Art, Science, and Pyrometallurgy

Johan Zietsman


In my career, I have had the privilege to enjoy science, research, and modelling, all of which I have for the most part applied to pyrometallurgy. Balancing my mostly left-brain existence has come through music, infrequent bits of writing, and collecting a few paintings and musical instruments from around the world. Art is such an essential part of breaking down the barriers in our thinking, and looking deeper into circumstances and the people around us.

In April of this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Daxx Tfwala at a food market near our home. He was born in Zimbabwe as the son of migrant workers, grew up in Buluwayo, and was trained as an artisan in panel beating and spray painting. It was through this education that he learned about metallurgy… ironmaking and steelmaking. Through adversity, he had to leave his trade and become a self-taught artist in 2007.

Daxx and I share a common heritage, a bond if you will. (Sorry, I could not resist the pun.) Marinda and I bought one of his paintings that day in April, which now hangs in Ex Mente’s office foyer. We also discussed the possibility of him putting some images from our uniquely spectacular high-temperature world to canvas someday.

Earlier this week Daxx invited me to the market again to have a look at some of his new work. We brought another of his paintings home today, this striking image of furnace tapping. It has provoked a variety of thoughts about the similarities between very different worlds… art and science. I will not say much more here, but I will probably write about this painting again. It would be great to hear your perspectives as well.

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Johan Zietsman


We are looking forward to exploring, discovering, and learning together as part of our drive to empower teams in our industry. In the past, we hosted Thermo Week, during which we focused on thermochemistry. Pyro Week has a broader scope, to address more of the needs that we have identified in our pyrometallurgy community.

Johan Zietsman


We are grateful to welcome Charlotte Hollenbach to our management team from 1 February 2022. You are already making a difference since you have joined, Charlotte, and it is great to have you in our team. We look forward to making a real difference together into the future. A warm welcome to Ex Mente.