During our stay in Johannesburg, we meet up with journalist Laurice Taitz to discover South African design. Taitz is also a mediatrix and the publisher/editor of “Johannesburg in Your Pocket” city guide.
We start the day in the art district of Johannesburg, Rosebank. Rosebank is famous for being a cosmopolitan commercial and residential suburb to the north of central Johannesburg. Rosebank is full of high-end malls and is a very popular hub for shopping and entertainment. The destination is a popular hangout spot for celebrities, designers, and has a bustling nightlife with various bars and clubs around the district. There are pavement cafes, restaurants, luxury hotels, theaters, and art galleries in Rosebank. The Rooftop Market and the African Craft Market are some of the most popular tourist attractions. Rosebank is full of designer boutiques and amazing art deco architecture.
Tawanda Takura art and other African artists in Guns & Rain Gallery
Zimbabwean visual artist Tawanda Takura is on a three-month residency in Johannesburg with Guns & Rain in collaboration with the famous art studios Bag Factory. The Bag Factory has excelled in championing art exchange programs between international artists who work with local artists to exchange ideas. The collaboration between Guns & Rain and the Bag Factory opened on April 10 and lasts until May 10 in Dunkeld, Johannesburg. Guns & Rain is an art gallery that focuses on contemporary art from southern Africa. Guns & Rain partnered with African Reclaimers Organization, which is an NGO that works with reclaimers in Johannesburg, from which Takura is sourcing his materials.
He sources the materials and transforms them into beautiful sculptures that have political meaning. Takura creates work that is symbolic of politics and religion and tells a collective story of an increasingly consumerist world. He creates animal sculpture-masks, that are created from found objects such as discarded shoes. Some of his artwork is very sensational and disturbing. One of his sculptures, “Takura Born in 1989,” tells the tale of Takura who used to be a shoemaker. His job as a shoemaker involves him reassembling old shoes which carry a smell of rubber and leather. His artwork comments on political injustice and is distorted and carnivalesque in nature.
Other artworks at Guns & Rain Gallery are patchwork by Sizwe Sibisi. The patchworks he creates are hand-stitched and made with linen, flannel, lycra, and cotton. His quilt artworks celebrate the LGBTQ community. He uses vibrant colors and layering in order to celebrate women and motherhood. One of his notable artworks is “Respect = Love”, which uses colorful half-circle patterns layered onto geometrical shapes in his patchwork pattern.
Kim Sacks Gallery
The Kim Sacks Gallery first opened in 1986 and moved in 1998 to its present home in the center of Johannesburg’s gallery strip in Parkwood. The building uses a traditional adobe style. The gallery is full of contemporary artworks with blends of rural creativity, fine craft, urban design, and folk art.
Kim works with Southern African rural and urban craftspeople. There are international exhibitors who are designers as well as people who make contemporary products using traditional techniques. Kim creates artwork out of recycling, constructing, and redefining form and function. Her artworks represent what it means to be living in Africa. Her gallery exhibits fiber art, including baskets hand-woven, African ceramic sculptures, beads, and sculptures made of wire. Current exhibitions include the Botanical Exhibition, which is an exhibition of hand-crafted works in ceramics, wood, fiber, metal, and paper. Some artists include Kate van Putten, Sonja Kastner, and Peta Becker.
Her famous exhibit at her gallery includes tribal art representative of African culture. The gallery is a mixture of tribal and contemporary fine craft and design from all over Africa. Many of the ceramics are ancient artifacts from generation to generation in Africa.
Beck Ernst is a curator of fine home decor, furniture, and art with a passion for homegrown South African design. The current collection features an eclectic fusion of traditional artifacts mixed with modern art and design. Beck Ernst is an African decor boutique in Joburg. Their minimalist boutique is very spacious and their products on sale are a representation of Africa’s diverse cultures, from South African ceramics to carved wooden totems. There are Nigerian copper sculptures and Ethiopian baskets in the boutique.
Mash. T Design Studio is a South African furniture and design studio founded by Thabisa Mjo, with the main focus and philosophy to tell unique South African stories using the medium of design. The studio has showcased at exhibitions such as Milan Design Week 2019, and currently has products at Bonne Esperance Gallery in Paris.
Always Welcome Store
Always Welcome Store is a showroom for modern African design, brick lights, and console cabinet. The store sits at Hyde Park corner, they are a new store for local designer homeware. Dokter and Misses is a Johannesburg-based multi-disciplinary product design company.
Established in 2007 by industrial designer Adriaan Hugo and graphic designer Katy Taplin, they develop furniture, lighting, and interior solutions for private and corporate clients. Their hand-painted pieces form a catalog of limited edition collectible work that has been exhibited all over the world. Products contain a similar theme of modernism, with strong construction lines and bold colors.
Mash. T is leading the charge to create a contemporary craft-driven design aesthetic for Africa. They are an award-winning Joburg-based design house. Founded by Thabisa Mjo, Mash. T Design Studio recently launched its first line of ceramics. The brand presents home goods such as a colorful Joburg range of vases, planters, platters, fruit bowls, shakers, side plates, and candleholders. The designer showcases different ceramics using expressive patterns, colors, and shapes. Mash. T collaborates with craft makers such as Beauty Ngxongo, Qaqambile Bead Studio, which is a South African fine art beading studio, and also with award-winning furniture brand, Outlander.
Maxhosa Africa is a South African knitwear brand founded in 2012 by Laduma Ngxokolo. Ngxokolo wanted to explore knitwear design solutions suitable for Xhosa, the amakrwala. His vision is to create a modern Xhosa-inspired knitwear collection that is suitable for this market.
Laduma felt that he needed to develop premium knitwear that celebrates traditional Xhosa aesthetics. The Xhosa is a member of a South African group living in the East Cape Province. They are the second largest group in South Africa. When exploring traditional Xhosa beadwork patterns and colors, he thought that the Xhosa were the best source of inspiration for knitwear. He reinterpreted the beadwork into modern knitwear. Maxhosa Africa showcases the beauty, culture, and language of the Xhosa people. He makes the beadwork fashionable and fits into modern trends.
Laduma’s design work has been in the Smithsonian Museum and MOMA in New York. His designs are showcased in Switzerland and Berlin. Because of his authentic design work and exceptional craftsmanship, Maxhosa Africa garments make them stand out among others.