Mutate Pottery by Marjorie Wallace, Zimbabwe

Mutapo Pottery by Marjorie Wallace, Zimbabwe

Design Network Africa will celebrate the fruition of five years and three phases of its programme with a group show at Maison & Objet in Paris this September. ‘We’re extremely proud of the designers who have formed part of the programme over the years and the diverse ways in which their companies have grown over this time,’ says Trevyn McGowan, whose company, The Guild Group, directs the programme from South Africa, through funding and guidance from Danish body CKU (Centre for Culture and Development).

Says CKU Programme Manager Thomas Spanner: ‘We established DNA because we had seen the immense creative talent present in Africa. We were surprised by the fact that most of these businesses were unkown internationally, despite being on par with some of the best design companies in the world, while offering such unique products. We were eager to support this industry, wanting to assist in its growth by supporting it financially. Our aim has been to augment these businesses, both from a commercial viewpoint, as well as from a marketing and promotional perspective.’

Over the past five-year period, DNA has supported these companies by providing them with links to world-renowned product developers, business and marketing strategists, photographers and stylists. This has resulted in stronger product ranges, more relevant promotional material, healthier business models and better day-to-day running of these businesses.

‘We’re thrilled to be showing the results of the five-year-long DNA programme,’ says McGowan. ‘Having worked with these companies for such a long time, it’s a beautiful ending to a fantastic programme that has seen so many rewards – both personal and commercial – during its important lifespan. African design is a thriving category, with many people drawn to the strong narrative and historic relevance of the work from our designers. Africa is where design was born, and it’s where it continues to produce meaningful, soulful results.’



New textile designs in progress at Ndomo, Mali

Prominent British product developer Rebecca Hoyes worked with two of our network members in Mali in July. Travelling between Aissata Namoko’s Djiguiyaso Cooperative in Bamako, and Boubacar Doumbia’s company, Ndomo, in Segou, Rebecca assessed previous work, refined product design and development processes, and developed new product designs for both brands. Rebecca’s gentle and respectful approach, and her understanding of the importance and value of such traditional work, combined with her extensive knowledge of the international textile market, made her the perfect mentor for this project.

Djigiuyaso’s beautiful textiles made with organic Bogolan and tie-dyed with Indigo are a visual contrast to the saturated mud hues of Ndomo’s Bogolan fabrics, all created by hand by these two companies with vast experience in the traditional textiles of Mali. Both these new ranges will be shown in Paris with DNA, at Maison & Objet 2016.

With product complete, South African photographer Adriaan Louw, accompanied by Cape Town-based creative director Cathy O’Clery were contracted by DNA to style and shoot the new designs, along with the furniture of Cheick Diallo. It was important that the product be shot in the environment in which it was produced, showcasing the people crucial to the process. These photographs are to be used for the three designers’ websites and catalogues that DNA will be producing, as well as for various other marketing and promotional purposes.

Chairs by Cheick Diallo; Djiguiyaso Cooperative's Aissata Namoko

Chairs by Cheick Diallo; Djiguiyaso Cooperative’s Aissata Namoko