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Former taxi driver Sipho Twala crafts his way to Design Joburg

Sipho Twala

Sipho Twala

Published May 7, 2022

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Emerging artist and designer Sipho Khwebula Twala says exhibiting his work at the 2022 Design Joburg is a dream come.

Twala, a former taxi driver is teaming up with renowned designer Sir Abner Makgamatha to create a signature collection to exhibit at the Design Joburg fair, set to take place from Thursday, May 19 until Saturday, May 21, at the Sandton Convention Centre.

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“This is my first time being a part of the Design Joburg exhibition, I'm looking forward to meeting other designers and seeing what they have been working on for the show.

“But, most importantly, I am looking forward to making this collaboration a success and establishing solid relationships with other creatives who are outside my field,” says Twala.

When creative director and designer at Form Interior Erica Schalkwyk realised that she will not be able to exhibit this year's show because she’s having a baby, she decided to give her space to a young emerging artist.

“While I could not use the space, I felt certain that someone else could benefit from taking it in our place,” said Schalkwyk.

“Design Joburg was pivotal in launching my career when I first established Form Interior Décor and Design … I realised that our stand had the potential to be similarly influential in the career trajectory of another up-and-coming designer,” added Schalkwyk.

Twala, who has started building his brand with his sculptural furniture designs, was perfect fit.

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“Our collaboration with Sir Abner is inspired by my story of being a taxi driver before I became a furniture maker. We will be exhibiting a side cabinet, which is a combination of my own creativity and Sir Abners', the three-seater is inspired by a taxi seat,” quips Twala.

Sipho Twala’s ‘Dongo’. Picture: Supplied

With a growing passion for furniture design, Twala, who specialises in designing and manufacturing custom-made furniture, says it was by pure coincidence that he got into business in the first place.

“Being a furniture maker was never part of my plans. I actually stumbled into it back in 2013, when the Department of Economic Development rolled out a learnership programme for using industrial furniture manufacturing machines.

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“At the time I was a taxi driver, and that was the only available option which was better than being a taxi driver.”

Through his business Khwebula Arts, Twala says wants to help the furniture design industry grow in Africa by creating good quality work that has the potential to compete at international levels.

“Our refreshing design style is a combination of free thought, infused with Scandinavian and African design.

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“With the aid of modern technology, we managed to develop our own unique style, the clean finishes and exceptional joinery conclude the deep passion we have for carpentry,” said Twala.

Sipho Twala’s Sbhozo dining chair. Picture: Supplied

Twala is the 2020 design indaba emerging creative and the 2020 Nandos Hot Young Designer finalist.

Now in its fourth year, Design Joburg is a platform where interiors and design, fashion, architecture and sustainable design practices are in South Africa.

It is a place where new talents are putting their energy into what the future holds for design, as a vehicle of change and drive in Southern Africa and further afield.

This year’s star-studded line-up includes multi-award-winning designer Rich Mnisi, award-winning contemporary multimedia visual artist, Trevor Stuurman, industry icon Maira Koutsoudakis, creative director of N A T U R A .co-Lab Manthe Ribane Liebmann, and Cocoon Lifestyle founder Bilala Mabuza.

The furniture design industry is growing rapidly, so we looked at other young artists that are making their mark in the world of furniture crafting, manufacturing and design.

Mpho Vackier (furniture designer)

Mpho Vackier an engineer turned furniture designer, and founder of TheUrbanative, a company that constantly explores the role of culture and cultural representations, and visibility in modern societies, with the aim of telling contemporary African stories through furniture and product design.

Zizipho Poswa (Ceramists)

Cape Town-based ceramic artist whose large-scale, hand-coiled sculptures are bold declarations of African womanhood.

She is inspired by the daily Xhosa rituals she witnessed as a young girl, growing up in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, and the life-sustaining roles that Xhosa women play in traditional and contemporary life. She was born in 1979 in the town of Mthatha.

Design Joburg runs from May 19 to 21, at the Sandton Convention Centre, while the fringe event –Design Joburg Collective – kicks off on May 17, at the finest décor and design districts, Kramerville and 44 Stanley.

Tickets are available at Webtickets, from R125.

For more information visit: www.designjoburg.com

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