We see beauty – part 1

Sunday Times introduces the Design Indaba 2014 Most Beautiful Object in South Africa nominations.

From the Series


For the next six weeks leading up to the annual Design Indaba in Cape Town, the Sunday Times' Home Weekly will reveal the nominations for the 2014 Most Beautiful Object in South Africa (MBOISA).

Each year, the Design Indaba MBOISA is a showcase for South African creativity across a wide range of design principles for fashion and furniture to industrial design and ideas.

Twelve nominators, drawn from the ranks of editors, cultural commentators and journalists, have each selected an object from the past year they believe is South Africa’s most beautiful. The public votes for the winner.

Design Indaba, one of the world’s most exciting design events, is anchored by a conference “all about how design, creativity and innovation can positively impact the world” and hosts global design royalty and innovators. To those who work in the design world, it is a shot of inspiration providing a view of the most inspiring work in various creative industries. Design Indaba also includes an expo, film festival and music circuit.

What’s more, Cape Town is the World Design Capital for 2014, which means that South African design and innovation will be very much in the global spotlight this year.

We’ll be showcasing a few MBOISA nominations each week. Here are the first two:

Who: Aspasia Karras, editor of Marie Claire magazine.

What: Imprint Dress by Black Coffee from its Summer 2013 Collection.

Why: For Aspasia, Black Coffee’s Imprint Dress hints at a “future vision of Africa” and exemplifies the importance of context to beauty. It was inspired by the Congolese immigrants who work as seamstresses in the Black Coffee studio. Aspasia says the hybrid of a classic European evening gown design and patterns inspired by traditional Congolese Kuba cloth represents a cultural cross-pollination that is the centre of so much creativity. The design is a “story in a dress”, she says, and the embroidery emphasises the negative spaces in the Kuba-influenced patterns and the in-between spaces among cultural influences. “The dress is both a tribute and a real embodiment of the space the seamstress exists in,” says Aspasia. The contrast between bold pattern and ethereal lacy fabric creates an interesting visual tension that alludes to the creative space from which it has sprung. The dress is also utterly contemporary, representing a particular place and time in Johannesburg as well as a vision of the future.

Imprint dress by Black Coffee, designer Jacques van der Watt, nominated by Aspasia Karras.

Who: Prof Mugendi M’Rithaa, industrial designer, researcher and teacher at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

What: The LifeQ Mojo Active Armband a joint design effort between Ideso Industrial Design Solutions and heath technology company Health Q. 

Why: The LifeQ Mojo Active Armband allows you to track various physical functions and, Mugendi says, combines a social responsibility with lifestyle “to make people change their habits and improve their health”. He believes the design community, and South Africans more broadly, focus on design aesthetics at the expense of functionality. Mugendi also hopes to bring attention to local cutting-edge, hi-tech design. The LifeQ Mojo Active Armband’s beauty arises from how its materials, processes, aesthetics and hi-tech elements are all suited to its functionality and technology, Mugendi adds. 

The “Mojo” for Health Q by IDESO nominated by Mugendi M’Rithaa.

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