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Cultural collabs: SA's past and future collide in heritage-inspired designs

Artists and sport stars are using Mzansi's heritage to reimagine brands’ identities

19 September 2021 - 00:01 By Sbu Mkwanazi
Nelson Makamo's one-off Porsche 911 Carrera.
Nelson Makamo's one-off Porsche 911 Carrera.
Image: Supplied

Money can't buy it, it can't be taken away from you and it has little to do with braaing. That's the power of heritage — inherited traditions, monuments and objects that relate to our diverse cultures.

Locally, a number of brands are accessing South African heritage in collaboration with artists and designers. These projects are opening a window into the past to preserve our culture for future generations.


German luxury car maker Porsche has connected with local customers by accessing the heritage of Joburg-based visual artist Nelson Makamo to produce a one-off Porsche 911 Carrera.

Makamo's art has graced the cover of Time magazine in a story entitled "34 people who are changing how we see the world".

He comes from the rural Limpopo town of Modimolle and says his heritage always plays a role in his work.

This project, called "My Life in Motion", is a representation of his Sepedi culture. He hand-painted parts of the car, including the bumper, door panels and side-mirror covers.


Local craft gin and spirits maker Inverroche has always championed local flavour.

The 2021 Inspiration Collection, a high-end range of handmade pieces, connects to South African heritage by collaborating with acclaimed ceramist Zizipho Poswa, who crafted drinking vessels inspired by the healing properties of limestone in collaboration with Ngwenya Glass, a glass-blowing outfit from Swaziland.

Poswa is one half of Imiso Ceramics, a studio that creates one-off collectable pieces. The Umthatha native's Xhosa heritage is always evident in her works.

Zizipho Poswa's drinking vessels for Inverroche.
Zizipho Poswa's drinking vessels for Inverroche.
Image: Supplied

"My works are about who I am, my journey, my culture and my people," she says. "They speak to the evolution of my cultural heritage."


These days, brands that have a footprint in SA are aware that heritage and culture have an emotional effect on customers.

Cheslin Kolbe partners with Superdry SA.
Cheslin Kolbe partners with Superdry SA.
Image: Supplied

"Often, brands focus on what story they're telling instead of saying 'tell us your story'," says Amanda Daniels, marketing manager for Superdry SA.

The clothes maker has partnered with South African rugby player Cheslin Kolbe, as part of their Heritage Day concept, to tell the story of a young boy from Kraaifontein in Cape Town who rose to great heights in his rugby career.

"Your heritage is your roots, identity and foundation," says Kolbe. "It drives my values and qualities."


Illustrator, graphic designer and street artist Karabo "Poppy" Moletsane made her name fusing African heritage with futuristic designs.

She was asked to illustrate Nescafé Ricoffy's 50th birthday coffee tin by interpreting the theme of South Africanness.

"The concept of national identity is simple and complex. It's important to know where we come from and where we're headed, while making sure we're rooted in the here and now. It filters into my idea of the contemporary South African aesthetic," she says.

"The hybridisation of tradition and future thought will inform our growth. Being proudly South African, paying homage to my heritage and culture through my work and being recognised for it on local and international stages feels like being a national athlete.

Karabo “Poppy ”Moletsane's Nescafé Ricoffy 50th birthday coffee tin.
Karabo “Poppy ”Moletsane's Nescafé Ricoffy 50th birthday coffee tin.
Image: Supplied

"I've used iconic South Africanisms like 'eita' and 'lekker', which are recognisable anywhere in the world. They're music to an expat's ears.

"I've also incorporated the theme of currency — from literal money through to the fashion and hairstyles we use to express our identities."