Rwandan design flair embedded in 'cultural and contemporary' forest safari lodge

I’d love to achieve a strong local flavour, one that is envisioned by the whole team, and to make the lodge look and feel authentically Rwandan
– Teta Isibo

Rwandan fashion entrepreneur Teta Isibo has been appointed by ecotourism operator Wilderness Safaris to bring “a vibrant Rwandan flair” to the interior design of its Bisate Lodge, which is due to open in one of the country’s remote mountain valleys on 1 June 2017.

Isibo, who is also the founder Rwandan studio Inzuki Designs, is collaborating with Nick Plewman Architects, interior designer Caline Williams-Wynn, local textile experts and the country’s National Ethnographic Museum to create a safari lodge that “takes time-worn customs and gives them contemporary relevance.”

She will source locally-made products for Bisate’s interior décor and other operational items such as uniforms and souvenirs to be sold once it opens.

The lodge is formed of six 91sq m (979.5sq ft) forest villas made from concrete, steel, timber, volcanic rock, bamboo, reed and papyrus. The complex is located 57 miles from Rwanda's capital Kigali on a steep valley in the Albertine Rift – one of the most biodiverse regions of the African continent. The site forms a natural amphitheatre overlooking active volcano Mount Bisok.

The architectural and interior design is rooted in Rwandan building tradition, taking its cue from the Royal Palace of the traditional monarch in the town of Nyanza. The spherical, thatched structures evoke the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan landscape.

Architect Nick Plewman said the intention is to “tease out a contemporary architectural response to rather inchoate stimuli of a primordial volcanic landscape, the great primates that dwell there and an all but lost human heritage.”

Many of the furnishings will be decorated using ‘imigongo,’ a traditional art form unique to Rwanda that mixes cow dung with soils of different colours to paint geometric shapes. The use of black and white cow hides will also reflect the rural way of life in the villages, and volcanic stone will be used in the fireplaces to echo the volcanoes of the adjacent Volcanoes National Park.

“We’re using textiles and chandeliers with an emerald green colour, because they’re reminiscent of the verdant greens of the rainforests, as well as the vibrant markets that dot the villages throughout the country”, said Williams-Wynn, who is from interior design firm Artichoke. “Following through with our commitment to the principle of recycling, the chandeliers will be of recycled glass, and the ‘ibyansi’ milk jug motif reused across a number of elements”.

Inzuki Designs, who specialise in jewellery, home décor and accessories, will help source the materials to achieve this vision, and will work with local artisans.

“As a designer who focuses on fusing traditional Rwandan craftsmanship with contemporary design, the Bisate project is super exciting for me as I feel its design embodies this same principle,” said Isibo, who has just been named by Forbes as one of Africa’s 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs for 2017.

“I’m working closely with Caline Williams-Wynn and Artichoke to bring their vision for the lodge to life and to add to it from a Rwandan design perspective. I’d love to achieve a strong local flavour, one that is envisioned by the whole team, and to make the lodge look and feel authentically Rwandan.”

Wilderness Safaris operates lodges, camps and safaris in wildlife and wilderness reserves across Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Its stated mission is “to conserve and restore Africa’s wilderness and wildlife by creating life-changing journeys and inspiring positive action.”

As well as vowing to minimise its environmental impact during the construction and running of Bisate Lodge, it has also begun a reforestation project to provide a haven for a wide array of life endemic to the Albertine Rift – from mammals to butterflies.

Rwanda  Teta Isibo  Inzuki Designs  safari  Albertine Rift  architecture  culture 
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Rwandan fashion entrepreneur Teta Isibo has been appointed by ecotourism operator Wilderness Safaris to bring “a vibrant Rwandan flair” to the interior design of its Bisate Lodge, which is due to open in one of the country’s remote mountain valleys on 1 June 2017. Isibo, who is also the founder Rwandan studio Inzuki Designs, is collaborating with Nick Plewman Architects, interior designer Caline Williams-Wynn, local textile experts and the country’s
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Bisate Lodge is due to open in a remote Rwandan mountain valley on 1 June 2017 / Wilderness Safaris
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