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Behind the scenes with South Africa’s hottest new sister design duo

2023 Design Indaba Emerging Creatives list-maker, Cape Town sister design duo Viveka and Rucita Vassen gives us an inside look into the compelling brand story of their thriving design studio, Ananta, as well as the creative thought process (and inspiration) behind some of their most-prized design pieces, notably the enchanting Simhala Raffia bag.

Design Indaba’s Emerging Creatives programme has been identifying budding South African talent for 18 years, ultimately launching the careers of some of the country’s most gifted artistic creators – from filmmakers to illustrators, artists and designers of all sorts – the country’s has ever seen.

One such a talent who made it to this year’s programme is the Cape Town multi-disciplinary sister design duo, Viveka and Rucita Vassen, who charmed their into the fashion industry in recent years with all things bold, vibrant and offbeat, most notably their striking handbags, and they’ve never looked back ever since.

Meet Design Indaba Emerging Creatives Class of 2023 list-makers; Cape Town sister design duo, Viveka and Rucita Vassen.

Their shared love for creativity, crafts and collaboration led to the pair starting their own design studio, Ananta, during the height of the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.

The duo took time out their busy schedule to not only let us in on what it means to be among the 20 strong upcoming artists to watch in the Design Indaba Emerging Creatives Class of 2023, but are giving us a peak into their compelling brand story and creative thought process behind some of their most-prized design pieces, notably the eye-catching Simhala Raffia bag.

This stunning Simhala Raffia bag is one of the masterpieces by the Cape Town-based Ananta studio, made in collaboration with the all-women craft cooperative from Khayelitsha, Mielie Designs.

First and foremost, here’s what it means for the Cape Town-based design duo to be named among the 20 strong list of new talent to watch this year in the 2023 Design Indaba Emerging Creatives programme:

Having attended the Design Indaba Expo and Simulcast over the years, and always being inspired by the diverse creativity and exceptional standard of design, it is a huge honour for us to now be selected as a Design Indaba Emerging Creative for 2023. Being recognised as a new talent to watch, the programme will be a great launchpad for our brand, and we are excited about the exposure this will bring. As a new design studio, we are most looking forward to the mentoring aspect and the opportunity to learn from the best. We can’t wait for the growth, networking and new possibilities this journey will bring!

And finally, here they unpack the fascinating story behind the making of the oh-so captivating Simhala Raffia Bag; what exactly inspired this design masterpiece?

As a design studio it’s important for us to create an impact business and use our creativity to support under resourced artisan communities. We’ve known the iconic work of women’s co-op Mielie, and as our values align, we were excited to work with them and support their artisans. We were inspired by their signature technique of weaving and knotting t-shirt fabric into hessian to create a ‘mielie’ effect. Curious as to what effect other materials would have when knotted into the hessian, we experimented with raffia as well as various end of roll fabrics. 

Harnessing the power of collaboration: the exquisitely beaded Maata Pita table lamps are created in collaboration with artists from Monkeybiz bead NPO, with part of the proceeds from their sales contributing to their livelihoods.
Weaver Ntombizanele Sinuka work (from Mielie Designs) brings to life Ananta’s bright and fun Simhala Raffia bag,

We were instantly drawn to the knotted raffia – the result was bold and textured with a natural feel, resembling a lion’s mane. We loved this quality of the raffia and named this creation the ‘Simhala’ Bag, a Sanskrit word meaning the island of Ceylon, known as the dwelling place of lions. 

The Simhala bag is created from hessian fabric with strands of knotted raffia and brass fittings. A special thank you to Mielie and weaver Ntombizanele Sinuka for bringing our bright and fun Simhala bag to life, the perfect Summer accessory!

Tankiso Komane
Tankiso Komane
A Tshwane University of Technology journalism graduate, Tankiso Komane has a vast experience in print & broadcast media business and has worked for some of the country’s biggest daily newspapers, including The Sowetan, The Citizen, The Times, and The New Age. Through her varied work as a journalist, notably as a copywriter for SABC1 (On-Air promotions) and as a publicist for Onyx Communications, she has developed an in-depth understanding of the nature of the media business and how to use it for the purpose of exposure. Her expertise in journalism across various disciplines, coupled with a good reputation, has laid the foundation of a new kind "trust in Journalism" as the media ecosystem continues to digitally evolve.
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