Twenty top African artists, under the auspices of South Africa’s leading art gallery – the Southern Guild – were among the world’s most influential designers to take part in last month’s 10th anniversary of the prestigious Design Miami fair. Here is a glimpse of what Africa offered at one of the world’s prime events in design culture and art commerce.
Dokter and Misses
Husband and wife, Adriaan Hugo and Katy Taplin, make up the duo Dokter and Misses, which operates in Johannesburg, producing a selection of furniture, lighting and innovative interior objects. Inspired by the idiosyncrasies of their surroundings, their modernist furniture pieces with angular lines have a boldly upbeat energy that makes them immediately desirable and cool.
The LALA Surma drinks cabinet is inspired by the body painting of the Surma people, who are indigenous to the Omo Valley. A nomadic community living close to nature, the Surma people place great importance on decoration of the body, using bright minerals to embellish the skin. These are combined with flora and fauna for ephemeral adornments. In the cabinet the raw steel canvas acts as the skin onto which expressive, gestural strokes are applied and the colour palette is that of natural pigments: red ochre, yellow sulfur, white kaolin and grey ash.
Laduma Ngxokolo and Yellowoods
Yellowwoods Art is a patron to pioneering artists across Africa. Half Square is a ceramic art product born out of collaboration between fine artists and ceramic artisans. The handcrafted product is named after its triangular tile format – a repetitive modular unit both beautifully simple and scalable.
Acclaimed textile and knitwear designer Laduma Ngxokolo is conceptually and visually inspired by his Xhosa heritage. His talent for colour and pattern made for an irresistible Half Square opportunity, and he devised his design purposefully for the triangular, modular units. Ngxokolo’s piece is deceptively harmonious, hiding a complex and large colour range incorporating 33 different colours grouped into three-tone, interlocking patterns.
John Murray with Paco Pakdoust
John Murray is a painter working in Cape Town. Recently Murray’s work has leaned towards abstraction, not in its purest sense but rendered in a way that still hints at representational forms beneath the surface, alluding to structures that are simultaneously in the process of forming or perhaps disintegrating.
Paco Pakdoust has been creating beautiful handmade carpets for more than 13 years, yet he still relishes the challenge of creating unique pieces offered by various collaborations.
Topple, by artist John Murray and carpet-maker Paco Pakdoust, forms part of a series of limited-edition art carpets commissioned annually for the Southern Guild Collection, translating artworks into the medium of wool and silk.
Vogel + Plunkett
John Vogel has a background in architecture. He feels a strong affinity for timber and most of his inspiration comes from the natural world. Believing that our consciousness is related to the quality of our relationship with nature, the focus of his work is to create vernacular pieces that promote the connection of people to the natural world.
From high-profile illustrations for leading brands to quirky products made under the banner of his design studio, Joom, Justin Plunkett’s creative decisions are driven by aesthetics and a clear focus on creating something that really works. The title of the Loves Me, Loves Me Not table makes a humorous reference to the dandelion game, and its petals can also function as smaller occasional side tables.