14 Mar Designer Siyanda Mbele mixes tradition and modernity when constructing furniture
Siyanda Mbele is a 25 year old Umlazi born and based furniture and interior designer. He is the owner of Pinda, a company which designs and manufactures hand-painted furniture inspired by the individuality of South African cultures. When Siyanda’s not at work making furniture, freelance drawings and renders, he lectures part-time at the Durban University of Technology, where he completed his Bachelor’s degree in Interior design back in 2013.
Self described as “unique, bold, geometric and African”, Siyanda’s furniture mixes good design with strong aesthetic appeal and personality. Check out some of his most well known pieces alongside an interview with the bright talent, below.
Sometimes I regret not listening to my grandmother’s rules. She raised us like little soldiers. I take a lot from her and if I can follow through with her teachings I will probably end up a billionaire. My grandmother gave us chores growing up – washing, ironing, gardening – every weekend was spring cleaning. That taught me discipline which is highly needed. I learned to be resilient in pursuit of what I need. My grandmother normally says “don’t be defeated by something that doesn’t speak”. Whether I’m designing or managing the business, I always remember that I cannot be defeated and I try again and again.
You studied interior design. What inspired you to venture into furniture making?
I studied interior design because there wasn’t a detailed furniture course available and I like the fact that I was learning how furniture relates to the interior and how people use it. Interior and furniture design are twins that don’t look alike. Venturing into furniture was a seamless transition. I always liked creating objects growing up.
Where do you seek design inspiration? What would you say are your main influences when conceiving a piece of furniture?
African cultures, symbolism and cultural practices. I do research and ask questions. It’s always interesting because each tribe can practice the same rituals in a different way or similar symbols might mean something different to another tribe. After researching I create a story that I want the piece to tell or an analogy that the piece will represent. Typically I take two dimensional symbols or patterns and turn them into three dimensional furniture.
What type of material do you prefer to use and why?
I’m still exploring. My current favourites are wood and metal together. It’s an ancient combination and it never fails. I love how both metal and wood can be plain in their raw state but transformed with treatments that give desired finishes.
What’s your favourite piece from your archive?
I love all my pieces equally because they show growth but the Mvelo Desk has to take the cake. It was my first time designing something from the Zulu culture. I had been designing Ndebele inspired pieces for over two years. I drew it in 2012 and kept on developing the design. I would constantly think about it. Then my career started getting busier and everyone around me was work bound. It hit me that we spend so much time working. The concept was derived from how people are married to their careers and the amount of time and days spent using a desk. I made the analogy using Zulu symbols and chevrons; the form of the desk represents both masculine (Triangle) and feminine (Diamond). What interested me the most about the Zulu symbols is how when two symbols are joined together, whether triangle or diamond they represent a union. I translated that union to mean people being married to their desks and careers.