7 March 2018
by Gian Luca Amadei / Cher Potter
The London College of Fashion is one of the six organisations awarded the British Council Art Connects Us research grant, which supports our vision to develop stronger creative sectors in Sub-Saharan Africa and connections with the UK.
Cher Potter is leading on the London College of Fashion research project, focusing on South Africa. Find out more about her work and her ambitions with this opportunity to connect the UK with South Africa's design scene.
Please tell us about you and your work
I’m a contemporary design curator / researcher based across the Victoria and Albert Museum and London College of Fashion. In 2015, I co-founded AfridesignX (www.afridesignx.com), a pan-African network of designers and academics championing exciting design initiatives across the continent.
Why did you apply for Art Connects Us?
The Art Connects Us call coincided perfectly with a series of events we were planning for Cape Town at the newly-launched MOCAA museum in February 2018. The Arts Connects Us grant offered a wonderful opportunity to experiment with audio documentation and visual interpretation as a way of sharing information across the continent. Working alongside Johannesburg-based sound designer Mvelo Khumalo and Cape Town-based illustrator-designer Si Maclennan, we proposed an online audio archive of recorded talks, design features, and public interviews around the subject of design. This archive documents design initiatives not only in South Africa, but also the creative links being forged across the continent.
Where are you going and what are you researching?
Within the AfridesignX network, we have identified four areas of design growth on the continent - fashion design, video game design, urban systems and robotic design.
In Cape Town, we have will speak to (1) artificial intelligence designers and amateur robotists about robotic initiatives across South Africa, Zimbabwe and Uganda; (2) fashion academics and clothing designers about using style to test 21st century African identities; (3) architects and social media specialists about physical and virtual divisions within the city of Cape Town; (4) game developers and interaction designers about building digital worlds in South Africa and Kenya.
What are you looking forward to most about your trip?
I will be travelling with my colleague and collaborator, film artist Gemma Riggs. We’re most looking forward to finally meeting all of the pioneering designers and academics we have been communicating with over the last months, in person. I’m also very excited to get down to work with our collaborators in South Africa.
What impact do you hope the research trip will have?
One of our aims with the AfriDesignX network is to establish ways for young designers and scholars to connect across the cities of Nairobi, Accra, Dakar, Cape Town and London. So far, we have done this through physical exhibitions and conferences. Working with Mvelo Khumalo and Si Maclennan will help to transform our work into a multi-platform research project, making it easier for people to engage from across the Continent and beyond. For all contemporary design researchers, meeting and talking with designers and seeing the objects they make, deepens our understanding of the multitude of ways design can be used to respond to different environments. On a personal level, this research trip offers a wonderful opportunity for this - I hope that our meetings in South Africa will not be limited to one day conversations but to ongoing conversations that last for many years.