Cape Town Design Destination: GUILD

PHOTOS Micky Hoyle WORDS Tudor Caradoc-Davies

By relocating to the Silo District in the V&A Waterfront, Southern Guild and its new concept store Guild have positioned themselves at what is set to become the new epicentre of African art and design.

Whether you’re a moneyed corporate in one of the Silo District high-rises, a wealthy tourist looking for original African art or a budding artist reeling from the visual overload of the new Zeitz MOCAA and dreaming of your own career, the V&A Waterfront’s Silo District is going to be like catnip to a tabby. Slotting perfectly into the commercial, residential and cultural potpourri is GUILD, a gallery, concept store and studio driven by long-time African design pioneers The Guild Group.

Southern Guild Gallery in Woodstock has relocated to the new flagship design destination. For Trevyn McGowan, CEO of the Guild Group, it was a not-to-be-missed opportunity. “Mark Noble, who led the development of the Silo precinct for the V&A, gave us a tour of the site in March 2016. It was still a very dramatic construction site, and we climbed about 17 stories on the outside of the museum all the way to the roof on scaffolding. He finished the tour showing us this spectacular 4,5 m-high, 500 m2 space… It took us a a split second to decide.”

Through the sterling work of Southern Guild, The Guild Group has established itself over the years as one of the premier destinations for African design, so one could never imply that it would be feeding off the Zeitz MOCAA being roughly three flaps of a pigeon’s wings away. However the proximity of the GUILD concept store to what should be Africa’s most remarkable museum will certainly not harm business.

“Our focus”, says Trevyn, “is the creation of design identity that represents Africa to and in the world. We want to reach the world and our public by celebrating our narratives, our talent, our context. Art and design can shift paradigms and perceptions. We’ve spent 15 years nurturing the collectable African design category – creating a platform for designers to create next-level work, exhibiting here and taking that work to design shows around the world. Zeitz opening is very exciting, because what it is showcasing in the contemporary African art category will create enormous momentum and interest in work from the continent. A world-class gallery in a precinct anchored in history and innovative in its approach is a game changer.”

For the June opening, GUILD launched a collab with 10 local artists and designers: Conrad Botes, Laduma Ngxokolo, Andile Dyalvane, Buki Akib, Justine Mahoney, Lukhanyo Mdingi, Porky Hefer and Rich Mnisi. Their brief, a somewhat humorous task to reimagine the “I love Cape Town” souvenir T-shirt.

Says Trevyn, “We asked them to create a surface design, and then applied those designs to a range of products using leading manufacturers like Woodheads for bags and Mervyn Gers for ceramics. The idea is for the public to be able to access high design at an affordable price, and to allow designers to move into other areas and also to keep doing their work while we take care of things like production logistics. We’ll be collaborating with 10 creatives on ranges every six months.”

Combine location, location, location, with hard work, hard work, hard work, experience, experience, experience and the best in African design, and you get what the GUILD has to offer. Trevyn has every right to feel confident.

“We want to shift the dialogue to Africa belonging globally, which is why we position ourselves at the top fairs and galleries in the world, and merchandise local and international products alongside one another. Our market is for Africa from Africa to the world and to people that very much put Africa in the global frame.”

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