- International platform for African creativity, ONIbespoke offering art and artisanship straight from source , presents a progressive, fresh perspective on ’development’. The “Aid for Africa’ paradigm is pervasive, loaded with goodwill , social enterprise, and ‘investment’ to ‘aid’ in the form of ‘charitable efforts. However, are the longterm outcomes sustainable or rather superficial? Are we not, by default, perpetuating defunct colonialism, and furthering commercial imperialism? Each case has to be reviewed one by one.
A simple analogy: health must to come from within; it can be assisted, but not injected. Healing cannot be imposed. ONIbespoke comes from within, is Africa for Africa. Lungi Morrison an anthropologist and sociologist, represents the new generation of change makers in the family of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. She personally embodies the country’s complex history in past and present, and despite being an African of the Diaspora is now in a position to join in the effort to chart a brighter future for her people.
In 1973, a baby girl was delivered quite literally in the dormitory of Fort Hare university in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, the then stalwart campus of the ANC. Lungi Morrison’s parents, students of psychology and medicine respectively, and activists alongside Steven Biko. Rev. Barney Pityana, the recently late Rev. Makhenkhesi Stofile to name a few.
- The multilayered violence that had kept the region in grip for uncountable generations was just coming to a head with the ANC and BCM (Black Consciousness Movement) fighting back against the brutal Apartheid regime.
Charged with the great task of running a liberation movement , the Morrison family life was largely sacrificed for the greater good. Childhood then, for Lungi and her brother was not only under the table of ANC meetings, but also on the road.
“Living on the run from the police, as kids we never knew what tomorrow would bring. We had to be smuggled across borders; the leaders would gather and decide next moves at our respective ‘home’, which invariably had a rotating door hosting other activists. “
“Other African states supported the ANC and when things in South Africa became too dangerous to remain my parents were offered to complete their studies in Nigeria. Growing up in Ibadan until the age of thirteen, I immersed myself in the local culture - even becoming the family translator for Yoruba.
I loved the ceremonies, the spirituality; the rituals gave me grounding in our life as political refugees. Age seven my parents allowed me travel approximately 500 miles north with a neighbour’s family to attend a tribal ceremony. These experiences stayed with me and probably founded my passion for the diversity found in the rich cultural heritage of Africa. “
ONIbespoke is precisely about this, an opportunity to tap into the wealth of African creativity and cultural heritage which runs in your blood. But there is a social historical angle as well as a cultural one…
“ In South Africa we have eleven different languages and as many tribal groups. For example, we are Xhosa, as was Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela. The current leadership is predominantly Zulu. Bringing the nation together as a democracy in the official absence of the enemy, which had crystallized the opposition under white rule, has proven to be the ‘new struggle’. What is our identity? How do we find our own self-esteem, after centuries of oppression and denigration ? Design and the creative process itself, craftsmanship and inherent creativity of most Africans posits an opportunity to restore a sense of identity, personal, local and communal pride. “
“ Having finished my masters in anthropology in New Zealand I returned to South Africa in 1994 to see what I could do to help build the new democracy. It was a very challenging time. “
“Seeing corporations like Nestlé (already trading under Apartheid!), in their attempt to penetrate new local communities and grow market share in a condescending and patronizing way, was a real wake up call. There was a long road ahead for our new democracy. “
“ In the years as media research manager for LoveLife [an initiative set up to help curb the peaking Aids epidemic], our work with youths age 17-25 showed that HIV was more often than not contracted as transactional sex..."
"...Young people were risking their lives for access to lifestyle brands they had previously not been exposed to e.g. KFC or Diesel jeans . An age group terribly vulnerable to peer pressure they wanted to be part of ‘the new South Africa’. International brands played a scarily crucial role in shaping the mindset of young people in post-Apartheid South Africa.”
Disputes and disparity, dispossession and repression are generally fuelled by the availability of natural resources. And South Africa offers plenty to fight over… from diamonds, salt, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, copper, bauxite, silver, to petroleum, cocoa beans, woods, tropical fruits.
While drawing from the wealth provided by nature, the spirit of the African people shows an innate capacity to make something beautiful and / or useful - from quite literally anything. Today’s commercial colonialism through multinationals overrides cultural heritage and local diversity.
