10 Design Studios Based In Africa
Africa's artistry, culture, and design has influenced the world for years, even generations, to the point that white designers try to emulate it for themselves. However, in recent years with thanks to organisations such as Design Indaba and Design Week Lagos, we're finally starting to see African designers get the recognition they deserve. As a result, the emphasis has shifted from "African inspired" to "African manufactured." So, for this list, we're focusing on small design studios around the continent who are mixing old and new traditions, exploring movements like minimalism, and repurposing materials for a greener future.
10. nmbello Studio
Nifemi Marcus-Bello founded nmbello Studio, an industrial yet artistic design practice based in Lagos, Nigeria. The studio addresses design problems in a number of fields and welcomes new ideas and perspectives. Their design philosophy is based on empathy, modesty, and reverence, with the expectation that they will learn and improve rather than govern as they progress. As a design studio based in Africa, they've learned that to truly appreciate what the continent has to offer, a great deal of humility is needed.
9. Mabeo Furniture
Mabeo is a Botswana-based furniture and accessory company founded by Peter Mabeo. After ten years of producing bespoke furniture for commercial projects locally, Mabeo launched its products internationally in 2006 and has remained active in the design world ever since, working with some of the best designers on significant projects and creating a growing range of products. The brands aim is to make the work of African artisans accessible to the world in a considered way, this means emphasising certain qualities, such as a simplicity of form, the conscientious use and handling of natural materials, the devotion of the craftsmen and women, with a respect for Africa's rich aesthetic heritage.
8. Àga Concept
Àga Concept is a lifestyle and design brand founded by Nigerian designers that draws inspiration from African culture, artefacts and daily life. The word Àga comes from the Yoruba language and means 'a really useful object or accessory'. This is why the brand focuses on home utensils and accessories, fusing modern fashion and Afro-centric roots with a minimalist aesthetic. The collective is headed by designer Olubunmi Adeyemi, who has also adopted the term ‘AFROMINIMA’ to represent them, it's a movement he champions that stands for “Afrocentric Minimalism”. An approach that combines minimalism and functional design with neo-African culture.
7. Studio Badge
Africa By Design
Studio Badge was created in 2015 in Accra, Ghana, with the aim of using simple building materials and low-tech construction methods to create products with a minimalist and classic aesthetic. Over the course of the last six years, they've moved from being a furniture design and manufacturing house to concentrating on smaller lifestyle items that can be integrated seamlessly into any home or lifestyle. Having an online store has allowed the studio to reach a wider audience, now shipping to countries all over the world and in 2020 they were selected as one of Oprah’s Favourite Things, a great achievement which hopefully broaden their audience even more.
Sinegugu Mchunu, granddaughter of Masterweaver Beauty Ngxongo, established Bambizulu as a platform to showcase the work of artists in the Hlabisa region to a wider audience. Their goal is for the artist to have more control over the price of their work by reducing the number of intermediaries between the artist and the final buyer, meaning that more of the profit goes to the artist directly. Bambizulu creates one-of-a-kind designs and environmentally friendly products that hopefully will inspire more customers to buy locally, to support local job creation and industry.
5. Pinda Design
Siyanda Mbele is a furniture and interior designer from Umlazi, South Africa. He is the founder and owner of Pinda Design, a studio that creates hand-painted furniture inspired by the diversity of South African cultures. When not designing, Siyanda lectures part-time at Durban University of Technology, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Interior Design in 2013. He was also named a winner of Clout Designers' Industry Days Fired Up By Nando's in 2019 for his collection of chair and lighting designs influenced by traditional Zulu culture.
4. Mash T
Thabisa Mjo created Mash. T Design Studio, a South African furniture and design studio to tell uniquely South African stories using the medium of design. Mash. T is developing a new craft-driven design aesthetic for Africa through collaborations. When Thabisa entered the 2015 Nando's Hot Young Designer competition, she gained access to the interior design industry. Nando's was searching for up-and-coming designers to create pendant lights. Despite the fact that she had never designed anything before, she won, and her Tutu lights which were inspired by xibelani skirts were mounted in Nando's restaurants all over the world.
KILUBUKILA is a lifestyle brand based in London and Kinshasa (DRC). Kilubukila translates to 'be wise', this invites individuals to be bold with their creativity but at the same time reshape but maintain the culture of Kongo-Bantû society. They bridge the gap between Congolese craft and design, creating products that brings value to crafts, traditions and modernity which in return builds economic resilience to their collaborators and female artisans in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
2. Atang Tshikare
Atang Tshikare is a self-taught multidisciplinary who lives and works in Cape Town, SA, he founded Zabalazaa Designs in 2010, a deign studio inspired by African sculptures and patterns. Tshikare works with a range of materials including leather, fabric, wood, metal, resin, ceramic, wood, plastic, paper, and bronze. Tshikare collaborates with both local and international artists and has worked on commissions with brands such as Adidas Originals, Puma, BMW and MTV Base. In 2012, he started exhibiting limited-edition work with Southern Guild, incorporating his architectural line-based artwork into furniture and using urban-inspired forms to tell personal stories.
1. Cheick Diallo
The Design Edit
Cheick Diallo's design studio is located in Bamako, Mali, where he was born. Diallo trained as an architect and designer in Paris but creates design projects that reflect his hometown, such as using working primarily by hand and honouring a local tradition of repurposing materials. Diallo Design Studio is located in the suburbs of Bamako, Mali, where a large number of artisans use make-do methods to create domestic items from salvaged materials such as old tyres, bottle tops, cans, and computer batteries. His seats, which are made of a mixture of fishing wire and nylon spread over a metal armature, are inspired by the traditional traps used by Malian fishermen.