“Kompa means ‘together,’ ” explains designer Peter Mabeo, who is based in Gaborone, Botswana. To demonstrate that holistic idea, Mabeo interlocks his fingers, creating a circle with his hands. The word, which Mabeo learned from an artisan in the nearby village of Hukuntsi, is the name of his newest furniture collection: 10 pieces made in collaboration with Italian fashion brand Fendi and unveiled at Design Miami.
“I wanted to bring together different elements, different materials, and different people,” says Mabeo. Since founding his namesake studio in 1997, he has been teaming up with a range of Botswana-based makers, among them master woodworkers, potters, basket weavers, and metalsmiths. For Kompa, he canvassed the country by car, tapping those same experts to test the limits of their mediums. In the community of Mmankgodi, woodworkers used local Panga Panga timber to create the squiggly Shiya seat and sculptural Maduo chair. (Bearing Fendi’s classic F logo, the latter reinterprets a bracelet design by Delfina Delettrez Fendi, artistic director of jewelry.) In Molepolole Village, ceramists packed clay into wood-and-metal frameworks and pit-fired the forms using cow dung for fuel—an ancient technique that lends the clay a leathery reddish tint. The resulting Loma and efo stools, with complementary components that nestle into one another, incidentally, resemble Mabeo’s circular hand gesture.
Several pieces were touched by multiple craftspeople before they reached their final state of kompa. Take the Foro chair, which Mabeo executed in wood as well as ceramic. In order to realize its unusual shape in clay, he enlisted metalworkers who usually turn scrap into buckets. They created an elaborate mold that would guide a ceramist’s hand in the building stages. To give some insight into that process at Design Miami, Mabeo displayed the seat still attached to the skeletal structure. (Those same metalworkers also created the Gabi-Gabi seating sculpture and a small matching lamp.) Meanwhile, to create the Chichira cabinet far north in Etsha, metalworkers produced a framework that some 20 basket weavers sheathed with palm leaves (you can smell their grassy aroma, even through a mask), all before woodworkers installed drawers.
“I was immediately drawn to Peter’s considered approach to form and function, combined with materials and artisanal techniques specific to his local environment,” explains Kim Jones, Fendi’s artistic director for womenswear and couture. Mabeo made a point to document these networks of craft—and each individual artisan who touched the collection—in a publication that was presented in Miami. As Silvia Venturini Fendi, the brand’s artistic director of accessories, menswear, and kids, explains, “The work speaks not only about products but about people.” fendi.com