“ONI means ‘source’ in Yoruba. The focus is to go straight to the source, and work directly with the people. The social aspect includes that these are individuals designing, small companies working or there is cooperatives working with previously disadvantaged communities, all making such beautiful, special work to be proud of – a notion which needs to be brought back to them. “
You mainly curate on the basis of creativity, beauty and design…
“Yes, beauty, aesthetics combined with special stories, including the ethical and ecological materials, like printing on Hemp, Ashley Heather makes beautiful accessories from silver and gold reclaimed from computer motherboard in the recycling process of used computers….”
The irony being of course that there are wars - in Africa - being fought over the natural resources to make computer chips for just those very motherboards., but the industry to recycle the enormous waste created largely in the Northern hemisphere is not much talked about; recycling largely informs South Africa’s burgeoning creative industry and that of many other parts of the African Continent.
Personally, as well as, through your family’s Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, you have been proactive in furthering peace and development throughout your adult years…
“ Post apartheid, my family got very engaged in finding new ways to enable development locally working with communities in health, education and social justice initiatives. In all of this, I have learned that the key to development is human dignity. Only with dignity there is hope, and a future. Charitable endeavours can easily miss the point, as real development needs recognition of the self and one’s worth. “
“Working on ONIbespoke recently I connected with women working in the Lisa Firer Cape Town ceramics studio for instance, engaging them about their craft and designs..."
One of the women expressed a deep seated sense of pride, self-actualization in the process. I noticed her chest well up and her eyes light up in excitement “I didn’t realize I could do this, I never knew I was so talented!”
It was a very moving moment and this discovery was the beginning of a new and happier journey for the young woman. Discovering one’s own capabilities and working with nature and a creative process is deeply rewarding. True development can only come from a position of self-recognition, reaping the benefits of one’s own work, not ‘charity’ “
ONIbespoke seems to me a story of beauty and the beast. The ‘beast’ being the trauma of violence and denegration that the continent and its peoples have undergone for so long. Beauty stands for hope and healing, elevation from the rubbles of oppression,…
“ Beauty speaks from and to the soul, art is a nonverbal way of communication that can transcend all cultural differences, and yes, can heal, too. I saw that very poignantly when I joined a Nigerian team under UN protection to bring art therapy to Ebola victims in West Africa in 2014."
" There was a young boy who was the single survivor in his neighbourhood. He would stand there and one after the other, call out all the names of every single person he ‘d ever known — all dead. Now, the main objective of the medical industry seemed to be why … he wasn’t, also, dead. The situation was absolutely unbearable. "
- "As best as one could we worked with the survivors let them drawing their stories, value them and find a way to help them grieve at least some of the horror buried inside. Through drawing, painting, sharing, eventually the men and women survivors found a way to smile again, with hope for a new beginning “
So ONIbespoke - curating and sharing African creativity - is not only about sourcing beautiful designs for your home or wardrobe – that pretty picture on the wall, plush pillow for your bedroom or stunning necklace. ONIbespoke is also Lungi Morrison’s personal contribution to help counter the collective trauma of her country, focusing on unearthing the beauty and dignity of her people come alive in their designs.
Art Heart Healing with Lungi Morrison
ONIbespoke represents >>>>>>
- Pichulik by Katherine-Mary Pichulik: each piece is handcrafted in Cape Town using locally manufactured ropes and found materials. Bold and courageous statement pieces inspired by African and Middle Eastern ornamentation.
OneofEach African-inspired custom handbags. – a melting pot of cultural influence embodying colour, unity and wisdom. We celebrate what an African spirit represents – energy, life and harmony.
BelovedBeadwork ... beloved items of personal adornment, using hours of loving labour and perfectly formed, tiny pieces of glass, a wonderfully democratic medium.
“A love of beads is a universal phenomenon, devoid of ethnic divisions. For true beaders, the ability to bead comes from within: a deep mental ability to predict pattern and form, to weave a bead whilst thinking six beads ahead. Founded in 2009, our company of twelve women is committed to the preservation and elaboration of the beadwork tradition.”
The Ninevites is a collaborative project and platform to explore under-told narratives of/from life in South/southern Africa using textiles, images and design. It is a celebration of black aesthetics through textile design and curated events.
Lisa Firer design from Cape Town works with the uniqueness, organic forms and magic of translucency that porcelain develops through the making and firing process. Hand-rolled, hand-embossed and imprinted slabs of porcelain create our ranges of tea-light holders, electric pendant lights, vases and vessels.