The Dwell 24: Mlondolozi Hempe

Cape Town designer Mlondolozi Hempe interweaves the folklore of his native South Africa for his furniture brand, Umongo.
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Cape Town designer Mlondolozi Hempe interweaves the folklore of his native South Africa and stories from his childhood into his designs. Take Hempe’s Imbadu bench for his Umongo furniture brand.

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Inspired by imbadu, a custom in South Africa’s villages in which elders congregate to discuss issues important to their community, the bench is supported by seven legs, each in a different shape, representing the individuals working together to uphold the fabric of society or, in this case, the seat.

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"Design is for everyone," says Hempe, who is a cofounder of the architecture firm Broad Based Design and works at sustainable design consultancy PJC. "It’s a language used across our existence."

Read the full Q&A with Mlondolozi Hempe below.

Hometown: Cape Town, South Africa

Describe what you make in 140 characters. I make uniquely desirable objects that are inhabited with little stories about my life, culture and people. I also design spaces.

What’s the last thing you designed? Kraal coffee table and a house for a friend.

Do you have a daily creative ritual? Watch The Local Project on YouTube as it inspires me.

How do you procrastinate? Spend time on YouTube.

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? Spoons. I think most spoons look boring and they could do with a bit of design fun.

Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? In life, I would say my parents.

What skill would you most like to learn? Programming.

What is your most treasured possession? My first wooden potjie pot. It’s the first product I conceptualized.

What’s your earliest memory of an encounter with design? I think through art and seeing how my uncles used to create things.

What contemporary design trend do you despise? I don't think I despise any particular trend but I'm not a big fan of overly classic design.

Finish this statement: All design should... be freeing.

What’s in your dream house? Lots of art, my grandma's kist, and my granddad's bench.

How can the design world be more inclusive? By making it not exclusive teaching everyone they are allowed to design their own spaces and environment.

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? It’s very difficult.

You can learn more about Mlondolozi Hempe on his Instagram.

View the 2022 Dwell 24!




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