ZENZULU™ is a design led craft business, renowned for the fusion of contemporary design with traditional craft skills and the creation of innovative, premium quality hand made South African products. Initiated 12 years ago by designer Marisa Fick-Jordaan, under the auspices of the BAT SHOP, a retail and wholesale outlet which has from the outset focused on innovative product development, intensive skills training of crafters, and the targeted marketing of craft and craft-art products from the KwaZulu-Natal province.
Marisa’s interest in transitional craft forms led to the start of a telephone wire weaving project in an informal settlement outside Durban. Initially, mentoring a growing group of master weavers using a coiled basket technique, she saw the possibilities of fusing traditional techniques with cutting edge design and modern industrial materials, with the aim to grow local and international markets for high-end, hand made décor products. Challenges presented themselves, with only two skilled weavers in the required technique, one basket mold, limited material supply and design concepts that proved to challenge even the most masterful of weavers. Funding for skills development was secured, a mold manufacturer sourced, a wire manufacturer coerced into making shades of fashion colours to specifications. This culminated in a series of workshops to teach unemployed women from both urban and rural areas how to weave these new designs. Turning the attention to growing the ZENZULU™ product line, by utilizing the skills of a group of skilled Zulu beaders and a handful of young Zimbabwean refugees. This led to the expansion of the product range to include fashion accessories, and an extensive range of holiday ornaments, combining glass beads, wire and telephone wire.
ZENZULU™ product designs are regularly updated and manufactured to the highest quality standards, eco-friendly and fairly traded, ensuring sustainable incomes for more than 350 home based craft producers in four different communities. This design symbiosis has become a South African design classic, receiving numerous accolades and awards, including an Elle Decoration International Design Award in 2002. Over the past two years, ZENZULU™ vessels have been showcased in Design Made in Africa, an international travelling exhibition of Contemporary African Design, selected by Li Edelkoort for her North meets South exhibitions in Paris and Stockholm, and featured in The Conran Shop’s Harare to Higgovale exhibitions in London, New York, Paris and Tokyo.
ZENZULU™ décor products, fashion accessories and holiday ornaments are sold in local and international high-end boutiques, stores and galleries and feature in many corporate and private interiors around the world.
“By creating and maintaining a sustainable craft design business ourselves, we have helped to create hundreds of sustainable micro-enterprise craft businesses, through participation and mentoring”
- Marisa Fick-Jordaan.