The heart of Soul Design can be found amongst the cobbled streets and brightly colored facades of the Bo-Kaap in Cape Town. Even here, amidst a riot of pigments Abi James’s home draws the eye like a precious jewel.
Her eye for texture and color, juxtaposition and complement is evident before you even enter her home. The bougainvillea painted around her front door is a homage to beauty and an invitation. And the interior has clearly been crafted by a lover of art and travel.
Artwork from Pakistan and Zambia, photography by Caroline Gibello, Indian tablecloths and family heirlooms all jostle for space amongst many, many books.
Abi started designing jewelry working with talented Artisans for accessory brands around Africa.
“Travel is a big part of my work and life, and I can often be found rummaging through markets for interesting finds, or choosing beads and fabrics from a trader; always with a sketchbook and camera in my bag to capture interesting textures, people, and patterns that might later inspire a jewelry design.”
Soul Design is firmly rooted in authentic African Design
While influences from far away can be glimpsed, Abi is adamant about sourcing ethically handmade materials and beads primarily from Africa. She aims to ensure a direct link to the maker in every instance. Brass from Kenya, recycled glass beads from Mali, Ethiopian beads and pendants and brass pendants and beads from Ghana.
She also continues to work with a carefully selected group of artisans from the continent. There is Fred and his team in Kenya who makes every brass charm by hand. And Nontembe, a single mum from Nyanga who works full time in the Cape Town studio.
But this brand isn’t all heart and no legs. The designs are stunning and infinitely wearable, with bloggers, celebrities, and the über stylish Capetonians all being seen wearing Soul Design and quick to tell you about how they brought their own vision to life in Abi’s studio.
Because you can design your own bespoke Soul Design piece or have a creation made for you while you visit the studio. One of the most beautiful ways of carrying a piece of Africa with you always… wherever your future travels may take your nomadic soul.
About the Bo-Kaap
At the foot of Table Mountain, Jan de Waal built tiny houses that he leased to his slaves in 1763. Most of these slaves were Muslims imported from Malaysia and the area became known as the Malay Quarter. Following the emancipation of slaves in 1834 developers constructed many more rows of narrow houses to lease and a township now grew. Freedom was finally joyfully expressed through a riot of color where only white was allowed before.
From 1943 restoration of the Bo-Kaap began and with Cape Town’s economic development and expansion the Bo-Kaap has become rather gentrified and sought after and it is feared that the picturesque cobble-streets, unique architecture and blended creed with distinct Malaysian, African, Indian and Sri Lankan culture might dissolve into the future.