Former Miss Zimbabwe 1st Princess, Former Miss Bulawayo 2005, Architect, Poet, Blogger, Cultural Activist, and Founder and Creative Director of the brand ‘A Tribe Called Zimbabwe’ – Nomakhosazana Khanyile Ncube, a.k.a. ‘Zana K’, is doing it all, and she’s just not stopping. The moment she steps into a room, you cannot help but notice and feel her presence. Talking to Zana will leave you feeling enchanted and inspired. She describes her brand as a royal brand, whose thrust is to celebrate Zimbabwean culture and heritage through fashion and architecture. Read on to find out more about this intriguing former beauty queen and intellectual.
How would you describe yourself? What makes Zana stand out in a crowd?
I’m an INTJ woman according to the Myer Briggs profile. Introverted, Intuitive and constantly Thinking and Judging. I’m often the silent observer in a crowd, processing as much information as I can gather about the environment and people. Therefore, I love people and the spaces where they are found. I love to learn, observe and study things and people, and I’ve been told I’m a little weird because of this. I guess what also makes me stand out is my somewhat divergent outliers’ perspectives and takes on things. I dress differently, speak differently and see things differently. Perhaps all of these ‘differences’ are manifestations of the curious explorative mind I have. I’d like to think I wear my skeleton on the outside. I’m very cultural and assertive, and that too tends to stand out easily.
What influenced your decision to study architecture?
I loved buildings from a young age, and was fascinated by the art of building or constructing things. I enjoyed making things as a child, and architecture was attractive to me because it offered me the chance to make big things… like buildings.
I, like many people, don’t know much about architecture. In fact, all I know is that one has to do Technical Drawing at school in order to become an Architect. Can you tell us more about your journey to becoming an architect? How easy/difficult was it, and how did you overcome the challenges faced on that journey?
It’s been a very long journey, one that would fill pages were I to document it. All I can say is I followed my passion, and made sure I gave it my all throughout every step. It’s difficult to be in a male dominated field. Many times, I was an only girl in class, or one of only two females. It’s a competitive environment, and you need tough skin and grit. Architecture is one of the most demanding programs of study at tertiary institutions, because it’s both a science and art subject, and it requires a lot of drawing (technical and creative), making (model building), reading (understanding humanities) and calculating (mathematical and engineering thinking), all simultaneously.
Designing a space for human occupation requires one to think like the proposed users, to imagine function and experience, safety and pleasure, environment and climate, structure and materiality etc. The architect is always thinking about all these things. It’s a discipline that draws on all possible faculties of the mind – so I can say that has helped me to be a multidimensional thinker. Indulging and exploring other art forms like fashion design, poetry and writing, provided the much needed therapy, inspiration and motivation to keep going. I’m still learning, and it will probably be a life long journey, but it’s definitely one I have enjoyed tremendously thus far.
How did you merge your love for architecture with your love for fashion design, considering the stark differences in bricks/stone and fabrics? Are the two inter-connected in some way?
Architecture is in essence, the art of creating spaces – habitable spaces, and in my view, fashion is also the art of creating spaces – intimate spaces. Whereas in architecture one would design a space for multiple people or bodies, in fashion, one designs a space for one body, as it were. A garment is inhabited by one body, and a building is a garment that many bodies inhabit. In this regard, I see no difference between the principles in architecture and those in fashion, because both are about tectonics… which is the technique of how materials come together. The same way I envision making art out of how concrete, steel and glass join together to form an aesthetically pleasing building, is the same way I make art out of how cowhide, chiffon, feathers and horns come together to form a beautiful garment.
The simultaneous transition between architecture and fashion for me is easy. The same ‘presence’ and experience I want to create in my architectural spaces, is the same presence I like to invoke in my fashion garments, which is Royalty, and the celebration of rich African/Zimbabwean culture. I love what I do!!!
You have always been a creative from a young age. What motivated your decision to start your brand, A Tribe Called Zimbabwe, and why using cowhide in particular to make the outfits and accessories?
