Designer Binky Newman of Design Afrika on what colours her world
‘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?