Thabisa Mjo (30)

2018 Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans

Arts & Entertainment

Thabisa Mjo (30)

Founder and head designer, Mash.T Design Studio

Young designer Thabisa Mjo has a huge success on her hands as the creator of the 2018 Most Beautiful Object in South Africa.

The annual award presented by the Design Indaba was won by her enormous light fitting, a stunning 10kg creation that drips from the ceiling in a colourful cascade called Tutu 2.0.

“It’s big, and the size definitely adds to the wow factor. I love it because it is bold, beautiful and unapologetic.” This partly reflects her own personality. “I’m unapologetic about being who I am and doing the kind of work that I think will benefit people in my sphere of influence. That’s what I constantly aspire to be,” she says. Tutu 2.0 was influenced by the Xibelani skirts worn by Tsonga women, which remind her of a tutu. Her creation also won her the Nando’s Hot Young Designer title; she has supplied 50 of the light fittings to Nando’s outlets across the world, made by crafters at the Boitumelo Project in Hillbrow.

Her designs incorporate traditional African materials into cool but playful creations. “As much as I want to make pieces that have an African look and feel, I’m inspired by global trends,” she says. Her Pieces of Me light fittings use rich colours and bold prints that “feel like home”, with clean lines in a nod to global trends. “What makes the collection special is that sweet spot where my two worlds meet — a Western approach to design with an African spirit to anchor it.”

Her furniture collection A Place at the Table pays tribute to the resourcefulness, innovation and cultural influence of her grandmother. Like the Mojo Chair, which is perfect for small living spaces with its foldable backrest so it can be used as a stool or a side table. Presents from Joburg is a tableware collection inspired by the city skyline, with salt and pepper shakers shaped like Ponte and Sentech towers.

Her furniture and décor have won other awards including the 2017 Future Found Award by the Design Foundation, and she’s exhibited at 100% Design UK in London and the Maison&Objet exhibition in Paris.

“My focus in 2018 is to develop a line of super-affordable home furnishings. The pieces need to be multi-functional, durable and beautiful. Stuff that will make my customers’ home live, in a way that only clever design does.” —  Lesley Stones

Twitter & Instagram: @mashtdesignstudio