Nataal talks to the designers who have shaped IKEA’s first Africa collection in association with Design Indaba

Design Indaba has seen a two-year project with IKEA come to fruition with the launch of the megabrand’s Överallt collection. The limited edition range of products have been developed by 10 African designers in collaboration with five of IKEA’s in house team. Together they examined the importance of modern urban rituals that celebrate communal life, identity and sustainability. Going into store this May, the designers gave Design Indaba attendees a preview of the collection at its interactive makers lab. Here’s what they had to say about this ambitious coming together of worlds and minds.

Bibi Seck - Senegal
“When I was contacted, I went back to bed. I thought I was dreaming! IKEA is a democratic brand so its perspective on developing a relationship with Africa through this collection was interesting. The experience has been exceptional - I have met designers from across Africa and this project bought us all together. What is African design? I don’t know the answer and maybe it’s not the right question. The origin of a product depends on the person who uses it. Yes we like colours but we don’t own colours; the way we use them reflects our personality. What has been important through this process is to look at our every day lives.”

Issa Diabaté, Koffi & Diabaté Architects - Côte d'Ivoire
“We have thought about how to blur our internal and external spaces. It was interesting to see how we started with conceptual ideas and ended up with a product. My response was a chair that sits low and accommodates a more relaxed and laid back position from which to exchange and talk, and share food and drinks. The chair is made from lightweight plywood and is simple to assemble through an interlocking method using no screws or glue, which makes it perfect for packing.”

Sindoso Khumalo and Rene Rossouw – South Africa
“We are both South African, we both studied architecture and we both love printed textiles, so it was amazing to collaborate on this project. Rene explored the natural landscape of South Africa and wanted to draw awareness to the African elephant while Sindiso was inspired by the urban landscape of Joburg with its modernist buildings like Ponte City. We exchanged line drawings and digital artworks that would become textile patterns and then worked with IKEA to think about scale and product. We are proud of our quilts, which we want to become heirlooms that are passed through generations of your family.”

Selly Raby Kane – Senegal
“I’ve always been obsessed with hair and braiding so when Design Indaba asked me to be part of this, the first thing I thought was, ‘How am I going to get hair into it?’ We found a way. We dug deeply into the rituals of braiding in West Africa and imagined what new forms it could take. Through this process, I realised it was about language, communication and intimacy. The product is a basket which for me is a way to connect people in homes around the world. You see this basket, your curiosity is sparked, and you think about what it is to live together as humans today.”

Marian Hazem and Hend Riad, Reform Studio - Egypt
“Our studio looks at how we can produce luxury out of waste. In Africa nothing goes to waste and reusing is an every day ritual so we’re interested in the potential and possibilities this presents. For this project, we’ve looked at confectionary wrappers. Companies produce millions of tonnes of this shiny material every year so we’ve found a way to upcycle it into a durable woven fabric that has been turned into rugs, cushions and bags.”

Bethan Rayner and Naeem Biviji, Studio Propolis - Kenya
“We took inspiration from Kenyan life, where there are so many examples of people eating and enjoy themselves outdoors. The choices we make around food have never been more important so let’s celebrate cooking together and slowing down. We also wanted to design objects that are durable, versatile and become more beautiful with age. Everything is made from honest, raw, natural materials. Our wooden table and bench can be set up in a circle for an intimate dining space, or arranged in a more open and public arrangement. Our cast iron pot has a skillet lid that is multi purpose. Our ceramics are unglazed and develop a patina over time. If you leave your mark on something, you own it and you’re much less likely to throw it away.”

Laduma Ngxokolo, Maxhosa – South Africa
“When IKEA contacted me I never hesitated. What is the point of design if it isn’t accessible to the world? I am passionate about design and I asked them if they were going to look at Africa as an option in the future. I met all of their amazing designers at the IKEA HQ and got overwhelmed when we discussed the materials for my rugs. Although a lot of people believe that our diversity separates us, I believe there is a lot of optimism and that this collection is a celebration of the motherland.”

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Published on 10/03/2019