The nominations for the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa 2019 are in and a piece from The Urbanative’s African Crowns Collection has been selected by interior designer and MBOISA nominator Donald Nxumalo. The Urbanative’s Mpho Vackier gives us the lowdown on her Nenzima desk.

TheUrbanative’s Nenzima Desk

What was the inspiration behind your nominated design?

The Nenzima desk pays homage to Queen Nenzima of the Mangbetu tribe (from the Democratic Republic of the Congo). She was reportedly one of the most powerful people in the royal court in the first decade of the 20th century. The overall shape, lines and form of the desk, along with the woven detail elements, are all inspired by the distinctive look of the elongated heads of most Mangbetu women at the time. A result of the cultural practice of “Lipombo” (head elongation) – which was a status symbol among the Mangbetu ruling classes at the beginning of the last century. Along with the elongated head, one of the hairstyles accompanying the overall look was an oval or funnel-shaped coiffure, which ended in an outward halo, originally symbolic of high social status. This was considered exceptionally attractive and powerful, hence its inclusion in The Urbanative’s 2018 African Crowns Collection.

What are the most important aspects about design for you and your brand?

Authenticity, storytelling and aesthetic usability.

What does beauty mean to you and has your understanding of the concept changed at all recently?

Intelligent, authentic design is beautiful to me. My concept of beauty has always been that way, but maybe now I have a more layered definition as my understanding of myself grows. I also find beauty in art or design that teaches new things and ways of thinking as well as a bit about the creator of the specific piece. Authentic design in a sense that you get a glimpse into the truth behind the creator, the process, the materials and the inspiration. These kinds of creations are multi-layered and reveal something new every time you see them – that is also very beautiful to me.

What have you learnt from any of your design failures?

Practice makes perfect: We keep on refining our products and revisiting the methodologies, materials and stories behind our pieces to make them better. It also helps to have a team with a “never say die” attitude to failure.

Mpho Vackier

For your consideration:

Houtlander’s Interdependence II, nominated by entrepreneur Nandi Dlepu

Houtlander’s Interdependence II

Heino Schmitt Design’s River Love Sofa, nominated by TV personality Zuraida Jardine

Heino Schmitt Design’s River Love Sofa

Cast your votes here!