I realised that there is an urban energy that exists on the continent that is not being branded and packaged into products. There is a profitable opportunity to build an African brand that celebrates Zimbabwe’s new sense of identity and explores creatively what it means to be an African and Zimbabwean in the 21st Century. There is a need for a brand that celebrates the unique and rich heritage and culture of Zimbabweans, and showcases our fashion and architectural identity to the world. Zimbabwe has many tribes; the Ndebele, Kalanga, Fengu, Tonga, Venda, Banyai, Sotho, Shona (which on its own is a name embodying a rich ethnic Bantu people consisting of various tribes, the Zezuru, Rozvi, Korekore, Karanga etc.) Yet there is one thing that we all have in common regarding the things we value, and that is cattle.
Cattle play a very strong role in Zimbabwean society. They are fundamental to our economy, and play very important socio-cultural roles. A Tribe Called Zimbabwe brings us all under that one umbrella that celebrates our shared values, and represents a united people who are proud of their individual ethnic identities. So cowhide then became that natural choice material. Not to mention that in my culture, it represents wealth and royalty, and I want Zimbabweans to remember who they are, and bask in the glory and wealth of their heritage ad culture.
Who is the ideal client for A Tribe Called Zimbabwe products?
Every Zimbabwean is my ideal customer, and everyone who aspires to be a friend of Tribe and Country, and share in the celebration of our culture and heritage.
You’ve had the privilege of dressing some high profile personalities like Busisa Moyo, Ayanda Burotho and iNkosi uBulelani Lobengula-Khumalo, among others. How does that make you feel when you reflect on the journey of how you started your brand with only US$200, to where you are now, dressing the ‘who’s who’, and supplying your products to people in countries as far as America?
It’s a humbling experience, and it affirms the biblical scripture that says that “your gift /talent will cause you to sit with kings”. I’m glad that I was bold enough to walk in the path of my calling. Regardless of the obstacles or the humble beginnings, I kept pressing on.
You are also co-founder of Umakoti by Nkazana Royal Bride Exhibition. Can you tell us more about that and what/who stimulated the decision to make cowhide bridal wear?
Umakoti by Nkazana Royal Bride Exhibition was a jointly planned exhibition, whose vision was to exhibit the textile work of Ganu, and the cowhide work of A Tribe called Zimbabwe, whilst sharing the common values of celebrating and promoting culture and women.
You recently made exquisite décor pieces for your home office using materials such as cow horns, used bucket handles, old bicycle wheels etc., and the results were really stunning. What stirs your creativity, and did you learn art at school, or is it an inborn gift?
I never studied art or fashion. My art and fashion skills are self-taught, and I guess I’ve always been inherently a creative. I’m inspired by culture and materials. I can look at a material and start imagining the many ways it can be used or transformed into something else. That’s what creativity is I guess… a sense of imagination.
The unfortunate side of being a creative is that sometimes you have to deal with issues like plagiarism of your designs or your work in general. You have experienced that more than once, and that has made you outspoken about protecting Intellectual Property (IP). How does it make you feel when, as a creative, you give your all to your craft, giving birth to your idea and bringing it to life, only for someone to appropriate your whole design process and ultimately the whole product, passing it off as their own?
It’s a conflicting feeling. On one end it’s disheartening and borderline infuriating; on the other it’s somewhat flattering that someone lusts after your creativity to the extent of plagiarism. However, feelings can’t get in the way of sound business ethos and practice, and thus I speak out and take action. It’s not easy to register a patent for any business, especially a small one, as it is an expensive feat. However, it is critical as rudimentary work, to patent as much creative work in order to make easy any exercise of rights to one’s intellectual property. The moment work leaves a metaphysical state of being an idea to becoming a tangible product or written document, it is already one’s intellectual property.
