It is with great excitement that Design Network Africa will honour its designers’ achievements, with a grand finalé group exhibition at Maison & Objet in Paris, this September. Design Network Africa is a five year and three phase, African trans-continental programme, that fosters emerging creative enterprises.
The Parisian exhibition, the opulent pinnacle of the programme, will recognise each of eleven design businesses, from Ghana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. Design Network Africa has formerly seen its designers’ work being showcased at Graphic Africa, at Habitat’s Platform Gallery in London, Maboneng in Johannesburg and GUILD International Design Fair in Cape Town.
The Guild Group manages the programme from South Africa, via sponsoring and counsel from the Danish organisation, the Centre for Culture and Development. Trevyn McGowan, owner of The Guild Group, commented: “Having worked with Design Network Africa since its inception in 2011, we’re extremely proud of the designers who have formed part of the programme over the years and the diverse ways in which their companies have grown over this time.”
Thomas Spanner, Programme Manager of the Centre for Culture and Development, also relayed his thoughts: “We established Design Network Africa because we had seen the immense creative talent present in Africa. We were surprised by the fact that most of these businesses were unkown internationally, despite being on par with some of the best design companies in the world, while offering such unique products. We were eager to support this industry, wanting to assist in its growth by supporting it financially. Our aim has been to augment these businesses, both from a commercial viewpoint, as well as from a marketing and promotional perspective.”
During the past five years, Design Network Africa has aided these enterprises by offering them contact with globally established product creators, business and marketing planners, photographers and stylists. This has brought to the fore enhanced product ranges, more pertinent promotional content, more robust business models and improved daily operations of the enterprises.
“My business has become much more professional on almost every level,” confirms Marjorie Wallace, owner of Zimbabwe’s Mutapo Pottery. “Design Network Africa has offered us opportunities we would never have had before, especially given the isolation Zimbabwe has experienced in the last decade.” A partnership with South African recycled-design champion, Heath Nash, and guidance from confrère ceramicist, Lisa Firer, are part of these opportunities. “Now, I feel more in touch with the world,” asserts Wallace. “I’ve made connections and I feel like I’m part of something much bigger than my own business.”
Kenyan jewellery and accessories designer Adele Dejak, who has also been a member of Design Network Africa since the start, shares Wallace’s sentiment. “We are part of an African Renaissance movement that heralds an incredible future while highlighting the beauty and promise of African art and culture. This Design Network Africa collective has given us a sense of purpose and recognition.” One of Design Network Africa’s assignments was to rebrand the Adele Dejak label. “The programme has catapulted my company’s development and recognition beyond Kenya,” she adds. Her 12 500 Instagram followers from all corners of the globe serve as evidence of this worldwide appeal.
The Designer Network Africa exhibition at Maison & Objet in September, will be a milestone for these designers, some of whom have not had their art displayed in France, and all of whom will be present at the illustrious design and décor exposition.
“We’re thrilled to be showing the results of the five-year-long Design Network Africa programme,” expresses McGowan. “Having worked with these companies for such a long time, it’s a beautiful ending to a fantastic programme that has seen so many rewards – both personal and commercial – during its important lifespan. We’ll be sad to see Design Network Africa end, but this is just the beginning of even more recognition for these African designers who deserve all the cudos they are currently receiving. As the work is so exceptional, we will continue to work with these companies through our commercial export divisions, Source and Southern Guild, ensuring continued accessibility to global markets. African design is a thriving category, with many people drawn to the strong narrative and historic relevance of the work from our designers. Africa is where design was born, and it’s where it continues to produce meaningful, soulful results.”
Some of the participating design businesses are:
Adele Dejak (Kenya)
Diallo Designs (Mali)
Djiguiyaso Cooperative (Mali)
Mutapo Pottery (Zimbabwe)
Sky Décor (Kenya)
Studio Hamed Ouattara (Burkina Faso)
Uganda Craft (Uganda)
All images courtesy of Design Network Africa
Travelling to France in September?
Maison & Objet is on from 2-6 September 2016. Design Network Africa will showcase as part of NOW! Design À Vivre, Hall 7, Paris Nord Villepinte.
For further details email Design Network Africa on firstname.lastname@example.org or dial o21 461 2856.
Browse their website at designnetworkafrica.org.
Discover more of Africa’s creative talent!
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Zeenat, a digital intern at ELLE Decoration, is a creative at heart with a passion for weddings, fashion and makeup. She adores blissful moments of solitude spent indulging in a warm cup of Rooibos tea, and red velvet cupcakes.
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