African Designers for Tomorrow: Meet Sisi King of ZikoAfrika

In the last of our interviews with the finalists we’re mentoring as part of the African Designers for Tomorrow competition, we talked to Sisi King, one half of the sister duo who founded ZikoAfrika, a contemporary accessories brand.

Sisters of Kenyan and British heritage, Sisi and Elle King both studied at the School of Oriental and African studies in London. In 2014, their combined interest in fashion and design led them to founding ZikoAfrika, a contemporary accessories brand that is inspired by the dual heritage. Each of their designs is made in Kenya and reflects both European and African influences. British-Kenyan designer Sisi King

As one of three Home Decoration finalists, what are you designing and how does this compare or differ from your work as a fashion designer?

Our initial designs consisted of a range of cushions, two blankets and a metal and fabric stool. We started the design process with an exploration of Ndebele inspired geometric patterns, which we simplified to reflect the clean aesthetic of our brand, ZikoAfrika. While the journey of inspiration, exploration and creation (or rebirth) that typifies our work as jewellery designers has remained, developing designs which can translate from small scale mock-ups to much larger textile pieces has proved a new and eye opening experience. Shapes and colours take on a very different aesthetic as size and fabric texture change, so designing with this in mind was a must.

Considering Africa is a continent comprised of 54 internationally recognized sovereign states, what is the essence of African design? How did your experience of studying in London at the School of Oriental and African Studies influence your personal interpretation of African design?

For us, the essence of African design is an exploration of the process of renewal. The continent has a long tradition of incorporating new materials and shapes into traditional forms and a lot of African designers are continuing this process in new and exciting ways. Studying at SOAS, we were made very much of aware of the continent's ever evolving traditions in terms of music, religions, politics, literature and languages. Africa is often viewed in very static terms so understanding this process of renewal is as important in social anthropology, politics and religion as it is in design. In keeping with this we take a lot of interest in pieces and designs that are iconic to the continent and try and look at new ways of interpreting them in contemporary ways.

Your mood board contains a variety of striking patterns with bold lines and geometric forms. Is this a style you often work with when creating pieces for ZikoAfrica, your contemporary accessories brand?

Bold, geometric lines and shapes are definitely reflected in our designs for ZikoAfrika. Africa is often represented by organic, swirly shapes or stereotypically tribal looks so we like exploring cultures whose work is very clean and displays the continent in a different light. We also love to fuse these influences with the simplicity and elegance of art deco and minimalist design – which reflects our dual upbringing in Kenya and the UK.

FA254 founder Waridi Schrobsdorff says her vision for the project is to change people’s minds about Africa, while celebrating contemporary African richness and creativity. What is it you hope to change in people’s minds and achieve by participating?

By taking part in FA254 we hope to be the catalyst for change in a number of different areas. Perhaps most of all we want people to stop seeing Africa through a consistently negative lens and start to view it with the more nuanced approach accorded to most other continents around the globe. This can be done by showcasing the talent, craftsmanship and dynamism that exists here.