African design and artisanship is something I am very passionate about, and it is wonderful to see it making great strides both locally on the African continent and internationally. Not too long ago in the West, the terms artisan or craft were seen as inferior, often dismissed as being the poor cousin of the much more feted and glamorous title of designer. But how times have changed, with the word artisan now a buzz word applied to everything from factory assembled furniture collections to processed food. The processes of which, a contradiction to the true meaning of artisanship, which typically refers to products made in small quantities using traditional methods and often made by hand. This indiscriminate application has led some to question whether artisan as a term is now losing its authenticity.
On the African continent, however, the true meaning of artisanship continues to be upheld, through an authentic way of producing that is deeply rooted in a world-renowned heritage of exceptional hand craft skills from woodcarving to beading. And where for most working in the sector the role of the designer and the artisan is often intertwined.
Leading African Design brands such as Dounia Home, Adele Dejak, Saba Studio, DÅ by Afrominima, and Tongoro whose visionary founders are part of a growing dynamic generation of designers and makers committed to utilising the continent’s richly diverse heritage of craftsmanship, are innovatively connecting artisanship to modern aesthetics. The result being the creation of highly sophisticated products that carry within them the stories of past and present and thereby creating a link between heritage and modernity. And defining a well made in Africa aesthetic.
Heritage and modernity also reflects the development of an African luxury aesthetic that recognises the role of craft at the heart of true luxury. A type of luxury that is no longer defined solely by hefty price tags, but rather by the ‘money can’t buy’ attributes of time, experiences and emotional connections, attributes that are embedded into the products created, giving African design a soulfulness that is hard to ignore. And for this reason makes producing on the continent highly important.
Many of Africa’s designers either living on the continent or based outside of it are united in a commitment to making their products in Africa in partnership with skilled craftsmen and women in their local communities and regions. Their commitment is contributing to the development of Africa’s growing design industries. And by doing so these designers are upholding the banner of Well Made In Africa. For more on Well Made In Africa read 9 Designers Creating A Well Made in Africa Aesthetic.
Tapiwa[Image credits: The image shown belongs to Tapiwa Matsinde. If downloaded and used elsewhere please credit accordingly.]