August 8, 2012  |  Collection & Exhibitions
Century of the Child: Firsts for a Young Artist

Imagine you have never been to a museum. Any museum. Now imagine that you are visiting your first museum, and it’s MoMA; it’s also your first visit to New York, to the United States, and—most importantly—you are visiting to see your own art work on display. This was the experience of 16-year-old Tshepo (“Tuki”) Shivambu, who came all the way from Makuleke Village in South Africa to attend the press preview and opening reception of our new exhibition Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000.

Tshepo (“Tuki”) Shivambu in the Century of the Child exhibition

Tuki was accompanied by his longtime friend and spiritual mother Denise Ortiz, founder and director of the nonprofit organization Sharing to Learn, which strives to empower the children of Makuleke through education, maintaining learning centers and libraries in the village and connecting the students there—via live video feed—with their peers in classrooms across the world.

One of the ways that these students connect across such long distances is through the toys that the Makuleke children make for themselves. Soccer balls made from plastic bread bags and intricately crafted cars made from scrap wire and bottle caps, for example, attest to the inherent creativity of children, who deploy their own imaginative and constructive abilities to become designers themselves. In Century of the Child these and similar toys are displayed to remind us that the relationship between children and design is not only manifest in mass-produced consumer goods; children inevitably—and sometimes of necessity—design their own childhoods.

It was a pleasure to be a part of Tuki’s first visit to MoMA and to connect with Sharing to Learn, as both a lender and a source of inspiration.



that’s a very good thing. thank you.
i remember trying to make a ball from a plastic bag once.
it didn’t work out too well.

but i won them over with sympathy …

I think i wrote on the floor when i was a child, why humans don’t make cool objects like my vortex hole of water, a portable hole like the owned of “pink panter”, a black hole, but this hole of my childhood taken me to the ocean with many creatures and adventures, mmm… the century of child i hope!!!

The car is truly a work of art. Wonderful! I bring toys to children in rural schools in Africa. A single box of toys can triple a kindergarten. There is a lot we can all do.

Wow not only has this young man created a stunning piece of artwork he has left his own home and country a township no doubt to visit New York. No wonder he is smiling Well done Teshepo

What a BRILLIANT smile and BRILLIANT example of natural art by Tshepo “Tuki” … And what BRILLIANT inspiration from his charming spiritual mother, Denise Ortriz, to show this sad old world what love can produce! This is a profoundly moving story. May God bless and protect all those involved with it!

I am the founder of Sharing to Learn. We are so proud of the work that is on display at the MoMA; it reflects the innovative and resilient nature of the impoverished rural Makuleke community. One of the objects on display is a lovely doll, handcrafted from vegetable sacks by local preschool teachers that create the toys that their small learners need in order to play.

Last week the roof of their village preschool was destroyed in a terrible storm that swept through the village. STL is raising money to help build the preschool a new roof. If you are inspired by this story, please consider giving a small amount of money to help with this initiative. It is a sad reality that these wonderful teachers can have art on display at the MoMA, yet no roof to shelter their eager learners…

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