DXP is a three-way collaboration between Katherine-Mary Pichulik, Design Africa and the Du Noon Urban Weavers. Their first product is a collection of oversized, half moon-shaped clutch handbags that cleverly combine woven grass and luxury finishes.
Bags woven out of raffia and grass are not that unusual – they have been made traditionally all over Africa in various forms – but an upscale version that is more of a style accessory than a utilitarian carry-bag or basket is somewhat new.
Pichulik, who recently launched her Autumn/Winter 2015 collection, is often quoted as saying her distinctive, moulded rope jewellery is made for great and gutsy women. Although they are not the target customers in this case, the women who wove her new line of bags would certainly fit this description. They are the weavers of Du Noon, who organised themselves into a craft collective to keep their Xhosa weaving traditions alive and earn an income. Helped by Binky Newman of Design Afrika – who has long worked with and supported various traditional crafts groups in Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Botswana and other countries on the continent – and supported by a mayoral grant, they have produced some startling work of late, including a sofa-cum-table in the shape of Table Mountain.
The women, many of whom are sangomas, are the subject of an exhibition of photos by Italian fine-artist photographer Tomaso Fiscaletti, called Between Home and Wisdom. He captured them at home, in their makeshift kitchens, together on the street and congregating in Du Noon's few public spaces.
The bags are finished with rope in various colours and patterns, giant leather tassles and oversized stitching. We hear there are backpacks in the works too. Something tells us this marriage of traditional weaving and contemporary custom design is going to lead to even more interesting collaborations.