Shabalala Designs

Alex Shabalala

Growing up in KZN with his grandmother Alex found himself inspired by nature and set about imagining, creating and shaping art pieces. He was an artist from a very young age where his games as a child including making a range of animals and art in a variety of media.  He has honed his craft and now produces exquisite pieces in white and brown earthenware and occasionally in porcelain.

The newest of range of his highly collectible art are the Abelusi, the Zulu word for shepherds of cattle.  Alex’s Abelusi reflect the childhood experiences of all the artists working with him at his new studio in the Riversands Incubation Hub, Midrand.

As young children Abelusi learn from older Abelusi. It is a matter of honour to be an exceptional Abelusi and follow the norms and rules, learned, and developed over centuries around the big responsibility of herding cattle.  All great Abelusi know their animals well and dream of being able to use their skills on wild animals – a fantasy playfully represented by the pieces which include hippopotamus, rhinoceros, honey badger and pangolin.   The rich diversity of South Africa is reflected, as the Abelusi in each piece of art may be Basuto or Xhosa or Zulu.  The significance of the heavy responsibility and the delight and innocence of each child as well as the unique personality of the animals echoes beautifully.

Leopards curl around candlesticks and genets and zebra climb and rest on platters.  Jugs and lamp fittings embellished with exquisite flowers and patterns unique to South Africa.   Wash hand basins envelop your hands in patterns and gently play with pangolins, kingfishers and other animals.

Alex draws much inspiration from the discipline and structure found in the natural world.  He is inspired by this discipline and the consistency of plants and animals and this is reflected in the studio.

The artists who work with Alex are expected to be meticulous in their attention to detail and put incredible focus on working to the highest standards which are reflected in their approach to their throwing benches and painting tables.  Cleanliness and order prevail, and nothing is out of place in this delightful environment filled with joy and peace.

His work is held in collections around the world and he has participated extensively in exhibitions during his career.


Xolile Hadebe is a painter of great skill and talent.  She loves flowers and plants and her patterns and choice of colours reflect her sophistication and elegance.  She is intrigued by the different nuances and rhythms found in nature and thrives on the beauty of wild animals but does not enjoy being too close to them preferring to admire from a distance.

Milo Dlamini has just joined Shabalala Designs as a painter.  Milo has tremendous patience when she paints and loves the ability to be creative.  Her favourite colour is blue because it reminds her of open skies on a warm day and the ocean.  She enjoys simple yet sophisticated pieces.

Nkanyiso Dlamini is a master sculptor.  His favourite animal is an elephant and he loves creating pieces.  He is ruthless in his ability and focus to extract the animal he sees in his mind from the clay and gains inspiration from his surroundings and nature.  His favourite colour is green.

Vusi Ntshalintshali

Vusi is a quiet and masterful thrower and sculptor.  He was 13 years old when he knew he would always be an artist.   He says that art releases stressful thoughts and adds joy and a sense of humanity to life.  His inspirations are mountains, wild creatures, animals, and plants.  He wants to pass his passion on to others and feels strongly about protecting animals and not abusing them or hurting them in any way. 

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