The Isintu Spoon Project
December 08, 2021
Have you ever heard the Chinese proverb about the difference between heaven and hell?
In both places, there is a bowl of noodles and many pairs of oversized chopsticks. In hell, everyone is desperately thin and frustrated as they try again and again to feed themselves with the impossibly long utensils. In heaven meanwhile, everyone is happy and full—they feed one another. And that makes all the difference.
On our continent, it’s not chopsticks, but spoons that represent the quintessential utensil. First designed and used around 1000 BC, this humblest of instruments has been bringing people together for millennia—sustaining, serving and sharing in almost every meal on every table since.
Our Isintu Spoon Project pays homage to this legacy. Motivated by a desire to build South Africa and create work opportunities for her people, this project aims to draw the hand-craft and manufacturing industries together by celebrating the unique value of each. While we at Pedersen + Lennard ensure quality, precision manufacturing, MacGyver ensures the warmth of a familiar, ancient craft. Through this collaboration we hope to build Isintu.
But let's get back to the beginning, to meet the local artist and master craftsman, MacGyver, who largely inspired and helped set our Isintu Spoon Project into motion. He is a true artisan that has honed his skill in craftwork over the last 18 years and we asked him to share his journey. The journey that led to our paths crossing and the birth of a collaboration that celebrates the creativity and common humanity that connects us all.
Your passion for what you do is so evident in your work. There is so much beauty and fine detail in each piece that you create. Tell us about what inspired your journey into art and craftwork here in Cape Town?
“Ever since I was a young boy, I have always found bits of things lying around and tried to make something new out of them. I grew up in a rural town called Butterworth, in the Eastern Cape. It’s not a bad place to grow up, but I’d watch shows on TV like AirWolf and MacGyver, and I’d dream of living a life like some of those guys... especially MacGyver – I liked him too much! How he always made a plan, no matter what...
When I first arrived in Cape Town 18 years ago, it was really tough to find work, really tough. I needed to make a plan, like MacGyver. I started to try and make a living by making art. I first made little houses from any pieces of cardboard and plastic I could find, and then I took them to the corner of Hof Street to sell. I was nervous, but the people loved them. And it was a big relief for me. I remember thinking to myself, “You can really do this!” That’s when I changed my name to MacGyver.
Since then, I have worked on many different projects, with lots of different people. I’ve worked with perspex, wire, sheet metal, cardboard, plastic, rubber and wood. I’ve never owned my own car, but I’ve made and sold hundreds of smaller replicas... from Intercape buses and dump trucks to Jeeps and vintage BMWs—each with my own unique style and flair.
I’ve learnt that if you keep at whatever you are doing, you get more perfect.
I’ve learnt that even when you feel like you have nothing and there are no opportunities, just look around and use whatever you can find.
I’ve learnt that no matter what, art is in me, I love it. I’m good at it, and so, I keep pushing.”
“So now, here comes the poverty.”
This is how MacGyver describes March 2020. After a successful self-made career designing and selling craftwork in Cape Town’s CBD, MacGyver saw his business vanish over the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown.
Around that time Luke had been thinking through a whole new model that would take advantage of our production capacity, design knowledge and growing customer base. Pairing this up with the huge need in South Africa for jobs and skills development, the model is now being tested with our Isintu Spoon project.
The two met on an overcast Saturday toward the end of 2020, on the corner of Hof Street (where MacGyver had resumed selling his trademark wares). A chance encounter led to a meeting at the Pedersen + Lennard factory, many more conversations, and the making of a beautiful collaboration: The Isintu Spoon Project.
Meaning ‘humanity’ in isiXhosa, each spoon celebrates the principles of timeless design, hands-on craftsmanship and all of us coming together around one common table.
Designed by MacGyver himself, each set of 3 utensils has then been precision cut on Pedersen + Lennard’s CNC machines, then hand carved and sanded in Langa by MacGyver and his growing team, before finally being packaged and sent to clients all over the world.
“Our precision production methods ensure quality and usability, while hand-carving and finishing give it the feeling of genuine Isintu. It is in this meeting point that we find job creation and skills transfer, imbuing these spoons with a quality greater than the sum of their processes,” - says Luke
Designed to celebrate the creativity and common humanity that connects us all, while expressing Pedersen + Lennard’s superlative approach to production, these spoons are as functional and uplifting as utensils can get.
Like the Chinese chopsticks in that ancient proverb, our spoons are oversized and meant for sharing and serving. Indeed, their very presence at your table connects you not only to the people you share your meals and life with, but people like MacGyver too, whose hands and hearts have helped to shape them.
May they hold your attention and serve your loved ones for a lifetime.
Shop the Isintu Spoons here.