Sifiso Shange is a name that has risen quickly in design-loving circles. This young furniture designer and founder of Afri Modern is fundamentally a storyteller who uses his Zulu identity to create clean-lined, contemporary pieces that reference African culture. Using motifs that are rooted in beadwork, symbolism and tribal narratives, his servers, cabinets and side tables bring meaning to the coolest of pads. By infusing Zulu culture into contemporary design he’s preserving a legacy for future generations.
Tell me about the first pieces that Afri Modern ever released. They were the Muhle Muhle cabinet and coffee table at the Design Indaba conference in Cape Town in 2018 through the Emerging Creatives programme. The story of Muhle Muhle is a celebration and tribute to women embracing their inner and outer beauty through their own unique journey, inspired by the sacred art of Zulu beadwork.
What or who are the creative forces that have shaped your career? Life is at the heart of my work – it’s my experiences and journey thus far that have moulded my career. Without naming names specifically, my family, partner, friends and people around me have inspired me deeply.
Your pieces are stories … tell us the story and inspiration behind one of your favourites. The Vukani cabinet is one of my favourite stories. It tells the powerful message of unity and rising together as one.
What has been the high point in this journey so far? Getting to share more stories, especially on platforms like Design Indaba, Design Joburg and 100% Design. These moments allow me to connect, share and interact with people on a closer level.
What does Zulu Modern mean to you? The name expresses and embodies myself as a young Zulu man living in a modern world with a modern approach to my design aesthetic. The name celebrates Zulu culture being progressed and pushed forward respectfully by modern design.
Starting your own design brand, what has that journey been like? The journey is beautiful – it is gracefully filled with valuable lessons that shape my growth every day. It is a magical rollercoaster ride that only requires me to be present and enjoy it; it’s the gift of life heightened by a brand.
Your cultural identity is so present in your furniture pieces … tell me about that theme. I am deeply proud and grateful for who I am and my work is a reflection of that. Being proudly Zulu and seeking to know more about my culture, I’m growing because of that process. My cultural identity has allowed me to embrace not only my culture, but all cultures through this self-awareness.
What are you working on right now? I’m working on a lot at the moment: concept ideas, shows for this year and next year, collaborations. I’m seeking daily to learn more about my culture and myself and working on becoming a better modern-day storyteller.