Capturing a revolution

IMG_2444 Fashion blogger and stylist Nabilah Kariem

While the field of photography is predominantly male, female photographers are making serious moves in the industry and defying the norm.

 

Rizqua Barnes, a Cape Town-based photographer, is someone who has been at the forefront of the new wave of female photographers who have gained well deserved recognition and praise.

“Currently, with smartphones offering high definition cameras, just about anyone can label themselves as a photographer. However, it’s the professionals such as Barnes who stand out”

The designated playing fields are social media platforms such as picture driven Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Photographers and bloggers alike compete for a spot in glossy magazines, newspaper and online portals. The leading and popular photographer genres include general photography, socials, portraits, nature and fashion.

Carving your spot at the top is not easy, and like any other career, the field requires hard work, focus and individuality, says Barnes.

I first met Barnes about two years ago on live video sharing platform Snapchat. Her snaps (pictures of her daughter Nura melted my heart) and her everyday life intrigued me. Her diverse professional portfolio on Instagram includes photos of models, personalities, fashion bloggers and just about every other thing that catches her eye.

Curious about how she became a photographer, I asked her: “When was the first time you picked up a camera?”

She said: “I was in Standard 5 (grade 7). I don’t remember what type of camera it was exactly but I got it from my aunt and it was a film camera. I borrowed it for camp.

“I was way too young at the time and never really gave it much thought. Thinking about it now, taking pictures is something that I have always enjoyed.

“My dad Fuad Barnes had a camera as well and was always taking pictures of our family. When I finished school, my sister Quanita borrowed loaned me her camera when we went on holiday and I took pictures of everything.

“I went on a paddling boat and the camera fell into the ocean we still laugh about this until today. Since then I am always super careful with a camera.

“I was always obsessed with sunlight, light and trees. There is a certain time during the day, the hour before sunset, when the sun shines on spots which are usually hidden during the day the golden hour, it’s called”

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Model Ashleigh Herman wearing The Design Wearhouse 

 

Now a fully fledged “Girl Boss” #GirlBoss , Barnes credits Facebook for propelling her career to where she is now.

“I have been on my toes since the beginning of my career and I am still on my toes. Ever since Facebook happened, things have been happening for me and it hasn’t stopped,” she says.

“From weddings to engagements to 21st birthdays, matric dances and family photos. I have shot everything. Everything you can think of, I have shot it”

“But right now, I have found myself, after 10 years in the industry. I am currently enjoying fashion and portraits photography.

“All my life, I have always told myself that I want to be my own boss. I never want to work for anybody. I worked in retail for three years and it made me realise that I am worth more than a 9 to 5. I felt that I was wasting time being desk bound when I can be everywhere, meeting people, taking pictures and creating content. I have always been driven, entrepreneurship is just in my blood;

“There are times when working for yourself is scary but it’s worth it,” she says.

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Models Wekwa Tenzi and Alina Castle wearing Shop Brett Robson

Her portfolio now also includes wedding photography, a category she fell into by chance.“More female Muslim photographers started popping up and this was a nice thing to witness. At times when I couldn’t take on more work because I had too much on my plate, I would refer clients to other female photographers.

“It was a big deal for me because at the time I felt as if I was the only female photographer amongst males, especially in the Muslim community which was very male dominated and it was tough.

“Men and the older generations didn’t take a female with a camera seriously.

“When more and more women photographers came onto the scene, it was like a weight off my shoulders.”

How does she go from being a wedding photographer to shooting glamorous models?

“With weddings, I became more of a people’s person. I actually know how to make people relax in front of a camera. It’s a power that we have as photographers,” she explains.

“In fashion, you are one-on-one with someone, and it’s such a big deal because it’s up to me to make the person comfortable. Whether or not you are an experienced model, you still get nervous”

 

“Currently, my aesthetic is a clean and fresh look, but yet I still want the photograph to pop. I still want people to go wow! When they see it, there should be little for me to explain in a picture.

