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AAKS x UNHCR Weaving For Change

Luxury artisanal accessory brand AAKS has launched a stunning home decor collection inspired by the theme Weaving for Change. The collection comprises five distinctive handcrafted lamps and light pendants, each created in partnership with women artisans from the Tuareg community in Northern Mali who are living as refugees in Burkina Faso. In working with this Tuareg community AAKS are helping to celebrate and preserve the community’s cultural identity and their time-honoured basket weaving traditions, a philosophy that has defined AAKS’s work with local communities in Ghana.

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Global Goods Partners On Design, Sustainability And Making A Difference

Global Goods Partners is a inspirational non-profit social enterprise that was set up by women to help women. Launched in 2005 by Catherine Lieber Shimony and Joan Shifrin, and headquartered in New York, Global Goods Partners works to provide women in some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities with the means to earn a sustainable income by providing a platform to promote and sell collaborative collections of their handmade products. The products are sold through the organisation’s website. Atelier Fifty-Five caught up with co-founder Joan Shifrin to find out more about sustainable design and the life-changing work Global Goods Partners is doing. […]

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Luxury South African Accessories Brand Okapi Launches in London

Luxury South African accessories brand Okapi, celebrated the launch of its first shop in London with a stylish summer soiree. Name after the elusive antelope, Okapi, was founded in 2008 by South African painter Hanneli Rupert and offers a stylish array of luxury artisanal handbags and accessories.  [Main image credit: Okapi London Shop – Okapi]

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Zenza Mesmerising Egyptian Lamps And North African Decor

A trip to Egypt looking for interesting accessories for a new home accessories business called Zenza led to, not only a bag full of samples, but also a blossoming romance. Fast forward twenty years and Karin, who founded the company, together with her partner Hussein have grown the business into an inspiring boutique of beautifully crafted interior and personal products. From enticing jewel brights to shimmering metals Zenza’s collections include woven home textiles, exquisitely carved furniture, tableware, vases; and embellished mirrors, jewellery boxes, purses, and slippers inspired by craft cultures including north African decor.

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Lupane Women’s Centre Zimbabwe Modern African Baskets

Looking like they have been swirled with delicate watercolours, this gorgeous range of traditionally handcrafted modern African baskets is the result of a partnership between the Lupane Women’s Centre in Zimbabwe and the Kingston University Design School in the UK, bringing a contemporary edge to traditional African design. The initiative entitled, Kingston Project Africa was created to facilitate the exchange and support of knowledge between both regions, and led by Professor Catherine McDermott utilises the expertise of academics, industry practitioners and curators across various projects and collaborations. [Main image credit: Baskets – Lupane Women’s Centre in Partnership with Kingston Project Africa]

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Madwa Hand Woven Artisan African Home Decor Accessories

Inspired by craft and tradition, Madwa is an ethical craft project that works with small groups of master weavers in Madagascar and Swaziland to produce contemporary ranges of woven artisan African home decor accessories and textiles. Based in South Africa, Madwa harnesses the unique weaving skills of the different cultural groups and regions it works with, and is about the preservation of a unique craft heritage, assisting the weavers with product development and gaining access to international markets. [Image credits: Madwa]

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Traditional African Art Vintage Yoruba Beaded Chairs

Shabby Chic® refers to objects that have made it through the years, passed through from generation to generation and despite looking a little worn round the edges, exude a familiar comforting feeling cloaked with an air of faded grandeur and elegance but are still well-loved, appreciated for where they have come from and the stories they tell, this is often seen with family heirlooms as well as newer items that have purposely been distressed to achieve the look and feel. Shabby Chic® originated in the 1980s when British designer Rachel Ashwell, used the words to describe her brand of style and interior […]

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Wola Nani South African Artisans And FitFlop Collaborate

Not being sporty, I do however like to walk whenever possible and the warmer weather brings with it more chances to get out and about and hopefully get fit in the process. FitFlop with its unique Microwobbleboard™ midsole technology offers busy women a way to squeeze a bit of exercise into their day whilst going about their daily lives; and have proved very popular. In conjunction with NET-A-PORTER and the South African artisans of Wola Nani cooperative, launching today is a limited edition FitFlop called the Manyano Sandal. [Image credit: FitFlop – Manyano Sandal / NET-A-PORTER]

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Tunisian Ceramics Stylish Handcrafted African Homeware

[Image credit: Greater Good] Having tried my hand at pottery many years ago as part of my fine arts module and being absolutely rubbish at it – they always exploded in the kiln!!! – I have a deep admiration for artisans who can produce the most exquisite and beautifully decorated pieces. Not too long ago I came across some stylish African decor in the form of these really pretty Tunisian coffee cups on the Greater Good Network, and loved the intricate patterns and vibrant colours.

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Exquisitely Handmade African Christmas Decorations

[Image credits: Tintsaba] Getting ready to trim the tree? Christmas is a time for giving, receiving and sharing so why not let your tree embody that sentiment with meaningful ornaments. Bypass the convenience of picking up mass-produced baubles from your highstreet store, instead find out what local artists, designers or community organisations have to offer, and it goes without saying your local church, school and community fairs are sources for uncovering some unique gems. With so much to chose from I have zoomed the spotlight on organisations like  Tintsaba whose wonderfully simple yet stylish African Christmas decorations brought a smile to my face.

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Heartworks Heartfelt Handmade Teddy Bears South Africa

[Image credit: Heartworks] Today is the first of December, and World AIDS Day. Marking this day, today’s offerings introduce you some gorgeous, cute and cuddly handmade teddy bears from South Africa courtesy of the talented ladies at Heartworks; an embroidery group based in Khayelitsha that was started in 2004.

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South African Decor Mud Studio Earthy Chandeliers

[Image credit: Mud Studio via Bellissimo] I was intrigued by the elements and construction of these rather unique South African decor chandeliers from Mud Studio, based in the Orange Free State. Literally born out of the earth, these majestic chandeliers exuding rustic charm are made up of over 6000 handmade clay beads, drawn from the surrounding South African soil and handcrafted in partnership with artisans from the local communities. Drawing inspiration from the landscape and nature the ceramic beads are wire-wrapped, strung and styled around handmade wire frames.

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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