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Design Makes a Difference: Thru The Chair


We have an opportunity every day to make a difference. This is the Inscape way. A new initiative called Thru the Chair has been launched in South Africa this year and Inscape signed up immediately to be part of this exciting and creative journey.

Thru the Chair hosts the annual Chairman’s Dinner where several unique reinvented chairs are auctioned. All funds raised are allocated to sustainable projects and initiatives aimed at impacting education in South Africa.

The aim is to expose 1000 unique individuals by telling 1000 visual stories through 1000 reinvented chairs to 1000 chairmen of boards resulting in 1000 opportunities to make a difference.

Thru the Chair does this by:

  • Promoting storytelling and design thinking as a means to constructively communicating a message, uniting people and bringing about change
  • Activating individuals and groups to illicit empathy and action within our communities
  • Providing a platform to raise funds to solve the education needs in South Africa

Inscape students at the Cape Town, Durban, Midrand and Pretoria campuses were the first group of individuals to take part in a Thru the Chair event. The students collected over 600 old broken chairs and then In March 2018 over a couple of days, the students engaged in storytelling workshops where they learnt how to craft a meaningful story about themselves, shared this with their peers and in the process learnt about each other. The workshop provoked empathy for one another and a unifying of a diverse student body. The developed stories were then applied to the old broken chairs in a process of reinventing the good for nothing chairs that had been collected.

The event was sponsored by Belgotex who provided the students with an unforgettable experience. The students received Thru the Chair goodies, lunches and refreshments to see them through the long and intense sessions.

The students produced 580 reinvented chairs within two and a half days. The renewed chairs are currently being reviewed by Thru the Chair and selected chairs will be exhibited at Decorex, Gallagher Convention Centre from 8th -12thAugust 2018 where Thru the Chair will officially launch its initiative, showcasing the efforts of Inscape students. Chairs on display will be auctioned early next year in an attempt to raise as much funding as possible for beneficiaries of Thru the Chair.



“Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye” – Dorothy Parker

Growing up was a struggle at times for all of us. Especially when trying to conform to other people’s expectations. This backdrop formed the inspiration for my chair design. I decided I would melt and miss-shape my chair. By melting smaller ‘children’s’ chairs and distressing the ‘adult’ chair to represent the way in which we ‘morph’ towards adulthood. Tearing apart at times, being added onto, then subtracting from and force fitting ourselves into societal moulds. Applying this in a meaningful manner is a reward unto itself, as was the case in partaking in the Thru the Chair experience.

SEESAW – MELISSA FOURIE (Inscape student)

My chair is a comment on the nature of greed, and how the ridiculous, excessive wealth of a select few is considered more important than an entire planet. I wanted to show how the earth’s resources are being consumed and destroyed by this insatiable appetite for money.

“I enjoyed the freedom of expression given in this year’s brief, and the fact that we were able to turn something functional into a thought provoking art piece. It was heart-breaking to dismantle my rusty little chair, but power tools are fun, so…”

LIFE AND DEATH – THEO SMIT (Inscape student)

Through my interpretation of the chair I attempted to describe ‘Life and Death’. The one half represents memories and events, life’s typical wear and tear mixed with bumps and bruises. The other half – Death is depicted by the fragmented and charred half of this classic chair.

“I enjoyed the variety of techniques that I had to apply (e.g. saw, burn, cut, paint) to make my product. I also really enjoyed the vibe around the campus during the week of Thru the Chair – It reminded me of times when my brother and I have worked together at our workshop at home.” 

FOURSQUARED – RUAN VAN ZYL (Inscape student)

Being born with Hirtchprung disease, meant that my intestines didn’t work. Surgeons removed parts of my large intestine. Having survived after about 13 operations, I discovered sports. Following these early setbacks, sport has enabled me to fight back. Competing in races often mirrors life’s hardships and yet I have managed to finish every race that I entered.

“It felt good to create something that would make a difference in children’s lives. I am happy to be part of change in education.”


Growing up in my family was tough as we mostly experienced conflict. During high-school I became withdrawn and suffered from depression. Until the life-changing realisation that we can individually take responsibility for our own success. This was an exciting breakthrough. We must therefore learn from our challenging pasts and push forwards to better futures.

“I really loved this project. I feel that I was able to use my creative ability to not only tell my story but to tell a story that would inspire others. It is so amazing to be part of something that has an impact on the future of a generation. Children deserve a chance to achieve greatness.”


Our groups common thread was ‘inspired by people’. Having grown up on a farm where 90% of the language spoken was not my mother tongue Afrikaans, but Sotho. My early memories of being encouraged and comforted feature mostly Sotho. This experience taught me that culture matters less when we all speak a common language, of love and support for each other.

“The Thru the Chair project is a fun and exciting initiative to be a part of. Every young designer who participated could challenge their skills on a new level.  It was a honour for me to leave my original mark on a practical piece of art and to contribute to a greater cause than just my own project in the process.”


The designer enjoyed artistic freedom of expression, by breaking with the expected. By placing this chair onto a bicycle frame, the designer symbolized both movement and motionlessness. Sometimes studying feels static for students, the conjoined chair and bicycle describe how as students we are moving towards achieving our goals even whilst remaining seated.


“The chair, static as it is, can propel you further than you can imagine in life.”


Our groups common thread was travelling in Africa. We therefore each chose an African country to incorporate into our chair designs. Having Congolese friends, lead me to choose the DRC and use their national flag in a bold decorative way. The backrest here takes the shape of their country and is representative of the countries backbone offering support.

“An eye opening experience and a test of skill”


Our groups common thread was ‘enjoying local experiences’ in South Africa. Following a discussion, we opted to design a ‘chair like’ object to challenge the notion that local South Africans are badly educated.

“Project 81 in its philanthropy  inspired me to do my best to contribute to the cause , many challenges came up. However, I always had the final outcome in mind, thru my chair, I was inspired to give.”


Human trafficking often linked to sex trading is a significant concern in the world today. Approximately 24.9 million people are known to be trafficked yearly. This industry is worth USD150 billion annually. The aim behind this chair design was to create a greater awareness of human trafficking. This was achieved by reupholstering the seats with underwear, wrapping padlocked chains onto the frame to symbolize being held against one’s will. Then tightly capturing the chair, already bound in chains, inside a cage of steel wire mesh.

“It’s not just about creativity, it is about the person you’re becoming while you are creating.” – Charlie Peacock

For more information about the Thru the Chair initiative please go to

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