Chris was the last born into a family of twelve children. He lost his dad at the very young age of eleven years old. This is when he started his journey of working with his hands through the medium of timber. Due to his family’s poor economic situation, he started building carts and carrom boards to make a little money. He used the carts to help grannies transport their groceries for a few cents, later hiring out the carts to friends. Every school holiday was spent making and tinkering with wooden offcuts. He would search second-hand stores for tools which he would then save up to buy. He taught himself how to make and install cupboards and kitchens through reading whichever magazines or books he could access. He studied the techniques and methods of some of the world’s finest craftspeople such as Sam Maloof, George Nakashima, James Krenof and Harry Walderman.
Whilst in high school, his craft enabled him to contribute to the upkeep of his home through maintaining and building interiors for friends and family. The knowledge and skills Chris acquired aided him in starting and growing Durban Shopfitting & Interiors. He prides himself in imparting his skills and knowledge with employees, aiding them in generating an income, supporting their families and being recognised as valuable contributors to society and the economy.
Chris Chetty overcame the systematic discrimination he faced as a person of colour during apartheid. He was denied equal opportunities and his access to education was limited. In spite of this, his creativity, resilience and determination to develop his skills and knowledge and most importantly to share it with others, is what makes his story so powerful.
“The future of Durban Shopfitting & Interiors is in the hands of those that helped build, grow and sustain it. It is my hope that the primary stakeholders take it to the next level and use it to generate an income whilst continuing the legacy of this highly specialised craft: shopfitting and joinery.”
- Chris Chetty, 2019
DSI has an intensive training program for its staff, which has produced some of the finest shopfitters in the country. We strongly believe in creating opportunities through skills development and employment for local craftsmen wherever we work. We travel with a team of master craftsmen and employ locals to train in shopfitting and joinery during projects. This has been successfully implemented in Eswatini during our work on multiple projects including the Revenue Authority building.
Our fully equipped factory is well located on the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa, which enables more competitive pricing. We deliver and install anywhere in the world. Our master craftsmen have travelled for work to many parts of Africa and beyond, crafting and fitting custom designs for hotels, restaurants, casinos and more. As well as a variety of locations in South Africa, Durban Shopfitting & Interiors have completed work in Dubai, Italy, Mozambique, Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, Mauritius, Namibia, Angola, and Eswatini.
Our outreach programme is run by artist Chrisantha Chetty. She ensures that our wooden waste offcuts are put to good use responsibly. The idea is based on the value of wooden blocks as a beneficial toy for children to play with. This is because it promotes creative thinking and the shaping of one’s world with out any imposed ideas such as race, gender, or class constructs. The workshop introduces children to recycling and up- cycling methodologies through creating a safe and creative learning environment that focuses on play. Children learn to sand, paint and play with wooden blocks; building their world the way they want to see it.
This workshop has been performed in public and private spaces, around South Africa, focusing on underprivileged children from various communities and organisations. It is an open source concept developed by the artist and she encourages others to take it and run with it. DSI also donates wooden offcuts to artists, artisans and entrepreneurs working with timber.