sewing machine
Arts-Based Methods as Tools for Co-design in a South African Community-based Design Co-operative






Zwonaka Sewing Co-operative, Co-Design, Co-Creation, Arts-Based Methods, Social Innovation


Arts and visual participatory methods can be effective tools to facilitate the experience of rural design actors involved in a co-design process that could be seen as contributions to the emerging praxis called “Design Social.” We identify the inclusion of visual processes to co-design and comanufacture Venda-fusion products with members of a South African rural-based sewing group called Zwonaka Sewing Co-operative. The co-design process involved a set of iterations that used visual modes such as Photovoice, painting, photographs, collaging and appliqué to create and market these products. Statements shared by the group members reveal the development of their personal agency, as well as confidence in product design, manufacturing, and ownership of the design process. These are significant outcomes for this particular social context, and we propose that the use of arts and visual methods enhances capacities of reciprocity, creative thinking and ownership through the co-design process.

How to Cite

Mchunu, K., & Berman, K. (2018). Arts-Based Methods as Tools for Co-design in a South African Community-based Design Co-operative. Cubic Journal, 1(1), 34–51.



Author Biographies

Khaya Mchunu, Durban University of Technology

Khaya Mchunu is a Lecturer in the Fashion and Textiles Department at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) in Durban, South Africa. He received his Master’s Degree in Technology: Fine Art from the University of Johannesburg in 2014 for a project undertaken under the Arts-based Approaches for Development programme. He continues to embark in community development and activism through his lecturing and currently facilitates a community engagement project in the Fashion and Textile Department. The project is a partnership with a sewing project called Sewing 4 Africa. The project has been presented widely in conferences around South Africa and has recently been awarded the DUT’s Chancellor’s Award for innovative excellence in engagement.

Kim Berman, University of Johannesburg

Kim Berman is Professor in Visual Art at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Executive Director of Artist Proof Studio (APS), a community-based printmaking centre in Newtown, Johannesburg which she co-founded APS with the late Nhlanhla Xaba in 1991. She received her B.F.A. from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1981 and her M.F.A. from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/ Tufts University, USA in 1989. She completed her PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2009. She has lectured and exhibited widely in South Africa and internationally. She is committed to engaging arts for social change through her activism and teaching. Her book: Finding Voice: A visual approach to engaging change, published by the University of Michigan Press was released in December 2017.


Ash, Sarah L., and Patti H. Clayton. “Generating, Deepening, and Documenting Learning: The Power of Critical Reflection in Applied Learning." In Journal of Applied Learning in Higher Education 1, no. 1 (2009).

Becker, Lily. Working in groups. Cape Town: Oxford University Press Southern Africa, 2005.

Berman, Kim. “Craft enterprise development: Surviving, responding to, and transforming a South African government poverty alleviation programme.” Journal of Arts and Communities 1 (2009).

Berman, Kim. “Shifting the paradigm: The need for assessment criteria for community-engaged research in the visual arts.” South African Journal for Higher Education, no. 22 (2008): 3.

Berman, Kim, and Lara Allen. “Deepening students’ understanding of democratic citizenship through artsbased approaches to experiential service learning.” South African Review of Sociology 43 (2012): 2.

Berman, Kim, Jane Hassinger, Debbie Rasiel and Susan Sellschop. "Women on Purpose:The Resilience and Creativity of the Founding Women of Phumani Paper." Randburg: Desklink Media, 2012.

Boyte, Harry. “Deliberative Democracy, Public Work, and Civic Agency.” In Journal of Public Deliberation, no. 10 (2014): 1.

Cantor, Nancy and Peter Englot. “Reinventing scholareducators as citizens and public workers.” In Democracy’s Education. Public Work, Citizenship, & The Future of Colleges and Universities. Edited by Harry C. Boyte. Nashville, Tennessee: Vanderbilt University Press, 2014.

Chmela-Jones, Kate. "The ethics of Ubuntu and community participation in design." Paper presented at the 7th International Design Education Forum of Southern Africa (DEFSA), Vaal University of Technology, Johannesburg, September 2-4, 2015), accessed March 22, 2016. Online.

Davies, Rick and Jess Dart. “The ‘Most Significant Change’ (MSC) technique: A guide to its use”. United Kingdom: CARE International, 2005.

Ehn, Pelle. Work-oriented design of computer artifacts. Hillsdale: Erlbaum Associates, 1989.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum, 1970.

Gong, Miaosen, Linghao Zhang and Xian Zhang. “Design intervention for socialinnovation: Two service design workshops in Italy and China.” In Applied Mechanics and Materials, (2010): 37-38.

Hagen, Penny and Toni Robertson. “Social Technologies: The Changing Nature of Participation in Design.” Design Issues 28 (2012): 3.

Hammond, Sue Annis. The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry. Bend: Thin Book Publishing, 1998.

Krensky, Beth and Seana Lowe Steffen. “Arts-based servicelearning: A state of the field.” Art Education 61, (2008): 4.

Levine, Peter. “The case for Civic Studies.” In Civic Studies: Approaches to the emerging field,” in Bringing Theory to Practice. Edited by Peter Levine and Karol Edward Solton. Washington, DC: Bringing Theory to Practice, 2014.

Manzini, Ezio. “Design in a changing, connected world.” In Strategic Design Research Journal 7 (2014): 2.

Manzini, Ezio. “Making things happen: Social innovation and design.” In Design Issues 30 (2013): 1.

Manzini, Ezio and Francesca Rizzo. “Small projects/large changes: Participatory design as an open participated process.” In CoDesign 7 (2011): 3-4, 199-215. doi:10.1080/15710882.2011.630472

Mchunu, Khaya. “The development of a new sewing cooperative for Tshulu Trust in HaMakuya, Limpopo Province through arts-based training interventions.” MTech Fine Art diss; University of Johannesburg, 2013.

Melles, Gavin, Ian de Vere and Vanja Misic. “Socially responsible design: thinking beyond the triple bottom line to socially responsive and sustainable product design.” In CoDesign 7 (2011): 3-4.

Munyai, Keneilwe and Mugendi M’Rithaa, “Economic, environmental and social benefits of promoting sustainability through embedding traditional techniques of production in modern design.” In Craft Journal 7 (2014): 1.

Papanek, Victor. Design for the real world. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1984.

Reason, Peter. Three approaches to participative inquiry. Edited by K. Denzin & Y. S Lincoln. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1994.

Reason, Peter and Hilary Bradbury (eds.). Handbook of action research. London: Sage Publications Ltd, 2006.

Robertson, Toni and Jesper Simonsen. “Challenges and Opportunities in Contemporary Participatory Design.” In Design Issues 28 (2012a): 3.

Simonsen, Jesper and Toni Robertson, (eds.). Routledge International Handbook of Participatory Design. London: Routledge, 2012b.

Spinuzzi, Clay. “The Methodology of Participatory Design.” In Technical Communication 52 (2005): 2.

Steen, Marc. “Tensions in human-centred design.” In CoDesign: International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts 7 (2011): 1.

Stringer, Ernest. Action research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1999.

Thorpe, Adam and Lorraine Gamman. “Design with society: why socially responsive design is good enough.” In CoDesign 7 (2011): 3-4.

Tshulu Trust, accessed February 11, 2017. Online.

Wang, Caroline and Mary Ann Burris. “Photovoice: concept, methodology, and use for participatory needs assessment.” In Health Education and Behavior 24 (1997): 3.

Winschiers-Theophilus, Heike, Nicola J. Bidwell and Edwin Blake. “Community consensus: design beyond participation.” In Design Issues 28 (2012): 3.