"Design Activist" Bridging African Traditions with Modern, Re-Invented Basket Lamps (Video)

© Stephen Burks

Basket weaving traditions in Africa may vary from region to region, but we know that oftentimes recycled materials are used in their making. Working with local basket weavers in a village near Dakar, Senegal, New York City-based designer Stephen Burks is fusing regional craft with modern design in these colorful, "re-invented" basket lamps.

© Stephen Burks

Now being shown at Toronto's Design Exchange, Burks' Man Made Project consists of baskets which are woven using sweetgrass and recycled plastic into simple but bold patterns, and are then reconfigured into new uses -- sometimes functional, sometimes abstract.

© Stephen Burks

© Stephen Burks

© Stephen Burks

Burks, who has been called a "design activist" looking to bridge tradition with modern forms and functions, talks about the intentions of the project:

My Man Made project is really about integrating centuries old artisanal processes into contemporary design products to extend these craft traditions into the future, while also building a bridge from these developing world hand factories to international distribution.

© Stephen Burks

These beautiful, coiled creations are not yet commercialized; so far, it's a design experiment, and Burks is now looking for partners to fund further production. But it's certainly one effective way to preserve traditions that may otherwise be forgotten; let's hope that when these lovely, one-of-a-kind recycled pieces do make it to market, they'll be fair-trade products too. Check out the video of the basket-making, on-site, and Stephen Burks' Readymade Projects. The exhibition at the Design Exchange will run until April 1.

Stephen Burks: Man Made Toronto from Design Exchange on Vimeo.

Tags: Africa | Designers | Lighting | New York City | Recycling