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December 16

Peet Pienaar

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“I’m using art as an excuse to live a very interesting life – it allows you to be whoever you want to be, do whatever you want to do, go where ever you want to go. It’s like a free ticket." -- Peet Pienaar [caption id="attachment_5239" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Peet Pienaar's ornate business card"][/caption] Peet Pienaar is multi award winning performance artist cum graphic designer hailing from South Africa. He is the co-owner of the design studio The President which also runs the hipster mecca concept store CHURCH. He owns a "secret" restaurant in Cape Town called CHOP which is open once a week, revolves around different design concepts and features a set 5-course menu. He has released a publication called MENU in which he details the 167 best dishes in Capetown. He is the editor and co-designer of the contemporary African culture magazine Afro. He was sought out to design t-shirts for Comme des Garcons. He and his partner Hannerie Visser designed the Diesel Island campaign. And he is most famous (or possibly infamous) for being circumcised on camera at the age of 29. His foreskin was then put on display while surrounded by three monitors playing a close-up, zoomed-in, painful-to-watch video of the procedure. He isn't lying when he says he lives an interesting life. [caption id="attachment_5228" align="aligncenter" width="800" caption="Diesel Island campaign"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5229" align="aligncenter" width="1000" caption="Diesel Island campaign"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5267" align="aligncenter" width="448" caption="T-shirts for Comme des Garcons"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5264" align="aligncenter" width="358" caption="Paper collectibles "][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5265" align="aligncenter" width="509" caption="Collection of work from The President"][/caption] Peet is dedicated to representing African influenced design. He works within the culture and is avidly against what he claims people want most, "Bad, secondhand versions of the West." He operates under three guidelines: be true to your culture, avoid limitations and embrace excess. His career began as a performance artist after he graduated from university with a degree in fine art. The experience left him disillusioned as he felt that any art he made would only be viewed by the same small group of the population. This was the catalyst to his entrance to the world of design. While art reaches a small select group, design is a mass market endeavor. People are bombarded by design every moment of the day. He saw this as an opportunity to do work that he loved while repping his homeland and reaching a large audience through communication design. He ignores Western influences and puts a spotlight on the design ideas and creativity of Africa. [caption id="attachment_5257" align="aligncenter" width="509" caption="The President business card"][/caption] This focus on African influences is the foundation of his magazine Afro, which explores the culture of his continent. The magazine represents "New Africa" and carries the message, as explained by Peet, that "Africa is cool and wonderful." He is intent on discovering and sharing the culture makers of his homeland with young Africans who "want to believe that Africa is better than the West." Peet keeps his message undiluted; there is absolutely no advertising included within Afro and the brands that sponsor the magazine have absolutely no influence on the content. It is important to him that it stay independent. [caption id="attachment_5230" align="aligncenter" width="1218" caption="Afro Magazine III"][/caption] And even beyond the content, the physical magazine itself is a glorious work of design genius. It is a collection of loose inserts which are held together by elastic. The magazine unopened is about the size of a CD case but once unfolded the reader is faced with ornate visual language, fold out posters and mini works of paper art that are difficult to ever throw away. [caption id="attachment_5225" align="aligncenter" width="791" caption="The unfolding of Afro Magazine I"][/caption] The magazine is visually astounding. Peet comments that his goal was to reach a non-reading audience -- and that only big readers had problems reading through the content with the way that it is put together. Peet's philosophy behind Afro is "if you can interest someone with great design, they will read it." There is also a sort of "hide the medicine in the pudding" feel to it -- visually it's all fun and games, but the content is often much more serious. With the magazine frequently being bought as a gift or even just because it looks so cool, Peet is managing to spread his message easily to people who normally would never be seeking the sort of content that is inside. It's really rather brilliant. [caption id="attachment_5240" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Afro Magazine II"][/caption] And the industry seems to agree. Peet won the CLIO Grand Prix for editorial design in 2006 for Afro Magazine, the first South African ever to do so, and also won a Gold Ozzie Award (New York) for best cover for the edition of Visi Magazine that he worked on. His recognition by both professionals and the public is influencing Africans to start really delving into their own culture. Before Peet's work, Africa did not have a strong design identity. People were just looking to the West and emulating their design trends. Now it seems people are seemingly waking up, feeding into Peet's message and working to develop their country's identity. [caption id="attachment_5243" align="aligncenter" width="1000" caption="Pienaar's cover for Visi Magazine"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5242" align="aligncenter" width="999" caption="Poster for Cape, an African Contemporary Art Biennale"][/caption] While helping to improve Africa's design identity, Peet is simultaneously contributing to the community. His concept store CHURCH on Church Square is an ever changing boutique of pretty things you'll never truly need. The theme changes monthly and, for example, in late 2010 the theme was wood -- and, you guessed it, everything for sale fit the theme. Wood sunglasses, wood lampshades, etc, etc. The ever changing everything provides shoppers reason to come back. In addition, he owns the "secret" restaurant CHOP and has released a publication called MENU which is a list of the best dishes available in Cape Town. He is helping the nation to realize its identity, recognize its culture and enjoy the luxury which lies within. [caption id="attachment_5232" align="aligncenter" width="531" caption="CHURCH"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5233" align="aligncenter" width="531" caption="CHURCH"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5234" align="aligncenter" width="531" caption="CHURCH"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5227" align="aligncenter" width="800" caption="Wall decorations inside CHURCH"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5235" align="aligncenter" width="876" caption="CHURCH Wood theme"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5236" align="aligncenter" width="584" caption="CHURCH wooden sunglasses"][/caption] South Africa is a place rich in culture and creativity. Peet just helped everyone there realize this. Although his influence is directly received primarily by the design community, it reaches far beyond just that. He is helping the entire population realize its importance and relevancy. Developing countries often can't help but to look to the West for ideas -- the social and economic disparity between the two is overwhelming, and it is not surprising that many look to the West for the "right" way to go about things. Peet draws influence from non-design aspects of African culture then translates them into his work. His influence helps other members of the community to do the same. Success is dependent on knowing yourself, and Peet is showing the country that it has its own "right" way and that it really is "wonderful and cool." PS Peet actually worked with Laura Villasenin, Miista founder and designer, on her final university project. They collaborated on a shoe box shaped like an antelope that read: "America makes me wet." [caption id="attachment_5255" align="aligncenter" width="440" caption="Collaboration with Laura Villasenin"][/caption]
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