T'BOLI: The Art of Temwel


by Sesotunawa

The art of Temwel (brass-casting) is a tradition handed over from one generation to another. A Tau Temwel (brass-caster) spends most of his time crafting accessories and homeware while making sure the Fu (spirits) bless him with good yield.

Temwel begins with material gathering. Traditionally and historically, the Tau Temwel gets his brass from broken gongs he traded with other ethnolinguistic groups from neighboring towns. These days, the Tau Temwel keeps his brass and other metal upcycling tradition by combing junk shops and buying whatever he can use. Apart from the metals, clay is also dug and mixed with ash and rice husk for molding. Beeswax, which can also be substituted with other types of wax is used for modeling designs.
The artisans cook the wax in a process called Tomego Tulo. Once the wax has cooled, they roll or knead the wax to make it easier to handle. This process is called Lenulid. When a design is ready, the Tau Temwel along with his family sit inside the workshop and start creating models in a process called Metik.
When the wax models have hardened. It goes through Smofut where the artisan encloses it with clay mixed with rice husk and ashes. Brass is then cooked and melted in high heat until the metal turns blue.
In Temwel, the molten metal is poured in the clay mold to melt and replace the wax model. Finally, the Tau Temwel then submerges the clay so it will cool down and does Benteum Snofut where he cracks the hardened clay molds open to get the product out which is then cleaned and scrubbed to shine.
Cleaning normally takes days and involves families and entire communities. In good days, the Fu allows the artisans to get products that are free of quality issues. This makes the artisans happy since there is no need for them to redo everything.

Knowing this arduous process, Sesotunawa puts in mind that one of our goals is to make you, our #CultureMovers who are also our buyers and advocates, understand that the products you buy from a Tau Temwel are unique. Each product is a result of generations of experience and skill sharing.