Design that draws from its environs and cultural context
I get so upset when I’m home in Kenya and see the proliferation of generic, probably Chinese-made, furniture and fixtures. The materials used are sometimes not suitable for the climate, the aesthetics have no thread (heh!) of cultural relativity and it’s just another example of the wholesale adoption of all things Western without consideration of our identity and local opportunities.
There IS another way. There are people making amazing things that use local materials and draw upon traditional techniques and unique cultural aesthetics. Imagine if more of us appreciated and supported such work. Not only would we help to grow an indigenous industry (and perhaps even help to preserve traditional knowledge and to preserve cultures!) but we’d be adding more ‘colour’ and richness to our daily lives.
To me there’s nothing more enjoyable, inspiring and uplifting than being around passionate people. I advocate doing what you love and loving what you do. This informs my work: it is the mission of my company, Asilia, to work with passionate people and help more people turn their dreams and ideas into a reality. It also involves my blog, Afri-love, which showcases various fruits of passion (mostly to do with creative expression, a very apt conduit), shares the challenges involved and aims to inspire more people, in particular Africans (on the continent as well as in the Diaspora) to drop the drudgery and embrace a new attitude and adventure.
Celebrating African creativity
The continent of my birth is so rich with complexity and the myriad forms and styles of creative expression, traditional and contemporary, reflect that well. I’m always discovering new gems, provocative ideas and exemplary artists, designers, innovators, entrepreneurs and initiatives.
All these finds help to encourage me in my work and ambitions, as well as excite me about the burgeoning African and Diaspora creative industry. The days of creative professions being seen as non-viable are quickly disappearing and not only does this mean happier people but also, diversification of our markets which means wealth can be spread to a larger group of people.
With Afri-love I share what I discover with the hope that it will have the same or at least some effect on those who I reach.
I think it’s fascinating how people around the world, throughout time, take the time to decorate their bodies, whether this ‘ritual’ of adornment involves body painting and tatooing or wearing jewellery and other accessories. I am inspired by the shapes, colours, textures and ingenuity involved.
The fact that people spend so much time on creating and/or putting on these adornments and how it’s often done with such love, care and attention to intricate detail is one of the wonders of humanity to me! There is something very noble and intrinsically beautiful about it – whether gazing upon a punk or a maasai.