Cultural Design

Culture provides the catalyst for Designer to create services and products that are fit for their context but also innovative and culturally sensitive.

Our role as designers hinges on integrating the socio-cultural factors that leads to the final outcome. Now more than ever, we need to be aware of the impact of culture.

Indigenous Designs

Latest Tweets

Subscribe to Cultural Design

Join our mailing list and be advised as soon as articles and interviews go live on the website.

Transcultural Zimbabwean Aesthetic

Transcultural Zimbabwean Aesthetic

Culture is the continous reflective thread with which we weave our exprience…

I really enjoyed reading ‘Shona’s Ethnoaesthetics’, so before delving into this particular paper, I would like to provide a quick analysis on Pasztory and Mguni’s articles. Both readings deal with the importance of  context when it comes to interpreting cultural artifact (tangible/intangible). Art, in this instance works within a predefined closed system and has its own culturally governed principles dictating importance (hierarchy) and meaning-making. Any closed system then, brings with it a sense of authority and what is excluded or included. What is left unsaid becomes just as important as what has been depicted.

At first reading, my impression of the paper was about the dominant culture imposing its own set of values on the shona people. After the second read however, I started to grasp the bigger picture. Internalised Oppression was a secondary theme that was running parallel to concepts of beauty within the local context of Shona traditional society.I was surprised that the concept of ‘Sublime’ wasn’t mentioned at all. The ‘desire for uniformity’ in Thinking with Things, made me reflect on school uniforms and how they are also used to create a sense of equality. Their concept of beauty didn’t just extend to physical but also internal beauty. Coco Chanel is quoted as saying: “At 20 you have the face nature gave you, at 50 you have the face you deserve” came to mind. Shona’s insistence is on outside beauty matching the inner beauty ( Matereke, K., & Mapara, J. 2009, p207).

Concepts of Beauty are parts of the culture that have been redefined and perhaps lost through a ‘distorted narrative’, which needs to be ‘deconstructed’, this deconstruction has already started in North America since 1960, with the ‘Black is beautiful’ movement. One thing that I found quite disappointing is the universal concept of woman as the seductress and the old witch (seems like a universal theme running through every society). The cultural sense of context, in particular, manifests itself in the way women occupy the inner(female) or outer world (male).

Proverb are the elevator speech of a culture, transmitting the essence of its wisdom in an oral manner (short-hand). I thought about whether proverbs change over time. Language is a constantly evolving ‘thing’. So the meanings associated with it change also over time. Does this mean that the associated truth also changes?

Beauty is about meaning and resonance.


  1. Pasztory, E. (2005). Thinking with Things: Toward a New Vision of Art. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. Chapters 6, pp. 52-59.
  2. Siyakha, M. (2004). Cultured Representation: ‘Formlings’, an Enigmatic Motif in the Rock-Art of Zimbabwe  [Electronic Version]. Journal of Social Archaeology, 4, 181-199.
  3. Matereke, K., & Mapara, J. (2009). Shona Ethnoaesthetics: The Beauty and the Shona Proverb.  Journal Of Pan African Studies, 2(8), 197-218.
  4. Image Source:

Leave a Comment