Working wonders with wood


A desire to bridge the divide between affordable and good quality furniture is what drives Bonga Jwambi to create his chic pieces.

“I started making furniture because I felt that there was this big gap between the cheap and expensive furniture. People who can’t afford the expensive ones often have to buy low-quality furniture. I wanted to fill that gap by designing high-quality furniture and making it affordable as well.”

Mr Jwambi is no stranger to those who love beautiful, hand-made furniture as his work makes regular appearances at pop-up shops, markets, expos and events such as the Design Indaba. His work is on sale at Kloof Street’s recently opened store, Avante Premier.

Completely self-taught, he says: “I approached the Cape Craft and Design Institute about two years ago and made my first prototypes through them. They were also really helpful in assisting me with product support.”

Recalling the first time he worked with wood, he says: “I was nervous, because I never used power tools before. What motivated me was to inspire the majority of people who believe they need to wait until they have everything before they start doing something. I still don’t have a well-equipped workshop, but I continue doing what I’m passionate about.

“My other inspiration is using recycled material to make wood products, because we throw so much stuff away that could be reused or recycled.”

Working from a Langa-based workshop, the Khayelitsha resident says: “My workshop is not really well-equipped, which limits me in terms of what and how much I can produce.

“Mostly, I do everything myself, but sometimes when there is too much business coming in, I get my nephew to help me. He loves it, because he knows I’m passing a skill on to him that he will be able to use in future.

“This is really important to me, especially given the need for skilled people we have in South Africa.”

Refusing to allow anything to chip away at him making a success of his chosen passion, he adds: “Seeing my customers appreciating the time and effort I put into producing the products makes it all worth it.

“Also, my business is growing, and I’ll continue doing what I can to keep it growing. I’d like to see my business and products going international.”

Does he have any advice for other young creative people out there?

Pausing for while, he says: “Nothing is impossible. And where you come from doesn’t need to determine where you’re going.”