Collaborative project celebrates the continent’s culture

Founder and designer of TheUrbanative, Mpho Vackier.
Founder and designer of TheUrbanative, Mpho Vackier.
Image: Supplied.

Translating African stories through design is what contemporary furniture and product design company, TheUrbanative, personifies. Founded and designed by Mpho Vackier, the company’s take on furniture has developed a distinctive visual language that makes it instantly recognisable.

“I used to work as an engineer but I left my career in mining several years ago to study design. I had always wanted to do product and furniture design,” said Vackier.

In 2016, she launched her first collection, a four-piece collection largely moulded from her garage at home.

Her husband, who is a mechanical engineer, was also on hand to assist with some of the manufacturing. “He made all our prototypes and even filled some of the orders in the beginning,” Vackier said of the start of her journey in the furniture design industry.

“We then started a little workshop where we collaborated with other makers we shared a space with.

However, now I own a space where I have my own welders and carpenters,” she explained.

Five years on, Vackier now hopes to expand the brand’s footprint overseas. “We haven’t really made this public but we are working on opening an office in the UK. We are busy ironing out the finer details to start-up shop that side,” she said. “My husband is European and since I’ve been getting so much support that side, I thought why not grow the brand’s footprint.”

The company’s latest offering, the Homecoming Collection, has been making waves not only locally but internationally as well.

Birthed during lockdown, it was inspired by the idea of giving a different perspective to one’s home space.

Pieces from TheUrbanative's Homecoming collection.
Pieces from TheUrbanative's Homecoming collection.
Image: Supplied.

“I began this collection during the first lockdown where time at home had more meaning than we all imagined. It meant it was a place of refuge and safety during the uncertainty of a pandemic.”

She also looked to other African designers for what was a collaborative effort.

“Inviting other makers to share their stories of home with us allowed our studio to create work with ceramicists, textile designers, candle makers and jewellery designers, which has widened the scope of our work.”

The ambitious designer explains that the driving force behind the collection was to tell African cultural stories through design.

“This collection does this through the textures, forms and colour palette.

All the pieces were inspired by homes across the continent. In our designs we explored African architecture from Nigeria and Cameroon to Burkina Faso, Libya, Marrakesh, Niger and Mali,” Vackier said.

She added that naming the pieces in this collection in different languages from this continent not only allowed them to celebrate those languages, the people and cultures, but also that through this exploration, they learnt more about the stories surrounding them.

“Moving forward I see the brand doing more collaborative projects because I believe the coming together of different ways of thinking is the secret sauce,” said Vackier