Connect with us

Careers

Heroes of Our Time – Bonface Massah

As a young boy growing up with albinism, I did face challenges such as severe sunburn. Sunscreen was not readily available, unless there were donations at the hospital where my mother worked.

Published

on

Heroes of Our Time - Bonface Massah Asante Afrika Magazine
Modern Day Hero - Bonface Massah
19 / 100

SAVING LIVES AND DEFENDING THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH ALBINISM

“Am I afraid of being killed? I live with that fear every day.”

In 2015 he was selected as the inaugural award winner of the Bari-Bari Prize for Outstanding Albinism Advocacy. In 2018 he was selected together with 9 others from around the world, including Zimbabwean musician, Prudence Mabhena, as a recipient of the American Henry Viscardi Achievement Award for persons with disabilities who are exemplary leaders in their communities. A 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders Initiative fellow, Bonface Massah is a true modern hero. He took time off his hectic schedule to narrate his story to us.

I was born in Northern Malawi in Rumphi District, a semi-rural area. At that time my dad was working for an agricultural company so we used to travel a lot across the country. In our family, the first born has albinism, followed by twin-sisters, of which one has albinism. My sister who came after the twins does not have albinism, followed by myself and the last born does not have albinism. So my parents had 3 children with albinism and 3 without. When I was born, my mother was so stressed out when she saw me that she fainted and I had to be separated from her for a while until she recovered from the shock and received counselling. She simply couldn’t believe that she had given birth to a third child with albinism, but through counselling and support from the hospital staff she was able to accept me. Fortunately one of the nurses at the hospital also had a child with albinism so she gave my mum strength and encouragement.

While growing up, my parents already had experience of raising two children with albinism, so when I came along, a system was already in place of how to look after us. My parents were also already used to the rejection and discrimination from the community and from close relatives, especially on my dad’s side. My parents and older siblings were loving and very supportive of me while growing up. Our parents wanted the absolute best for us and they made sure that we got the best care and education. Growing up in a typical African setup whereby you have to provide for your family and for extended family as well, our relatives did not understand why my parents were only focusing on us and not sending their children to school as well.

Heroes of Our Time - Bonface Massah Asante Afrika Magazine

Albinism is caused by a defect in one of several genes that produce or distribute melanin. The defect may result in the absence of melanin production, or a reduced amount of melanin production. The defective gene passes down from both parents to the child and leads to albinism.

Heroes of Our Time - Bonface Massah Asante Afrika Magazine

My mother is a nurse by profession so she understood the dynamics of having children who needed to be cared for differently. She and my dad would go around to the schools which my brothers and I attended and raise awareness about our condition. I experienced bullying and name-calling at primary school and sometimes I would cry, but for the most part, I did not care much for it and I did not let it get to me because I did not know what albinism was. As far as I was concerned, I was just like any other child. It was only when I started secondary school and we started doing Biology that I started learning about this condition called albinism and how it came about. That is when it finally dawned on me that my condition is actually albinism.

As a young boy growing up with albinism, I did face challenges such as severe sunburn. Sunscreen was not readily available, unless there were donations at the hospital where my mother worked. My parents always have sunhats available for me, but wearing sunglasses all the time was a big inconvenience, I think mainly because my parents just made me wear them without explaining what they were for. 

   Due to the lack of pigment in the eyes, individuals with albinism will have a number of vision difficulties such as reduced visual acuity, light sensitivity (Photophobia), rapid eye movements (Nystagmus) and misaligned eyes (strabismus).

The high school I attended was very protective and they did not tolerate any bullying or name-calling. My brother was also there when I started form one so the whole school was already used to having someone with albinism. I then attended university at the Bunda College of Agriculture in Lilongwe where I did my first degree in Agronomy. My first year there was quite an interesting experience because you would hear second and third year students saying, “Aah, the university is now admitting white people!”

