Trees are important in rural African culture, they bring people together, making them the focal point of the community. A lot happens under a tree, people sit seeking refuge from the rays of the sun, leisurely watching the world go by, church services take place, school lessons conducted, a visiting health clinic sets up triage, and craftswomen lay their mats down sitting atop them, a baby or two sleeping beside them, as they weave baskets, bead clothing, jewellery and more, their skillful hands not missing beat as they catch up on the latest news and gossip.
The outdoors is significant, it seems as though the act of creativity taking place outdoors connects one to the earth, directly drawing inspiration from nature, the source of all creativity. And even in the urban areas of cities and towns artisans can be found along the roadsides under the open sky or in makeshift canopies for shelter, working on their crafts as they wait for a sale or enquiry.
It is a way of life and making that is constantly in danger of being eroded by the need to grow, to increase productivity by replacing people with machines. No doubt as the African design industry evolves machinery will become ever more necessary, but it how they are utilised that will make all the difference. With crafts being at the heart of African design it is important they are preserved, their value maintained, and those working on them respected, using their knowledge to help create the kinds of systems and processes that will benefit and help the industry grow in a way that works for the betterment of all involved.
Ateliers are renowned for their refinement and elegance, and highly specialised craftspeople creating things of unrivalled elegance and beauty through their knowledge shaped by years of hands-on making, and the ateliers of Africa are most definitely a part of this.
– Tapiwa Matsinde
[Image credits: The image shown belongs to Tapiwa Matsinde/Atelier Fifty Five. If downloaded and used elsewhere please credit accordingly.]