Joy from Africa to the World returns to showcase the continent’s design and artistic talents

Can the country’s most visited tourist destination inspire sustainability, opportunity, and inclusiveness?

  • In 2019 the V&A waterfront embarked on a journey to challenge the conventional approach to Christmas, ditching the traditional imported tinsel and baubles and plastics of festive decorations that often end up in landfills.
  • It invited its community to collaborate and celebrate a story of African heritage, hope and inspiration.
  • Four years on, Joy from Africa to the World has become a call-to-action, a movement and mission statement that is always a better way.
  • Local jobs are created, a fair and financially lucrative platform for local creators is presented, tradition is honoured and celebrated, creativity is showcased, and the environment is protected.

Joy from Africa to the World returns to showcase the continent’s design and artistic talents

As the V&A Waterfront gears up for its traditional festive season, free of the restrictions of the past two years, it is once again partnering with local artists and crafters to present a visual spectacle of décor installations that will give visitors a warm African welcome.

Joy from Africa To the World, now in its fourth year, continues to grow as a source of inspiration and a call to action for visitors and tenants alike to act responsibly and safeguard the environment. This year the call-to-action is built around the theme of nostalgia, reflecting a moment in time when the world is yearning for a return to happy, simpler times.

Through the initiative, the Waterfront will continue to shun traditional imported tinsel and baubles and plastics for its festive decorations, which so often end up in landfill sites, choosing instead to creatively repurpose and present fresh, original installations every year. Since 2019, artists and crafters from Langa, ImiZamo Yethu, Mitchell’s Plain, Khayelitsha and Philippi, and from as far afield as the Karoo, the Eastern Cape, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Senegal have all accepted commissions to work with local, sustainable materials.

Since its inception, the collaboration with creatives has grown to create 155 jobs and now supports many small local design and craft businesses of which majority are owned by women. The eight NPO beneficiaries the Waterfront works with includes the Cape Town Society for the Blind, and New Crossroads Can.

The initiative has also supported 15 young graphic designers and artists and this year a total of 24 individuals, NPOs and SMMEs have participated in the creation of the theme.

Tinyiko Mageza, the V&A Waterfront’s Marketing Executive says, “We give financial support to the many individuals and communities who create our exciting installations, but by exhibiting their work on our property we also offer them a very powerful marketing platform. We are one of the most visited destinations on the African continent, and this upcoming festive should give our crafters the opportunity to showcase their work and open new markets for them.”

This year, activations will be in place from December, and will remain up until mid-January 2023.

“The emphasis of our celebration is on nostalgia. We have drawn on our past heritage to inspire us in the present, and to give us hope for the future. We believe the displays this year are truly extraordinary and we are certain that visitors will agree,” Mageza said.

Cathy Newton, Managing Director of Wire World, said that they have been tasked with creating 20 festive African drum pendants and hanging lights showcased at the V&A Watershed for Joy from Africa to the World. Wire World started in 1987 and supports 48 staff members that focus on African handcrafted décor and lighting.  Newton said: “We are a proudly South African factory that manufactures our entire range (we don’t import). We are the largest lighting manufacturer in South Africa and over the years have introduced new product categories namely furniture, scatter cushions, accessories etc to complement our lighting range.

Visually, Joy from Africa will be bold, bright and fun. Stylistically, the campaign moves away from basketry to showcasing Africa’s heritage of innovative textiles and pattern design, and this year’s display has bursts of bright colours indicative of a more hopeful future.

The theme for 2022 is ‘where possibilities take flight’ and nowhere will this be more evident than in the walkway above the Pick n Pay basement, where visitors will encounter a giant hot air balloon suspended from the ceiling with books and soft toy people leaping out of it. A number of colourful beaded creatures can also be spotted parachuting out of the balloon.

The basket section of the hot air balloon was created by the Cape Town Society of the Blind. Veronica Plonk, CEO of the Cape Town Society of the Blind said that the hot air balloon is completely handmade with a large cane woven square basket. “We have 8-10 staff members that are working on this special project using raw cane materials.”

The fashion link mall will also sport a dramatic new look thanks to the collective efforts of talented South African designers and illustrators. Textiles printed in unique patterns and designs have been combined with beading, Paper Mache, lights and other crafts to create an unexpected and sophisticated look.

Illustrator Kyle Kemink has been commissioned to create a detailed and nuanced photographic collage of the experiences, emotions and moments at the V&A Waterfront. Kemink said: “I wanted it to be this cohesive illustrative piece showing different people coming together for a shared experience. To me it represents this sense of childish wonder inherent in being in a place that feels larger than life.  As well as this panoramic view of the micro and macro moments of magic synonymous with the neighbourhood.”

In the walkway above the Woolworths basement, custom patterns printed on panels are interwoven with wire suns, beaded lettering and lampshades strung together in a series of carefully placed cascades.

The creative direction for Joy from Africa to the World was led by Platform Creative. Cathy O’Clery, Creative Director for Platform Creative said this year is taking the journey further to showcase creativity and contemporary expression of joy from across the continent; exploring the wonderful world of pattern and textiles.

“We are engaging with people working with nostalgic African heritage crafts but bringing their creations into modern day design and showing the endless possibility of creativity. Joy from Africa to the World is also inclusive and will be acting as a springboard for African artists to be exposed, gain experience and be noticed.” said O’Clery.

Fabric and textiles will also be the hero at the Watershed where many of the tenants have participated by creating a colourful display of rope-like chandeliers.

KnotAgain founder Hlah Nyoni said they created the macramé structures by weaving recycled T-Shirt material and polyester cord, “All of our products are handmade using knots. We aim for perfection and uniqueness, so no two products are identical.”

No festive season is complete without a Christmas tree. This year the V&A’s giant tree is a collaboration with Lalela, an innovative arts education programme for at-risk youth, who commissioned their young students to draw self-portraits that will be placed all around it.

Kids can also, look forward to a fun and exciting experience at the Waterfront Wonderland, a fantasy journey through a rocket ship, a sleigh pulled by beaded reindeers, a pirate ship and Father Christmas’ own festive taxi.

Families can also step in and out of three two-metre-tall books, each reflecting the magic of storytelling and this year’s pillars of heritage, hope and inspiration.