African art has inspired artists in the West for a hundred years. Picasso was probably the most famous appropriator of the shapes, colors, and spirit of art from the Dark Continent. Despite the long tradition that was his creative impetus, what he created was strikingly modern and yet timeless. The same can be said of the design team at Go Rural Swaziland, who looks to Africa’s natural materials and traditional techniques with a contemporary eye, and then engages local women artisans to help create the magic.
The results of this collaboration (from baskets and bowls to jewelry and sculptures) are truly stunning. And in lots of ways, useful. I bought a set of round, dyed-straw place mats that we use almost nightly.
Despite the prevailing design winds that embrace natural materials and earthy inspiration, Go Rural’s products are frustratingly difficult to find. I don’t know why more high-end stores in the US don’t carry them. The buyers at the shops within the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, are the winners, here, which is where I found my place mats.