Most Beautiful Object in South Africa

Design Indaba's annual endeavour to find the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa manifests as a competition open to public votes and an exhibition.

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What do you regard as beautiful? What response does a beautiful object evoke in you? While some may consider beauty an aspect of taste and others know it only on sight, beauty becomes far more profound than a visual sensation when design attributes such as social significance, economic impact, usability, sustainability and even humour are added to the conversation. 

Voting for 2019 is now open. View the nominees and nominators. 

View winners gallery below.

2018: Tutu 2.0 Pendant Light

Designed by Thabisa Mjo, this functional lamp is a reimagining of the ballerina tutu and was inspired by both Western and African fashion styles.

It’s called the Tutu 2.0 Pendant Light because according to the designer, it is an evolution of the iconic ballet outfit mingled with hallmarks of an African counterpart, the Xibelani skirt. Often worn by Tsonga women, the Xibelani skirt is known for its structural, tiered layers and colourful vertical pleats. These disparate sources of inspiration come together to form something truly unique – a bold chandelier that is sure to be the centrepiece of any room.

2017: The Sankara Rug by textile designer Nkuli Mlangeni.

The Sankara Rug is an expression of southern Africa’s modernity as well as its rich history of craft. Wanting to celebrate the dying culture of traditional textile weaving, Mlangeni made it the focus of her final year studies as a student with an extended research project that finally resulted in the Sankara Rug, which forms part of a larger series of designs. It is her goal to inspire the interest of younger people in order to preserve this artistic practice.

2016: Xhosa-inspired shawl by Laduma Ngxokolo

Laduma Ngxokolo is the founder and designer behind MaXhosa, a fashion label that uses traditional Xhosa beadwork motifs and patterns to celebrate the rich heritage of the Xhosa culture. The shawl was designed as a part of Ngxokolo’s Autumn/Winter ’16 collection.

Knit in black and white yarn, the shawl boasts the characteristic Xhosa aesthetic that Ngoxolo is famed for. The design is unisex and can be styled in over twenty different ways. Ngxokolo has had tongues wagging at home and abroad after he showcased his collections at the Palazzo Morando Show in Milan, Italy. Ngxokolo’s shawl was nominated by Tracey Lynch.

2015: The Boomslang

Kirstenbosch's suspended walkway, known as The Boomslang, was completed at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in May 2014. The raised walkway through the garden's arboretum was a collaborative effort by architect Mark Thomas and structural engineer Henry Fagan. Inspired by a snake skeleton, the walkway is a curved steel and timber bridge that winds and dips its way through and over the trees. It takes the visitor on an awe-inspiring journey through nature, rising up from the forest floor into and through the trees and bursting out above the canopy, giving spectacular panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains, Garden and Cape Flats.

View all 2015 nominations.

2014: Steam 1886 by Adrian Lazarus

Steam 1886 is a steampunk-inspired short fashion film, produced and directed by Nicky Felbert and Adrian Lazarus. This fantasy video showcases the fashion and lifestyle of a possible 19th-century steam culture. It was shot at Truth Coffee HQ, whose steampunk interior was designed by Haldane Martin.

2013: Pebble Dress by Gavin Rajah

The Pebble Dress from Gavin Rajah’s Spring/Summer 2013 couture collection was created out of leather pieces that were moulded into pebble shapes and then embroidered onto mesh by hand. The leather pebbles are placed to create a gradation of colour with rose gold blending into chocolate. 

2012: Lily Pad Ring by Kirsten Goss

The Lily Pad ring exemplifies Kirsten Goss’s contemporary design style, combining intriguing organic lines with a playful edge.

2011: Dreams for Africa Chair by Woza Moya

The Dreams for Africa Chair symbolizes hope and the importance of dreams. Woza Moya further raises awareness through the chair about HIV/AIDS and the design significance of traditional Zulu beadwork.

2010: Lab Light by Anatomy Design

The idea behind the Lab Light invokes a strong message of functional design. Andrea Kleinloog of Anatomy Design explains through the Lab Light that functional design is both an outcome and a process.

2009: Chrysanthemum Center Piece by Michaella Janse van Vuuren

The Chrysanthemum Center Piece is a reversible design that functions as either a bowl or a candleholder depending on which side of the design is facing up. The centerpiece reflects Nomili founder Michaella Janse van Vuuren's passion for textures, shapes and patterns found in nature.

2008: Nested Bunk Beds by Y Tsai

The Nested Bunk Beds are both aesthetically pleasing and socially functional. The beds serve as a space solution for overcrowded, low-cost houses. Tsai Design Studio strives to produce provocative designs that are unconventional yet instilled with a strong sense of cultural and social relevance particularly in South Africa.

2007: Condom Applicator by Roelf Mulder

The Condom Applicator is a small product that may have a big impact on a country’s social, cultural and economic future. Roelf Mulder of XYZ Design designed the Condom Applicator in the hope of HIV/AIDS prevention. This product revels that it is not only the physical appearance of a product that is important but also the social and economic potential it encompasses.

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