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With the launch of his new furniture range Guquka Africular – which is inspired by the symbolism of African pattern and the evolution of the continent’s cultures in the contemporary world – Siyanda Magaba is a young local talent to watch.
A urban-based architectural technologist and interior designer Siyanda Magaba grew up in Bizana and Matatiele in the Eastern Cape. He obtained a degree in interior design and architecture at the Durban University of Technology in 2019. While completing his second year there, he created the eponymous Magaba Designs; later the same year, he launched his furniture label, Africular. We spoke to him recently to find out what drives and inspires him.
My design philosophy mainly follows an eco-efficient approach in creating African-inspired designs. It rejects any form of limitation.
As well as running Magaba Designs, I work for an architectural company, which continuously immerses me in architectural design and interior design. And as a designer, I find inspiration in almost everything I see and experience. These observations inform solutions, or bring life to new ideas.
Good design is guided by evenly balanced principles of functionality, aesthetics and sustainability. It provides solutions to improve the experience of everyday living through ideas that minimise the boundaries created by capital and class.
The number-one trend I see coming through in my field is biophilic design. I believe it provides multiple benefits to the sustainability aspect, by utilising natural materials to maintain a connection with nature.
My latest work incorporates this trend by guiding an eco-efficient approach towards creating African-inspired furniture that references African geometric patterns. The furniture pieces in the Guquka Africular range are all made from reclaimed timber pallets, which are processed and revived to create designs characterised by sustainability and eco-efficiency. The word “guquka” means to evolve, and the concept is inspired by the symbolism in African patterns and the evolution of African cultures into the modern world. The range is characterised by clean lines, simple shapes, functionality and truth to materials, and consists of a chest of drawers, a coffee table, a side table, a console stand, and a TV stand. Overall, the idea is to create a cross-reference between modern and vintage style.
My personal favourite among the pieces I’ve designed so far is the Ukugcina chest of drawers from the Guquka Africular range – it expresses the zigzag African pattern, widely known as “the path of the ancestors”, in a bold, visible and functional manner.
The designers I find most inspiring include Siyanda Mbele – he was the first designer I became aware of who was integrating African culture into furniture, paving the way for other designers to tell their African stories through furniture design. Internationally, I can’t help but go back in history to choose Walter Gropius. I first came across his work during my studies of Bauhaus at university; its principles included truth to materials, form following function, and the merging of designer and craftsperson, all of which answered the question of the kind of designer I wanted to become.
My favourite room in my home is the lounge, because it’s where people meet and socialise.
If money were no object, I’d treat myself to the iconic Eames leather lounge chair and ottoman.
In design, I believe that form follows function, and that a balance of both should be achieved to inform an item’s purpose and identity. The initial stage involves breaking down the concept; this is the root idea that would be a reference to an existing element in a context. The subsequent design stage includes designing the form to accommodate its function, and the final stage is the expression of the context of the referenced idea in the form of colour, texture and material.