Kingston University lecturers and graduates have worked together with basket weavers from Zimbabwe, exhibiting contemporary African craft at the London Design Festival 2012.

Kim Richters

KU-Zimbabwean project at London Design Festival 2012

Staff and students from Kingston’s Faculty of Design and the Faculty of Business have collaborated with the basket weaving enterprise, Lupane Women’s Centre, and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, creating Building Baskets which promotes contemporary, as well as traditional African culture.

The unusual partnership came to life after international curator Raphael Chikukwa, who works at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and graduated from Kingston with an MA in Contemporary Curating in 2007, approached Professor Catherine McDermott with the idea of creating a weaving baskets exhibition in Kingston.

‘Western ignorance’

The idea was to overcome the Western ignorance towards African culture. Professor McDermott said: “Contemporary Africa is not really visible in the curriculum yet there is an understanding of African social development and needs, African economies and African creativity. We wanted to introduce these elements into the curriculum of business and design students.”

The exhibition at the Brompton Design District, which ran from September 14 to September 23, was curated by Professor Catherine McDermott, who teaches at Kingston’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture and the Design School. As did recent graduate Candice O’Brien, who is going to be part of the next Kingston-Africa collaboration and will travel to Zimbabwe to curate an exhibition.

Simon Maidment, acting Head of the Knight’s Park based faculty, and Carl Clerkin, who lectures at Knight’s Park as well, designed the baskets which were woven by traditional weavers in Zimbabwe in a two-week workshop.

For Professor McDermott, Building Baskets was an important step to raise awareness of African creativity and economies

“We believe strongly that contemporary African culture and creativity needs to part of the education of our students, especially because African economies are now growing in confidence and growing in scale. Maybe not next year, maybe not in five years, but in the careers of our graduate designers, they will be working more and more with Africa.”

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