As a media partner, Nataal discovered non-stop talent among Design Indaba’s array of special projects, and caught up with festival alumni Laduma Ngxokolo

Design Indaba 2017 teamed with exhibitions and activations supporting African talent. Ikea installed its own house where designers from across the continent workshopped concepts for the furniture giant’s first African collection. Bethan Rayner and Naeem Biviji, Bibi Seck, Christian Benimana, Hend Riad and Mariam Hazem, Issa Diabaté, Paula Nascimento, Renee Rossouw, Selly Raby Kane, Sindiso Khumalo and Laduma Ngxokolo (pictured above) were brought together by Design Indaba founder Ravi Naidoo and Ikea’s head of design Marcus Engmen, and expect to create a range of around 40 products for a 2019 launch. “This is our starting point for co-creation with Africa,” says Engmen. “A lot of things are happening in design across Africa, as the manifesto of Design Indaba festival shows, and we would like to tap into that. It’s about creating something beautiful, comfortable, durable and made in a sustainable way.”


Ngxokolo is putting his textiles expertise into prototypes for soft furnishings. “I was invited to Ikea’s Swedish HQ and fell in love with the democratic way they make projects and the immense scale of their work,” he says. “The group is coming from Senegal, Angola, South Africa, Ivory Coast – we didn’t know each other before so crossing over ideas and apply our specialities is exciting. I’m making some carpets and cushions and a low cooking table based on what we use in my Xhosa culture. I’ve never seen it in a modern context before.”

Ngxokolo first showed at Design Indaba in 2011 as part of its Emerging Creatives exhibition, and last year returned to win its annual Most Beautiful Object In South Africa competition. He has garnered accolades globally for his heritage inspired knitwear, including the 2015 Vogue Italia Scouting for Africa prize in Milan, and shows his AW17 collection at AFI Cape Town Fashion Week at the end of March. “I’m celebrating five years since I established my label. It’s a very important milestone,” he muses. “It feels like it has grown into a beneficial fashion brand and will turn into a lifestyle brand that people can wear every day.”


Many of those 40 young South African designers hand selected for this year’s Emerging Creatives expo hope for similarly bright futures as this alumni. Among them were Sibusiso Nkosi, a multidisciplinary artist working in sculpture, ceramics, digital art, painting, vocals and print making. Currently studying fine and applied art at Tshwane University of Technology, he presented a collection of superbly etched and hand-painted tea pots, vases, plates and objects evoking fantasy worlds in outer space. Banele Mavimbela also studied fine art and textiles at Tshwane University of Technology and creates works in mixed media. His drawings are delicate and playful manifestations reflecting his sense of humour and deep cultural engagement, ranging from graphic patterns to abstract animals and beautiful faces. A third stand out was menswear designer Sifiso Kunene, who references street art and hip hop in his brand Messrs Basswood. His summer collection is a joyful play of pop colour on sporty separates. His passion is for storytelling through fashion and pushing the boundaries of classic tailoring in all the right places.

This year’s Most Beautiful Object in South Africa competition, which let’s the public vote on a shortlist nominated by experts, and urges us to think about beauty’s power to have cultural and economic impact, was won by Nkuli Mlangeni. The designer was inspired by Ndebele patterns and the traditional dying and weaving techniques of the region’s artisans, to come up with a contemporary graphic design for her handmade wool Sankara rug. Mlangeni is co-founder of The Ninevites collective, which celebrates black aesthetics through fashion, textiles and image. This rug, part of a collection, aims to preserve and innovate crafts by attracting a new generation to them. “I want to use the things that I’m passionate about to create social change,” Mlangeni says.

Other inspiring nominations for the award included the Hawker’s Rocking Chair by fashion designer Thebe Magugu and craftsman Emile Millward informed by “strong, independent women” and the Joe Slovo West Community Project in Port Elizabeth by architect Kevin Kimwelle, which used recycled materials to create a colourful, uplifting crèche. Proof indeed that beauty can be found everywhere.

Read about the Design Indaba 2017 conference here.

Words Annegret Affolderbach and Helen Jennings
Photography Kent Andreasen

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