Whilst a country like Zimbabwe may seem like easy prey to violations, firstly we must understand that ideas themselves Are Not Poor. Ideas possess such immense and infinite potential for wealth, it is only when an executed idea fails can we rethink that potential. It’s important ideas and to protect our ideas and the processes proceeding thereof legally. Copycats will always be there and subject to prosecution but at A Tribe Called Zimbabwe we sell more than a product, We sell an experience, a zeitgeist, a milieu, a Genus Loci, as we call it in architecture (i.e. , spirit of the place)… a vibe, iSomething nje ethi, “I’m Zimbabwean”, kaThat thing kanoti “Proudly Zimbo”.
So whilst a few may be swayed to buy a Chinese replica, a true lover of Tribe and Country is loyal to the original authentic A Tribe Called Zimbabwe experience. The same way true lovers of wine are particular about a wine’s terroir, i.e., where its grown, how it’s made, this is the same way culture or art should be consumed. This kind of thinking and market consciousness then throws the foreign imitations off the mental shelves of a customer.
In a country like Zimbabwe, patenting one’s products can cost up to US$3,000 per product, and getting lawyers to fight copyright issues on one’s behalf is just as expensive. What do you think can be done by creatives to raise awareness of the need to curb plagiarism?
Creatives simply need to be educated on what IP is, what it constitutes, what infringement is, and how they can avoid the same. It doesn’t help to have a small batch of creatives having this information – all creatives must understand this subject, so that we relate to each other well where these matters are concerned.
The legal fraternity also has a role to play. How do you think, or what do you wish they could do to best assist creatives to raise awareness of the above-mentioned issue? Do you think having a Creatives Council, or in this case a fashion council in Bulawayo or Zimbabwe as a whole, would help creatives by protecting their rights?
I think a Creatives Council will definitely bring some structure and protection where IP rights are concerned, but we need to understand that law enforcement should be a last resort in any society where people are grounded in good ethics and morals. The very act of stealing or infringing on someone’s intellectual property, points to an ethical or moral decay either within that person, or society. So the first port of call would be in my opinion, to educate creatives on such topics, before we create bodies that respond to such delicts.
You mentioned to us that you were raised by a very strong mother who was certainly not a pushover, and in essence, she passed on those character traits to you. How important is it to be able to stand your ground in the creative industry, seeing as not everyone may like your products or agree with your style or pricing?
Never offer a product. Anyone, given the right tools and skills, can offer a product. Offer instead, an experience! That way you know your value. You understand your worth, and your product speaks to people that understand the same. The moment you start discussing or debating on price, know that the value and experience coefficient in your product is losing its foothold. It’s okay that not everyone will understand or relate to a product, but everyone understands value.
What advice would you give to a young African girl who would one day like to become an architect or a designer with a superb and exclusive brand like yours?
Talent is not a substitute for work. No matter the career choice, understand that you are unique, and have inside you a unique offering to the world. It’s your responsibility to work hard and refine and articulate that talent and gift to the world. There can be a hundred thousand architects, singers, dancers, doctors or fashion designers… but none just like you. So never quiet that inner, unique talent that you have, just so you fit in.
Where do you see your brand in the next 5-10 years? Our vision is to grow into Zimbabwe’s centerpiece of Afrocentric Apparel and Interiors, and mastering the art of translating our African identity and heritage into relevant modern products. We aspire to make an overwhelming impact in the fashion industry by creating a high consumer demand for our products through strategic relationships, advertising and participation in local and international fashion shows, as well as other relevant trade shows. We envision launching a unique line of fragrances and accessories alongside a unique Afrocentric apparel line, and to grow from being a home industry to a prestigious brand, with stores in strategic areas in Zimbabwe and Africa. We aim to use this fresh approach to Afrocentric fashion to unlock a new profit source from the targeted market. A Tribe Called Zimbabwe has the potential to become a highly regarded resource in local, regional and international market.
