Born in Johannesburg in 1991, Rich Mnisi’s broad design vision embraces fashion and functional sculpture. His work flows according to the themes and motifs he returns to and continually pushes forward: the women in his life, queerness and the VaTsonga tribe. When designing objects of furniture, Mnisi frees himself from received assumptions of their base features and functional characteristics. Rather than being led by ideas of how a chaise or console table should look, his approach is organic, beginning with moulding the pieces in clay and drawing from human figures or his own memory. His unconventional use of shape, colour and texture is rooted in his appreciation of his Tsonga culture filtered through a queer lens.
Exhibited at Design Miami/ 2023 Vutlhari II (Wisdom) is a collaboration between Rich Mnisi and designer Charles Haupt. Working with computer-generated algorithms and parametric modelling, Haupt interpreted Mnisi’s design for the chandelier into complex, three-dimensional shapes that can be adapted digitally to allow for various configurations. Based on the form of a snake, the chandelier combines a patinated bronze armature with shades made from handcrafted nylon. Mnisi’s signature snake skin motif, digitally printed onto the nylon, gives the shades a 3D element that elevate them and bring a textural feel in relation to the smooth and highly polished bronze. Vutlhari twists sinuously down from the ceiling, its tightly interlooping branches charged with an almost menacing energy. Its title translates to “wisdom”: attaining knowledge, Mnisi suggests, is a two-fold endeavour not without risk.
Materials: bronze, nylon, lighting components.
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