Centre for Research through Design



The Materials Project


The Africa Materials Project is a cross-faculty knowledge exchange programme that utilises Kingston University’s design and business expertise to develop equal and sustainable partnerships with African creative organisations - the aim is to develop and test a project methodology that focuses on mutual knowledge exchange, not charity, with a focus on making and materials. The Materials Project vision is to raise the profile of African research in the university and to ensure as many Kingston students and staff as possible experience a project about African creativity and the mutual benefits of working in partnership.


Project Partners


WOLA NANI: Papier Maché


Wola Nani: Papier Mache


As one of South Africa’s best known NGOs Wola Nani has developed an income generation initiative through the global appeal and success of their paper bowls that now provides employment for over 40 HIV positive craftswomen. This project developed new ideas and directions for products and manufacturing techniques celebrating the craft workers’ skill and the ad hoc simplicity of the original paper bowls. Taking their current making process as the starting point, the project explores the qualities and properties of paper to develop new and innovative lighting designs.

Wola Nani representatives travelled to Kingston University to participate in presentations and workshops for the purpose of introducing the work of the charity and to develop a brief around its product development needs. Further to this, the University’s team were able to visit Cape Town to further interrogate first-hand the elements affecting the product development brief. The team visited crafters in their homes to witness the circumstances under which the products were made, as well as visiting retail outlets to further understand the market in which Wola Nani operates. The final outcome, the ‘Wilson Pendant Lamp’, was showcased at TENT London in September 2010. Made from pressed paper and designed to have a low production impact, the product is creative, sustainable, appropriate and sympathetic to the market as well as to the manufacturing context.

Wola Nani’s manager Ryan Rode summed up the project:

"The Wola Nani Kingston project is conceptually a tremendous project, which is able to combine the resources and knowledge of Kingston University through the collective creative efforts of its students with the design support crucial to the craft project’s survival and growth."

LUPANE WOMEN’S CENTRE: Zimbabwe Basket Making


Lupane Women's Centre: Zimbabwe Basket Making


The current Zimbabwe: Basket Making Brief collaborates with the Lupane Women’s Centre near Bulawayo. The principle partner, The New Basket Workshop, is an initiative supported by the Ford Foundation and started by South African entrepreneurs Binky Newman and Frances Potter. TNBW supports basket weavers in Zimbabwe through design innovation and market development, with the aim of increasing direct access to cash income by linking contemporary woven products to local, regional and international markets. By employing design-led product and innovation it seeks to extend market linkages ruined by economic and political turmoil.  It has found limited markets for baskets in Anthropologie and Conran shops in Europe and the United States. In addition to Ford Foundation funding, The New Basket Workshop has also received support from the Alliance Française in Zimbabwe, resulting in two exhibitions at the National Galleries in Bulawayo and Harare respectively.

The Materials Project is working in partnership with the British Council offices in Harare and London

The British Council's commitment to developing sustainable creative economies includes increasing direct access to income for Zimbabwe's creative practitioners by linking them to regional and international markets. The British Council's Creative and Cultural Economy global programme also encourages the employment of design-led product innovation and the international exchange of ideas and skills, the outcomes of which will advance more sustainable business models and, more broadly, the profile and cross-sectoral potential of Zimbabwe’s creative entrepreneurs.