Bibi Ahmed - Shanga

Interview: Bibi Ahmed on London Design Festival Exhibition ‘Shanga’

We caught up with Bibi Ahmed to talk about her beautiful work with beads, process and inspiration ahead of the show.

Shanga by Bibi Ahmed | NOW Gallery | 17-25 September | Free

Tell us about Shanga: how did the work come about, and what should we expect to see at London Design Festival?

Shanga means beads in Swahili. I did not find the beads, they found me. Where I spent my childhood in Kenya, beading is part of our culture. The beads symbolise different tribes and the different roles individuals hold within their society.  

Tell us about your creative process – where do you seek inspiration, and how do you see a project through from start to finish?

I get inspiration from everywhere: It could be a supermarket or an art exhibition. Above all, I am inspired by Africa fashion. 

How do you think people-centred design can change the world for the better?

Beading is a manual and a very slow process. It requires a lot of patience and perseverance. In Kenya beading is done by local crafts people; it gives them an income, independence and preserves their identity and culture.

What are your hot tips for artists, designers or makers that you love that we should keep an eye out for?

I can identify with Artsi Ifrah’s work. He finds beauty in day ’to’ day objects. I love Selly Raby Kane’s work and what she’s able to do with up cycled materials. I have a very special piece from their collection which is also incorporated from car tires. 

What are your favourite London haunts (to eat, to party, to chill out, to discover design etc)?

First of all, there is my bedroom. I really enjoy spending time in local markets like Upton Park, Barking and Romford market is great for food and textiles. I love road trips around the countryside. I don’t really have favourite haunts as such, but I enjoy my friends surprising me. I always like to discover different types of foods.