Tuesday, May 31, 2011


The idea of a “talking” chair that held all dreams for Africa, was the inspiration behind this years “Most Beautiful Object” in South Africa. The chair was created by Woza Moya, a community-based NGO that provides care to HIV and AIDS patients in a rural center in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. The organization created the ‘Dreams for Africa Chair’ as an artistic monument to honor the diversity of Africa and the hope for a better future. The ‘Most Beautiful Object’ is a coveted award issued each year by Design Indaba in South Africa.
Taking eight-weeks to complete, the chair is made up of embroidered patches by 150 crafters, which were then sewn onto a ‘wing back’ style chair that has wings in the shape of the map of Africa protruding on either side; these wings hold Africa’s dreams. The chair will be travelling South Africa and abroad (it has already appeared in Time Square) and crafters, local leaders, members of communities and inspiring role models from all walks of life are being asked to sit in the chair and have their portrait taken. The more people that sit in the chair and talk of their dreams for the future, the more meaning it will have. http://www.dreamsforafrica.org.za/.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Solar Sister, is a solar entrepreneur program, spreading solar powered lamps across Uganda. It is a market based program, with revenues from sales of solar lamps providing the engine for economic growth.  Using the power of the market to achieve a social goal of distribution of clean energy technology, Solar Sister uses the special place that women have as procurers and managers of fuel use to take on the social, environmental and economic impacts of energy poverty. Women are primarily responsible for gathering, purchasing and using household energy: wood, coal, kerosene or gas. Smoke from using these fuels indoors causes serious long term health problems. As an energy executive, Katherine Lucey, founder of Solar Sister, participated in many large-scale implementations to expand the energy network in developing countries, but as she worked, she noticed that many individual rural residents were not being served. The technology (solar lamps) was available, but there was no distribution network in place. In 2009, she started Solar Sister, a network of women representatives who sell solar lighting to their friends and families and encourage other women to become sellers as well, in an Avon-type women’s business model.
Solar Sister sells two different models of solar lamps (a basic model, and a larger one that also recharges cellphones). The lamps can replace both kerosene lights and long trips into urban areas to get phones recharged.
They are currently solidifying their model in Uganda, but there are plans to take into other countries. She also wants to offer more household appliances like solar radios, stoves and water filters. Go to their website http://www.solarsister.org/ to learn more and help support this great project.

Friday, May 27, 2011


In his sculpture, Gonçalo Mabunda is interested in using objects with strong political connotations which carry collective memory. Most of his furniture-sculpture is made from deactivated weapons that were stock-piled and hidden during the long civil war that divided Mozambique and that international organizations are still trying to recover fifteen years later.
Gonçalo has been working on the motif of the Chair in a recurrent fashion for a few years, alluding to the Western world’s interest in collecting the Chief Chair in traditional ethnic African art. The Chair also criticises current African governments that too often tragically manipulate armed violence as a way to strengthen their power.
He is now pursuing his reflexion more widely to other ‘furniture’ pieces that carry symbolically the burdens of vital political issues such as political power, food, energy into the privacy of the African home and psyche. The striking and beautiful ‘objects’ he creates also convey, however, a positive reflection on the transformative power of art and the resilience and creativity of African civilian societies.
Born in 1975, in Maputo, Mozambique, Gonçalo Mabunda has been working full time as an artist since 1997 after having trained in Mozambique and South Africa. He has been honoured by the Clinton Global International Initiative Awards, was commissioned by the prestigious glass-maker Daum to create a series of glass sculptures, and was part of the collective show for the re-opening of the Museum of Art and Design New York. Awe inspiring stuff.


After returning to their home in Rwanda from a Ugandan refugee camp following the civil war in 1994, sisters Joy Ndunguste and Janet Nkubana went to work. Combining their experience in handicraft design and marketing the skills of rural women, many of them war widows and single mothers. The sisters pioneered a new way to transform traditional basket weaving skills into high-end home decor products aimed at the international market. From humble beginnings under a tree in a remote village called Gitarama,  Gahaya Links (named after their grandfather) was founded. The sisters organised about twenty women and taught them how to weave, how to enhance their weaving skills with new design techniques and how to work together by looking beyond their ethnic differences. Today Gahaya Links is a growing network of over 4,000 weavers across the country organized in 52 savings cooperatives. They are now the leading exporter of Rwanda’s one-of-a- kind baskets commonly known as "Peace Baskets". Driven by the desire to work with less advantaged women in Rwanda, Gahaya Links, also established the ‘Gahaya Gifted Hands Innovation Centre’ located in Kicukiro Kigali city. The centre is the company's innovation component where women gather to learn new skills and innovate new products. It is an amazing and powerful story of two courageous women who got others to work together: despite their differences, despite the trauma of genocide, despite the obstacles of ill health, new babies, poverty, widowhood, stress and despair. They are a shining light for all of Africa.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Preppy meets philanthropy in a new international clothing line being launched by Nelson Mandela’s foundation. 46664 (four, double six, six four) takes its name from the prison number (prisoner number 466 of 1964) given to Mr Mandela when he was incarcerated for life on Robben Island, off Cape Town, South Africa. Mr Mandela gave his prison number to the organisation as a permanent reminder of the sacrifices he was prepared to make for a humanitarian and social justice cause he passionately believed in.
In creating 46664 initially as a global HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention campaign, Mr Mandela realised that to reach the youth all over the world specifically, he needed to engage the support of the people who most appeal to them. This has been seen most visibly through the high-profile 46664 concerts of the past few years and the appointment of 46664 ambassadors.

