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Art smart! Designer ‘art rugs’ and new look by Hesse Kleinloog at luxurious Molori private villas, the jewel of Madikwe

Location: Molori’s Metsi Lounge Rug Artist: Maja Marx Photography: Inge Prins Visual Production: Klara van Wyngaarden

Always known for its boldly eclectic aesthetic, Molori Safari chose the dynamic South African design team at Hesse Kleinloog to take a fresh look at its glamorous interiors. Known for their creative thinking from concept development to finishing touches, Megan Hesse and Andrea Kleinloog began to put together the new direction in the second quarter of 2020.

Location: Molori’s Ngwedi Lounge Rug Artist: Cameron Platter  Photography: Inge Prins Visual Production: Klara van Wyngaarden

Location: Molori’s Ngwedi Lounge
Rug Artist: Cameron Platter
Photography: Inge Prins
Visual Production: Klara van Wyngaarden

‘Our initial involvement was meant to be a small, light intervention but the circular nature of the architecture meant that we had to marry our design with the organic structure of the lodge,’ said Kleinloog, who masterminded the new interiors. In addition, artworks from the owner’s diverse personal collection – by artists such as Norman Catherine, Lady Skollie and Edoardo Villa, among others – were to be added to the lodge, taking the guest art experience up another level.

Very quickly, the talented interiors team realised that the organic floor spaces would be the place to start as many of the walls were curved and ideally suited to colourful rugs that would complement the bold new artwork. But as everyone in the industry knows, the choice of circular designer rugs is woefully limited in South Africa – and in the height of the pandemic, no ships were arriving anytime soon. Admirably undeterred, Kleinloog’s team undertook what must be the most heart-warming interior design journey that has evolved over the past two years.

Location: Molori’s Molelo Suite Rug Artist: Athi-Patra Ruga Photography: Inge Prins Visual Production: Klara van Wyngaarden

Location: Molori’s Molelo Suite
Rug Artist: Athi-Patra Ruga
Photography: Inge Prins
Visual Production: Klara van Wyngaarden

It all began when Kleinloog asked designer, Koos Groenewald of creative studio Jana+Koos: ‘Can you make a rug? Actually, can you make art + rugs?’ An artist in his own right, he jumped at the challenge. It started with just one rug, but as he began talking to other globally acclaimed, local artists about creating contemporary artworks to weave into large and colourful floor rugs, the excitement was palpable.

It was soon dubbed ‘the rug project’ and they began to look at rug manufacturers who could help realise their vision. In the end, they discovered the highly professional team of skilled craftspeople at Brabetz Carpet Mill in Durban. It was high-risk – there were no colour charts, no one was able to visit the mill during lockdown, and everything was done over video and phone. A collaborative force of trust, indeed!

‘We started this project in the deepest, darkest depths of Covid uncertainty, and it was such a spark of joy in such a dark time. In many ways, the absolute fun and frivolity of colour and joy of engagement was so welcome in the disjointed, masked-up world. At the same time, it was inspirational to be planning for visitors to come back to South Africa,’ says Kleinloog. Coupled with this, ‘the owner has a wonderful spirit of adventure and we were rewarded with gems of feedback, criticism, debate and discussion. Molori means “to dream” and, in all honesty, this project has been just that, a dream project!’

“We collaborated with some of South Africa’s most provocative contemporary artists who agreed to have their artworks interpreted and woven into these magnificent rugs,” says Molori’s owner, Ivor Ichikowitz. The artists are Athi-Patra Ruga, Cameron Platter, Jody Paulsen, Maja Marx, Nabeeha Mohamed and Koos Groenewald.

Location: Molori’s Main Area  Rug Artist: Jody Paulsen Photography: Inge Prins Visual Production: Klara van Wyngaarden

Location: Molori’s Main Area
Rug Artist: Jody Paulsen
Photography: Inge Prins
Visual Production: Klara van Wyngaarden

Jana+Koos applied their graphic design ability and worked with Brabetz to skillfully interpret the artworks into digitized patterns, enabling South African weavers to produce these grand creations. Speaking of the rugs: ‘They really are artworks in their own right,’ enthuse Jana+Koos.

Each suite features one of the artist’s rugs and the main lodge area features the unexpected ‘Eat Me (Bananas)’ artwork by Paulsen. The artist hopes that his contribution invokes ‘a feeling of joy and happiness’. That it does. All the rugs do, in fact. 

