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Creative Hub: An African Platform For Emerging Designers

The Creative Hub in Angola is a new organisation that aims to promote emerging African designers and creatives through facilitated projects.


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Recently launched by CIPRO-Group, an Angolan design company based in Luanda, The Creative Hub has been established with the aim of attracting and supporting local and regional designers, and is already doing a seamless job of creating a new platform for both emerging and established creatives.

The Creative Hub's ethos is rooted in the development of Angolan and African artists, designers and creatives – and as part of the initiative, sustainable processes, craftsmanship and collaboration are at the core of everything the hub aims to do. 

Architect and director of The Creative Hub, John Edwards, explains its aims:

'The Creative Hub, through its various activities, aims to support, promote, showcase and support Angolan design and designers; promote collaboration with other African designers; and design and develop new furniture along with supporting and growing new design-related industries in Luanda,' he says.

The Creative Hub is located at CIPRO-Group's Design Campus on the outskirsts of Luanda's city centre.

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The team pioneering the Creative Hub, including Nkuli Mlangeni-Berg (far left) and John Edwards (second from far right).

Four main kinds of projects are faciltiated by The Creative Hub, and we asked Edwards to briefly provide insight into these programmes.

'The Creative Hub's projects include: a Designer/Maker Residency Programme; a series of workshops (in various design disciplines) hosted by established designers; design events; and a range of bespoke projects and designs for CIPRO-Group departments and external clients,' he says.

Potential applicants can apply for any of their projects on the official website or via The Creative Hub's Instagram page

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The Designer/Maker Residency Programme 

In this programme, a single designer or maker is hosted at CIPRO-Group's Design Campus for an intensive one-month period in which they work on a specific project for one of the various CIPRO-Group departments. All expenses – including flights, accomodation, food and a stipend – are covered by CIPRO-Group.

Successful applicants are mentored by a select group of indivdiuals from varying design-related disciplines in an effort to nuture, inspire and guide them through their creative journey and process.

During the residency programme, various designs will be created and then transformed into real-life prototypes and these in turn could possibly be manufactured by CIPRO-Group. 

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Exploring the basics behind the process of weaving during a recent Creative Hub workshop.

Offering aspiring designers and crafters the opportunity to hone their talent and also explore their capabilities in creating, the Designer/Maker Residency Programme constitutes an innovative approach to growing the talents of emerging artists or creatives. 

Applicants with any relevant training or experience in their creative field are encouraged to apply. 

'The residents will be mainly comprised of – but are not limited to – designers or makers from Angola, the rest of Africa and the African disaspora, as well as Portgual, with no age limit,' says Edwards. 

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Edwards stresses that one of the most powerful aspects of the programme is what happens when creatives collaborate.

'Everyone conceptualises and creates in a different way, and a successful collaboration may lead to a shared awareness and appreciation of each other's skills and ways of making, building on it, leading to an innovative outcome that would not have been possible individually,' he explains. 

The programme started in February 2019 and has seen a number of creatives sharing their skills set with others – including Nkuli Mlangeni-Berg, renowned designer and owner of The Ninevites.

Mlangeni-Berg hosted a Designer/Maker Workshop and a design talk with a focus on weaving. She was also asked to create a rug that drew inspiration from Luanda. The resulting design reflected the city's colours as well as the corrugated metal sheeting used in informal dwellings. 

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Nkuli Mlangeni-Berg with a piece of vegetable-dyed cloth.

During the workshop she facilitated, Mlangeni-Berg taught all 15 participants how to dye materials using vegetables, along with how to weave using rope, paper and other materials. She was assisted by Angolan weaver and artist Maria Belmira Gumbe.

ALSO READ: Inspired Design: Nkuli Mlangeni-Berg Creates A Handwoven Rug For Trenery Guild 

The workshops were experimental in structure, and allowed participants to engage with the materials and independently create alongside Mlangeni-Berg.

For the first design talk, both Mlangeni-Berg and Belmira Gumbe spoke about their work and provided insight into their passions, what inspires them and their creative process. 

The next designer who will join the Designer/Maker Residency Programme is Tjitske Storm, a pattern and graphic designer from the Netherlands who has worked with Moooi and Marcel Wanders.

Reflecting on where African designers and makers stand on the global platform, Edwards says that it is crucial to hold onto age-old traditions of creation as a continent, and to support these art forms. 

'The continent is diverse and rich in different in cultural expressions and design traditions, and different ways of making,' he says. 

'However, many of these traditions are being lost, and especfically so in a globalised and machine-dominated world. The potential here lies in the reinvestment in these... designer-maker (craft) industries. Not just by giving [them] a voice..., but by collaborating with local artisans and designer-makers, using traditions and techniques to create new and contemporary pieces that have more appeal for a younger audience.' 

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