When Erica Schalkwyk, creative director and designer of Form Interior Décor and Design, realised that she would not be able to use the stand that she’d booked at Design Joburg 2022 she did not want the paid-for space to go to waste. She figured a free stand sponsored by her could be a springboard for an emerging designer, so she sought out the assistance of the organisers of Design Joburg to help her find a candidate. “Design Joburg was pivotal in launching my career when I first established Form Interior Décor and Design,” says Schalkwyk. “I realised that our stand had the potential to be similarly influential in the career trajectory of another up-and-coming designer.”
Design Joburg proposed Sipho Twala, founder of Khwebula Arts, a furniture design and manufacturing start-up launched in 2019, which has already begun to make its mark through its sculptural furniture designs. Schalkwyk was familiar with Twala’s work and counted herself among his fans, so was delighted with the suggestion.
While Khwebula Arts is relatively new on the scene, Twala’s talent and drive were soon recognised and he was selected for the Design Indaba Emerging Creatives programme – a platform for “young creatives who have relatively little industry exposure” – in 2020. He also figured among the finalists of the Nando’s Hot Young Designer (HYD) competition the same year, attracting the attention of the judges with his Boni Bench, a response to the brief to design a bench “that responds sensitively to seating needs in a time of social distancing”. Twala worked as a taxi driver prior to being introduced to woodwork and cabinetmaking through a learnership programme run by the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency. After a stint as a computer numerical controlled (CNC) machine operator, he began teaching himself to programme CNC-cutting machines, and then, often using YouTube videos and tutorials, he taught himself 3D design and related programmes. He worked in multiple award-winning solid wood furniture and structure designer David Krynaauw’s workshop before launching Khwebula Arts.
Design Joburg came to the party and teamed up Twala with Sir Abner Makgamatha, who is on this year’s Design Indaba creative panel. His early work in fashion involved graphic designs for T-shirts, and he has subsequently served as creative director for fashion maestro David Tlale. Twala and Makgamatha conceptualised the stand as an installation rather than a gallery space. What they will be showcasing is a bench based on the three-seater Siyaya minibus seat. They have also created a cabinet, which is a perfect vehicle for Makgamatha’s graphic designs. Additional elements of the stand will include items drawn from both their back catalogues, with wallpaper and curtains from Makgamatha and Twala’s earliest design, the K1 dining chair, which launched Khwebula Arts and remains his best-selling design.
The concept for the stand presents an unlikely intersection of cultural influences, from the taxi rank to the high-end interior, from graphic design to fashion and furniture. “Instead of showing you a house, we're showing you the foundations of the house,” says Makgamatha.
Twala adds that he would like to thank Form Interior Décor and Design and Design Joburg for the opportunity. His approach is inspired precisely by the desire to give back, even as he takes up the opportunity, in the hope of inspiring other designers with a show of creativity, the airing of ideas and concepts in a way that will fuel the imagination of others.
Design Joburg takes place from 19 - 21 May at the Sandton Convention Centre.