Peter Mabeo: “Art and design is not just for the elite”

Peter Mabeo: "Art and design is not just for the elite"
Collaborative magic: Botswana’s Peter Mabeo (left) and South Africa's Porky Hefer created the Seemo chair together
Collaborative magic: Botswana’s Peter Mabeo (left) and South Africa’s Porky Hefer created the Seemo chair together

Southern Guild Art fair revellers could not get enough of SEEMO a marvel piece of art collaboratively created by Botswana furniture maker Peter Mabeo and South Africa’s Porky Hefer – famed for his jaw-dropping human “bird” nests.

We caught up with the Peter and his views on the art and design world in Africa are pure gold….

Peter Mabeo: "Art and design is not just for the elite"

NAW: What are your comments on the Southern Guild and GUILD 2015?

Peter Mabeo: GUILD 2015 was great. Really well organised, curated and designed. It would be desirable to also make it a platform for even wider design-related activity, especially in the context of spreading design to all parts of society in South Africa as well as Africa.

How did you get to collaborate with Porky Hefer?

I met Porky through Yelda Bayraktar, his wife. She is a creative talent who is based in Cape Town. As she does consultancy and curating work for international design clients, like the Alara concept store in Lagos, we had mutual friends who introduced us. After meeting Porky, seeing his work, and his heartfelt way of working in an unfiltered way, experimenting with birds nest, working with people who are sight impaired, in this instinctive technique, and his desire to change the status quo, of exclusion in creativity, I thoughtit would be good to try something together.

Do you think indigenous Africans are as appreciative of contemporary art, or is it something that is predominantly Caucasian? If so, why?

The reason is rather complex. Africa still has the majority of its people [still poor] although there is a rising middle class. However, the art and design industry is starting to get attention from affluent Africans, although this is a trend-driven interest, which is not ideal. In European culture, art and design are at the forefront of commercial activity in a subtle yet definitive way. Art and design play a significant role in shaping cultural changes. As a result, it’s impact on everyday life, including the economy, is very significant. Industries, most of which draw raw materials from Africa, are shaped by art and design. Marketing companies, engineers, production plants, media and much more are all influenced by art and design – it is the starting point. In Africa we have detached ourselves from this and I believe Africa’s potential will be determined by how much of arole we play in this important space. Stifling creative minds in preference to process-driven engineers, bankers or doctors alone is a limited route, just asis the over-focusing on IT – the trend these days.

So what in your view is the lasting solution?

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Part of the solution could be in greater attention to events like Southern Guild and to other similar initiatives. It is also very important not to compromise on quality and make sure standards of the end product are very high. This applies to all creative fields, be it fashion, architecture, gastronomy, motion pictures, graphic design. We are currently working in reverse. Trendsetters are not creative and this should not be the case.

Who is your target client and fan?

Anyone who appreciates our work, but mostly, those who are done with superficiality. Someone who does not define themselves with the objects they own, or trends they follow. A person who appreciates quality, natural materials, craftsmanship, and timelessness as much as they appreciate being sensitive to others and to the world around them. Someone who seeks to simplify life by surrounding themselves with as little as possible, appreciating tasteful objects of good quality that are tactile and pleasing to interact with. An appreciation of good quality products from Africa that are made by dedicated people.


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