Civil Society – Articles

I LOST MY HANDS NOT MY MIND

Tuesday 20 February 2018 20:00GMT [CWSN] Kesia Qulu

From spot to spot severely disabled Zithulele Dlamini creates beautiful human portraits for change with his joints in the city of Durban.

Born in Ngwavuma North of Kwazulu/Natal 42 years ago, he was diagnosed from birth with an undisclosed disease, which caused the loss of his hands whose details have never been divulged to him by his parents. His Durban arrival came during his transfer to the Wentworth Hospital to receive artificial hands. From that point on, his gift was ignited and never left. Instead he tossed away artificial hands handed to him by health professionals, accepted his limitations with the absence of God given and manmade fingers, he uses his joints to tell stories and create treasurable artistic images.

Irritated by the only human alternative for hands availed and refusing to allow his adversity to rewrite his destiny, he took further his drawing talents earlier discovered during school, portraying himself in his drawings to escape the physical and embraces the inner-man he causes his wrists and forearm to move as hands. According to Stats SA, the country’s national disability prevalence is 7, 5 with males holding 6, 5 and that this vulnerable group of individuals suffer difficulty in accessing employment and education.

I look at this man daily as he moves from one post to the other drawing as requested or at times drawing what his vision grants him to put food on his table, clothing and secure shelter with unappreciative preoccupied city dwellers who pass him as though he were an invisible man or when lucky, through a rand or two in a dish he keeps beside him for donations. In tears I listen, “No one ever taught me how to draw. It is a talent I discovered myself, I feel great joy and fulfilment when I see the end result of whatever I have created, which goes to show that nothing is impossible in life”, he said.

He eagerly details on his products and tells of his ultimate wishes: “My drawings are different prices, R50 is for normal drawing of flowers and R100 for others like facial because they have more details in them. I sell my items all around the Central Business District (CBD) but especially by the harbour because there I find more people who are interested in my work. My biggest dream is to have my own pencil with my surname because there is no pencil named after an African person, yet there are many pen and pencil brand names like Bic and the rest. So having a Dlamini brand would be a great achievement for me. My other dream is to teach others my skill. Besides those dreams I have a burning wish to get assistance in registering for my pension. I am finding a lot of challenges since I have no finger they cannot fingerprint me. The person who helped me some time back is no longer there or maybe I cannot find. I recently went there and found that I must re-register again, which is so inconvenient in my case”, said Dlamini. Back