De­signer Binky New­man of De­sign Afrika on what colours her world

Sunday Times - - Inside Out - TEXT: ROBERTA THATCHER PHO­TOS: JAN VERBOOM www.des­ig­nafrika.co.za

‘I am very ex­cited and mo­ti­vated by the world’s in­ter­est in art from the African con­ti­nent’ Binky New­man

For over two decades, de­signer Binky New­man has been work­ing with weavers across the con­ti­nent to bring African bas­ketry to a global au­di­ence. Con­stantly on the look­out for new tal­ent, Binky has just re­turned from Dji­bouti, where she de­signed two col­lec­tions of bas­kets us­ing the tra­di­tional de­signs of the Afar and So­mali weavers. We caught up with her to find out what keeps her in­spired and ex­cited.


The con­cept of Wabi Sabi se­ri­ously gets me go­ing; it was in­tro­duced to me by ce­ram­i­cist Cle­mentina van der Walt and it nur­tures all that is au­then­tic by ac­knowl­edg­ing three sim­ple re­al­i­ties. Noth­ing lasts, noth­ing is fin­ished, and noth­ing is per­fect. It cel­e­brates the im­per­fect and finds beauty in the ir­reg­u­lar.


I was so in­spired by the Cape Town Art Fair this year — I was like a kid in a candy store, and didn’t know what to look at first. Such diver­sity, such ex­cite­ment and such in­spi­ra­tion. I am very ex­cited and mo­ti­vated by the world’s in­ter­est in art from the African con­ti­nent. Fi­nally ...


A travel des­ti­na­tion I could go to again and again is Mada­gas­car. The di­verse plant and an­i­mal life. The lemurs and the chameleons. The bas­kets and the cloth. The soft, gen­tle peo­ple who all wear a hat and a shawl. It’s a sym­phony of style.


When it comes to mu­sic, I can lis­ten to any­thing by Yous­sou N’Dour over and over again.


A se­ries I’m lov­ing at the mo­ment is Planet Earth. I’m al­ways a bit be­hind the times.


The book that in­flu­enced me the most is A Man by Ori­ana Fal­laci. She was an Ital­ian jour­nal­ist who fell in love with a Greek re­sis­tance fighter who en­dured un­told hor­rors at the hands of the dic­ta­tor Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los. She in­spired me to fight for the rights of my Xhosa as­sis­tant to stay in Cape Town. At that time, Cape Town was a coloured-pref­er­en­tial area and I was not meant to em­ploy a black per­son. I threw the po­lice­man’s papers into the street even though I was shak­ing so much. I landed up in court — ter­ri­fied out of my wits but em­bold­ened by A Man.


A South African de­signer to keep an eye on is Nkuli Mlan­geni of The Ninevites. I have no idea how she man­ages to work on three con­ti­nents, I re­ally strug­gle to work on one. Mar­i­anne Fassler is an­other firm favourite of mine and has done a huge amount to high­light beau­ti­ful “things” from Africa. Can you imag­ine what a cel­e­bra­tion if she ever de­cided to do a hand-crafted home­ware col­lec­tion?

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