THE THINGS THAT WE DO

Client : British Council - East Africa Arts
Location : Addis Ababa, Ethiopia & Nairobi, Kenya
Status : Exhibited 2019
Collaborators : 98 Crafted, Design Week Addis Adaba, Nairobi Design Week
Artisans : Asego Woodwork, Wood Craft, Big 5, Tope Pottery, Crochet by Kuki
3D Scanners : Hutchery 360

‘The Things That We Do’ is a global design project that explores the connection between behaviours and objects. Historically, the specific nature of everyday routines such as eating, sleeping, socialising and playing has affected the design of the objects that we use. Both NEON and project collaborators 98 Crafted are worried about the homogenisation of culture due to objects being mass produced and distributed globally.

The project worked much like a game played between collaborators. 98 Crafted gathered aural descriptions of specific habits in both Ethiopia and Kenya.  NEON listened to the descriptions from their studio in the UK and playfully imagined the objects that are used for the habits. NEON produced one black and white sketch per habit. 98 Crafted engaged a series of artisans to playfully interpret the sketches into physical objects. The objects are 3d scanned online and placed alongside photos of the real objects used for the habits for comparison.

The project was exhibited at Design Week Addis Ababa (11-17 February 2019) and Nairobi Design Week (17-23 March 2019) and was supported by the British Council’s East Africa Arts Programme under the ‘new Arts new Audiences’ grant.

Drinking - Ethiopia

“In a part of Ethiopia people have coffee with butter. They have two things to pour so the pot has two holes. They put butter and coffee inside the pot and the butter melts. They pour the coffee, one hole is for coffee and the other is for butter and they mix in a cup.”

NEON Sketch based on the description above.

NEON Sketch based on the description above.

Drinking - kenya

“The tea cosy used to keep the tea in the kettle hot. It is thick and shaped like a Marvin. The outer side is made with a material that looks like paper parchment with knitted wool decoration like flowers and the inside is a thick wool like a winter jacket. Tea mugs are very special. It’s like a right of passage when you are old enough to select your own mug. In a Luhya household the tea mug is always big. You get your mug as a gift or when it ‘calls to you’ in a store. I like mine long and normal tea mug width. My brother’s is very wide like a soup cup and stubby. If you get a mug in my house it means you are special to me.”

NEON Sketch based on the description above.

NEON Sketch based on the description above.

PLAYING - ETHIOPIA

“Players use sticks to strike a ball in an effort to pass it through the opponents’ goal at the end of the pitch. To make one of these sticks, the player looks for a branch just longer than arm’s length and curved at the end. While the shaft is typically cylindrical, the sides of the end are carved flat for better ball handling. The ball is wooden and slightly ovoid. As the wood is a tan colour and would be easily lost in the similarly coloured field, it’s painted with bright colors to make it more easily visible.”

NEON Sketch based on the description above

NEON Sketch based on the description above

PLAYING - KENYA

“We make 7 holes in a row, put 3 stones in every hole. We take chance to distribute the stones in the 7 holes, everyone tried their best to get all the 21 stones in one hole. Who ever managed to do that was the winner until the next time we played and someone else would win. The winning was either by luck, but most players used to cheat: either you jump a hole or you place two stones in a hole. And rarely would the player who followed to rules win. But don’t get caught!”

NEON Sketch based on the description above

NEON Sketch based on the description above

WEDDING - ETHIOPIA

“It’s made out of a plant that is like a cucumber. You cut it open and remove the seeds. You can make a coffee cup out of it, or if it’s bigger you can keep milk or butter in it. It’s treated with butter so it feels like glass. It’s a good gift for the bride.”

NEON Sketch based on the description above

NEON Sketch based on the description above

WEDDING - KENYA

“Different presents are given to the bride during a Kikuyu wedding. She gets an uteo which is used to clean grain. It is round and light in weight with a large diameter and low height. The grains are put in it and tossed in the air, the dirt flies away and the grain lands back in the uteo.”

NEON Sketch based on the description above

NEON Sketch based on the description above

EATING - ETHIOPIA

“It’s shaped like a goblet, wider on the top and it has a kind of plate on the bottom. When we have guests we serve porridge out of this, it shows respect.”

NEON Sketch based on the description above

NEON Sketch based on the description above

EATING - KENYA

“This is a small store where they have a grill and meat has been cooking since 11am, and now it’s about 2pm so it’s ready. So we all sit down, it’s kind of dark, it’s smoky, the ambience is set. It’s smells like meat. Then the food comes, the person who cuts the meat comes with the meat. He comes with a cutting board and kind of places the leg on top of it and it doesn’t fall of. It’s a bit wavy. Water, dries, water, dries, so it gets wavy. He holds the end and starts slicing it up. Idea is eat it while it’s hot so as he cuts, we eat.”

NEON Sketch based on the description above

NEON Sketch based on the description above

COOKING - ETHIOPIA

“A large, round spatula that is used to remove the injera from the pan in one piece. It is somewhat similar to a pizza paddle, except that it is round.”

NEON Sketch based on the description above

NEON Sketch based on the description above

COOKING - KENYA

“When we get guests, we always share what we have. If they are an announced guest, we shall prepare whatever we were going eat. It is a way of appreciating each other. A Mbuzi is used to grate the coconut. It is made with two wooden boards intersecting at an angle.”

NEON Sketch based on the description above

NEON Sketch based on the description above

MAKER FILMS