Famed French artist Madame Tussaud is known for her wax sculptures and, of course, for founding London’s wax museum in 1835. Artists today are inspired by her vision.

The London native draws fans from all over the world to see their favorite figures brought to life. Most recently, her legacy has landed in Africa.

Lungelo Gumede of Durban is making a name for himself as a visual artist after being inspired by Madame Tussaud’s work. Gumede visited the wax museum in New York in 2012 and discovered a new passion.

“It was me seeing and identifying the need for the wax museum after I went to New York and I visited [Madame Tussauds]. When I came back to South Africa, I saw the need to start the same thing,” the sculptor said.

During Nelson Mandela’s centenary celebrations, many artists found creative ways to honor the leader. As an innovative way to commemorate the president’s life, Gumede told a story with his art. He displayed wax figures which portrayed Mandela from when the philanthropist was a young lawyer, to when he was a political prisoner, to when he became the first black president of South Africa.

The Beginning


Gumede’s start as an artist was not glamorous. The young creative began to paint portraits at both the beachfront in Durban and at flea markets.

His big break came in 2008 when he was commissioned by the municipality of eThekwini to paint Forest Whitaker. Whitaker was visiting the nation following his Oscar win for his role in The Last King of Scotland.

Since completing the sculpture of Whitaker, Gumede has gone on to sculpt the likeness of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, TV Icon Oprah Winfrey, and legendary musician Michael Jackson.

In order to portray his subjects as accurately as possible, Gumede studies photos. In order to sculpt subjects who are alive, he takes pictures and measurements of them if they are available.

Gumede dreams of presenting Oprah Winfrey and John Legend with their wax figures. He would also like to sculpt U.S. President Barack Obama.

Aside from painting and sculpting wax figures, Gumede also works with bronze. For the centenary, he created bronze sculptures of Mandela and anti-apartheid activist Albertina Sisulu.



Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons.