Bonolo Helen Chepape is a young graphic designer from Rustenburg, North West. The 26-year-old creative has strong Pedi cultural roots and a fascination for storytelling that stems from early childhood visits to her grandma’s house in Botlhokwa, Limpopo.
‘During these visits, I was literally surrounded by music, art, and storytelling which often took place around a fire. It would be stories of the rain Queen Modjaji, the translation, and meaning of our clan names, poems and life lessons.’
Bonolo completed her Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design and Communication at the Midrand Graduate Institute, now Pearson Institute. She worked in advertising for four years before starting her own online décor and design consultancy studio in 2016. ‘Lulasclan encapsulates every fiber of my being and it’s all about taking authentic African design and textiles to the world. One key motif in my illustrations or art is the celebration of women in the work I do. I want to celebrate women that inspire others and have also inspired me.’
Bonolo recently teamed up with Mr Price Home’s COLAB project to design a range for the homeware retailer. The on-going project is a creative collaboration with trending South African artists to create a once-off product range. Bonolo’s range includes everything from scatter cushions to rugs, gifting, blankets, wall art and side tables. The bright and bold collection is inspired by her Pedi culture and heritage. ‘The creative process was one that I will cherish forever. I worked with Mr Price Group’s design and trend manager Adrienne Sparks and head of design, Yanni Vosloo. I learned so much from them.’
Is there a story behind the name Lulasclan?
The name is derived from my love of Pedi culture and languages. Lula means easy in Zulu and easy is translated as Bonolo in Setswana. The clan is a reference to my Pedi culture. Lulasclan embodies the coming together of different people, different styles, different languages coming together to create beautiful things all for a greater purpose of showcasing design with heritage and culture to the world.
What is your design philosophy?
My design philosophy is simple. We believe in the preservation of culture, heritage, and storytelling through design. Our homes should be a reflection of where we come from and a reference to where we are going, a hopeful place where our stories are visually told from inside out.
Another brand/designer would you like to collaborate with?
I would certainly love to work or do a collaborative project with Atang Tshikare. I’ve always admired his work and maybe it’s because he also comes from a graphic design background and has managed to bring his work to life through functional objects. I love the abstract nature and organic feel of his work and that every piece is a reference to his background and culture.
An African designer that inspires you
That would have to be Dokter and Misses. Their designs are detailed, light-hearted and functional. They always create unique products that depict African design in a new way.
Local designers, that are on your radar?
Your views on the local design scene?
Wow. We getting there hey, the SA design scene is taking the world by storm especially African contemporary designs and designers. I think designers and creatives are starting to look for inspiration internally and we are telling our own stories authentically, just as we experience them.
What are your thoughts on cultural appropriation?
Cultural appropriation in this day an age becomes inevitable. I believe everyone has their own interpretation of culture whether it’s yours or borrowed. The fact that we all seeking our own cultural place in this world and always seeking to find our identities, leads to cultures lending and borrowing from one another. We see this in design where cultural designs clash, get mixed and even evolve into something new. In my view, cultural appropriation is unavoidable – just as long as the essence is maintained. It has to be done with integrity and respect or else it loses its meaning.
What you love most about what you do?
I love the fact that I get to focus just on one thing…doing what I love. I wake up and the first thing I do is design and create. Being at my desk with my computer, pen, paper, and coloured pencils gives me the greatest joy.