From the founder of Airbnb, providing innovative solutions for refugees in 2017 to the most promising creatives of our times Design Indaba inspires and empowers people to create a better future through design and creativity. Design Indaba has become a respected institution on the global creative landscape and has attracted and showcased the world’s brightest talents since 1995. 

The 23rd annual Design Indaba Conference and Festival sees more than 40 speakers who know how to make our world a better place. Among them is Edel Rodriguez, one of the top illustrators in the world right now with his work dotting everything from exhibition floors to protest rallies as well as magazine covers. The visual artist dubbed America’s Illustrator-in-chief by Fast Company, has been at the forefront of trying to help Americans, and the rest of the world, make sense of the Donald Trump presidency.

“The struggles of the people of South Africa living under Apartheid, and of Nelson Mandela, are events that I was thoroughly moved by when I arrived in America as a child. I had learned of the stories of Martin Luther King, but South Africa was not history, it was happening in my lifetime. I was only a teenager at the time but followed all the news in the magazines, on the news, and even on MTV, as musicians refused to play South African venues” notes Rodriguez. “Thinking of the graphics and posters of that time gives me chills, and honestly, brings tears to my adult eyes.  The strong, bold, and graphic black fists, the chains, the bold words of resistance — these posters embodied the dignity of the people and the justice they sought.  And that’s what I try to do with my work now every day.”

“I began making art about what I saw, to bear witness” he wrote in his 2017 op-ed for The Washington Post. “I wanted to hold up a mirror to the president’s daily abuses of the Constitution, test the rights given to me by that Constitution. I wanted to find out if this is really the land of the free, the home of the brave.”

As a speaker at this year’s Design Indaba Conference, the famed fiery visual artist Rodriguez who was born in Havana, Cuba, focused on how art can contribute to creating political change. 

Rodriguez is also a former art director of the iconic publication where, at the time of his appointment, he was the youngest person to ever work on Time‘s Canadian and Latin American editions. Passionately engaged with social art, brought his electrifying imagery and approach to design to South African shores for Design Indaba 2018.

During his talk the much lauded illustrator staged a silent protest that featured some of his political posters. Addressing the thought behind his habit of giving away his posters for free to protesters, the provocateur simply posits, ‘We’re in a war. Why would you charge soldiers for bullets?'” reports DI. Speaking to Design Indaba before his talk Rodriguez pointed to South Africa’s own protest history during the Apartheid-regime as an example.

As part of the Design Indaba Festival, a range of Rodriguez’s work – 75 posters and magazine covers – was also put on display at the Artscape Theatre, while delegates in attendance also were gifted with their very own poster designed by the artist.

The Design Indaba Conference and Festival 2018 is at the Artscape Theatre from February 21-23, with simulcasts at five venues across the country. The #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL and NEXT18 Trade Exhibition is from February 22–25 daily at the Homecoming Centre.

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