The artisans bringing a human touch to Xigera Safari Lodge’s interiors
Southern Guild’s collaboration with Xigera Safari Lodge in creating its extraordinary collection of African art and design generated significant contributions from smaller-scale craft businesses. In each case, the craft studios developed new designs or bespoke ranges to complement the lodge’s décor scheme and reflect the Okavango Delta’s flora and fauna. Meet some of the smaller producers that helped bring this astonishing living gallery to life.
Upon arrival, guests to the lodge are presented with a custom-made Bolga fan by Ghanaian artisanal brand AAKS, perfect for keeping cool in the hot climate. Ghanaian designer and founder Akosua Afriyie-Kumi also used her traditional weaving techniques to create a variety of beautiful, bold baskets for Xigera. The laundry and wastepaper baskets found in the suites were woven in the same colour schemes featured in each individual suite, creating cohesive spaces that are both calming and inviting.
Merging French weaving techniques with African design to produce quality homeware textiles, African Jacquard brings its unique African signature to Xigera’s luxurious suites. The Cape Town-based studio created custom woven patterns for Xigera’s linen throws, soft shawls, pool towels, pillowcases, and most notably, bedspreads. Each piece was created using colours and designs that complement the space, particularly those in the suites, bringing added richness and sumptuous layering. The woven design is part of the fabric itself and is naturally shown on both sides.
Ardmore Ceramic Art
Internationally acclaimed studio Ardmore Ceramic Art captured the rich plant life and wild creatures of the Moremi Game Reserve in 30 unique ceramic lamps made especially for Xigera. Each of the 12 guest suites features a unique pair of bedside lamps depicting a different animal and adorned with patterns, colours and motifs referencing the fabrics and décor scheme of the particular suite. In addition, four large candelabra table lights dedicated to Xigera’s famous roaming leopards, illuminate the bar in the Main Lodge.
Gone Rural created a range of woven pieces for Xigera, including umbrella stands, trivets, coasters, bread baskets, and place mats. Each placemat was handwoven in a custom colour combination specifically designed to match the earthy tones of the boma. They are woven from a fibre called Lutindzi grass which is grown sustainably in Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland). Established in 1992, Gone Rural creates employment for rural women across Eswatini. Working with over 700 artisans, the business produces woven basket products and unique home accessories, using sustainable, local natural fibres. Combining traditional skills with high-end, contemporary design, its craftswomen continuously develop innovative techniques to keep their product range fresh and dynamic.
Heartwood, based in Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape, created a range of handcrafted leadwood bowls, each with a unique African design sensibility, that seamlessly blend in with the timber furniture and natural textures used throughout Xigera. Each bowl is a one-of-a-kind piece of art, hand-crafted over many days and weeks. Heartwood crafters use a special buffering technique on their works to achieve a natural sheen, an amazing feat considering how hard leadwood is. No lathes or heavy turning machinery is used in the process, only days and weeks of dedicated shaping and sanding. The result is organic yet sophisticated pieces that are contemporary and full of character.
Mervyn Gers Ceramics
Crockery by Mervyn Gers Ceramics can be found all over the lodge, in various carefully curated hues: blues for the dining room, greens for picnic meals, and natural earthy tones for the boma. The Cape Town-based ceramic studio prides itself on producing its own clay, shapes and glazes – reinforcing its commitment to handmade designs. The business has grown hugely in the last 10 years, leading to the training of several new artisans and employing some 40 employees.
Acclaimed beading collective Monkeybiz made custom-designed beaded placemats and coasters for the Xigera dining room, complementing the colours and patterns of the dining room furniture and crockery. The pieces are evocative of natural patterns such as water ripples and bark, but inspiration was also drawn from the richly patterned fabrics found throughout the lodge. No two placemats are alike because each beader, while working to a specific pattern and colourway, was able to interpret the design as she wished. The Cape Town-based non-profit has enabled over 450 Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele and Sotho women to earn a living while working from home and still being able to attend to their family duties. Using a fresh, modern aesthetic, Monkeybiz has played a vital role in reviving the tradition of beadwork, and the Xigera pieces are an ode to the incredible heritage of female craft culture in Southern Africa.
Using 100% recycled glass (mainly old cooldrink bottles), Ngwenya Glass in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) created all the exquisite glassware for Xigera, including glasses, ice buckets, wine coolers, as well as condiment and oil bottles (custom-designed for Xigera). A 70-strong artisanal team of craftsmen and women, all trained in the ancient art of glassblowing, literally breathed life into functional art pieces for the distinctive ranges for the lodge – all the glass is mouthblown with extraordinary dexterity and skill. These were carefully curated to complement the handmade tableware and other items in the different areas of the lodge. The glassware in the boma features double-dipped details – evocative of the delta – while various glass ranges, including the straight range and wonky ranges, were designed by the McGowans. Amazingly, the Ngwenya makers manage to achieve a very fine finish for recycled glass, considering it can very often end up being clunky.
Corinne De Haas Ceramics
Commissioned specifically for Xigera in custom colourways, Corinne de Haas created ceramic accessories for the bathrooms and dressing rooms in the Xigera’s guest suites. Using a variety of clays and both traditional and contemporary processes, each piece is hand-made, demonstrating the diversity of textures, tones and forms. Pieces such as platters, sugar bowls, teacups, teapots and milk jugs were glazed in colours according to the specific areas in which they feature. Established in 1991 in Kleinmond, Corinne and her dedicated team specialise in producing contemporary yet functional ceramics, all hand-crafted and inspired by the rugged Cape Whale Coast’s immense natural beauty.
Woza Moya, a social enterprise in rural KwaZulu-Natal known for its innovative beadwork, created a series of custom-beaded ottomans in a dizzying array of geometric patterns. Made especially for the Xigera library and shop, the ottomans echo and enhance the design schemes found in both these spaces. Hundreds of hours of painstaking work went into creating the functional artworks, strip by strip, panel by panel. Woza Moya uses traditional beadwork in revolutionary ways, helping to define a contemporary design vernacular based on indigenous craftsmanship.
Click here to read more about the making of Xigera’s ground-breaking art and design collection.