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Model citizen

After his workshop and gallery were burnt down during the 2018 riots, Sipho Jika has risen like a phoenix from the ashes and rebuilt his dream.

Sipho ran an informal aftercare centre at one of the kiosks opposite the Community Day Care Centre in Swartdam Road. He also used this space to exhibit wire cars he made by hand and artworks by artists from the community.

Although his business was burnt to the ground, Sipho refused to let go of his dream of creating a safe space where children can learn after school as well as an informal gallery for artists from the township to exhibit their work.


Sipho now simply utilises the small space outside his home, built of corrugated iron and wood, as a workshop, where he and the nearly 20 children he cares for after school can make model cars from old paper, glue, water, wire, wood and old bicycle tyres.

Whenever it isn’t raining, Sipho and the group of kids, ranging in ages from six to 16, can be seen tearing strips of paper and working on the cars outside his Marikana home.

Initially he considered using wood to craft the cars. After doing a presentation at Learn to Earn, Sipho received a R10 000 voucher from the Grootbos Foundation which enabled him to buy some equipment and materials. After careful consideration he however decided to use papier mâché as this is much cheaper. “Using the paper also helps to keep the planet cleaner. I only use wood to make the cars’ wheels,” said Sipho.


The children patiently tear the paper into strips. They then mix it with glue to form the bodies of the cars. Sipho sculpts the cars’ shapes using simple equipment such as a butter knife from his girlfriend’s kitchen. He uses thin wire to form the base of the car and the steering wheel. “We also use broom sticks or the sticks you get when you cut the leaves off palm trees, because they are sturdier. The perfect thing would be to get thin tubes used by electricians to support the wire,” Sipho explained.

The body of the cars then gets a coat of polyfilla and primer before it gets a coat of paint to make it waterproof. Sipho hopes to be able to make or buy moulds soon in order to reduce the time it takes to make the cars.


“Making the cars is only part of the fun,” says Sipho. “Once every three months we have a competition where the kids race with the cars. They have so much fun with these races.”

Sipho has big dreams for the future. “I am running the aftercare informally but I would like to register it. I also want to form a youth cooperative. I want to teach the youth about fashion design, modelling and entrepreneurship. My biggest dream, however, is to collect work from artists in the area and sell them at my gallery.”

He also dreams of expanding his projects to Hawston and Mount Pleasant.

But his first priority is to build a track at a local primary school so the kids can race the cars in a safe space.

To help him achieve this dream, Sipho does odd jobs like sign writing. He is currently busy decorating shipping containers that have been converted to class rooms at Lukhanyo.

He also makes wire cars on order for clients.

Anyone who wishes to help Sipho and the children or who wishes to buy one of the cars can contact him on 079 170 5931.

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