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DUT Journalism Student Is Doing It For Marine Conservation

DUT Journalism Student Is Doing It For Marine Conservation

Inspired by the story of convicted turtle poacher turned artist, Makotikoti Zikhali, a final year DUT Journalism student is launching an educational outreach programme promoting marine conservation at Durban’s 5th annual Sustainable Living Exhibition opening tomorrow (Friday).

“We are inviting primary school children to draw and paint pictures that highlight the importance of our ocean and marine life that needs protection,” said Nompilo Kunene, who has designed the competition called Works on Paper in association with Roving Reporters Director, Fred Kockott, and internationally acclaimed sculptor, Andries Botha.

With prizes to the total value of R3350, including unique, limited edition Makotikoti turtle sculptures, Kunene is calling on school teachers to assist children in producing great artworks while learning about the marine environment and the need to protect ocean life.

The top ten entrants will also win a trip to Durban’s uShaka Sea World and be invited to a Phemba Kahle presentation on future careers in marine conservation.

“The deadline for submission of entries is September 30, so there is plenty of time for teachers to give the kids good guidance that could help them win a Works on Paper award – the first prize being R1000 cash and a museum quality Makotikoti turtle,” said Kunene.

Makotikoti turtle sculptures are created by Jabulani Makotikoti Zikhali who was sentenced to five years in jail in March 2011 for killing an endangered loggerhead turtle in the iSimangaliso World Heritage site in northern KZN. Now, instead of killing turtles, Zikhali creates sculptures of turtles that raise funds for marine conservation and educational outreach projects like Works on Paper.

Zikhali’s limited edition, museum quality turtle sculptures now grace the homes of buyers from afar afield as Canada, Germany, Brussels, Denmark, Brazil, Cape Town and Johannesburg as well as a growing number of Durban residents whose names now feature on the Makotikoti Arts Project (MAP) catalogues.

The Makotikoti Arts Project, which recently scooped top honours at the Mail&Guardian Greeing the Future Awards, arose from a Roving Reporters investigative journalism assignment supported by the Taco Kuiper Trust, DUT, the Open Society Foundation of South Africa and the online education company, Getsmarter.

Supervised by Roving Reporters, a group of students went in search for the bigger story behind Zikhali’s conviction and what was leading to the butchering of the turtles in the first place. The young journalists, all DUT students, uncovered a tale of grinding poverty and ignorance. Makotikoti had killed the turtle to sell its meat as food and its fat for muthi.

After meeting Makotikoti in prison during early 2012, Kockott was convinced that ‘The Turtle Butcher’ case, as it became known, could be used not only to promote environmental education but also to offer the convicted turtle poacher the means to earn an honest living by writing his life story and developing his artistic skills. Internationally acclaimed sculptor, Andries Botha agreed.

Upon his release on early parole, Makotikoti embraced these opportunities and after eighteen months intensive training at Botha’s studio has created a series of limited edition turtle sculptures.
“Since entering the market earlier this year, Makotikoti’s turtles have raised R70, 901, with 25 percent (R17, 725.25) awarded to our educational outreach programme promoting marine conservation”, said Kockott.

“This has enabled us to launch the Works on Paper competition in association with UKZN School of Life Sciences, uShaka Sea World and the Human Elephant Foundation,” said Kunene, who is now serving her work-integrated learning internship as a trainee press officer for Phemba Kahle and the Makotikoti Arts Project.

Although the Makotikoti Art Project was still at its infancy stage, the project is already capturing the world’s imagination with a growing following on Facebook (see and

Kockott said the Durban Sustainable Living Exhibition provided an ideal opportunity to showcase the project as a home-grown Durban initiative involving students at all levels.

“Nompilo is doing an excellent job as our trainee press officer, and has put together an exciting outreach programme,” said Kockott. “Two Fine Art graduates, Sbu Mazibuko and Siya Madlala, have helped with sculpture mentoring. Jessica Bothma, a B-Tech Fine Art student, has built our stand.

Journalism graduate, Nomfundo Xolo has shot great videos of Makotikoti in action, and also been of great assistance in translating Makotikoti’s voluminous manuscripts. Then we had the first group of DUT students in 2011 and 2012 who did the initial investigations, fieldwork and research, Sabelo Nsele, Joel Burton, Sandile Gumede and Nosipho Mngoma. All these students deserve credit for the roles they have played,” he said.

Among the array of Makotikoti turtle sculptures on Makotikoti Arts Project stand at the Sustainable Living Exhibition are two large turtle sculptures produced under the guidance of Mazibuko and Madlala.

Keen to take the mentoring project to new heights, Mazibuko and Madlala are seeking a commission to build Africa’s largest turtle sculpture for public installation in KwaZulu-Natal.

“We hope to land this commission at the Sustainable Living Festival,” said Kunene.

Volunteers wishing to help out at the Makotikoti Arts Project stand at the Sustainable Living Exhibition should call Kunene on 072 619 0964 or email at – Phemba Kahle News.

Pictured: Convicted turtle poacher turned artist, Makotikoti Zikhali, with one of his sculpture’s skeletal framework Also pictured is Sheena Stannard from Durban who treasures her Makotikoti turtle given to her in return for a R800 pledge toward to the Makotikoti Arts Project.

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