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Let’s do this! Design Indaba 2019

Design Indaba begins on February 27th, and the excitement in Cape Town is palpable. Forget the crashing waves, palm trees and sun – everyone is here for the ideas. A design conference like no other, Design Indaba inspires design activism—its motto is ‘a better world through creativity’ —and the results of each festival can be seen in the ‘design doing’ that happens once presentation projects and provocative ideas receive funding.

There will be over 32 speakers and performers over the three-day conference, some confirmed thought-leaders with eminent careers such as John Pawson, and some speaking about their project at a large conference for the first time in their careers. The alchemy between these speakers and the audience, orchestrated by Ravi Naidoo and his team at Interactive Africa, always inspires, and has instigated many career-changing moments.

This is an annual event I never miss, even if it means travelling for an entire day to get here during fashion weeks and full-on projects like the Design Biennale of Saint-Etienne.

Design Indaba happens at the Artscape theater, which allows for full-on, immersive experiences. One of those will be a performance by street artist and activist Faith XLVII, visual artist Kendizia and musicians Purity Mkhize and Mr. Sakitumi. Faith began as a street artist in post-apartheid South Africa, and she has since created installations around the world that address increasingly pressing topics such as immigration, inclusion and government oppression.

Another eminent thought-leader I am looking forward to hearing from is Alice Rawsthorn, the insightful design critic whose recent book Design as Attitude investigates how design can instigate positive change in an era of great economic, social, political, ecological and technological upheaval.

Bibi Seck, former designer at Renault and co-founder of the design and innovation studio Birsel + Seck will discuss how design needs to be considered an economic resource, across the planet, but particularly in Africa. He and a group of designers have collaborated with Ikea to create the new Överallt collection.

Kye Shimizu is a recent design graduate that uses code to explore the frontiers between fashion and computational design. His Algorithmic Couture project focuses on how data can create a more sustainable fashion future. Sustainability will be a key topic at Design Indaba, and architect Nicole Nomsa Moyo will discuss her waste-to-energy work to transform the lives of people in communities as diverse as Trinidad and Tobago, Africa and Canada.

Oh, and those ground-breaking outfits from The Handmaid’s Tale and Westworld ? 54-year old ‘accidental designer’ Ane Crabtree will share her life designing costumes for the film industry. How did she get to a place where she would influence both fashion and politics? “All of that I attribute to having this rather abstract, alien experience as a mixed-race kid growing up in the projects in Kentucky” says Crabtree. “I was sort of rethinking and sort of re-seeing things in my own way”.

‘Re-seeing’ as a theme will  continue with ‘transspecies’ artists and cyborg activists Moon Ribas and Neil Harbisson. You may remember Neil from our reports that describe the antenna he had implanted in his skull to allow him to perceive invisible colours or receive phone calls directly into his head. And you will get to know Moon Ribas, with whom he cofounded the Cyborg Foundation, an international organization that defends cyborg rights. Moon has had seismic sensors implanted in her feet that allow here to feel earthquakes and moonquakes. She transposes these sensations into installations on-stage.

Stay up to date via WGSN’s social channels for all things Indaba as the conference unfolds!

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