Afrofabulous: Africa's aesthetic makes great strides at fair

Five African designers deliver the goods at the Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair, write Yolisa Mkele and Andrea Nagel

05 October 2017 - 12:28
By Yolisa Mkele and Andrea Nagel
Tongoro by Sarah Diouf.
Image: Supplied Tongoro by Sarah Diouf.

Two designers - Senegal's Sarah Diouf and Kenya's Adele Dejak - are getting a lot of attention internationally for their intricate artisanal lines which embody an African aesthetic. They've been selected, along with three others from the continent, to feature at this year's Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair.

TONGORO - Sarah Diouf

Affordable luxury garments from Senegal produced by local tailors.

Stereotypes in African design?

People assume the quality of African design can't match international standards and that the design isn't modern enough.

How do you stay affordable?

Pricing depends on the cost of your fabric, the cost of your production and your walls - if you own a boutique. With e-commerce we can play with margins. It has to be affordable and the internet makes it available everywhere.

Design philosophy?

Easiness, fun and fluidity.

Future of African brands?

We have so many stories to tell, and cultures to express, that give a new pulse to the redundant global fashion cycles.

DOUNIA HOME - Dounia Tamri-Loeper

High-end lighting and tables from Morocco.

How did you get your start?

Dounia Home by Dounia Tamri-Loeper.
Image: Supplied Dounia Home by Dounia Tamri-Loeper.

I wanted to start my own product line in my home country. With my design background and my Moroccan heritage I wanted to bring something special to the lighting world, while empowering the hands that make my products. So two-and-a-half years ago I partnered with an amazing group of artisans in Marrakech to bring a modern Moroccan collection to life.


I started with few funds. We didn't raise money or have investors. We had to run a lean business to be able to stay competitive and to scale our business up. Our biggest challenge has been keeping up with demand - our production is small and everything is handcrafted.

Why sell online only?

With our online presence, we can reach interior designers, architects, and bloggers who appreciate our handcrafted goods and aesthetic and relate to our mission.

Is creating social impact important to you?

There's so much talent in Morocco and I want to create a direct relationship with artisans to have a positive impact on their lives. I pay them fairly, set reasonable lead times and give them yearly bonuses.

Exciting design trends in lighting design?

Minimal utilitarian lighting, LED lighting and lights inspired by jewellery.

Saba Studio by Moran Munyuthe.
Image: Supplied Saba Studio by Moran Munyuthe.

 SABA STUDIO - Moran Munyuthe

Munyuthe is a former architect who started Saba Studio to preserve a rich heritage of wood carving in Lamu, Kenya.

How does your heritage influence you?

Our aesthetic is inspired by Swahili design which has Arabic and Bantu influences.

Favourite materials?

Mvule hardwood because of its longevity and workability. We make sure our products are made from ethically and legally sourced hardwood.

Best piece from your range?

The Mashirbirya side table - it's simple, modular and light.


 Adele Dejak jewellery from Kenya.
Image: Adele Dejakj Adele Dejak jewellery from Kenya.

Part of the African luxury movement, this jewellery from Kenya is all about empowering women through adornment.

What inspires you?

African women, tribes, textiles, cultures and traditions.

How will technology influence you?

Digital stylist apps will become mainstream and will monitor your closet. They'll suggest what to wear based on your calendar, recommending appropriate clothes from your favourite stores. Technology will enable more ecofriendly manufacturing processes and use of recycled materials in the fashion industry.

Trends affecting your industry?

The rise of emerging markets and growing middle class is creating explosive growth. Locally, the ''tribal" and ''ethnic" labels mean a celebration of unique African skills and techniques.

AFROMINIMA - Olubunmi Adeyemi

Nigerian home-ware products that embody modern minimalism with a pop of colour.

Afrominima by Olubunmi Adeyemi
Image: Supplied Afrominima by Olubunmi Adeyemi

Your design philosophy ...

Is connected to my culture, everyday living and how we have solved problems through the ages. Design needs to be honest to connect us with our emotions and help us solve daily challenges.

How did you get your start?

I've always been fascinated by the effect of objects on our lives - Lego, the Bic pen, bicycles, erasers, calculators, chairs and cars. I studied design in London and Cape Town and was inspired by Japanese minimalism and Scandinavian style. I wanted to fuse these with my African heritage.

Looking forward to at HmC?

Connecting with designers and design enthusiasts and creating interesting collaborations and business opportunities.