Whilst in high school I was able to take part in a lot of sports, but when I got to university, the academic pressure was too much and because of my vision, it meant that I had to spend most of my spare time studying in the library and catching up on notes in my room. I was not socially awkward at university as I did have girls that would talk to me here and there, but my fellow male students would see me and be in shock that even I had girls that talk to me. For some reason, those types of comments would make the girls withdraw from close relationships with me, though they remained acquaintances. That didn’t affect me much though because by then I had so many friends at the university and everyone was now used to me.

At the University of Stellenbosch where I went to do my Master’s Degree in Development Studies, focusing on Rehabilitation, Disability, Gender and Development, my peers there all assumed I was a white person. They refused to believe that I was a person with albinism from Malawi, so I also just rode on that wave and left them thinking that I was a white South African, which is what they strongly believed.

I am currently back in Malawi where I live with my wife and two kids, who all do not have albinism. However, when our kids were born, especially our youngest who is very light-skinned just like my mother, my wife’s friends and our parents’ friends would call but only to find out if the children had albinism like me. To me, this only shows me how they perceived us as people with albinism and it shows that the stigma is still there. My wife has been with me through thick and thin and she was able to handle the comments very well. She even took those times as opportunities to educate some people about the condition.

 I have worked for many organisations which fight for the rights of persons with disabilities, such as the Association of Persons with Albinism in Lilongwe. Currently, I am working as the Country Director for Standing Voice, an international NGO based in Tanzania, Malawi and the UK, which also defends the rights of persons with albinism. We also promote access to healthcare and education, advocacy with the UN and governments, and comprehensive treatment of skin cancer and eye-care. As the Country Director, my job is to develop partnerships, strengthen collaborations with government, co-ordinate all the activities, active delivery of our skin cancer and vision programmes across Malawi and managing the referrals and coordination for the team of doctors which come from the UK, among other things. I was also recently appointed as one of the Commissioners of the Malawi Human Rights Commission where I’m working on the protection of rights of people with disabilities.

There are so many challenges which come with being a man with albinism in a country like Malawi. For example, relatives see you as less of a man who is not able to look after his family, more so looking after extended family. I have so many friends with albinism who have ended up going through divorce because of family which sees them as less manly.        

Malawi has become known as a very dangerous country for people with albinism. This is another challenge which affects all people with albinism. I work with organisations which investigate the abductions and killings of people with albinism and provide care and protection for survivors. In most cases where the perpetrators were arrested, they would state that they wanted body parts of persons with albinism so that they could use them to make charms to get rich. Some fishermen actually use body parts of persons with albinism as bait to catch more fish. Initially when these abductions started in Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique, they would just chop off your hand or your leg using a machete and run away. Over the years however, the patterns have changed and the abductions have become even more gruesome and brutal as they now kill the victims and mutilate the bodies. Anybody part of a person with albinism is now considered useful in making these get-rich-quick charms. We also have cases of politicians who say they use the body parts to attract large crowds to their political rallies or gatherings. They also believe that the charms will make them win elections. The perpetrators of these atrocities are both in rural and urban places and it is hard to find out who the buyers of the body parts are.

My family and I have been fortunate enough to not experience these kind of attacks thus far, but there have been times where I see strange cars parked outside my house or people knocking at my door with threats and warnings. As a human rights defender I always expected these kinds of experiences. To stay safe I would have to often change cars and not stay in one location for too long. There was even a point where my wife said to me, “Bon, this is enough!” Eventually though, she said to me, “I realise that this is your calling and you must go on with your work.” She understood that this was something that I needed to do, even it meant using my own resources. Having grown up in a loving and caring environment, I felt the need to show the same love to victims of these attacks. Till today I always ask myself, “If I don’t do it, then who will?”

In Sub-Saharan Africa, witch doctors and others use body parts of persons with albinism as ingredients in rituals, concoctions and potions with the claim that their magic will bring prosperity to the user. As a result, people with albinism have been persecuted, killed and dismembered, and graves of persons with albinism dug up and desecrated. At the same time, people with albinism have also been ostracised and even killed for exactly the opposite reason, because they are presumed to be cursed and bring bad luck.

