Joy from Africa to the World at the V&A

This year the V&A Waterfront has reimagined the festive season into a celebration of local talent and environmental sustainability. Themed, Joy from Africa to the World, the V&A is presenting an experience aligned to its purpose to collectively create the world’s most inspiring waterfront neighbourhood. The destination has partnered with over 140 African artisans to create a vibrant wonderland made from upcycled materials. In doing so, it hopes to tell a uniquely African story that’s joyful, inspiring and shows what an ‘African festive’ is all about.

Tinyiko Mageza, Executive Manager of Marketing at the V&A, says the reimagined festive fits with the Waterfront’s commitment to sustainable best practices. “We are building an inclusive neighbourhood in the City of Cape Town. As neighbourhood custodians, we need to create and curate a space that looks after the interests of the people who come here and the environment we’re in.”

She said that in 2017, the V&A announced its commitment to eliminating single-use plastic. “We aim to reduce use by 40% by 2020. This ambitious goal carried into our festive plans for this year. We decided to lead with purpose and prioritise the things that matter most to us. That meant repurposing past décor, using wastepaper we collect in our waste recovery recycling centre, and choosing sustainable, recycled materials. It also meant considering our economic impact and dedication to creating jobs. We wanted to support the local economy at every level of our supply chain.”

Mageza says that the context of the time creates a push-pull effect for brands, “The concept of shared value is becoming increasingly important for businesses to embed in their operating models. Today’s customers expect brands to go beyond simply making a profit. And brands themselves are making this push independently. As businesses, we have an opportunity to seek a better way of doing things, because it’s the right thing to do. That’s not fuelled by public pressure. It’s because we have a responsibility to do so; to put a stake in the ground and take it upon ourselves to address shared challenges. We need to be bold and have courage in our convictions.”

The V&A festive showcase provides a platform for local businesses and entrepreneurs, including Monkeybiz, which empowers women to sell their beautiful beadwork. They made the 59 exquisitely crafted creatures that perch around the Ibhotwe Lasehlotyeni (Summer Palace). Wola Nani crafters contributed the papier-mâché planets, trees and upcycled baubles. The Wola Nani trust aims to enhance the capacity of the HIV/ Aids sector through research, advocacy, resources and more to improve the wellbeing of communities.  Langa-based Our Workshop created the upcycled plastic chandeliers, while the baskets come from artists and weavers from all over Africa.

Their work will be on display to over three million expected visitors who’ll visit the Waterfront over the holidays. Mageza says, “We’re going to have an unveiling where most of the crafters who have contributed to this showcase will see their work up in lights. I hope they feel a sense of pride knowing their creativity is bringing joy to so many.”

Mageza adds that she wants every person who visits the Waterfront to feel a sense of pride. “As people walk through the Victoria Wharf shopping centre and see all the woven baskets glinting in the natural light, I want them to say, ‘This feels like me; this feels like us’. Whether you come from Germany or Germiston, I hope you see these installations and feel a sense of awe and joy. I think they tell a story of what we can do. This is what an African festive is about; vibrant colours and connecting with family and friends from all over the world. I know I personally have been humbled by this project and the experience”

The goal is to showcase how beautiful African creativity is; to tell a positive, authentic narrative about the continent; and to demonstrate the amazing things you can do with waste. Some key installations to look out for include the Summer Palace, open from 1 December, where little ones can meet Mother Earth and The Guardian of Joy from 7 – 24 December; the Joy Market, which features a selection of locally made decorations for sale from 6 November – 24 December; the giant planets made from upcycled materials (22 November); and the Baobab of Wishes, which will be lit up on 1 December. You can tie your message of joy to the tree.

This festive season, visitors to the V&A Waterfront can expect to see:

  • Golden swallows made of recycled metal, swooping through the mall, symbolising peace;
  • A giant, upcycled Earth hanging suspended; a reminder to be gentle with our world;
  • A Summer Palace, adorned with 59 beaded creatures for little ones to meet;
  • Glinting woven baskets weaving a narrative of unity, speaking to different cultures across our continent;
  • A beaded reindeer dancing alongside old repurposed Christmas trees skinned with papier-mâché and felt
  • And big baubles shining in their newly upcycled glory.