Bright Dimba’s products put a spotlight on traditional craft

His company Dukada focuses on African craftsmanship by working alongside rural women.

For homeware and interior designer Bright Dimba, it has always been about more than just creating aesthetically pleasing products. For him, it's about bringing acknowledgement back to traditional craft and promoting a new wave of craftsmanship in modern South Africa.

This is where his company Dukada comes in. Started in 2017, Dimba created a design and craft brand that collaborates with rural women crafters from his hometown of Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal.

With this collaboration, Dimba works together with these local craftswomen in the design and production of his unique, handwoven, colourful furniture products. He turned to them because of their familiarity with traditional weaving practices.

“I needed prototypes made for the designs that I had conceptualised around the curiosity of wire woven products that are functional, while retaining the familiar African decorative aesthetic. For a successful representation of the weaving technique I had to identify people who were familiar with the practice of telephone wire weaving,” he explains.

Adding: “ I chose to work with them because their weaving skills are good and because they are locals from my town and I had already established a relationship with them.”

When speaking to Dimba over email he revealed that this relationship is mutually beneficial. He approaches the crafters with designs and materials, where they then evaluate his request and come back with a quote and additional concepts.

For Bright, he believes this is a form of upliftment and community-building but more importantly, it’s a way for him to correctly reference culture and tradition in his work.

“The history of weaving can be associated with the African Zulu nation as a creative tradition that has been practised for generations back. This is how my products drew inspiration and references from the African households,” says Dimba.

The pieces produced by Dukada are very much inspired by spaces, people, culture and history. In his work, Dimba has found a way to combine all to create the perfect mix between traditional and contemporary styles.

“My interest as a designer is merging this everyday beauty...of wire weaving and integrating it into modern spaces as a bold outstanding object in the space, representing the culture and history,” explains Dimba.

A stand-out product for the brand is the Dukada side table, which doubles as a stool. The stool is a contemporary woven version of the short and stumpy chair known as isigqiki which is typically found in African households.

The Dukada occasional side table-come-stool is also part of the products he exhibited at the 2019 Design Indaba Festival, where Dimba showcased his work as part of the Design Indaba Emerging Creatives programme. He joined 50 up and coming creatives from across South Africa.

During the exhibition, Dimba also launched his Dukada Ukhamba Glass Vase, which incorporates a woven base that mimics the popular Zulu clay beer pot of the same name. When it comes to his Design Indaba experience, the designer had only good things to say.

“My design Indaba experience was insightful and exciting. Meeting the other emerging creatives was also good with the potential for future collaborations,” says Dimba. “The conference was also packed with amazing speakers like Shaina Garfield of which I also made friends with.”

When it comes to the future, Dimba reveals he is working on launching new pieces that he hopes will further push the brand’s ethos of transforming traditional objects and techniques by complementing it with modern design.

Read more on the Design Indaba Emerging Creatives: 

Constant, a photo series on pain, love and healing

Primrose Chimhanda on nature as inspiration for her textile designs

Emerging Creative Max-Gordon Stoffberg on community empowerment & creativity