“I always want the viewer to know what they are seeing immediately. The model needs to connect with the viewer,” adds Barnes

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A portrait of Rizqua by Thabit Kamaldien

** Connect with Rizqua  on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/rizqua_barnes/?hl=en 

*See more of my work here: http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style-beauty/fashion/5-menswear-trends-you-need-to-know-10442700

*See more What drives a designer?

Moonchild Sanelly says she kicked doors when they didn’t open

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TENACITY: Moonchild Sanelly Picture: Jim Herrtage

The blue-haired pop star, has made impressive moves in her young career. Performing with Busi Mhlongo and Madala Kunene, she is a beaming light that will illuminate for many years to come.I caught up with her this week while she was in town to record at the Red Bull Cape Town S tudios, where she spoke about her career and her upcoming performance at the Oppikoppi Festival in October. 

When you completed high school, was music the trajectory you expected for your career? When I left school, the stage was definitely the vision. Performance and my mom allowed me to be expressive, so lights, camera, and action was my life’s theme.

The R&B and pop landscape has changed a lot since you came out. What are your feelings on the scene today? I respect the power of reinvention, like Beyoncé. I think it’s one of those things where you learn ways of staying true to your art yet are creative enough for young ones to jump on and appreciate, without calling it a throwback.

At this point in your career, what would you like to accomplish? A song with US record producer, rapper, singer Diplo. My fashion school and that is after I scoop my awards in every genre that I pitch for! I plan on winning in everything I embark on. I’m patient too.

 

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Picture supplied. 

If you had to select a new artist to collaborate with on a song or album, who would it be? It would be this dope male rapper and art director Oarabile Mahole aka Jay Cubed SA, from Mafikeng. Every song is conceptual and he deals with branding artists as an artist and I love Die Antwoord with my life. Aka and Anatii are fire galore. The queen Thandiswa Mazwai. There are so many Nicci Saint Bruce is a Yassssssss!

Tell us about your experience at Primavera Pro in Spain?

Life life life! You are shown over there that music is a language of its own. The appreciation, the posters as I walked into festival they love our craft. I wish we all thought super big with our careers no matter what we do.

You have been fortunate enough to perform with SA’s well respected artists. Did you think you would get to this point? Tell us about some of the highlights while working with high profile names? I was this kid who was always eager and kicked doors when they didn’t open. It’s always a tick off the bucket list of your career. I am still that character. As an artist, with each achievement there’s hope that something better is coming. I felt that with every year in my 12 years on stage. I think patience is by default as you don’t think negatively when there’s light seeping little by little. It was an honour and the journey continues.Mama Busi said to me…“ngane yam umuhle, don’t change” (My child, you are beautiful. Don’t ever change.) Can you imagine this rock star telling a young fired-up red-haired girl that!

You will be performing at Oppikoppie? How do you feel about this and what can the audience expect? New music from my ep called #1stmillion which I’ve just recorded at Red Bull Studios in Cape Town. I’ll also be sharing the stage with Luma and The Kiffness, so I am all over. You’re a pretty stylish and fashion forward individual. How important do you think image and style is when it comes to the music you’re making, as well as performing in general?Image to me is everything. You must spark an interest for people to find out what you do, before you deliver. That’s what I tell my clients. I cannot live with being invisible, the eyes are awesome.

What advice do you have for artists who are interested in producing, writing and performing but might have a hard time balancing and focusing their efforts? Believe in your art. Listen to wise counsel, in fact you may seek it. When you have a vision, you are the first one who needs to be motivated enough to hustle it t hrough. Your product is the reason for performing, so don’t lose focus, ever.

