There will be no growth of a local aesthetic without local options for buyers, says designer Siyanda Mbele. Garreth van Niekerk speaks to him about his brave new work.
Tired of decorating the luxurious fantasies of people living in French or Italian-inspired houses, designer and Design Indaba Emerging Creative Siyanda Mbele – founder of Pinda Furniture and Interior Design – felt compelled to create a range of furniture that responds to the needs of an African client. The result is a series of high-end furniture, enhanced with Ndebele symbols that embrace his heritage, and that of other Africans.
“I found that there was actually a shortage of furniture that was relevant to Africa. I started thinking, ‘But we are in Africa? Why is there nothing for someone living here?” It began an impulse to research how cultural images are used practically. “I tried to create pieces that work with the symbolism of the culture, and started asking how that actually works in the home.”
The result, he says, is a disappearing culture that is being reduced to decoration, like Christmas tinsel. “When we see traditional stuff like beadwork it’s only normally at traditional ceremonies like weddings, or funerals. At those events we literally unpack these things from a box, so they become decoration. The fact that these things are not a part of our daily lives, the fact that we have to hire a decorator to decorate for a traditional event. The fact that we have to wait for Heritage Day – it all just shows that we don’t have tradition in our daily lives.”
His frustration is palpable, but something that needs to be addressed. Is he worried about Africa ever going out of fashion – taken in, and spit out by international tastemakers? “You know when people say ‘ride the wave’ I laugh? Africa is not the wave – it is the ocean. We have only just begun.”
Source: City Press via W24