Tradition Rebooted: African Design Goes Global.
As international brands and African designers work together to usher in a new wave of African design, the continent contemplates what it means to be global.
There can be little doubt that Africa is where the world has its eyes trained for the next major global design movement. Recently, home-grown multifaceted platform Design Indaba collaborated with Swedish furniture manufacturing giant IKEA to allow 12 young African designers from around the continent to work with four in-house IKEA designers to produce the company’s first African Collection. This African-inspired and -designed collection will officially launch in 2019.
“The creative explosion which is taking place in several cities around Africa right now is something IKEA is curious about,” says Marcus Engman, Head of Design at IKEA. “We want to learn from this and spread it to the rest of the world. Working together with these designers and creatives gives us the opportunity to do so.”
The 12 designers are all part of Design Indaba’s network, and include architects, artists and creatives from South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, Egypt, Angola, Ivory Coast and Rwanda. They made their first trip to Sweden last October to meet their collaborators and hold a collective brainstorming session.
– Marcus Engman, Head of Design at IKEA
Design Indaba founder and managing director Ravi Naidoo has long held the conviction that the next significant global design movement will come from Africa. “[IKEA] looks towards democratising design, and are happy to be infiltrated by external ideas!” he said. “[W]e love their credo: a better everyday life for everyone. Now, it will also be inspired by urban Africa, and our intrepid pan-continental group of reformers, thinkers, makers and activists.”
The designers decided to focus their collaboration on the theme of modern rituals. Earlier this year, they reconvened at the Design Indaba conference to continue developing their ideas in open work sessions.
Three designers from South Africa are involved in the collaboration. Laduma Ngxokolo is well known locally for his knitwear designs promoting Xhosa culture on international runways as well as creating socially conscious design. Renée Rossouw is an artist and architect who explores a variety of different projects, from patterns and products to murals and art. Sindiso Khumalo works with several NGOs to develop sustainable textiles and has developed a complex graphic language that draws on her Zulu and Ndebele heritage.
IKEA’s Johanna Jelinek has been working with Renée and Sindiso. At the Design Indaba sessions, Renée and Sindiso worked individually on patterns which they combined to make a more advanced repeating pattern. One of the patterns is cubistic with circles, triangles and squares, and in the other you can see a human figure and elephant. Johanna says the designs are modern, yet traditional. “You can really feel Africa in them.” They have not decided on the final colours yet, but are hoping that they will be used for cushions, metre fabric and wallpaper. This collaboration will continue in June this year at Democratic Design Days in Älmhult.