Nando's Tulsha Booysen
South African artist Tulsha Booysen for Nando's
South African artist Tulsha Booysen

South African artist Tulsha Booysen proves the adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” by creating a 21-foot chandelier from beer cans (that’s 6,800 aluminum cans from Two Brothers brewery to be exact).

The end result is an illuminated installation piece entitled “CanBeam Chandelier,” which will be on view at Chicago’s newest Nando’s PERi-PERi restaurant at 155 N. Michigan Ave.

Founded in 1987 in Johannesburg, Nando’s has expanded to 23 countries on five continents. From London to the Loop, customers count on Nando’s 1,200 restaurants for fresh food—and fresher décor.

“When Nando’s first moved to the U.S. in 2008, we could have bought off-the-shelf décor and settled for being just another chain rolling out cloned restaurants,” says Melinda Nettelbeck, design director of Nando’s PERi-PERi USA. But since this isn’t part of Nando’s mission, the international restaurant created a Hot Young Designer lighting contest to commission a one-of-a-kind light fixture for its newest flagship store.

In addition to honoring South African design, the competition is a way to showcase a new artist. This feat was easily met when their youngest finalist Booysen, a recent high school graduate from Cape Town, became the winner. Since her victory, Booysen has worked remotely with seasoned pros. Oak Park’s Aria Group Architects, the interior design team in charge of creating the look of Nando’s newest space, helped Booysen bring her idea to fruition—a colorful process that included powder-coating thousands of cans in a variety of hues.

Booysen’s bright pendant light piece joins the ranks of Nando’s other vibrant and large-scale works, including Kilmany-Jo Liversage’s 10-by-36-foot mural “Olenska” in Hyde Park and Liza Grobler’s 16-foot wall mosaic “Half Square” in the West Loop. In fact, all of Nando’s 12 Chicagoland locations feature brilliantly-painted original art reflecting the restaurant’s African-Portuguese heritage.

“We believe that authentic contemporary South African art can create truly surprising experiences and keep us connected to our roots,” adds Nettelbeck. This mission is clear since Nando’s restaurants house more than 865 pieces of original South African art nationwide and, more impressively, more than 21,300 original works worldwide. All in all, the casual eatery has commissioned unique pieces from more than 300 artists.

As part of their outreach to empower emerging designers, Nando’s has partnered with Spier Arts Trust on career opportunities so artists can generate regular income by selling their craft.

“It’s an amazing feeling to know that we’ve helped give so many artists the freedom to focus on their art full time, and that we’ve given our customers something beautiful to look at without having to set foot in a gallery,” Nettelbeck says.

Tulsha Booysen’s “CanBeam Chandelier” will be unveiled at 11 a.m. on Sept. 4 when Nando’s PERi-PERi opens on Michigan Avenue. To learn more, visit and/or Nando’s PERi-PERi USA on Facebook. 

Ms. Arvia is a Rebellious columnist and movie critic; entertainment ghostwriter; award-winning artist; and grant-winning filmmaker.