Doing this kind of work is not easy. In Malawi we have over 164 reported cases of these attacks and over 25 people were killed from 2013 till now. We also have ten persons with albinism who are still missing for 5 years or more, so we count them as having been killed. I think one of the most agonizing experiences which is the latest one was the disappearance of a twelve year old boy in one of the villages. He was taken in May this year from his village by his uncle after he convinced the parents that it was better for the boy to live with him at his home. Around August when the parents tried to get in touch with the child, the uncle suddenly had excuses all the time saying the boy was not around. The parents became suspicious and reported the matter to the police. On conducting investigations, it was found that the boy had been sold by the uncle and killed in Mozambique in May. The uncle was arrested together with other family members and other suspects, but the uncle was found to have been the mastermind of the whole plan.

In Malawi, we reviewed our penal code just for albinism in 2016. For murdering a person with albinism, one now gets life imprisonment. For trafficking a person with albinism, one gets life imprisonment as well. So in this particular case it was both trafficking and murder.

I would not say that our governments in Sub-Saharan Africa have done enough to curb the spread of these attacks. A lot more still needs to be done in terms of raising awareness and changing mindsets. Issues of witchcraft, myths and superstitions are deep-rooted in African individuals, including those who are in power. It is so complicated to get leaders to demystify their beliefs and possibly that is why they do not do much to address these issues. Some of them are religious but they still believe in these superstitious charms. It is even more complicated to demystify the beliefs that people with albinism do not have gold in their bones or magnets inside their bodies.

The only thing we can do to raise awareness is to continue with civic education. The main thing however which we must continue to strive for is the empowerment of persons with albinism because that makes us more visible. For example, people cannot just attack me right now because I am very well-known as an Activist and a Commissioner. They would have to be very strategic and plan the attack meticulously, because attacking a high-profile person would raise a lot of attention around the country and the world. You find that even in the rural areas, if a person with albinism owns a business, people will support and respect him or her. I am proud of how we as people with albinism in Malawi have invested ourselves to champion our own rights. That initiative of self-advocacy has raised the profile and awareness across the board. I also take it upon myself to visit families who have children with albinism and encourage them to accept their children and treat them the same way they do their children who do not have albinism. When they see me and hear of what I have achieved, they are encouraged that their children who have albinism can also grow up to become successful and productive people in life. My whole family including my mum and my siblings also help me in this advocacy of helping families who have rejected their children who have albinism.

Being an African with albinism, one always faces the dilemma of trying to figure out, “Am I black or am I white?” Another question that you may find yourself battling with is, “Am I African enough?” The only thing we ask from fellow Africans is for everyone to accept us as ‘Africans with albinism’. What we have is just a condition. Our parents are black so why is it hard to accept these products of black people? The pattern has shifted from strangers killing us to our own family members killing us. Africa really needs to accept and love us despite our condition which makes us look different but we are no less African.

“Am I afraid of being killed?” I live with that fear every day. I know that I can also be killed. Through my work I have seen bodies of murdered victims. I have been present during post-mortems and seen doctors examining body parts of persons with albinism. I have been at scenes where I am comforting the victims of attacks and the relatives of murder victims. I am at a point where I no longer cry when an attack has happened. The fear of being in these situations is gone now. I would not mind if I die doing this work, because I know that I have contributed well towards it. As I said before, “If we don’t do it, who will do it for us?” My motivation for continuing in this line of work is knowing that I can change things. I believe that I am a light for other people around me. Through love and support of people with albinism we can effect that mindset shift.   

Working with survivors of albinism attacks, we provide psychosocial counselling, we send them back to school and pay their fees. In Malawi we rejected the safe-home approach because that is exclusionary. Our approach is to deal with the stigma in that same village and remove barriers for persons with albinism. I have seen tangible results of victims coming to realise that after the rejection and the attacks, there is life, there is peace and there is success.

In my work with people with various disabilities besides albinism, one thing that I work hard to eliminate is the spirit of dependence. A lot of disabled people are now used to receiving charity from people and they do not see the need to work. Even if they do work, they still expect donations and feel entitled to them. we need to work harder to empower people with disabilities to eliminate these behaviours and people with disabilities also need to accept themselves as they are and find their strengths and gifts which they can use to generate income.

