Mr Somebody, Mr Nobody

WORDS Helen Herimbi

“The first day Sharon and I brainstormed, ‘He arrives Mr Big Shot, he leaves Mr Nobody’ was one of the first African proverbs that came up. We laughed so hard,” smiles Heidi Chisholm, cofounder of Mr Somebody and Mr Nobody, with Sharon Lombard, who are based in New York and Miami respectively. 

“It was the same with me. I come to the US, I think I’m something,” Heidi says as she reminisces about how she left South Africa as an award-winning graphic artist who wasn’t as well known in the US. Sharon’s family emigrated 35 years ago and Heidi is relatively new to the country. 

After cofounding and running Daddy Buy Me A Pony with Peet Pienaar for eight years, Heidi bonded with Sharon over their love for “the African aesthetic”. The result is Mr Somebody and Mr Nobody, a homeware brand that has exhibited and sold everything from khangas to doilies and carved chickens since 2011.

Mr Somebody and Mr Nobody has taken other quirky quotes – like “If you wait long enough an egg will start walking” – on colourful craft from Art Basel/Miami to Design Indaba. “We work more as artists than designers,” Sharon says. They print short runs of khangas and enlist carvers in Ghana to bring their sculptures to life.

“They put a certain naivety to it that makes it absolutely gorgeous,” says Heidi. “If you ask someone in the US to do the same then it’ll come out exactly like the design. It loses that African-ness.” 

And so, Mr Somebody and Mr Nobody has made Heidi and Sharon feel like somebodys in the States. In fact, they  have been included in the book Cultural Threads: Transnational Textiles Today, due for publication in November 2014.