Safari By Design
Just the finest of everything. Thrones on which to sit, kingly beds in which to laze, and, dotted all across the lodge, endless expressions of mature African design that eschew blandness.
Blandness isn’t what Africa is known for. And blandness doesn’t exist in the vocabulary here at Xigera, a super-fancy eco-lodge in the Okavango Delta. Everything, from architecture to bespoke fabrics, is statement-making.
Like this hand-sculpted terracotta seat called uMbandavu. And, on the table it faces, a metalwork chess set – A Tale for a San Child – celebrating Botswana’s original hunter-gatherers. As you sit down to play, you might imagine you’ve set down in some otherworldly kingdom. You wouldn’t be too wrong…
uMbandavu was created by Andile Dyalvane (that’s him, pictured below on the right), widely recognised as one of the world’s finest ceramicists. uMbandavu is one of four seats at Xigera that are similarly linked to Dyalvane’s relationship with his Xhosa heritage, and that connect him, through his artistic practice, with his ancestors.
And throughout the lodge you will find many more throne-like seats that are unlike anything at your local furniture store…
The first is the nest-like structure pictured right, which you’ll spot as you walk across Xigera’s threshold. Designed by Cape Town’s Porky Hefer (pictured below, left), it’s woven from thick kooboo cane and called Behd (sounds like ‘bird’). It’s inspired by observing weaver bird’s build their nests, then scaled up for humans as a seat of sorts – although you can happily treat it as a bed, a sculpture, a jungle gym – there’s even an entrance from the top.
If you think Behd is fun to romp in, wait until you go full horizontal on one of Hefer’s two reclining loungers near the bar.
The bar itself is a visual representation of the Okavango flood plains. It’s copper countertop was made by Bronze Age, textured to suggest what happens when the earth dries out when the flood recedes; the hand-carved walnut base is by Meyer Von Wielligh and is a contrasting representation of the Delta’s rippling water during the wet season.
You have to look up, too. In the library, pictured here, the articulated chandelier is by Joburg based woodworker David Krynauw.
Then, look down. The handwoven karakul wool rug was spun on a loom that had to be built especially for Somerset West weaving operation Coral and Hive; the pattern is inspired by West African Kuba cloth.
Chuma Maweni’s Imbizo Desk is the library’s centrepiece – hand-carved ebonised timber sits on a ceramic base. The geometric candelabras are by Cape Town’s Otto du Plessis, inspired by patterns found in traditional African shields and masks.
Cast your eye deeper into the room, to the mapped representation of the Okavango Delta, rendered in embossed leather by Durban-based French-born designer Xavier Clarisse. The map covers the brass doors of a handmade cabinet, and if you look into the display nooks on either side of the map you will find many more distinctive objects, like Madoda Fani’s smoke-fired Abantu vessels and bowls by master woodworker Rodney Band.
We could continue exploring for days, taking in endless evidence that African talent and craftmanship stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in the world. What is truly remarkable, also, is the manner in which Xigera’s curators have captured the spirit of Africa’s creative imagination. By embracing the finest heartfelt expressions of the continent’s designers, this place celebrates African culture like no other safari lodge on earth. That is its great glory.