Week 1: Design Lab – Bonga Jwambi

2015 Emerging Creative Bonga Jwambi is a furniture designer and artist who specialises in creating trendy and affordable upcycled furniture using materials like pallets and box plastic strapping. Jwambi, who lives in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, had no formal training in art or design, but feels strongly that “art is something (he) can say (he) was born with”.

The realisation that he wanted to be an artist came to Jwambi while he was still at primary school: a Scottish Catholic nun doing community work in the area saw his work and commissioned him to draw Christmas cards for the organisation she was working with. It was a moment of revelation for him; the moment he realised the potential to make a career out of art.

Jwambi’s current range consists of chairs and stools and he plans to expand it to include small two-seater benches and lamps. His pieces have a clean, minimalistic aesthetic. We talked to him about where his inspiration comes from and where he hopes to take his design in the future.

Were you born in Cape Town?
I was born in Cape Town in an area called Crossroads, but my mother was removed from there to another area called Mfuleni. And then they were moved on to where I currently stay in Harare, Khayelitsha.

What sparked your interest in design?
I always thought I can produce better designs than the those that I see out there. Then I saw people throwing away stuff that I saw as reusable.

What made you decide to start your own business? 
I saw it as an opportunity to improve the situation that I was living under.

How do you think being creative can bring about change in South Africa 
I think by being creative you mostly become part of the solution for change.

One piece of advice for young entrepreneurs?
Don’t listen to people who tell you you are not good enough.

What are you up to at the moment, any new ventures or products?
I’m working on interior designing and bigger pieces such as bedroom suits, lamps and wall frames.

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