If you’ve spent any time in the country you’ll know that South Africans love chickens – they’re everywhere. You’ll see them at bus stops, tied onto the backs of bicycles and along the roads. You’ll see them made of wire and beads, served up with piri piri sauce and scratching around in yards and homesteads, especially in more rural areas. These chickens have inspired a whole genre of wood carving along the western edge of the Kruger National Park, stretching from Nelspruit to Thohoyandou.
I first fell in love with these wooden chickens somewhere close to Hazyview, and over the years they’ve become more and more prevalent at craft shops and stalls. Not all hoenders (Afrikaans for chickens) are equal though, and some artists manage better than others to capture their quirky, quintessential antics - like artist is Nelson Mrussia. He displays his chickens – along with guineafowl, elephants and giraffe carvings – at Kruger’s Numbi Gate. You can identify his work from the price stickers bearing the number 38, which is his ID in the artists’ co-operative he’s part of. Nelson spends several days getting his chickens to strut and cluck for the tourists on their way into the park and I plan to build up a whole flock of his beautiful birds.
- Dianne Tipping-Woods