Jacoline Sema portrait

A young Ndebele creative who’s ‘mad about design’, Jacoline Sema hopes to change lives through her work as the founder of Jacoline S Designs.

‘My culture influences who I am as a designer and I find inspiration in my heritage,’ says Sema, whose Jo’burg-based studio specialises in interior and product design infused with an African aesthetic. ‘This is shown in my new product range entitled Lefa, meaning “inheritance” in Southern Sesotho. It takes inspiration from various traditional garments and jewellery found in African cultures.’

Growing up in Jo’burg, Jacoline Sema was exposed to design from an early age. ‘When I was in primary school, I’d wait for my mother at her work because she couldn’t afford aftercare,’ she says. ‘Blacksmith Interior Inspiration was downstairs from where she worked, and its creative problem-solving environment drew me to the design industry.’

Indzila bar-stool by Jacoline S Designs
Indzila bar-stool by Jacoline S Designs

When Jacoline Sema matriculated, Ryan Illgner – the director of Blacksmith Interior Inspiration – gifted her with a bursary to study interior design at any institution of her choice. ‘I’ve known Ryan since I was seven years old and always say that he planted the seed of design in my life,’ she says, adding that it’s thanks to him that she holds a BA in interior design from Greenside Design Centre in Jo’burg.

In 2015, Jacoline Sema won SABC3’s Win a Home Design Edition competition and was nominated for a Loerie for creative excellence, which helped kick-start her career and opened her eyes to a world of possibility. ‘I hope to shift the role of a designer in Africa so that it serves the needs of the majority,’ she says. ‘I’d love to be part of the solution that addresses the most pressing needs in SA, such as poverty, infrastructure, transport and schooling. It’s a beautiful thing to create and I believe designers are able to see things that don’t yet exist. It’s a huge responsibility with which we’ve been entrusted.’

What was your most iconic style moment?

Seeing the traditional Basotho blanket being worn by warriors in the Black Panther movie.

Who would you most like to have lunch with?

Architect and actress Linda Mvusi. I’d like to know how she dealt with being a black female architect during the apartheid era in a white male-dominated industry and hear about her experience of being one of the architects who designed the Apartheid Museum in Jo’burg.

Apartheid Museum
The Apartheid Museum near Soweto. Image: FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images

What’s your favourite piece of furniture that you own?

The Indzila bar-stool by Jacoline S Designs, which was inspired by the Ndebele choker that’s worn by a married woman to symbolise her bond with and faithfulness to her husband.

jacoline sema
Ndebele women wearing traditional costumes and idzilla, bronze or copper neck rings, Ndebele village, Botshabelo township Image: Gallo Images/Getty Images.com

What’s your favourite beauty item?

Bobbi Brown’s Weightless foundation. I like the way it gives me a natural look.

What material do you most enjoy working with at the moment?

Metallics are trending in interior design and fashion because they have the unique ability to mesh beautifully into a space or an outfit. I love the way gold has different connotations indifferent parts of the world, not forgetting how sacred it is in African cultures.

Metallic fabric from Mavromac
Metallic fabric from Mavromac