Back home in Harare no school art lesson was complete without a potato carved with a design that would then be printed across paper or fabric in an array of colours. I haven’t done potato-printing in ages but used to love stamping whatever I could get my hands on, getting caught up in the rhythmic process of it all. In Zimbabwe’s Shona language ‘Kudhinda’ means to stamp or imprint, and is the name given to a locally based textile brand that produces distinctive colourful textiles that have been carefully hand-printed using potato prints, screen-printed and hand-painted. I first got to know of Kudhinda through the design studio I worked at in Harare, where I got to work on some of the company’s branding and promotional materials.
Using local inspiration to inform the imagery and design choices, Kudhinda’s designs are highly-detailed and along with the ‘Sadza Batik’ have become instantly recognisable as a form of contemporary Zimbabwean textiles. Typically characterised by clashing patterns and vibrant colours it could all get a bit much, but order comes in the form of very neat lines and rows that form grids, something that took me ages to achieve in class as it is quite difficult to accurately line up the potato stamp across a small length of fabric let alone metres of it. Also, some of the designs are framed by complementary patterned borders that have the effect of neatly containing and blocking off the different design areas allowing the eye to rest on a specific area at a time. Printed onto 100% Zimbabwean cotton, the production process is labour intensive; it can take up to 950 print impressions to complete a square metre. A typical production day sees the potatoes and rubber blocks cut each morning in preparation for the day’s stamping process, then moving on to the preparation of the pigments. The printing of the fabric is a multilayered process; first, the fabric is dyed then marked out to guide the printing, many of the designs feature plain areas of colour as an additional underlay, so this is then the stage added. Once completed the carved potatoes and blocks are over-printed. All resulting in the rich tapestry of pattern in vibrant colourways.
Image credits: Kudhinda Cushions and Placemats via African Touch]
Kudhinda was founded in 1989 by Ros Byrne who was and still is a practicing potter. Ros set up the business to help young school leavers who were talented in textiles and looking for employment. In addition to fabric printing Kudhinda has a sewing and cutting department and this expansion over the years has seen the business grow to 60 employees producing a popular range of interior furnishings and accessories that include cushions, table runners, table cloths, placemats and bed linen; along with personal accessories like cosmetic bags and even clothing. Rolls of fabric are also produced for those who want to make up their own items. Kudhinda’s fabrics can be found in hotels, lodges and gift shops across Zimbabwe and the company has two retail outlets one in Victoria Falls; and the other in Harare which is located within in the Doon Estate, Msasa a hub of creativity and a place I visited several times when seeking out gifts for family and friends living overseas. If looking for inspiration on how to make the fabrics work for your interior, the bedroom above is in the home of a Zimbabwean Ceramic tile designer living in South London and shows how well the fabric can work as an accent.
…fabrics that instantly transport me back to the sunshine city
For further information about Kudhinda, for order enquiries and international stockists visit: www.africanhandwork.co.za