Creating Awareness At Design Indaba, Day 3

Day 3 of Design Indaba started off with a lot of excitement as we looked forward to the inspiring lineup ranging from typographers to budding photographers. There appeared to be a common theme linking all the talks today – awareness.

Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen opened the day’s talks with an unusual topic – chickens. Koen uses the topic of chickens as a metaphor to explore the importance of cultural diversity and identity. The Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP) is about cross-breeding domesticated chickens from different countries and studying their DNA. He uses this as metaphor to discuss diversity among the human race.

‘Love between chickens. But you’re not taking about the chickens, you’re talking about us- about globalization, about race’

– Koen Vanmechelen, Design Indaba 2017  

Koen was joined by social activist Chido Govera,  who in 2013 established the Future of Hope Foundation which seeks to help young women living in townships and orphans living in rural Zimbabwe and South Africa She uses her life experiences and her knowledge of mushroom cultivation to help those in need.

 ‘I would work to simplify the art of cultivating mushrooms so I could reach the people who needed it most’

–  Chido Govera, Design Indaba 2017

Photographer and Global graduate Thandiwe Msebenzi graduated from Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town. Her presentation included images from her latest body of work which deals with sexual harassment of the female body. She tells a story about how her grandmother sleeps with weapons under her bed for a fear of being raped as she relays the shocking statistics of rape amongst the elderly. Her images all tell a story, a story that she hopes will raise awareness about the rape culture in south Africa.

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‘My first kiss came from a stranger, back then I didn’t even know about consent – I didn’t know I could say no to him’ –  Thandiwe Msebenzi, Design Indaba 2017  

Creative director of Google’s Creative Lab, TL Uglow (‘Tea’) had us all chuckling as she gave many humorous accounts of her job at Google. Her talk combined technology and the arts as she discussed a fascinating project which deals with books and eBooks. She raised the question ‘why should eBooks look like regular books?’ i.e. turning the page one after the other. And so, she set off on a quest to create four books that are ‘unpublishable’ – they cannot be published for print, they can only be read digitally. Think, a book that, as you read the words vanish before your very eyes or a book that takes place on Google Maps and you move your characters along. Once again, Tea made us aware of the endless possibilities when you combine technology and design. 

I ways find WHY you’ve done something is more interesting than WHAT you’ve done’

– TL Uglow, Design Indaba 2017  

Art director and designer, Carina Bonse gave a compelling talk about what’s lurking in our oceans and beaches, she spoke about the vast amount of sewage waste that is pumped into our oceans and the various health risks that it exposes us to. She created a campaign where she drives around handing out litmus paper armbands that lets people test for E. coli and other bacteria hiding in our precious beaches.

Like Carina, the next two speakers saw a potential danger risk and used their design knowledge to remedy the situation. Artist and designer Ekene Ijeoma created an app that allows people to avoid dangerous situations when walking around busy cities, with their heads down, staring at their phone screens. The app tracks your movements and alerts you when you’re about to walk near a busy road. He wants to create awareness about the dangers of the simple act of walking around with your cell phone in hand. Similarly, industrial designer and founder of Spitfire Industry Isis Shiffer focusses on sustainability and transportation. As an avid cycler, she wanted to create a recyclable bike helmet that could fold up and prevent any head injuries. She handmade countless numbers of prototypes and finally settled on an accordion style helmet which will be rolled out in New York City sometime this year. She wishes to raise awareness on both safety and saving the environment, one recycled bike helmet at a time.

‘Designers done make the future, we’re in competition with it’

– Brian Collines,  co-founder and CCO of Collins agency, Design Indaba, 2017 

We were promised a grand finale and we were not disappointed. The final talk of the day was presented by architect Craig Dykers, co-founder of design company Snøhetta. Craig spoke about a project he worked on that raises awareness about the cruel treatment towards bees throughout the world. He designed and created the The Vulkan Bigård project, which involves the creation of sustainable living for bees to allow for natural production of honey.

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The day ended off with Craig unveiling a new project he is working on with Johannesburg based architectural company Local Studio. They aim to create a piece of art or a memorial arch  for Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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The Arch will be situated at the intersection of Adderley Street and Wale Street in the Company’s Garden, between the St. George’s Cathedral, where Tutu served as Archbishop. Desmond Tutu made an impromptu speech which had the entire floor on its feet with a standing ovation.


ELLE intern Kareesha is a self-confessed foodie who loves testing Pinterest recipes. She is inspired by creativity and enjoys reading South African authors. She loves animals and even has a few chickens running around her back garden. She has a passion for learning new things and is always up for a new challenge. Her dream holiday would be exploring Zanzibar or jetting off to the South of France for croissants and macarons.


The 2017 Field Report is not about fleeting trends – its about quality and perfection, about bringing back traditional skills and craftsmanship. We speak to the visionaries, icons and experts who shape their unique, lasting and life-enhancing concepts for us to embrace through their designs, recipes, buildings and explorations. Pick up your copy today and tell us what you think on Twitter @Elle_Deco using #2017FieldReport.

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