Design Indaba Expo – The softer side of things

Buhle Mweli

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DESIGN INDABA images by Fika Creative designers from different disciplines come together in one large room and show off their work. From fashion, jewellery, interior decor, architectural innovations, to community development initiatives, wacky quirky art; and music and film. This statement set the stage for what I was about to experience on the 2nd March. The Design […]

DESIGN INDABA

images by Fika

Creative designers from different disciplines come together in one large room and show off their work. From fashion, jewellery, interior decor, architectural innovations, to community development initiatives, wacky quirky art; and music and film.

This statement set the stage for what I was about to experience on the 2nd March. The Design Indaba hosted a myriad of speakers from the 27th February to the 1st March. The Expo was held from the 1st March until the 3rd of March, which is what I was attending. As a virgin attendee (unlike my co-worker and partner in crime for the day, a seasoned fan) I was expecting to see architectural show-stoppers, young emerging designers and to be honest, bizarre artistic displays. So to my amusement I stumble upon this gigantic wasp nest, made out of felt. The design was a collaborative effort between Porky Hefer and Stephanie Benturn. Hefer a Speaker at the 2012 Conference is a designer and activist by his own admission. I ask if I can jump inside as the contraption hangs from the ceiling and someone points to the ‘Do not touch sign’.

 

Wasp Nest - No touchy touchy!
Wasp Nest – No touchy touchy!

After that we head to the jewellery department and I’m intrigued by these exquisite neck pieces by Katherine-Mary Pichulik. One of her pieces was nominated for ‘Most beautiful object’ where design journalists and cultural commentators nominate any impressive works that define social or economical relevance and significance.

Fashion designer Gavin Rajah’s Pebble Dress won the title, however most of the nominees were equally as impressive.“The necklaces are made mainly from rope and other pieces that I collect from my travels” Katherine explains. They are big, bold, and colourful and I consider purchasing one myself until I see the price tag. So… I moved swiftly along as I whistled.

As fashion lovers (my co-worker and I) we were strictly told to try and deviate from the topic by our bosses but I find myself in front of Thabo Makhetha’s stall (it just happened, I swear). A Port Elizabeth based fashion designer who hails from Lesotho. “Kobo-ea-bohali” is the name she’s given her uniquely Basotho blanket coats. Paying homage to her roots, the coats are modern version of the traditional Sotho blankets. Now it can be worn effortlessly and one can look good while they’re at it.

Necklaces by Katherine-Mary Pichulik
Necklaces by Katherine-Mary Pichulik
Gavin Rajah - Pebble Dress
Gavin Rajah – Pebble Dress

 

Thabo Makhetha and her Sotho coats
Thabo Makhetha and her Sotho coats

 

We came across a young gentleman who literally caught everyone’s eye with this largely printed sign above his stand: I Lost My Virginity. I double dare you to lie, if you are not intrigued with what that might be all about. When he introduced himself as Louie covered in tattoos up and down both arms he smiled and let me in on his inspiration behind this ‘scandalous’ project. He let us know that he was intrigued by people’s stories about how and where they lost their virginity and I remembered how I had seen a similar project done before by an international artist and found myself excited about it – I was thrilled by the idea when I realised that these places where people might have done ‘the DEED’ were closer to home. This was both exciting and extremely unhygienic at the same time. Louie had complied all these stories and put them into the form of a coffee table book, with all the photographs of the areas where people lost their virginity. These stories are written anonymously but written by these individuals in their own words and hand writing making the experience of reading it more personal.

 

My hunger for art had not yet been met, so when we step into Phumulani Ntuli’s booth with pink AK47’s and spears hanging from the wall we have to ask. Ntuli is one of Design Indaba’s “Emerging Creatives”. The initiative is sponsored by the Department of Arts and Culture. It provides a platform for young students, graduates or anyone who is a new-comer in their chosen field. One of the many efforts that the Expo is making to harness and promote young, creative talent in South Africa. Ntuli’s designs look at violence through art’s lens. He uses drawings, sculptures and photo-montages to do so. On the floor there is a large crocheted object that looks like a human being in a fetal position. He describes how he uses resin to harden the soft, feminine material he uses, into position.

 

Phumulani Ntuli - The softer side of violence
Phumulani Ntuli – The softer side of violence

 

“Designers will solve most of the world’s problems”. This is the statement that inspires designers to do what they do. I wanted to see this value playing out practically at the Expo so when I was told about the Woolworths’ Making the Difference Through Design Programme’ I had to find out more. In addition to being one of the Design Indaba sponsors, Woolworths launched the programme aimed at grade 10 to 12 students who are passionate about design. Their 2012 winner Artemis Spyropoulos a grade 10 learner from Johannesburg designed a light-weight scooter made from recycled material, after she realised that more than 500 000 scholars in South Africa walked about an hour in total, to and from school. The scoot-2-school scooters will be donated to Ibhongo High School in Soweto.

Scoot-2-school. They cost less than R15 each to make
Scoot-2-school. They cost less than R15 each to make

 

After all that walking we headed to the food court which was actually a variety of food trucks lined up, serving all kinds of delicacies. From Durban curry and Calzone, to ice-cream and cocktails. Food trucks are a rare sight in Cape Town but after that delightful experience I hope that they catch on, fast. The culmination of the afternoon saw musical acts Project Lindela and Gazelle take to the stage just after the last fashion show took place.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    So in 2014 I’m looking forward to seeing more interactive design. Displays that invite more public participation and a highlight on the youth’s creativity, especially young people who would not typically get exposure otherwise. All together, it was a day well spent and Live Magazine will definitely call again.

Heaven on wheels
Heaven on wheels
Food Caravans
Food Caravans