“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, founder atelier 55
A journey from designer to curator
I’m an author, storyteller, curator, consultant, and mentor passionate about design, craft, creativity, culture, and branding.
British-born, of Zimbabwean descent, raised and educated in both countries. It was while growing up, studying then working in Zimbabwe as a graphic designer that my connection to hand craft began. I was surrounded by creativity at a formal (galleries, art shops) and informal (grassroots, roadside 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 design & craft 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:
Hunhu / Ubuntu ‘I am because we are‘
This ancient Africanism 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.