Out of Africa

Habitat hosts a dynamic exhibition of emerging African design

Image: Karl Rogers Photography

One of the most talked-about pieces at Design Miami/Basel in June was a hand-painted, solid-beech cabinet whose graphic decoration referenced Burkina Faso’s mud dwellings. Made by Dokter and Misses, a youthful Johannesburg studio, the Kassena Server (second picture, £14,000) encapsulated the joyful aesthetic of contemporary African design. Now this eye-catching piece, and work by 15 other designers from Africa, will be on show at Habitat’s Platform space, opening during the London Design Festival (September 14-22) and running until late October.

Image: Karl Rogers Photography

Curators Trevyn and Julian McGowan, who are based in Wilderness, near Cape Town, have picked an exciting selection of pieces, some of which are one-offs, while others are made to order on a bespoke basis.

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Cheick Diallo’s curvaceous, hand-strung Woven chair (first picture, £4,000), Hamed Ouattara’s metal chairs crafted from recycled oil drums (£400), Dokter and Misses’ metal-and-glass Royale table (£900), Ronel Jordaan’s generously proportioned Lalibella Pouff (£650) and the one-off skeletal Fauteuil chair (£650) by Babacar Mbodj Niang of Senegal-based Nulangee Design would all work well in contemporary interiors. An emphasis on less conventional materials chimes with current sensibilities: the Sweat Lamp (£1,000) by Dokter and Misses is made from enamel, metal and stone, while the elegant white basket (£100) by Swaziland’s Gone Rural is woven from grass. Ceramics such as wood-fired, black-clay vases (£380) from Ghana’s Kpando Pottery, and one-off painted plates (£180) by Marjorie Wallace of Zimbabwe’s Mutapo Pottery add to a conviction that interesting developments in design are taking place throughout the continent.

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Meanwhile, Habitat’s design team has collaborated directly with Mali-based textile designer Boubacar Doumbia to create a limited-edition collection of 130 cushions based on “mud cloth” techniques (four designs, £30 each). Their graphic patterns are strikingly upbeat and will be available exclusively at Habitat’s London flagship store during the exhibition – providing immediate retail satisfaction for those impatiently waiting as their made-to-order pieces are crafted.

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