Are design trends and social obsessions fetishizing poverty?
Okay so mismatched dining chairs are a thing and they have been for just over a year. The transition to this trend was smooth: we started off with varying the end chairs (chairs at the head of a dining table) in a dining suite then suddenly people couldn’t contain themselves. Why have only one set of different chairs? It should be a guessing game for our guests: ‘Which chair will be next?’ And then we did the unthinkable, we brought back the bench and used it on one side of the table then had mismatched chairs facing it. Oooooooh. Wait a minute, I actually like this trend. It may not seem like it, but I do albeit in a twisted type of way. Read on.
I grew up in and around township houses and mismatched chairs were not a thing (they were normal to us, no amusement or satisfaction whatsoever). Only back then it was viewed as a sign of poverty. Rich black people (were there any?) and white people had matching diners, but the rest of us, well we sort of put things together and hoped for the best. It’s not that we didn’t have matching dining suites, it’s that they were passed down with the house so usually only four out of the 6 seats remained for the next generation. So we’d just buy two seats because we didn’t need more. And by we, I’m making the terrible mistake of speaking for the lower class black citizen of the South African Apartheid era. I’m relating this to the family whose father was doing hard labour somewhere on a farm or in a mine and whose mother kept the houses of the upper class. Our chairs were mismatched because they were gifts from our employers. When they were done with their chairs, they would give them to our parents or grandparents. And we appreciated them, broken or not. They signified an unseen allegiance or distorted type of love for which we had prayed and would accept. So in a nutshell, we had mismatched chairs. And each chair had a story. But one of the greatest gifts you could buy your daughter when she married, or your parents when you found work was… yes, you guessed it … a dining or bedroom suite. We aspired to have these things and when we did finally get them, our joy spilled over.
I’m an interior designer and I admit that I like to incorporate trends some trends minimally in my work. But lately I’ve been feeling as if the trends of the moment are piggy-backing off our underlying obsession with the disarray that is associated with poverty or having very little. Yes of course South Africans are embroiled in a society of excessive consumerism, but so is most of the world; we are driven largely by what the West says we need to have or do and; I accept that. I understand our obsession with bringing things back but I find it quite interesting how and which things become relevant again. I may be overthinking it but if I have to hear the word “minimalism” on YouTube again, I may just give the YouTuber a link to this blog and numerous other scholarly articles about the fetishizing of poverty.
On a different note though, I do enjoy this trend. It brings life to and opens up a space. Next week I will profile some of my favourite styling from this trend AND how to achieve it. This week I just felt like being a bit spicy. In the meantime, here are some pictures of my style God Solange to keep you preoccupied.
#BWithTheChairs #BWithTheQuestioning #BWithTheUnlearning