My postgraduate studies at the University of Stellenbosch impacted directly on my work with persons with disabilities because I focused on public health, development and rehabilitation of people with disabilities into mainstream society. I do a lot of work developing policies and coming up with strategic programmes for people with disabilities so the studies wedged directly on the work that I had already been doing. I am still a farmer though, this year I am doing 25 hectares of maize and I have a piggery farm.

Going to Stellenbosch, receiving various awards and receiving international recognition has given me international exposure in my field of work. I thank God in everything I achieve and I actually share this recognition with the people that I have worked with, especially my parents whom I still work with in so many things. I have faced many challenges in my work and many times I have just felt like giving up. I keep on pushing because these awards have helped me to increase the visibility of people with albinism and awareness of the condition.

My advice to a young disadvantaged African child living with a disability who aspires to make it out of their situation and live a better life, is to have self-awareness of what God’s purpose in your life is. That is very critical. For example, I may have albinism, I may be blind, I may be deaf, but God put me here for a purpose. That helps you to accept yourself, your inner you. That also helps you to deal with the negative messages and attitudes from society. Self-acceptance and self-awareness has helped me to deal with everything that I have faced. I also give the same message to parents – they should accept their children with disabilities as they are. That will help them and their child to realise his or her full potential.  

Heroes of Our Time - Bonface Massah Asante Afrika Magazine
Bonface Massah

Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Creative Outlet

Oyedele Abiodun – Nigeria’s Master of Fine Art

His close proximity to nature and his love for outdoor features, further enhance his artistic talent.

Published

on

By

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art
19 / 100

“I paint what I see… by arranging colours side by side to form a unified whole; to enjoy the obvious that may be consciously hidden or otherwise. As perceived, light is the key that traverse in my paintings, unveiling the beauty of nature and its components in their various values. The world as represented by our environment, is beautiful to be a unique subject matter. ”                                         

Oyedele abiodun’s artist statement
Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Oyedele Abiodun Fine Art:
On The Look Out, Oil on canvas, 90 x 90cm, 2019

Born in 1991, Oyedele Abiodun Oyewumi, from Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Nigeria, is a master of fine art whose talent is unmatched. Having discovered his love for Art in high school, and even as a sciences student doing maths, physics, chemistry, etc., the kind and bubbly artist went on to studied fine art at university. Fascinated by the happenings in his environment from his teenage years, his decision to pursue art as a profession was inspired simply by his love and passion for Art. His close proximity to nature and his love for outdoor features, further enhance his artistic talent.   

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
On Her Mind, Oil on Canvas, 75cm x 60cm, 2019

When asked if he is happy with the choice that he made of not pursuing a career in Sciences and following his heart to do Art, Oyedele said he is absolutely happy with his decision, and even more so because his parents support him completely, in all ways, and they never judged him or put pressure on him to do so called “stable careers” in the sciences sector, but instead, they encouraged him to follow his heart and do what he loved and enjoyed.

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Behind Her Smile, Oil on Canvas, 75cm x 60cm, 2019

Oyedele graduated from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, in 2015 with a Second-Class Upper Degree in Fine and Applied Arts and a concentration in painting. He majored in Painting and minored in sculpture. Says Oyedele, “I believe Art and science goes hand in hand, in terms of material used for the creation of art, the form of Art, and the process. Science and technology give me more understanding about how art materials are made at the factory, and how they can be improvised and produced locally. For example, one would ask, “How can we make the process of creating an art piece faster, durable and efficient?” Technology has been able to answer these questions.”

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Her Livelihood, Oil on Canvas, 90cm x 90cm, 2019

After graduating from LAUTECH, Oyedele went on to do a year of National Service, which is compulsory in Nigeria. He served in a village called Daudawa, Faskari Local Government Area, Kastina State, Nigeria, as a class teacher in a public Secondary School. “The experience was a great one”, says Oyedele, and he was able to impact and inspire the young ones positively. He also enjoyed meeting people from a different state, who have different cultures and a different identity altogether.

