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Opinion: Why it's the perfect time to explore Cape Town's creative community

Posted by Rob Alderson,

This week ahead of his trip to South Africa for Design Indaba, Rob Alderson looks at Cape Town’s growing creative reputation and its status as this year’s World Design Capital. As ever you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below, plus any hints and tips for seeing the South African design community close-up!

You can see why people get blinkered by London. The sheer volume of art, design and other cultural distractions overwhelm even the most ambitious diary, and the quality of offerings competing for your free time tends to be sky-high. It’s not about being close-minded to the delights of other cities, it’s about being spoiled by this one. But one of the most interesting parts of this job is immersing yourself in a completely different creative culture, and that’s why I’m so excited about my trip to at the end of this month.

It’s Nice That is thrilled to be partnering with Design Indaba for 2014, described last year by LCC Dean of Design Lawrence Zeegen, as “design event as rock ‘n’ roll, as rodeo and circus, riding into town to blaze a trail of glory… Speakers are flown in from across the planet and delegates skip time zones and date lines to attend. This is the Oscars of the design world.”

I met its founder Ravi Naidoo late last year; he’s an indomitable combination of energy, ideas and charm (he even managed to persuade stony staff at one of Shoreditch’s most self-important eateries to bend their usually inflexible serving timetable). It’s hard not to be swept along by Ravi’s enthusiasm, and by the stellar line-up of speakers he’s assembled yet again; international stars like Stefan Sagmeister, IDEO’s Tom Hulme and Thomas Heatherwick alongside some of South Africa’s most exciting creatives such as David Goldblatt and Lauren Beukes.

I’m relishing the chance to meet some of South Africa’s young, talented creative community for which I have developed a taste via the excellent Between 10 and 5 blog. With Cape Town’s status as World Design Capital 2014, now seems like the perfect time to visit.

This is not a city without its issues. Lawrence wrote a piece for us in which he pointed out the city’s graphic vernacular is defined by “reminders of a city in siege…bold, uncomplicated, warnings of a city on the edge.” He was talking about the ubiquitous warning signs which he felt told a different story to that being espoused in the conference hall.

But one of the commenters on the piece suggested this divide had been overblown; that in fact Cape Town’s “art and culture is formed by all these influences and by more…” So maybe this should inform the approach to my trip; to see how artists and designers respond to and reflect on the specific set of challenges facing their proud, beautiful city. I can’t wait.

Design Indaba takes place 26 to 28 February. Visit the website for more information and to book tickets.

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Posted by Rob Alderson

Rob joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in July 2011 before becoming Editor-in-Chief and working across all editorial projects including itsnicethat.com, Printed Pages, Here and Nicer Tuesdays. Rob left It’s Nice That in June 2015.

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