Finding South Africa’s most beautiful object

[Image] This amusingly-named little planter,
inspired by television soap operas,
is the creation of Joe Paine.
(Image: Joe Paine)

[Image] The Solar Jar is a practical and attractive
casing for a solar-powered light.
(Image: urbansprout.co.za)

[Image] The Bird necklace is a statement piece,
crafted from 9ct gold, silver, rose quartz,
haematite and rubies.
(Image: Design Indaba)

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Wilma den Hartigh

The shortlist of South Africa’s 10 most beautiful objects, all designed by the country’s best creative talent, has been announced for the 2012 Design Indaba Most Beautiful Object in South Africa Award (MBOISA).

The MBOISA initiative is an important event for South Africa as it highlights the country’s innovation and artistic ability.

The Design Indaba is the biggest annual gathering for the South African creative industry.

The event showcases local design talent in fashion; advertising; architecture, craft; film; graphic, interior and product design; jewellery; new media; publishing and visual media.

Celebrating beauty

The competition, now in its seventh year, gets people talking about what constitutes beauty.

As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and while some may consider it an aspect of taste, others look at an object’s design attributes such as its social significance, economic impact, usability, sustainability or even humour.

What makes this award initiative distinctive is that it allows the public to formulate a new definition of beauty every year, by voting for what they think is the most beautiful object.

The award is determined by public vote via SMS and on the Design Indaba website.

The finalists

According to the organisers a diverse mix of designs made it into this year’s finals.

The most beautiful objects in South Africa for 2012 were nominated by design journalists and cultural commentators, including Kojo Baffoe, editor of Destiny Man magazine; Jacquie Myburgh Chemaly, editor of VISI magazine; Sarah Buitendach, editor of Sunday Times Home Weekly and Garry Cotterell, editor of Business Day’s Wanted magazine.

//Hapo Museum

The //Hapo Museum, pronounced “Klapo” with a Khoisan click, takes its name from the San word for “dream”. It is the main entrance to Freedom Park in Pretoria, Gauteng.

Freedom Park, a 52-hectare development that opened in 2007, is a memorial site telling the story of South Africa’s apartheid history and journey to becoming a democratic country.

Principal design architect, Jeremy Rose of Mashabane Rose Associates, says the design is “uniquely African”.

//Hapo, which is an interactive exhibition space, was designed to blend into the landscape rather than impose on it. The building frames were sculpted using steel structures, overlaid with copper that folds in on itself, resulting in a boulder-like effect.

The project is a joint venture with MMA Architects and GAPP Architects &Urban Designers. It was designed with input from traditional healers and African academics.

The structure is still new, but eventually the copper-clad walls and roof of the building will oxidise to a green patina and blend into the natural landscape. The interior spaces of the museum are designed to look like caves and are lit with natural lighting.

Bird neckpiece

Johannesburg based jeweller Eric Loubser was nominated by Chris Roper, editor of the Mail & Guardian online, for his bird necklace.

The necklace is a statement piece, crafted from 9ct gold, silver, rose quartz, haematite and rubies.

It is described as messy and thrown-together as well as feminine and light, yet still retaining a dark edge.

“The design conveys the idea of a flock of birds around the neck, as if they are actually carrying the necklace and hovering around the wearer,” Loubser says.

Solar Jar

This year’s shortlist also reflects current design trends towards sustainable, environment-friendly innovation that is practical and useful in everyday life.

Ockert van Heerden and John Bexley’s Consol Solar Jar is a good example of such design.

The developers used a one-litre Consol preserve jar as a practical and attractive casing for a solar-powered light.

The LED lights installed in the jar are powered by a solar panel fitted on the lid.

The Consol Solar Jar received the Special Recognition Award at the 2011 Institute of Packaging South Africa Gold Pack Awards. The judges decided that this clever use of a packaging material deserved an accolade.

Ridge Forrester Hanging Planters

This amusingly-named little planter, inspired by television soap operas, is the creation of Joe Paine.

This particular object is a play on the fictional character of Ridge Forrester, from the American daytime soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful.

The planter, manufactured from bent tube and handmade mild steel spinnings, reflects the bold jaw line of Forrester, a fashion designer in the soapie.

Paine’s creation also reflects the use of plants as a key device by directors of soap operas. “Through the bougainvillea and amaryllis we are privy to the most sordid capitalist lives,” Paine explains.

Hand-stitched lithograph

A hand-stitched lithograph, entitled A Travel Journal, Volume 1 and 2 by Mornè Visagie, was part of a body of work for his exhibition at the 2011 University of Cape Town Michaelis Graduate Art Show.

The art show took place on Robben Island, where former South African president Nelson Mandela and others were imprisoned for many years.

The artist draws his inspiration from the island, where he spent the first five years of his life living in its small community of mostly prison employees.

His father was posted there from 1990 to 1995 by the Department of Correctional Services.

The work of art captures the island landscape and its surrounding sea through a slowly changing spectrum of colours printed on the paper.

The Curious Couch

The Curious Couch is the work of Margaret Woermann from Heartworks, a craft outreach initiative and Peta Becker from Projekt, a skills training initiative based in Hout Bay, Cape Town.

The Curious Couch, an old ball-and-claw sofa that was transformed into a functional work of art, is the result of a collaborative project between Woermann and Becker, known as The Curious Room.

It is an experimental design laboratory that creates one-off art pieces. The Curious Couch, which is a response to standardised mass-produced design, was worked on by more than 25 people who designed, embroidered, crocheted and upholstered it.

More finalists

The other finalists in the competition include the Fish-Scale Dress by Suzaan Heyns; Frail Flower Paper Sculpture by Rebecca Jones and the Lily Pad Ring by jewellery designer Kirsten Goss.

The PASTE mural was created by Linsey Levendall. She was one of 15 local artists selected to design, illustrate or photograph work around the theme of Khayelitsha culture.

The work was turned into a large-scale print that was pasted in Khayelitsha township and the inner city of Cape Town.

Announcing the winners

The winner will be announced on Sunday 4 March at the Design Indaba Expo at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

All the MBOISA finalists will be on display at the Design Indaba. It is open to the public from 2 to 4 March.