* Connect with Moonchild on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/moonchildsanelly/?hl=en

Connect with me on Instagram @Nontando58  https://www.instagram.com/nontando58/?hl=en

See more of my work here: http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style-beauty/fashion/chulaap-caters-for-the-woman-10346031

Kwena Baloyi hair photography series titled “Afrikan Krowns”

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Kwena Baloyi . Picture by Trevor Stuurman

For a long time the controversial issue of black women’s hair has been debated on mainstream media. Even though arguments continue as to whether it is correct or not to have relaxed hair and wear weaves and wigs, I am excited to see a shift in the narrative. The internet and social media are at the forefront in driving the story of “my hair, my crown”. I spoke to fashion stylist Kwena Baloyi, whose Instagram photography series of beautiful hairstyles celebrating black hair caught my eye.

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Kween Kwena. Picture by Nonzunzo Gxekwa 

Tell us about yourself? My friends and industry peers fondly call me “Kween Kwena”. I’m a vivacious, high-spirited and fun person (or so I’m told). I’m from Moletjie Ga-Makibelo in Limpopo. I’m a professional, on-demand TV, magazine and personal stylist. I’m also a fashion adventurist, who explores different clothes to come up with unique styles. I consider myself a fashion therapist because I help people find their fashion identity. I’m low-key obsessed with hair too.

Tell us about your interest in hair? Like every young woman I have come a long way with my hair.

Most of us, as black women, have had a contentious relationship with the kink in our coily hair and it’s been influenced by what society tells us is “acceptable”

I’ve been through that phase where my hair needed to be straight because I thought that was “appropriate”. My natural hair was called “untidy” or was not appreciated by those around me, so I thought it would be better to straighten or shave it. The older I got, the more I appreciated what my hair meant to me and what it represented to me as a woman in a society with so many negative connotations about African people’s hair. Now I wear my hair how I like because it’s an extension of who I am. It expresses my personality more than any item of clothing could.

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What inspired your social media hair photo series? Being a stylist affords me the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country and to meet many different characters. Each person I have met has always had an interesting aspect of their hair. Some stand out for being unique, while some simply intrigue me because they choose to be “regular” for the sake of fitting in. Experiencing this variety of people sparked the notion of how people relate to their “crown” – which is what your hair is essentially. You can choose to have it bold and in your face, or like other hairstyles considered “generic” or “normal”.

 

I’ve also been attracted to how different tribes around the continent wear their hair – particularly in West Africa.

There is a lot of documentation by history scholars and international artists about black people and their hair. The natives of Ugogo, whose hair traditions are exceptional, are one of a few. There are also the Fante women of Elmina (Edina) in Ghana, who had beautiful thick hair and their hairstyles were always so intricate and crafted to perfection. In fact, my current coiffure hairstyle is inspired by women in West Africa. The hairstyle was later made popular by our beloved mama Miriam Makeba. South Africa also has threading and plaiting techniques that are unique and allow us to express our personalities.

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Who is responsible for creating the beautiful hairstyles? My go-to stylist is Ncumisa “Mimi” Duma. She’s a talented hair magician and understands the importance of treating natural hair with care. Can you believe my hair has not seen a hair dryer or endured any artificial heat since I started growing it? It’s the healthiest my natural hair has been in ages!

Does your series have a title? Yes. It’s called “Afrikan Krowns”. We are each Afrikan and each have a Krown. Your Krown is an extension of who you are and an expression of your personality/character. The series looks at how each person chooses to wear their Krown with pride.

 

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Can you tell us what triggered your hair interest? This will sound so clichéd, but do you know the song I am not my hair, by India Arie? It’s always been one of my favourites jams, but it wasn’t until years after I heard it that I began to understand what she was really saying. Often as young girls we sing along to a song without really understanding what its purpose or message is. The way India describes her “hair story” in the first verse is how my hair chronicles kinda went. You start with whatever hair your parents decide you need to have. Then you become a little girl who does certain hairstyles because that’s what the school deems acceptable. From there you become a teenager, get influenced by pop culture and base your hairstyles on what’s “trending”. Then you become an adult and still get peer pressured into doing what your circle finds palatable. Eventually, your hair starts to fall out because you’ve either put way too many chemicals in it or braided it for too long or sewn on too many weaves.

