The intriguing, beautiful works of Imiso Ceramics (imiso meaning ‘tomorrow’ in Xhosa) are earning their creators accolades around the world.
The burgeoning business was started four years ago by Andile Dyalvane and three contemporaries. Of the founders, Andile and Zizipo Poswa remain, and they’ve since been joined by Lulama Sihluku.
Andile talks to Genevieve Fisher about going glocal, how his cultural
identity informs his work, and what the Japanese have to teach local
What do you understand the term ‘glocal’ to mean?
Local going global! In terms of design this means we have something unique to offer the world, something that can fit in anywhere and that is as good as any of its global competitors, if not better.
To what do you accredit your success in the European and
My work reflects my background and personal experiences of having been brought up in the Eastern Cape according to Xhosa traditions. The pieces I create are not only of a high quality, but are also aesthetically pleasing to many people from different walks of life. People like to surround themselves with beauty and are always looking for something unique and original. European and American markets have recognised this and appreciate our work because of it. They’ve found something original and appealing with a hint of its origin. I like to think that the success of my products is due to the fact that I create culturally relevant, beautiful pieces that slot into a contemporary context.
What, in your opinion, is key to South African designers
making a success of their products globally?
In order to create something beautiful and eye-catching, one shouldn’t have to look too far – you’ll find inspiration in your backyard if you need to. Most SA designers I know who have made an impact globally use what they have at their disposal in their immediate surroundings. Heath Nash is a great example: he not only uses material that many consider junk – plastic – to make beautiful products, but he also educates people about recycling and being environment friendly. In my work, I take African artefacts and reinterpret them into contemporary items. The fact that we can be innovative with the little infrastructure that we have, yet still be able to produce high-quality original products, is the key to our success.
How does your nationality inform your work?
I draw on my experiences as a young black Xhosa man growing up in the Eastern Cape. My personal experiences are reflected in each piece I create. Through my work, I try to educate the world about African culture. I incorporate certain symbols that bear cultural significance. One of these is scarification, which is a prominent cultural practice of Xhosa people as well as other African cultures and symbolises the process of healing or the ritual of circumcision, among others. I like to create a space for enquiry, to talk to people about it if they ask, or for them to find out about it on their own terms. Questioning is encouraged and our shop attendants are well versed in every aspect of the design process, from the symbols employed to the materials used. The certificates of authenticity that accompany each product explain the source of inspiration for that particular piece.
World Cup aside, why do you believe the world is falling in
love with our design aesthetic?
SA design is vibrant. We are also a flexible people, always looking to collaborate. It allows for innovation. There’s also an element of hope in South African design, which we can attribute to what we’ve been through historically as a people. No matter what we’ve been through or where we come from, we can elevate people’s lives through the products we make. Our design products have a lot of substance.
Which SA designers do you admire?
I’ve already mentioned Heath Nash. I’m also inspired by Haldane Martin – his work is African in a contemporary way, which is important as it shows where he comes from. More than this though, his creations could fit into any context around the world. He’s talented, doesn’t shy away from his background and retains originality.
You’ve just returned from the Milan Furniture Fair. How was
I’m grateful that I get to travel to different parts of the world – it expands my mind. My attending the Milan Furniture Fair this year was a chance for me to explain the philosophy and inspiration behind my work. What I realised is that the world really is looking at South Africa, particularly with the World Cup imminent. It was also a wonderful experience to be able to educate people about my work and all that informs it. Seeing people’s reactions to the transformation of a simple piece of clay was very rewarding.
Who stood out for me, though, were the Japanese designers. They’re inspiring! They work with something simple, but they master their craft and technology and are totally dedicated to what they do. It reflects in their work, and this resonates with me. It is what I aim to achieve in my own work – attention to detail and mastering my craft so that people can see that I’ve taken time and applied a lot of thought to producing a piece.
Imiso Ceramics, +27 (0)21 421 1071,
Source: The Property Magazine