KZN Midlands, RSA

The Dlamini

So what do an elephant, an angel and a Zulu lady have in common….?

They are celebrating another studio special… and a great story to share with you..  

As you know we are a small team of makers based in KwaZulu Natal. Our Dlamini figurines have traveled to all parts of the world and are celebrated in homes across South Africa. We do not believe in mass production.. which means we hand build each and every Dlamini from a simple lump of clay, before subjecting it to the heat and flames of a gas and sawdust Raku firing.  That way, no two can ever be the same.

Some years ago, we decided to move The Dlamini production so that each of us could operate from our own home environments.  It  meant saving money and time spent travelling to and from the studio in taxi’s and buses, flexible working hours and more family time at home. For Tim Buthelezi, who assembles The Dlamini bodies,  this meant he could spend more time with his community in Sweetwaters…  You see, Tim is a practicing lay preacher and his connecting with the surrounding community is important to him.   

But there is something quite magical that has come about as a result of all of this…  This month Tim and his community in rural Sweetwaters have broken ground and started to build him a church. They are almost up to window height now which means that all things being equal, they should have a roof on by Christmas.  

We are beyond excited to see a vision come true for ‘Mr B’ who will continue to balance his time between The Dlamini figurines and his congregation, at what he will call, ‘The Zulu church’..

So .. In celebration of this time, we will be continuing our ‘Dla’mini gift special’, but you now have three to choose from… 

An  Elephant Dla’mini because elephants never forget | OR  a ‘Traditional Zulu lady Dla’mini’ to celebrate marriage of all things | OR a ‘Dla’mini Angel because we’re all about making people feel loved. 

R295 each –  includes a personal message card and free delivery anywhere* in South Africa 

  • choice of 5 Raku fired glaze colours White | Grey | Corn | Red | Green
  •  Free personalized message card (max of 60 words please)
  • Free Courier service delivery to recognized South African destinations  in our tailor-made tube packaging  

All you have to do is select a  friend, business or family member (or a gift to yourself) anywhere* across South Africa (*no outlaying rural areas please) Then email your request for invoicing – Please ensure you include the following:

  1. Name and contact details (incl mobile number) 
  2. Recipient physical address and contact details (incl mobile number)
  3. Choice of glaze colour
  4. Choice of Dla’mini
  5. Your personalised message…..


We are so grateful for your continued support  of our studio, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted on the progress of Tim Buthelezi’s Zulu church.


The Dlamini Story..

Primitive pottery figurines from Africa date back to around 500 BC. The earliest of which were the Nok statuettes made of terracotta clay, combining strong formal elements with a complete disregard for precise anatomy. Their expressive quality is what inspired our now iconic ‘Collectable’, The Dlamini.

the Dlamini, Tim Dlamini, zulu lulu, Dlamini figurines, south african oscarTIM DLAMINI & TIM BUTHELEZI

‘The art of expression’ is what inspired ceramic artist Trayci Tompkins to design and create a range of Raku-fired ruler high clay sculptures for her then once a week employee Tim Dlamini and his friend, Tim Buthelezi.

For these quiet, deep-thinking men from the local rural community, it was a perfect match. They quickly learnt the art of clay sculpture and have since created a reputation within their own communities and families.


The Dlamini, Stuart Tompkins, Trayci Tompkins, Raku fired, Clay figurines, The South African Oscar, Midlands Meander, Tim, clay Dolls, The Dlamini dollsWorking full time from his home studio in Sweetwaters, near Pietermaritzburg, Tim Dlamini  hand-models hollow clay balls into expressive little faces and quirky sculpture headpieces or ‘thoughts’. These little heads are then carefully transported across the hills to the compact bespoke studio of Tim Buthelezi whose role it is to ‘build the bodies’ starting with a hollow clay tube . It is here, among the homestead surrounded by chickens and goats, and the neighbouring cows, that the family of clay figurines are born,

Once complete, The Dlamini’s are dried out in the African sunshine, then packed into modified chicken crates and transported back to the Tompkins’ studio for firing. 


the dlamini, stuart tompkins, raku firing,

Stuart balances his time between firing, packing and dispatching Dlamini’s… and he’s often found head first in the smokey surrounds of his Dlamini production. Firing Dlamini’s is not for the faint-hearted but Stuart has it down to a fine art.

After an initial firing to strengthen the clay, The Dlamini’s are covered in specially-formulated colour glazes and stacked 12 at a time into an outdoor ‘top hat’ kiln.

the dlaminis, the dlamini, raku firing, time dlamini, stuart tompkins, midlands meander

A gas flame burner is then steadily increased to heat the kiln to a temperature of 1000 degrees which melts the glaze. The Dlamini’s are then placed into a bed of sawdust and other combustibles. It’s in this burning wood smoke that the magic happens; altering oxides and crackling the glaze into random surface effects whilst turning unglazed areas black.

This method of Raku, with its spontaneous and random patterned surface, creates an artistic element to each piece and ensures that no two are ever the same.

The joy for our small team of makers, is knowing that in almost every country across the globe there’s a Dlamini standing proudly in someone’s home or office. They are given as gifts, awarded to top achievers, sportsmen and women or simply collected by Art lovers to fill their homes… We thank you all for your continued support..




KZN | ZULU LULU Art House, Midlands

KZN | Gaze Gallery, Ramsgate

KZN | Embo Craft Centre, Hillcrest

KZN | NSA Gallery, Durban

KZN | IMBIZO Gallery, Ballitoville

JOHANNESBURG | Mot Mot, Parkhurst



Looking to stock a range of The Dlamini figurines for your outlet, B&B or next function ? Orders in excess of 9 clay Dlamini’s qualifies you for a special wholesale price.  Contact Stuart Tompkins to discuss your order. Email


SAA, Nedbank, Nashua,  Drakensburg Boys Choir, PCB Chamber of commerce and The Midlands Literary Festival are a few of the organisations who have awarded bespoke Dlamini figurines to their top achievers or clients..

You can too, with Custom made Dlamini’s for corporates that retain their individual artistic feel.  A variety of glaze colours to suit your are available. Contact us today to discover what’s possible.  Contact Stuart Tompkins. Email

Follow The Dlamini on Facebook here.


We appreciate all the media coverage The Dlamini continues to receive in print media and magazines. Should you wish to tell our story to your readers, please contact Trayci Tompkins on Email.