African design excellence
A curated collection of intricately handcrafted basketware, jewellery, handbags, photography, ceramics, furniture and other examples of contemporary African design will be showcased and for sale in Plettenberg Bay this summer.
The Discoveries from Africa exhibition is the brainchild of Design Afrika founder Binky Newman, whose passion for exquisite baskets has taken her from her Cape Town base to remote parts of the continent; and Suzie Ovenstone, owner of The Old House Shop in Plettenberg Bay, known for its beautiful homeware, accessories and clothing.
The exhibition will showcase high-quality handcrafted items from Ghana, Rwanda, the DRC, Tanzania, Mali, Ethiopia, Malawi, Burkina Faso and SA.
It will take place at The White House in the centre of Plettenberg Bay, a venue owned by Ovenstone and often hired out for weddings and banquets.
The White House is the second-oldest property in Plettenberg Bay — after The Old House Shop on erf one — and was originally a dairy.
The exhibition will run from December 11 to January 31.
“We have planned an experience of the senses — sights, sounds and flavours of Africa,” Ovenstone said.
“Having been in retail for the past 30 years, I am constantly looking for new inspiration.
“My travels through Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands have brought just that to the mix.”
Newman said: “We began discussing the wonders of Africa and how we would love to promote and expose the beauties of the continent.
“We realised I have the network to source products and Ovenston has the stage.
“When I saw The White House, initially I thought it was huge, but later realised we would fill it in no time at all.”
She said both appreciated the architecture and artisanal skills found on the Kenyan island of Lamu, known for its coral stone buildings, dhows and mangrove timber.
“The island’s bohemian, evocative atmosphere has been a strong inspiration for our show.”
The exhibition will include videos of projects and a collection of reference books.
“There will be an educational element as we would like to inform visitors about the various cultures, and their craft and design techniques.”
Newman and Ovenstone will donate a portion of the exhibition turnover to the Tikki Hywood Foundation.
Founded in 1994 by Lisa Hywood, the Tikki Hywood Foundation is a non-profit, rescue, rehabilitation and release organisation which strives to bring recognition, awareness and sustainable conservation action to lesser-known endangered species such as the pangolin.
Southern Cape creativity
Obie Oberholzer, now based in Nature’s Valley, will show a selection of his photographic prints.
Oberholzer has produced 10 coffee table books, and held 35 solo exhibitions in SA and 12 international one-man exhibitions in Europe.
He is acclaimed for documenting his travels through various parts of the African continent and still contributes regularly to many international publications.
Richard Henley has spent most of his 40-year career in the Knysna area making furniture from indigenous woods, combining traditional joinery techniques with contemporary design.
A cabinetmaker by trade, he studied for the City and Guilds of London advanced course in fine craftsmanship and design at Rycotewood College in England.
Plettenberg Bay artist Myfanwy Bekker, whose work is collected by corporate and private collectors in the US, Europe and SA, will exhibit charcoal drawings.
Ruby Ovenstone is a founder and resident of the serene Kuthumba eco-village and forest reserve in the Crags, and also a founder of a creative collaborative named Anima Mundi Living Design, or Soul of the World.
She began exploring the world of clay in her early teens.
Milestones on Ovenstone’s creative journey have included her Down to Earth terracotta pots, the land art of earth dam building, glassblowing and painting in oils.
For this exhibition, she is returning to her old “comfort zone” of porcelain and making “quirky objects of delight” with intriguing names such as The Alchemical Marriage of the Crocodile Princess.
Newman will launch a jewellery collection that combines finely woven pieces made by a Rwandan master weaver, Pelagie Nyirahabineza, further embellished by an SA jeweller.
She will also show a collection of Maasai jewellery, made entirely from white beads, from Sidai Designs in Arusha, Tanzania.
Kate Carlyle, who founded Mustardseed & Moonshine with its botanical-inspired ceramics, will launch a collection of brightly coloured bead necklaces and embroidered cushions.
She has also collaborated with Newman on heavily adorned and embellished shopping baskets and handbags.
Nyanzabijou, a Rwandan jewellery brand, is supplying handwoven vegetable fibre jewellery mixed with silver.
Newman is collaborating with the National Museum of Rwanda in the university town of Butare/Huye where master weavers pass on weaving techniques.
They have created a large collection of baskets in a project managed by museum guide Virgile Shirirungu.
Newman has also been working with WomenCraft, a social enterprise in Tanzania creating distinctive fair trade home décor.
She has collaborated with women from Burundi, in Tanzanian refugee camps, to support the design of new products.
“We will unveil the fruits of this collaboration at the exhibition.”
The Painted Dog Conservation organisation in Hwange, Zimbabwe, will supply goods from their income-generating basket-making project.
“We’ve also just received our first shipment of baskets from People of the Sun in Malawi and will be showing those as well.
“Baba Tree of Ghana, with their very brightly coloured baskets and unusual organic shapes, will feature prominently too.”
Accessories and homeware
Akosua Afriyie-Kumi, a Ghanaian designer and entrepreneur who studied fashion design in London, will supply handcrafted, ethically-produced woven handbags. Akosua employs local raffia weavers and uses traditional African techniques to craft colourful creations under her AAKS brand.
Willard Musarurwa, founder of Feeling African in Cape Town, will contribute his well-known wire chairs, plus new furniture following a collaboration with Newman and Dunoon Urban Weavers.
This project was established in the Western Cape to encourage traditional Xhosa weaving in an urban area.
Willard has supplied the likes of Google SA and Weylandts, while exporting to the US and Australia.
Le Ndomo, a studio and conservatory for natural dyeing techniques in Segou, Mali, will supply African fabrics such as contemporary mud cloth.
There will also be chairs from Ethiopia and the DRC, and Ethiopian crosses.
Namibian-born, Amsterdam-based photographer Kyle Weeks, a winner in the Fine Art category of the 2016 Magnum Photography Awards, will also display his work.
“His sleek, burnished images deal with the portrayal of masculinity and the African body in our globalised world — with a style that crosses documentary, art and fashion genres,” Vogue Italia photo editor Chiara Bardelli Nonino, who nominated Kyle for the British Journal of Photography 2019 Ones to Watch, said.
Johannesburg-based photographer Nonzuzo Gxekwa is known for her spontaneous approach to photography, often snapping street scenes using her cellphone.
“I am drawn to the gritty, not-so-beautiful scenes that people overlook sometimes.
I love the street style in the CBD,” she said.
Ceramicist Theo Ntuntwana will also participate in the show and has taken part in several exhibitions at the Cape Gallery and the Irma Stern Museum.
His work is in the permanent collection of the SA Cultural History Museum in Cape Town.
Well-known studio potter Clementina van der Walt is also taking part.
Over the past four decades she has held many one-person shows and her work is represented in several SA and international collections.
“My curiosity for innovative craft and beauty is inspired by what I see on our continent,” Ovenstone said.
“To meet the people behind the products, to understand their backgrounds and bring a story home, in the form of a new item, is what makes my business so personal and heartfelt.
“The joy I experience when someone in turn discovers this very same article, and takes it away as their newfound treasure, keeps the wheel of retail turning and catapults me into yet another trip.
“Having the opportunity to now showcase a collaboration of exquisite African finds this summer season is very exciting and the realisation of a long-held dream.”