From the Series
Senagalese fashion designer Selly Raby Kane (SRK) is one of the central figures in Dakar’s new wave of creativity. “Fashion is something inside of me and I needed to let it out,” she said.
On returning to her hometown, Dakar, in Senegal, in 2009, SRK explains that that year was the most powerful in her career. During that year she met a collective, Les Petites Pierres – a group of artists that collaborate to showcase the work of young Senegalese artists. “Since the moment I met them we have gotten along as a group,” she explained. Coming from various backgrounds, SRK believes they all have the same goal in mind – "to uplift the creative spirit in Dakar.”
Through their creativity, the collective hopes to impose change in their city. “We want to build bridges in our country to close the gap between the rich and the poor – and we believe this can be done through the power of creativity”. Les Petites Pierres is part of the Africa Is Now installation at Design Indaba Expo.
SRK's friend and sometime collaborator, Omar Victor Diop – also a member of Les Petites Pierres – took a bold leap from a life in finance to become a photographer. He often takes portraits of the people who inspire him: the quiet people who don’t seek recognition. SRK appears in his pictures. For his most recent project, while on a residency in Spain away from his Senegalese crew, he turned the camera on himself: dressing up as forgotten African characters from history. He has learnt, he shared at the end of his talk, that his work is better when he is having fun – even when dealing with serious issues like racism or the environment.
History is better if we share it. The future is better if you share it. – Omar Victor Diop
Spanish speaker Santiago Cirugeda is a defiant guerilla architect who takes on politicians and city bureaucrats to install buildings in public spaces. He works with big teams – often students – on big collaborative public projects. His work, he admitted, is not beautiful – “everyone has an ugly friend.” His business, Recetas Urbanas (Urban Recipes), shares his ideas so that others can take his architectural “recipes” to build themselves.
Nando’s founder Robbie Brozin started off the day with a similar message: that having fun had a great deal to do with how fulfilling your work is. It was announced in his talk that Nando’s will be making a significant, long-term investment in South African design, beyond its existing support of local artists.
Nando’s is known for using the element of surprise to bring humour into its marketing campaigns. But it has slowly moved from kick-you-in-the-balls-and-grab-your-attention-funny with their 30-second television ads, to something a little bit more mature: it now demands attention through the art and design installed in the restaurants. The art is provocative in a different way because it reinvents the position of a fast food restaurant into something like a gallery space, where anyone and everyone can come and sit at exceptionally designed tables and chairs and share their food under some highly regarded South African art. Design will soon become part of this endeavour too.
Nando’s has sought to build little worlds of South African culture in its restaurants around the world.
Shubhankar Ray also talked about the importance of cultural context. For each campaign he did, whether for Camper or G-Star Raw or Levi's, he picked fragments of culture that help him to build a universe around the brand that speaks frankly about its ethos and adds crucial context to it.
“I have dedicated my life to trying to find the magical place where ideas come from,” said British designer Dominic Wilcox, and he has found that place to be everywhere.
From two Senegalese creatives and two food entrepreneurs and two of Africa’s most exciting music stars, the day ended with a pair of Italy’s most established designers. Stefano Giovannoni and Rosita Missoni.
Earlier in the day, SRK had said: “I realised the divisions between Africa and the rest of world are imaginary. My clothes are made in a small studio in Dakar, and loved in Italy."