“Summer is my happy space,” says graphic designer Xia Carstens, who goes by the moniker Xee Summer. “I thought it would be a good pseudonym because I want people to feel warm when they look at my work.” Her art does just that, with mustard, pink, orange and comforting blue tones appearing as the main thread in her 60s and 70s-inspired patterns and illustrations.
Although art is a hobby for the Capetonian, who is the senior graphic designer at OneDayOnly, this side hustle is ingrained in her lifestyle. “Some people do yoga or run. This is my fix. It’s my form of expression and has become like therapy for me – taking one or two hours every day to play around, forget about everything in the world and do something for myself.”
She likens her Instagram feed to a daily journal. “I can remember what I was feeling when I look back at my work. I’m not good with words, so this is my story, like a visual diary.” Xee’s fascination with the psychedelic era and the trippy visuals that accompanied it stems from her father, who she calls a “bit of a hippie and non-conformist”.
She, too, has always tried to do what others are not doing. “I’m trying to find ways of expression that I don’t see in my circles and around the people I follow. When things become mainstream, I tend to swim the other way. I don’t ever want to put myself in a box; I want to keep evolving while being true to myself.”
GREENPEACE AFRICA PLASTIC AWARENESS CAMPAIGN by LUKE RUDMAN
Only in his second year of fine art studies at Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth local Luke Rudman is already making a name for himself as a performance artist using his artform for good. His latest project brings awareness to the amount of plastic waste scattered around the coastline of his city as he dresses up in fantastical garments made entirely of repurposed litter from his surroundings.
Recently, Greenpeace Africa has been commissioning Rudman to create bodies of work that it shares on its social media channels to highlight nature’s plight.
“I collect whatever’s not meant to be there,” Rudman says of his starting point, picking up waste from the Nelson Mandela Bay coastline. “Last year I collected 50-60kg for 12 pieces of work.” He called those 12 surreal eco-art performance pieces 12 Plastic Monsters, and won a Stomp! Award for his efforts.
The six pieces created for Greenpeace Africa this year, although equally beautiful and colourful, are more obviously seen as packets, bottle, lids… “I left them in a state that people can identify as plastic waste,” he explains of making the message around plastic pollution very clear. “Art has a particular power that maybe logic and statistics don’t have – it can humanise a problem more so than just straight info, and make it accessible for people.”
One piece has Rudman, dressed as something reminiscent of a cabaret mermaid, being photographed at the same rockpool from which he had collected all the plastic used in the piece. Another is shot as a gif, where a scene of moving plastic overwhelms rivers flowing through a city.
The tiny village of Rorke’s Drift in KwaZulu-Natal has, since 1962, been home to a world-famous art and craft centre renowned for, among other things, its beautiful handwoven tapestries and iconic rugs.
On a visit in 2017, maker, journalist and curator Gary Cotterell was shocked to find the weaver’s looms standing still, due to a lack of funding. He reached out to the centre’s manager, Sibongile Princess Tyler, who jumped at the idea of bringing together top local designers and artists to create collaborative, contemporary pieces that would showcase the incredible craftsmanship of the Rorke’s Drift weavers.
The first project was a range of leather-and-carpet bags created with Cape Town-based lifestyle brand Research Unit. “The Drifter bags are truly amazing,” says Cotterell, explaining that every woven panel is a unique expression of the artisan that designed it.
“For many years, our weavers have worked on large carpets, so this was an exciting challenge for them,” adds Tyler, of the process that involved creating geometric patterns on a much smaller scale. She goes on to explain that all weavers who come through the centre are guided through the entire process, from spinning and dying the pure karakul wool, to pattern design, dressing the loom and weaving. “Most of the women have been weaving grass mats their whole lives, so they start their training with a very good understanding of how the craft works.”
Plans are in the pipeline to commission a second range of bags that will feature tapestries by top local artists such as Nandipha Mntambo, Jody Paulsen and Cameron Platter
“Because Rorke’s Drift is so remote, we can very quickly forget the Centre exists,” says Cotterell. “These wonderful skills are part of our national heritage, and we need to protect and celebrate them, to make sure they are here forever.”
There is a real joy in watching a talent as pure and raw as that of Lezanne Viviers unfold. With an unerring eye, a quest for quality and sustainability and the ability to surprise and delight at every turn, this young fashion designer is undoubtedly set to define the local scene.
Viviers launched her eponymously named brand last year, creating limited-edition concept clothing that can be made to measure. “Beauty forms part of my list of basic human needs,” says the designer. “It is the ultimate conveyor of hope, optimism and comfort.” That said, for Viviers, design is about so much more than just aesthetics. “I care for the process of design, for the approach, the problem-solving and the love and time that goes into the creation,” she says. “The human that creates an item is intrinsic to the end product.”
When asked about her constant source of creativity, Viviers speculates that ideas are seeded around us. “All they need is for someone to notice them and water them,” she says. “I believe every thought is an idea and that positive thoughts attract positive ideas.”
In the same vein, Viviers believes kindred spirits attract one another, and she loves to work with passionate co-creatives, particularly on her campaigns, which, while being a manifestation of her collections, often hold a new “spice and flavour” that the team involved in the shoot, brings to the images.
