Designers light up festive season with inspirational V&A decorations

A South African story of light and hope is being celebrated at the V&A Waterfront through locally made festive decorations

27 December 2020 - 00:02 By Tracy Lynn Chemaly
Tree Of Light at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.
Tree Of Light at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.

"When you think of light, it does not just illuminate a singular section or space —
it lights up an entire surface," says Bonolo Helen Chepape of Lulasclan, one of the many local designers and makers involved in transforming the V&A Waterfront into a celebration of light and hope after a rather unfestive year.

"I wanted to communicate that if we all strive to be agents of hope, we can create positive change, not only for those around us, but for our entire communities," she says of her designs that form part of the Southern Cross installation decorating the Silo District this holiday period.

Chepape's illustrations depict the catching and kindling of light from lamps or small candles and dancers reaching towards the stars to harvest this light, demonstrating how it can be passed on from one person to another.

In the Watershed, this inspired theme of light and hope continues, with two whimsical chandeliers dangling on either end of the building. One is a kelp forest with seaweed made from recycled flip flops by Davis Ndungu, wooden fish by BlocArt, and beaded-wire ocean creatures by Master Wire and Bead Craft, who also formed the birds and weavers' nests in the second forest: a mystical woodland. This environment is filled with metal butterflies by Sunshine Crafts that are illuminated by papier mâché light shades by Quazi Design.

Both forests, conceived by Platform Creative Agency's Cathy O'Clery, utilise the talent of Watershed tenants, and are examples of how sustainable design and making processes can be used in decoration, honouring our planet while granting employment to locals.

Our Workshop, a socially driven design collaborative in Langa, was also instrumental in these installations, creating foliage and kelp garlands out of recycled plastic bottles, and inviting Capetonians to get involved in their creation by hosting public workshops.

DuNoon Cascade.
DuNoon Cascade.

The aspect of wonder is carried through into Victoria Wharf, where an extraordinary diorama called the Tree of Light depicts beautiful acts of kindness and moments shared between family, friends and furry creatures.

It was conceptualised and illustrated by Pauline Irvine of Artymiss, with people illustrated by Nosipho Nxele and Phathu Nembilwi, then decorated with patterns by Glorinah Khutso Mabaso of Renaissance Design.

Mabaso's patterns also adorn the Summer Palace, her work adding a vibrant contemporary African element to the joyous scene adjoined to a Tunnel of Light.

"We need to make the festive season more relatable to us as South Africans," says Mabaso, "and patterns have always been used symbolically on the continent as a way of communication."

"It's time we celebrate this holiday period more authentically," says O'Clery, whose agency shared the 2020 BASA Innovation Award with the V&A Waterfront for their partnership to reimagine the festive season in a new way.

"South Africa is abundant in creative talent and it should be celebrated and supported. The more platforms we give to our own people, the more we are able to turn the narrative into something that is genuinely ours. Who needs fake snow and tinsel when we have crafted products like woven baskets that can be transformed into strings of baubles, allowing everyone to share in the joy of the communities who weave them."

See platformcreative.co.za