community

Simbi Zulu, more affectionately known just as Simbi, was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He inherited all his creative abilities from his father, who was a lecturer at the Mzilikazi arts and crafts centre. The centre was established in 1963 and is found in the Mzilikazi township of Bulawayo. It had a potter’s studio and offered to train the local youths from the area, many of them receiving a two-year education in various arts and crafts.

After school, Simbi had grand dreams of becoming a famous soccer player. He was so good at the game that he even ended up playing for the Zimbabwe premier league for a while. Unfortunately, his future goals and ambitions ended when he sustained a severe leg injury, forcing him to stop playing. Luckily, he had his artistic roots he could lean back on.

a potters studio creation

Simbi took full advantage of having a father that was involved in the Mzilikazi Centre and spent the next three years learning all he could from the Art School. He ended up specializing in fine arts, however, he always found himself drawn to working at a potter’s wheel, especially as a young child. This family fascination for pottery has even carried through to his own son, who might follow in his dad’s footsteps.

After Simbi graduated from the Mzililikazi Art School, he dedicated all of his time to his pottery passion and continued working with ceramics for the next four years. This resulted in him becoming a well known and accomplished ceramicist. In 2008, he made a life changing decision. He left Zimbabwe to seek a brighter future in another country. He did this by moving to South Africa and eventually ended up in Johannesburg.

Here Simbi met up with an old friend and together they started up their own workshop aimed at teaching skills to the disadvantaged youth. This was successful, and he had to travel all over doing these various workshops. He ended up spending a year in Cape Town, until, once again, he ended up moving. This came about when a good friend of his, a guy that used to maintain all of his kilns, invited him to accompany him to the Lowveld. They planned to go off to an area known as Thulamahashe, in Bushbuckridge, for three months to offer a workshop.

Once there, Simbi taught some of the local people how to do pottery and showed them some of his other skills. He settled in quickly and soon found himself successful and comfortable in the area, so much so that he ended up never leaving when his three months were up. Simbi has now been in Hoedspruit for the past five years, and the community views him as a local resident.

Simbi teaching pottery

Indeed, although Hoedspruit locals may be familiar with Simbi’s engaging smile and the beautiful ceramics that are an artwork of themselves, many are completely unaware of all his amazing accomplishments throughout his life. This is because of his very humble nature. He does not talk about all the time and patience he has dedicated to others. He strives to impart all his skills and knowledge to the next generation and anyone else eager to learn from his potter’s studio.
Simbi has spent the past five years as a busy man. He runs his shop at the Bosveld Centre, where he sells most of his work. From there he also offers pottery lessons to individuals and groups. Sitting at a potter’s wheel has been art therapy for many during these stressful times. The participant can then take the piece they have created back home with them.

He also has a very successful workshop and potter’s studio in Bushbuckridge. This is an absolute must see when you are in the area. Here he employs about 13 people he has trained. Through all the training workshops he gives and having taught at various schools in Hoedspruit and Bushbuckridge, Simbi has an affiliation with Oxfam.

Working in the potters studio

In Johannesburg, he has another workshop and a potter’s studio. Pre COVID, he employed nearly 30 people. Sadly, this has dwindled down to only 3. He still sells all his creations in Johannesburg and in Cape Town, and he gets commissioned to do work from all over the world. Locally, we have seen a lot of his beautiful and fanciful creations at the Hoedspruit Farmers Market and the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre in White River.

Here in Hoedspruit, we have had the privilege of Simbi agreeing to join us as part of our founding team for The Kulani Collective. He will operate his pottery studio out of the Peanut House as soon as we can do some much needed repairs. To do these repairs, we have to rely on donations received. Just before COVID hit us, Simbi had worked out of the premises, and we are eager to have him back.

Simbi will start with a new group of people he can train from the local rural community. This is such an important step. It creates upliftment in the area and brings back a sense of dignity to the various families. When the pottery students have completed all the training that Simbi offers, they will stay on at the Peanut House Pottery Studio. Here they will create their own masterpieces which they will sell to tourists and locals alike. The money received will bring the families that rely on them great relief.

 created in the potters studioAs you can see, it is a great honour to have a man of Simbi’s calibre assisting us at the Kulani Collective. If you wish to be involved with a donation to help repair Simbi’s Potters Studio, or you know someone who would benefit from learning how to use a potter’s wheel, then please contact us.

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