African Avant Garde

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In this essay there will be a discussion about how the colonization of Africa by Europe influenced the development of new design languages by introducing foreign cultures. In 1652 the Dutch started to occupy the southern tip of Africa. As they expanded, they were later joined by Germans, French, Scandinavians, British, Indians, Indonesians and Malagasians to name but a few and started to mainly mix with Khoisan, Xhosa and Zulu people.. This led to a countless mixture of all aspects of culture and to prove the fusion of culture one can merely refer to the fact that within the above mentioned groups a new race came forth which today is known as Cape Coloureds. They have their own way of speaking, singing and expressing themselves. If one looks, it is inevitable that when people interact so closely with each other that they would start to blend their traditional art and crafts. To support what is said above there will be five examples of contemporary African, Avant Garde products to serve as evidence in the following order; Figure 1: Pichulik Ndebele Necklace by Pichulik, Figure 6: The Story Vase by Front Design and the Siyazama project from the KZN, Figure 12: Nguni dinning chair by John Vogel, Figure14: Indigi Design’s stool by Natalie du Toit from Indigi Designs and Figure 18: Imbenge wire weaved bowl by Marisa Fick-Jordaan from ZenZulu. To understand the statement above, the Avant Garde example of Pichulik fusion of contemporary Western jewellery and traditional African Ndebele jewellery will be discussed.

Katherine-Mary Pichulik creates authentic, unique, Avant Garde neckpieces and accessories like never seen before. As a child growing up in Morningside, Johannesburg, she tells about decorating herself with found pieces and objects of shell and wood as from a young age (Malibongwe Tyilo, 2013). She likes exotic things, says colour is not limited to her creations. She makes jewels from found objects from both the striking and mundane, some are wearable and some set aside for the Avant Garde woman, but always trying to balance the fine line between idea and wear-ability (Katherine-Mary Pichulik, 2013). She lived in South East London, in a pretty wild suburb between Lewisham and New Cross and later made India her home. On the banks of the river Ganges in Varanasi, as she watched children play with kites and over looked the city’s rooftops, that she had the flash of inspiration that lead to her forming her brand, Pichulik. Pichulik’s African inspired necklaces and bangles made out of rope and collected objects and materials (Malibongwe Tyilo, 2013).

Referring to Figure 1: Pichulik Ndebele Necklace, Pichulik has formed a work of art using rope and string to create this contemporary Avant Garde African Ndebele inspired necklace. By combining the spirit of an African culture and western sophistication Pichulik creates what she calls “turning this inspiration into bespoke, wearable pieces that re-conceptualise the tribal, African aesthetic” (Malibongwe Tyilo, 2013). The most distinguishing culture in the country is most definitely the Ndebele culture. They are set apart by the extravagant beaded clothing of the woman, the rings worn around their necks, arms and legs, referring to Figure 3: Traditional Jewellery of Ndebele, usually worn during rituals such as initiation and weddings. Their homes are another thing that sets them apart, referring to Figure 4: Ndebele Colours and Patterns that is a trademark of their culture and has the beautiful and distinguishable geometric mural art (South Africa, 2013). The variety of beadwork that the Ndebele woman adorns themselves with symbolises their social status, love of colour and age (Forafricanart, 2012). Referring to Figure 4: Ndebele Colours and Patterns, one can see a traditional Ndebele woman whose husbands are yet to build them a home, because she is wearing a rholwani, this hoop will be cut of and replaced with a copper, brass or plastic bands, called idzilo, when her house...
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