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Trees are important in rural African culture, they bring people together, making them the focal point of the community. A lot happens under a tree, people sit seeking refuge from the rays of the sun, leisurely watching the world go by, church services take place, school lessons conducted, a visiting health clinic sets up triage, and craftswomen lay their mats down sitting atop them, a baby or two sleeping beside them, as they weave baskets, bead clothing, jewellery and more, their skillful hands not missing beat as they catch up on the latest news and gossip.

The outdoors is significant, it seems as though the act of creativity taking place outdoors connects one to the earth, directly drawing inspiration from nature, the source of all creativity. And even in the urban areas of cities and towns artisans can be found along the roadsides under the open sky or in makeshift canopies for shelter, working on their crafts as they wait for a sale or enquiry.

It is a way of life and making that is constantly in danger of being eroded by the need to grow, to increase productivity by replacing people with machines. No doubt as the African design industry evolves machinery will become ever more necessary, but it how they are utilised that will make all the difference. With crafts being at the heart of African design it is important they are preserved, their value maintained, and those working on them respected, using their knowledge to help create the kinds of systems and processes that will benefit and help the industry grow in a way that works for the betterment of all involved.

Ateliers are renowned for their refinement and elegance, and highly specialised craftspeople creating things of unrivalled elegance and beauty through their knowledge shaped by years of hands-on making, and the ateliers of Africa are most definitely a part of this.

 

– Tapiwa Matsinde

 

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[Image credits: The image shown belongs to Tapiwa Matsinde/Atelier Fifty Five. If downloaded and used elsewhere please credit accordingly.]

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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
  • Instagram Image
  • 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