WORDS Michaela Stehr
Pretoria-based designer Glorinah Khutso Mabaso’s geometric patterns – inspired by the Rain Queen and the female dynasty of the Balobedu people – saw her winning the Trenery Print Competition 2020.
“Design is an expressive medium that I believe can… capture an image that only exists in my mind,” says Glorinah. The winner of the Trenery Print Competition – launched at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair in 2019 – adds, “[Design] has the power to freeze time, it is a visual language that can speak louder than words, and most importantly, it is my sacred space.”
From more than 400 entries to the competition, Glorinah’s was singled out for its raindrop-inspired design. The pattern pays homage to the Modjadji dynasty, and specifically, to the first Rain Queen, Maselekwane Modjadji (1800-1854) from Limpopo.
Drawing inspiration from the history of the rain dance that Maselekwane headed, Glorinah interpreted the idea of rain smashing and running over glass into her final design, combining straight lines and circles in a repetitive pattern. “This pattern also signifies and emphasises that the power of women in society is just as powerful as the rain in the cycle of life,” she says. Glorinah explains that Maselekwane “was called the Rain Queen because she could make it rain through a rain ritual dance, a gift handed down through seven generations of queens with no interruption”.The colour palette for Glorinah’s design was directly influenced by Trenery’s sophisticated textile collection. “The rich colour combination definitely balances the cinnamon, dark green, light peach and is tied together by extreme neutrals,” she says. “This allowed me to complement the brand’s signature look while introducing that modern tribal luxurious element.
VISI editor-in-chief and Trenery judge Steve Smith says,“I think the colour palette grabbed me first – it had a retro ’70s feel to it, something I’m always going to love – and there was this abstract element too that reminded me of a Ben Nicholson painting. Plus, there’s a great narrative woven in of Modjadji… it’s a wonderful example of an Afro-modernist aesthetic that I see working as a big, bold motif on a dress, or as a smaller accessory like a scarf.”
As for the future, Glorinah is excited about expanding her repertoire. “I definitely plan on shifting my design focus to pattern, textile and surface design,” she says. “I never thought my design journey would lead me to storytelling through visual interpretation, [and] I’m excited to embark on a new journey and finally get my toes into the fashion design industry.”