Nenzima Server by TheUrbanative

The Urbanative

INTERVIEWED BY Michaela Stehr PORTRAIT Andrea Caldwell

The bold Nenzima server is the latest addition to furniture design company TheUrbanative’s African Crowns Collection.

Mpho Vackier, furniture designer and founder of TheUrbanative, fills us in on the inspiration and process behind the Nenzima server.

Tell us about your inspiration for the African Crowns Collection.

The lines, forms and textures of traditional African hairstyles inspired this furniture collection. Hair has always played a significant role in the culture of ancient African civilisations; it has been a symbol and disseminator of family background, social status, spirituality, fertility, differing tribes and marital status. This collection seeks to celebrate the magic of African hair and the relationship between African hair and identity.

What mood do you aim to evoke with the Nenzima server?

Boldness. We wanted to create a personification of how we envisioned the strength of Queen Nenzima of the Mangbetu people, who lived in the Congo in the 1920s. This feeling is conveyed in the powder-coating colour, the proportions and the stone colour palette we commissioned.

How did you go about designing it?

We started working on a version of this piece soon after we launched the African Crowns Collection at Design Joburg 2018. My aim was to explore fun materials, and the custom-made terrazzo from Notation Design is just that. The bold colour palette of the terrazzo matches the gorgeous wine-red powder coating. The shape, lines and details were inspired by the distinctive look of the elongated skulls of most Mangbetu women at the time, the result of a custom called lipombo, which involved wrapping a baby’s head tightly in cloth to shape it.

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