LAZI Mathebula attributes his creativity to his humble beginnings. “We didn’t have the luxury of fancy toys so when we played izindlu [house] we’d make furniture and toy cars from whatever we could find in the rubbish.”
The artist is making waves in the design arena and has been getting several commissions from top brands.
As a youngster he transformed an old orange sack into a stylish carry bag. The daily innovation blossomed into an artistic streak that has caught the attention of South Africa’s design gurus.
Mathebula, 27, has worked with brands including Nike, Flying Fish, Ray-Ban and Red Bull. He has twice been invited to showcase his work at the Design Indaba in Cape Town, and has worked on a clothing range for retailer LEGiT.
Last year he designed a pair of Air Force 1 sneakers for Olympic athlete Caster Semenya, which she wore to the MTV Africa Music Awards.
Mathebula, who had art and technology as subjects at Kwabhekilanga Secondary School in Alexandra, Johannesburg, attributes his creative streak to playing in the township streets where he and his friends had to improvise by making toys from rubbish.
“If I didn’t have a backpack, I’d take an orange or onion sack, put strings in and put my books in to create a nice square. In front, I would place my best covered book, which shielded ... the brown books,” he said.
The Vega advertising graduate got his first job as a graphic designer in an ad agency in 2010.
In 2013 he was invited to the Design Indaba as an exhibitor.
Mathebula’s entry that year for the indaba’s Emerging Creatives programme was “graphic, urban and truly definitive of a contemporary South African design aesthetic”, said indaba marketing manager Clerissa Visser.
“He wove a palette of bright colours and bold, street-inspired motifs with his characteristic style. He created striking — sometimes shocking — images that are as at home on a skateboard deck as they are on a gallery wall.
“Lazi’s blatant creative talent is hard to miss. We’re truly pleased to see how Lazi has continued to grow and develop as an artist and designer.”
In 2015, Mathebula merged his creativity with the Punk & Ivy brand of Khaya and Bianca Sibiya, who collaborated with LEGiT to create the Don’t Conform range.
Nike South Africa communications manager Seruscka Naidoo said the brand had a long-standing relationship with Lazi as he understood sneaker culture.
“He has a definitive style with a local inspiration that is unique and striking. He is ingenious and progressive, having created his own path while collaborating with #TeamNike,” she said.
Mathebula also created two patterns for AutoTrader representative cars which were used in its Qhubeka charity initiative. Some 52 cars were sent to various malls and members of the public could colour in some of the patterns after donating R50. Money raised paid for 200 bicycles for children in Alexandra.
“The #DriveChange campaign raised R250000 to buy a container of bicycles for learners so that they could shorten their journey times to and from school by up to 75%,” said AutoTrader CEO George Mienie.
The projectchanged many lives and “improves academic performance on average by 25% among bike recipients”, he added.
Mathebula is working on CD covers for musicians and on his clothing range, Beautiful Boys. There was so much he still wanted to do, he said. “I make happy things and I want people to see this.” - story published in Sunday Times