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The Most Beautiful Object in South Africa

12 ways to define beauty

Every year, Design Indaba looks in the mirror to determine who is the fairest of them all. And beauty, as we all know, is a deeply subjective – even divisive – experience. The Most Beautiful Object in South Africa (MBOISA) at Design Indaba Expo surveys the most ‘beautiful’ creations made locally over the past year with the help of a dynamic mix of media personalities with diverse perspectives.

This year’s nominators range from South Africa’s ‘top puppet political analyst’, Chester Missing, to acclaimed photographer Zanele Muholi. Design Indaba Expo invited them to select a work that they found to be compelling, impactful, moving or relevant. The results are always an interesting barometer of the local creative industries and bring to light little-known or unforgettable products and projects that have stood out.

The public gets to decide which object is the overall winner with voting commencing online and culminating on the MBOISA stand at Design Indaba Expo.

Here are the 12 Most Beautiful Object in South Africa 2015 nominations, from the personal to the practical to the political.


2DO Stackable Storage Tower

By De Steyl + Renée Rossouw Studio

Furniture design studio De Steyl collaborated with architect and designer Renée Rossouw on a range of modular storage pieces, called Play Play Pattern. 2DO takes their pairing of Birch Plywood furniture and Rossouw’s graphic patterns one step further. The stackable storage boxes come with drawers for the home/office/studio and can be used on a desktop or as freestanding furniture. 2DO offers a multitude of options that enable the user to create different patterns and tower each stack of drawers as high as needed.

Nominated by Annemarie Meintjes, deputy editor of VISI magazine: ‘An uncomplicated, practical and fun design.’


The Boomslang

By Mark Thomas Architects and Henry Fagan & Partners

Completed in 2014 to celebrate Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden’s 100th birthday, the walkway is a curved steel and timber bridge that winds and dips its way through and over the trees of the arboretum. Inspired by a snake skeleton and informally called ‘The Boomslang’, it is a low-maintenance and low-impact design. The main spine of the walkway is tubular steel, with welded ribs and a light mesh giving the cross bracing, allowing the whole form to act as a bridge-spanning beam. Continuous shaped timber handrails ensure the safety of the visitor. The decking is stained, treated, slatted pine, placed on edge and spaced to accommodate the walkway’s curves.

Nominated by Mike van Graan, executive director of the African Arts Institute (AFAI): ‘Aesthetically beautiful, environmentally sensitive, functionally practical design meets nature to enhance human experience in “The Boomslang”.’


The Boran Bull

By Ntombephi Ntobela, Ubuhle Beautiful Beads

Beader Ntobela says this about her beaded artwork: ‘Under our skins we are all blue because we are all made of water. We exist because of water, it is the connection between all that lives. It is what connects us to the spiritual world. Water is the source of all life.’ Over the course of a year, Ntobela meticulously sewed each on to create this piece, which was inspired by an encounter she had with a Boran bull on a farm in Winterton. She is a master beader, who grew up in a traditional Xhosa home and never had any formal schooling. She cannot read or write. Here she tells her story in a way that transcends language barriers as well as literacy.

Nominated by Zanele Muholi, photographer: ‘Beading from her soul she shares the wisdom of her philosophy as well as her story with us. Beading also acts as therapy as she is able to communicate her feelings through her beading.’


Political Berets

By the EFF, ANC and DA

After members of the Economic Freedom Front donned red berets, the ANC got in on the action ahead of the 2014 elections. It began distributing red berets emblazoned with its own party logo. Julius Malema cried foul, and so began ‘the battle of the red berets.’

Nominated by Chester Missing, South Africa’s top puppet political analyst: ‘I support the way people mobilise design to their own political ends. The manner in which the colour and use of one’s hat leverages a street politics that attempts to create credibility regarding who has legitimate claim to represent the people’s interests. And then the manner in which people themselves make claims using the berets against each other. These berets are legitimate claims made by ordinary rank and file over who and what political stance holds credibility as a solution for South Africa, by invoking a worldwide symbol of revolution and attaching it to their own discourse.’


Explora Satellite Decoder

By MultiChoice, manufactured by Pace 

The Explora, DStv’s next-generation PVR decoder, is manufactured and assembled locally. The decoder previously came into the country as a semi-knocked down unit to be put together by Vektronix, which was contracted by Pace to build the boxes. Having a manufacturing facility in South Africa now enables Pace to supply set top boxes to operators in Southern Africa, cutting down on costs and lead times and creating local jobs.

Nominated by Toby Shapshak, editor and publisher of Stuff magazine: ‘While the Explora satellite decoder is nothing too exciting in terms of physical design, the software is a leap ahead. World-class. And there are more impressive things to come still.’


Silk Organza and Leather Floral Dress


This dress was the final look of the ERRE Spring/Summer 2014 show at South African Fashion Week. Inspired by the offcuts from the brand’s leather jackets, the dress combines technology with hand-crafted techniques. The back features laser-cut leather and the rest of the dress is made up of hundreds of leather circles in various sizes hand-stitched into a floral-like motif.

