In South Africa

Simon Clarke is a Senior Lecturer in Printed Textiles

I was recently back in South Africa after ten years away, with a unique opportunity to extend my research into dress and textiles beyond East Africa and Madagascar. I used to live and work in Kenya so this is where my interest developed – it resulted in a PhD.

picture1bOn the Street, Maboneng – A thriving fashion and vintage scene in the city.

On my first trip to South Africa ten years ago I was in Pietermaritzburg at the University of KwaZulu Natal, giving a conference paper on Kanga, a popular printed cloth worn by women on the coast from as far afield as Somalia to South Africa.

For this trip I was in Johannesburg, specifically in the precinct of Maboneng at the 12 Decade Art Hotel. This was a well-advised base to work out from.  Maboneng is a dynamic enclave of creativity and in the driving seat for art and design; street fashion, product design and fine art. Lots of restaurants and designer/maker markets as well as vintage boutiques.  I was fortunate to meet inspiring designers, artists, photographers, curators and archivists, all offering great support and advice. Meeting the South African photographer David Goldblatt at his home and discussing ideas over peppermint tea and ginger nuts was memorable, but that is one great experience amongst many.

picture1eBack on the street – Bloemfontein precinct

I have written a couple of books, one is called Print: Fashion, Interiors, Art, so the plan is for another book but this time based on the research opportunities emerging around this exciting trip to Africa.

picture1cCommemorative Print in the Wits Art Museum archive; The University of Witwatersrand in the heart of Johannesburg has an excellent gallery space and a dynamic program of exhibitions.

picture1dLocal Elections for South Africa, the posters have clear similarities to commemorative cloth at Wits Art Museum archive.

picture1aArt Hotel Gallery on the same floor as my apartment

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