Mmutla Mashishi

Working with recycled plastic, studying its challenges, behavior, and strength

Mmutla Mashishi was born on August 5th, 1976, in a small village called Driefontein, Limpopo. I was raised by my grandparents as their first grandchild while my mother worked on farms. As a self-taught artist, I enjoyed drawing like any other teenager. My friends and I would plead with our parents to buy extra books so that we could use them for drawing. The funny part was that we got caught and punished for not focusing on school work. Despite many setbacks, I never gave up drawing, and after school, I added sculpture to my repertoire.

In high school, my teachers started noticing my talent and encouraged me to pursue art by organizing competitions. At home, my grandparents bought me art materials, and my mother would bring me leftovers from work since her employer’s son was also interested in art at school.

I had always wanted to study art, but after matriculating, I failed to pass and felt demoralized while searching for a job. I ended up working as a security officer in 2000 and 2001. A friend then invited me to visit him where he worked, and that’s when I met Anton Smit. He asked me to bring my works, and after seeing them, he asked if I would like to work with him. I responded positively, and he prepared a studio for me next to his, where I worked until 2005.

In 2006, I started working from home, but due to poor business management, I failed. I began searching for a job again and visited a foundry in Samcar Pretoria, where I met Angus Taylor. He also took me into his studio and worked with me until 2007.

I started working from home and collaborating with different artists. In that same year, I began putting my idea of using plastic into action, which had been on my mind for a long time. I struggled with fear, wondering if people would like my plastic work since someone was already using plastic as a medium in painting. However, something kept telling me to pursue it. I began working with recycled plastic, studying its challenges, behavior, and strength, thanks to my experience at Anton Smit sculpture park. I refer to plastic as “plastic clay,” and it has become my preferred medium for sculpture.

In 2023 Mmutla Mashishi joined Living Artists Emporium.