Handmade Toys and Instruments by the Children of Makuleke Village

The Makuleke people are resourceful; they create the environments around them from found materials.  Community members build homes to live in, simply with soil, grasses and water.  Children of the village create the toys and games that they wish to play with.  They visit local dumping sites and find discarded materials, such as old wires, shopping bags, soda bottle caps.  They transform these old materials, giving them new life.  What was considered waste by one person becomes a treasure to another.  The Makuleke people have something to share with the world: a lesson that we can live – in fact, we can be satisfied and happy – with little.

In this photo: a handmade kite, a mask made out of cardboard, a wire car, two dolls made of vegetable sacks, 6 soccer balls made from plastic bags, and musical instruments.  Some of these objects were on display at the Museum of Art this year.

Makuleke Artwork at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC

Sharing to Learn has teamed with the Museum of Modern Art to bring toys from Makuleke, South Africa — crafted by hand with found materials — to the museum for inclusion in their ambitious Century of the Child exhibit, which runs through November 5.

Children in Makuleke begin creating their own toys at an early age. They scavenge for old wires at dumping sites scattered around the village, finding precious materials with which they construct playthings.  What they want and need, they make – with their very own hands.  And their innovations are not just functioning toys, but also beautiful works of art.  Sharing to Learn was proud to lend 6 of these works of art, including a wire car made by Tuki, a 16-year old child from the village, to the MoMA.  We were elated that the exhibit would provide a platform for thousands of people from all corners of the globe to discover what we already know: there is poverty in Makuleke village, but also talent, innovative problem-solving, and unfettered imagination.  The objects on display at the MoMA are brought to life through a video installation, which showcases children and teachers in Makuleke creating their toys.

In July, Sharing To Learn sponsored Tuki’s trip to NYC, so that he could see his work of art, and those of his friends, on display at the MoMA.  He had never been to a museum in his life; that his first experience was at the MoMA admiring his own artwork, s proof that dreams do come true.

A Makuleke Preschool Teacher holding handcrafted dolls, one of which is on display at MoMA.

Click below to see a short video produced by BBC News, covering Tuki’s arrival to NYC, as well as his visit to The Museum of Modern Art:


Click this link to see the video of 11-year old Kuhlula making a wire car, which is currently part of the STL video installation at the MoMA.


The Century of the Child closes on November 5th, but you can still explore the exhibit through MoMA’s website (skip to the end if you want to see the work from the village first!):



Wire Glasses – Toys made by Children of Makuleke Village

Aaron, a middle school student in Harlem, wears glasses made by a friend in Makuleke Village.  These glasses are currently showcased in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC!  Children in Makuleke Village are incredibly resourceful and create their own handmade toys out of recycled materials found at local dumping sites.  STL is proud to share their skills and innovations.  Be sure to visit the Century of the Child exhibit at the MoMA in NYC to see these glasses and five other works of art, along with video footage of children making art!