Behind the design – Graphic Africa

Graphic Africa, our exhibition for London Design Festival, is launching at Platform on 14 September. Meet some of the designers taking part…

Adèle Dejak (Kenya)
Nigerian-born Adèle Dejak’s line of inventive women’s fashion accessories has its roots in the heart of Kenya, where she creates her unique contemporary ranges of ostrich egg and West African bead sandals, earrings, bracelets, Congolese kuba fabric and leather handbags. The inspiration behind her work is African shapes and textures – the colours, beauty and form of horn and bone, for example. Very contemporary, yet rooted in African tradition, her jewellery is intended to make a statement. Born in Kanu and brought up in Cambridge, Dejak graduated in typographic design from the London College of Printing and worked as art director of a best-selling Italian magazine before launching her label in Nairobi.

Kitengela Glass (Kenya)
Sea glass vessels, crushed-ice coffee tables, a constellation of glowing orbs, magically twisted jewel-coloured goblets – all form part of the huge range of blown-glass pieces from Anselm Kitengela’s Hot Glass Studios. Each is unique, 100 percent recycled and 100 percent Kenyan. Kitengela trained in Holland with glass masters Willem and Bernard Heesen, before opening his studio in a red-bricked dome bordering the Nairobi National Park, where he now employs 35 people. ‘This is where the magic happens,’ he says. ‘Our dome has more than 1,000 glass stars inset into the ceiling in an accurate rendition of the night sky. It’s a real planetarium.’

Boubacar Doumbia (Mali)
Boubacar Doumbia’s Le Ndomo textile workshop specialises in natural fabric staining and dyeing techniques, putting a modern twist on traditional Ndomo work habits of a shared collective as well as individual responsibility. Doumbia has overhauled the traditional model of youth apprenticeship in Mali by placing young people in a central, entrepreneurial role from the outset. Rather than simply training students in various methods of textile production, such as bogolon (traditional mud cloth), he teaches them professional and life skills, encouraging his apprentices to become self-sufficient, independent, creative, and innovative. His model is highly sought after within villages around his native Segou region and is expanding to other organisations, both within and outside the artisanal field.

Cheick Diallo (Mali)
‘I don’t have an interest in design if it is only to remake that which already exists,’ says Cheick Diallo, whose impeccably finished furniture and objects are designed to interrupt perception with their mix of ancient wisdom and modern sensuality. A creative risk-taker, trainer and manager, Diallo trained as an architect and designer in Paris, before establishing his studio in the suburban hills above his birthplace, Bamako. There, a team of artisans works in semi-organised chaos to manufacture chic domestic objects from salvaged materials (bottle tops and computer batteries to old tyres) riffing on notions of luxury. Diallo was part of the seminal exhibition, Africa Remix, held in London, Paris, Düsseldorf, Tokyo and Joburg. He has exhibited at the Milan Furniture Fair and is a regular guest at design biennales around the world.

Doktor And Misses (South Africa)
Husband and wife team Adriaan Hugo and Katy Taplin are Dokter And Misses, the furniture and fashion label which operates out of Joburg producing a selection of furniture, lighting and innovative interior objects. They are are leading players in the South African design industry. Inspired by the idiosyncrasies of their surroundings, their modernist furniture pieces with angular lines have a boldly upbeat energy that makes them immediately desirable and very, very cool. They opened their first outlet in 2007 and have now expanded to three outlets including Co-Op, a space in Braamfontein in conjunction with Whatiftheworld Gallery, and a shop in Cape Town with fashion designer David West.

Hamed Outtara (Burkina Faso)
‘I’m always working to bring out a design that reflects the realities of Africa,’ says painter and furniture designer Hamed Outtara of his wildly original mixed-media furniture pieces. ‘My goal is to provide a key point in a continent which suffers from imports and all kinds of imitation furniture, especially of poor quality and which does not reflect our culture. As inspiration from traditional furniture carved by our artisans is disappearing, my work makes a difference and is a modern African design luxury.’ Having trained in accountancy, Outtara’s switch to being an artist and designer proved to be a sound decision. He has exhibited widely – from Bilbao to Miami – and supplies his products to France, Spain, Switzerland, Burkina Faso and Ghana.

Heath Nash (South Africa)
Heath Nash holds a BA in Fine Art (sculpture) from the University of Cape Town and was the Elle Decoration SA designer and lighting designer of the year in 2006. He has been in business since 2004 making products with a uniquely South African, environmentally conscious edge and a playful spirit. His Other People’s Rubbish collection – a gloriously lighthearted example of his recycling – is made from plastic bottles and galvanised wire. He draws inspiration from the idea of ‘designing with a conscience through limitations in design’. In 2010, he won an eco-lighting award judged by Ingo Maurer at Finland’s premiere interiors show, Habitare. He has, for several years, been working with grassroots artisans around Southern Africa, forging productive learning exchanges.

For stories and adventures behind Habitat’s collections, click below…

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