South African artist Porky Hefer’s ‘Endangered’ collection seeks both to protect and protest. Presented by SFA Advisory and Southern Guild, and in collaboration with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF), Hefer’s exhibition at Design Miami/ Basel from 12-17 June consists of larger-than life seating pods – all of which depict endangered species.

The tactile sculptures, an orangutan, polar bear, blue whale, sloth, and great white shark, are huge and enveloping. Appearing as finely crafted and delicately embroidered teddy-bears (similarly soft and endearing), the sculptures are made of all eco-friendly and recycled materials and are handcrafted by artisans in Cape Town.

Hefer’s project, from concept to stitching to its sale proceeds, is committed to promoting environmental sustainability. The presence of LDF, an NGO focused on wildlife conservation and climate change, characterises this project as a creative way to help the public engage with the realities of wildlife endangerment. To help materialise this collaboration, these works are available for sale through Southern Guild gallery, with 25 per cent of sale proceeds supporting LDF wildlife conservation programmes.

For Hefer, these animals not only raise awareness on issues of wildlife and the environment, but also seek to reignite a human interest in creativity, craftsmanship and artistic tradition. The pieces demonstrate the ability to create beauty by hand, with care and precision. The huge sculptures function as a small protest against mass produced design, and call back to resources and processes indigenous to South Africa.

Indeed, the act of exhibiting these creatures in Design Miami/ Basel asks viewers and buyers to engage with the creatures directly and compassionately. The exhibition is compounded with video and text, seeking to raise consciousness of animal hardships and the demands of survival. The enormity of the animals themselves seem to increase their importance and the gravity of what it means to cause such creatures harm.

Hefer collaborated with textile artist Ronel Jordaan and craft collectives Heart Works and Mielie to ensure delicacy and precision in the sculptures. Their aesthetic allure, combined with their softness, comfort and functionality (they are, of course, seats), makes us, as consumers, want to protect them as living, breathing things, inhabiting the earth (or our homes), among us. §

See more from Design Miami/ Basel 2018