Cairo dreams of his big break

Some of these hawkers are artists with exceptional talent.
One such an artist is Cairo Mokoena, whom residents who travel on the R511 regularly towards Sediba Plaza will no doubt have seen sitting by his interesting artworks on the roadside.
From comfortable garden furniture and bright flower pots shaped like tea cups, all made from repurposed tyres; to colourful vibrant paintings and recycled cassette tapes, and intricate wire designs such as the replica Eiffel Tower or the old railway bridge and garden features; Cairo’s works are all original and made by hand. He also uses peanut shells for what he calls his band art, little figurines mounted on pieces of wood that are selling well. Like many others, Cairo (27) came to Hartbeespoort six years ago from Vaalbank in Limpopo in search of employment and a new life. His parents passed away in 2003 and his grandmother took him in until he matriculated. He doesn’t know where he got his unusual first name from, but proudly shows me his ID as proof that it is indeed his real name.
“I had this dream of studying chemistry, but art was actually the only subject I enjoyed in school,” he says.
Life wasn’t as rosy as he had hoped and he soon became part of the unemployment statistics. To keep himself busy, he started making artworks from any scrap he could lay his hands on, but gave it away to friends as presents. When he realised how popular his works were from the feedback he received, he decided to use his art as a way to support himself, despite many challenges, such as a shortage of money and material, little equipment and having to use public transport.
Some of the wire works take him days to complete. “My hands get very sore, and then I cannot work until they have healed,” he explains. Having the right equipment will make his job much easier and he will be able to build up some stock. Cairo is one of the artists that the skills development programme of the Social Crime Prevention Initiative of the Hartbeespoort Police Station has taken under its wings. The aim of this initiative is to alleviate poverty and prevent crime by assisting people with skills development and providing opportunities for them to grow and flourish.
Cairo is also very grateful to Sittig’s Nur-sery, close to his roadside ‘shop’, and Heidi Hinton-McDonald especially, who showcases some of his art and helps him with ideas from Pinterest or Instagram.
“My biggest dream is to one day own a gallery where I cannot only showcase my own work, but also help other aspiring artists to find a platform. Gravity-defying art is my passion,” says Cairo.
Anyone able to assist Cairo with material or equipment or who have skills they want help to develop may contact Const Japhta Lelaka of the Social Crime Prevention Project on 082 792 1746.
Visit Sittig’s Nursery to view some of this artist’s handwork.

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