How do you see natural hair empowering women? For me it says you’re slowly, but surely, getting to a point where society’s standards of beauty don’t define who you are. You no longer feel forced to relax your hair or wear a weave just because the expectation to have straight hair weighs you down.

You are ready to celebrate your hair and turn it into whichever shape of krown you desire because it’s an extension of who you are, but by no means defines who you are. In many ways, I hope black women feel free to be whoever they choose to be through their krowns.

Any last words? Women need to understand that the type of hair they choose to wear is not linked to who they are or who other people assume them to be. Whether you’re into braids, weave, wigs, fades, cheese kop, dreadlocks, afro, or anything else you find appealing, remember your hair is your krown.

No one can dictate what it should look like nor what it should mean to you. What matters is that you love it, nurture it and make the most of it.

 

*Connect with Kwena on Instagram: @kwenasays

Connect with me on Instagram @Nontando58 https://www.instagram.com/nontando58/?hl=en and find more of my work here: http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style

This piece was first published in the Top of The Times on June 9 2017

What drives a designer?

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When it comes to clothing brands, sometimes all it takes is a clean and distinct design aesthetic that will set you apart from the saturated market. Streetwear brand Unknown Union (UU) is one of a few South African labels which have managed to stand out with its distinct tracksuits and separates like T-shirts, caps, socks and jackets

I get to know the founder of the brand, Jason Storey.

Tell us a bit about yourself. I wasn’t always a designer. I actually spent my early career as an in-house corporate attorney in New York, working around the clock on deal after deal. But I always had a passion for expression outside the field of law. I grew up surrounded by the study of art (my father was an art dealer).

Tell us about starting your label.Unknown Union was born from that passion, but it’s vision has changed significantly since its origins. My family and I have been travelling to South Africa since I was much younger and it is through that experience that I developed a deep affinity for the people, places and cultures here. UU originally was originally founded in 2010 and at that time we primarily imported brands from outside of South Africa, such as Obey, Levi’s Vintage, Pendleton, and Warriors of Radness.

We also were the first to officially introduce Top Shop to the African Market through our exclusive pop up shop. Around 2011, we began developing our in-house clothing brand, UU, which was inspired by local art and culture, and it didn’t take long before this became the primary focus of our shop. Today, you can find our range at our newest location in Cape Town CBD (44 Bloem Street), where our garments celebrate the rich cultural history of Lesotho and South Africa and several new design projects that touch Angola, Congo and Kenya.

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Model, Sanele Xaba is the face of UU. Picture: Simon Deiner/SDR Photo

What’s it like being in the fashion industry? The fashion industry is fun, but challenging.

From the outside the industry can easily appear to be sexy and glamorous, but people don’t always see how much work and effort goes into the creation of each garment. From design to production it takes a team working meticulously around the clock to produce something worth buying.

 

How would you describe your brand? We believe that there is something that binds every person on this planet together. There is no name for that thing. There is no way to smell it, taste it, feel it, see it, etc. But we all intrinsically recognise that it exists. That’s one of the meanings behind our name, Unknown Union.

How difficult is it to remain original when streetwear brands seem to emerge daily nowadays? If you are pinning your originality on the uniqueness of your design, then few designers can meet that standard because almost every design you could think of to drape the human body has already been thought of or created.

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Is it important for the brand to have the clothing worn by celebrities? While we are thankful many celebrities have taken an interest in our brand, our clothing is designed for everyone .

How have you seen the role of social media develop for you as a brand?

Social has media has become more of a focus for the brand over the last year. Until recently, word of mouth and print were our primary marketing vehicles.

 

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What’s next for Unknown Union? Our UU family can expect to see new and innovative capsule collections from upcoming collaborations with local and international artists. Everyone is invited to come through our flagship Cape Town shop for the launch of our next exhibit: Fashion Art.

Connect with Unknown Union on Instagram @unknownunion https://www.instagram.com/unknownunion/

Connect with me on Instagram @Nontando58 https://www.instagram.com/nontando58/?hl=en  

Find more of my work here: http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style

This piece was first published in The Mercury on June 9 2017. 

