The Saturday began incredible, the sun was out, shorts were on and smiles filled faces. Soweto was flexing, showing us why it’s one of the most loved townships.This all fell on the day Shapa Soweto hosted their upcycling workshop with UNKNOWN PROJECTS.
The soundtrack of Pimville taxis hailing passengers, people playing diski, and the clapping sounds of skaters landing tricks started our morning. I walked through the gates of Shapa and immediately felt I’d touched down in Nike land. I entered the centres doors to a welcome by Nike ushers dripped in the brand from head to toe. They directed us and to my delight, as I walked to get refreshments before the up-cycling class, I ran into Tiisetso Molobi. She was setting up for her Dye’ingmasterclass. We got into conversation while she completed the finishing touches on her preparation and as I waited to start.
Minutes later, myself and others who RSVP’d and got tickets in time were lead to the up cycling workshop. We walked into a Mecca of crazy footwear tools for makingand deconstructing shoes. Stations surrounded the space with boxes of tools for each of us. We were asked to stand behind a station with a box. Little did we know inside these boxes were tools & the shoes we would be up-cycling. One of the dopest parts of this was not knowing know which shoe we’d work on. We all received a different pair of sneakers in our boxes, I landed Nike React running sneakers in size 4.
The Unknown Projects team, led by Khotso & Sash introduced themselves then their two junior members.They broke down their philosophy of how and why they create and how being solution based, helps them mergegreat design with innovation. They gave us gems & shared their skills, which I appreciated because nowadays those who have valuable insight don’t easily share it.
Once we started on our shoes. We were shown materials & donor sneakers for use. Knowing myself and how I love to reference, I went face first forthe big box of donor sneakers. I found a red pair of what looked like boxing sneakers & white AF1’s with a fury swoosh. The atmosphere amongst us was beautiful. As much as we all wanted to create a monumental work of sneaker art, we unconsciously built a team and started helping one another. After planning which elements of the donor shoes I needed to bring my sneaker to life, I didn’t hesitate, I simply took a blade & an unpicking tool to the sneaker and cut out the essentials. The UNKNOWN PROJECT team walked around and guidedus from a technical standpoint which helped.
The purpose of my shoe was built for my needs. I envisioned a comfy sneaker for hiking and everyday use. Utilising the upper from the boxing shoe for ankle support and the fury swoosh from the AF1 for the texture of the tick. I found some hiking eyelets and pierced them through the Nike React (on the eyelets & additionally outer sole of the sneaker). This was toreference early 2000’s football when players took the extra lacing length of laces and let them run underneath the boots and back up to the lacing system for that extra lock in feel. A big part of why I did that was to keep the integrity of the laces, as the end of the laces had a cool pendant detail on it while keeping the locked in feel for my foot. The final product came out great if I say so myself.
The experience was fun, full of information & put a new fire in me. I think a lot of young South Africans are missing exposure. Exposure to innovation, creating and problem solving practices. That workshop bridged thatgap & created a bit of access for those who don’t have. The workshop was beyond just a shoe project that you can take home, it was about giving back to the community that built you, it was about sparking a light in the generation that will come after Unknown Projects and self-empowerment expressing that “even you can do this”. My biggest take out from the workshop was that I shouldn’t be complacent about not having the right tools to do what I want, but rather do what I can, ask for help & collaborate with others to push my dreams and also elevate others around me.