Show­cas­ing the real Africa

10 QUES­TIONS with MAKANAKA TUWE Makanaka Tuwe is be­hind Africa on my Sleeve, a fash­ion show and art ex­hi­bi­tion to show­case the many dif­fer­ent faces of African de­sign and cul­ture. The cen­tral Auck­land stu­dent moved from Zim­babwe to New Zealand as a 10-year

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1. De­scribe what Africa on my Sleeve is all about in 140 char­ac­ters or less.

Africa on my Sleeve is a celebration of African in­spired fash­ion and art. It is a look at a cul­ture that isn’t cel­e­brated in main­stream me­dia in New Zealand. 2. What are you hop­ing achieve?

I am hop­ing to in­crease the vis­i­bil­ity of the African cul­ture in New Zealand. At the same time it is about show­cas­ing th­ese ta­lented in­di­vid­u­als and pro­vid­ing a plat­form where they can ex­press their cre­ativ­ity. 3. You say you are look­ing to re­move the cliches and stereo­types of African cul­ture. What are th­ese and why do you think they ex­ist?

Africa is a con­ti­nent that is as­so­ci­ated with neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions. The me­dia has sold this im­age of Africa as a place where there is poverty, war, dis­eases and famine. Rarely do you ever see a re­port about Africa where the con­ti­nent’s rich­ness, the city life and ar­chi­tec­tural ge­nius is high­lighted. All this has ul­ti­mately re­sulted in the

to African cul­ture be­ing one that is dark, evil and de­monised. 4. How would you de­scribe African de­sign?

When I think of African fash­ion and art I think colour. It is very vi­brant. Some of it is based around bright­ness, some of it on the vil­lage life, some of it on the woman’s tra­di­tional role and most of the time it is earthy. When it’s earthy it is based around the earth, the sa­fari, the rich­ness of Africa’s min­er­als and nat­u­ral land­scape. 5. If you could choose just one item to sym­bol­ise this de­sign, what would it be?

This would be a very dif­fi­cult task due to the va­ri­ety in de­sign. The con­ti­nent is made up of 54 coun­tries, each with dif­fer­ent cul­tures, tribes and lan­guages. As I am from Zim­babwe, I would choose a sculp­ture with the Big Five. The Big Five are a group of the fol­low­ing an­i­mals: Lion, ele­phant, buf­falo, leop­ard and rhi­noc­eros. 6. What was be­hind the rea­son to fea­ture New Zealand born de­signer Lucy-Mae Gof­feRobert­son and Thai born Lucie Su­tich­inta in Africa on my Sleeve? How do they fit into the mix?

I strongly be­lieve in diver­sity and in­clu­sion of all. It is to give those who are at­tend­ing the event some added flavour as both de­sign­ers will be bas­ing their de­signs for the show on the African cul­ture. When I was grow­ing up in Zim­babwe I was sur­rounded not only by peo­ple who looked like me but by peo­ple who looked like Lucie and Lucy-Mae and peo­ple from all over the world. That el­e­ment shows that not only has Africa in­spired Africans, it has also in­spired peo­ple who aren’t from the con­ti­nent. 7. How has your up­bring­ing in Zim­babwe and then here in New Zealand shaped who you are to­day?

It has shaped me to be a per­son who is in love with their back­ground and where they are from and to be a per­son who is proud of their cul­tural iden­tity. 8. How im­por­tant was it to your fam­ily to main­tain a strong sense of your African roots?

It is very im­por­tant to my fam­ily to main­tain a strong sense of our African roots. When I moved to New Zealand, I could not write Shona or speak the lan­guage flu­ently but when I re­alised how unique, beau­ti­ful and the im­por­tance of my cul­ture I soon learned how to flu­ently speak the lan­guage, read and write it. We have also stayed con­nected to our roots by vis­it­ing Zim­babwe a few times and im­mers­ing our­selves into the cul­ture. 9. What’s next for you?

What I am hop­ing to achieve next is an online store were peo­ple pur­chase items from the African de­sign­ers in Aus­trala­sia. Sort of like a hub for African art and de­sign in this sec­tion of the world. 10. Who or what in­spires you?

I don’t re­ally have a style icon as I like to be­lieve that my style changes de­pend­ing on the oc­ca­sion or my mood. I would say that my style or what I like to see is vin­tage pieces, unique and bold items. At the mo­ment I am in­spired by ev­ery­thing around me es­pe­cially the weather and na­ture.

Bold plans: Makanaka Tuwe wants to see African de­sign on the Auck­land stage.

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