Biko tote bag trending in SA

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The 12th of Septmber 39 years since South African anti-apartheid activist Stephen (Steve) Bantu Biko died in police custody in a prison cell in Pretoria. He was founder of the Black Consciousness Movement and questions about the circumstances of his death remain.

During his lifetime, Biko’s writings and activism aimed at empowering black people and he captured the hearts of many here at home and throughout the world. His ideologies are still relevant today and live on in many mediums, including fashion apparel such as T-shirts and various art forms.

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Siki Msuseni, founder and owner of Pigments by Siki.

Trending in fashion circles is the “Who Killed Biko?” tote bag by stylist and blogger Siki Msuseni . We chatted to the 25-year-old owner of the collaborative platform for creatives in the fashion industry, Pigments Studio, about her statement bags.

What does Steve Biko mean to you?

Steve Biko is the perfect example of a brave, great leader. He was not apologetic of what he stood for… he was a valuable asset in dismantling apartheid. Even though apartheid ended 17 years after his death, he remains one of the forerunners who fought against inequality.

How did the idea for the tote bags come about?

The idea came from my observations that in our (past) school curriculum there was not a lot of information available about South African history. However, a lot of issues that were swept under the rug are coming to the surface 22 years later in post-apartheid South Africa.

I wanted to start a dialogue with ordinary South Africans through these bags. They are a form of activism without saying much. I approached graphic designer Xolani Dani with a brief to create the artwork for the bags which displays a portrait of Steve Biko crying on one side and on the other side the words, “Who killed Biko?”

I am trying to discredit the myth that for one to talk about matters concerning our politics, one needs to be well read and well spoken. The bags are a way of encouraging ordinary South Africans to start a dialogue, to engage and to open up meaningful conversations with each other around political issues.

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Describe the customer/person you had in mind when you designed the bags.This one is for the brave young people of South Africa, the ones who have been brave enough to stand up against the inequality still experienced in today’s South Africa. It’s for a youth that acknowledges the past mistakes of our parents but chooses to move forward in unity. I designed the bags for the young person who associates with the Black Consciousness Movement that Biko created.

What message, if any, are you hoping to carry through with the bags?I don’t necessarily have a message but want to open a much bigger dialogue where everyone’s opinion about how Steve Biko died are valued. I want this to be a piece of public art that you carry, that will get people talking and looking deeper into our history. I am aware that I may be opening some raw and unhealed wounds, but these are important and necessary conversations we should be having.

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If Biko was alive today, what would you say to him?

“I have so many things I would say to him. I would thank him for being a vessel of black pride. He encouraged us to be proud of our black skin and said we have something great to offer to the world”

What would you tell the younger generation about Biko? I would tell them that conformity is a bad disease that can drown you.

“Be like Biko – be brave and challenge the norm.  Always question everything they teach you at school… be revolutionary in your approach to life”

 

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Your favourite Steve Biko quote? 

“Black man, you are on your own”

Portraying the joy of African children

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My favourite painting by South African contemporary artist Nelson Makamo is that of a young boy sporting a short afro and red glasses.
The expression on his face is pure joy… I can almost feel the warm laughter bubbling in his belly. Looking at the artwork brings back childhood memories of playing for hours without a care in the world. I have the image saved in my phone and I look at it each time I need a quick pick-me-up. It always makes me smile.

I tell Makamo this when I meet him at a Cape Town hotel for the interview and he smiles knowingly.
“When you think it, a lot of art that comes out of the continent, some would describe it as sombre or dark. However, come winter or summer it doesn’t matter, we always have the sun… that is the thing about Africa,” he says.

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“It’s the beauty of how Africans smile through everything and that is how I look at my subjects and from a child’s perspective as well. It doesn’t matter where you go in the continent, when you find children playing there are similarities that take you back to your own childhood,” he says.

