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Africa’s Basket Weavers Telling Stories Through Basketry

Basketry is a skill that has been practiced up and down the continent for centuries with examples from the past coveted by collectors around the world. Today Africa’s basket weavers are redefining the art form employing ingenious methods to create modern functional home decor products. But whilst these baskets may appear to be merely functional or decorative products, taking the time to look beyond the aesthetics reveals the layers of stories woven into the strands; as basketry -a skill traditionally practiced by women- carries within it the stories of livelihoods, of hopes, dreams, achievements, and sacrifices. Highlighting just how powerfully […]

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The Importance and Value of Craft in Design

In the West, craft is seen as being separate from design, two distinct categories, with craft often being derided for being too cottagey, or folksy in appearance and passed over in favour of the more glamorous design. As such it can be easy to forget that craft is at the heart of many western luxury brands from fashion to automotive engineering. In recent years, however, craft has moved closer to the centre stage and is increasingly being it’s given due, resulting in a greater appreciation for what is made by hand and recoginsing the importance and value of craft in […]

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9 Designers Crafting A Well Made In Africa Aesthetic

Atelier Fifty Five spotlights the work of 9 dynamic designers whose innovative use of Africa’s diverse craft heritages is translated into modern sophisticated products for contemporary living. And in doing so are upholding the banner of Well Made In Africa. Re-imagining techniques and materials these designers are paying homage to the skill of making things by hand thereby recognising how craft is at the heart of true luxury.

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A Well Made In Africa Aesthetic Upholds True Meaning Of Artisanship

African design and artisanship is something I am very passionate about, and it is wonderful to see it making great strides both locally on the African continent and internationally. Not too long ago in the West, the terms artisan or craft were seen as inferior, often dismissed as being the poor cousin of the much more feted and glamorous title of designer. But how times have changed, with the word artisan now a buzz word applied to everything from factory assembled furniture collections to processed food. The processes of which, a contradiction to the true meaning of artisanship, which typically […]

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What Role Do Communicators Have In Africa’s Development?

Across Africa, the creative industries have long been shunned for not being ‘respectable’ career path, and those working in them dismissed as wasting time. But opinions are changing as Africa’s creativity commands more attention and respect on the international stage. Leading to sustainable careers and the earnings and investment received contributing to the growth of local economies, thus benefiting Africa’s development. So for creators and storytellers, the title question of this article is an important one, as our work is all about communicating: ideas, stories, experiences and challenging the status quo. Art, design, literature, film and other forms of creative […]

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Design Inspired by the Decorative Forms Of Adinkra Symbols

As I highlighted in a previous editorial on Adinkra symbols are a much-referenced communication system that has endured to present day. The Adinkra symbols designs carry within them centuries of wisdom and are among one of the African continent’s oldest writing systems. The symbols have inspired designers and artists the world over who have drawn on the distinctive graphic shapes to create anything from jewellery to patterned textiles. I introduce 5 contemporary African brands referencing the Adinkra symbols in their designs, and in doing so giving them relevance in a modern day and age.

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Tribal Textiles Zambia x PATTERNITY A Modern Approach To The Traditional Batik Fabric Technique

PATTERNITY is a London design and research studio that was founded on a love of pattern, how patterns are all around us in everyday life and sharing that with the world. The studio brings ideas, people and perspectives together. The studio has collaborated with Zambian textile company Tribal Textiles, who invited founders to visit their studio in Zambian to create a handmade homewares collection based on the company’s batik fabric technique.

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Seven Inspiring Modern African Design Collaborations

Collaboration is a powerful thing, the meeting of ideas to create new ones and at times offering up unexpected viewpoints. Collaboration offers those involved a chance to learn, pick up new skills and show off each other’s skills at their best. And in this spirit I have rounded up seven inspiring modern African design collaborations that have come together over the years:

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String Pendant Lamps Inspired by Traditional African Jewellery

Jewellery is one of my great loves, and was the main reason I started this blog. I wanted to use the space as a place to store my finds. So I couldn’t help but be instinctively drawn to a collection of string pendant lamps by South African product designer Candice Lawrence. Inspired by the beaded layers of traditional African jewellery, the African Woven Necklace Lamp Shade features three interconnected circular hoops each punctuated with colourful bands of hand wrapped thread.

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Architect Mariam Kamara Giving Niger Identity And Pride Through Architecture

Once a dream and a strong sense of purpose takes hold of you it rarely let’s go as architect Mariam Kamara knows all too well. Becoming an architect improving the spaces in which the people of Niger (her home country) lived was dream Mariam had as a child. Facing opposition from well-meaning family, as an adult, Mariam ended up studying software engineering and spent seven years working for big companies and start-ups. Yet the dream to make a difference remained. Finally embracing it she returned to university to study architecture. Having already been down the route of working for others […]

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Adinkra Symbols Writing Traditions Connecting the Verbal and Visual

Adinkra symbols are an ancient Asante writing system, identified by the decorative, graphic forms making up each symbol. There are said to be over 100 Adinkra symbols in existence, each based on wise teachings, proverbs and folk stories that have been handed down through the generations and added to over time. Adinkra symbols served to express the connection between the verbal and the visual in Akan culture. Once sacred, their origins are steeped in history with legend speaking of two warring Kings involving the Golden Stool.

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FatyLy Ceramics Bringing to Life The Stories of Africa’s rich cultural and artistic heritage

Fatimata ‘Faty’ Ly is a Senegalese artist who uses ceramics as her canvas, the blank surfaces enabling her to bring to life the stories of Africa’s rich cultural and artistic heritage. A graduate of London’s prestigious Central St Martin’s Faty is based in Dakar, Senegal where she designs her eponymous collections for production in Limoges, France, an area famed for its production of hard-paste porcelain.

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IKEA’S Modern Rituals In Collaboration With African Designers

In a preview of its forthcoming collaboration with African designers IKEA introduces ÖVERALLT a limited edition collection of tableware, textiles, and seating inspired by the modern rituals across all cultures that punctuate everyday life, what we do and use to make us feel at home. The collection was developed by ten designers from seven African countries partnered with IKEA’s team of designers.

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Dedani collection

It’s cold here at the moment, and when the temps dip towards the minus figures, it’s all I can do not to spend the days hibernating, drinking tea and snuggled under a blanket for some much-needed warmth. The cosy cashmere and wool blend blankets from Dedani Collection would be perfect allowing me to hibernate in style. Dedani Collection is a South African textiles brand that is creating handcrafted interior and fashion textiles from luxurious natural fibres. 

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The Urbanative Telling Africa’s Stories Through Furniture Design

TheUrbanative by South African product and furniture designer Mpho Vackier is a collection of furniture and products that aim to tell the stories of African culture both past and present. TheUrbanative’s designs are characterised by bold geometric shapes and graphic patterns based on the patterns of diverse African cultures fused with midcentury European design. 

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