how it all began
na-nu-ja meaning "let's share" in Korean, is based on Natasha and KwangJeon Lee's desire to encourage a dialogue between their different cultures.
KwangJeon and Natasha met while she was teaching in South Korea. A whirlwind of international travel between them resulted in their marriage in 2003. Choosing to return to South Africa to embrace the lifestyle and be close to family, the couple and their two sons now live in Durban.
While the concept of ‘digitally designed layflat photo albums’ later called photobooks originated in Italy, Natasha first came into contact with the product in Seoul, noticing how photographers produced the albums following a photoshoot. Inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response to their own Korean wedding album, they decided to launch a business to supply this unique product to South Africans.
dreams became a reality
While the Korean albums are standard in design, Natasha wanted to expand the concept – “I loved the idea but wanted to customise such an album using my own photographs, old and new, as well as relevant items such as a theatre programme or the words to a song. I thought of the possibilities, saw a gap in the market, and then we decided that this would be the perfect product to bring into South Africa”.
the company is formed in 2005
With Natasha’s passion for photography and book-binding, and KwangJeon’s engineering background and technical expertise, the couple studied the art of album-making in South Korea and then returned to South Africa to start the first branch of their company na-nu-ja. They were involved in every aspect of an album’s creation, from concept to final product. South Africans are quite diverse in their tastes and the couple strived to create albums that combine individual stories with a proven, beautifully handcrafted product. This allows clients to preserve and share their memories in a truly creative way.
interview from The Crest Magazine 2008
burnt to ashes
Sadly in July 2021 our beautiful shop and workshop were burnt to the ground during Durban's protest, looting, and destruction spree. We lost everything we had built up over the last 16 years - and are now in the challenging and unique position of having to start over again.
honoring commitments and pivoting
After family, friends and clients asked how they could help, we launched a backabuddy campaign, to raise funds to cover: the costs of remaking client work that was destroyed, form new partnerships within the industry, take care of our staff, pay our monthly bills and decide what we were going to do going forward. We are so grateful for all the donations we received and filmed a thank you video on-site, for those who helped us, both known and anonymous.
We will continue to offer photobooks and albums - manufactured by handpicked partners. We have visited the factories, met the binders, purchased some of our own fabrics, as well as passed on some techniques, that were unique to our company.
We would like to thank our many loyal customers for their patience and understanding, as we transition into this new way of doing business.
remembering the journey
2005 April | KwangJeon as an apprentice album maker at A-Plus Album company, Seoul, South Korea
2005 June | Equipment and personal goods packed and ready to be shipped to South Africa
2005 July | Stall at the Essenwood Market
2005 August | Moved into na-nu-ja's first premises, Linze Road, Morningside, South Africa
Attending bridal fairs in JHB, CT and Durban
2012 | Moved to Redlyn Business Park, Nandi Drive our home for 9 years
2021 July | na-nu-ja is looted and burnt to the ground in the Durban Protests
2021 July | na-nu-ja operates from home and forms new industry partnerships
2021 August | Samples and orders received, visits to partner factories completed. New way of working commences
EACH HANDMADE PHOTOBOOK OR ALBUM IS UNIQUE,
A PRODUCT OF TIME, SKILL AND CARE
BUILD TO LAST GENERATIONS
LOCALLY PRODUCED AND HANDCRAFTED WITH THE UTMOST CARE