Design Destination Cape Town
FOR ITS BURGEONING CREATIVE OUTPUT, DIVERSE VOICES AND INSPIRING NATURAL BEAUTY, THE MOTHER CITY - RECENTLY NAMED A UNESCO CITY OF DESIGN – HAS ESTABLISHED ITSELF AS ONE OF THE WORLD’S TOP DESIGN DESTINATIONS.
Cape Town, South Africa - recently named a UNESCO City of Design – has established itself as one of the world’s top design destinations.
Conjuring postcard-perfect images of picturesque beachfronts, majestic Table Mountain and rolling vineyards, Cape Town is famed as the veritable beauty queen of South Africa, flaunting natural assets such as the pristine peninsula that’s primed for a sun-soaked holiday. But in recent years the southernmost region of the country has unveiled an altogether different side as somewhere between the winding valleys, sandy coastlines and rugged trails, a creative energy has been reinvigorating its streets, proving that the Mother City is about substance as much as it’s about style.
To locals, the creative industry has been gaining strength for some time, a slow and steady growth that culminated in it being named World Design Capital 2014, sparking a year of dedicated programmes and spaces that showed off its untapped talent. Fast forward four years and the city has been named a UNESCO City of Design, joining 31 destinations across the globe in a creative network of locales dedicated to investment and growth in these all-important industries with a mandate to drive social and urban change. Now on the map, Cape Town can hold its own among the world’s design greats – London, Basel, Hong Kong. Next to these icons of industry the Mother City doesn’t just hold a flame, it sets the landscape alight with a multicultural, multifaceted approach to creativity, and the time to discover it has arrived.
ZEITZ MOCAA: A GLOBAL DESIGN ICON
Combining cutting-edge architecture and the richly diverse culture of Africa and its diaspora, this museum is a celebration of modern expression. When Thomas Heatherwick first walked into what is now the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa 12 years ago, the imposing tower of grain containers was already over eight decades old, vacant only for the pigeon droppings that covered every surface of the 33-metre-high build. The British architect had been tasked with turning the 42 concrete tubes into something uniquely modern that would celebrate the culture of the city, in an up-and-coming area of the V&A Waterfront. The resultant space is a magnificent example of modern architecture. Outside, the façade retains a strong physical presence but feels refreshed by the geometric puffs of distended glass for windows. Inside, Heatherwick’s team looked to a grain of corn as inspiration for the atrium. It’s here, at the heart of the structure, that you really get a sense of the scale of Heatherwick’s design, which sought to deconstruct the old bones of the grain storage and lend the building a cathedral-like quality through soft gentle curves, light and space.
On display you’ll find art from entrepreneur Jochen Zeitz’s personal collection, on a 20-year loan to the museum bearing his name, as well as moving exhibitions put together by the team under chief curator Mark Coetzee. Like London’s Tate Modern or San Francisco’s MOMA, the Zeitz MOCAA is a celebration of contemporary art, and it’s also a dedicated showcase to the creativity of the African continent and its diaspora, with work by acclaimed artists such as William Kentridge, Kudzani Chiuri and Nandipha Mntambo covering the nine floors and walls of gallery space.
DESIGN TRIBUTES: MANDELA’S CENTENARY
On his 100th birth year, Mandela’s legacy remains ingrained in the fabric of Cape Town and creative minds are celebrating his life through design. From stained glass dedications of religious icons to grand-scale oil paintings of royalty and statues of war heroes, since the beginning of time, artists and designers have been paying tribute to the world’s icons through their work. These monuments are meant to honour, sometimes comment, commemorate and remind, subtle and striking tributes to history, and there are few historical figures as recognised as Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, born 100 years ago on 19 July, South Africa’s anti-apartheid revolutionary, president and leader. Throughout the city of Cape Town you will find places of dedication to his struggle and politics.
‘Madiba has had an immense impact in my life,’ shares Ravi Naidoo, founder of Design Indaba, one of three key contributors to the recently erected Arch for Arch, a design dedication to the work of
Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and South Africa’s constitution. ‘We started our business at the dawn of the democracy and wanted to find platforms to articulate and manifest the vision of Madiba and the vision of Archbishop Tutu.’ Along with Norway-based studio Snohetta, Ravi and South African architectural firm Local Studio conceptualised the Arch for Arch, a 14-beamed physical manifestation of the 14 chapters of the constitution. The structure demonstrates that South Africa is championing design as key way of commemorating and remembering key moments in history, and challenging traditional statue monuments with innovative creations that respect their environment and the people that interact with it. ‘The reason I love spending time with designers is they lean optimistically forward into a future,’ notes Ravi. ‘They are the most progressive people on the planet. Everything they look at they want to make better. It’s that attitude we need more of. We need a creative army in helping us reimagine South Africa.’ Visit these landmarks of Madiba’s legacy in the city of Cape Town on the centenary of his birth.
