A totem is a natural object or create that serves as a symbol of a tribe, clan or family.

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A product of collaboration and curation, the TOTEM Collection by Design Afrika is a celebration of functional art from Africa. The collection is a celebration of community, inspired by the creativity of artists and makers around us in Cape Town, as well as in the Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. Drawing inspiration from West Africa, the symbolism of TOTEM is distinctly graphic and bold, while the colours are inspired by the earth.

WREN is very excited to be part of this beautiful collection by Design Afrika called TOTEM. 

“For this collection, I developed a completely new product, Paper Wrap Floor Lampshades, using WREN’s unique approach to paper. With my textile design background, I explored painting options to transfer adinkra inspired symbols that are used as totems for dauntlessness and courage, and the stylized comb that refers to the feminine virtues of consideration, caution, circumspection, and tenderness.” Wendren Setzer

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This TOTEM collection, for us, has a story that couldn’t be more appropriate considering the tough two years we have all experienced with Covid-19. TOTEM is about rebirth. It’s about coming back from the fire. It’s about grieving and rebounding. It’s about surrounding ourselves with objects that have meaning and bring comfort.


Binky Newman, founder and creative director of Design Afrika is a good friend of mine. We met at various workshops and have traveled and exhibited together at a number of trade shows. We both have a passion for tactile materials and storytelling.

Binky approached me a few months ago to develop a lampshade cover out of paper. The first task was working out the materials and combination of paper, fabric, number of layers, and fit. We completed this research with a solution that entailed lining the edges and close with magnets that create a beautiful “wrap” around the frame. Next, we needed to look at the paper surface design. The effect of light through the paper was beautiful and we wanted to enhance this. As the light shone through the paper it changed the tone and exposed the frame so we explored creating a geometrically designed frame, or skeleton. When this did not work we went back to the classic frame structure and looked using the paper surface as the design. True to our philosophy that great design moments happen magically, I took markers, oil pastels and paint to the sample and draw the Adinkra totems across the surface. The effect was breathtaking and we hope that it will also take your breath away and bring a calmness to your living room.

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Wendren Setzer

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