Over the last decade I have seen an incredible change in almost every aspect of development in Africa. It is a vast continent with a multitude of nations, each with its own specific issues — political, economic and social — but the common thread running across these nations is a desire to grasp the growing interest of the developed world in the continent’s youthful population and the many lucrative opportunities the continent offers. This foreign investment is essential for progress, growth and development across Africa.
More recently, there has been an explosion of African cultural aspects on the world stage. African art, design, fashion and music are all clearly visible in the style trends across the globe.
A number of years ago, I was chairing a “Female Empowerment” panel discussion in New York. I met Lauren Bush who founded the global fashion label and food program called FEED. She told me that even then, many of the fabrics used by her and her famous father-in-law’s globally-acclaimed fashion company, Ralph Lauren, were dyed and printed for them by communities in Mozambique. During that same visit I met with Francine Le Frak who’s father built one of New York’s largest real estate empires. Francine founded Same Sky, a not-for-profit jewellery initiative, that pays Rawandan women almost 20 times the average wage they would earn locally to create fashionable bead bracelets that are now sold in the stores like Bergdof Goodnam and Saks Fifth Avenue.
The Spring Summer 2017 Fashion week shows had a number of beautiful fashion elements from the African continent. Louis Vuitton designer Kim Jones, who spent his childhood in Africa and is inspired by its natural beauty, presented a number of African elements in his Menswear collection, including accessories in wild animal skins.
Valentino is another global, glamourous label that has often turned to the African continent for inspiration. Designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have often used beautiful Masai patterns on their delicate long lace dresses, fabrics and leather. Prints of wild animals of the African continent: cheetahs, giraffes and the rhino feature prominently on these materials in their collections. Beautifully crafted white ceramic and ostrich feather necklaces have topped off their tribute to the continent’s vibrant natural treasures.
The U.K. based, Ghanian-born architect, Sir David Adjaya OBE designed the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History (NMAAHM) and has been lauded as one of the most inspiring architects in recent times. The NMAAHM is a modern, three-tiered structure sheathed in a bronze-coated aluminum façade, cut with Nigerian tribal Yoruba motifs that the architect has described as “a homage to the enslaved ancestors of many African Americans”. The Museum, which opened in 2016, was one of the most widely acclaimed architectural designs of the year. Celebrated not just for the historical and cultural significance of the contents and exhibits of the museum, the museum is appreciated immensely for its spectacular design elements that have been inspired by the rich African cultures and tribal art and designs.
A CNN report recently featured the rise in global auction prices for contemporary African Art. Bonhams, a leading British auction house in London, stated in this report, that it has seen a five-fold increase in contemporary African art since its foray into this segment in 2007.
As an owner of some beautiful works (paintings and sculptures) by leading young, contemporary African artists like Dylan Lewis and Lionel Smit, I can testify to the growing global allure of African contemporary art. Both these artists feature prominently in the fabulous collection of art and sculpture owned by famed collector and global diamond Tzar-Laurence Graff. Mr. Graff, a prominent, internationally celebrated South African, has a superb collection of contemporary African artworks and installations at his stunning vineyard spa hotel and restaurant-Delaire Graff in Stellenbosch, Cape Town.
Even the travel industry is smitten with Africa. I recently returned from the spectacular Grumeti reserve in the Serengeti in Tanzania. Located in the middle of this vast African reserve, is an incredibly stylish and elegant manor house- Singita Sasakwa Lodge which was voted the number one hotel in the world by Condé Nast Traveler lastyear. Owned by American tech billionaire and conservationist Paul Tudor Jones, the lodge has been beautifully designed to resemble a luxurious Edwardian country manor. Beautiful, original artworks and lush glass chandeliers add a plush touch to the thoughtful but luxurious décor. The stylishly decorated rooms and suites and impeccable service of the highly efficient staff, make a stay at Sasakwa an experience like no other. For those like me, wishing for a more immersive bush experience, Singita Sabora, another luxurious 1920’s style unfenced tented camp, sets another high bar in design décor and incredible service in the bush! This tented camp is set in a beautiful corner of the Grumeti game reserve, teeming with wildlife. Visits to these incredible camps in Africa’s vast game reserves, make one appreciate the appeal of African design and style. Mixed with the thrill of being in the African bush, is the enormous appreciation of the impeccable style, design and standard of their luxury camps. Nowhere in the world have I been to tented camps and lodges in the wild, as beautifully and immaculately conceptualized and designed, as the luxury camps in the African game reserves.
Vibrant African colours, patterns and design styles are grounded in African traditions, but are being masterfully blended with international aesthetics to provide a stunning blend that is globally appealing. This runs through almost everything African, giving this vast continent, it’s vibrant people, special arts and crafts, rhythmic music and dance a well deserved place on the global stage today.
Priti Devi is the Founder and Owner of www.decoratorsnotebook.co