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Proving that two heads are better than one, these pairs are helping to put the continent on the global stage through innovative art and design endeavors.

By Sithasolwazi Kentane

Feb 21, 2022

Keneilwe Mothoa and Lubabalo Mxalisa

South Africa

From fashion to photography to interiors, this influential pair have made quite an impact in the realm of regional design. Their handmade homeware business, Neimil, culminates their various talents. Co-founder and Mpumalanga native Keineilwe has been an esteemed force in the South African art scene over the past years. Her acclaimed fashion label, Prime Obsession, launched in 2014 with design partner Shelley Mokoena, being a prime example. The brand showed at AFI Fashion Week and was profiled by Vogue. Her other half, Soweto-raised Lubabalo, is an artist with an extensive portfolio that stretches the bounds of portraiture using photography as a medium to capture the true essence of his subjects. From working with renowned stylists like Lufuno Sathekge to legendary South African actor Warren Masemola to name but a few, Lubabalo creates striking images. Pivoting somewhat, he now focuses his lens on all things Neimil, helping craft the brand’s distinct visual identity.

After the brand’s launch, it became clear that its direction focused more on its heart and soul than just trendy aesthetics. “Expect a piece of ourselves in this collection, a feeling of love and warmth,” Keneilwe shared in an interview with IOL. The label’s first collection, Reimagining Self, comprised a series of self-portraits made by hand with punch needle embroidery. The stories depicted in the portraits illustrate Mothoa’s recollections of childhood memories, many of which she was reminded of by her grandmother. Having collaborated with renowned South African homeware brands like Urbanative, and more recently in 2021, with retail giant H&M, Neimil has firmly placed its flag on the innovative African design sphere. Discover more about the brand here

Neimil for H&M Home. Photo: via @_neimil.

Artwork by NEIMIL. Photo: via @_neimil.

Photo: via @keneilwe_mothoa.

Laurence Leenert and Ayoub Boulam


If you haven’t heard of the interior décor and accessories brand LRNCE by now, allow us to introduce to you the faces behind one of Morocco’s favorite homeware brands. Based in Marrakech, the eponymous brand is helmed by designer Laurence Leenert. After the launch of the enterprise, she sought the help of business manager Ayoub Boualam, who would become her husband in later years. With the union commemorated in an authentic Moroccan setting, the festivities represented the couple’s unique design perspective and cultural appreciation.

While Leenert’s eye for beautiful details is undeniable, it’s Boulam’s background in strategy and marketing that has helped cement LRNCE in the intercontinental design arena. The meeting of these minds has created a brand renowned for its carefully designed products and its inspiring brand story, one that resonates with discerning purveyors of interiors in Marrakech and beyond. Working from a space adorned with uniquely designed textiles, fashion items, and homeware pieces (some being one-of-a-kind), it is no wonder that the visual language of LRNCE has birthed a lane of its own within the African creative scene. Visit their website here

Laurence in the LRNCE Studio. Photo: via @lrnce.

Ayoub wearing LRNCE. Photo: via @lrnce.

Laurence and Ayoub's 2019 wedding. Photo: courtesy of Vogue Paris.

Oliver Asike and Velma Rosai-Makhandia


Oliver Asike and Velma Rosai-Makhandia first gained recognition in 2015 after launching their popular blog, 2ManySiblings. With a childhood spent sourcing vintage clothes from flea markets to repurpose, this sibling duo quickly gained cultural acclaim among Kenyan and diasporic youth. For Velma and Oliver, what started out as a Tumblr page transitioned into a popular Instagram account that has become a considered collaborative space. Working with the likes of Yasiin Bey, The British Council, and Art Comes First, this duo’s ability to permeate into other artistic spaces is a testament to the quality of their work. They began sharing content about thrift finds around Nairobi through their platform and soon developed a community of loyalists. This later led to the launch of one of the most significant events in the city’s social calendar: Thrift Social Nairobi. The shopping festival curates the best in Kenyan fashion and offers its attendees a lineup of global talent, which has included IAMDDB, Shishi, and TAIO. Through their collaborative and individual bodies of work, they have cemented their names in the African creative scene.

The two have successfully used their growing profile to branch out and highlight their independent interests in recent times. Oliver’s sustainable upcycling label, Vitimba, offers one-of-one apparel pieces, along with essential basics. While Velma continues to take us on a journey of communicative visual art on her personal Instagram. Although fashion is what put these two on the map, Velma and Oliver continue to define their own space and illustrate for the world what creativity means for them. Keep up with them on their joint Instagram account.

2ManySiblings. Photo: courtesy of Nataal.

Velma for Luncheon Magazine. Photo: via @velma.rosai.

Recycled gunia handbag by Vitimbi. Photo: via @vitimbi.

Petite Noir and Rharha Nembhard

Congo/South Africa

Petite Noir and his wife, Rharha Nembhard, are the duo that brought us the musical and cultural movement of Noirwave. Rharha, the architect behind the movement, started out as Petite Noir’s manager, visioning his music videos and wardrobe. The relationship later blossomed and was cemented with a union in 2017. Never one to opt for the ordinary, they both wore head-to-toe blood red looks at their white wedding—a perfect example of how the couple continue to defy convention.

Yannick, of Congolese descent, grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, where his musical senses were trained by none other than South African township music legend Spoek Mathambo. In expanding his range, he was exposed to metal music, kizomba, and everything in between, genres which he credits for inspiring his unique sound. The talented musician effortlessly presents novel ideas, challenging our preconceived notions of mainstream music. Add the Midas touch of Nembhard, and you have a creative match made in heaven. After studying for 5 years in Thailand and being influenced by Asian culture, Nembhard learned to release all "mental limitations". This is ultimately what launched her into a game-changing trajectory of art creation where expressing her identity meant being more than just a black woman.

The communication of their work has transcended beyond the spoken and physical. In an interview for the Mail and Guardian, she says, “Our essence is spirit. If my spiritual core is not right, it is not only hard for me to create art of substance, it is hard for me to create anything at all. Spirit first—form second.” Follow Rharha and Yannick through their socials for the most up-to-date announcements.

Rharha and Yannick's 2017 wedding. Photo: via @trevor_stuurman.

Yannick and Rharha. Photo: via @petitenoirkvlt.

Rharha and Yannick for MATCHESFASHION. Photo:  via @petitenoirkvlt.