Designer Peter Mabeo is making his mark by slowing things down

Peter Mabeo is feeling his way toward furniture’s global future—and location, he’s decided, is everything. After 25 years in Botswana’s capital city of Gaborone, Mabeo recently moved his 20-person workshop to the outskirts of Gaborone. The decision has given him breathing space. 

“Village life is calm, slow and removed from developing world aspirations and all their trappings,” says Mabeo, 49, whose own aspirations extend to producing thoughtful, craft-based furniture drawing on African heritage. 

In 2018, he partnered with Belgian architect, Vincent Van Duysen, on pieces in panga panga wood that highlight regional hand-carving techniques. 

“I like the idea of designing a series of low stools and side tables to give work to local Botswanan artisans,” says Van Duysen, who joined international stars Patricia Urquiola and Claesson Koivisto Rune, among others, on the Mabeo roster. 

But the brand has also mined talent and craft traditions in nearby Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. The idea, Mabeo says, is simply to broaden the lens on African design. 

“Patience, ease and the art of being instinctive are some qualities that those who have not been players in the design field can offer,” he suggests.

Despite the inevitable slowdown of 2020, the company has been prototyping nonstop, experimenting with wood laminates, lightweight lounge chairs and towering cabinets behind collaged wood doors. And it’s finding a worldwide audience. Recently, its bladelike Zezuru chairs in wood and galvanised metal were chosen to outfit the dining room of the Mercedes-Benz concept store in Hong Kong. Not that Peter Mabeo would use an external measure like product placement to gauge success. 

“The most significant milestone,” he says “is having developed a good sense of how it is possible and to have integrity.” 

About the brand

Mabeo is a furniture and accessories brand from Botswana. It launched its products internationally in 2006 after a decade of making bespoke furniture for local commercial projects. The company has consistently engaged the design world since then, collaborating with some of the best designers on significant projects and developing a growing collection of products.

The brand aims to make the work of African artisans available to the world in a considered way, to reflect certain qualities – the essential simplicity of form, an idea of purity, the conscientious use and handling of natural materials, the dedication of the craftsmen and women, and the sensitivity of the collaborating designer with a reverence for the rich aesthetic heritage of Africa.

Mabeo is a brand from Botswana Africa that is committed to good design, high quality, craftsmanship, people, sustainability, and culture. Mabeo’s approach towards the interplay and coexistence of these areas of focus is thoughtful and honest. This has resulted in products of a universal language that demonstrate certain qualities: An overriding simplicity and essential form, a consideration to purity, the conscientious handling and use of natural materials, the dedication of the craftsmen and women, the commitment and sensitivity of the designer; along with echoes of the rich aesthetic heritage of Africa.

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4 weeks ago

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