Where city slick meets rural hip

Where city slick meets rural hip

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The three winners of Madi a Thavha’s Limpopo CraftArt design competition 2016 were announced at Design Time School of Interior Design’s annual prizegiving ceremony in Cape Town recently.

Carla Janse van Rensburg took the first prize with her Likela light fitting designed for traditional Limpopo clay-work and local weaving skills. Second prize went to Paula Maytham, with her rural hip Limpopo Baobab light fitting and Third prize, Shani Bijleveld’s raw ornamental pots with grass woven detail.

Meaningful partnering

“We partnered with Design Time as part of our National Arts Council’s Craft initiative programme to promote the work of rural artists in Limpopo,” says Marcelle Bosch, co-owner of Madi a Thavha mountain lodge and a longstanding driver for the development and preservation of the dwindling traditional CraftArt skills in Limpopo.

“A mutual friend, Pierre Antoine, owner of Fibre Designs in Cape Town, mentored the 38 students to design functional art for national and international markets within strict parameters of specific skills and resources in Limpopo. “

Limpopo heritage signature

Students had to consider the restrictions of logistics in the rural North.  “Things like long dust-roads to remote villages and limited access to water and electricity has a huge impact on what can be produced and on moving products to appreciative markets, let alone getting it there in time,” says Marcelle.

We were adamant that designs include a signature of the Venda, Tsonga and Northern Sotho people’s cultural heritage, an aspect the National Arts Council CEO Rosemary Mangope passionately endorses:” The NAC’s mandate is to promote the free expression of South Africa’s cultures through the arts. To me heritage is at the very core of artistic expression, shaping our very culture and identity. “

To act upon the rapidly changing trends in art and interior markets can be tricky at best, for rural Limpopo artists it can be close to impossible. “Madi a Thavha mountain lodge has been a bridge builder in Limpopo CraftArt for the past 10 years, we would love to see urban Design school’s students engage with talent and skills in rural Limpopo,” says Marcelle.

Business, art and heritage

“Recycling elements were also judged and so was the marketability of each design. That all made for quite a tough reality-check-challenge for students, “says Pierre. “But,” principal of Design Time’s Yolanda Mitton is quick to add, “we are to equip students with the skills needed to exercise creativity in a practical form, and to encourage a spirit of enterprise, the lifeblood of any successful design practice. We are delighted with the opportunity to put it to test in the real world.”

Many thanks to all collaborators

“All of us are really grateful to Pierre for facilitating the year-long process in Cape Town,” says Marcelle. “He mustered an impressive panel of judges we would like to thank for the huge task scrutinizing each student’s design with this complex set of requirements. They were; trailblazing creative Tracy Lee Lynch, Cape Town based architect Greg Truen, Julian Hartley as external examiner from Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery, Elthea Schlesinger judging the do-ability in Limpopo for Madi a Thavha and Pierre, designer-owner of Fibre designs studio in Cape Town.”

“All of us in Limpopo would like to thank Design Time for taking up the challenge and each student for honouring the crafters of Limpopo with the gift of their designs. From the Northern frontiers of Limpopo, we wish each one of you a bright future.”


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