Royal Chundu

We’ve been teasing you with images of our Royal Chundu flock in celebration of Year of the Bird and we’re excited to say: our birds have now taken flight, spreading across the globe from Cape Town to New York, Zambia to the Wild West.

They’re on a mission to spread the spirit of the Zambezi River, far and wide, along with the love of our community, the joy of travel, the faith of flight and the awareness of bird-kind worldwide. They are a homage to all that we love about the Zambezi and its harmonious abundance of life.

Our African skimmers, paradise flycatchers, pied kingfishers, half-collared kingfishers, masked weavers, fish eagles, lilac-breasted rollers, hoepoes, red bishops and crested barbets are busy landing in a few of our cherished travellers, guests and partners’ carry-on luggage, waiting to be whisked away on a world-wide journey in the company of like souls. These birds were not meant to be caged.

Royal Chundu dining with birds

If one of our flock has chosen you as their travel companion, we’d love if you could take, share and send a few images of him or her on your travels together – whether at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco or on the Copacabana beach in Rio, on game drives through the Okavango Delta or atop Cape Town’s Table Mountain.

#YearOfTheBird #WordToTheBird #BirdIsTheWord 

We hope one day our little beaded birds of a feather will bring you back to us, to complete the circle of life. And because we know that the voyage will reveal many tales waiting to be told over a Zambezi G&T at sundown…

Find out more about the man behind our creations, Birdman Lloyd Tandi, who lives in central Johannesburg, with his wife and three year old son.


Meet Lloyd Tandi

1. How long have you been working with wire to create birds?

I started in the business 22 years ago. The range of birds has become very popular over the past couple of years.

2. How did you get started? How did you learn the trade?

I grew up in Rusape in the Manicaland Province Ashanti in Zimbabwe and attended Vengera High sSchool where I studied metal and painting in addition to the standard curriculum. My two brothers are both artists – one works with wire and one is a painter.

3. What inspires you in your work and life? And with the birds in particular? 

I grew up in the bush and have always loved nature and animals. I’m fortunate to be doing something I love as my job that also enables me to support my family in South Africa and my Mum back home in Zimbabwe.

Bird love

4. What birds do you create and which are your favourite and why?

I just love the lilac-breasted roller –  it is also very popular with buyers. This is one of my original designs which so far no-one has copied. I’ve loved that bird since my youth back in Zimbabwe. My brothers and I always looked out for them after the rains – as that is when they were most abundant.

Other favourites are, of the smaller birds: the hoopoe, sunbird, crested barbet and kingfisher.

I received a special commission from Zambia – the African skimmer – this was a first for me as I have never made this species before. It is very rare and I have yet to see one in real life!

Zambezi Birds

Of the bigger birds, I love the secretary bird, flamingo and blue crane.

Another special commission was the African fish eagle. It was a great honour to create the National Bird of Zambia for Royal Chundu!

5. Favourite bird reference book?

Roberts Bird Guide. I use this classic book to check the details of my creations.

Royal Chundu birding

6. Where do you get your beads and working supplies from?

My beads are imported from China and I source my wire from various local  hardware stores. Unfortunately copper wire is too expensive to use but now we use galvanised wire.

7. Do you work alone or with a team?

I’m a one man band – but call in others when I am working on a big order. I have also been training a few South Africans and have hired them for big jobs. I’m privileged to be able to up-skill others and help them earn a living. Job creation is essential in Africa and micro-businesses like mine can contribute to the economy.

RC Birds

8. What do you love about what you do and create?

I come from a family of artists  and have always had a strong passion for the creative arts.

9. Do you create other works?

A lot of my business is seasonal – so I do items inspired by different holidays like Christmas Reindeer and Easter items like bunnies and chickens. Wild animals,farm animals, domestic pets like special breeds of dogs e.g. French Bulldogs are popular. For Valentines Day, I created a selection of hearts and roses.

Zambezi Birdie

10. What do you think about your birds for Royal Chundu taking off around the world?

I feel honoured that people from across the world are interested in my craft. I feel like an Ambassador for Africa! I met a tourist  from the USA who owns an art gallery and now she is a Client. I export to America for the Casa Nova Gallery in Sante Fe, New Mexico. I ship orders of  animals and birds over to her.

11. How long does it take to an individual bird?

One bird = one hour

RC Birdlife

12. What has been your biggest project to date?

I have made huge baobab trees for a local bank and they took about a month each to do. These were also my most expensive orders so far as each tree cost R7500! I have also done large orders of corporate gifts – for the festive season.

13. Where are you located?

Twelve years ago I chose my spot here on the corner of Jan Smuts Ave and Bolton Road in Johannesburg – this was a strategic choice as it is in the centre of the gallery area  – so many tourists and art lovers are able to see my work. 

14. What is your biggest challenge?

Staying original and keeping up to date with trends. Other craftsmen copy my work which is sad. I need to understand what the buyers are looking for. For example, if pineapples are big in interior design – then I must make pineapples. Trends change consistently so I have to stay well informed.

Royal Chundu birds