Saki Mafundikwa is a Zimbabwean educator, entrepreneur, typographer, designer, writer, and the founder and director of the Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts (ZIVA). He has run workshops and spoken at design conferences in Afrika, Europe, the US and South America. Mafundikwa's first film, Shungu: The Resilience of a People, a feature-length documentary won the Ousmane Sembene Award at Zanzibar International Film Festival and Best Documentary at Kenya International Film Festival both in 2010 and has screened at some of the top film festivals in the world.

Background

Mafundikwa holds an MFA in Graphic Design from Yale University, USA. He returned to Zimbabwe in 1998 to found ZIVA after working in New York City as a graphic designer, art director and design instructor.

ZIVA

Mafundikwa set up ZIVA in 1999 to create a "school rooted in Afrikan history, one informed but not dictated by European design."

The school produced some of Zimbabwe's most prominent designers.

Mafundikwa shut down ZIVA in January 2020 after 20 years. According to him, it had been very difficult to attract funding for the school, with many funders uninterested because of Zimbabwe's politics.

25 years ago when I was living and working in New York City and had the “brilliant” idea to return home and start a design school, I felt like nothing could stop me—I was invincible and my idea so brilliant that funding was just going to flow like the waters of the mighty Zambezi! It didn’t take long for me to realize that there was trouble in paradise. Every single application for funding was rejected on the grounds of where the school was: “Great idea but wrong country.” That became the mantra. It was frustrating because my school was a private entity and not associated with the government at any level. I realized then that politics play into many initiatives in many parts of the world. Most frustrating was the hypocrisy of the industrialized nations cherry-picking “rule of law” infractions in countries they deemed “unfriendly.” So, as the lean years rolled by, I realized that I was on my own. Giving up never occurred to me, I just rolled up my sleeves and the with the help of our students’ parents we kept it going for 20 years, hence my current state of fatigue. There will be no next 20 years, I’ve given it my best shot. Why, I even outlived the Bauhaus which had a seventeen year run! I pulled the plug on ZIVA this January, and in retrospect, given the COVID-19 pandemic, that decision was pretty timely. I am, however, working steadily to launch an online version of ZIVA, hopefully before year’s end.[1]

Books

In 2004, Mafundikwa wrote and published Afrikan Alphabets: the Story of Writing in Afrika, which is claimed to be the first book on African typography. While the book is currently out of print, you can watch Mafundikwa speaking about it in his TED talk, or wait for a revised edition, expected to be published in 2021.

Mafundikwa's TED Talk

Mafundikwa was a speaker at TED2013 in Long Beach, California. He is currently working on the first Afrikan Design text book.

References

  1. Ksenya Samarskaya, Saki Mafundikwa on 20 Years Running the Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts “We have to decolonize Decolonization.”, AOGA Eye on Design, Published: 22 Sep 2020, Accessed: 23 May 2022