Sunday Times Neighbourhood – This is Africa

21 April 2020

Praveen Dinna, conceptual designer at Tétris South Africa and part of the new guard of young local design talent, finds particular inspiration in the creative rise of Africanisation.

The global industry is redefining a new African culture and design language, and it’s energising. We are moving beyond the European renaissance era to embrace a new vernacular that is modern, sustainable and relevant.

Our international counterparts are looking to the African continent for design influence, and they are finding a distinct design philosophy that translates across the world.

It’s exciting to see this trend gaining traction, and especially right here at home. As an African, an indigenous design aesthetic resonates with you on a sub-conscious level. It conjures up a familiarity that you connect with and find comfort in.

Africanism in design is very organic; it is referenced by textures in our landscapes and rituals in our homes. Architect Francis Kéré’s work illustrates excellent examples of how this aesthetic plays out in popular design. His 2017 Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens takes inspiration from an enormous tree in his hometown in Gando, Burkina Faso. The space is a symbol of storytelling and togetherness, drawing people and nature together to create a sense of community.

Then Ikea’s Överallt collection, launched at the 2019 Design Indaba, reveals again how the African ethos is cultivating innovation and creativity in the design space. Featuring products designed by Africans, all tell a story that is quintessentially African. Like the rugs made from recycled chip packets, textile fibre inspired by the tradition of weaving hair, and a bench designed to encourage human connection.

Another example can be found in the Freedom Park Museum in Pretoria. With design inspiration taken from nature, its walls and roof are cladded in rich copper sheeting which will, in time, rust to green, ensuring the building merges with the natural landscape.

This is Africanisation in design. It encompasses a simplistic sophistication with responsible, functional, original ideas at its core.

We’ve retired the Ndebele cliché to introduce a new breed of design (and designer) committed to exploring the rich heritage in our African roots and taking this design narrative to the next level. The world is ripe for a fresh perspective.

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times Neighbourhood JHB edition on 8 March 2020.