Ntokozo Mashinini, also known as Brainz, is a young black man, from Katlehong who exemplifies how one man’s trash is another man’s material to create arts and crafts in the form of bags, jewellery, and clothing.
Ntokozo Mashinini is a gifted artist who created his first bag in grade 3, at the age of 9. He was raised by his grandparents, a common reality in South Africa. He got the name Brainz in the streets of Katlehong growing up among his peers who recognised is creative genius and gave him the name as he was the one who used to make wire cars, slingshots and other handmade toys for himself and his friends. As creating our own playing materials was and still is the norm in the townships of South Africa.
Putting his creativity to good use, Mashinini created Savage Brainz, a local company with the main brand name Brainz. Their products range from bags, clothing, shoes and other accessories for both males and females.
A brand unlike many, the products are produced from mainly upcycled material. Off cut fabrics, buttons, sacks, pegs, zips, beads, zips, toys, bottle caps, spoons, dice, rocks, wire, wood and such, are just some of the materials that Ntokozo Mashinini uses to create his masterpieces.
Upcycling is the reuse of material, sourced from external sources, in such a way as to create value in that material making its value more than that of the original value of the material. Downcycling is the use of “waste” material, sourced internally from offcuts or the breaking down of a reject product to create more value to the product or creating a new product with more value.
Both upcycling and downcycling are definitions that fall under recycling. It is the recycling that is the cornerstone of Savage Brainz the company and Brainz the brand, both in terms of costs and creativity, as many of the products are produced from zero budget. Other building blocks in Ntokozo’s career include freelancing and Savage Brainz being outsourced as a creative consultant in car interior designing and carboard interior.
The genesis of Savage Brainz is a story of how an inherently talented young black man, without formal training in the art world of design, created a bag for himself using a rice sack and denim from his own denim jeans. His creation caught the attraction of a buyer, while he was walking to a shop in his local shopping centre. After that he made two other bags which also found themselves new owners, and from then on Ntokozo realised that what he was creating was not just for him but meant to be shared with the world.
Ntokozo is a self-taught man using YouTube and other artists as his teachers. His unique kasi (township) spirited style and method of recycling material makes him stand out among the growing art and crafts industry in South Africa.
Savage Brainz has had its Brainz products displayed in various exhibitions, fashion shows and markets at various places in Gauteng, including, Maboneng district, Pretoria, Tembisa and Vaal. His first fashion show was in Katlehong, in December 2017 at the local tavern called “Roots Place”. The market in Maboneng district is the one he has participated in more than any other market. It was at the market in Maboneng districts where he learnt some important lessons. Not only how to interact with customers and sell his products, but patience and perseverance.
One of the challenges faced by Ntokozo is the fact that he is running Savage Brainz alone. He produces the product, markets it and does everything else that needs to be done in the maintaining and running of the company. He has aspirations of growing his business and brand and creating jobs for the young people of Katlehong.
Ntokozo hopes to open the eyes of the community to the beauty and value of things we would consider trash. Including ourselves.