Marx, a painter who has been working with visual language for many years, found it interesting to ‘see an artwork transformed.’ Her artwork is inspired by ribbons and how they fall to the ground. ‘It’s about the power of line,’ she says. ‘We automatically want to follow lines. It’s so special how Molori encourages us to slow down in this beautiful space and to appreciate the artworks.’ 

Platter, an internationally acclaimed visual artist who works in different mediums, confesses: ‘When I was approached to work on this project, I was over the moon. Based on ‘A Night of Bliss’, the woven rug takes from the original and makes it better!’

The rug journey during the pandemic was an opportunity to experience something entirely new for many of the artists, and Platter is not alone in marvelling at the outcome. ‘I thought the rug was way better than my original watercolour artworks!’ says Cape Town artist Mohamed. ‘It’s a combination of three different artworks. It’s been translated beautifully. I didn’t understand the skillset that went into making a flat paper work into a luscious and colourful artwork.’ 

And Groenewald’s own work? As the originator of the project, he is humble. ‘This artwork of mine was just lying about in my studio. I would love everyone to see the cheeky side of this rug – it’s a little bit naughty and has a little bit of nudity in it!’ Need we say more? 

‘The result is enchanting,’ says Ichikowitz. ‘Our philosophy is to delight our guests with the unexpected and I believe we have achieved this with our new-look luxury interiors and by adding gravitas to our art collection.’

There is no doubt that the new Molori interiors invite an immersive, high-fashion experience, one that is unexpected in the African bush. Astonishing and fresh, it celebrates the country’s vibrant cultures and love of colour, while pushing creative boundaries and raising the bar, proving that even in the heart of a pandemic, South Africans are particularly good at ‘making a plan’!

‘It defies all other genres that we see in the safari world,’ says Kleinloog. ‘Molori now gives an adventurous, spirited vision of a safari – it’s about unabashed joy and humour. And we hope future guests will literally be “floored” when they arrive (excuse the pun),’ she says!

For more information on Molori, visit Call +27 (0) 82 613 5723 or email

Featured artists on the rug project:

Athi-Patra Ruga

Maja Marx

Nabeeha Mohammed

Cameron Platter

Jody Paulsen

Koos Groenewald

About Molori Safari 

  • Molori Safari is recognised throughout the world as one of South Africa’s ultra-luxurious hideaways set in one of the most breath-taking natural landscapes.
  • The five-suite luxury lodge is situated in the 75 000-hectare, malaria-free and game-rich Madikwe Game Reserve bordering Botswana. It is South Africa’s fifth largest game reserve.
  • This exclusive-use destination affords absolute privacy for discerning travellers, one of the many reasons why international celebrities, African heads of state, and royal families have enjoyed a private safari experience at Molori over the years.
  • Madikwe is home to the ‘Big 10’, which includes the Big 5 as well as hippo, cheetah, hyena, giraffe and the endangered African Wild Dog. The reserve is also home to some 350 recorded bird species.
  • Molori Safari is part of the Rora Private Collection comprising five safari properties, all privately owned and operated by the Ichikowitz family.

Molori’s Conservation Ethos

  • Molori Safari ensures that its guests leave with a deeper knowledge and rich experience of South Africa’s natural assets. They tell the stories of the total ecosystem that makes up South Africa’s magnificent natural environment, which includes wildlife, insects, plants, astronomy, people and cultural diversities. Their focus extends to more than just the Big 5 on a safari experience.    
  • The Ichikowitz family is passionate and committed to the conservation of wildlife. Through Molori lodge operations and the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, they facilitate and contribute to many conservation projects – not just in South Africa but across the continent.
  • Molori is committed to conservation and offers guests conservation experiences that include wildlife notching and collaring in the Madikwe Game Reserve. These are linked to conservation efforts undertaken in the game reserve. The funds generated go towards the ongoing conservation of wildlife and provide immersive one-day encounters to guests who get to experience the actual collaring or notching event with the wildlife vet and conservation officers. 
  • Molori offers helicopter fly-in-and-out day and overnight experiences, with trips to the Ichikowitz Family Foundation’s K9 facility at their lodge in the Magaliesberg, Moledi Gorge, which specialises in anti-poaching programmes across the continent.