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Design Network Africa Grand Finale in Paris

The Design Network Africa (DNA) will celebrate the fruition of five years and three phases of Africa’s trans-continental designer network programme, with a final group show at Maison & Objet in Paris this September.

11 design companies, from Ghana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal, will each be represented in this grand culmination of the programme as a collective called Design Network Africa. The group exhibit was also at Graphic Africa at Habitat’s Platform Gallery in London, Maboneng in Johannesburg and GUILD International Design Fair in Cape Town.

‘Having worked with Design Network Africa since its inception in 2011, we’re extremely proud of the designers who have formed part of the programme over the years and the diverse ways in which their companies have grown over this time,’ says Trevyn McGowan from The Guild Group. A company which directs the programme from South Africa, through funding and guidance from Danish body CKU (Centre for Culture and Development).

Design Network Africa Grand Finale in Paris
Hamed Ouattara. Photograph by David Crooks.

“We established DNA because we had seen the immense creative talent present in Africa and were surprised by the fact that most of these businesses were unknown internationally. This despite being on par with some of the best design companies in the world, while offering such unique products. We were eager to support this industry, wanting to assist in its growth by supporting it financially. Our aim has been to augment these businesses, both from a commercial viewpoint, as well as from a marketing and promotional perspective.” – Thomas Spanner, CKU Programme Manager

Over the past five-year period, Design Network Africa has supported these companies by providing them with links to world-renowned product developers, business and marketing strategists, photographers and stylists. This has resulted in stronger product ranges, more relevant promotional material, healthier business models and better day-to-day running of these businesses.

‘My business has become much more professional on almost every level,’ attests Marjorie Wallace, owner of Zimbabwe’s Mutapo Pottery. ‘Design Network Africa has offered us opportunities we would never have had before, especially given the isolation Zimbabwe has experienced in the last decade.’ These opportunities include a collaboration with South African recycled-design champion Heath Nash, and mentoring from fellow ceramicist Lisa Firer. ‘Now, I feel more in touch with the world,’ Wallace says. ‘I’ve made connections and I feel like I’m part of something much bigger than my own business.’

Design Network Africa Grand Finale in Paris
Marjorie Wallace. Mutapo Pottery. Photograph by David Ross

Kenyan jewellery and accessories designer Adele Dejak, who has also been part of Design Network Africa since the beginning, agrees. ‘We are part of an African Renaissance movement that heralds an incredible future while highlighting the beauty and promise of African art and culture. This DNA collective has given us a sense of purpose and recognition.’ One of the projects was to rebrand the Adele Dejak brand. ‘The programme has catapulted my company’s development and recognition beyond Kenya,’ she says. Her 12 500 Instagram followers from around the world are proof of this global appeal.

The exhibition at September’s Paris show at Maison & Objet will be a highlight for these designers. Some of whom have not yet shown in France, and all of whom will be in attendance at the prestigious design and décor fair.

Participating companies Design Network Africa include:

Design Network Africa Grand Finale in Paris
Nulangee. Babacar Niang. Photograph by David Crooks.
  • AAKS (Ghana)
  • Adele Dejak (Kenya)
  • Diallo Designs (Mali)
  • Djiguiyaso Cooperative (Mali)
  • Mutapo Pottery (Zimbabwe)
  • Ndomo (Mali)
  • Nulangee (Senegal)
  • Sky Décor (Kenya)
  • Studio Hamed Ouattara (Burkina Faso)
  • Tekura (Ghana)
  • Uganda Craft (Uganda)

To find out more about The Design Network Africa, visit their website.

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