Makamo’s large-scale portraits of children display various features and personalities of quirkiness. Each lined sketch drawn in charcoal, watercolour or pen and ink is distinct and is often done in black and white with pops of colour.

At 34, the Joburg artist is one of South Africa’s celebrated talents. His paintings are worth thousands of rands with one of his drawings, So full of youth – not yet abused selling for R250 000 at a recent Stephan Welz & Co auction – a record for the artist at auction.

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“As an adult there are a lot of things that we do that we pretty much fence ourselves around from, that we don’t feel or see certain things anymore. That free thinking and openness to learning we can only see it through the eyes of a child,” says Makamo.

Born in theLimpopo town of Nylstroom, now Modimolle, Makamo moved to Joburg to join the Artist Proof Studio in January 2003. There he studied on a bursary for three years and worked for another two as sales representative and curator of the gallery. He has since held solo exhibitions here at home and in France, Italy, the US, the Netherlands and Scotland.

His childhood was like any normal child raised in a small town environment, he says. Sundays were for church, weekdays were for school and his free time was spent reading Marvel comics such as Spider- Man and Iron Man… which planted the roots for his artistic talent.

“My stepdad pretty much made me the man that I am today. Being the only child in most cases there is this preconception that you are spoiled, but I never experienced that. During school holidays my parents would send me to my cousins so I sort of grew up with a lot of cousins around me,” he says.

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“My love for art started early and was mostly influenced by cartoons. We collected a lot of Marvel comics at home… that is actually how it all started,” says Makamo.

He sold his first drawing in high school for R125.
“Most of my drawings then were about comics. I drew characters such as the Ninja Turtles and Batman and would show them to my peers.

Being an artist was not my first choice. In Grade 10 I decided that I wanted to be a chemical engineer, so after matric I briefly studied Engineering at the Vaal University of Technology.

“Three months into it I was like, “I don’t think I see myself as an engineer, this is not something that I want to pursue’.

“Looking at the communities we are raised in, one often doesn’t think that you can turn your Godgiven talent into a career. Some people even went as far as saying I should become a cartoonist , you get all sorts of advice,” says Makamo.

 

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The beginning of his career was no walk in the park, he says.
“The first three years after graduating were not easy for both myself and my parents. They were always concerned about how I was going to make a living with art. It also didn’t help that there was little information on South African artists… there was no fully documented history of art that one could study. The focus is mostly on old masters, such as Pablo Picasso and Michelangelo.

“Digging deeper I discovered SA artists such as Gerard Sekoto and Dumile Feni, who belonged to a township movement of black artists. They became pretty much my influencers”

“Through their art you got to understand our country and where our cultures come from. This sort of gave me the confidence to say that I can make a living out of this. Most of them didn’t have proper materials to draw with so they used cheaper mediums such as charcoal and oil soft pastels.”

Makamo never leaves home without his camera and his “bible”, a small sketch book in which he scribbles things and sketches people who catch his eye.

“I always say that I am a storyteller because I live and see things from a third-person point of view. I draw mostly from memory, but sometimes I see a scene and I have to capture it quickly in my ’bible” or I use my camera.

“In my work I try to capture emotions in a language that the person next to me gets without me having to explain. It’s interesting if you think about it, how we are all connected.

“There are a lot of things that bring people together and a lot of those things you can only see through the eyes of a child,” says Makamo

“Children are the most forgiving beings. It is always heart-breaking when you travel or when you google African children, the images that they give you does not represent who we are, only that of poor and starving children.. it’s actually so disturbing when you think about it.

“I took it way too personal, that is why I started basing my work around it. It’s a way of saying, there is another version of an African child that I can give you.”

When some people ask me about my background, it’s almost as if they expect me to give them a poor background and take away the talent. I would be doing myself and the beautiful culture that I was raised in an injustice.  That is why I portray most of my subjects with glasses, as a way of saying they are geniuses, he explains

“Why do you look beyond us, judge us and have your own conclusion about us without sitting down and having a one-on one-conversation with us?