Design is simply a part of who Viviers is, and she hopes to pass this conviction on to her creations and, ultimately, her clients. “Integrity is something one feels, it is the reason you do not dispose of something, it is the heart, it is the spirit.”
ONLINE MARKETPLACE FOR ART FROM AFRICA CURATED BY LATITUDES
When Latitudes Art Fair launched last year within Joburg Art Week, it was the fresh new kid on the block wanting to make art more inclusive and accessible. It shook up the traditional art-fair environment by not just having galleries present, but allowing independent artists to exhibit, too. Latitudes has taken this vanguard attitude onto the Web and applied it to the first comprehensive online marketplace for art from Africa, featuring artists from the continent and the diaspora.
“Art from Africa has really gained a lot of international interest over the last 10 years,” says co-founder and art curator Lucy MacGarry, referring to fairs focused on art from the continent popping up in major global cities, and pointing to the success of Cape Town and Johannesburg’s own art fairs. By creating an online platform, Latitudes is giving people the opportunity to view and purchase African art, no matter where in the world they reside. “Artists who haven’t had access to market are, all of a sudden, interacting with buyers,” says MacGarry, excited about what this could mean for lesser-known names on the scene. “We’ve also had artists on our site being approached for representation by galleries.”
MacGarry believes this revolutionary marketplace will level the playing field as it grants equal visibility to galleries, independent artists, non-profit platforms, curators and studios. “We want it to be a space for the entire ecosystem,” she says.
With curated highlights published on the site every week, and a rigorous bi-monthly process to select works from applications received, Latitudes is ensuring that high-quality art from the continent has a home online, and an audience worldwide.
10 CERAMIC VASES AND VESSELS BY COLLECTABLE ARTISTS
Ten astounding ceramicists are moulding distinctively individual creations from the age-old medium of clay.
1. Jade Paton
Paton’s contemporary clay sculptures are inspired not only by the ancient vessel, but also by forms in nature, architecture, design and contemporary art. Her unique and otherworldly designs feel both ancient and futuristic, a strange juxtaposition of old and new.
2. Farah Hernandez
An illustrator and a ceramicist, Hernandez has always loved working with her hands. Often merging these two skills, her contemporary pieces are deliberate and considered, in restrained, elegant forms that are interjected with playful quirks.
3. Astrid Dahl
@astriddahlceramics For Dahl, clay has “a life of its own”, which is what makes it her medium of choice. Inspired by the natural world, her fluid sculptural masterpieces capture the complexities of nature in intriguingly connected positive and negative forms and voids.
4. Lisa Ringwood
From her first pottery class as a child, Ringwood has always been drawn to the way clay has engaged both her body and mind. Her work is in high demand because of her genteel, illustrative style of flora and fauna on loose forms of traditional European pottery and
her distinctively soft colour palette.
5. Ben Orkin
Cape Town-based artist Orkin, who had his first solo show while still studying toward a fine arts degree, is a shining new star on the ceramics scene. His creations of intriguing amorphic and lumpen ceramic vessels are laden with complex, intimate storytelling, that is contradicted by brazen and confident coloured glazes.
6. Andile Dyalvane
One of the country’s foremost ceramic artists, Dyalvane’s work is guided by a deep, spiritual connection to his Xhosa ancestors. Through his artform, he celebrates both rural and city life, as well as ritual and human connection. His work is appreciated in galleries and museums across the world.
7. Vorster & Braye
Designers Martin Vorster and Colin Braye discovered the tactile nature of working with clay to be the perfect antidote to an ever-more digital world. Their aesthetic is defined by clean, simple architectural lines, a sophisticated earthy palette and a determined use of shape.
8. Madoda Fani
Fani’s serene yet brave ceramics are a contemporary evolution of traditional southern African vessels. His hand-coiled, smoothly burnished, smoke-fired pieces are perfectly scored with repetitive markings and have found a global following.
9. Louise Gelderblom
For Gelderblom, working with clay is the perfect intersection between doing, thinking, drawing and three-dimensional creation. While she consistently makes use of the functional vessel form, her large one-off pieces are sensitively painted as undeniable works of art.
10. Ardmore Ceramics
One of the country’s most recognisable and collected global brands, Ardmore is known for its colourful, intricate and vibrant designs which draw on Zulu traditions and folklore, flora and fauna, and the self-expression of the 50 individual artists of the studio. Each once-off piece is a dynamic collaboration between a sculptor and a painter, both of whom sign the work.
FIELDS, at Cape Town’s Old Biscuit Mill, is where men find superior-quality clothing. Trousers, knitwear, shirts and more, made from sustainably sourced natural fibres from Southern Africa, encompass this responsible menswear brand.
Seasonal collaborations with artists are the cherry on top. FIELDS founder Mikael Hanan selects two African artists every season and invites them to create an artwork that can be translated into products such as tote bags, jerseys and the lining of jackets. “Wearing art is different to seeing art on a wall or as a static sculpture,” says Hanan. “When you wear something, it becomes 3D, and this allows people to enjoy the art that they love in a different way – on a quality garment that’s well-designed and relevant to today’s style.”
