South Africa: From Pit Latrines to Algorithmic Silkworm Fabrication, Up-Cycling to Down-Cycling, Re-Use and Recycling Dominate


In a week when South Africans were focusing on church congregants rising from the dead - or not - the 2019 Design Indaba Conference, at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town, dished up everything from seaweed packaging and biodegradable coffins, to living cyborgs, and a pile of offerings that certainly challenged traditional imaginations.

Much more than an esoteric mingling of aesthetes and hipsters, this annual celebration of global innovation once more focused on the art of the possible and the interrogation of the improbable - including up-cycling, recycling, re-use, and down-cycling.

While South Africans still debate what to do with that ubiquitous "National Flower", (in the words of former Environment Minister Mohamed Valli Moosa), the plastic carrier bag, and other petroleum-derived, non-degradable plastic products that pollute our land and seas, inventor/designer/architect/engineer, Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez showcased his seaweed-derived plastic substitute - edible and biodegradable.

Gonzalez' Skipping Rocks Lab has developed a commercial and sustainable solution to the global pandemic of plastic packaging from farmed and upcycled seaweed - suitable for everything from foodstuffs to cosmetics. Clear, tasteless, bite-sized capsules of water were on offer for delegates to pop into their mouths, chew on, and swallow. Skipping Rocks have commercialised their 'ooho!'...

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