Take A Walk On The Wild Side

Rug by Nabeeha Mohamed designed for Molori Safari

WORDS Sarah Buitendach IMAGES Irma Stern Museum (Athi Partra Ruga Portrait), Supplied

The rugs that a dream team of South African Designers and contemporary artists have created for luxury lodge Molori Safari are almost too gorgeous to tread on.

The ultra-cool series of rugs that now electrify the living spaces of the exclusive Molori Safari in the North West’s Madikwe Game Reserve originated in the height of Covid.

It was during the constrained days of early lockdown that Megan Hesse and Andrea Kleinloog of design outfit Hesse Kleinloog decided it was time to create carpets as part of the interior revamp they were doing at the bush escape.

Not long into the refit, the team realised that round statement rugs would be a brilliant addition to the space. They’d work with the bones of the place, and complement the artworks going into the lodge from owner Ivor Ichikowitz’s impressive art collection. But round rugs are hard to get at the best of times in South Africa, let alone during a pandemic.

Never one to turn down a challenge, and working with Koos Groenewald of creative studio Jana + Koos, Andrea and her team elected to have the rugs custom-made by Brabetz Carpet Mill in Durban. They also roped in five other major artists to help them bring the huge pieces to life.

In hindsight, the task seems almost farcical: no-one was able to visit the mill during lockdown, and everything was done over video and phone. But thanks to some seriously hard work, ingenuity and graphic-design savvy from Koos and the carpet crafters, the result is six sensational works by Athi-Patra Ruga, Cameron Platter, Jody Paulsen, Maja Marx, Nabeeha Mohamed, and Koos too.

“We started this project in the deepest, darkest depths of Covid uncertainty, and it was such a spark of joy during such a dark time,” says Andrea. “In many ways, the absolute fun and frivolity of colour, and the joy of engagement, were so welcome in the disjointed, masked-up world.” Over the next few pages, the artists weigh in on this jump from canvas to carpet.

Nabeeha Mohamed’s Rug

“I thought the rug was way better than my original watercolour artworks!” says Nabeeha of a finished product that brilliantly captures her trademark bold work, which often depicts domestic scenes. “It’s a combination of three different artworks, and it’s been translated beautifully,” she adds, noting that, prior to this project, she’d never worked with carpets and didn’t understand the skill set that goes into turning a flat paperwork into a luscious and colourful artwork of this kind.

Athi-Patra Ruga’s Rug

Rug by Anthi-Pathra Ruga designed for Molori Safari

Of this practical manifestation of his “Future White Women of Azania” performance art series and his 2013 tapestry work The Votive Portrait of Her, the much-celebrated artist says, “It has been a pleasure to see a work that was live performance art move into two-dimensional petit point. With the Molori collaboration, it moved into a large-scale beauty that employed elements of texture and colour. This stays true to our studio’s ethos of stretching ourselves over various media to access all audiences.”

Jody Paulsen’s Rug

Molori Safari’s main lodge features the riotous carpet version of Jody’s 2013 felt collage, Eat Me (Bananas). His focus on textile-based art meant that Jody had always wanted to try his hand at creating a carpet – and so the Molori project ticked that box. He hopes that this vivid and mesmerising yellow-and-black piece triggers “a feeling of joy and happiness”, and that in it, guests experience the same sense of charm evoked by the original artwork.

Majamarx’s Rug

A painter who has been working with visual language for many years, Maya found it interesting to “see an artwork transformed”, and was thrilled by the request to turn one of her pieces into a rug.

The inky-hued artwork that the rug riffs off was inspired by ribbons and the way they fall to the ground. “It’s about the power of line,” she says, adding, “I really love the way in which the quality of the line and the embossed quality of the rug came together.”

Koos Groenewald’s Rug

For his carpet, Koos put on his hat as an artist – “an official side hustle” to his job as one half of Jana + Koos. He used a mixedmedia artwork that incorporated cork, and which was lying around his studio, as the springboard for his flooring masterpiece. “I would love everyone to see the cheeky side of this rug,” says the mind behind the rug project of his textured creation. “It’s a little bit naughty and has a little bit of nudity in it.”

Cameron Platter’s Rug

The acclaimed KZN-based visual artist is used to working with various craftspeople to realise his pieces, but admits he was amazed and thrilled by the end result of the Molori endeavour. His rug depicts “a deconstructed lion going crazy on a dance floor”. “When I was approached to work on this project, I was over the moon,” he says. “Based on an artwork called A Night of Bliss, the rug takes from the original and makes it better!”

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