Connect with Zana:
LinkedIn: Nomakhosazana K Ncube
Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu
NOVEMBER EDITOR’S NOTE
Hello Asante Fam
I know it’s been a minute and to be honest it was a trying time between several day jobs and burnout with no end in sight. But like all things it had to come to an end or is it the occurrences of this past weekend’s drama that have ignited my pen once more. As I tried to enjoy my weekend with an old friend I was confronted, rudely if I might add by a key pillar of patriarchy, misogyny and some good old fashion girl on girl hate.
So my old friend was in town for an event her significant other (SO) would be performing at, by association I was also invited and boy were we excited to hang out. After spending about 5hours give or take with the couple amongst other company, where my friend’s SO was hardly seen due to rehearsals I was called a slut and uninvited with immediate effect from the event. Now I know you must be asking, “damn, Hazel what did you do?” to which I will truthfully answer, “I have no idea.”
Naturally, my friend and I were blind-sighted, there was some tension and for the sake of my friend, I kindly excused myself and went about my night. I was offended of course but as a woman that’s not the first nor would it be the last time the world came at me in this way. Two things really bothered me about the altercation:
- The first was that an essential stranger who I had spoken to for ten minutes in total felt he had the right to make such a judgment about me. Okay, let’s say it was true, who gave this man the right to police and punish me for my alleged sexual escapades. It’s the audacity in the misogyny that kills me and will forever blow my mind.
- The second thing came the next day when I was informed this all started with another girl. The girl in question I had been nothing but nice to and had interacted with well to my knowledge. She had even asked for some help setting up her social media for her music and I was down to introduce her to other artists that I knew. So what had compelled this woman to slut-shame me?
There is no grand lesson behind this editor’s note or whatever. My experience moved me to write, it saddens me as it speaks to the gap between men and women. Still after so much effort put into gender studies such mindsets still prevail. As for the young lady who slandered me, her actions speak more to her character rather than anything else.
It’s the month of November and we all know what that means, the festive season is around the corner and we made it through another 365 spin cycle. Around this time we get that pressure of what have I done this year and maybe even minimise our progress on account of comparison with the next person. Life goes on and if you haven’t achieved what you aimed for this year know you are not alone, but you know what we are still alive and can still keep at it. Happy Universal Children’s Day on the 20th and Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare on the 30th.
Mirroring The Times In Sculpture With David Ngwerume
I am sure we all can agree that the beginning of the year 2020 was a rude awakening wrapped in a global event for the books due to the Covid19 pandemic. Zimbabwean sculptor slash Lawyer, David Chengetai Ngwerume, took to his creative outlet to not only process but provide a map for future generations in the form of his work, ‘The COVID-19 Pandemic Collection’ that has taken the world by storm.
According to Ngwerume, art “…is a duty and calling…”
The 40-year old’s sculpting journey started in the humble communal lands of Musana in 1995 under the instruction of revered fellow sculptor Cosmas Muchenje. He continued to excel in his academic studies as well which led him to an LLB (Bachelor of Laws, Honours) in 2006 from the University of Zimbabwe.
According to Ngwerume, “Art is a duty and calling that I persistently continue using various forms mainly in Stone Sculpture in invoking thought into Humanity, share awareness with the contemptuous world.” Ngwerume’s sculptures have been exhibited all over the world from Hong Kong (China), Canada to the United States of America, and locally in Zimbabwe at the Hebert Chitepo Memorial.
“My ambitions are global so I am in for it; it’s not always about where you are but where you are going.”
The sculptor’s ‘The COVID-19 Pandemic Collection’ comprises of pieces such as ‘MJ’ inspired by the pop icon Michael Jackson, encouraging people to mask up and get vaccinated. Another piece in the collection is called, ‘We are Torn’ which encourages people to sneeze into their elbows.
He is currently working on two other collections:
- ‘Thy Next World Collection’ which addresses concerns pertaining to humanity as we move into the future;
- And ‘Taking the Reins Collection’ which looks at the advancement of the world through the relationship between people and horses and their loyalty to humanity.
Ngwerume’s art is a reflection of the times and he is not stopping any time soon. He is also responsible for the iconic ‘Scales of Justice’ sculptures situated in front of the High Court in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare and the second capital, Bulawayo. We got to chat with the sculptor.
