Design Futures Africa presents six stories about design and the circular economy in Southern Africa. In the first story, published on Sunday 24 January, Stefanie Jason speaks to South African industrial designer, Matthew Edwards, about his transformation of Johannesburg’s waste and other materials. The next five stories will be published once a week until 28 February.
Last year six storytellers attended a Twyg workshop on how to create their narratives. Over three days in Cape Town, they heard from experts in circular economy, sustainable and circular fashion and writing and reporting, and visited exhibitions. For this project, supported by the British Council, each storyteller was assigned a designer in their respective country. The designer – storyteller pairings are:
Zimbabwe: Maxwell Mutanda and Bill Masuku
Maxwell is a multi-disciplinary researcher, designer and visual artist working in sustainable participatory design. Bill, who is a comic book artist, has interpreted Maxwell’s work in circular design for the informal economy in Harare.
Malawi: Vanessa Nsona and Temwa Msiska
Vanessa founded Dorovee, a creative hub and environmentally-focused fashion social enterprise that works with women and girls in marginalised communities. Temwa, the founder of a tourism startup, has used her storytelling skills to understand and describe Vanessa’s produce design work in Blantyre.
Mozambique: Wacy Zacarias and David Pinto Calvo Aguacheiro
Wacy wears two hats; one as a healer, and another as a sustainable textile and fashion designer. In his story, the Maputo-based filmmaker, David brings these two roles together exploring how Wacy’s work as a healer influences her design work.
Zambia: Betty Chilonde and Sekayi Fundafunda
Both Betty, as a designer, and Sekayi, as a storyteller, are passionate about the fashion industry in Zambia. Sekayi has created imagery that explore both fashion in Zambia and Betty’s work.
South Africa: Matthew Edwards and Stefanie Jason
Stefanie who is both writer and art historian met with Matthew’s to find out about his New Projects: Johannesburg’s Material Future, an innovative space for people engaging on how to rethink waste and the material future of Johannesburg.
Mauritius: Mahendra Gooroochurn and Mehryne Annooar
Mehryne and Mahendra have identified designers creating a circular economy in Mauritius. Mahendra believes the circular economy is the way to heal the island’s environment.
Mehryne says, “Working with Mahendra and circular designers made me realise how important it is to make their voices heard.” While Temwa says, “I’ve learnt how to live and practice the principles you believe in from entrepreneurs and designers in the circular design space. I’ve also learnt to honour the work of people who trust me to tell their stories.”
In 2019, the designers attended the UK-based Circular Design Lab hosted by the British Council in partnership with Ellen MacArthur Foundation which followed the foundation’s circular design framework. The designers’ workshop saw participants from ten Sub-Saharan countries meet for a week of design workshops and creative exchanges. The workshops provided learnings and insights, and opened up new discussions around overcoming existing challenges for the participants in each of their areas and countries. The discussions were led by leaders from the UK’s design industry, including Community 21, Materiom, Ma·tt·er, Open Cell, Raeburn, Makerversity, Somerset House, Design Museum, and the Royal Society of Arts.
British Council’s Hannah Robinson, recalls the key learnings from the designer workshops in London: “With designers coming together from ten countries, an exciting exchange around local principles of regenerative thinking and circular design emerged, ranging from material choices to embodied knowledge to public engagement and communication design. The group unpacked how different practices respond to, both local and global, social and environmental challenges. The notion of visual vocabularies, language, lexicons and the communication of sustainable practice became a key emerging theme.”
The designer-storyteller partnerships have yielded very different ways of imagining the design space within their respective communities. The techniques of storytelling range from comic book art, to photography, features and mini video documentaries.
Design Futures Africa supports a just transition from a linear economy (take-make-waste) to a circular economy. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, design is key to the first principle of the circular economy, which is to “design out waste and pollution.” Why is this project important? Grace Meadows at the British Council, says, “The climate crisis is a rapidly growing global concern. Design Futures Africa presents an opportunity to inspire both storytellers and creatives to facilitate necessary climate narrative conversations that will inspire and mobilise communities already engaged in sustainability. The hope is to give greater visibility to the game-changing design coming from Southern Africa that is already making effective contributions to our local environments and shared from our own perspectives.”
Hannah says, “I’m excited to see a new generation of practitioners collaborating and initiating new conversations between designers, scientists, technologists, and artists. Through embracing the nuances of how regenerative thinking manifests and is communicated across the globe, the design community can take a step closer to designing a more positive future for our planet and explore what we, as global design community, can learn from each other.”
The project enriches the development of circular design while exploring conversations about designing for the future. One of its ambitions is to communicate the work of the designers to the rest of the world and entrench a meaningful understanding about the prospect of the Sub-Saharan Africa design sector.
Twyg’s Jackie May says, “Collaboration is essential for creating and imagining better futures and for bringing to life these imagined futures. Design Futures Africa is a reflection and interrogation on circular, sustainable and regenerative design on the continent. For many of the writers and designers, these practices are inherent to indigenous practices and African cultures, which makes engaging with their stories very poignant.”
The project is managed by Twyg and supported by the British Council. Find the storyteller biographies here.
About British Council
British Council is the United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. Design Futures falls under its Southern African Arts programme, which has developed cultural connections between young people aged 18 – 35 in the UK and Southern Africa with a range of arts projects and use of digital platforms to build creative networks through art forms including, fashion, music, film, design and more.
The non-profit company is a media and communications brand encouraging an eco-conscious and progressive lifestyle. It inspires with stories about fashion, people, food and places that don’t harm the planet nor people. Twyg is a fast-developing brand, founded and edited by Jackie May, who has over 20 years of experience working in media. It focuses on sustainability issues and is driven by young energetic local writers across Southern Africa.
- Jackie May, Project Director
- Email: Jackie@twyg.co.za
- Cell: 082 825 1855
- Illustration: Francesco Mbele @franadilla
- Photos in the first gallery: Twyg
- Photos in the second gallery and the final image: Circular Design Lab, London 2019, photography by Alice Whitby