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Totemism: Memphis Meets Africa

Lidewij Edelkoort curates Totemism: Memphis Meets Africa at Design Indaba Expo starting tomorrow in Cape Town.

By Katie Dominy /asdf 28-02-2013

Created purely from work from South African designers, Lidewij Edelkoort’s Totemism: Memphis Meets Africa will be unveiled tomorrow at the launch of Design Indaba Expo. Set in the centre of the Expo, the exhibition features work from 53 designers across all disciplines whose work chimes with the renewed interest in the 80’s Memphis movement and on this occasion, also with a distinctly African edge.

The selection includes more established designers such as Porky Hefer, Ronel Jordan and Ardmore Ceramics, alongside new talents such as Isabeau Joubert, Siyanda Mbele and Warno Rüde. spoke with Edelkoort about the show.

Why Totemism: Memphis Meets Africa? Why is it important?

“Working on my trend forecasts for 2014 and beyond, it suddenly became very clear to me that there is a kinship between the Memphis ideas and South African style, between shantytown colours and Italian kitchen laminates from the 1980s. I believe it is the stacking and layering of colour and materials that deliver a totemic quality to some South African designs - and totems are a very big trend right now!

“One of the most iconic design objects ever is the Carlton Cabinet by Ettore Sottsass that looks and acts like a totem, with a strange African vibe, going in all directions and stretching out its arms to the world. Alessandro Mendini’s vases are also totemic constructions with an African echo. The use of tactile matter, coloured patterns, wild animal skins, fringes and finishes, lightbulbs and neons are all reason to believe that we can expect a Memphis-inspired revival of some magnitude very soon.”

Can you tell us about some of the designers you are showing?

“The process of inviting designers to submit works through the Internet has led to many new and exciting discoveries. The exhibition at Design Indaba Expo will include around 70 creations, including the hybrid totems of Nawaaz, interesting graphics by Kristen Morkel, coloured vases by Clementina van der Walt and a curious still life landscape by Anja de Klerk.”

Why do you think Memphis has come back into trend/fashion?

“There are various reasons behind the Memphis revival, including Dutch influences such as the new colours used by Scholten and Baijings and the humorous masks by Bertjan Pot. In London Design Week last September, I also came across interesting glass stacking by Jon Male called Rebay – they simply buy coloured glass plates and bowls and layer them in a wonderful homage to the Memphis movement. Fashion was very much a forerunner to the Memphis revival with its incredible focus on colour-blocking over the past few seasons. During the 80's, pop icons like Grace Jones dressed and moved like Memphis design in loud and distinct colourful outfits (they're also currently making a major comeback in fashion!).”

In what ways do you see the African version of Memphis as different from its original form?

“The African version will irreverently use rich and poor materials, often embracing discarded ingredients such as heavier steel and recycled aluminium. African patterns will emerge, as will the use of black and white or animal skins and patterns almost as neutrals. Local matter such as grasses, earth and mohair will reflect today's interest in natural and sustainable materials, and inspiring local African folklores will be revisited. In South Africa, the potjie culture (the potjie is a cast-iron cooking pot) could become a focus point to draw from, redesigning pots, stoves, plates and bowls as well as cutlery. The world is looking to Africa to be inspired!”

Design Indaba Expo is presented with the support of Woolworths, Interactive Africa & Design Indaba Expo and runs March 01-03 2013 at Cape Town International Convention Centre

Main: Lidewij Edelkoort, photography Ruud van der Peijl  
1 Nawaaz
2 Kristen Morkel
3 Rudolph Jordaan & Micah Chisholm
4 Clementina van der Walt
5 The Batonka Stool Totem, Ardmore
6 Curious Still Life Landscape, Anja de Klerk

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