Material twist

Inga Gubeka's Umtwalo Wooden Backpack is an exploration of using unconventional materials when designing accessories.

Part of the Project

Unusual materials, optimal functionality and eye-catching style all come together in the Umtwalo Wooden Backpack.

South African entrepreneur Inga Gubeka is taking the local art and décor scene by storm. His love for wood inspired him to try and make a backpack using this unconventional material. Initially he experimented with bamboo but through a prototyping process found plywood to work best.

The technique of bending plywood is traditionally associated with furniture but Gubeka employs it to create an authentic fashion accessory. Using a 5mm thick sheet for the body of the backpack the designer ensures a sufficient structure that is still light enough to be practical. The lid is made up of strips of plywood, not only contributing to the backpack’s unique aesthetic but also ensuring optimal functionality. The backpack is finished using leather straps and lined with shweshwe, a fabric synonymous with Xhosa culture in South Africa.

The Umtwalo Wooden Backpack was showcased as part of Design Indaba Expo’s Africa is Now exhibition under the theme “Africa is Transformed”, which looked at how Africans have a make-do approach to materiality, transforming what’s at hand unto unexpected objects and designs that delight. 

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