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Hope, 90cm x 60cm, Oil on Canvas, 2019

Upon completion of his National Service, Oyedele taught Fine Art at Gomal Baptist College for a year. His focus was to help the young ones foster the same enthusiasm he has for Art. “What excited me most was the passion my students have for Art; this was expressed through their willingness to come to my office for additional drawing class during their spare time. It was a great experience.”

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Her Voice, Her Strength, Oil on Canvas, 90cm x 75cm, 2019

Currently, the fine art creative is actually pursuing a Master’s Degree in Technology in Painting (M.Tech.) at LAUTECH, whereupon on completion, he will emerge a true “Master of Fine Art”. M.Tech is equivalent to Master of Fine Art (M.F.A.), and it holds the same qualification advantages as the M. F. A.

Oyedele says he markets his art personally via social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and an online art gallery. Says Oyedele, “The advent of online art marketing has been a great help to the emerging artists to share their work to the rest of the world. Ultimately, it has been a real lifesaver.”

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
The Making Of Beauty II, Oil on Canvas, 90cm x 60cm, 2019

What he enjoys the most about being an artist is the feeling of being at peace, and the sense of fulfillment whenever he finishes a piece. According to Oyedele, one of his biggest achievements as a professional artist was having one of his pieces titled ‘Catch Them Young’, recently selected for the global conversation exhibition UN75, 2020) by the United Nations. “It was a great honor”, says the artist. He has also taken part in some exhibitions, including ‘The Other Side’ (Alliance Francaise, Ibadan, 2019), ‘Broken Earth’ (Nexus Exchange Nigeria, Lagos, 2019), and an international group exhibition, ‘Seen Form’ (HYB4 Galarie, Prague, 2020).

According to Abiodun, obstacles faced as an artist in his state and in Nigeria wholly, include low patronage and very few opportunities for emerging artists. “It is very difficult financially, because you don’t always sell a piece every day”. He thinks that to address these obstacles, provision of more funds to the Art sector can be looked into, and more opportunities can be created and availed to upcoming artists.

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Catch Them Young, Oil on Canvas, 90cm x 90cm, 2019

His parting words to a young artist who would like to study art professionally but is being discouraged by family or society are, “Do what you like doing, follow your heart, don’t give up. Consistency is the key, keep at it.”

Connect with Oyedele:

oyedeleabiodun@gmail.com

www.instagram.com/oyedeleabiodunfineart

www.facebook.com/oyedeleabiodunoyewumi

Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu

Continue Reading

Creative Outlet

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku

“I look around me for inspiration; I am inspired primarily by the things that happen in my community. My work is a reflection of my reality.”

Published

on

By

Omega Masuku Art
Omega Masuku Art
12 / 100

Hazel Lifa

Of all art forms, abstract art is definitely the most subjective, and at times misunderstood. Despite this fact, Omega Masuku has stood her ground and established herself as an abstract painter. The Bulawayo based artist was born to parents Morris Masuke, a self-employed refrigerator technician, and Viola Masuku, a stay at home mom, on February 22nd, 1999 in Mount Darwin, Harare. She currently resides in Mzilikazi, and did her high schooling at Sobukhazi High.

Abstract Art

Relating to or denoting art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but rather seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, colours, and textures.

https://www.lexico.com/definition/abstract
A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Abstract Artist, Omega Masuku

Omega has collaborated with an impressive number of artists and participated in exhibitions internationally that have cemented her status in the Bulawayo art scene. She has worked with a number of artists like Ghislan from France, Zimbabwean artist Owen Maseko, and Charlie Bhebhe, to name just a few. Omega’s work was featured in the moving Rembrandt exhibition, which celebrated Rembrandt’s paintings’ 360th anniversary.

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art
A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

Omega has also donated her skills to painting workshops in hospitals, working with fellow artists from Scotland whom she went on to do an online exhibition with. She managed to squeeze in a few minutes in her busy schedule to talk to us, where she draws attention to the need for more female artists.

“Abstract art is like creating your own world, and making people live in it.”

How did you get started on your artistic journey?

