UJ Industrial Design student, Tshepiso Motau wins National Design Competition

Tshepiso Motau, a third-year Industrial Design student is flying the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) flag high after winning the National Furniture Design competition.

The 21-year-old was announced as the overall winner at the Buy Local Summit & Expo which took place in Sandton from 27-28 March 2023.

The annual competition is one of the Department of Trade Industry and Competition’s (the DTIC) Furniture Industry Masterplan programmes to promote design skills in the furniture industry.

According to the DTIC, the main objectives of the design competition are to raise and nurture design capabilities in the country, raise the image of the Furniture Manufacturing Industry in South Africa, and to grow the industry’s competitiveness by encouraging new product  design and differentiation.

Design and inspiration

Motau’s furniture piece not only met these objectives but also met the competition brief, “Local is Lekker,” which required entrants to explain what local meant to them. She explained that culture is a sense of belonging and that her furniture piece creates a home. The multifunctional room divider comes with shelving that can be taken out and can be used to block another room or to display ornaments. It  also stands out because of the intricate Ndebele pattern.

She took a week to finish the piece, using a hand held router to make the grooves and edges and hand painting it to ensure the cultural feel wasn’t lost.

Her design inspiration was Dr Esther Mahlangu and her love for patterns.

“I really love Ndebele patterns, they always tell a story, they mean something to the Ndebele community. I like learning about different cultures and what they have. I am a mix of Setswana and isiXhosa.”

Tshepiso’s journey at UJ and advice for students

Tshepiso chose to further her studies at UJ’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) because of its great reputation.

“I applied because it seemed interesting and I wanted to be in a creative field. It’s not just drawing or engineering or making a product. You go through the whole design process and learn everything which was interesting to me. UJ is the best place to come and study Industrial Design.”

Her prize for winning the competition includes an internship with Homewood Furniture and  joining the Furntech Furniture Business Technology Incubator Programme.

Motau encourages students to reach for their dreams and urges them to take advantage of the resources and opportunities provided by UJ. She is proud to represent UJ and hopes that her success will inspire others to realize their potential.“Don’t look at yourself through a lens that says you aren’t good enough. Through this competition, not just making the Top 5 but winning it as well, showed me that my work is good enough.”


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