By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer
October 9, 2017
Tulsha Booysen never thought she would leave Africa. A recent high school graduate from Cape Town, South Africa, the young artist had never traveled outside of her home country, and neither had anyone in her family. Then this summer, Booysen received a call that she would soon be boarding a plane bound for Chicago.
The trip was sponsored by Nando’s, the South African Peri-Peri chicken restaurant with 12 popular locations in Chicago, and 1,200 more worldwide. When Nando’s decided to open a new Chicago flagship store on Michigan Avenue, they held their usual “Hot Young Designer Contest,” to find an aspiring artist who could design the new restaurant’s centerpiece. Booysen, 19, was the youngest contestant to ever win the Nando’s competition. Her “CanBeam Chandelier” design for a 21-foot chandelier made of over 7000 aluminum cans was unveiled Sept. 4 at the opening of Nando’s Michigan Ave. store.
Booysen entered the contest while she was still in high school, and said she was inspired to use a material that would otherwise go to waste. The installation she designed is a chandelier-style light fixture made up of more than 6,500 repurposed alumni cans, painted in bright, bold colors and strung together.
“There are so many of them, and I thought I could make them into something,” said Booysen, who collected cans from local vendors and shop owners around Cape Town when creating her prototype.
Tracy Lynch, one of the judges for the Hot Young Designer Contest, said the use of aluminum cans really stood out to the judges. Lynch said she admired Booysen’s “need to work with discarded cans that she saw being used creatively by other Southern Africans,” and “also appreciated that Tulsha saw the manufacturing process as an opportunity to create work for others in her community.”
Surrounded by the vibrant designs of South African artists in her own community, Booysen said she has dreamt of becoming a designer since she began taking art and design classes at her high school. Goals of becoming a professional designer felt far off for the student, who said she never thought she’d see one of her designs on display this early in her career.
“It’s been absolutely unbelievable,” said Booysen.
When Booysen was notified that she won the contest through a phone call with Nando’s, her eyes filled up with tears as she was told that she would visit Chicago Aug. 21 – 25.
“I held my brother and we cried,” said Booysen, who said the opportunity to visit the U.S. and explore Chicago has been “unreal.”
Melinda Nettelbeck , Design Director for Nando’s, said they flew Booysen to Chicago for the unveiling because “it was important to us that she be able to experience it first hand, hopefully seeing it as an opportunity to truly dream big.” The young artist helped with the final installation, spent time in Chicago interning with the Aria Group and getting to know the engineering side of the studio, and was able to speak with locals about her design and its creation.
“Our hope is to encourage and nurture the young and talented designers based in Southern Africa,” said Nettelbeck. “We wanted to provide her with opportunity and exposure, both important parts in laying a foundation for a career in design.”
Booysen made a prototype of the chandelier that was recreated in a larger scale here in Chicago, with Oak Park architecture group Aria Group Architects overseeing the full-size creation.
In the U.S., Nando’s restaurants display more
than 865 pieces of original South African Art; worldwide, the restaurant showcases over 21,000 unique pieces.