Moses Masilbi lives in Mabopane, north of Pretoria, where he grew up. He was born with a birth defect that has led to his growth curtailed. Both my legs and spine were affected by my birth defect so I was in and out of hospital as a child. As a result I started school late. It was during this time that Moses discovered his great passion: model building.
I was first exposed to model building in hospital when I saw other children building models. I was so desperate to try it that when I went home for Christmas I began to build models with Omo and Surf washing powder boxes and masking tape. I was only six or seven at the time.”
As he got older, his passion for model building did not decline. Instead he continued to build his models and then he discovered that you could actually make a living from his hobby. “I watched a programme on television and there was a model used in a presentation for some architects. I was amazed.”Spurred on by the thought of making a living out of his model-building, Moses combed the newspapers for model-building work. “I eventually found an ad for an architect firm. I wrote a letter, including pictures of my models, to them. They responded positively, and I went for an interview. I was hired immediately for six months. After six months they asked me to stay.”
Moses worked at the firm for seven years. However, eventually health reasons forced him to leave. Not sure what to do next, Moses applied for a disability grant. “Since then that is how I have lived. But my passion was always there, so last year I began to phone around and ask about model-building work.”While he managed to get some work with a company in Kempton Park, the work is not constant. “I knew I had to do more, so I decided to start my own company. Since then I have completed a learnership at Desto College.”Importantly, while studying for his learnership, Moses also applied for financial assistance from PPC to start his business. “I wrote to PPC, explaining to them what I do. I also included photos of my work. I asked them for funds to start up my business. They contacted Desto College and attended my business plan presentation at the college.” The end result: they assisted Moses through their Ntiksa fund. As an added bonus PPC also asked Moses to build a model of their head office in Sandton. “It took me a month to build and I lost a couple of kilograms doing it. I worked flat out, till two to three every morning.” Today his model stands proudly in the foyer of the PPC head office in Sandton.His business is not doing too badly either, although he admits that it is a bit slow. “I also need to get a laptop and a website to market myself.”
An area Moses has been successful in, is making trees for models. He has a number of different types and he sells these through a model-building shop in Randburg. “I would like to grow this part of my business locally as well as internationally. Presently I am exploring export possibilities.”He also would like to see more black people and people with disabilities get involved in this type of work. “I would love to work with other people. I think model-building is creative and, therefore, suitable for people with disabilities.”
He also says more work needs to be done in black communities to educate the communities about disabilities. “This is important as I think that the black culture is not as understanding of people with disabilities as they should be. This has made it difficult for me. I was, and still am, seen as not normal and many people in my culture will therefore not approach me. If they do then it is often out of pity – which is easy to see. It is also hard for men with disabilities to approach women in these communities.” Moses explains that it was not easy meeting “ladies” when he was younger. Today he is married to Thama and they have a daughter, Nhlanhla, who is 15. “My wife was no different in the beginning. She was from Mpumalanga visiting in our street when I first met her. I asked her out, but she declined. I did not give up and got a female friend of mine to convince her to come out with us. She agreed. “When I was growing up, I prayed for a woman like my wife - someone who would understand me. I also wanted someone who was not tall and not rude. I am lucky because God listened and gave her to me.”