Nominated by Lucilla Booyzen, director of South African Fashion Week: ‘The workmanship on this unique hand-sewn luxury garment is excellent. Created using a unique combination of modern technology with traditional craftsmanship, it is a fresh approach to a chic new princess dress that can be worn anytime to anywhere. You can wear it with jeans, elegant pants, with a swimsuit underneath or with high heels as a ball gown.’ (Photo: Bevan Davis)


‘Flag Prophecy’

By Thandiwe Tshabalala

Illustrator Thandiwe Tshabalala created this colourful artwork after studying the South African flag during the 2014 general elections and spotting an interesting link. She was inspired by the way in which the election results seemed to fulfil the prophecy laid out on the flag. Tshabalala explains that it is not a celebration of any one political party, but rather an observation about the relationship between the design of the flag and the election outcome.

Nominated by Xolisa Dyeshana, executive creative director and partner of Joe Public and outgoing chairman of the Loerie Awards: ‘I chose this piece not only because of its aesthetic appeal, but also because of how it uses art and creativity to make bold commentary on our political situation today.’


Haywire Chandelier

By David Krynauw

The chandelier is handmade from solid timber, with each arm swivelling 360 degrees independently to achieve various configurations, thus enabling it to be customised to any size. It was featured on the April 2014 cover of Wallpaper magazine and has sold successfully at some of the top collectable design fairs around the world.

Nominated by Masego ‘Maps’ Maponyane, TV presenter, actor, creative consultant and entrepreneur: ‘The piece’s function is a great metaphorical representation of one’s life. When the lights are lined up, they form a uniform straight line; however, the excitement comes in when the lights are haphazardly arranged to illuminate more in the space – thus illustrating just how “haywire” city life can get yet how effective that can be, as it’s become the order of the day and the reason behind the light’s success. For me the craftsmanship, ingenuity, sustainability and meaning that it holds make this a beautiful object.’


Repurpose Schoolbag

By Rethaka (Pty) Ltd

Made from 100% recycled plastic shopping bags, the Repurpose Schoolbag is nifty, eco-friendly and durable. The incorporation of retro-reflective material allows for increased visibility and therefore safety from motorists, and its naturally waterproof material keeps schoolbooks from getting wet. The added solar panel is a safe, renewable light source that charges during the child’s walk to school and transforms into a solar lantern to study for up to 12 hours. The signature mesh band is made of textile offcuts.

Nominated by Design Indaba Expo Team: ‘Repurpose Schoolbags shines a light on the need to enable the next generation of innovators, designers and thinkers to make the most of their education, but also educates the young users to be resource-savvy, environmentally responsible citizens. These social entrepreneurs illustrate the growing prominence of design that really does make a change.’(Photo by Miora Rajaonary)


Milk Mohair and Wool Felted Cape

By Milk: Mohair She Felt

Ruth McNaughton, the designer behind the Milk label, designed this cape to demonstrate the beauty and purity of using all natural and local resources in a truly sustainable way. Creating traditional felt uses fewer resources than the production of any other textile. Only water and soap are used, assisted by hand movements that agitate the fibres into a matted fabric. Inspired by the nomadic use of felt for protection, the cape encapsulates the body.

Nominated by Nonhle Thema, actress, presenter and businesswoman: ‘I was drawn to the design of this warm felted cape. The combination of various textures and techniques combined with the subtle layering of light colours makes this my choice as Most Beautiful Object.’ (Photo by Simon Deiner)


Kitale Drinks Cabinet

By Tonic

Tonic unveiled a new range of bespoke furniture smalls last year. The range features brass components combined with brightly lacquered surfaces and simple geometrical shapes to create beautifully crafted pieces. The nominated piece, the Kitale drinks cabinet, has a lacquered red exterior and a wooden interior.

Nominated by Tiaan Nagel, editor of Sunday Times Fashion Weekly: ‘I’m obsessed with the gentle geometry of this beautiful cabinet in a deep rich lacquered red. It reminds me of the red flick of Andrée Putman’s lipstick, always beautiful and utterly sophisticated but still a little irreverent. In true Tonic style, the warm wooden interior of the Kitale cabinet is a refreshing surprise.’


“Centre Point: Dancing Ballerina”

By Llewellyn Davies 

Llewellyn Davies began sculpting as a four-year-old farm boy in Zimbabwe. Growing up in the Matabeleland bushveld stimulated a lifelong love affair with sculpture. After initially pursuing a farming career, he gave up farming and turned full time to sculpture. He is adept at portraying animals and people in motion.

Nominated by Lalla Hirayama, dancer, actress and TV presenter: ‘I chose this piece as it resonates with me, an old ballet dancer. It captures a simple but powerful moment so well. Just by using bronze, artist Llewellyn Davies was able to create this magnificent ballerina in motion. With an air of innocence and a slightly unrefined style, she stands en pointe in all her glory.’

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