Winning designs, weird and functional

04 March 2012 - 02:15 By BIÉNNE HUISMAN
INGENIOUS: Massoud Hassani holds one of the many poles which are attached to a ball to form the mine sweeper he designed Picture: RUVAN BOSHOFF
INGENIOUS: Massoud Hassani holds one of the many poles which are attached to a ball to form the mine sweeper he designed Picture: RUVAN BOSHOFF

AFGHAN designer Massoud Hassani's landmine decommissioning device - called the Mine Sweeper - was one of thousands of extraordinary creations showcased at the Design Indaba, which started in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Creative types from around the world gathered at the city's Cape Town International Convention Centre where Hassani explained that his invention was inspired by a childhood toy.

Mine Sweeper is a ball with bamboo poles sticking out of it. Each pole ends in a flat rubber surface, which detonates landmines as the wind-blown ball rolls.

The Design Museum in London has nominated it for Design of the Year 2012 - alongside Kate Middleton's wedding dress and the UK's Olympic torch.

The first South African Design Indaba Expo held in 2004 featured 40 exhibitors and attracted 8000 visitors. This year 300 designers showed off weird and wonderful wares to an estimated 40000 visitors.

Thirty designers, including German scent laboratory founder Sissel Tolaas, Danish chef René Redzepi and Japanese artist Sputniko!, addressed packed auditoriums in Cape Town, Durban and Joburg, where their talks were projected onto screens.

Sputniko!, who likes to explore feminism and pop culture, drew gasps for her cutting-edge works like the Crowbot (a robot that can communicate using the language of crows) which she built after collaborating with bird specialists at the University of Cambridge.

Another of her works is the Menstruation Machine, a device that lets men feel the effects of period pains.

Speaking at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, 28-year-old Hassani said his family fled from Kabul when his father was killed in the civil war in 1994. They now live in the Netherlands, where he studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven.

"When I was young in Kabul the soldiers left landmines behind everywhere," he said.

"It is such an honour to be nominated for the Design of the Year award. We are so glad people around the world are becoming aware of the problem of landmines. It's wasted land that leads to injuries of innocent people and animals," he said.

This year first-time exhibitors included Chandler House, a local design studio known for its trademark white ceramic head vases that sell at R750 apiece. Coldplay guitarist Johnny Buckland bought a vase when the band toured South Africa, according to designer Michael Chandler.

He added that the head design was inspired by a phrenology bust he bought at Portobello Market in London.

"The response here at the Indaba has been amazing," Chandler said.

The coveted "Most Beautiful Object in South Africa" title will be announced today. Contenders include solar-powered lamps fashioned from recycled Consol glass jars that sell for R120 each.

A craft stand by Heartworks and Projekt was also popular with spectators. Their wares included a white cushion embellished with black embroidery and the words "Soon the poor will have nothing left to eat but the rich" on it.

A jewellery stand by Lady Peculiar featured bulky silver rings engraved with birds and pet names such as "Trouvrou" and "Sweetheart". Nearby Anomali Jewellery displayed necklaces carved from vintage metal spoons.