The brain-adult of Ravi Naidoo, Design Indaba (DI) has brought thousands of people, billions of rands in income (R1.7-billion to the SA GDP between 2008 and 2014, for example), and an unquantifiable amount of creative inspiration to South Africa. It is the jewel in SA’s creative crown.
DI is now the sort of “Think Tank/Do Tank” (as it currently describes itself) that must leap onto creatives’ bucket lists when they are still in training. Its focus has undergone a marked shift in recent years: from being a “mere” showcase of beautiful objects and buildings to aiming to help design make a difference in the world. Says Naidoo: “We’re not event organisers. We’re activists and we’re wanting to be cultural producers.”
MUST-SEES AT DI 2020
Mark your diary for talks by these three speakers this year:
A Ghanaian chef with a master’s in international affairs from Columbia University, Selassie Atadika is the founder of Midunu, a platform that brings food, culture, and community together through its nomadic dining experiences in settings across Accra. Atadika aims to preserve the bonds of communal eating, and Midunu’s menu changes for each pop-up event, but always features sustainable, seasonal, climate-friendly ingredients — think sorghum, baobab, goat, and plantain.
The first structural engineer to be selected for the master jury of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects since 2004, Hanif Kara’s career bridges the engineering and architectural disciplines through what he refers to as “design engineering”. He has collaborated on some of the most beautiful structures of our time, including the Henderson Waves foot-bridge in Singapore (with IJP Architects) and the Phaeno Science Centre in Germany (with Zaha Hadid Architects).
NATSAI AUDREY CHIEZA
Zimbabwe-born bio-designer and researcher Natsai Audrey Chieza works at London-based multidisciplinary design agency Faber Futures. She’s currently tackling new approaches to textile dyeing, which is one of the biggest causes of environmental pollution by the fashion industry.
THE BEST OF DI: 1995-2019
For some, the dulcet tones of acclaimed landscape designer Dan Pearson (in 2004 and 2012) will never be forgotten, while others will always remember the thrill of a live crossing to a drone taking off as part of a project that uses smart design and tech to distribute medical supplies to remote areas of Rwanda (2019). Others will always chuckle at Tom Dixon’s eloquence regarding his luxurious dildo design (2006). But some seriously iconic moments stand out across the years:
When Thomas Heatherwick announced the Zeitz Mocaa project at DI 2014, presenting for the first time the renderings of what is now the widely acclaimed Silo building that houses so much incredible African art, I cried. There you go: art-design-nerd status cemented for life.
ARCH FOR ARCH
Cape Town’s Arch for Arch at DI 2017. The project brought together Oslo-based architects Snøhetta, Joburg-based urban planner Thomas Chapman, the City of Cape Town and — welcomed on stage to rapturous applause — the inimitable Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu himself. The resulting monument is a fitting tribute to a truly wonderful man, and now graces the entrance to the Company’s Garden in the CBD.
Sunu Gonera’s presentation on Afrofuturism kicked off DI 2018 with the sort of blast of positive energy that I’ve seldom experienced anywhere. His witty, resolute look at African creativity — at one point, he declared, “I don’t care what anyone says. My story matters” – had the audience on their feet, stomping, whooping, and cheering when he was done.
• DI 2020 takes place from 26 to 28 February at Artscape Theatre Centre in Cape Town, with simulcasts taking place around the country.
• From the February edition of Wanted 2020.