All images by Inge Prins

Known for its boldly eclectic aesthetic, Molori Safari chose the dynamic South African design team at Hesse Kleinloog to take a fresh look at its glamorous interiors. Known for their creative thinking from concept development to finishing touches, Megan Hesse and Andrea Kleinloog began to put together the new direction in the second quarter of 2020.

“Our initial involvement was meant to be a small, light intervention but the circular nature of the architecture meant that we had to marry our design with the organic structure of the lodge,” said Kleinloog, who masterminded the new interiors.

Guest art experience on another level

Artworks from the owner Ivor Ichikowitz’s diverse personal collection – by artists such as Norman Catherine, Lady Skollie and Edoardo Villa, among others – were to be added to the lodge, taking the guest art experience up another level.

Taking art to the floor

Very quickly, the talented interiors team realised that the organic floor spaces would be the place to start, as many of the walls were curved and ideally suited to colourful rugs that would complement the bold new artwork. The choice of circular designer rugs is woefully limited in South Africa – and in the height of the pandemic, no ships were arriving anytime soon. Admirably undeterred, Kleinloog’s team undertook what must be the most heart-warming interior design journey that has evolved over the past two years.

It all started with one rug

It all began when Kleinloog asked the designer, Koos Groenewald of creative studio Jana+Koos: “Can you make a rug? Can you make art and rugs?” An artist in his own right, he jumped at the challenge. It started with just one rug, but as he began talking to other globally acclaimed local artists about creating contemporary artworks to weave into large and colourful floor rugs, the excitement was palpable.

Locally manufactured – over video

It was soon dubbed “the rug project” and they began to look at rug manufacturers who could help realise their vision. In the end, they discovered the highly professional team of skilled craftspeople at Brabetz Carpet Mill in Durban. It was high-risk – there were no colour charts, no one was able to visit the mill during lockdown, and everything was done over video and phone.

A new beginning amidst the cloud of uncertainty

The project was started in the deepest, darkest depths of Covid-19 uncertainty, and it was such a spark of joy in such a dark time. The fun and frivolity of colour and joy of engagement was so welcome in the disjointed, masked-up world. Molori means “to dream” and this project seems to have been just that – a dream project.

They collaborated with some of South Africa’s most provocative contemporary artists, who agreed to have their artworks interpreted and woven into these magnificent rugs. The artists are Athi-Patra Ruga, Cameron Platter, Jody Paulsen, Maja Marx, Nabeeha Mohamed and Koos Groenewald.

Jana+Koos applied their graphic design ability and worked with Brabetz to skilfully interpret the artworks into digitised patterns, enabling South African weavers to produce these grand creations.

Rugs invoking happiness

Each suite features one of the artist’s rugs and the main lodge area features the unexpected “Eat Me (Bananas)” artwork by Paulsen. The artist hopes that his contribution invokes “a feeling of joy and happiness”.

Jody Paulsen

Marx, a painter who has been working with visual language for many years, found it interesting to “see an artwork transformed”. Her artwork is inspired by ribbons and how they fall to the ground.

Maja Marx

Platter, an internationally acclaimed visual artist who works in different mediums, created a rug based on “A Night of Bliss”.

Cameron Platter

The rug journey during the pandemic was an opportunity to experience something entirely new for many of the artists, and Platter is not alone in marvelling at the outcome. “I thought the rug was way better than my original watercolour artworks!” says Cape Town artist Mohamed. “It’s a combination of three different artworks. It’s been translated beautifully. I didn’t understand the skillset that went into making a flat paperwork into a luscious and colourful artwork.”

A humble originator

As the originator of the project, Groenewald is humble. “This artwork of mine was just lying around in my studio. I would love everyone to see the cheeky side of this rug – it’s a little bit naughty and has a little bit of nudity in it!”

Ichikowitz says the result enhances Molori’s offering as their philosophy is to delight guests with the unexpected. They believe they have achieved this with their new-look luxury interiors and by adding gravitas to their art collection. There is no doubt that the new Molori interiors invite an immersive, high-fashion experience – one that is unexpected in the African bush. Astonishing and fresh, it celebrates the country’s vibrant cultures and love of colour, while pushing creative boundaries and raising the bar, proving that even in the heart of a pandemic, South Africans are particularly good at planning.

For more information contact Molori Safari:
Phone: +27 82 613 5723

Featured artists on the rug project:
Athi-Patra Ruga:
Maja Marx:
Nabeeha Mohamed:
Cameron Platter:
Jody Paulsen:
Koos Groenewald:

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