100 Beautiful Things is a celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience, brought to life through an exhibition that starts in early April 2020 and continues into the last months of the year, presented in various iterations.
The exhibition cheers on projects, products, ideas and experiences that improve lives, serve valuable functions or add beauty to our country. Spread across five themes – Designing with Compassion, Sustainable Design, Future Thinking, South African Essence and Simply Beautiful – the 100 Beautiful Things range from fashion and furniture pieces to social and environmental projects, food initiatives, medical and technological innovation, virtual platforms and travel or entertainment experiences.
100 Beautiful Things will evolve from a presentation of online stories, revealed over the course of five months, into a large-scale physical exhibition to be held at the V&A Waterfront later in the year. This good-news initiative inspires positivity, while honouring creative things from around the country that strengthen South African society and leave a better world for all.
100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront, a long-time supporter of South Africa’s creative and entrepreneurial industries, and is curated by Platform Creative Agency, a champion of African design and local business. The public is invited to make nominations as the online exhibition evolves between April and August.
DESIGN CHANGES LIVES
Design touches everything we do. It surrounds us on every level, in the things we use, smell, taste, experience, hear and see. Consider what you hold in your hand in a day – a cup, a pencil, your toothbrush, the remote control – they have all been designed. Even our cellphones; not only a marvel of technological design, but all the content within each phone – the apps, websites, adverts and social media – were designed for your use or entertainment.
In essence, there are two broad areas of design. Solution-driven design born out of identifying problems, seeking to solve them with eureka moments or by studying why things are not working as they should and improving them, and aesthetic design that helps to elevate and enlighten us as sensory human beings, through emotional or physical artistry.
Solution-driven design requires empathy and compassionate intelligence, acquired knowledge through research and investigation, and experimentation with materials or processes to achieve outcomes. This type of design can help an individual or a few people, or it can change the quality of life of an entire community, create a whole industry or impact millions of lives. It can be transformative, life-saving or life-enhancing, and helps push forward a modern society, in the hope that we can make a better world.
South Africa has incredible potential as a solution-driven design nation. We have fortitude, resilience and bright, creative minds. We need to look at design as a tool to improve scientific, medical, agricultural, industrial and social advances.
Good education, collaboration, sponsorship and mentorship all help, but great design solutions need not be confined to traditional ways of seeing things. Creative solutions can come from anywhere and anyone, such as doctors who redesign ventilators because the ones they’ve got aren’t coping, a business model designed to suit employees like mothers who need to work from home, or a visionary purpose-built destination that will directly affect other local business growth and employment as visitors pour in.
Aesthetic design, on the other hand, is a form of self-expression and storytelling where one human being connects to another through making things, creating experiences or showing ideas in a new light. Recently on this continent we have seen an explosion of creativity from fine art to fashion, furniture-making and product design to film-making and architecture. Africa is beginning to make a huge impact on this aspect of the design world. South Africa in particular is a major design hub within Africa; we excel in creativity. Our hotels, lodges and restaurants are world-leading in experiences and interior design; our fashion designers work in collaboration with international design houses; we are building iconic museums; and our artists, architects, crafters and product designers have been making huge impact globally in recent years.
It is not just high-end art and design, but the everyday way that creativity shows itself that deserves our appreciation.
Like the interior design in a restaurant, the food presentation or how a chef strives for culinary excellence. Or it is the beautifully crafted item that resonates with the buyer because it is intrinsically infused with the fingerprint or heart and soul of the human being who made it. Everyone is essentially creative, in sometimes ordinary but uplifting ways, such as the barista who decorates personalised messages on cappuccino froth, the window dresser who works with flair to entice you into a shop, and the young textile designer whose patterns and colours cheer up your sofa.