What if you could make cash from trash?

Siyasanga Tundzi doesn’t waste a thing. She makes the most of what’s around her, using her hands and recycled trash to fashion clothing and accessories inspired by South African cultures. Her creations bring endless colour to her studio. An iconic yellow Lion Brand matchbox lends its kitschy-cool feel to a pair of dangling earrings while the colourful geometric patterns of Ndebele homes are recreated in her beaded jewellery.

But Tundzi’s thriving creative career only arose after another dream was discarded. When a lack of funding put an end to her studies, Tundzi found herself in the same position that many young South Africans are forced to endure. Sitting at home, unable to get a job and unsure of what to do, wallowing in self-pity would have been easy. But it was in this state of uncertainty that she found what she needed. She grew up watching her mother make beaded jewellery and had a keen interest in the craft. All that was missing was something to work with – so she decided to use what was around. Her materials included cardboard, plastic and paper from used packaging, as well as cowrie shells, fabric scraps, beads and wire. “Not only have I utilised what’s available to me, I’m also creating something that’s got the least impact on the environment,” she says.

Each item from her Hlubi Creations label is made painstakingly from scratch. They are a vibrant embodiment of our country’s style and ability to find purpose in mess. Having bypassed the material costs, Tundzi’s current problem is the high demand for her products. She can’t remain a one-woman show. “Moving forward, I want to have more people working with me and doing what I love,” she says. “I really want to show people that if you’ve got nothing, don’t despair,” she adds. Having found a greener way to be fashion forward, this creative recycler is furthering entrepreneurship opportunities and encouraging people to dream of the endless possibilities that South Africans have to offer with the little they have available to them.