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The development of design in Africa has followed the path that has been witnessed in the rest of the world. It began with the gradual transition from the ‘father to son’-led design practice, where all design conceptualisation, alternative strategies, design decisions, material selection, making and evaluation, etc., rested in the minds of the craft-designers, to the realisation that design can have an impact on economic performance.

In Africa’s case, however, this realisation came only recently. In the era of global competitiveness in which we live, nothing at all can make its way to the market without being a creative design backed by creative thinking and extensive research.

Once, it became clear that design could make a difference, however, the concept of industrial design began sweeping in Africa. South Africa assumed the role of engine of development in Africa by leading in design in all its meanings. Schools of industrial design, ceramics design, apparel design and engineering design subsequently propagated the knowledge of design and gave birth to creative designer in Africa. Through this process, other African nations emerged as effective design users, such as Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, Morocco, Ghana, Mali, Ethiopia, etc.

Which brings us to our showcase: Reinterpreting their heritage through a fresh lens, these inventive artists are challenging and changing preconceived perspectives of African design.

Using new forms, provocative textures, natural materials and rich colours, designers from Africa are pioneering new frontiers of creative expression. Their bold ideas are defining a captivating new aesthetic that captures the style and soul of contemporary Africa: imaginative, energetic, cosmopolitan, expressive, sensual, proud and principled.

Here are a few of the best contemporary industrial designers in Africa:

Diana Carmichael

Diana Carmichael celebrates the elusive spirit of Africa in her contemporary range of tableware and accessories. The collections,inspired by the forms and textures of Africa’s unique botanical, wildlife and cultural treasures, showcase vibrant creativity and artistic functionality.

Since its debut in 1995, Diana Carmichael Artworks has received accolades from around the world. Featuring lead-free pewter and embracing unique materials such as African rosewood and Swarovski crystals, Diana Carmichael’s sophisticated designs confer an air of refined exclusivity to any table.

Country / South Africa

Products / Distinctive, designer tableware.

Gone Rural

Gone Rural embraces the vitality and artistic spirit of women living in rural Swaziland to create innovative, high-end décor products for discerning clients. Inspired by the vision of designer Philippa Thorne, indigenous grass has been transformed into a global sensation. Gone Rural’s range has been featured by leading magazines, such as Elle Decoration, and imparts a fresh elegance to homes and chic boutiques around the world.

The soulful sophistication of Gone Rural’s design is matched only by the social and environmental consciousness of the company, which is an accredited World Fair Trade Organization.

Country / Swaziland

Products / Exquisite home accessories and tableware.

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Kpando Pottery

Kpando Pottery is named after the region known for distinctive pottery made by local women, often with their babies by their side.

The business grew out of the Aid to Artisans Ghana project and now exports its innovative designs to Europe and North America.

The seventy women it employs shape the clay without a potter’s wheel. They create the unique black patina finish by firing their pieces over a bamboo bonfire instead of using a clay oven.

The result is stunning pieces of industrial pottery that would grace any award winning contemporary dwelling.

Country / Ghana

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Kubu designer furniture embodies Africa’s energy, texture and soul.

Kubu is inspired by a desire to celebrate Africa’s natural beauty, showcase its cultural heritage and delight clients with unsurpassed reliability and product quality.

Each Kubu creation is born from indigenous teak and rosewood sourced from environmentally responsible, licensed suppliers. Reinterpreting the sculptural artistry of traditional wood furniture with modern techniques and contemporary aesthetics, Kubu has established itself as a premier supplier to discerning buyers and upmarket lodges.

Country / Zambia

Products / Contemporary wood furniture, objets d’art.

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Muya Ethiopia

Ethiopia is at the crossroads of Africa, Asia and Europe.

Muya Ethiopia shares the beauty, vitality and artistry of Ethiopia with the world. Sara Abera, Muya’s energetic and visionary designer, inspires master artisans to create sophisticated designs. Each luxurious piece is beautifully handmade and enriches the contemporary lifestyle.

Muya Ethiopia is an experienced exporter and the 2008 recipient of Ethiopia’s prestigious Millennium award. Muya is the first Ethiopian company to obtain membership in the World Fair Trade Organization.

Country / Ethiopia

Products / Soft furnishings, ceramics, shawls, accessories.

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Diallo Design

“I don’t have an interest in design if it is only to remake that which already exists.”

With these confident words, Cheick Diallo ventures beyond the boundaries of established perceptions. He gives form to exciting new ideas and transforms traditional African design into something cosmopolitan, inventive and expressive.

Cheick’s designs create a bridge between ancient wisdom and modern sensuality. His creations inspire a new global perspective of Africa and African design.

Country / Mali

Products / Design-led furniture, tableware and home accessories

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Birsel + Seck

Based in Dakar, New York and Instabul, Birsel+Seck (founders - Bibi Seck and Ayse Birsel) are an award winning product design duo who’ve collaborated with clients such as Hewlett Packard, Target, and Renault to  bring innovative solutions to market.

Their award-winning designs span the office, home, bath, retail and automotive sectors. Their ‘design lab’ is based in Senegal, where Bibi – whose second home is Dakar – works with local artisans to create new designs using traditional wire weaving techniques to make a range of furniture, including this oversized chair called Madame Dakar. 

Country / Senegal

Products / Industrial furniture design, art installations, kitchen gadgets/tools


Source: Design Africa :

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