Shepherd Ndudzo, the master sculptor building networks to cement his brand

Building international networks and tapping into the many groups and associations is one of the ways that local artists can take their craft to the international market and find serious buyers who are passionate about the arts, says local artist Shepherd Ndudzo. 

His focus right now is growing his footprints globally, and getting his brand where he hopes to catch the attention of European and other international investors who do not bet an eyelid when it comes to investing in art. 

“There are so many opportunities out there. For example in my case, I am part of sculptor groups that share some of these opportunities,” he says. Ndudzo recently returned from Switzerland where he attended a one-week international symposium for sculptors. 

The Switzerland trip is not the only forum he has attended this year. He was one of four artists from Africa. Other artists came from Egypt and Mauritius. In May he was the only African artist that attended the International Festival Wood Sculpture event held in Siberia. 

During the ten-day competition in Siberia he created a 2.2m piece titled Hope. The piece is made up of seven figures that represent days of the week. Looking up the sculpture can be deciphered as someone looking forward to the future and what it brings. But one of the figures is looking down, this he says represents those days when one is down and without hope. 

The competition that has a focus on realistic sculptors and fairy tales as evidenced by the many works that are created during the event has given him a lot of exposure as well as a platform to learn new skills and techniques from other sculptors from other parts of the world. In Switzerland, he had a chance to work on a 1.6m piece by 0.5 m (height) and 0.3 m (wide) titled Tug of war. 

He started working on this piece on a Tuesday and completed it on Saturday. “It was a learning experience. My attention right now is getting exposed to more of these platforms as they are a stepping stone into the international scene,” he explains. 

Both events afforded him the opportunity to work with Pinewood, which was a first for him. Locally, he uses Motswere and Mosetlha. “I have never used Pinewood, and it was a new medium, and it challenged me to learn very fast how to work with it,” says Ndudzo. 

Ndudzo, a member of Thapong Visual Arts Centre explains that one of the reasons that he is focused on these networks is simply because through these professional networks he gets to meet and interact with new people, learn new techniques, as well as other tricks of the trade. 

Calling on other local artists to invest their time in these networks, he explains that this is one of the ways that they will get their works outside the country. “One thing that local artists need to understand is that, yes, government will continue to buy our works, but there will come a time when they will stop doing that. They also need to understand that when it comes to buying art, the demand is outside the country,” he says. 

“With art most of the people who are buying art are in Europe,” he adds. He also advises them to raise the bar when it comes to the standards of their art in order to make their work appealing. 

“Private players play a big role when it comes to buying art. Even if it means little pieces, at the end of the day, one can feed one’s family,” he explains. He also says it will help them a lot to interact with their peers in their respective fields. 

“I was not into networks before, but when I started I met many artists especially from Europe and America and I am learning from them everyday. Artists need to be proactive when it comes to their work, some of these opportunities will not work for them, and others will,” he advises. 

With a residency in the pipeline, which he says he will reveal in good time, Ndudzo is surely a busy man. His next move, he says is to try his hand at stone. He needs a portfolio that will comprise five/six pieces, and having one will open more doors for him. He hopes that the self-funded project will pay off at the end. 

“As an artist, one needs to invest in their work,” he says. 

Admittedly, he notes that his field is one of the most difficult and that one needs to constantly evolve with the times. He also highlights that one might have the talent but that without the right attitude one will find oneself stuck in the same place. 

The humble Ndudzo who lets his work do all the talking, learnt the art of sculpting from his father, Barnabas and began earnestly in 1999, and has not looked back. Over the years, he has extensively seen the world, travelling to all corners of the world. Last year, he had a residency in New York at the Art Omi Workshop. 

He has also travelled to Zambia (Insaka Inter Artists Workshop), Johannesburg, South Africa (Art and Media Workshop), Kenya (Wasani inter Artists Workshop), as well as Taiwan (Hua Lien Inter Artists Workshop). 

His awards include third prize for the Fuzhou Sculpture Symposium in China, Outstanding piece at the Beijing Biennale, Honorary Certificate Chang Chun in China to mention a few. He has had solo and group exhibitions both locally and internationally including Omang, Two men show with Ann Gollifer in Cape Town, Africa now in Washington, Artists from Abroad in Helsinki, Finland, Taipei Artists Village as well as Kunstlahaus, in Dortmund, Germany.


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