46664 Apparel is a new clothing venture focused on raising funds for the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s charitable efforts in addition to strengthening South Africa’s lagging textile and clothing industry. With the launch, the foundation joins a small but growing club of socially conscious sartorialists, such as Edun, a line founded by Bono and his wife in an effort to bring a steady, sustainable manufacturing industry to Africa.
The 46664 line features brightly coloured men’s sportswear and intricately patterned, African-influenced women’s wear, all designed by Seardel, South Africa’s biggest textile and clothing manufacturer. Clothing will be available online soon.


It took me a good few years to track down this company. I loved a range of aprons they brought out a few years ago but there was no branding and I couldn’t find out where they came from and who made them. People I spoke to in South Africa seemed to know the fabric range but the company remained quite obscure. It wasn’t until one of Bundu’s sourcing agents sent me samples of a range of bags, that I recognised one of the fabrics. As it turns out the company is Mongoose, a design and manufacturing company based in Gauteng, South-Africa. Working together with 16 permanent employed women and three rural community groups across the country, they manufacture a unique range of handprinted fabric from which they make an awesome range of bags, totes, cushion covers and aprons.

Other than producing a very cool range of products, Mongoose’s aim is to empower woman by teaching skills in crafts that will help to sustain them. All the fabrics used are 100% natural fibers e.g. cottons, linens and hemp fabrics and are trimmed with local bovine leather for strength and durability. The handprinted fabrics all have a retro African feel with a good dose of African vibrancy and funk, giving each item they produce a completely fresh look. For me, Mongoose hit all the right points to get them noticed in North America and the rest of the world. Their products are socially conscious, beautifully made, have enough edge and Africaness to separate them from the gamut of product in the bag/tote category and most importantly they have priced themselves correctly. With a new range of fabrics just completed, they are going to be an interesting brand to watch. A few products are already available on
www.bundudesigns.com, with the new range to follow in June.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Thousand Gardens in Africa

The Slow Food movement is working to help communities around the world to rebuild their local food systems in order to eat better, protect the environment and maintain cultural diversity.

They are currently embarking on an ambitious project to create food gardens across Africa, assiting them in their work to cultivate more sustainable and healthy regions. The challenge to create a thousand gardens in schools, villages and on the outskirts of cities. New gardens will first be created in countries where the Slow Food network is most active today - including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal and Morocco - before reaching across continent.

The food gardens will be cultivated using sustainable methods such as composting, natural treatments for pests, rational water use, planting local varieties and intercropping fruit trees, vegetables and medicinal herbs. The focus is on helping farmers and communities to recover local crops with less need for external inputs, rather than just handing over seeds and fertilizers. The gardens will also work to restore prestige to small farmers, an occupation now often shunned by young people in Africa as in many other parts of the world.

Each garden will be managed by the communities themselves in collaboration with Slow Food representatives, local partner organizations such Network for Ecofarming in Africa (NECOFA) and African graduates of the Slow Food founded University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity is coordinating the project and managing funds and donations.

You can help by adopting a garden which will cover the costs of equipment, training, coordination, educational material in local languages and technical assistance.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


There seems to be a trend happening at the moment – with a number of seriously cool shoe brands coming out of Africa. This is the fourth brand we’ve featured over the past few months (Sole Rebels, Oliberte and Maasai Treads). A 100% authentic African-made sneaker, Sawa shoes spreads a little love to all four corners of the continent: the laces are made in Tunisia, the rubber soles in Egypt, the leather in Nigeria, the canvas in Cameroon, the packaging in South Africa and the final product is cooked up by craftsmen in Cameroon. They are already making a mark across the globe and were recently featured in Edun’s winter collection. We also love their collection of carefully selected, retro styled products from Cameroon like the notebooks, matches and soap. Everything makes for a very cool package indeed. Shoes are available online at www.sawashoes.com.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cape Town World Design Capital 2014

There is no question that Cape Town is one (hopefully soon to be) the most creative city in the world. I am constantly inspired at the innovation and resourcefulness that comes out of one city. It has managed to stay true to its Africaness but incredibly progressive, edgy and contemporary at the same time. Cape Town’s bid to be World Design Capital 2014 forms part of a broader vision to position Cape Town as a leading global city – a hub of creativity, knowledge, innovation and excellence. Cape Town’s bid concept, “Live Design, Transform Life”, focuses strongly on socially responsive design.
The World Design Capital title is awarded bi-annually by the International Council for Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) to give global prominence to cities that use design for their social, economic and cultural development. Founded in 1957 and active in 50 countries, ICSID has awarded the World Design Capital designation three times – to Torino, Italy (2008); Seoul, South Korea (2010) and Helsinki, Finland (designated for 2012).
The World Design Capital title is awarded in advance, allowing winning cities sufficient time to plan, develop and promote a year-long programme of World Design Capital-themed events for their designated year. Cape Town will know in June if the bid is successful. Show your support by joining the facebook page.