Feature 54 (Aug) Tapiwa - Author, Curator, Consultant
1. Please introduce yourself...who is Tapiwa, where is she from and what does she do?
I am a London-based author, brand consultant, and the curator of contemporary African design. I founded and edit atelier 55 a digital space I created to curate, connect, and celebrate Africa’s designers, artisans, and organisations helping them to become more visible in the global design industry, and also to preserve their stories as references for now and the future.
2. You are a lady of many talents! If you had to put them in order of passion what would that look like?
Ooooh, that would be difficult! My various creative outlets flow out from a love of contemporary African design. And not everything flows out at the same time. There are somethings I am passionate about for season and can happily put away after the itch has been scratched, and other things that stay with me far longer and as such form the basis of my work. Having said that producing the atelier 55 blog is the main focus as that is where the journey started for me. Running alongside the blog working with designers to guide them in telling and sharing their stories by building world-class brands and selling their designs is also very important to me. Writing and publishing books and articles, guest curating exhibitions, and hosting my podcast Behind the design are seasonal projects that enable me to explore and express my passions.
3. How much of an influence does your heritage have on your career?
My heritage, both as a Zimbabwean and as an African, has undoubtedly been the foundation on which my career has evolved. When I moved to the UK to study I started to lose touch with the raw creative inspiration that was a part of everyday life growing up in Harare. It took a series of opportunities to enable me to reconnect and discover the wonderful world of design, creativity, and innovation that was unfolding across the continent, and I felt compelled to do my bit by sharing my finds with the world. And as an African, I found the negative messages and stereotypes constantly used to portray Africa in Western media tiresome so sought to challenge that by showing a more contemporary and sophisticated side to the continent.
4. Where do you discover fresh contemporary African artists designers?
Research and being curious are key skills of the Curator. I always have my eyes and ears open; and my fingers tapping away on the keyboard often falling down the Internet’s rabbit holes as I let one discovery lead to another. Search engines, social media, events, tradeshows, exhibitions, conversations, books you name it are all the valuable tools I use to discover designers and the exciting work being produced.
5. Has the recent #BLM movement had an impact on your work?
It has made me appreciate even more the part I play in spotlighting Africa’s contemporary designers, makers, artisans and creative organisations, and why telling our stories and being a part of the global dialogue matters.
6. Post-corona how has your routine changed?
Having worked from home for a good number of years I did not have to make any major adjustments. I have spent a lot of time in honing a schedule that gives me time for work and looking after my well-being, and post-corona I will continue to refine it. However, when working in your business it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day admin and management tasks, which can take over the reasons for starting a business in the first place. With everything that has happened in the world I have had time to reflect, reconnect with my purpose, and have returned to what matters- spending more time discovering and sharing Africa’s designers and their work. And my schedule is shifting to accommodate.
7. How important is African fashion when it comes to your wardrobe?
When it comes to fashion I am more of a jewellery/accessories girl. It was starting and running my own luxury handcrafted jewellery brand for a few years that led to my interest in African design and the creation of atelier 55. I still make jewellery for myself, and I have a few jewellery pieces from African designers that I love and try to incorporate into my outfits whenever I can.
8. Favourite quote?
“If you can envision it, you can accomplish it. If you can imagine it, you can reach the heavens!” - Zimbabwean proverb
9. Favourite designer maker?
Another difficult question. I wouldn’t be able to pick one. So to highlight a few. I love Imiso for their artistic ceramics, Lani Adeoye for her sculptural lighting, Jomo Tariku for his elegant furniture, Zimbabwean basketry and the women artisans ensuring its contemporary timelessness … I could go on.
10. What piece of Yemzi do you love or have your eye on?
A Yemzi hand-rolled silk satin scarf, Its versatility makes it a wardrobe must-have.