Garth Walker: What does 'being African' look like?

This is the question the acclaimed graphic designer asked himself in 1994 when he started "ijusi" magazine – and he is still asking it...
Posted 11 Jul 14 By Design Indaba Duration: 00:05:29 Graphic Design & Illustration Interviews / Video Interviews Comments

From the Series

What started out as a way of killing time while Garth Walker waited to hook his first clients at his then newly opened agency Orange Juice has turned into a 20-year long exploration of South African visual culture. 

His experimental graphic design magazine, ijusi, is now in its 29th issue – and it is still a passion project for Walker, who believes the magazine gives graphic designers the opportunity for personal expression, free from client briefs or commercial imperatives. 

The magazine is underpinned by a "if you don't like it, tough" attitude that tackles issues, many of them taboo, in a subversive way. With themes that range from porn, religion and death to fear, photography and even Madiba, the cult rag has garnered a global following. 

"I was trying to provide some guidelines, a roadmap, some inspiration to develop a new [visual] language that was based on the South African experience as a graphic designer. [I was trying] to say this was not a new visual language – it is heading towards a new language and we want you to join us in determining what that new language is and how we get there," he explains at a recent walkabout of his exhibition ijusi - Toward a New Visual Language at Michaelis Gallery in Cape Town. 

His wish, he says in our video interview with him, is to find a commercial way to make the magazine more of a mouthpiece for graphic designers to address pressing issues such as violence against women, HIV and unemployment.