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March 4, 2014
South African designers showcased their work at Design Indaba’s 2014 Expo in Cape Town. Here are some of our favorites including furniture, accessories, textiles, technology, and film.
modern textiles from south africa design indaba
Itawuli by Mungo

Mungo's flat-weave towels, made on antique looms in Plettenberg Bay, have traditionally reflected a strong British influence. But they've taken a detour with their new diamond weave towels in colorways like mulberry with partridge brown, hot orange, and forest green. While the pattern has an echo of traditional shweshwe fabric from the Eastern Cape, the contrasting stripe is more typical of Basutu blankets. Made of 100% cotton from Swaziland.

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wood parque bench from Johnnesburg, South Africa
Parque Bench by Neil Grantham

Unlike most big cities, Johannesburg has no ocean or major rivers to define it. Yet Neil Grantham’s Parque Bench, made of Zimbabwean teak or other wood, evokes both a small hull and a boardwalk in the best possible ways. Depending on the angle of approach, the curves may not be plainly visible at first. The bench’s three frames are based on the segmental arch, Grantham says. “As the pressure is applied to the top, it deflects that stress down to the bottom,” he says. “The idea was that the slats seem to float in the end.”

2 / 7
wooden lampshades from Minima
Lighting Range by Minima

Minima’s new range of light coverings throw shadows rather than provide shade. Made from Austrian birch plywood, they snap together quickly. “Light bulbs used to give such an ugly light,” says Minima’s Jacques Cronje, who is also an architect at Timber Design in Cape Town. “This becomes a bit more sculptural.”

3 / 7
blue and white beaded decorative iPhone case
Beaded iPhone Cover by Vukile Batyi

It takes Durban-based designer Vukile Batyi two days to hand stitch all the beads on one of his unique Afro-bling cell phone covers. "I want to push them to the next level,” he says. “I don't want any to look similar.” Batyi collaborates with his mentor and friend Laduma Ngxokolo, whose Xhosa-inspired knitware has similar motifs. The Emerging Creatives program, in which Batyi participated, had a breakout year, collectively showing much stronger and more developed work than before.

4 / 7
BRCK wireless internet modem
BRCK by Ushahidi

Think information is beautiful? A reliable internet connection is still hard to come by in much of Africa, especially in areas that have shaky infrastructure and regular power outages. BRCK, the much-anticipated modem from non-profit Ushahidi, is rugged enough for sandstorms, all-day blackouts, and up to 20 people (though probably about seven at full speed), should be ready to ship by April. “If it works in Africa, it’ll work anywhere,” Ushahidi’s Juliana Rotich says.

5 / 7
steam film still by mercury productions
Steam 1886 directed by Adrian Lazarus and Nicky Felbert, produced by Mercury Productions

This short fashion film won the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa competition, which the public votes for via text messaging. Shot on location at Cape Town’s Truth Coffee café, its steampunk aesthetic was designed by Haldane Martin. It’s the first year that a film has been nominated (feature-length Four Corners was also in the running), which seems fitting, given that this was also the inaugural year of the Design Indaba Film Festival. The dozen nominees for Most Beautiful Object in South Africa spanned a wide number of genres, including media and tech, as well as the more expected furniture, dresses, and jewelry.

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moder colorful wood tables from south africa
360 Table by Saks Corner

Trained as a photographer and influenced by Danish design, Dan Saks has long been drawn to simple, vintage pieces. As it became increasingly difficult to source quality originals, he started to create his own designs. The Cape Town designer says he likes to keep “an element of playfulness,” especially in terms of mixing materials. Construction depends on what materials are available: salvaged century-old parquet became the top of a table. Joinery details are exposed on the 360 Table, which comes in a range of colors.

7 / 7
modern textiles from south africa design indaba
Itawuli by Mungo

Mungo's flat-weave towels, made on antique looms in Plettenberg Bay, have traditionally reflected a strong British influence. But they've taken a detour with their new diamond weave towels in colorways like mulberry with partridge brown, hot orange, and forest green. While the pattern has an echo of traditional shweshwe fabric from the Eastern Cape, the contrasting stripe is more typical of Basutu blankets. Made of 100% cotton from Swaziland.

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