Artist wires up unique ride for matric dance
A street craftsman made a perfectly roadworthy wire car for a matric couple. Now he's also on the road to success
Artist Seun Diphoko, 38, from Theunissen in the Free State has accomplished his biggest feat to date. He built a roadworthy car, out of wire, for a girl’s matric farewell ball.
Diphoko, a father of three boys, has always built cars from wire, but never on this scale.
He started making cars at the age of 15 with his brothers as a hobby. Little did he know that this was going to be his source of income later in life.
He did not really take the craft serious because he had to finish school, but ended up working at a farm.
“In 2013 I lost my job at a farm where I did general work, from operating a tractor to helping with anything necessary. I left because I got an injury that forced me to stop working. It was stressful because as a father I had to provide for my children,” said Diphoko.
Now that he was back home he made a toy car for his son and, while testing it on the side of the road, a man stopped and asked him to sell it to him for R800.
“I was amazed that someone would be willing to pay so much for the car. To me it was just something I made to pass time.”
This then sparked an idea.
“I then started making more cars and sold them on the side of the road. And this has changed my life because I am able to make money for my family at my own pace.”
The pride he takes in every wire car he makes to spec is now on another level.
When Geraldine Strauss and her husband approached him with a proposal to pimp an actual car, he was excited and confident he would rise to the challenge.
“They brought me a structure of an old car and asked me to bring it back to life in style. I looked at the picture of what they wanted and started working. They expected me to take six months to finish, but I completed the car under a month,” he told Times Select.
“It is my proudest moment, I was happy that I could finish it and they were happy with the product. They bought all the tools and material I was going to use and this made the process very easy. It was the first time I worked on a car that would load people,” said Diphoko.
He said though his family still lives in a dilapidated RDP house, there is hope that he can turn the lives of his loved ones around. His biggest wish is for his children to go through school without struggling financially.
“I use a shack for as my workstation. It’s always locked and secure so that I protect my craft. I would hate it if someone stole my technique; it’s something unique to me,” he added.
Strauss said her daughter, Charne, was fascinated by Diphoko’s work when she read an article about him and wanted him to make her car.
“She wanted a unique car for her matric farewell in September. I started tracking Seun and asked him if he would be able to make such a car. We met and he said anything was possible. He is such an awesome guy, he made it look like a dream,” said Strauss.
The whole process cost R10,000, from buying paint and parts. They were pleased he finished it quickly – and what he produced blew their minds.
“It was in storage for like two months because she didn’t want anyone to see it before her big day. Everyone was talking about it. It is such a marvel. This has made us family with Seun. We are so grateful,” she said.
She said her daughter intendsd to keep the car. “Just this weekend she drove it to the restaurant down the road where she was meeting up with her friends. She calls it her little investment.”
Charne is so grateful she asked her parents to help her start a bursary fund for Diphoko’s children, so he never has to worry about their education.
Diphoko became a sensation after Charles Smith, a journalist from Netwerk24, wrote an article about him at the beginning of the year.
“I was driving and I saw a boy coming next to the road with a car, but I could not stop. It was something special. I told myself that one day I will go look for him,” Smith said.
When he was in pursuit of a special project story in the area, he decided to go look for him.
“Eventually I found him and his father who made the wire cars. I did an article and I knew this was a magic story. It wasn’t just a car; it was brilliant South African art. I made a point to keep in touch with him and help him. I knew that if he plays small-town craftsman, no one is gonna see him,” he said.
The two formed a bond of friendship, and he started advising him on how to be a better entrepreneur and exposed him to a new audience and market.
“I started posting on social media about him. People started seeing him. At first, he used to make bigger toy cars so I asked him to make something small too and venture into different kinds of models. It’s not just a bakkie with a radio; the moment you touch and look at his craft you realise just how special it is,” said Smith.
He said he often took him to showcase his work at events.
“More and more people are seeing his work. You can’t copycat his work. That’s what makes him brilliant. He is also very humble. I want him to reach a bigger market, to help him to distribute his work much easier.
“I know he will make it big in a year or two. I think tourists would be very impressed with his work, so his market is in the city mostly. Many artists need a break. Local artists don’t always get a chance and little bit of spotlight,” he added.