NAIROBI DESIGN WEEK 2019: Culture & Heritage
The fourth Nairobi Design Week took place on 17th-23rd March 2019, under the theme Culture & Heritage. NDW19 invited visitors to discover how East Afrikan heritage has influenced the world we live in today, and how design impacts the culture of the world we will pass on to future generations.
Events took place around the city, at The Alchemist bar, University of Nairobi, and for the first time at Nairobi National Museum, where the exhibition ran for six weeks.
Designers from Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, the UK, Finland and beyond made appearances with projects around the festival theme.
Outer World Women
On display was Outer World Women, a set of artworks which briefed some of Nairobi Design Week’s favourite, East African female artists, illustrators and designers to create a piece inspired around the theme of Africans reconnecting to outer world beings, in collaboration with Africa Nouveau Festival.
The Things That We Do
NEON Studio x 98 Crafted’s collaborative exhibition ‘The Things That We Do’, is a response to gentrification, globalisation and a culture of homogenised creativity. Through the African tradition of storytelling, they discovered and translated local habits into objects co-designed with artisans, supported by the British Council’s ‘East Africa Arts’ Programme, an annual open call for 18-35 year old artists, organisations and collectives from Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, South Sudan, Sudan and Tanzania.
NDW x Matri-Archi
When we think about urban design, we often do not think about the womxn who create, manage and experience the true essence of design and urban space.
Nairobi Design Week and Matri-Archi have come together in a photographic project that generates inquiry and discourse through the many faces that inspire and shape Urban Africa. During the festival, we will showcase a series of portraits of Kenyans with a global awareness of urban womxn, together with their personal narratives of culture and heritage grounded in relevant contemporary issues.
Maasai Selfie Guy
Grishon Ngare of Brickhouse concepts debuted his Maasai selfie guy sculpture, which allows visitors to place their phone in his hand and crowd around for a selfie. Grishon made his first ever work out of 60KSh worth of scrap metal and sold it for 3000KSh. Check out the video below to learn about Grishon’s process and how he got started designing sculptures out of scrap metal.
‘Maasai Selfie Guy’ was created by Grishon Ngare for NDW19
Kenya Lighting Industries created a custom, laser cut artwork for Nairobi Design Week 2019, made out of powder coated steel.
James Shaw is a fine objects designer who runs a studio in south London specializing in the Design and manufacture of bespoke, production furniture, products, sculptural objects and material research. He has exhibited internationally including at the Design museum, The Irish museum of Modern art and many more. He is known for winning the Arc chair Design Award. His work is in the permanent collections of MoMA among others. James’ plastic extrusion gun allows plastic to be recycled into unique products. He ran interactive workshops and exhibited his creations, supported by the British Council’s Design Connections grant programme.
PechaKucha: NDW19 Launch!
Taking place at The Alchemist Bar, one of Nairobi’s most popular creative hangouts, this was an introduction to the festival theme through quickfire talks from projects and organisations featured at the festival, kicked off by RefuSHE and followed up by Kampala Design Week, Matri-Archi, Free Mind Sessions, Greenobi, Studio NEON, James Shaw, Dream Studio Kenya and Kenya Lighting Industries.
Careers in Design
Hosted at the University of Nairobi in collaboration with the Design Students Association, Careers in Design gave students and professionals opportunities to showcase work, take part in portfolio workshops and network with industry mentors.
Osborne Macharia and Kevo Abbra of K.63 Studio, who have worked with clients such as Marvel, Coca-Cola, Guinness, Danone, KFC and countless others. They’ve created artworks for the London premiere of Black Panther in Leicester Square and multi-sensory, experiential projects such as Air Gikosh (pictured below). They gave an inspiring talk about the importance of process, with Osborne telling the audience that as a creative “you always have to have side projects to keep you growing”.
Design & Architecture Students
Perhaps most exciting were the presentations from students. Judith Musangi got a round of applause for her needlework with an intricate, handmade backpack. The Architectural Students Association presented architectural renderings (top picture) and animations that took the breath away, with a redesign concept for the University of Nairobi. Grishon Ngare talked about his story and introduced the Maasai Selfie Guy sculpture and Kaviki Muema was among the creatives displaying their work (2nd from top). The Design Students Association not only provided speakers and panel moderators, but also volunteers for the entire festival, who deserve special recognition.
