The Montebello Design Centre in Newlands, Cape Town showcases an array of artists and designers; from painters to filmmakers and landscapers. One artist in particular captured our imagination. His name is Right Mukore and he makes magic with wood.
Right is happily married and a father of four and has had his wood shop in Montelbello for 10 years. He is the oldest of 11 siblings, and grew up in Zimbabwe. Right is an artist of an extraordinary kind and sculpting isn’t something he just does; as Right puts it: “Carving is me.”
Right is inspired by everything around him but one of his favourite past-times is people-watching. “It doesn’t cost a lot for a cup of tea. Sit and drink your tea and watch the people; how they walk, how they carry themselves, how they behave,” says Right.
Right prefers whiskey, himself. “I order my whiskey, two tots, and watch the people, listen to them, look at them. Some of them are very rude and some of them are very nice. That’s also nature.”
Right takes the behaviours and interactions he observes and marries them with the wood, resulting in a kinetic movement in each piece of art. He’ll see a man swearing on the sidewalk, find a tall block with juts of wood piercing out of it, and dance around the wood until he captures the fueled movement in a sculpture. “It’s not the man – it’s the behaviour of the man that I capture.”
Right says that sometimes letting go of his art is very sad. It’s not about time spent, he says. “There’s a relationship between me and every piece. I can carve something in 20 minutes and I look at and think that is so beautiful. That makes it hard to sell the art.”
A CHIP OFF THE BLOCK
Right comes from a family of artists and it’s from the men in his family that he learned this trade. His grandfather mostly worked with forged metal and his father worked a little with wood and metal, too. Right’s favourite medium by far is wood and when you ask him why he loves it, he’ll reply: “To explain it to people would be a waste of time because they will never understand what I’m talking about. I’m like a wooden man. I’m close with the wood, it’s my family.”
Right was once offered a job earning R5,000 a day crafting table legs for a furniture store. “My art is not like that” Says Right. “I talk with the wood. It’s like I’m mad. I say hello, bru, howzit ,what is in you? What do you want to be?” He told the man he wouldn’t survive two days working where he had to tell the wood what to be, rather than the wood telling him.
“When I’m walking around in the bush, every tree looks like a piece to me. An elephant, two people in embrace, a man’s face, a tractor.” Right sees the shapes in everything from swirling ocean waves to rolling mountainous hills. “It’s my everything”.
A lot of Right’s pieces keep the integrity of the wood in its natural form. “Nature has got its own beauty and it’s a shame when someone destroys it.” Chunky bark pieces clothe parts of the sculptures and the natural kinks and tree knots are celebrated for what they are. ”Some pieces look naturally like ears of an animal or the spine of woman.” Right simply helps to bring the form to life.
In 10 years, Right hopes to be retired. He rolls up his sleeves to reveal scars left behind from past dances with his wooden pieces. This kind of work is tough on the body and Right feels the toll. “I’m 41 now, it means I want to get my pension in 10 years. By that time I will call myself a ‘professor’ of wood. In 10 years’ time, I will create my last piece and I will call that my ‘doctorate’.”
In the meantime, Right teaches carving to a mix of adults and children on Saturdays at his wood shop. He welcomes all to come and learn how to work with the wood and takes a lot of pride in seeing his protégés succeed. A number of the young men he has taught are doing very well by selling their art.
Right is definitely an artist to watch. Galleries all over Cape Town have shown interest in displaying his work and Right is keen to display it. He’s working on a collection to show in a number of galleries in and around the city sometime next year. The most important thing to Right is to share his gift with the world and everyone that he meets. He believes in enriching and empowering the people around him with everything he knows.