I have to say art is a talent one has to be born with; l started seriously perusing art when l was 12 years old.

Did you attend school for your art, if so which one, and how was the experience?

Yes, l studied at Harare Polytechnical where I did Art and Design, and also Art and Visual Art. After graduating I moved to Bulawayo, where I went to the Mzilikazi Craft Centre and studied for a year, before I got called to work at the National Art gallery.

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art
A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

When did you know you wanted to do art as an actual job?

I knew in high school, in form 2. l realised that I’m always happy when I’m drawing or sketching.

What was the first-ever piece you made? What did you think about it? Do you think you did a good job?

My first piece I did was titled Broken Promises. l think it was great because I got a lot of positive feedback on the painting from my colleagues. I didn’t expect them to like it as much as they did, and that really boosted my confidence in my craft.

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

When you create, what inspires your work, and what is in your artistic process?

 I look around me for inspiration; I am inspired primarily by the things that happen in my community. My work is a reflection of my reality.

Abstract Art is so subjective; how do you deal with the many different interpretations of your work?

I learnt early on that art is putting myself out there, and that people have opinions, but that shouldn’t stop me from creating. Abstract art is like creating your own world, and making people live in it.

Most African people don’t see art as a practical profession, how have you dealt with this?

It’s a bit challenging and annoying (Masuku rolls her eyes), but I have tried with a few other female artists like Nhlanhla Mathe and Zanele Masuku, to introduce art at schools. I try to support young upcoming artists like myself as much as I can. Educating parents about art also goes a long way – inviting them to exhibitions and to galleries.

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

How did your parents feel about your choice, did they have other ideas for your future?

Actually, my mom didn’t want me to become an artist; she wanted me to be a doctor. It was a challenge to make her understand that art makes me happy, but she’s coming around.

Do you look up to other artists, and if so, who?

Yes, l do look up to my mentor, Gorge Masarira, an amazing artist and teacher.

How is the art scene in Bulawayo?

With the current economic struggles, it has been slow. Art is considered a luxury you know, and many don’t have a penny to spare. Before the covid19 pandemic, there were workshops where networking was done, I could do collaborations with other artists and galleries, and those were great opportunities for marketing one’s work. 

At times your work doesn’t qualify for an exhibition; for example, they give you a theme and a short amount of time to work on it, and your work doesn’t make the cut, which is always a downer, but you keep moving forward. Growing pains. 

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you be doing instead?

I would definitely want to still be linked to art somehow, maybe as an art teacher or a professor in Visual Art.

No job is perfect, what are some of the issues you face in your profession?

Yoh! Where do I begin?! As a female in the male-dominated Bulawayo art scene, it is hard to be taken seriously. I constantly have to put myself out there, and work twice as hard to get the same attention and credit, as a guy whose technique and skill are inferior to mine. The guys in the industry are forever trying to make things about romance, but seriously, I don’t have time for that. 

Another challenge is marketing one’s work; it’s hard to get the word out there about your art. Social media is a double edged sword, because while it promotes your work, it also opens the door to theft and plagiarism. Someone can easily take your work, change a few things, and pass it off as theirs.  

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

What advice do you have for other aspiring abstract artists, or artists in general?

I will say don’t let the fear strike you down, keep on painting, you will get there. Trust your talent and avoid being in competition with everyone around you. Also, collaborations are vital in art.

Omega is also a capable fine artist, but favours abstract art more. For those interested in getting in contact with the artist for a personal piece, or collaboration, or exhibitions, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter, Omega Masuku; Instagram Natasha_natie_ or email her at simzmegarts@gmail.com.

Interviewed by Hazel Lifa

Continue Reading

Fashion & Beauty

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, “#IKnit”

Upcoming Civil Engineer and creative Busi Shordy Nyembe talks about her trendy fashion brand, #iKnit.

Published

on

By

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
12 / 100

Some may think of hand-knitting as a skill or an art which is long outdated. Having learnt the skill from her grandmother, the young and talented creative and upcoming Civil Engineer has modernised the trade, and is making fashionable pieces which appeal to the younger generation.

