Snake charmer

Rich Mnisi explores the duality of nature in his latest exhibition of collectible design.

Former Design Indaba Emerging Creative and Design Indaba Conference alum Rich Mnisi presents Dzuvula (Shedding Skin), a solo exhibition of collectible design currently at Southern Guild in Cape Town until 23 May 2024. Comprising sculptural bronze furniture and lighting, as well as a limited-edition hand-woven rug, Dzuvula follows the fashion designer and artist’s debut collection Nyoka (2021) with a body of work that once again references the snake with undulating arcs of movement.


‘This latest body of work complicates the interplay of the mundane and the magical, the matriarchal and magisterial – themes that emanate from the artist’s embrace of fluidity as a guiding philosophy and aesthetic approach,’ writes Southern Guild. ‘A hiss resounds through this collection, a sensuous whisper hinting at something deviant, rubbing against boundaries, smoothing hard gradients, holding within its resonant sound conflicting truths and contrasts.’


Mnisi’s creative visions were brought to life with collaborations with various artists and artisans including Haupt, Monkeybiz and PACO – promoting South African craft and handwork. Pieces in the collection include a polished bronze table, titled ‘Mbhoni’ (Witness), which is held up by a serpentine limb; a pair of sculptural seats, ‘Ripfumelo I’ and ‘Ripfumelo II’, which combine bronze armatures and sheepskin seats in an embodiment of fear and comfort dualities; and ‘Vutlhari II’ (Wisdom), the second iteration of a chandelier created in collaboration with designer Charles Haupt.


The exhibition also references Bumba, the Bushongo mythological god who created life by vomiting up elements of the natural world, with ‘Shiluva’ (Flower), a rug of Tibetan wool and silk that depicts the primordial soup of Bumba’s regurgitation of life.

Where Nyoka explored the friction and tension of creation and life, Dzuvula expands on this concept to draw parallels between the snake's duplexity and conflicting human nature.


‘We are at once faithful and faithless, bound and free,’ Mnisi notes. ‘Sustaining existence within life's many tensions defines the human experience. Dzuvula turns the acceptance of this immutable truth into a sensory journey. Every piece reflects the result of growing into oneself – risk and vulnerability, strain and ease – through a vocabulary of forms, patinas, patterns and textures.’


Dzuvula runs at Southern Guild concurrently alongside Vigil by Justine Mahoney.



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