Bespoke Lighting Commission

Published on 5th June, 2015 by Otago Design

We have just completed a collaboration with The Light Corporation and two workshops based in Nairobi Kenya, CREA AFRICA & Zawadi Africa to produce the feature lighting fixtures for Parliament Street, Harrogate, Nandos restaurant. Nandos is a South African company, a restaurant chain selling portuguese inspired food, they are the biggest buyers of South African art!

The inspiration for the Maradadi Chandelier was the corsets worn by the Dinka tribe in South Sudan.

Among the Dinka, corsets, known as “Manlual” are worn by men as a form of daily attire, which primarily symbolizes a man’s age group as well as his wealth within the community. The tight beaded corsets indicate the men’s position in the age-set system of the tribe. The corsets are first sewn in place at puberty and not removed. Each group wears a color-coded corset: a red and blue corset indicates a man between fifteen and twenty-five years of age; a yellow and blue one marks someone over thirty and ready for marriage. The wealth of a Dinka is measured according to the height of the back of a corset; the higher the projection, the richer the wearer is. The females in the tribe wear the Alual, which isn't a corset and is more like a shawl. But is also worn from an early age and signifies her families wealth. The fuller the bead work, the wealthier the family. The Alual is also decorated in cowries which are believed to promote fertility.

After some initial design development done in the UK, Otago Design headed out to Kenya. The initial process was to work with a metal fundi (Swahili for tradesman) on the side of the Ngong Road, Nairobi, Kenya to make a frame for the corset bones to hang from so the dimensions of the corset and each length of beaded string could be realized and the beaders could start stringing from this point.

Each strand of the corset was meticulously strung by a team of women from the Crea workshop who primarily create beaded jewellery. Although they were familiar and highly skilled in beading, to work on one piece at such a large scale was exciting and challenging.

On the other side of town in a family run workshop three women skillfully beaded thirteen pendants. Focusing on blocks of colour and contemporary pattern. Working closely with Otago Design they spent time resolving design challenges of weight, shape and balance.

Otago Design spent three weeks in Kenya working with the two groups on the design and production process. It was incredibly rewarding to see these women who are so used to working as individual artisans work together as teams and taking ownership of a highly design driven contemporary light fixtures.

Presenting the Maradadi Chandelier and Maradadi Pendants.... if you happen to be in Harrogate make sure you pop into Nandos to check them out... oh and don't forget your peri peri chicken!!

The Maradadi Chandelier suspended above a stairwell.

The Maradadi pendant hang beautifully above the dining area.