PROPERTY | Spotlight on Sydenham
Ceramic artist Lookout Sibanda finds his inspiration in this Port Elizabeth suburb
Ceramic artist Lookout Sibanda finds his inspiration in the Port Elizabeth suburb of Sydenham, where he has lived and worked for the past two years.
“It’s quiet if no matches are being played at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (Port Elizabeth’s award-winning venue built for the 2010 Fifa World Cup) and, as an artist who needs peace and quiet to work, it’s perfect for that, for concentration,” he says.
Now a rising star on the Eastern Cape arts scene, Lookout began creating ceramics in 2012 but says he wasn’t that successful in this field until moving to Port Elizabeth from Pretoria in 2016.
“I started going to markets to try and make a name for myself and also held exhibitions to get my artwork seen,” he says.
His inspiration comes from various sources, but mainly from the colours of items that his grandmother used to knit.
“The blankets had many different colours woven into them,” he says.
“The textures just come to me while I’m busy working and then I transform it into ceramics.
"From fashion or whatever designs I see, I try to make it in a different way. Sometimes it’s just something that I think of and then I develop it into something different.”
He uses mostly locally sourced materials and takes pride in all his pieces.
“It’s difficult to manage a studio because you have to balance cleaning and trying to work. As an entrepreneur you don’t always have time to stop working and producing to do maintenance, but as long as it’s good enough for you to work and function, then it’s succeeding,” Lookout chuckles.
This young artist has had exhibitions in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, and has several pieces on display at a top hotel in Graaff-Reinet. He has also participated in many group exhibitions.
“I think it’s good to do exhibitions because it’s how you make a name for yourself and then people can see how serious you are about your craft,” Lookout says.
“If I had to give anyone wanting to do ceramics advice, I would say focus on how you finish your product. It doesn’t matter how you start, but finishing it is the most important. I wish I’d known how the ceramics business worked before I started out; I wish I went to school for it.
I taught myself over the years, but I would advise others to study ceramics, make those mistakes and experiments while studying because those mistakes cost time and money. It’s not an easy business and you need to be committed.
There are a lot of late nights but it’s worth it if this is what you love,” he adds.
Lookout says he enjoys living in Sydenham and would definitely recommend it.
“I have lived in other areas since moving to Port Elizabeth, but this is the safest I’ve ever felt.”
Home sweet home
When he was looking for a home, Lookout needed somewhere close to where he worked and found the ideal flat to meet his needs in Sydenham.
“I wanted a place close to the studio and found this flat right next to the stadium, which is a great bonus. I’m a big sports fan, especially when it comes to soccer, so I can pop in to watch a match and then get back to work.” he says.
The area is great for sporting enthusiasts but also has other things which attract people.
“I love the view, with the stadium on one side and the sea on the other, and I really lucked out with my flat,” Lookout smiles.
The area itself has a diverse mix of different types of homes and that would suit a variety of people – from singles to families.
“There are a lot of apartment blocks here but I would say it’s a mix of different homes.”
Cubata started out being the area’s biggest hidden gem, but over time has attracted patrons from all over Port Elizabeth and even beyond. This unassuming, no-frills Portuguese restaurant has loads of atmosphere and delicious food.
Owner Jose Nobrega started it up many years ago and makes a point of greeting and chatting to diners, who keep coming back for his authentic Portuguese dishes, particularly prawns, ribs and chicken.
There’s no menu as such and he’s happy for you to help yourself to drinks from the fridge, but you’re unlikely to leave hungry or dissatisfied.
For Lookout, the perfect Sunday includes a little work and a little play.
“I’d start my day with work, then make a stop at the stadium for a game, and then recharge at home while looking at the view. That would be the ideal Sunday for me,” he says.
“I honestly love the area and would not trade my home for the world.”
Most of the properties in this area are flats or apartments and Sydenham is not an expensive suburb.
You can expect to pay just under R300,000 a one-bedroom flat. Monthly bond repayments for a property like this, to be repaid over a period of 20 years at 10% prime, would be around R2,600.
Houses generally have a higher price tag of around R800,000.
SEE Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
There are some parks in the area where children enjoy playing.
Thanks to freeway access, it’s quick and easy to get to Port Elizabeth’s main beaches.
Cubata: a local favourite with amazing ribs
Los Amigos: reasonable prices, nice atmosphere
Wardas Halaal Foods: great for takeaways