Q&A: Ninì Bonavoglia of Amazigh
We sit down with Ninì Bonavoglia, art collector, sculptor and the creative mind behind Amazigh, a country house with Berber flair among the olive trees of Puglia.
Ninì, to begin with, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Bari, Puglia. I left Puglia when I was 18 to study in Milan and Paris. Soon after that, I moved to New York for 10 years and London for the following six.
I'm an art dealer, art collector, and for two years an artist myself, working with sculptures and ceramics after this new-found passion conquered me during Covid. Briefly, I would say my work deals with masculinity, queerness, fragility, desire and guilt.
How did you first discover this house?
My family saw the land. I was living in London at the time, so I flew down to check it out and signed right away. I returned to Puglia after spending the first lockdown in Patagonia to carry on this project. Ostuni felt like a great match, between quietness, reconnection with nature, and a nice community of people from other parts of the world relocating here.
What was the biggest challenge in creating your home?
For sure the fact that I didn’t ask an architect to do it! I decided to embark on the project by myself with the help of my sister, and it took tons of meetings and site visits to complete the project, plus the pandemic slowed down everything.
What are your favorite qualities in a home?
I would say light in primis, then space to move around and a lot of comfortable areas to chill and relax, indoor and outdoor.
What do you love most about this home?
The sense of peace and isolation I experience when I’m there. I really like being surrounded only by olive trees, with no other houses around. Also, in terms of a specific place in the house, I really enjoy the outdoor kitchen island. I’m very much into cooking, and it feels great doing it there surrounded by nature, or when you have guests over and you can chat around the cooking.
What do guests love most about it?
People that come see the house really appreciate the fact that it reflects me a lot. I wanted to make it as a very personal project, mixing things I’ve collected during the years and my ceramic works, which are reflected in the fireplace, door handles, lighting, and sculptures scattered around the house.
What is your favorite pastime when you are there?
For sure, it's gardening. Having lived in big cities for almost 20 years, I reconnected completely with nature and plants, and decided to carry out most of the planting myself. You learn while doing it, and seeing plants growing and replicating is super satisfying.
What was your biggest indulgence?
My granite bathroom. I wanted to give a hard touch to the house, something that could create a contrast in the style of the house but still reflect me a lot. And that happened with the large metal wall in my bedroom. It hides a closet, and it’s perfect for hanging paintings, plus it gives access to the bathroom where I created a shower in striped granite. I love its surface every time I use it.
What’s your most treasured possession in the home?
It’s a beautiful 19th-century portrait of a man's torso I bought at auction. There’s no attribution to it, but its gaze is daunting.
Where are you happiest?
Honestly, in my bed. It’s an oasis of peace. I can isolate there when I want, overlooking nature from the big window in front of the bed. It’s very meditative.
What is your favorite place to curl up with a good book?
It would be the sunk half-moon sofa in the shadow of the olive trees. It’s huge. My sister came up with the idea of a big outdoor sofa in stone under the trees. We liked the 70s vibe of the sunk sofas and adapted the idea for the house.
What book would that be?
The Sand Child by Tahar Ben Jelloun.
What is the soundtrack of the house?
I created a playlist for the house, mostly Arabic music I discovered while traveling in the Maghreb. The house is named Amazigh. I discovered its symbol on one of the vintage Tuareg mats in the house. I found out that its meaning in the Berber language was "free man" and also a symbol for the olive tree. It resonated a lot, and the music plays with it.
Where do people gather?
I like to gather people on the terrace on top of the house for a sunset drink or waiting for sunrise if the night goes on. We did it this summer, and the lighting was magic.
When you leave the house, where do you go?
My favorite place to swim is Torre Guaceto. It’s a natural reserve. You walk a bit, but then you escape from the crowds and just reconnect with the sea, sun and wind. Every time leaves me so many good vibes. Otherwise, I love to stroll through the antique markets on Sundays scattered in Ostuni and the villages around, and go eat some fantastic vegetarian food at Rapa Rossa.
Discover Ninì Bonavoglia's Amazigh, its outdoor kitchen among the olive trees, the granite bathroom and the beaches of Puglia by booking a stay here.