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Selvedge Magazine | Issue 88

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Issue 88 Geometric: the mathematics of cloth 

Published May / June 2019

WORDS BY Polly Leonard Founder / Editor 

"The 27th April marks Freedom Day in South Africa, a national holiday. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of free elections we devote this issue to the memory of Nelson Mandela, the president who’s sense of style set him apart from other world leaders. Dress was an evocative political tool for Mandela’s public image, the sartorial embodiment of freedom and self constitution; His shirts set the tone for a new nation no longer defined by colonial power structures.

The generation of designers who have emerged after more than half a century of Apartheid, have a strong cultural identity and unique design aesthetic. The rest of the world is now enjoying the benefits of its mature style. We see evidence of this in the zig-zag knits of Laduma Ngxokolo who combines Cape Mohair from angora goats reared predominantly in the Karoo region, with the indigenous designs of the Xhosa region.

Imagery from colonial times such as the Voortrekker Keppie Bonnets, or the Basotho Blanket that have been absorbed and reinvented to appeal to the African eye. At a time when the rights and wrongs of cultural appropriation are a hot potato, the striking painted homes of the Ndeble people stand as a treasured example of how a new vocabulary can emerge from cultural influences as diverse as Cape Dutch gables, European packaging design and American cars from the 1950s. No appropriation here just creativity.

Cape Town’s finest examples of modernity is the MOCA, a gallery carved from circular concrete grain silos standing proud in the baking sun and over looking the fairest bay in the world. The elements all of this energetic vibrant design have in common is the reinerpritation of geometry the endless variations of squares circles and triangles, colour and vigour. Uniting geometry and the healing aspect of craft practice are two stories of quilts that have emerged from war, those made by Boer soldiers, and those made by refugees from conflict in Bosnia. Vibrancy and hope can come from the darkest places."



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