Category Archives: Take 5

Five questions, five answers with a personality or five facts about a space.

Beauty of simplicity

All Rights reserved: Andrew Simeoni/Emma Nzioka
20 by Andrew Simeoni

Kenyan born designer, Andrew Simeoni, is as passionate as they come. Andrew who is based in Milan takes advantage of his multicultural background and diverse global experience to invent designs that factor in the lifestyle of the mobile, tech savvy and information hungry individual. His designs come across as practical and sensible and are slowly beginning to catch the attention of other industrial designers. 20, a multipurpose stool is one such design. Subtle, ‘clean’ and provocative are how Andrew describes his work and this is one designer who is determined not to go unnoticed.

 S: Where did you start studying?

Andrew: When I was in Kenya, I wasn’t exposed to the background of design that I wanted to pursue. I knew I wanted to go study abroad if I was to pursue my ambition. I got frustrated by teachers who weren’t able to direct to where I could study industrial design, so I really had to shop around for myself. This turned out to be a blessing as I was able to take in from all the various countries that I have visited and this has helped my design work.
I started out with what was called the Kunste and Technik method which is the closest thing I could find to product design, though it wasn’t what I was really after. After some time I quit and started shopping around again for something else. I eventually found a university in Malaysia. Fortunately, it was a creative university where I could study industrial design and after completing my studies I stayed on in Malaysia to work for a bit, but the plan was to get to Milan as this is the home of design. So I enrolled for my master’s degree in design here in Milan. I’m now working in a small studio, where I have been for the last year.

S: What forms of design brings you most joy?

Andrew: It is the post-World War 2 designs. I like the style from the Bauhaus school of design. This is appeals to be because it was when people began to look at design as more than just mere craftsmanship. There was more form and function and not just a craft. It has modern clean aesthetics which is what I want to work more in.

S: Tell me, where did the idea of ‘20’ come from?

Andrew: I decided to design stuff during my free time and I was also constantly moving house at this time. The idea for 20 came from the baggage allowance you get when flying and a lot of students and young professionals travel with 20 kilos of their most important stuff in their luggage. So, I started thinking of designs around this concept of being connected, being on the go and being simple and clean. It needed to relate to simplicity with the bare essentials. So, the design had to be light and functional that can move around an apartment easily and be multifunctional. It can be both a seat and table for someone. That is how the 20 stool was born.

S: What’s next for Andrew?

Andrew: I’m trying to find my way. I’m trying to come up with my own line of design. I might take 20 a little further. I also thinking of coming up with lamps, but that is still an idea in progress. In terms of design, I want to take the design as far as it can go especially being where I am from. I believe I have something to say and as young people we can set the trends. I’m young with fresh ideas and I think the world is ready for a shakeup and I want to be there when it happens.

Take 5: Staceyann Chin

Nairobi 2014
Nairobi 2014

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every encounter with the Jamaican poet, Staceyann Chin. She is provocative, funny, candid and insightful. She has an overwhelming sense of humanity and that has always left an impression on me. A deep impression. Her spoken word performances are riveting and enlightening. I found it a privilege listening to her share a world that I feel us men don’t get enough insight into, that of a woman’s world.

S: Favourite poem and poets?
Staceyann: That is a crazy question! I have many poems, but I feel in love with a poem when I was young by T.S Eliot called, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock; Lorna Godison’s poems are amazing! There is bunch of other poems too. When it comes to poets, it’s the same issue. I have many poets whom I like. There’s a small weird looking white boy called Tony Hogland, South African Keorapetse Kgositsile I love his work and it is deeply moving. Amiri Bakara, Lucille Clifton. There are so many. It is hard to single out a poet or poem.

S: Tell me about the journey of poetry for you?
Staceyann: You know I studied Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths, but I found they weren’t inspiring me. I was reading a lot on the side –  poetry and literature. Then I went to university to study philosophy and literature and that is where I kinda feel in love with the work. I thought of myself more of a critic than a poet. So, for a long time I was more of a critic. But when I was forced to move to America, the spoken word spoke to my situation and helped me address what I was feeling. I needed to say things. For instance, the pain of missing Jamaica, not being accepted, being far from home, being a lesbian, being a woman, being an abandoned child, being black in a place that isn’t black. This was my window into writing poetry.

S: There are times that your poetry comes from an angry place. Would I be right in saying that?

Staceyann: Anger has a lot of fuel and so when one is angry you don’t need a lot of motivation to move. All you need to do is to light the anger and you are airborne. When you are angry you are already naked. It is less introspective as the emotion is already there.

S: What poetry do you enjoy most writing about?
Staceyann: I love writing about things that I am experiencing in the moment. It allows me to deconstruct how I feel. It helps me makes sense and to understand the things that are making me feel senseless. It helps me make a path forward. Plus, it gives me a road map.

S: Has being a mother changed your poetry?
Staceyann: I don’t know whether it’s changed my poetry, but it’s certainly changed my perspective. It’s inspired me to be more honest. On one hand, it matters to me now how Zuri will look at my work in future and on the other it won’t be a bad thing for her to see the truth behind my work. Before she arrived I was pretty certain about what I was talking about and where I was headed. Surprisingly, I didn’t expect to be deeply moved by the direction she has inspired in me. She has shown me how much I don’t know and shown me how I much I can learn from people who’ve just been born. I’m learning from her! Furthermore, one stage during my performances, I am now a more textured being. I’ve more joy. Previously, I’d been jaded and brutalised by the activism and now I can be both be happy and still be an activist.

I must admit, I’ve less time to write now. Before, I could wake up in the middle of the night and write on the thoughts that were giving me sleepless nights and then go back to sleep later. I could live a very charmed writer’s life. Now when she falls asleep for a few hours, I’ve got to get a poem out of me (laughs). I’m therefore learning to hold onto inspiration now and access parts of me that happened either the previous night or the previous week.

Staceyann’s critically acclaimed book, The Other Side of Paradise, was released in 2010.