Ijusi is an experimental magazine first published in the early years following South Africa’s first democratic elections circa 1994. From the beginning ijusi posed an important question: “What makes me South African, and what does that ‘look’ like?”, gradually piecing together the various cultural dichotomies and social potentialities that have evolved following Apartheid’s demise. As was the case with the Soviet Union in 1917, a new social order begets a new visual order.
Garth Walker released the first issue of ijusi in early 1995 from his studio in Durban; then called Orange Juice design. From its onset ijusi effectively showcased a burgeoning South African visual culture, which has come to be recognized for its quality in diversity worldwide. Over the following years, subsequent issues have made invaluable contributions to the ongoing discourse surrounding representation and identity in South Africa, specifically within the context of Graphic Design, Illustration, Typography, Writing, and Photography. Ijusi is currently self-published by Walker in a small print run, roughly twice yearly from his Durban based graphic design studio called Mister Walker.
Despite having a print-run in the low hundreds, ijusi has developed a worldwide following, making it a much sort after publication. Resultantly, the magazine has reached cult status, largely due to its rarity and the fact that it has never been commercially for sale, and handed-out for free to anybody who sees value in the publications mission. The fact that ijusi is Africa’s only experimental graphics magazine may also facto into its popularity amongst collectors.
To ensure the survival of the magazine, ijusi magazine formed a collaboration with the Rooke Gallery, launching the limited edition ijusi Portfolio #1 in early 2010, and most recently Portfolio #2 in late 2011. Comprising ten quality printed lithographs, both portfolios showcase key works by selected artists taken from the first twenty-four issues of the magazine. The success of the portfolios is proven by the fact that they have been acquired by a number of leading art museums and private collectors worldwide.
Moving into its second decade, the ijusi magazines, accompanied by the portfolios, can be seen as a historic series of documents, testaments to a developing country dealing with various socio-economic stratifications and political dimensions. Even though ijusi is often satirical and parodic in approach, it is important to note that the publication has never been a negative or even critical visual commentary on South Africa, rather trying to emphasize a platform for discovery, safeguarding the wealth of talent, rich traditions, and strong sense of heritage in South Afirca, with its diverse cultural backgrounds, each with their own contribution to make, exposing a creative poignancy and visual vocabulary that remains unrivaled.
Under Apartheid, black South Africans were prevented from living within town or city limits. Workers were forced into a daily commute from their townships to work in the city, only to complete the same journey back to the township at the end of the workday.
After Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990, there was a massive influx of people from rural communities into the city in search of work. As a means of survival, many rural migrants started out as informal street traders, selling anything from single cigarettes, to bananas, padlocks or traditional medicines. The resourcefulness of these traders became evident in their self-made signage, instinctively promoting their wares and services. The above image illustrates one such sign, stating “Shoe Repairs Here”. This sign was found on an abandoned shopping trolley in front of Durban’s train station. A truly remarkable piece of hand-lettering, this sign was the start of the ijusi vernacular, signifying a pivotal moment in Garth Walkers extensive South African Image Collection, now the largest extant anywhere in the world