Submitted by: Nicole Lisa Yablonski, Fine Arts Library Assistant, Saskatoon Public Library


Contemporary Design: Africa
By: Tapiwa Matsinde

A Thames and Hudson book

Frances Morrison Fine Arts Library
745.0967 MATS


Africa is huge — It’s the second largest continent and, with over 50 countries, calling it multicultural is stating it lightly. On top of the 50 plus countries, emigration and immigration have played significant roles in shaping African culture today. Unfortunately, African art has been misrepresented as only ‘safari chic;’ romanticized wooden statues, masks, animal prints and tribal markings that are often popular with tourists. In a complex continent like Africa, it should come as no surprise that ‘safari chic’ is only a very small type of African art. Tapiwa Matsinde’s showcase of African arts, crafts and designs exposes its’ readers to a richer, more spectacular, vision of Africa.

Shine Shine, Julie Juu and Jennifer, Paris Textiles.

Shine Shine, Julie Juu and Jennifer, Paris Textiles.

Matsinde takes her readers through the work of over fifty artists and designers creating contemporary and modern African art. The focus is placed on the key areas: basketry, ceramics, furniture, lighting, décor and textiles. Many of the designers featured are working with sustainability and recycling as primary concerns while also highly aware of traditional African craftwork. Skills discussed range from indigo dying, a traditional deep blue dye used on textiles, to water gilding, a North African technique that requires intensive training and patience to master.

The image of the cone vessel on the cover comes from the company ZENZULU™ which is known for its innovative use of telephone wire. Yes, that’s right the bowl on the cover is made from telephone wire! ZENZULU™ has collaborated with Fabrica and Oscar del la Renta, among many others, and their craft is considered a classic design staple of South Africa. Another amazing company is Shine Shine, a textile company that creates amazing funky and colourful prints with loads of attitude, humour and urban glamour.

Matsinde’s book is vibrant. For every page of text about an African company or art form there are two showing pictures of the work created. This book won’t bog its’ readers down with technical jargon and long histories. It is more interested in showing off some of the impressive skills and marvels of African art. The pictures are downright stunning. Colours and textures stand at attention on the crisp white pages. Simply flipping through the book will give any craft worker years of inspiration.