August 2023

A creative collaboration – handcrafted African textiles add colour to Singita Mara River Tented Camp

in Lodges and Camps

A creative collaboration – handcrafted African textiles add colour to Singita Mara River Tented Camp

Singita Mara River Tented Camp’s recent redesign signalled a bold new era for this unique property. A major focus for this new concept was on celebrating Mara’s context and location in the magnificent Lamai Triangle – both natural and cultural – and the various elements that went into each space all serve to emphasise its sense of place.

As well as visually linking the design elements to the landscape through tone and texture, the design team enlisted African studios to create custom pieces that spoke to the setting through dynamic and skilfully crafted pieces.

One of the studios involved in this project was Coral Stephens Handweaving. Formed by Coral Stephens in the late 1940s in Swaziland, the studio was born in response to an influx of requests for curtains Coral had created for her own home using plain, handspun mohair. The studio still uses traditional techniques and its fabrics are made by hand, the goal being to create special, durable, high-quality fabrics and carpets that will last and be loved for many decades.  

Coral Stephens Handweaving's range is rooted in time-honoured techniques and handcraft. Image credit: Hilary O'Leary

A shared appreciation for handcraft

The studio has been working with Singita for many years. ‘Singita has such a unique approach to lodge design – there's always a consideration of context. They realise that authenticity and naturalness are needed to truly “blend” into the bush. Their interiors are subtle and truly value local materials and craftspeople,’ says Murrae Stephens, owner/manager at Coral Stephens Handweaving.

A shared reverence for craft and the handmade too, makes working together a rewarding experience that produces remarkable work. 'This is what our products are about – texture, and the resonance they carry. It’s apparent they are handmade and this carries a memory and feeling,' says Murrae.

The studio has a longstanding relationship with Singita, and their shared appreciation of craft has produced beautiful pieces over the years . Image credit: Hilary O'Leary

A collaboration of creativity

A combination of free reign and a shared vision made creating the pieces for Mara a really joy-filled design process. 'We had some guidance with a colour palette but plenty of freedom to have fun and experiment. The positive responses and enthusiasm from the Singita team makes all the difference to stimulating creativity.'  

The studio’s ability to customize pieces and create unique colours and patterns through hand dyeing combined with encouragement from Singita to push the envelope resulted in exciting, vibrant pieces. 'They appreciate our process, plus they’re ready to take a risk and create their own story.'

Custom created pieces by Coral Stephens using hand-dyed fabrics embody the bold and tactile African spirit of Mara River Tented Camp. Image credit: Hilary O'Leary

Telling African stories together

The pieces themselves tell a story too – of quality, the depth of design to be found throughout Africa, and the level of skill available locally and regionally. 'It’s such a special part of the world we were designing for, and these pieces really needed to fit in, but also stand out.' 

Explore the exciting new-look Mara River Tented Camp here >

Julia Freemantle
By Julia Freemantle

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