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“Atelier Fifty Five celebrates the outstanding makers and organisations based on the African continent and beyond, whose work ranges from recognisable heritage influences to abstract renderings, all capturing the sophistication, vitality, diversity, and soulfulness that is defining contemporary African design.”
– Tapiwa Matsinde, Founder of Atelier Fifty Five
Atelier Fifty Five Tapiwa Matsinde About Liz Riley Photography
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About Atelier Fifty Five

Atelier Fifty Five is a digital space created to curate, connect and celebrate the designers, artisans, and organisations shaping contemporary African design. 

Launched in 2010 by author, curator, content creator and consultant Tapiwa Matsinde, Atelier Fifty Five exists to promote, research, curate, consult, source and sell, in order to connect global audiences to the best in contemporary African design.

Atelier Fifty Five by Tapiwa Matsinde African proverb
Our Mission

To support the development of the African design industry and bring the work of talented designers, makers, and creatives from the continent and its diaspora to the attention of local and global audiences.

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Our Values
Create. Celebrate. Connect. Challenge.

Atelier Fifty Five seeks to create increased awareness of contemporary African style and design; celebrate knowledge and the diversity in culture, heritage and creativity; connect creatives to opportunities that provide inspiration and foster trade allowing people to make a sustainable living from their craft; and challenge and change negative stereotypes of African art, design and culture.

While conversations about art and design typically allude to the continent as a homogenous whole, Africa, in fact, comprises 55 recognised states, all of which contribute differently to the continent’s creatively rich, expressive, diverse and thriving culture. From the makeshift to the state-of-the-art, under the shade of a leafy tree or in an urban studio, the ateliers of Africa are overflowing with ingenuity and creativity; these are the places where ideas come to life.

Atelier Fifty Five by Tapiwa Matsinde The Golden Era of African Design Quote Liz Riley Photography

I am privileged to be a part of what I call the golden era of contemporary African design. We are witnessing a continent-wide creative reawakening that has resulted in a glorious outpouring of creative expression.

Tapiwa Matsinde, author, curator, content creator, consultant

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Meet Tapiwa

I am British-born, of Zimbabwean descent, raised and educated in both countries. I’m an author, curator, content creator and consultant passionate about design, creativity, culture, and branding. 

I am privileged to be a part of what I call the golden era of contemporary African design, a time when we are witnessing a continent-wide, collective, creative reawakening that has resulted in a glorious outpouring of creative expression. 

While studying then working in Zimbabwe as a graphic designer I was surrounded by creativity at a formal (galleries, art shops) and informal (grassroots, road side vendors) level. I underestimated the influence of those informal expressions; how they inspired a can-do spirit, a resourcefulness and ingenuity born out of necessity, making do with what you have on hand and seeing how with the right support that can be channeled into sophisticated products. 

Having moved to the UK to study, access to the informal was not as available as it is now, and coupled with the invisibility of contemporary African creativity in the global discourse, out of sight meant out of mind. Before I knew it, I had lost touch with Africa and its creative inspiration, yet there was a nagging that something was missing and I found myself struggling to put my finger on it.   

My own reawakening came when I started making jewellery, traveling back to what I had lost as I found myself choosing the colours and patterns of intricate beading of my heritage for my designs. At about this time, Africa’s creativity was beginning to attract global attention, enabled by the digital revolution. With once inaccessible worlds within reach, I seized these new tools and opportunities to re-connect with inspiration and re-direct my energy.

Atelier Fifty Five by Tapiwa Matsinde Liz Riley Photography

A return to university to earn a master’s degree saw me use my projects to explore what was happening across the continent in more detail. Upon graduation my exploration continued; the more I explored the more I found. Needing a suitable space to store my findings, I hit ‘publish’ on my first blog post one September afternoon and Atelier Fifty Five was born. 

All these experiences have shaped who I am. My contributions to the development of contemporary African design, connecting with others to effect change at a local level, and raising awareness at a global level are underpinned by the philosophy of ‘I am because we are’. This ancient Africanisim at the heart of most African cultures explains how one exists as an individual because of the connection, support and contribution they have with, from, and make to their communities. For me, re-immersing myself into the world of African creativity has been a homecoming that was long overdue.

I invite you to step into the Atelier and discover the exciting world of creativity from, and inspired by, the 55 states of the African continent.

Atelier Fifty Five by Tapiwa Matsinde African design curator Liz Riley Photography
Atelier Fifty Five by Tapiwa Matsinde Books Quote Liz Riley Photography

If you can envision it, you can accomplish it.
If you can imagine it, you can reach the heavens!

African proverb

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  • Eight years ago I started a blog as a place to document the interesting things I was discovering with regards to the design and creativity emerging from Africa. From the moment I created my first blog post little did I know where the journey would take me. Fast-forward to present day I have not only been privileged to witness the development of an industry, but to also have an active role in creating awareness about it.

On this journey, I have seen Africa’s design industry grow from a handful of names from a handful countries to a continent wide-reach. Some names that were just starting out have become internationally respected leaders in their field, whilst behind them, a new generation of names are coming up and claiming their place in the industry.

To say that it is an exciting time for African design and creativity would be a gross understatement! We are in a time of rapid advancement and unbridled creative expression, that is setting the foundations and standards for future generations to build on. And like many other emerging industries in Africa, creativity is opening up opportunities to those who are willing to seize them. And seizing them designers are!

And as Atelier Fifty Five begins a new chapter it is an opportunity for me to renew my commitment to supporting the development of the African design industry and helping those I work with and write about, and work with to fulfill their potential for creating world-class brands. 
I invite you to visit our website to discover more. [Link in bio]

Tapiwa, Founder Atelier Fifty Five
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  • Colourful basketry, soulful sculpture and an elegant candle make a nice placeholder we think, as we prepare to usher in a new chapter of the Atelier Fifty Five journey. [📷 credit: @atelierfiftyfive]
  • Gifted hands. A glimpse behind the scenes of Kaross a South African based embroidery initiative, whose artisans transform furnishings into works of art. [📷 credit: Kaross]
  • Tools of the trade, a hand carved printing block stamp by textile designer @juliekouamo whose evocative designs tell the stories of cultures past and present. Julie's textiles feature richly layered patterns, textures and printed pictures that come together to create vibrant collages. [📷 credit: @tapiwamatsinde]
  • Fishermen's boats, a familiar sight along the Senegalese coast line. [📷 credit: @tapiwamatsinde]

Instagram @ atelierfiftyfive