“atelier | 55 celebrates the outstanding makers and organisations based on the African continent and beyond, whose work ranges from recognisable heritage influences to abstract renderings, all capturing the sophistication, vitality, diversity, and soulfulness that is defining contemporary African design.”
– Tapiwa Matsinde, Founder of atelier | 55
About atelier | 55
atelier | 55 is a digital space created to curate, connect and celebrate the designers, artisans, and organisations shaping contemporary African design.
Launched in 2010 by author, curator, content creator and educator Tapiwa Matsinde, atelier | 55 exists to promote, research, curate, consult, source and sell, in order to connect global audiences to the best in contemporary African design.
To support the development of the African design industry and bring the work of talented designers, makers, and creatives from the continent and its diaspora to the attention of local and global audiences
Create. Celebrate. Connect. Challenge.
atelier | 55 seeks to create increased awareness of contemporary African style and design; celebrate knowledge and the diversity in culture, heritage and creativity; connect creatives to opportunities that provide inspiration and foster trade allowing people to make a sustainable living from their craft; and challenge and change negative stereotypes of African art, design and culture.
While conversations about art and design typically allude to the continent as a homogenous whole, Africa, in fact, comprises 55 recognised states, all of which contribute differently to the continent’s creatively rich, expressive, diverse and thriving culture. From the makeshift to the state-of-the-art, under the shade of a leafy tree or in an urban studio, the ateliers of Africa are overflowing with ingenuity and creativity; these are the places where ideas come to life.
I am privileged to be a part of what I call the golden era of contemporary African design. We are witnessing a continent-wide creative reawakening that has resulted in a glorious outpouring of creative expression
Tapiwa Matsinde, author, curator, content creator, consultant
I am British-born, of Zimbabwean descent, raised and educated in both countries. I’m an author, curator, content creator and educator passionate about design, creativity, culture, and branding.
I am privileged to be a part of what I call the golden era of contemporary African design, a time when we are witnessing a continent-wide, collective, creative reawakening that has resulted in a glorious outpouring of creative expression.
While studying then working in Zimbabwe as a graphic designer I was surrounded by creativity at a formal (galleries, art shops) and informal (grassroots, road side vendors) level. I underestimated the influence of those informal expressions; how they inspired a can-do spirit, a resourcefulness and ingenuity born out of necessity, making do with what you have on hand and seeing how with the right support that can be channeled into sophisticated products.
Having moved to the UK to study, access to the informal was not as available as it is now, and coupled with the invisibility of contemporary African creativity in the global discourse, out of sight meant out of mind. Before I knew it, I had lost touch with Africa and its creative inspiration, yet there was a nagging that something was missing and I found myself struggling to put my finger on it.
My own reawakening came when I started making jewellery, traveling back to what I had lost as I found myself choosing the colours and patterns of intricate beading of my heritage for my designs. At about this time, Africa’s creativity was beginning to attract global attention, enabled by the digital revolution. With once inaccessible worlds within reach, I seized these new tools and opportunities to re-connect with inspiration and re-direct my energy.
A return to university to earn a master’s degree saw me use my projects to explore what was happening across the continent in more detail. Upon graduation my exploration continued; the more I explored the more I found. Needing a suitable space to store my findings, I hit ‘publish’ on my first blog post one September afternoon and atelier | 55 was born.
All these experiences have shaped who I am. My contributions to the development of contemporary African design, connecting with others to effect change at a local level, and raising awareness at a global level are underpinned by the philosophy of ‘I am because we are’. This ancient Africanisim at the heart of most African cultures explains how one exists as an individual because of the connection, support and contribution they have with, from, and make to their communities. For me, re-immersing myself into the world of African creativity has been a homecoming that was long overdue.
I invite you to step into the Atelier and discover the exciting world of creativity from and inspired by, the 55 states of the African continent.
If you can envision it, you can accomplish it.
If you can imagine it, you can reach the heavens!