Dreams of design activism at Design Indaba 2015

Afritorial features Design Indaba 2015 and what to expect from it.

In less than ten days, Africa’s creative might will descend on the sandy shores of Cape Town, bringing with it eddies of excitement as the continent’s ever expanding music, design, art and film exploits are unveiled, discussed and celebrated over two days from 25th-27th February.

The annual Design Indaba Conference in Cape Town features the best of African and global creativity on one stage. Every year the programme endeavours to feature a sterling lineup of international speakers from all corners of the world, coming together on the Design Indaba stage to present an up-to-the-minute survey on design and innovation from across the creative sectors. The program plans to feature to surprise elements of dialogue, performance and music which will intersperse the speaker programme for what could be an inimitable experience.

Headlined by  South Africa’s most internationally acclaimed artist, William Kentridge, and bolstered by a diverse range of international speakers (including Rosita Missoni who co-founded the Missoni empire with her husband 62 years ago and Kenyan artist/animator Ng’endo Mukii, of the critically acclaimed short film “Yellow Fever”), a full lineup for Design Indaba Music, a selection of movies premiering at the Design Indaba FilmFest, a growing list of Expo exhibitors and even a Festival App to keep track of shows, ticketing and venue info, Design Indaba promises to enthrall.

William Kentridge is a great drawcard. Visitors to the festival will be able to experience the multifaceted artist (printmaker, actor, draughtsman, set designer, theatre director and cartoonist – all at once) at four different events: a performance-lecture, a talk/book signing, a chamber opera (Refuse the Hour) and an exhibition (The Refusal of Time).

The duo behind Studio Propolis will also present at Indaba.  Using deft design thinking to create within tight restraints, Nairobi-based husband and wife architects, Naeem Biviji and Bethan Rayner focus on how design thrives on beautiful constraints. Both share a singular dedication to crafting almost every element of their work themselves by hand and the elegance of this  – whether architecture, joinery, furniture or product design – is born of their earnest approach to using resources wisely in an under-resourced part of the world.

Stanley Hainsworth – branding gurubehind the stories of Starbucks, Nike and Lego – will also present at the Conference. Born in the year of Sputnik between the two rural Kentucky towns of Possum Trot and Monkey’s Elbow, Hainsworth has become one of the more illustrious branding geniuses of his generation, a gifted inventor of relevant and engaging brand narratives.

Fresh from a tour with Damon Albarn, internationally acclaimed rapper and musician, M.anifest, Ghanaian  will wow audiences with his rhythmic wordsmithing.

Described as “Ghana’s rapper supreme” by Rita Ray of the BBC, M.anifest’s originality, lyricism, flow and depth in content has made him one of contemporary Africa’s best kept secrets.Born Kwame Amet Tsikata, M.anifest recalls being privy to a breadth of African music having been influenced by his grandfather Prof. J.H. Nketia, one of Africa’s foremost ethnomusicologists. He earned a college scholarship, which led to him spending a decade of his adult life in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. There, he cut his musical teeth collaborating with underground favorites like Brother Ali and Atmosphere, eventually releasing his debut album “Manifestations” (2007) which earned him “Songwriter of the Year” honors in the City Pages and begun drawing him international attention. With two studio albums to his credit, the Ghanaian rapper has recorded with legends such as Damon Albarn (Gorillaz), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Afrobeat co-founder Tony Allen, Erykah Badu, & more. M.anifest will perform at The Side Show on Thursday 26 February as part of the music showcase.

Also bringing their vocal talents to the fore at Indaba are German-born, South African-educated, ‘mother of song’, Nongoma, whose talents have been widely praised while eco activist, performance artist and social entrepreneur Celeste Theron will showcase her unique point of view at the Expo.

Each year, Design Indaba goes on the hunt for South Africa’s top design talent through its curated selection of Emerging Creatives, who are featured at the annual Design Indaba Expo. With a record number of applications for 2015, the curators had the near-impossible task of narrowing 262 applications to just 40 successful candidates. From 3D fashion printing and community art projects to children’s books and contemporary sewing patterns and exciting jewellery design, the class of 2015 shows an exciting and forward-thinking mix of young designers.


Dreams of Design Activism

In 2015, Indaba is keen on finding creative solutions to daily problems that are creating real change in this world. In the tradition of Cape Town’s ‘Street Sleeper’ initiative where old PVC billboards are upcycled into survival sleeping bags for the homeless, Indaba is encouraging African artists and designers to focus on projects that better someone’s life, beautify a street, uplift a community or just make someone smile.

Design Indaba’s 2015 creative campaign, Make. Change., embraces this movement and celebrates these initiatives of “design activism”, establishing some themselves, such as employing the unemployed to distribute their outdoor media and telling stories about truly wonderful things that are being done by others.

To get involved and create their own Make. Change. projects, find something that needs fixing, bettering or beautifying, come up with a creative way to do it, document your #makechange moment and share it with Design Indaba on their Facebook page.

We heart the initiative.

FYI – The festival is simulcast live to cities around South Africa. (We’d love to hear if and when the organisers will look to simulcasting to other African cities for future events – spread the love people!!)