Theme: Designing with Compassion

An ancient craft taking different forms across Africa, basketry has become synonymous with the continent’s flourishing contemporary design scene. And Binky Newman of Design Afrika has put her all into taking it to the world. “I started the business in 1995, with a vision to create a platform for basket weavers across Africa to sell their products,” she explains.

Combining a contemporary aesthetic with an age-old craft has assured a global appeal for Design Afrika’s baskets, which have been snapped up by brands and buyers around the world. As was her original dream, Newman works with weavers in many remote parts of the continent, and has been involved in the establishment of weaving groups in the Dunoon township outside Cape Town (as featured in the V&A Waterfront’s festive campaign) and in the rural parts of KwaZulu-Natal. “The goal is for the women to build their own businesses in order to sustain their families,” she says.

For Newman, the journey has been a gratifying one, partly for the relationships she has formed with talented, strong and creative women. “I have loved witnessing them grow more and more confident as they become economically independent,” she says. “It has also been wonderful to see how the love and appreciation of hand-woven baskets has become a strong global trend.”

Newman still marvels at the many hours it takes to weave each basket, and for her this adds immense value to the finished product. “I have a great love for wabi-sabi and the irregularity of handmade pieces,” she says. “These tell a story, through ancient skills passed down through tradition, and I venture to keep these skills relevant by reinterpreting them with a contemporary vision.”

100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience. Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative.