One of the most material philosophies of Japanese culture in the 15th Century was Neo-Confucianism, which stressed the importance of simplicity, morals, education and a hierarchical order in government and society. Consequently, any outward display of wealth or luxury was strictly forbidden. No fancy clothes, no flashy colours, no ostentatious patterns allowed!
Naturally, the ban spawned cultural opposition and a fashion movement known as Uramasari. Uramasari’s pioneers realised that, provided their kimonos looked simple on the outside, they abided by the law. So, they came up with clever ways of adding gorgeous colours and patterns on the inner lining where it was hidden from the outside. People gradually began investing a great deal of time and money in the inside or reverse of their kimonos.
The ‘ura’ philosophy is still successfully applied globally by today’s designers and creatives who understand that quality and craftsmanship, even the unseen parts, are exceedingly important. Examples of this approach include Paul Smith’s suit designs, the original Apple iMacs – famous for their beautifully designed internal construction – and the legendary Sky Umbrella by Kalman & Magnusson.
CEO’s Financial & Logistics Manager, Christina Wright, is an expert at taking great care of the hidden details, be it in her professional life or her personal endeavours. Her only tell – the only peek into her own ‘ura-mindset’ is her infectious laugh. “I know. I have a terrible, loud laugh,” she sighs. “But frankly, I would rather laugh than cry!” Christina ascribes the creative-perfection approach to her father and to her ‘varsity Fine Arts lecturer, Paul Emsley. “I can still hear my father imploring me to “Sukkel!” (struggle!) whenever I wanted to give up on a problem,” she says. “But I could also sense him observing me, watching me try to work out the problem, whatever it was. Only when he felt I had exhausted all options would he step in to help me if needed. Today I remind myself to ‘sukkel’ until I am satisfied that I have explored all possible solutions before asking for assistance.”
Christina recalls that the art studio at the University of Stellenbosch where she completed her BA degree was colloquially known as ‘The Hell‘. “Our docent, Paul Emsley, would insist on perfection in the creation of anything – be it a drawing or a painting,” she says. “Proportions and foreshortening had to be correct. I learned that, only once the basics and principles were fully mastered, could we unleash our own creative insurrection!”
Creativity and ambition come easy to Christina. “I have always loved being creative, it feeds my soul and makes me happy.” She loves doing needlework, painting, drawing, cooking, baking, gardening, and long walks on the beach or in the vineyards with her dogs. “I also like learning new things. Regular wine tastings led me to a more in-depth study, and I have just completed the Cape Wine Academy’s ‘South African Wine Course’, and I’ve enrolled for the next one.”
Christina says she ‘fell’ into her finance career after helping to rescue a business while working as the in-house artist at a museum. “I have a knack for creating order, and I tend to face problems with head-on thinking, ‘Okay, this is the worst it can get, now let’s fix it,’ which has been invaluable,” she smiles. “I had to ‘sukkel’, and it took me out of my comfort zone. I made mistakes along the way, but I’ve grown through it, and now I get to add a flash of creativity to the inner workings of CEO.”
Christina helped CEO’s founder launch the organisation in 1998. “I am extremely proud of being a part of an organisation that constantly adapts to the changing economic landscape that we all face.” Employers in South Africa face hugely restrictive and challenging economic and labour environments, but it’s heartening to know that CEO has team members like Christina who know how to make a difference to the ‘ura’ – the inner quality – for their members. “We sukkel for and with them!” laughs Christina. “Then we find creative solutions.”
Christina’s colleagues describe her as a team player – always ready and willing to help, no matter the person or cause. “She’s also a compassionate and empathetic listener, and a valuable member of our team,” says CEO Executive Director, Annelien Breed. No doubt, Christina’s family would concur. “I love bringing up and being there for my two wonderful children and watching them reaching – sukkeling – for their individual stars,” she laughs. Perfect!