Arch for Arch at St George’s Cathedral Designed by Norway-based studio Snohetta in conjunction with artists from Local Studio in Joburg and Design Indaba, this structure of 14 interlinking beams represents the history of South Africa and its core values. The design sits unimposingly at the entrance to the leafy Company’s Garden, immersed in its natural surrounds.
Cape Town City Hall It’s the place where, just hours after being released from prison, Nelson Mandela gave his first public speech as a free man. The grand Edwardian building breathes history, and it remains an important space for the people to gather. Situated on the Grand Parade, this historical Edwardian building was made for large gatherings and it’s here that the city came together after former president’s death for an emotional vigil, celebrating his life through song, speech and dance. Nobel Square Designed and brought to life by local sculptor Claudette Schreuders, the four sculptures that sit against the V&A Waterfront’s distinctive harbour and mountainside backdrop possess the distinctive characteristics – stocky statures and outsize features – associated with the artist. The works represent each of the country’s Nobel Peace Laureates, with Archbishop Tutu and Mandela alongside Nkosi Albert Luthuli and F.W. de Klerk.
Perhaps best known for his work with fellow artist Anton Kannemeyer at Bitterkomix, Conrad Botes creates art that wryly cuts into the heart of the political minefield in South Africa. ‘As a visual artist, I have always been interested in looking at furniture and design in a different way, and how to merge the borders that restrict the different practices I am involved in.’ Recently, the artist made his first foray into the merged worlds of art and design, collaborating with rugmaker Paco Pakdoust and The Guild Group, a collection of companies dedicated to showcasing the collectable designs of Southern Africa. ‘When The Guild Group first invited me to produce work for one of their shows, I realised it was a fantastic opportunity to create something special,’ he said. Botes, who works out of his studio in Observatory enjoys the district’s edgy energy. ‘I have had my previous studios in Woodstock and Salt River for the last decade and a half. I love the grittiness of those neighbourhoods and the way artists infiltrate and occupy them before they become fashionable. I like walking these streets and I’m inspired by the people, architecture and graffiti that I come across.’ conradbotes.com Justine Mahoney
Walking into any exhibition by Justine Mahoney, is a little like walking into a fun house – if that fun house was straight out of a horror film set. The artist’s quintessential character sculptures in wood, enamel and bronze have a captivating cartoon quality – each with a distinctly dark and sinister undertone. For Mahoney, they’re reflections of growing up in a country where tensions bubbled beneath a thinly veiled harmonious facade. Next up, she’ll be
tackling another universally seminal period in her upcoming works, ‘but always superimposed onto a South African backdrop,’ she adds, summing up her oeuvre. ‘My new work deals with transformation, budding sexuality, initiation into adulthood. That precarious moment between childhood and adulthood, once reached never to return. In a sense it is also about mourning the loss of childhood.’ While the home and studio Mahoney shares with husband Sean (of architecture firm Studiomas) is located in Cape Town’s suburbs, she’s inspired by the industrial feel of areas such as Retreat and Woodstock. ‘I have a love for urban decay and regrowth,’ she explains. As a part of Guild’s network of inspiring creatives, she feels a creative unity in the city: ‘The people belonging to the art and design community feed off each other, I find the people to be extremely giving and supportive of each other and feel incredibly honoured to be a part of it during this exciting time of cross-pollination.’ justinemahoney.com
Andile Dyalvane & Zizipho Poswa
‘Clay is meditation, expression, celebration and education,’ says Andile Dyalvane, one half of Imiso Ceramics and one of South Africa’s most talented and talked-about artisans. Together with equally accomplished business partner Zizipho Poswa, Dyalvane creates a range of resolutely African upmarket ceramics in their studio and gallery situated in Woodstock’s Old Biscuit Mill, a repurposed factory that’s now home to a popular art, design, craft and food market. Inside Imiso – meaning tomorrow in Xhosa – you’ll discover a trove of hand-carved clay pieces, products amassed in their 12 years working in this space, including Poswa’s popular Handpinched collection and Dyalvane’s Africasso range of vessels inspired by Picasso. ‘Woodstock inspires me,’ he says. ‘I have collections and objects named and influenced by this area.’ Both Poswa and Dyalvane draw inspiration from their heritage for their uniquely crafted objects: Poswa’s Umthwalo series leans on the strength of Xhosa women, while Dyalvane’s output, recently on display at New York gallery Friedman Benda, has been renowned for its treatment of heritage in the context of a Westernised world. ‘It’s very important to me to take pride in my heritage and culture this teaches the younger generation to love who they are and also learn of what they lost due to Western influences.’ Dyalvane attributes South Africa’s vibrant cultural tapestry as a key element in creativity. ‘The diversity the country has resulted in richer, more unique conversational pieces than the world has ever seen,’ Dyalvane explains. imisoceramics.co.za Hoi P’loy
When husband-and-wife duo Ploy Phiromnam and Guy van der Walt are in search of inspiration, they step into the creative studios belonging to local designers, artists and artisans right on the doorstep of Hoi P’loy, the couple’s lighting studio in the hub of Woodstock. ‘Visiting them, you’re instantly transported into a small world where each creative crafts an environment that caters to their own taste,’ they explain. ‘Seeing these projects come to life really gets one’s own juices flowing and reminds us of what’s possible when people apply themselves and invest in their ideas.’ Having both come from creative backgrounds, Phiromnam and Van der Walt are aesthetes at heart and are excited about the role that lighting plays in determining mood. ‘Artificial light has the ability to orchestrate our emotional state. A well-crafted balance of various warm hues, presented in visually stimulating presentation can elevate one’s sense of self,’ they note. While the pair live in the suitably green suburb of Gardens, they love spending their nine-to-five in the industrialcreative ’hood of Woodstock. ‘It’s exciting to be based in an area that’s experiencing such phenomenal growth from a wealth of different types of people. It feels like one of the more culturally diverse areas which is perhaps a little more reflective of our country’s goals and ideals.’ hoiploy.com
For multidisciplinary artist Atang Tshikare, whose transcendent work has been known to blend form with function, the boundaries between art and design have always been blurred. ‘I have a holistic view of the work that I do – you can’t separate art and design in what I do,’ he explains. ‘Design is seen as creating a product, but I
see design as an art that has a product side to it.’ Just take a look at his collaboration with high-end interior brand OKHA, resulting in a truly one-of-a-kind coffee table, called Metsing, which demonstrates the beauty in natural, organic forms. It’s the outdoors that truly sparks Tshikare’s creative energy. ‘Nature really has me inspired. Places like Newlands Forest, [beach-side suburb] Muizenberg, or Langa [one of South Africa’s oldest townships]... Anywhere that you find humans interacting with nature.’ When he’s not out exploring the outdoors, Tshikare can be found at his Woodstock studio, where he uses elements of heritage and African mythology to create his showstopping pieces. ‘Woodstock is the biggest creative hub in Cape Town. Artists and designers are on almost every block,’ he says. Tshikare compares Cape Town’s current artistic scene to that of Miami just 10 years ago. ‘I see it getting there,’ he says. ‘Cape Town is becoming the new icon of creativity.’ zabalazaa.com Trevyn and Julian Mcgowan
As founders of the Guild Group, a creative superbrand of no less than 10 sub-companies and projects that aim to increase South Africa’s design exposure globally, Trevyn and Julian Mcgowan have played a major role in fostering the country’s incredible talent. ‘Everything we do is focused on propelling and nurturing our design heroes and future stars,’ says Trevyn, ‘so we have the fulfilling experience of working at the forefront of a movement that is changing the landscape of design, not only in South Africa but in the global industry.’ The pair recently relocated their Guild gallery from Woodstock to the upcoming Silo District. ‘With the far larger space we have been able to mount multiple exhibitions simultaneously, launch a studio line of in-house designed furniture, and a concept store with smaller “take-away” products by our Southern Guild designers and fresh talents,’ Trevyn explains. Later this year, visitors to the district will be treated to a new group show, titled Colourfield, inspired by the art movement from the mid-1900s, House of Bronze, opening in September, retrospective of Bronze Age’s work over two decades and a solo show by Dokter and Misses, ‘the Joburg based design duo who have blazed a global trajectory in limited edition design’, says Trevyn. theguildgroup.co.za