Hesse Kleinloog studios brings a refreshing interpretation of African design to Molori Mashuma



Inspired by the joy of nature, the creative interiors of Molori Mashuma in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe – the newest luxury lodge in the Rora Private Collection – bring a refreshing interpretation of African design to the safari scene. Saturated in the rich oxblood tones of giant seed pods, the gentle hues of ancient lichen, and the wild, sensory colours found in the surrounding mature woodlands, it’s a gorgeous take on being in the bush.

The story began in 2021, when interior designer Andrea Kleinloog, of Johannesburg’s Hesse Kleinloog Studios, journeyed to the site of the tented camp in Mana Pools National Park, a remote UNESCO Heritage Site in Zimbabwe. Her brief was to bring to life the framework of this intimate lodge with its six luxurious suites.

Her early vision for this camp on the banks of Mashuma Pan, one of the waterbodies in the pristine national park, was to combine the contrasting colours and patterns of the surrounding landscape, from shades of deepest pomegranate to fever-tree greens, with speckles of black and white and warm ochres. Later, she began exploring collaborations with textile artists, ceramists and sculptors to pull together a modern interior concept that is a first for Mana Pools.

The element of delight was important to Kleinloog. ‘We don’t want people to have any idea of what they’re getting into until they arrive,’ she explains. ‘This wonderful degree of surprise comes through in every aspect. It’s a really fun interior, with a curious collection of “conflicting things”, but It’s playful and feel-good, because the focus is on the colours of nature and inspired by the joy of nature. Even our baths are enamelled in a rich ochre yellow. They have a joie de vivre about them.’

The remote location of the lodge made the team extremely practical, Kleinloog says, and resulted in an interior vision that evolved over time around a regenerative ideology. Partly because of this remoteness, she began commissioning talented local communities of artists and weavers, whose innovative stitching and weaving methods would, she knew, create ‘an organic design language’ unique to Molori Mashuma, while adding a welcome layer of luxury. ‘Local crafters were commissioned for all of the touchpoints guests will see, including a weaving technique that utilises fabric remnants for side tables’ – a genius solution for remote locations, where the philosophy of ‘repairing vs replacing’ is the most responsible and sustainable way to manage interiors over time.

Kleinloog and her team also developed some exciting elements of Japanese embroidery, or sashiko, which has ‘empowered the local community to create works of art using these traditional Japanese hand-sewing techniques to form a patterned background and unique embroidered artworks,’ she says. ‘We’ve also been working with Karossin South Africa, which has specialised in hand embroidery with communities since 1988, and has used all of our fabric offcuts to create remarkable textile elements.’

A collaborative workshop took place with upcoming artists, including Zimbabwean-born, South African trained, London-based contemporary ceramic sculptor Xanthe Somers, who hosted the first workshop at Burnt Earth Studios in Harare in late June, ahead of the official August opening of Molori Mashuma.

Two colourful artworks by Anastasia Pather have been translated into striking textiles by Wanderland for chair upholstery at Molori Mashuma. Named as one of the top 20 artists at the Joburg Art Fair 2018, Pather is a finger painter whose works caught Kleinloog’s eye while she was working on the refurbishment of Molori Safari in Madikwe, South Africa, a sister property to Molori Mashuma.

Kleinloog explains, her design aesthetic was for a minimalist and contemporary structure with the focus on the softness of textiles and framing the views in the remarkable setting of the lodge. For example, ‘for the main area, we took inspiration from landscape artist Christo Coetzee’s gates, installed in New York in the 1980s. He created really simple steel frames and suspended fabric from them.’ And faux thatch has been used on all the walls to avoid having painted finishes.

‘We’ve also developed and discovered some remarkable camping and yachting materials that can be exposed to the elements 24/7 and don’t look like plastic. Really exciting textures and tones are coming through from these cutting-edge technologies that are specially designed for the outdoor market, plus we’ve used smart contrasts that work with African design.’

Over the three years that Kleinloog has been working on the project, the remote location of Molori Mashuma has presented many challenges and produced many exciting anecdotes, from the annual floods and trucks stuck in the mud, to prides of lions setting up in camp, elephants bashing things over and hyenas chomping into cooler boxes. ‘But,’ says Kleinloog, ‘the magic is in the design and in the back story. There’s a whole book to be written!’

She pays tribute to the owners of Molori Mashuma, who, she said, didn’t restrict her to ‘generic’ safari design, and allowed her to explore ‘invigorating and challenging’ options. ‘Molori Mashuma’s interiors are the result of adventurous, creative owners who embrace their love of colour and allowed me to push the boundaries of safari design.’

For more information on Molori Mashuma and Mana Pools, visit the website. https://www.roraprivatecollection.com/mashuma-safari/

Call +27 (0) 82 613 5723 or email reservations@molorisafari.com

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