22 March 2011 by Julienne du Toit

The Fallen Angel of Justice

Recently I wrote about Lesheba Wilderness and their eco-friendly Centre for Indigenous Knowledge. This is where many of the famed Venda sculptors first learned their trade. We stumbled across a beneficiary of this Centre, in a tiny village near the town of Makhado in Limpopo province.
Justice Mugwena started his trade because he had a vivid dream. He saw himself carving something. Before he had this dream in 2003, Justice had been studying mechanical engineering. But the dream was more powerful than a career in an office.
” I’ve always been inspired by my dreams. When I was a child, I used to draw my dreams.”
At Lesheba, he was trained by one of his heroes, a famous sculptor from the region called Thomas Kubayi.
And Justice has no regrets for leaving a life of mechanical engineering behind.
” I find the wood inspires me. The moment I can see it, I think: Now, I can make something nice.”
In his back yard, he is working on a celestial creature of pale wood. He calls her the Fallen Angel. He carves in the shade of a wild teak tree and the ground is full of fragrant wood chips.  The shape of the dried acacia tree trunk suggested itself to him.
” She was an angel, but she was unfaithful to God. Now she has fallen to Earth,” says Justice, tapping gently at the feet with a hammer and chisel.
It’s lunchtime. He offers us maize porridge with pumpkin leaf relish. We demur - Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge, where we’re staying, sent us out with a lunchpack of tuna sandwiches.
So we all sit together in the shade of the wild teak, at the feet of the Fallen Angel, and have lunch together.

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