Garth Walker: What does ‘being African’ look like?



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.

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