With daring, elegance and modernity, textile designer Johanna Bramble rekindles the magic of traditional Senegalese weaving.
If one word best encapsulates Johanna Bramble’s background and creative output, it would have to be daring. After brilliant academic success at two of Paris’s top art schools – the Duperré national school of applied arts and the national school of industrial creation – a voyage of discovery to India to learn ancestral techniques, and experience working in the textiles industry, Johanna discovered Senegal and decided to make it her home.
In the land of “Teranga” (Senegalese hospitality), a strong weaving tradition – notably Mandjak – was something she felt strongly about preserving and sharing with as wide an audience as possible. “When I came to Senegal, I realised that weaving had a really interesting history, with enormous potential”, she told us. “The Senegalese artisan technique is quite unique. Its most striking feature is that two people are required to weave at the loom. The designs are very elaborate and complex, but exciting to work.”
In 2009 she decided to set up a workshop in Dakar and explore the craftsmanship that has created the very fabric of this heritage, and take it to new levels. The technical aspect forms an intrinsic part of her quest; she defines herself as a textile designer with all that this implies in terms of apprenticeship and creativity. Her materials of choice are natural fibres such as silk, cotton, linen and manila hemp, though she also enjoys working with totally original “hybrid” fusions, by “taming” paper, metal, copper and even plastic. The material has to be made, with the right balance of experimentation and skill. Just like an avid researcher, she interweaves her thoughts, intermingles and melds the various stages of her learning to reveal every dimension of her creativity. These fabrics, which can be used for everything from decorative furnishings, interiors, lighting and the world of fashion, are true contemporary pieces that look fantastic displayed in their own right, yet also challenge her collectors and followers on their interpretation of the materials and its use.
Naturally curious and generous of spirit, Johanna travels regularly to Benin, where she takes part in workshops with local artisan weavers, not only to share her knowledge, but also to learn from them, and in so doing preserve traditional craft techniques that would otherwise fall into disuse. Safeguarding skills and knowledge and passing these on to others are essential components of her work.
Constantly looking to the future, and in all the biennials of Dak’art In previous years, highlights have included showcasing her collaborative work with fashion designer Yvonne Muller and photographer Myette Fauchere, and she has also created a range of lighting with designer Osmane Mbaye.