Rich Mnisi’s vibrant blend of beauty and form



Following the successful debut of his furniture and design collection, Nyoka, in 2021, Rich Mnisi returns with a new body of work, Dzuvula(Shedding Skin), on view at Southern Guild in Cape Town until the end of May. The nature of his work builds itself around the human form, undulating through its curvature and fluidity.

“For me, furniture is now an extension of my main medium of fashion, and that’s how I think about it when I design. That’s why a lot of the shapes look like a body,” he says, adding, “My one medium dresses the form, while my other needs to interact with it.”While Nyoka, meaning snake, reflected on tension and conflicts and was characterised by serpentine lines moving through space and surface, his sophomore collection Dzuvula— comprising a bronze table, sculptural seats, a chandelier, and a rug — is an expansion on duality. The body of work complicates the interplay of the mundane and the magical, the matriarchal and magisterial, and represents transformation in his personal and professional journey, shedding old skins to reveal a new narrative.

To create meaningful expressions rather than mere functional forms, mythology is central to Rich’s method – be it Bumba’s creation myths about the moon and the stars, familial lore, dreams, or nightmares. “Made out of concrete, the Rhulani seat is a physical signifier of my late great grandmother’s existence,” he explains. Another example are the Ripfumeo chairs. Crafted from bronze and sheepskin, the plush seating embodies a juxtaposition of lightness and darkness, smoothness and hardness, austerity and sensuality. “I think I could do seating forever,” he adds. “I’ve had a lot of fun designing seating elements and besides that, I just love the communal aspect. It’s special – a couch or side chairs helps foster conversation and encourages us to really engage with one another.” Design, it seems, is a conduit to allow other things, such as relationality and flow. “For example, my Alkebulanpieces [morphing and versatile seating] are among my favourites. Four or five people can sit around them, which means that they are true symbols of unity, gathering, and community,” he says.

Rich views the home as a place of safety and comfort. “It’s where you lay your head and rest, you argue, you smile, you laugh, you cry,” he notes. It’s also a place where personal expressions and histories can be reflected. As a result, he explores the concept of home and the interplay between the domestic space and the external world. Home is not just a physical space, but a repository of memories. He sees his work as a chance to create pieces that are more exclusive; pieces that are deeply meaningful and can be interactive within the intimate setting of a person’s home.

“Working on these sculptural furniture collections has brought me a beautiful opportunity in that I feel I am making monuments, more personal than public in their nature– monuments that can be witnessed and experienced within a home environment.” Of course, a monument can be architectural, sculptural, or symbolic. In Dzuvula they embody all three forms, gestured through memory, cultural expression, and playful experimentation.

“I try to play with things and see how they speak to each other when they come together. I will follow curiosity in that sense and have no fixed rules about material use. It’s this approach that ultimately leads to pairing materials like bronze and sheepskin,” he says. The designer and artist believes that the elements in a home that reflect one’s personal history are essential — objects that define a person, items that resonate with them, and pieces with character. This, he says, is where the luxury experience in home design emerges: in the small treasures collected from travels, or in the significant, functional pieces that still carry personal or familial meaning. Through his work, Rich invites us to reimagine our spaces not only as functional environments, but as vessels for story telling and expression.

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