Kassena Town by Dokter and Misses

Dokter and Misses’ new range of storage pieces is a further exploration of West African Kassena architecture.

Johannesburg-based Dokter and Misses' Kassena Server has spawned a village: the server, made in 2012, has inspired the creation of a larger range of storage pieces, called Kassena Town. Named after the Kassena people of West Africa, the monolithic pieces echo the mud buildings built by its men and hand-painted in striking graphic patterns by its women. The new range of designer cabinets includes pieces titled Home, Watchtower, Horseman and Sleep.

"It is our dream village with all the complexities of a community," say Dokter and Misses’ Katy Taplin and Adriaan Hugo. "A town always needs a few homes, a place of worship, a liquor store and at least one guy with a fast car who thinks he’s king."

The pieces were made especially for the upcoming exhibition Grains of Paradise, which shows contemporary work by four African design studios, at New York design gallery R & Company in collaboration with Southern Guild from 24 March to 30 April.

Like the Kassena architecture it is modeled on, the four pieces are all solid volumes that resemble impenetrable fortresses, their smooth surfaces yielding little about what lies within. The Kassena people – also known as the Gurunsi, who live in the Tiebélé region on the border of Burkina Faso and Ghana – still hew to their traditions of building their houses to ward off enemies and keep out the heat. Their structures have no windows save for one or two small openings.

Exhibiting alongside Dokter and Misses’ Kassena Town in the Grains of Paradise show are Porky Hefer’s human-sized woven nests, ceramics by Kwazulu-Natal Midlands-based Ardmore and sculptural wooden seating by Senegalese designer Babacar Niang.

The Home server (left), the first piece in the collection, has four drawers on two different planes. The Horseman bench-cabinet (right) has two parts, one fitting over the other like a man riding a horse. One side of the horizontal piece serves as a chair with backrest and the other as a two-seater bench. The upright section houses a cabinet with fold-out desk and the whole unit includes four drawers on two different planes and a secret compartment. Photo: VATIC.
The Watchtower cabinet (left) has a stepped profile that includes a counter-height surface area. This cabinet has three drawers opening on three different sides as well as three secret compartments. The Sleep drinks cabinet (right) calls to mind the shape of a traditional African headrest. It includes a built-in uplighter made of rolled-steel tubing (the arched top piece). All openings are positioned on the front face and include a drop-down counter, a hinged door and drinks drawer. Photo: VATIC.

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