Words: Elizebeth Croeser

Doers, movers, shakers, and changers

The annual Design Indaba took place recently for the 25th year. BLQ was inspired, encouraged, and provoked by the ideas and concepts shared at this highly influential, highly anticipated event. The event positions itself as a Do Tank, rather than merely a Think Tank, and the curated speakers indeed mirror this philosophy as doers, movers, shakers, and changers. 

Some common themes that emerged from this years’ event were notions around collaboration, connection, and sustainability. Although none of these concepts are completely new, the global communal motifs illustrate that we realize the importance of connection to our own work that directly translates to how audiences view and respond to our work; that we are able to produce far more and far better solutions together; and that tacking environmental and social issues through our work is not only important but in fact imperative for our collective future.  

Here are some of our top picks from the event:

The event kicked off with a talk from world-renowned trend oracle Li Edelkoort. She shared some forecasts from her trend consultancy; Trend Union, relating to what’s up and coming in fashion, lifestyle, and design. Sustainability once again reigned supreme as the overarching direction. If you are feeling some ‘sustainability fatigue,’ you might have to take another shot of organic wheatgrass as this subject isn’t going away any time soon. 

The ‘GreenWave’, as Edelkoort calls it, includes palettes of greens and more natural tones and signals to a time where designers will start to work with alternative eco-fibers, an idea that was also explored by Indaba speaker Elissa Brunato. Brunato is developing eco-sequins made from biodegradable materials to combat the vast plastic waste from sequins used in fashion, interiors, and toys. 

Edelkoort highlighted that brands are helping their customers make better choices and adopting an ethos of quality over quantity. This approach will set brands apart from the more traditional ‘sell-as-much-as-you-can’ attitude, and according to Edelkoort, this will be one way in which brands will future-proof themselves. 

The 3-day Indaba often highlighted some very somber realities, most of these confined to our very own borders. And although creativity and desire are clearly present to create solutions, the glaring truth is that we have a lot to solve, save and build to ensure an economical, social, and environmentally sound future in SA. 

Glimmers of hope showed itself through the dark curtain of unemployment, social injustice, and economic statistics through the astonishing work of creatives Vukheta Mukhar,  Kathryn Larsen, Bas Timmer, Selassie Atadika, Manu Prakash and our very own Sho Madjozi. 

Sho Madjozi opened the Indaba in her iconic Xibelani dress and her typical high-octane performances. Her unique style and desire to preserve culture through modernization is a breath of fresh air and her views around how culture is passed down through interaction rather than being ‘museumified’, shows just how much this young talent has got to offer. 

Another young South-African Vukheta Mukhar’s innovative work forms part of the research done by fellow UCT academia. They have developed an Eco-Brick made from human waste by using biomimicry processes to combat some of the globe’s construction industry issues. Mukhar sees a great deal of potential using the characteristics and benefits of bacteria and believes that by using biofabrication, a world of opportunities lies dormant to solve pressing sustainability and accessibility issues on the continent.  

Staying on South African shores, Dutch fashion designer Bas Timmer has established the Shelter Bag initiative in Cape Town. Timmer was inspired to develop the Shelter Suit in Europe after a friends’ father died of hypothermia due to homelessness. The Shelter Suit has made its way across the Northern Hemisphere, and the Southern Hemisphere iteration called the Shelter Bag will now help the homeless in Cape Town sleep a little warmer at night. The project also contributes to the circular economy by using waste materials and provides the opportunity for the homeless to contribute to the making of the bags, thereby developing skills and giving a sense of purpose.

Another exciting creation from the continent comes from Ghanian experiential chef Selassie Atadika. Using cuisine to change environmental, societal, cultural, and economical issues is what drives inventive chef Atadika. Her use of ancient grains, local produce, and ‘underdog’ ingredients sets her food apart along with her deep passion for elevating African street food to haute cuisine.

Further afield, the work of architectural technologist Kathryn Larsen, and physical biologist Manu Prakash, both speak to accessibility and utilizing frugal mechanisms and methodologies to answer to sustainability and social issues. 

Inspired by old Danish techniques, Larsen has been researching and testing the uses of algae as construction insulation, reminding us that learnings from the past could still have relevance and value in a technologically driven age. Prakash describes his use of ‘frugal science’ as a means to collect valuable data from underutilized resources by merely providing the tools to do so. His foldable microscope has made the use of microscopes available to communities that would previously not have access to such equipment, while simultaneously using people from all over the globe to act as data collection centers. 

The 2020 Indaba did not disappoint. It is a reminder that great creativity exists and that creativity, through the act of doing, remains one of the most powerful tools to provide solutions for some of the globe’s most pressing problems. 

All images supplied.

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