From the Journal

African design by Katundu Workshop


Photography by | David Rogers

Wedged between Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana and Mozambique are the vivid landscapes of Malawi and the life force behind this nation - Lake Malawi. Discovered by David Livingstone over 150 years ago, “the Lake of Stars” dominates the length of the eastern border, covering a length of 365 miles. The continent’s third largest lake is lined with white sand beaches and rural fishing villages, attracting both locals and international travelers to visit its shores. With over 1000 species of endemic fish, the lake offers some of the best freshwater diving in the world. Once you’ve ticked snorkeling, canoeing and sailing off your list, get back on land and discover one of a kind African design on Likoma Island.  

Located in the far north of Lake Malawi you will find Likoma Island — just 10 square miles in size. With one small dirt road running through the lush island, a visit to Likoma takes you to a time of simplicity and true hand-to-mouth living. Previously surviving largely by fishing and rice farming, the 9000 villagers have grouped together and found a new means of sustainable living through African design and craftsmanship at Katundu Workshop.

African Design Katundu Workshop
Hand beading grey imfibinga seeds on chandelier.

The Katundu Workshop

Founded by Suzie Lightfoot in 2006, the artisans at Katundu Workshop design and meticulously create luxury hand-made items in an ethical working environment. A community project, Katundu aims to alleviate poverty on Likoma Island by empowering women, instilling pride and teaching them skills to improve their circumstances and their local community.

Run by Lisa Njakale and Phillirani Mwase, the growing company has opened a realm of opportunity to a permanent team of 32 female designers, carpenters and tailors- 75% of which are related to the local orphan program. The diverse and extremely creative product range of hand-beaded textiles, bespoke lighting and unique interior pieces are designed and hand-made on site using sustainable materials. From discarded glass bottles to abandoned driftwood, collecting materials for the designs has become a community effort encouraging self-sufficiency and providing stability to the people of Likoma.

African Design Katundu Quote
Photo credit | Katundu Workshop

A community project, Katundu aims to alleviate poverty on Likoma Island by empowering women, instilling pride and teaching them skills to improve their circumstances.

Suzie Lightfoot

“We have a piecework initiative where artisans are paid for the items they produce.  We offer in-house training with the aim to encourage small entrepreneurial businesses to develop within the surrounding villages. Fibre is harvested from Baobab trees and maize leaves are twisted and plaited into string, mud clay is rolled and baked underground, then painted to create beads - all made from peoples homes in the surrounding villages."

African Design Katundu Workshop Copy
Sustainable design at Katundu Workshop.

The products

Katundu’s artisanal products are all handmade on Likoma Island — glass is tumbled at the workshop, deserted fishing boats are fashioned into unique installation pieces and clay beads are rolled in the nearby village. The vibrant creative space of the workshop is where the magic happens! 

African Design Katundu Textiles
Hand-beaded cushion covers and bed throws.


Katundu Workshop launched their signature range with a line of hand-beaded textiles, a true reflection of African design. Cushion covers, table runners and bed throws are made using high-quality South-African linen with hand-stitched beads made of bronze pendants, ostrich egg, coconut and seashells.

African Design Katundu Lights
Bespoke lighting at Latitude 13 in Malawi, Photography by | David Rogers

Bespoke Lighting

Katundu’s bespoke lighting range boasts recycling at its best. The pieces are designed with tumbled glass collected for the workshop by the community, local clay beads, grey imfibinga seeds from Nkhata Bay and hand-punched copper discs from disposed copper geezers. The eye-catching designs have received high praises from the international market and are available as statement chandeliers, delicate lampshades and hanging wall pendants.

African Design Katundu Art
Photography by | David Rogers

African design statement pieces

A true display of creativity at Katundu can be found in their unique interior statement pieces. Combining industrial scraps rummaged from the markets in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, the ladies at Katundu weld anything from piston rings to bicycle cogs to make spectacular coffee tables, wall pieces and room dividers.

African Design Katundu Statement Piece
Statement interior pieces made from tumbled glass and driftwood.

The same can be said for their reclaimed wood pieces. Made from recycled driftwood from sunken fisherman’s boats and canoes, the ladies at Katundu transform the wood into intricate mirror and picture frames, bar stools and coffee tables.

The island's abundance of baobab trees have allowed for the production of a range of 100% homegrown baobab mats.

African Design Katundu Baobab

And last, but certainly not least, the island's abundance of baobab trees have allowed for the production of a range of 100% homegrown baobab mats and baskets.

African Design Katundu Chandelier
6 tier statement light made from tumbled glass.

Katundu Workshop’s success is a true depiction of a community working together to become self-sufficient through craftsmanship. From fisherman bringing in broken boats to villagers collecting glass bottles to be recycled, the workshop has become a local hub of creativity and opportunity. See the African design on a cultural tour of Katundu Workshop on our 9 day Lake Malawi + Majete LuxVenture® or contact our Adventurists to arrange a visit to Katundu during your stay in Malawi.

Katundu is open from Monday to Friday from 07h30 - 14h30 and on Saturday from 07h30 - 11h30.

Check out more of photographer David Roger's work here. 

Lindsay Krause
Written by
Lindsay Krause

Lindsay gained her traveling chops from spending 4 years living in and exploring South East Asia. From motorbiking her way through Vietnam, scuba-diving with whale sharks in Thailand, sipping on coconuts in the Philippines and exploring ancient temples in Cambodia, Lindsay's got a case of the travel bug and looks forward to ticking African adventures off her bucket list. 

Similar articles


Health and wellness travel with Joëlle Sleebos

Inspired by health and wellness travel, Ker and Downey® Africa have collaborated with leading yoga practitioner, Joëlle Sleebos. Read our exclusive interview with Joëlle to find out her philosophy on wellness travel. 


A sleep retreat that will have you recharged in no time!

Our exclusive interview with Vicky Dennet, Wellness Manager of Ellerman House on Africa’s first-ever sleep retreat in Cape Town.


10 Bucket List Adventures in Africa for 2020

From culinary safaris in the Kalahari Desert to transformative getaways in Tanzania, read up on Ker & Downey® Africa’s top 10 bucket list adventures in Africa.

Start planning your next bucket list safari

Our experts are here to help.