- The first question is probably something you get a lot, but I just have to ask; how did you manage to find yourself in the world of law and sculpting? To us laymen, the fields look so vastly different.
I am a hard worker and I believe staying in work in both professions has made me invincible. The modern-day world is driven by skill and knowledge and it is acquired by putting in more effort.
“As a creative I also can tell you inspiration is everywhere, everyday life is filled with endless sources of influence.”
- Have you ever found yourself in a position to choose between the two (law and sculpting) or a situation where one had to suffer for the benefit of the other?
Never! My ambition has always been to do more and I believe amongst the many I do I can manage both. If anything my professions feed off each other in a way.
- What is the intention of your art?
To influence change in this world and make it a better place through various mediums from Stone Sculpture, paintings, installations and various other mediums in portraying contemporary messages that invoke thoughts into humanity towards shaping their moment in times and make this world move towards positive thinking.
- In a past article, it is mentioned that you draw inspiration from your experience practising law; can you remember the first case that inspired an exhibit? Why did you find the case worthy of being your muse?
The first case I got inspired by was a Domestic Violence case. It motivated me to do a painting titled, WOMEN – STRUGGLE from the CRADLE. It was the extent of damage this particular domestic abuse case had inflicted on those involved that moved me to create.
- In another article it is mentioned that you mostly use serpentine stone, why is that?
I use various types of stones in my sculpting, like Spring stone, Opal, Lepidolite and Granite. It all depends on the message I intend to portray.
- Would you say you have any sculptors who either they personally or their work influences your work?
I am inspired by many sculptors like Michael Angelo, Gustav Vigeland and Dominic Benhura to name a few. As a creative I also can tell you inspiration is everywhere, everyday life is filled with endless sources of influence.
- Sculpting isn’t really popular in Zimbabwe, how can you say the sculpting scene is in Zimbabwe? Is there a support structure from fellow sculptors or it’s more of finding your own way?
Zimbabwe in a nutshell is about finding your way, but the upside of today’s world is that it’s a global village. In this global village, if you do your best, the world will always notice. My ambitions are global so I am in for it; it’s not always about where you are but where you are going.
- Could you please try explaining to us the creative journey you took in creating your popular COVID 19 Gallery?
The COVID-19 Pandemic is a global event affecting us all, and as an artist, I found it prudent to play my part in capturing the moments and share my views on Awareness and Vaccination.
- In making the exhibit MJ, how did you hone in on making the sculpture about the U.S pop star Michael Jackson?
MJ was the first public figure to move around wearing a mask, and his actions were early warnings of our reality, where the air we breathe is not safe as before because of COVID-19. His messages then were foretelling.
- According to New York-based art dealer Shingirai Mafara, your pieces are going to be part of the United Nations World Health Organisation permanent collection. Such an achievement, congratulations! How does knowing your work will live on long after you are gone feel? One could call it time travel of sorts, conversing with future generations.
I believe art is a reflection of perception and I am grateful for such higher strides being attained through my ingenuity. It is humbling to know that my work will inform, maybe even inspire future generations all over the world.
- How has it been coming into contact with big art dealers like Shingirai Mafara and do you think that has or will affect your style or subject matter moving forward?
Such dealers inspire my work and further my will to create and give me higher hopes that my art will be seen globally.
- Your most recent exhibit, “Halt Child Marriages” is definitely one for the times. As a man, where do you think the root problem lies in Zimbabwe’s child-bride pandemic?
The issue when it comes to child marriages is pure ugly GREED. The greediness in those men is uncalled for, it’s dirty, it’s illegal and it is immoral to view the young Girl Child as an object. We need to right such wrongs, and I am more than happy to lend my artistry to the cause.
(All pictures used are courtesy of David Ngwerume’s Facebook)
Interviewed by Hazel Lifa
My Work Is My Passion – Zim Rugby Guru Nelson Madida
A chat with Zimbabwean professional rugby player Nelson Madida.