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe

There’s so much to say when summarising who I am and what I do… but briefly, I’d say I’m a creative at heart. Born and raised in Orange Farm and 27 years of age, I’m a full time Civil Engineering student at South West Gauteng College, a singer-songwriter, a Craft Designer, a gym fanatic, and an entrepreneur. I believe in dreams, and the sky is the limit.

Living and spending lots of time with my grandmother had me learning to do everything that she would do with her hands. My Gran used to knit duvet covers from wool, and door mats from plastic. As she would knit, I would be right there next to her, learning the craft. I remember when I was in grade 5, we had an Art & Culture project to make something hand-made; I made a colourful beanie and got full marks for it. 

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
#IKnit Designs: Muse – IG @Czah_themodel; Photographer – IG @Jusicenasphotography

Busi says she hand-knits all her designs, and they are inspired by the current diverse fashion trends, since her clients buy her products and wear them with other clothes that complement them pretty well. ”The patterns of my designs are made with the right size needle, so they come out beautifully. When my clients place an order, they get to be part of the design process. They get to pick their own wool colour which they would love their designs in, and that makes it special enough for them, and they have an input in the creative process. For instance, they can decide if they would like to make the ballet longer, or the socks shorter.” 

I make my designs modern by using modern wool colours and knitting patterns that complement clothes worn in the modern day era. I also do a lot of colourful stripes because they are currently the in-thing. I cater for everybody, both the young and old market, and I also have designs for kiddies.

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
#IKnit Designs: Muse – IG @Czah_themodel; Photographer – IG @Jusicenasphotography#IKnit Designs

Growing up in Orange Farm within a close-knit community where almost everyone knows everyone, definitely made it easier for me to get a clientele for my products. When I was starting out the business, the marketing medium was word of mouth, and most of my clients were from Orange Farm, including people that I knew personally. It’s only when I posted on Facebook and other social media platforms that I reached a broader clientele. 

Right now I use all my social media platforms to market my products. That’s where I upload my work and that’s also where my clients post and tag, showing appreciation for my skills. Many other people see the posts, love the products and place their orders. This means of advertising is very effective and my business is definitely profitable, and it is growing rapidly.

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
#IKnit Designs: Muse – IG @Czah_themodel; Photographer – IG @Jusicenasphotography

Shordy says that she has not always been a patient person, but knitting has taught her to be patient. It has also taught her to be disciplined when it comes to her time management, in order to be able to study and workout. When knitting, a lot of time is spent being seated, facing down and using her hands, so she works out to stretch and relax her muscles. She says that knitting has also taught her to be calm and to respect everybody, because everyone is a potential client. 

As Shordy is the creative brain, I asked her if she has anyone who assists her with the financial side of her business and she responded… “My mother helps me out to manage the business side of the venture and her support is amazing.” Shordy believes that it’s very important for small business owners to do business literacy courses in order to better manage their finances so that they know how to use their finances to manage the growth and sustainability of the business. “Every business has 5-10years to reach their full potential, and not putting money back into the business might paralyze it,” says Nyembe.  

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
#IKnit Designs: Muse – IG @Czah_themodel; Photographer – IG @Jusicenasphotography

When she starts to produce her products at a larger scale, Shordy says that in order to maintain her standards and personal touch, she aims to continue treating every single order as her only order, and maintain the communication level with her clients so that they still have an input in the making process of their order, and they will still get to pick their favourite wool colour.

Knitting is a special skill which is passed down from generation to generation, and Shordy has already begun the process of teaching the skill to two young people in order to keep the craft alive.

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
#IKnit Designs: Muse – IG @Czah_themodel; Photographer – IG @Jusicenasphotography

In parting, Shordy advises young people who would love to learn a craft and make a living out of it to follow their hearts, because people will pull them astray. The most important thing, she says, is to start! “Stop over-planning and just start, you will learn everything else as you go along,” says Nyembe.

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe

Connect with Shordy through her page on Facebook, @ShordyNyembe.

Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2020. Powered by @dubecreative and @zenanitech