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The Best Of African Design At London Design Festival

September has been a good month for design lovers, and proved a great month for viewing some of the best contemporary African design as part of the London Design Festival. The earlier part of the month saw London-based textile designer Julie Kouamo exhibit her latest collection of lampshades at Bangou at one of Europe’s biggest trade events, Maison et Objet in Paris. The lampshades are the latest editions to the Bangou collection of African inspired textiles, which was debuted in January 2013.
Meanwhile the prestigious London Design Festival (LDF), whose core events occurred between the 14th-22nd, brought with it London’s major trade shows shows and exhibitions, including 100% DesignTent LondonDesign Junction; and saw galleries and retailers like Anthropologie, Mint and Habitat putting on specially curated exhibitions; and studios opening their doors to the public. Wednesday saw me at 100% Design where I got to chat with the lovely Eva Sonaike, whose textile products channeling a chic modern African design aesthetic brought a burst of bright colour to the proceedings conveyed in the brand’s signature African inspired prints across soft furnishings and fabrics.
[Image credit: Bangou Collection Lampshades – Julie Kouamo]

At the other end of the hall, the South African pavilion introduced beautifully crafted furniture and interior accessories from a selection of leading South African design companies including, Snapp, Vogel and Indigi Designs, and a stunning chandelier from Willowlamp, a personal design favourite. Also on display in the international pavilion was a small display of traditionally woven textiles from Burkina Faso as part of the Afrique Authentique Authentic Africa Save Our Skills project.
[Image credits: top, Eva Sonaike at 100%Design; 
centre, Willowlamp; and bottom, Vogel 100% Design South Africa International Pavilion taken by Tapiwa]
Thursday I battled the wind and rain to first head over to the Gallery at the Idea Store, Whitechapel where La Petite Congolaise and Salongo Arts held the exhibition Unspoken Language, a fusion of African design and Caribbean and Western influences in furnishings and decorative objects. I then made my way to The Truman Brewery in Hanbury Street for the start of Tent London to see Isatu Funna, founder of chic online interiors boutique, Dar Leone who unveiled the company’s debut fabric and soft furnishings collection, entitled Tropic Marine, inspired by marine Africa, and to me portrays an elegant retro vibe through the colour palettes. The evening brought with it the private view and party for the Graphic Africa exhibition at Habitat’s Platform Gallery, a beautifully inspiring showcase of innovative contemporary African design by 16 leading contemporary African designers, open until Sunday 20th October, and I have to say for me the highlight event and exhibition of the LDF. A truly African affair, whereby entertainment came courtesy of the dulcet sounds of the Venus Bushfires, and nibbles from the Jollof Pot, it was a well attended event, that saw most of the designers on hand mingling and talking to guests, and providing a great opportunity to get to meet the faces and personalities behind the brands defining the emergence of an innovative and diverse African design aesthetic. Friday I headed back to Graphic Africa at Habitat for the curator’s walk-through talk, and subsequently spent the best part of an afternoon chatting with some of the designers.
[Image credits: top, Dar Leone at Tent London; 
centre and bottom, Graphic Africa at Habitat’s Platform Gallery taken by Tapiwa]
Saturday brought the African and African Caribbean Design Diaspora (AACDD) at the Bargehouse, OXO Tower Wharf on the South Bank for a more extensive display of the Afrique Authentique Authentic Africa traditional weaving from Burkina Faso that was at 100% Design, and beautiful array of contemporary African baskets from Swaziland’s, Gone Rural.
[Image credits: top, Afrique Authentique Authentic Africa at The Bargehouse; 
bottom, Gone Rural at The Bargehouse taken by Tapiwa]
…and by Sunday I was exhausted, but so inspired.
Additional details:

Designers/Brands:
For further information about Julie Kouamo visit: www.juliekouamo.com
For further information about Eva Sonaike visit: www.evasonaike.com
For further information about Dar Leone visit: www.dar-leone.com
For further information about La Petite Congolaise visit: www.lapetitecongolaise.com
For further information about Salongo Arts visit: www.salongoarts.com
For further information about Snapp visit: www.snappdesign.com
For further information about Vogel visit: www.vogeldesign.co.za
For further information about Indigi Designs visit: www.indigidesigns.co.za
For further information about Willowlamp visit: www.willowlamp.com
For further information about Gone Rural visit: www.goneruralswazi.com

Tradeshows, Events and Organisations
For further information about Maison et Objet visit: www.maison-objet.com
For further information about the London Design Festival visit: www.londondesignfestival.com
For further information about 100% Design visit: www.100percentdesign.co.uk
For further information about Tent London visit: www.tentlondon.co.uk
For further information about The Design Junction visit: http://thedesignjunction.co.uk
For further information about Graphic Africa @ Habitat’s Platform Gallery visit: www.habitat.co.uk

For further information about Afrique Authentique Authentic Africa visit: www.afriqueauthentique-authenticafrica.com
For further information about the African and African Caribbean Design Diaspora visit: www.aacdd.org

For further information about The Idea Store visit: www.ideastore.co.uk
For further information about The Venus Bushfires visit: http://thevenusbushfires.com
For further information about The Jollof Pot visit: www.jollofpot.co.uk

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