- A Legacy of Creativity
Wanda Mbatha a 24 year old, born and raised in UMlazi, a township on the east coast of the Province of Kwa- Zulu Natal. Raised by a single mother, he describes himself as an inquisitive and passionate child growing up. A very artistic family and background, he says, taught him enthusiasm for life and hustling was always a vibe for him. “I was always that kid who’d come up with ideas to make money. Always pushed and promoted a hustle and looked for problems so I could come up with solutions. For me passion was merely expressing myself and going after what I wanted, which is what art is!” exclaimed the young man with a pleasant grin on his face. Being an inquisitive lad, Wanda says helped him understand that he’d have to come up with a plan in and for life.
With life having taken an unexpected turn, all comfort from the burbs as he calls it, was lost. Due to life’s misfortunes, his single mother, whom he describes as his anchor and role model could no longer be the main source of income and provision. He had to move in with his other side of the family eKasi, where all his aunts, cousins and dad lived in one house. He taught himself to never allow his present circumstances to determine his future. “It was a negative thing transitioning like that. Being away from my mother had a rough effect on me, because we weren’t just three people in the house anymore but eight, but like I said, I’ve always been an individual who was inquisitive. Even my knowledge differed in my circle of friends, like eskhaleni samaJita abontanga bam ( in my circle of friends, my peers) would always hit me up for advice and solutions and stuff. So I took that experience and knowledge and used it to impact my own life. I worked around trying to change all those negatives to positives and that’s when the thought of changing my way of thinking popped and not allowing situations to determine who I was and could become. And that’s actually when I realized that I had creativity docked in me. Being in eKasi ( UMlazi) made me want to Become something. With the rough effect it had on me I had to decide; I could either sulk about the change or adapt and make a life for myself yabo ( you see) and the constant conversations with my mother were hope, and kept me grounded. The creativity was in my veins and bloodline - because my mom who I grew up with before moving to eKasi was the creative one, and creativity was passed down onto her by her dad, my Grandfather who had become an art business consult.
That man had a heart for art. He had so many creative ideas and would give them out generously for people to start things for themselves. iGrootman was ‘ MacGyver’ in art, there was nothing in art he couldn’t do.
He was blessed with art, skill and generosity and all of that reached me. I am now the third generation of Creativity.” Reluctant to the idea of joining the family business his mother had started, Wanda studied what was of great interest to him, Photography. He says during that course he learnt and realized how he could correlate his passion with the family business, because he had the creativity but not necessarily the skill. In the course of studying photography he started realizing what his role in the family business could be and had ideas of taking pictures of his mother’s craft work. He killed two birds with one stone because the more he took pictures of the clothing and accessories made by his mom, he fell in love with crafting and the creativity bloomed, like a caterpillar growing into a butterfly. Later in life in his High School career, Wanda and his mother relocated to the Western Cape, KwaLanga. And the creativity bug bit. Wanda claims to have fallen in love with what his mother had been doing, and he embraced it with all he had in him and thus bought into the idea of being in a family business. And when asked why it was hard for him to embrace it, with the loudest and most alive laughter and hands over his head he said: “yho joe! It was very hard to actually take in”. He added that he didn’t see the bigger picture. “I doubted the business itself and I was very stubborn because I didn’t have the skill but I had the mouth – I could talk and I could sell! This was how then I got into the business in full force. When we moved to the Cape, I started selling for my mom. It was my way of not wanting to admit that I had the interest dug out. I had a small studio in Long Street, where I ran shop and sold my mom’s products and obviously, while awaiting customers I’d make a pair of earrings, following from mom’s pattern and that was the moment I actually told myself that I would actually be full- time on this family business where I could also do my photography”, Wanda explained.
The studio in Long Street closed down but Wanda was not discouraged by that, instead, both he and his mother searched for an opportunity to make, sell and showcase their craft in their locality and run their business alongside each other and make LEE LANGA DESIGNS shine in the community of KwaLanga. Wanda says heritage to him means tradition, “where one comes from, something one leaves behind because someone has to carry that on. Something someone has to live up to. Heritage itself is legacy and for me personally, my legacy is not just the Godgiven artistry that reached third generation but LEE LANGA DESIGNS too, is my heritage.”