Design Indaba, Cape Town

Fraser Black from Arts Thread (London) blogs on his visit to Design Indaba Expo 2011.

I’d hazard a guess that there aren’t many major conference venues where you can take a water taxi from your hotel to the Conference venue. Cape Town’s awesome International Convention Centre offers just that. On Friday afternoon I attended the opening day of the now famous Cape Town Design Indaba Expo.

The Indaba is in its fifteenth year and has now become one of the major international design conferences on the calendar. The Design Indaba hosted a sold-out Conference from the 23rd to the 25th of February and the Expo runs from the 25th to the 27th February. The Expo attracted 35,000 visitors in 2010 plus 427 buyers and 2,400 Conference delegates with the 2011 event expecting to be much bigger…

Anenome, seashell chandelier (plexiglass and shell), Riaan Chambers; African-themed couch

The Expo featured close to 300 local designers offering their uniquely South African designer wares. My wallet has beaten by the fantastic array of ceramics, jewellery, textiles, furnishings, pottery, clothing and recycled art and crafts. Each Exhibitor is pre-evaluated and endorsed by an advisory panel of top South African designers, stylists and industry experts to make sure that all products are uniquely South African and of a high-standard.

African-inspired tableware; Voodoo embroidery, Calavera

It was opening day when I got there armed with my press pass. Having been in the local advertising and design industry for more than 12 years I know my fair share of creative types. Designers, Art Buyers, Creative Directors and general creative folk were all soaking it in. It looked like everyone in the local design industry took the day off! Hundreds of people looking to buy limited editions, new ranges and to get their grubby mitts on beautiful designer gear at really great prices! (And before the Conference delegates hit the stands with their Euros, Dollars and Pounds!).

Voodoo embroidery, Calavera; Hand-spun glass cocoon lanterns

Stand-out designers for me? Honestly, it’s too hard. I could take my pick from loads of township and African influenced designers, but then there’s a strong selection of designers who’re fusing European design with a strong South African accent. And then there’s the fashion!

Recycle your Vuvuzela!; Design Indaba; Shona Chair, Pierre le Roux

Needing a break, I shared a cold sponsored beer with a young black Art Director who’s directing TV commercials at a major Cape Town Ad Agency. I suppose you could call him a good example of the transformation evident everywhere in South Africa. “What does the Design Indaba mean to you bro?” I asked. Letsebo (28) commented, “It’s about telling the world that we’re truly creative. That Africa isn’t only about the shitty stuff. There’s a lot of really cool design and creativity going on here. It also gives us a chance to host the very best Designers and Creatives in true South African style.” Sounds good to me!

Check what’s hot by visiting Design Indaba Expo

Fraser Black is Director of Skills Online Group

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