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In Conversation with Driftwood Sculptor Joseph Chikwenhere

“….. a job half-done by Nature,” so says Zimbabwean-born artist Joseph Chikwenhere of his chosen medium.

In 2009, Joseph joined his older brother Boniface in the Western Cape who, over the years, had taught Joseph the finer points of working with driftwood.

By now, an accomplished sculptor in his own right, Joseph works from a studio near Somerset West. He has taken part in numerous exhibitions as well as art festivals. His work is represented in selected South African galleries, including the iThemba Craft Art Gallery in Stellenbosch.

Joseph finds driftwood a rewarding, but taxing material to work with. He sometimes dreams of working in a sawdust-free medium and take up painting. But for now, he assures me, his affinity with driftwood is as strong as ever.

Of all the different driftwoods Joseph uses for his sculptures, such as Kiaat, Mopani, Leadwood, Ebony, Yellow Wood and Common Resin Wood (Ozoroa paniculosa), the latter is his preferred wood for its softer quality and finer characteristics.

The thought of giving a new lease of life to weather- beaten objects, shaped entirely by Nature, and found along rivers, lakes, dams and in swamps of Southern Africa, greatly appeals to Joseph.

He takes his cue from Nature. With an intuitive mind and a sure hand, Joseph coaxes the defining features of animals, birds and fish out of the rough surfaces of the driftwood, leaving the rest untouched by tools. He brings to life what his inner eye had already perceived to be dormant within the wood itself.

A modest, soft-spoken man, Joseph would like the viewer of his works to know that he does not only create for his own enjoyment, but that he would like to share his joy with others and feel appreciated.

Joseph Chikwenhere’s work is currently on display at the iThemba Craft Art Gallery as part of the gallery’s “Colourful Autumn Exhibition”.

Nana Wagner


iThemba Craft Art Gallery


11th February 2022

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