The week of the Design Indaba 2018 felt like stuff out of the movies – you know, the kind that leaves you at the edge of your seat, star-struck-type vibes, gushing, groupie-like pandering? Yes, that type of insane admiration! Hosted at the LISOF Johannesburg campus, there was a true feeling of wonderment in every attendee who, in between watching various talks, got a glimpse of the way things are done at LISOF: which is to create a space for new design thinking and encourage the design process.
Look – it was inspiring in many ways but in other ways, downright humbling. Almost an awakening of some sort – to the sheer realisation that your life/work is still, uhmm, errr…. let’s just say – a work in progress. That’s how I felt (pretty much) the entire week – as I played make-believe, feigning limp attempts to look relevant – like, I’ve got something to offer the world. Yes, that kind of grand, movie-star-like-confidence – the stomach–in-chest-out-Bheki Cele-type of moves, the fake-it-till-you-make-it kind?
I guess what I’m trying to say is – that’s the kind of effect the Design Indaba will have on you – making you feel like you matter. Day 3 allowed us to get access to a talk by set designer, Es Devlin who is on a first name basis (as you would, of course) with Beyonce, Kanye West, Rihanna, U2, Adele (need I say more) which is no small feat, right? This type of Hollywood stuff rubs off on you. The fabulous network of world shakers making an impact in their creative disciplines, meeting new people and mingling in your aspiring world and drawing inspiration from the gushing well of creative ingenuity is life-giving.
They make it look so easy though that you’d be deceived into thinking that they were hit by a stroke of luck from heaven above. But many talked, like Devlin, about their tireless efforts to hone their craft. Take Es on the third day, for instance (yes, yes, you tend to feel like you know them too on a first name basis) – talked about the lessons she learnt out of playing the violin in her younger years – that in fact, nothing comes easy. The idea of practise makes perfect in playing a musical instrument has become part of her own work ethic. Her interpretation of the briefs she gets from clients was a lesson in being adept in giving “artists a visual voice” as she calls her trade as well as having an acute understanding of their brand and public persona. This talented artist’s life was never the same after she came back from watching a live Boomtown Rats performance – she knew from that point on, that she wanted to translate visual manifestations for performers and THAT she does very well.
Many times, I couldn’t help wonder how on earth many of the speakers came up with the ideas they conjure up, how they make them come alive in ways, my brain has never done before. So great, so revolutionary, you start to believe you can walk on water.
Another speaker I was in awe of, was Tomo Kihara, termed a playful interventionist and design researcher – did you know anything like this existed?! This is not the kind of thing they tell you about in career guidance classes, I can tell you that much. This young maverick was driven by a desire to tackle homelessness in the world (this kind, doesn’t think small) – so, if you are going to follow in the footsteps of this lot, small ideas won’t take you anywhere – think BIG, sky-size BIG. Kihara developed an alternative to begging, a prototype device called the “Street Debater.” This is a gadget designed to remove the negative feelings evoked by street begging (humiliation, lack of dignity, feeling invisible etc) creating engagement in the process of giving and being given money. Some of the activations of this device entailed using pictures of Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump and a passer bye would have to predict using their money who will become President leading up to the American elections. A bit like begging with a purpose – this gadget sparks conversation and more importantly, overcomes social segregation whilst earning an unemployed and destitute person £135 per hour.
That Design Indaba crowd were on top of their form last week showing you and me that in fact there’s a place for everyone in this world – from the faux movers and shakers like me, real, global and local thought leaders to our very own Joburg class of Emerging Creatives who already believe that the world, through their raw talent, is their oyster. LISOF provided the perfect venue to host all of the Design Indaba frenzy, to allow the artists to express themselves and attendees to wander through the campus inspired by the newest talent.
Written by: Anda Ngani