The Designer Exploring African Stories Through Traditional Fabrics
This past year, I experienced a ‘big wave’ in my life — the start of a new phase (I hope) of my work. It was a wave that brought me into contact with the world of creative people from all over the African continent.
To be honest, I didn’t think about how the wave and new chapter in my life were connected, until the opportunity presented itself.
The journey started with discovering that my friend from college, Nuhu Iyi, had been working in the private sector, as the creative director of a multi-national corporation. Her company was engaged in developing a brand of textiles for the world that would have a ‘global’ appeal. The textiles would be intended for African countries who were starting to build more sophisticated textile industries (and where there was strong support from the government, but where the private sector had little presence).
My curiosity got the better of me and I sought out the email address of Nuhu Iyi’s boss to discover that it had something to do with the textiles in her company. After that, I got off and set up an interview with Nuhu Iyi. She invited me along to a company in Johannesburg in January 2018 where she was looking at the possibility of designing for African countries. There I met with her boss who had just been in Africa and had worked with the country’s textile industry for 25 years, running a number of companies there. He had been instrumental in the development of the textile industry in South Africa — a country that had a limited textile manufacturing sector until the 1960s.
My time in South Africa was a wonderful experience, as well. I had the pleasure of meeting the textile industry leaders and the people who were bringing the new textile industry there to life. I was able to experience the excitement of working with people from many different parts of the continent, as well as the challenges they faced. I was able to hear the stories of how they overcame such obstacles. One of my favorites was from a man named Alakazi Mzwane who had been working for the South African Government in a textile mill. He talked about how people were treated so harshly after arriving in South Africa. The textile industry people of South Africa often faced harsh conditions. They were unable to make ends meet. It was a sad story — one of poverty, exploitation,