The first collection had Michael Chandler’s blue ink illustrate a scene of urban and natural landscapes united by a bridge. That same season employed the artistry of Themba Khumalo, whose drawings of electricity poles and cranes contort themselves to a closer connection, referencing the brand’s seasonal theme, Reaching Out. The most recent collaborations, by Kim van Vuuren and Lebohang Kganye, talk to the theme of Building Connections. Van Vuuren’s vibrant pattern play celebrates nature and dream spaces, where silence and strength exist in symmetry. Kganye used imagery from family photo albums to denote the relationship between memory and fantasy.
“Each artwork is applied very specifically,” says Hanan of the careful consideration taken to respect the art. “It’s not just a step-and-repeat pattern. Whether we weave or knit, the artwork integrity is maintained.”
When Mami Wata says it’s creating a brand inspired by African surf culture, it sure doesn’t miss the mark. Surf boards, apparel, accessories and prints with, among other symbols, surfing zebras and ostriches, make a statement that this is a label talking very much to our continent.
“We started Mami Wata because, when you go to a surf shop, it’s just a sea of sameness from a design perspective,” says co-founder Nick Dutton.
The brand has tapped into Africa’s surfing history to reflect more local communities. “Globally, the cultural story around surf was one of blonde-haired, blue-eyed men and boys, but you just have to look at Muizenberg to see the diversity in race, gender and age,” says Dutton of the surfers on Cape Town’s popular beach.
Muizenberg is one of the 133 surf spots included on the map of Africa designed by the Mami Wata team as part of its mission to strengthen African surf tourism. A book it plans to publish at the end of the year, Afro Surf, will offer further insights on African surf culture from places such as Somalia and Ghana, sharing stories from almost 20 countries.
Besides growing local economies (all its products are manufactured in Africa), Mami Wata supports surf-therapy organisations such as Waves for Change, making waves more accessible to African children. Besides being a creative force for good, Dutton says the brand invites people to dream beyond borders. “Our ambition is to inspire more people to surf in Africa.”
For Cape-Town printmaker, David Bellamy, textile design is about more than creating beautiful objects. The designer produces textiles under his brand MOMAT, the Museum of Making and Tomorrow, that address what he feels are our collective local priorities, with his most ardent focus being the environment.
Passionate as he is about this topic, Bellamy strives for a zero-waste production line, using sustainable base cloths such as linen, which he respects for its low water and pesticide footprint, and for the fact that it is strong and long-lasting. “I never use synthetic fabrics, I don’t intend my textiles to end up as sea-plastic or landfill at the end of their lives.”
Added to this, the studio makes use of water-soluble, low-toxicity, locally produced textile inks that don’t pollute groundwater or rivers. Bellamy also takes pride in the studio’s labour-intensive, employment-creating design processes, such as block printing and stencilling, with stencils cut from donated old X-Ray plates. “A commitment to handmade goods designs stability into our society.”
Bellamy has held a lifelong passion for the outdoors, a love evident in his natural designs. “I am principally inspired by my garden, a wildlife and restoration garden, which is visited by a range of different birds and insects throughout the seasons, that come to nest, sing and forage.”
As a child, Bellamy asked for microscopes and chemistry sets on the one hand, and oil pastels and paintboxes on the other. This fascination for both art and science has merged seamlessly into his passion for presenting solutions to environmental problems, such as the ubiquitous plastic pollution, built into the designs of his beautiful products. “Textiles are functional and utilitarian, yet they can be invested with as much meaning as fine art pieces,” he says.
For the past 12 years, Southern Guild gallery has pushed South Africa’s leading designers out of their comfort zones, challenging them to create groundbreaking, collectible work that has altered the world’s perception of African design.
Central to the commissioning of limited-edition pieces is co-founder Julian McGowan. “I look for the strange and the unusual,” he says of the creative process involved in commissioning these pieces. “Sometimes it’s design that’s just there for the joy of the viewer and the need of the designer to produce.”
As such, McGowan loves to work with designers who produce and think like artists, and he often drives them to work outside of their preferred medium and processes. “If you’re a brilliant designer, you can do anything,” he says, adding that he has encouraged ceramicists such as Chuma Maweni to transfer their skills to wood, and fashion designers such as Rich Mnisi to turn their eye to furniture. “Collectible design is not a quick business,” he says. “It sometimes takes years to create a piece, but that’s what makes it so extraordinary.”
Southern Guild shows regularly at leading international fairs including Design Miami, Salon Art + Design in New York and PAD London, resulting in sales to top collectors and respected museums. They also frequently collaborate on curated African shows with prominent international galleries.
As a designer himself, having spent many years creating sets and costumes for theatre and opera, McGowan thrives on putting together and building the gallery’s shows. “Curating a space is important to me,” he says, adding that there is nothing as inspiring as an empty room.
McGowan admits to getting bored quickly, and this is apparent in his constantly evolving aesthetic. “I’m always looking at things online, and browsing exhibitions, fairs, and museums when we travel. You could say I’m an aesthetic junkie.”