Orkidstudio followed up the success of last year’s workshops with a second appearance at Nairobi Design Week, introducing architectural students to the best ways of presenting work in their portfolios, answering many questions about the industry and how to get a head start. Students were reminded that a portfolio represents the best of a designer’s work, so should only include their strongest projects, choosing quality over quantity. At design school, we were always told “a designer is only as good as the weakest work in their portfolio”.
Mark Stephenson, Managing Director of Sandstorm Kenya, was on hand to present their newest collaboration with Nairobi Design Week. Sandstorm always try to work with the community, in the most suitable ways possible. The Leather Offcut Challenge will ask designers to submit their best ideas for recycling small pieces of leather discarded during the manufacturing process of Sandstorm bags. Full project details will be announced in June.
Making another appearance at NDW, Fady Rostom of Ark Africa gave the audience insight into his early career and previous projects, such as the rebrand of Java House, as well as projects that the creative agency is currently working on.
Nairobi Design Institute
Pauline Kanana of NDI introduced Kenya’s newest design school, and talked about how they enable creative leadership through design education. They’re building a culture and a centre of learning where students go beyond pure aesthetics and technical expertise to think critically, intelligently and empathise humanely about their design practice and its effects on people’s daily lives.
At RefuSHE’s open days, visitors got to learn how the amazing, shibori tie-dye scarves are made, going through the entire process. The most impressive part is the scarves are just a small fraction of the work that #RefuSHE do as part of their holistic approach, of helping women refugees and their children access education, safe space, resettlement and more.
Workshop Nairobi organised a Design Tour of their space at Nairobi Design Week 2019, showing visitors how their products are made and giving them a chance to relax in their plush furniture. The first visitors of the day also received photo stands as gifts. For the footstools they use offcuts of wood to save on materials, and exploring their process it was great to see they’ve stuck to a concise line of products, which allows them to focus on quality.
Free Mind Sessions
An intimate panel discussion in the amphitheatre of the Nairobi National Museum focused gave everyone in the room an opportunity to share their thoughts and ask questions. Featuring Lulu Kitololo, Chepkemboi Mang’ira, Bryan Graff of Matwana Matatu Culture and Isa Mohamed of Black Rhino VR, hosted by Nyacomba ‘Jonas’ Githu and Lindsay Obath.
The day started with a keynote from Mark Kamau of BRCK and local expert panels moderated by Sandra Chege of British Council Kenya. The panels featured Chao Taiyana of African Digital Heritage, Emuron Alemu of Ogilvy Africa, Eric Kibe of GOPA and Kamau Wanyoike of Ark Africa. The day culminated in an international panel featuring Kristen de Valliere of Say hi to, Eugene Kavuma of Kampala Design Week and Adrian Jankowiak of Nairobi Design Week.
Keynote by Mark Kamau (Director of UX, BRCK).
Chao Taiyana (African Digital Heritage)
Eugene Kavuma (Founder, Kampala Design Week)
Emuron Alemu (Group Creative Director, Ogilvy)
Kristen de Valliere (Founder, Say hi to)
Panels moderated by Sandra Chege (British Council Kenya)
Every visitor was provided with snacks throughout the day by Nairobi Nibbles as they listened to fascinating stories of how understanding of culture can strengthen problem solving through design. Emuron is a multiple award winning creative director who thrilled us on stage with stories of embracing local culture to solve wicked design problems such as sexual reproductive health. After following her passion for years, Tayiana Chao found herself in Glasgow studying Heritage Visualisation.
Chao is the founder of Thee Agora, #SavetheRailway and #AfricanDigitalHeritage and works with the British Council. Kamau is a multi-disciplinary designer and creative lead at @arkafrica specialising in creative direction, identity and brand design, and corporate communication, with vast experience in the creative industry, providing creative leadership to refresh and transform brands, having worked with leading creative agencies and media houses, NGOs and government agencies across east Africa.
See the full schedule and list of speakers at Nairobi Design Week 2019.
Maker day of it
Maker day of it is all about showing the process of making, and getting visitors involved in experiencing the journey of creation. Makers, designers, artists and other creatives were invited to share stories and sell products, with appearances from Lulu Kitololo, Riko Love Crafts, Tira Studio, Love Artisan, Imani Collective, Erregatti, Provisions Kenya, and Tibeb Leather Works from Ethiopia. The festival finished with a set by the Ubantu team in the courtyard of the Nairobi National Museum, with creatives socialising over Kenyan Originals iced teas and ciders.
We’d like to thank all of our partners for taking part in Nairobi Design Week 2019. There will be lots more happening throughout the year!