Ampersand's Little Black Book: A Design Tour of South Africa
South Africa is a country in the midst of one of the most exciting design evolutions on earth. Having languished for many years as a cultural backwater due to the political and socio-economic climates, the vast nation is heading into the 2020’s at the forefront of global creative and design innovations. With Cape Town being named as a UNESCO City of Design and championing emerging talents from diverse backgrounds, South Africa has much to offer any design-savvy traveller.
The Design Indaba Festival (27 February-1 March) takes over Cape Town every year and is an essential experience for anyone interested in creative events. From art galleries to contemporary hotels, festivals and groundbreaking exhibitions, travel with us from Jo’Burg to Cape Town and discover an enthralling kaleidoscope of happenings, launches and buzz to inspire your next trip to the bottom of the world.
BEST FOR: Urban Art Hotel
The latest offering from Design Hotels is Gorgeous George, a seamless blend of Art Deco and contemporary style. Fashioned from two heritage townhouses a stone's throw from the striking St George's Cathedral (visit the Mandela tribute Arch for Arch), Gorgeous George taps into Cape Town’s creative zeitgeist, with its thoroughly modern aesthetic woven into a sensitively preserved interior complete with grand original details. Celebrating South African design is at the heart of designer Tristan Du Plessis’ vision, and every room contains a talking point from the 1,800 painstakingly hand-drawn Delft tiles forming a map of the city, to the ‘sublimely eccentric’ crocodile swing chair by Porky Hefer. Each of the 20 rooms and 12 suites sport an inner-city inspired mural by local artist David Brits. The crowning glory is the all-day jungle-themed ‘social happening’, Gigi Rooftop, offering a sun-drenched sanctuary by day and a zingy bar under the stars by night. Set to be the hottest place in Cape Town.
BEST FOR: Rural Bolthole with Style
7 Koppies may have recently opened but it is already drawing an international crowd of admirers beating their way through the Fynbos to soak up this boutique retreat’s laid-back charm and stunning views. Owned by Ampersand's founder James Jayasundera and Marc-Ludolf Von Schmarsow, 7 Koppies is exquisitely designed with the owners innately understanding how to create a property that settles into such an astonishing landscape with a simple purity of line and frame. Come here to find peace in abundance alongside eclectic art, textiles and other finds from the owners' travels. Sophisticated yet rustic - 7 Koppies is awaiting discovery.
BEST FOR: Cape Town Contemporary Art
Already a global icon after a year and a half since opening, Cape Town’s The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) is leading the way for South Africa’s reincarnation. Designed by the acclaimed Thomas Heatherwick, the unique creation, set on the V&A Waterfront, has 6,000 square metres of exhibition space in 80 gallery spaces, a rooftop sculpture garden and soaring atriums featuring surreal concrete tubes. Collections, both permanent and temporary, are empowering and transporting, based around “telling the artist’s story” and a love song to the continent whose story has so much yet to come.
BEST FOR: A Vineyard of Dreams
South Africa is the world’s 9th largest wine making nation, supported by producers in both Stellenbosch and Franschhoek heartlands, and emerging frontiers such as the Dragon Mountains. Taking a wine tour through the country allows for time at some of the most enchanting properties South Africa has to offer. For a once in a lifetime experience , lose yourself in the stellar luxury of the Delaire Graff Estate. The Owner’s Villa is one of the finest in the country, decorated by design maestro David Collins and filled with artworks from the private collection of owner Laurence Graff of diamond fame.
BEST FOR: Instagram-Worthy Colours
Cape Town is a city of many faces and one of its rainbow prisms is the multi-hued Bo-Kaap district. Once called the Malay Quarter, the area is the finest example of pre-1850 architecture in South Africa and the oldest surviving neighbourhood in the city. The roots here stretch back to the diverse slavery trade with African, Indian, Malaysian and Sri Lankan influences still to be found. Visit the first mosque built in the country in 1794 as well as the funky Marco’s African Place restaurant and boutique Monkeybiz whose bead designs have been exhibited at Sotheby’s.
BEST FOR: Dining in the Winelands
Franschhoek is one of those pitch-perfect towns where each corner harbours a new find. One of its latest openings is Protégé, a casual fine-dining hotspot under La Colombe's Scot Kirton. The interior is elegantly spare with clean lines and nothing stealing the limelight from the imaginative dishes with highlights including Saldanha Bay Oysters, Korean Fired Chicken and Cured Trout - a journey around the world surrounded by the peerless art collection of Leeu Estates
BEST FOR: Artisan Studios
Woodstock Design District in Cape Town has the highest concentration of design studios and art galleries in the country. Cheap rents, industrial and period spaces and a community vibe has drawn creative talents from all over and this is a place to delve into South Africa’s artistic identity. Discover galleries such as Stevenson, Blank Projects, SMAC and Goodman Gallery as well as the acclaimed Southern Guild. Look out for the designs of Atang Tshikare who has collaborated with the likes of Puma and Adidas as well as the socially-aware lighting creations of Nash Heath and the beguiling furniture of Sibusiso Mthembu, one of South Africa’s rising design stars.
BEST FOR: Design Innovation
Circa on Jellicoe is a dazzling contemporary gallery in Johannesburg. Described as ‘curving the boundaries’, the multi-media gallery is an elliptical dream fashioned from concrete and aluminium with a striking deck overlooking Jo’burg's urban forest. Renowned gallery Everard Read holds notable shows here showcasing emerging artists, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, and giving them an invaluable platform. Look out for the Darwin Room on the top floor with its canopy of hanging green and Speke, named after John Speke who sought the source of the Nile, which shows disparate and often quirky cultural objects from throughout the world.
To start planning your own tailor-made holiday to South Africa please contact us:
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