For this year’s Design Miami/ FENDI has invited Mabeo, the furniture and accessories brand from Botswana, Africa, and its associated design studio, to develop products that build on their ongoing research into craft specializations. Consulting with artisans spread across the country, Mabeo travelled many kilometres to inform the project’s collaborative development and bring together the techniques and viewpoints that exist between the various craft activities of Botswana.
Following creative meetings in Rome with Kim Jones, Silvia Venturini Fendi and Delfina Delettrez Fendi, a collection of ten pieces of furniture made up of distinct interrelating methods has been realized. Kompa, the title of the collection, originating from Mabeo’s most senior (in age) craftsperson, means something that is complete, implying an interest in holistic approaches when considering a project. Whilst some products in the collection were the sole responsibility of individual artisans, others were conceived in a way that required different craftspeople and techniques to collaborate to realize the structure and functionality of a piece.
The Loma Stool is a multi-functional work: three objects in one that can be used as either two storage containers, two stools or, when joined together, as a side table. Presented in two material iterations, Mabeo engaged artisans who practice ancient methods of pottery making in Botswana, alongside their expert woodworkers, to realize them. Further reflecting the multifaceted collaborative nature of the collection, the inside surface of the Loma Stool (Wood)is painted by artists located in a desert region of Botswana.
Moving between one craftsperson and another, both physical and mental distances were covered by Mabeo. What might have appeared to be compromises or disagreements in this process helped to shape their results, creating tangible outcomes through objects that inherently and beautifully reflect these moments.
Two works in the collection more directly reference the collaboration with Fendi. One, the efo Stool, riffs on the Fendi double F motif, fusing two distinct materials, clay and Panga Panga wood, to create a balance between material, technique and craft process. The modular wood and clay sculptures fit intimately into one another while remaining distinctly independent.
A second, the Maduo Chair, is a direct translation of a piece of O’ Lock, jewelry designed by Delfina Delettrez Fendi for the Roman House. The basic configuration of the original is respected through geometry and connection solutions, highlighting craft skill in subtle ways that are also practical to the chair’s construction.
Alongside these three pieces the collection comprises the Chichira Cabinet, a basket woven cabinet with drawers; the Foro Chair, presented both in clay and Panga Panga wood; the Gabi-Gabi sculpture, the largest piece in the collection, constructed from hand-beaten galvanised metal sheets and with wooden drawers; the Gabinyana Table Lamp, which takes its distinctive shape from the Gabi-Gabi but is significantly smaller and incorporates a lamp; and the Shiya Seat, a handcrafted plywood and hardwood answer to industrial hot moulding methods.
The final piece presented at Design Miami/ is Mabeo’s interpretation of FENDI’s iconic Peekaboo handbag. For their unique version Mabeo approached crafts people living in a desert environment where plant-based materials are scarce. Using traditional methods of tanning, treating and stitching, with components cast in metal and hand-carved in wood, the directness of the artisans’ relationship to their surroundings comes to the fore, demonstrating an interest in respectful and balanced interaction.
Accompanying the collection is a limited-edition publication that acts as a visual record of the various road trips, meetings and works in progress during the collective realization of the collection, alongside schematic drawings for each of the ten pieces.
Founded by Peter Mabeo in Gaborone, Botswana in 1997, Mabeo is a design studio interested in expressing craft from varied vantage points, contexts and positions. They launched their products internationally in 2006 after 10 years of making bespoke furniture for commercial projects locally and have engaged the design world consistently since then, collaborating with designers including Inès Bressand, Patty Johnson, Garth Roberts and Patricia Urquiola on significant projects and developing a growing collection of products.
The aim of the brand is to make the work of African artisans available to the world in a considered way, to reflect certain qualities – an essential simplicity of form, an idea of purity, the conscientious use and handling of natural materials, the dedication of the craftsmen and women, and the sensitivity of the collaborating designer with a reverence to the rich aesthetic heritage of Africa.