For Nelson ‘Terminator’ Madida, a simple day at the office is light years from what many of us envision as a job. The professional rugby player, coach and trainer is one of the lucky few who get to do what they love on a daily, and he couldn’t be happier. Madida’s sporting career has come with a slew of awards like the 2015 Best Forward Player in Matabeleland, and the 2017 7’s Player of the Year. These awards ultimately led him to play for Zimbabwe’s national rugby team.
Once he had dominated the player aspect, Madida shifted to training others and making bold moves in the world of rugby. Dubbed a ‘rugby guru’, Madida’s experience playing internationally highlighted how opportunities in spaces like the rugby world were closed off to women. This realisation steered Madida’s involvement with the Nyambose Girls Academy through the programme, HOPE. The programme was aimed at using the sport of rugby as a tool to empower the girl child and encourage gender equality in the game of rugby. The Nyambose team went on to win the 2017 Bulawayo Women’s Club League.
The Covid19 pandemic was a huge disrupter for many and the father of one is no exception. Never one to be short of ideas, Madida started an online fitness and health programme in 2020 to keep people’s bodies and minds in shape. The programme has Zimbabwean and South African participants who have benefited from the self-crafted training regimes and free medical advice on muscle issues and injuries Madida provides.
Madida stated, “The world finds itself in a difficult position due to this pandemic. The sporting world has suffered severely from the consequences of the virus… I have come up with a fitness and health programme meant to keep people focused on something other than the coronavirus.”
Madida is also the Sports Director at Christian Brothers College (CBC) in the city of Bulawayo. We caught up with the sportsman/mentor/ trainer/coach/community leader for a chat.
Zimbabwe participated in the Tokyo Olympics Sevens rugby qualifying trials in Monaco, how was the trip?
It was fun and inspiring. It’s always a great time when I get to meet and play with players from other countries/teams.
Any highlights from the experience?
I got to see the growth of rugby in Zim through the new crop of players on the Zim team and other new players from other teams.
Being a trainer as well, could you say rugby influenced your fitness level or has the game just been an added advantage?
I have always been a fitness fanatic, but rugby as a sport naturally pushes you beyond the boundaries to become a better and supreme competitor.
From the field to the community; what inspires your involvement as a community leader in the Bulawayo community of Pumula?
To help and motivate the younger generation to be the best they can be, and that starts NOW! People often think this happens overnight, but no, we should start in the immediate communities we live in.
Could you give us a basic breakdown of the community activities you are involved in?
1. I run a rugby academy that helps kids with Depression (suicidal risk).
2. Mentorship through rugby.
3. Keeping old people / senior citizens healthy and happy through fitness.
You started an online fitness and health training program right about the time the pandemic started, how has that been?
It has been progressive and a challenge at the same time, adapting to the new normal has its growing pains but I am optimistic.
When you started training a girls team at Nyambose Girls Academy did you experience any push back from stakeholders seeing as rugby has long been seen as a boys-only sport?
No, we had a lot of support for the girls’ rugby team. It was heart-warming to see how people could see what we were trying to achieve.
Any new projects or programs in the near future?
YES, definitely; but I won’t spill the beans just as yet.
Having played rugby this long any regrets or advice you can give to rookie players you wish you had known sooner?
Regrets none, advice? If you love something never give up but always know that failing is a part of a learning curve.
Any sportsperson who has influenced your career and why?
Myself, (laughs) I think it’s important to always give yourself more credit for how far you have come and what you have achieved. I saw what I wanted and went for it, I didn’t have all the answers but I kept pushing even when others didn’t have faith in my vision.
If you weren’t doing what you do today what would you be doing?
(A pause followed by a nervous laugh) Honestly, l don’t know… this is all l have ever known. My work is my passion.
Any noteworthy differences between being a player and a coach?
Not differences really but similarities rather, you are always learning on both ends which ensures I am never bored.
Interviewed By Hazel Lifa
NOVEMBER EDITOR’S NOTE
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