The Man Who Listens to Wood

Story and photos by Louise de Waal

“I collect all the dead wood for my carvings locally and for the bigger pieces I get help from a friend with a bakkie to get it back to my studio”, tells Patrick Manyike. He shows us a rough piece of wood he works slowly, but purposefully with simple tools until his vision takes shape. “The wood tells the story, all I do is cut away the nonessential parts.”

This unassuming, but incredibly talented young man used to clean floors in Joburg. “No matter how hard I scrubbed these floors”, says Patrick, “the following day they were dirty again”. This made him even more determined to come home and pursue his art. When the acclaimed Thomas Kubayi took him under his wing, coached him, and taught Patrick wood carving skills, his exciting journey as an artist really took off. Now, you can find him most days sitting on his work bench surrounded by mystical creatures overlooking the valley and fish-like pieces dancing in the wind.

He stands proud among his sculptures inspired by nature and the many legends of the Limpopo region. Patrick’s connection with nature is strong and genuine. In return for the pieces of dead wood nature bestows him, he gives back by planting indigenous trees in his garden. He also mentors children in wood carving skills and has a vegetable garden to support the elderly in his local community.

Patrick is a true inspiration. Not only does he create incredible otherworldly creatures by carefully listening to dead wood, he understands and lives according to the true meaning of Ubuntu.