Reading Room, Africa Style

Plywood book shelf by Jasper Eales Original, Furniture from Weylandts, Solid Ash ladder by James Mudge

Our latest reading list from our Africa Issue is filled with books on African design, craft, textiles, food and architecture. Feed your African passion with DECO’s selection of enriching reads…

Contemporary Design Africa by Tapiwa Matsinde

Celebrates African design today through the beautiful objects created by its most sophisticated makers. Contemporary Design Africa offers a refreshing challenge to rigid perceptions of what African design looks like. Focusing primarily on interior decoration, the book presents fifty designers, artisans, and cooperatives based on the continent or part of the diaspora who are creating sophisticated and innovative products and interiors.

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Sweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi

The novel, Sweet Medicine takes place in Harare at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic woes in 2008. Tsitsi, a young woman, raised by her strict, devout Catholic mother, believes that hard work, prayer and an education will ensure a prosperous and happy future. She does well at her mission boarding school, and goes on to obtain a scholarship to attend university, but the change in the economic situation in Zimbabwe destroys the old system where hard work and a degree guaranteed a good life. Out of university, Tsitsi finds herself in a position much lower than she had set her sights on, working as a clerk in the office of the local politician, Zvobgo. With a salary that barely provides her a means to survive, she finds herself increasingly compromising her Christian values to negotiate ways to get ahead.

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African Textiles by John Gillow

This book remains the most comprehensive survey of African textiles on the market today, illustrating in over 570 spectacular colour photographs the traditional, handcrafted, indigenous textiles of the whole continent. Covering, region by region, the handmade textiles of West, North, East, Central and Southern Africa, African Textiles outlines the vast array of techniques used as well as the different types of loom, materials and dyes that help to create these sumptuous textiles.

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Simply Delicious by Zola Nene

In Zola Nene’s own words, she says, ‘Food has always been a huge part of my life; important occasions were always marked with a feast of some sort…’ this book chronicles my food journey thus far – how it started and what has shaped me into the chef I am today.’ And that’s exactly what Simply Delicious is all about; it’s Zola’s culinary career told through her recipes, interspersed with snippets and perspectives of her life journey, including tributes to the people who have inspired and influenced her cooking style and explaining the reason for certain culinary choices that she has made.

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Florence And Watson And The Sugarbush Mouse by Rob van Vuuren and Danielle Bischoff

A whimsical South African tale narrated by Florence and Watson, two honey badgers who use rhythm and rhyme to tell the story of Petal – the sugar bush mouse who saves her village with her unique talents. The little striped mouse undergoes a transformative journey, discovering her hidden talent that is set to save Sugarbush Mountain and the magic Proteas that grow there.

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Cape Town Densification As a Cure For a Segregated City by Michelle Provoost

Twenty years after the end of Apartheid and the inauguration of an inclusive democracy in South Africa, Cape Town is still working through Apartheid’s urban legacy. The aftershocks of Apartheid spatial policy, combined with a middle-class ideal of single-family homes on individual plots of land, have produced endemic urban sprawl in Cape Town, causing significant economic, environmental and social problems in the city. Can we envisage a more compact and dense Cape Town, organised to ameliorate ingrained patterns of unequal spatial division? Cape Town presents the provocative proposals of an international team of theorists, architects and planners, challenging the prevailing ideas on urban development in Cape Town and offering inspiring alternatives.

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Making Africa: A continent of Contemporary Design by Mateo Kries & Amelie Klien

Over the past decade, Africa has experienced a tremendous political, economic and technological transformation. Spearheading this shift is a new generation of entrepreneurs and doers who have opened up a fresh view of this vast and diverse continent, using the Internet to make themselves visible. Developed in collaboration with renowned curator Okwui Enwezor, Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design embraces this new perspective, seeking to reveal the continent as a thinktank and investigating the intriguing possibility of a new understanding of design. It focuses on a generation of African designers, architects and artists who transcend the boundaries between design, art, photography, architecture and urbanism. Utilizing traditional techniques as comfortably as new media such as Facebook and mobile banking systems, these designers are establishing a new design identity-and thus a new future-for the continent. Making Africa examines everyday life through such items as furniture, posters, fashion garments and accessories. Grounding these new movements in a larger historical context, Making Africa also takes a look at the first generation of postcolonial Africa.

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Looking for more of our recommended books?

Have a look at Inside The Reading Room


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People, photographs and beautiful words are what excite Amy. If she isn’t checking her social media feed for new ideas and inspiration, she is taking a jog in a beautiful setting.

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The Africa Issue is a celebration of the future of design in Africa and its potential to drive change. We explore the concept of ‘Africaness’, what this means for our aesthetic. We also  dream big with bedroom inspiration and take you on a tour of homes that truly embrace the spirit of the continent. Pick up your copy today and tell us what you think on Twitter @Elle_Deco using #AfricaIssue.

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