One of the things that makes our country so unique is the ethnic and cultural diversity the country enjoys and while that can often serve as a point of contention amongst South Africa’s citizens, it ensure that there is never a dull day in “the Rainbow Nation.”
Culture is defined as the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. It manifests itself through language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts.
Because of South Africa’s individual and shared culture(s) we have a day dedicated solely to this, 24 September (Heritage Day). A day on which most simply choose to pay homage to their backgrounds through what they wear while others choose to do so in different ways (namely through events).
While the average Joe can only break out the traditional gear on this day (and during other customary events) there are a number of formidable South Africans working to ensure that our culture is not only celebrated but profitable. Check them out:
Ma Esther Mahlangu
The 81-year-old Destiny Magazine cover star is an Ndebele artist known for her bold large-scale contemporary paintings that reference her Ndebele heritage - characterized by bold, colourful geometric patterns and shapes.
She has been creating traditional Ndebele artworks since she was 10 years old, a skill taught to her by her mother and grandmother.
She has been gaining international recognition since 1989 and has since had work commissioned by brands such as BMW, British Airways, Fiat, EYTYS, Melissa's and Beleverde to name a few.
She has also won a slew of awards and was most recently honoured through a mural on New York Boulevard that was inspired by the aesthetic of her work.
Artist @imaniniasr Imani Shanklin Roberts celebrates Gogo Esther Mahlangu with a street mural in Tribeca. It's titled Xola (Stay in Peace). pic.twitter.com/7bKsBM5yDL— Thato (@YoungAchieverSA) September 18, 2017
The founder and designer of MaXhosa by Laduma (who is the face of Nivea’s latest campaign) has received as much hate as he has love.
“Why?” you may ask? Well, check out the prices on his website’s online store and that might give you a clue.
The price tags on the MaXhosa by Laduma online store gave many the average South African a bit of a shock when they decided they might just want to support this the designer back when he had up-and-comer status.
As a result, he has been on the receiving end of some vitorol but we admire the fact that he forges on.
If Gucci can charge $1,220 (R16,307.32) for a Bengal Tiger print jacket, R2500,00 for intricately created knitwear is more than fair. And when Beyonce gives you a shoutout, forget what everybody else has to say.
Little is known or said about the designer behind the stunning African print creations worn by some of your favourite ZAlebs but Rina Chunga of Rich Factory does the damn thing!
Our favourite creation to date has to be the Zulu Love Letter to the World that SA’s media darling, Nomzamo Mbatha wore to the 2017 BET Awards when she was on red carpet duty.
Chunga can also be seen in the latest Nedbank Business Bundle advert. Secure the bag honey!
Although the Xistonga rapper is just being herself, she is doing more to put her culture on the map than anyone else who has tried in recent years. Add the flair of hip-hop culture and you’ve got a winning formula.
Plus, we think it’s so cool that she considers wearing her xibelani an act of ukuswanker. We would too if we also dropped R2000 on it like she does.
Fashion blogger and creative consultant, Siya Beyile is often lauded for his creative abilities and entrepreneurial prowess but it is actually his pride in his Xhosa background that gets us everytime.
We also love the fact that he and his team use their platform to showcase other South Africans who are “doing it for the culture,” which is where we heard about the next person on this list…
Sakhile “Sash” Cebekhulu
According to Aluwani Ratshiungo, the Joburg-based designer uses visual art and fashion to unpack his Zulu culture because he feels as though living in the city of his whole life robbed him of “the traditional Zulu experience.”
And that is how Zulu Lami was born.
The brand name is a play on words of two themes that mean a lot to Cebekhulu; ‘my world’ and ‘my Zulu’ and the designer feels as though his collection envisages the contemporary Zulu man.
A lot of you may not know Dlamini but perhaps you’ve heard of her business, NtoZinhle Accessorize.
It is a favourite among ZAlebs like Gugu Gumede, Princess Charlene of Monaco, Ma Esther Mahlangu, Mam’ Winnie Madikizela Mandela, DJ Zinhle and Monique Bingham, to name a few.
Heart Leads the Way
Not many have heard of this particular company but Heart Leads the Way is a Durban-based brand that specialises in bespoke beadwork.
Founded by Nosizwe Mji, the business, which she runs with her two sisters, Nomzamo and Zanele, marries local and international trends to create exquisite fashion pieces that reference traditional garb from Xhosa, Zulu and various ethnic groups across South Africa.
The company is in it’s about four years old and has branched out into designing clothing, shoes, homeware and decor (for both weddings and people’s homes).
You can find Heart Leads the way on Instagram @heartleadstheway
Happy Heritage Day South Africa!
Main image credit: supplied