For Manenberg resident Steven van Niekerk, the ability to be creative has been his greatest comfort.
Even through a rough childhood which involved lots of moving, art helped him to fit in as he could show his work to classmates.
Mr Van Niekerk, 43, attended six different primary schools and had to make new friends each time.
Now he is hoping to earn a living by creating 3D artwork.
After he and his mom finally settled in Manenberg, he attended Phoenix High School but had to drop out in Grade 9 to work and earn an income.
“I started working with my uncles, learning different trades, and I really didn’t enjoy it because I couldn’t be creative. Later I worked at Wax Works candle factory and then Willow Works ceramic decorating which I loved because I could be creative, and that’s where my creativity sparked,” he said.
After the company closed down three years later, Mr Van Niekerk decided to become an entrepreneur and started painting murals at schools in the area.
He also facilitated classes where he taught pupils candle-making, ceramic decorating and pottery.
“Things were tough because I didn’t have a stable job. I entered into the City of Cape Town’s Self Help NGO programme and through them I was contracted to paint murals all over in Manenberg for three months a year, for seven or eight years.”
After five years, the NGO closed down and Mr Van Niekerk was again left unemployed.
“I had to reinvent myself and I started painting African paintings. Last year I decided to start using recycled materials to create 3D artwork. I use bangles, cardboard, paper, pins, beads, bottles, hooks, straws, old cloth, and rope to create my art,” he said.
He is currently creating a collection of 3D African paintings but said that it has been difficult to sell them.
“When people ask for paintings or murals, it’s all good until they have to pay then they don’t have money. It’s been a struggle. But that hasn’t stopped me, I love creating art; I’ve been drawing and painting since a young age. It has helped me cope through a lot of things. Sometimes we would need to move in the middle of the year and art really helped me to fit in,” he said.
Mr Van Niekerk said he hopes to be able to transfer his skills to youth in the area to keep them away from crime and gangsterism.