Creative entrepreneur Nkuli Mlangeni-Berg leads her collaborative design studio, the Ninevites, and continues to define her own innovative art style abroad in Sweden.

Nkuli Mlangeni-Berg is a creative entrepreneur and maker of things who is the founder of the Ninevites collaborative design studio. Nkuli has made a name for herself in the creative space and is perhaps best known for work– through the Ninevites – on the Sankara Rug, which won the Design Indaba’s Most Beautiful Object award in South Africa in 2017.

“I started the Ninevites in 2012”, says Nkuli, “and initially it was just a hobby project for me to do the things I wanted to do and collaborate with other people…  initially, why I started it was because at the time I was working in the fashion industry as a stylist and I felt like there was not enough representation of the things I wanted to see – so I wanted to create a space and a platform where I could use textiles as a form of activism and share the kind of things that were not necessarily being seen in the mainstream.”

Nkuli’s early creative output largely centered on her collection of rugs but has now spearheaded into multiple different products. “The first collection I made was a collection of rugs, which did very well – and through that, it kind of evolved into very different things; 80% of my production now happens in South Africa in the rural areas of the Karoo”, Nkuli adds.

Nkuli’s work draws inspiration from her heritage and the influences from South African life are palpable.

The inspiration behind the designs – when I started with the first collection – was looking at black aesthetic and where I come from”, says Nkuli. “…and I was really curious about how to take a traditional design, like Ndabele design, and evolve it and making it more modern and minimal.”

Other African influences from further aboard abound through Nkuli’s work, where her approach sees her explore both historical and traditional design elements with a minimalist and modern-day lens. “I would say I try to learn as much as I can about what exists in the continent and try to evolve it and add my touch to it”, Nkuli says.

In the interest of sharing crafts and stories, Nkuli has recently moved to Sweden. This opportunity has brought with it both new challenges and opportunities; however, Nkuli has been making the most of her new environment as she continues to make an impact on the world around her

Nkuli is also able to use her platform to share her inspiration and stories with others, and today brings the intersection of African influence, heritage, and vision to the stage in Sweden.

Through the Ninevites, Nkuli’s work continues to find itself in homes around the world. Each piece of work is custom made; Nkuli adds that “I normally communicate with my clients as to what colours they want, and then I’ll custom-make it and send it to them.”

For Nkuli, the opportunity to bring her art and vision to an international stage is also a moment to reflect on her own style, identity, and art – where she can seamlessly weave African designs into her work in a framework where her own twist is left evident in the appreciation of those who have purchased her works.