Ananta Design Studio: Towards infinite creative freedom 


Through Ananta Design Studio, Cape Town-based design sisters Viveka and Rucita Vassen merge their Indian lineage and South African heritage to design colourful and meaningful abstract works you can bring into your home. The name of their business and its meaning, deeply embedded in their creativity, reminds us of the values and timelessness to be uncovered in life: joy, contentment, and other fulfilling qualities beyond the limiting physicalities of birth, growth, and death. For example, their Meeta Peeta (Mother and Father, in Hindu) table lamps combine the ideas of the parents as a protective source and light as a guiding source through life to reflect the weight of parenthood and family love. 

Another example is the PLAYSCAPE installation, which was commissioned by Tétris Design & Build and JLL Real Estate, and displayed in the Upcycle Art Exhibition at the V&A Waterfront Makers Landing, Cape Town. This artwork that looks like an ancient plant of life and wisdom is a call for people to engage with their relationships to the working environment which often takes place indoors and to the natural environment they see when they step outside. This contrast establishes a harmony that humanity craves – to be functioning individuals in an economic society while still having the freedom to be playful and stay connected to our innate selves. 

Mamelodi Marakalala: The meaning of Ananta being the “infinite and endless” in Sanskrit reflects a permanence that sounds very appealing, at the least, when you think about it in terms of aesthetic design. 

Please tell me a little about your work and how the concept of Ananta finds its way into your designs.

Ananta Design Studio: Ananta is a multidisciplinary design studio. Our purpose is to empower and uplift our local craft communities by reimagining and elevating traditional African craft into playful luxury pieces and FUN-ctional art such as decor, lighting, furniture, and fashion accessories. Our collections include beaded vases, lighting, wire art mirrors, and furniture pieces from upcycled audio and video cassette tapes. 

The Ananta concept of ‘infinite and endless’ reflects how we feel about creativity, design and all the exciting possibilities that lie ahead for us. In our work, it speaks to the circular concept of creation and energy – there is no beginning or end. We strongly believe our handmade collectable pieces hold the human essence and spirit of the maker that will live on forever. By working with local communities, we preserve heritage crafts. We also ensure that the cultural traditions of previous generations are continued in present and future generations, through our heirloom pieces that are loved for a lifetime and beyond.  

MM: What is your approach to design? Share with us the creative freedom that connects your bodies of work across the multiple Ananta creations out in the world. 

ADS: Our approach to design is experimental, playful, and intuitive. With backgrounds in fashion and graphic design, we are more enabled in being a multi-disciplinary design studio. This gives us the freedom to push boundaries across disciplines and interweave our skills in new territories of product and furniture design. 

The starting point in our design process is looking at local African crafts and being inspired to push them beyond their current forms and turn them into luxury pieces with a fresh and modern aesthetic. Our playful approach leads to bright and bold creations that evoke joy. Everything we create is filled with colour, pattern, joy, celebration and a sense of community!

MM: Design is a very personal and cultural journey, especially when you are the maker and the objects you make lend themselves to becoming invitations for people to come into your individuality and culture. 

What would you like to share about the influences on your design practice? What do you invite us into when we engage with your creations? 

ADS: Culture has influenced our work greatly. We are South African with Indian heritage and have been inspired by our homeland and ancestral land, as they both hold an indescribable vibrancy in their culture, community, colours, patterns and textures. This cross-over of cultures has made us want to find our creative voice and to define a visual language and style that represents our diversity. As we move more and more towards a global community, we hope others relate and connect to the cross-cultural aesthetic of our pieces too. 

Our pieces invite you into the wondrous and magical world of Ananta. We want our pieces to make you smile and inspire you to make any moment in life a celebration. We also hope our practice of uplifting craft communities sparks others to think more deeply about our communities and how we can impact others in an uplifting way, whether it be through big or small gestures. So we invite all IQOQO readers and everyone beyond to join us on this journey of beauty, meaning, and social impact. 

MM: It is admirable how your love for community is so ingrained in your design practice. In your web of connecting people and building a sense of togetherness with others, who would you say that the Ananta Design Studio is for? 

ADS: Ananta Design Studio is firstly for our crafters. We aim to be a platform for local crafters and to keep shining a light on their incredible skills through innovative designs. We work with the talented bead artists from Monkeybiz who use a woven and glue beading technique. The ReBag.ReUse team crochet using upcycled audio and video tapes for our seating pieces. The weavers from Mielie make our vegan bags with various materials and crochet techniques. Our wire artist, Tavengwa Dahwa from Rainbow Artz, has a very distinctive and unique telephone wire technique that we incorporate into our mirror frames. 

Collaboration is integral to our business. We worked on an exclusive collection of Tropical Afri-Disco table lamps with Merchants on Long, a destination concept store celebrating the best of African design. We want to showcase African craftsmanship to the wider world and are always searching for more crafters to support and widen our network. We find excitement in experimenting with new techniques and materials and expanding our collections. And we have an exciting collaboration in the pipeline with a fellow designer! 

Our pieces attract a very niche market because of the combination of craft and luxury, with a playful and colourful style. Our statement pieces appeal to art collectors, enthusiasts, and bold and fearless individuals who are looking for unique pieces with personality and a story to tell. We are so grateful to have the most talented and supportive people as part of the Ananta community – crafters, collectors, retailers, trade buyers, fellow designers, and our cheerleaders. All the collaborations, support, and encouragement make all the difference in the journey.

MM: So, what is the journey of being designers in South Africa like? 

ADS: Our journey has been filled with many special and surreal moments. Working with the crafters and seeing their surprised excitement after completing a piece is rewarding. Creating waves of change in the creative and cultural sector has brought us fulfilment. It does come with its challenges, too. Our greatest learning curve has been turning a creative passion into a sustainable business. But some incredible people in the industry have created a welcoming and helpful space with room to share knowledge. 

We are very grateful to our stockists Always Welcome and Merchants on Long, who have created a platform to showcase the best of African design, for believing in our products and vision. Our pieces have also made their way to the Brooklyn Museum New York as part of the Africa Fashion Pop-Up, curated by Alara Lagos. Our brand has been well received and this has been very encouraging to us. 

We were selected as Design Indaba Emerging Creatives 2023, which was our first accolade and a big moment for us. Showcasing at Decorex and 100% Design is a wonderful feat for our brand in 2024, as it is a fantastic platform for exposure and has given us the opportunity to connect with our audience in a very personal way. When we see people’s reactions to our pieces and the smiles on their faces, we know we’re on the right track.

MM: Congratulations on Ananta being a Top 12 finalist of the Création Africa Incubation Programme. 

How did you discover the entrepreneurial empowerment initiative, what were your initial experiences with this opportunity, what have you learned in your participation and where does the road lead? 

ADS: Thank you, we were very thrilled to be part of this experience. We discovered Création Africa through the IQOQO platform. As creatives, we felt we weren’t adequately equipped with entrepreneurial skills, especially the financial aspect of running a business. We have been looking for a mentorship programme since we started our business and knew Création Africa would be the right fit once we saw what it offered through its incubation. 

It has been an intense programme pushing us far beyond our comfort zones. We’ve been receiving group and one-on-one mentoring which is so empowering. Creatives typically communicate stories through art and design, and now we are finally learning how to tell a business story through numbers. With these skills, we’ll be able to grow and scale our business, create an even bigger impact in empowering craft communities, and represent African design to the world. We are excited about the endless and infinite possibilities this journey will lead us to.

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