“The support I have from South Africans, regardless of who buys my work or not, is very inspiring and it is what drives me… makes me stand taller. It is as if people were waiting for someone to wipe away the stereotypes,” Makamo says. 

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l Find the artist Nelson Makamo on Instagram -@nelsonmakamo

This piece was first published in the Cape Argus on August 8 2016. 

Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat: @Nontando58. 

 

Born in Africa, calling to the world

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The look book pictures are by Aubrey Jonsson 

Larger-than-life, lookbook photographs hang from the ceiling. Each celebrates the modern African woman, their presentation adding a dramatic dreamlike
effect.
The venue is the East City Studios in Cape Town. The occasion: fashion label Mille Collines’ showcase of its AW 2016 collection, called Curio City.

At the event last week, produced by Deon Redman of Creative Production, with photographs by Aubrey Jonsson and ArtLab, the brand’s co-founders Inés Mille and Marc Collines were joined by designer Namnyak Odupoy, the newest addition to the team.
They spoke to me about their inspiration and brand.

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Who is Mille Collines? Mille Collines is a fashion brand that was born in Rwanda, is inspired by Africa and is appealing to the world.

It is about representing you: a woman who belongs to Africa, who lives in a cosmopolitan and culturally diverse city; a woman who travels and always discovers.

You have an affinity for fine detail. You are a woman of success who stands out in crowds… Mille Collines creates for you and wants to walk with you on your journey. We are passionate about designing the best clothes that speak to the woman you are.

What is your creative process? We are three creative heads: Marc Collines, Inés Mille and Namnyak Odupoy. Marc is more focused on the pattern and construction, and Namnyak and Inés are focused on colour, tactile applications and materials.

Aside from the three creative heads of the brand, there is a large network of workshops in Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa that have been involved in the making of the collection and that regularly work with the brand in the development of our products.

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We worked with a group of 25 Maasai women who hand-embroidered every beaded application and created all the beaded accessories.

We also used handmade glass beads from Japan. All the leather and brass
accessories were created in our partner workshop in Nairobi, which was responsible
for the making of all the leather and woven handbags, as well as all the “faux elephant hair” jewellery.

The garments were created between our atelier (studio) in Nairobi and our partner CMTs (cutters, makers and trimmers) in Cape Town, the sunglasses in collaboration
with Ballo, a Cape Town-based sunglass brand, and the laptop purses in collaboration
with Wendren, a brand that uses recycled paper finished off with a waterproof coating.

They customised our collection prints on the purses. The woven inserts in our handbags were done using recycled T-shirt yarn by a women’s workshop based in Khayelitsha.

Tell us about your latest collection, “Curio City”? The collection takes inspiration from the African curio shops and their disconnection with today’s Africa.

We understand the nostalgic connection that curio objects have for our woman and her childhood, therefore we have reinterpreted these elements to reflect the Africa she lives in today, cosmopolitan and globalised.

In other words, taking the most evidently “African” elements that represent Africa for most foreigners and reinterpreting them in contemporary expressions of fashion.

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During your shows you acknowledge each mode. Why? The models themselves are individuals who are part of the collaborative process. We looked for not just
models, but individuals, each on their own journey through the world regardless of where they have come from.

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What inspires you? Africa, first and foremost. That is always the starting point. Anything from materials to craftsmanship techniques, to artists we collaborate with are always explored in Africa.

Our inspiration has always come from the origin and roots of African culture, transforming this into contemporary pieces for today’s woman.

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AIR COUTURE: Co-founders of the brand Marc Collines and Inés Mille.

What’s next? We will be relaunching our online store this month to bring our products to the women in South Africa and opening a flagship store in South Africa. The brand currently owns four stores in Nairobi, Kenya.

● For more on Millie Collines: Web: http://www.millecollines.es
Twitter: @mille_collines
Instagram: @millecollines

This piece was first published in the Cape Argus on May 18 2016.