Design Indaba Day 3: Pedro Reyes, Oded Ezer and Google’s Robert Wong

Brokenhearted that it’s all over… a last fix from Design Indaba 2011. And the highlights of the last day were …
Pass the envelope please

As Mexico’s drug war has escalated so has the number of deadly weapons. Pedro Reyes wanted to do something about it. He came up with a campaign that involved creating a series of TV spots in the “shape of a soap opera” entreating the audience to bring a gun to city hall in exchange for a coupon you could trade for a microwave or other household appliances. It broke the record for the voluntary donation of arms with 1527 guns handed in. They were taken to a factory and melted down and fabricated into 1527 shovels. There was “not a big design improvement” is typical of Reyes’ understatement. Just a change in source material – “from an agent of death to an agent of life” as the shovels were handed over to schools and used to plant trees. Continue reading

Design Indaba Day 2: Laduma Ngxokolo, Kiran Bir Sethi and Alberto Alessi

Day 2 of the Design Indaba and I am a believer. All critical distance (well most of it) has been removed and I feel myself edging closer to groupie-dom. If I was to be a groupie on this day these are three people I would groupie around:

Knitwear designed by Laduma Ngxokolo

Eastern Cape designer Laduma Ngxokolo, a graduate of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, who, among a global group of emerging young talent, made that Pecha Kucha format his own. Following that quick format here’s my cut-to-the-chase version.
As part of the ritual of becoming a man young Xhosa circumcision initiates have to kit themselves out in a new wardrobe (all clothing worn before this stage is destroyed – I think, or removed at least, I hope)
After they return their parents like to buy them “high quality men’s knitwear” from international brands like Pringle as even circumcision initiates are highly influenced by global urban style.
Ngxokolo saw the gap. Continue reading

Design Indaba 2011, Day 1 and a half

As is my mood I go from feeling like the poor relation to being smug about my tiny teeny carbon footprint. And when I am not feeling envious of all those who are in Cape Town for the event I start loving the idea of being at the Design Indaba Joburg simulcast – all of 10 minutes from home – at the University of Johannesburg.
Yesterday was day one of what has been billed as 72 hours of creativity. It wasn’t as much of a BIG NAME IN LIGHTS all-star line-up as I had hoped for and it was more portfolio than big ideas about design and the future but the speakers made for an interesting mix:  from American graphic designer Dana Arnett [Harley-Davidson and IBM] whose amusing video about the designer and their client – “Can you make that logo a hair bigger? … My logos are not to be read. They are to be communed with” Continue reading

Attend the Design Indaba in Johannesburg

Get excited about this year’s Design Indaba as Cape Town’s premier event will be in Joburg next week. With the main conference sold out in CT the organisers have come up with simulcast events in both cities. I am planning to attend DI2011: A Better World Through Creativity, at the Arts Centre Theatre of the University of Johannesburg, Kingsway Campus, for the three-day programme starting Wednesday next week.

I have been to the Design Indaba Expo a few times and last attended Design Indaba on its 10th anniversary in 2007. Then I was watching a presentation on Germany’s World Cup Fan Fests and trying to imagine what World Cup 2010 would be like. Done that!

I am a huge fan of this event that brings together an incredible array of creative minds to share their experiences and inspiring works. It’s the South African equivalent of TED, just a whole lot more stylish. In 2007 my favourite presenters included Professor Neil Gershenfeld, Director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (just the name of that centre would have been enough) who spoke about small-scale project centres that enabled people from severely un-advantaged communities to take part in creating technology and not just consuming it. It was brought together under the idea of “personalising fabrication”  – that if you give ordinary people access to modern means of invention – a lab – you get extraordinary things. Continue reading

The 2010 Flux Trend Review

#183. Plan ahead. The annual Flux Trend Review is a collection of essays brought together by Dion Chang, to put words to the “state we are in”. This year’s edition (the third) is from an eclectic mix of viewpoints on mostly everything under the formerly cloud-laden sky, from our relationship with technology and the social web to our overwhelming desire to slow things down, from the anticipated real impact of the soccer world cup to the world become undone by the global recession.There are big questions asked and answers given on everything from our health to the labels we covet.

Flux Trend Review Cover 2010

There’s talk of the power of word of mouse and lots about what’s shaking up the old media business (Irwin Manoim) and even an essay on how the rainbow nation hasn’t ended with a pot of gold by Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya. I liked the cute piece on soccer players eclipsing rock stars as the new celebrities and the idea that as the world reels from massive retrenchments and job losses there is a trend towards reassessing our working lives and re-crafting them to be less of a wage slave cliche.

So that’s the state we are in and you have to humour a trend consultancy that labels itself Flux. At this point I should disclose that I had a small hand in the book (as a copy-editor on the project). But it’s not for this reason that I am planning on attending the Conference this week (it’s my consolation for not making it to Cape Town’s Design Indaba). It’s an opportunity to have the bones thrown on what the future just might look like.

It all happens on Thursday (February 25) at the University of Johannesburg theatre in Auckland Park and the lineup includes City Press Editor Ferial Haffajee on the state of our nation (If all I know about Ms Haffajee is true then the nation would have got a better deal had they had saved their TV time for her instead of tuning into the more”official” S O N last week) and the “Green Bishop” Geoff Davies on the state of the planet. There is also Mokena Makeka, creative director and MD of Makeka Designs on the topic of “Urban Spaces for Modern Tribes” (he’s also in style bible Visi this month) and Sylvester Chauke, Marketing Manager of one of SA’s cheekiest brands, Nandos SA. There’s something on wellness in the 21st century and lots about living a digital life.

There’s even a bit of poetic license as corporate poet Lebo Mashile rounds off the proceedings. Definitely something to do in Joburg this week. For more or to book a ticket go to http://www.fluxtrends.co.za/

Are we safe?

#152. Wonder whether walls make us safer? This after 24 hours in which I attended a community meeting with a security company in my area and then spent yesterday at a seminar called cracking walls at the Goethe Institute in Parkwood, Johannesburg. The Goethe is thinking a lot about cracking walls, what with the 20th anniversary of the “fall” of the Berlin Wall approaching, and now so am I. Continue reading

Roger Ballen's Boarding House

#135. Go see Roger Ballen’s photographic exhibition at the University of Johannesburg. It’s all black and white, darkness and light, at times playful, always intriguing and sometimes disturbing.

Cat and mouse, 2006 by Roger Ballen

Cat and Mouse, 2006 by Roger Ballen

The American-born photographer has been resident in Johannesburg since 1982. A geologist by training, you could say Ballen’s primary profession underlines his photographic work as he is intent on mining the subconscious.

Tall and soft-spoken, his gaze shifts while he talks as if he is looking past the direct subject for other objects that might frame the conversation. In his photographs objects are made to speak, of other lives and other experiences. They create new meaning in being photographed, and in their interaction with a cast of animals – rats, cats, snakes … who are the co-stars of Ballen’s work. Continue reading

A local Obama?

#80. Wonder whether SA can produce an Obama. Last night I was  at University of Johannesburg listening to a panel discussion convened by The Weekender on the topic: “Can SA produce its own Obama?” The premise for the discussion was: “In the USA the system was able to produce – against all odds, defying conventional wisdom, unsupported by the party machinery and despite deeply rooted racial discrimination [sic] – a new kind of leader. Barack Obama was elected because of his values, his message and his charisma. Could our electoral system produce the “right” leader?”.

Adam Habib, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the university and panel host took on the role of  “devil’s” advocate (and I am not for a minute suggesting he was pretending to be Michael Hulley) Continue reading