Africanism in Fashion Design

The power of clothing is one of the biggest things in indigenous knowledge. We know that clothes had function. Patterns and accessories served a purpose in the hierarchy of our ancestors communities. Our clothes have always carried meaning. 

– Phetogo Gift

Kgosi Phetogo Kgakgamatso Gift Kgosierileng is the creator of the ‘No Modern Slave’ clothing range. This South African fashion artist is an advocate for empowering African people through indigenous African design. His work expresses authentic, pre-colonial Africa and highlights the beauty of indigenous African knowledge.

In this interview with Zani Tsabedze, he explains his creative process and how he incorporates his spirituality into his creative work.

His clothing range, No Modern Slave, represents breaking away from slavery of the identity. It advocates finding validation in our own indigenous aesthetic, taking pride in our truth and finding confidence in what makes us African. 

No Modern Slave is a movement. It’s an advocacy of African indigenous “fashion”. It’s more legacy-based than hit-based. It’s not about becoming famous or getting recognition now, it’s about building the foundations for a legacy. We may not have all that much information on African indigenous fashion from our past, but our children will have a point of reference as to what Indigenous Africa looks and feels like because of the indigenous knowledge that we’re showcasing now. It is our responsibility to ensure that we are not taking it from the Western perception of Africa but from our own understanding of our ancestors and what we believe our true African identity to be. We cannot continue to fall for what is fed to us by those who don’t even know the truth about us. 

– Phetogo Gift

Follow @nomodernslave on instagram for more of this range.

African Hooded Ponchos

AfroSavvy is launching a new line of reversible hooded ponchos. The ponchos are denim based and available in a variety of fabrics and colours.

Orders can be placed online via this website on the ‘contact us’ page. You can also DM us on our social media pages for orders, enquiries and payment details. Get an AfroSavvy poncho with your choice of fabric for R699.00.

Ukuhlola ngama Thambo (Consulting with the Bones)

Photographed by Sipho Mabuza (instagram: @sipho_snaps

written by Nompumelelo Manana aka. Gogo Diningenkosi

Ukuhlola is divination process to consult someone through the guidance of the Spirit Guides. This process involves finding what the problem is with the patient, whether it be physical, emotional, mental, psychological and spiritual ailments. We also seek solutions as to how the patient can be treated. All of this is done through the guidance of Amadlozi (Ancestors).
It’s a safe space of action where you may receive alot of clarity of things going on in your life.
Dreamers receive validation through ukuhlola because they gain answers to questions of “Whys” and “Hows”.

Photographed by Sipho Mabuza (instagram: @sipho_snaps)

There are various ways to consult. One of these methods is Bone Throwing which is an ancient practise. The connection with iDlozi is very vital and plays a huge part in learning this method. Bone throwing is very spiritual and instinctive.

Bones are significant and represent those who have crossed over. This is because the bones are what is left of them here in the physical world and is what connects us to them. The bones used come from the goats, sheeps and cows. This is because when a Sangoma has gone through iNtwaso (Graduation) and Inguduso (returns home), goats/sheeps and a cow are involved during these rituals. These bones used in a consultation represent the Ancestors, family members and other people involved in the person’s life.

Photographed by Sipho Mabuza (instagram: @sipho_snaps)

Shells, dominoes, coins, stones are also incorporated. The shells and cowries represent the Water Spirits: AmaNdau and AmaNzunza.
Dominoes and dice are included because the numbers and colours have a meaning and illustrate what phase of your life you are going through. Coins, stones and crystals represent financial situations, gifted paths and luck. These meanings can change from time to time. Depending on the Spirits.

The patterns of the bones show us what the patient is going through and what the solution is to their problems. Spirits evolve on a daily basis. This is the same with the bones.
These tools are usually kept in a bag made of Animal skin which is used to protect the bones and to clear away bad energies.

Before one goes to consult with a Healer, whether it is with a Sangoma, Prophet or Medium, you have to phahla. To phahla is to communicate with the Ancestors. Let them know who and where you are going and ask them to go with you so that you receive the messages and guidance you need from them. Communicate to them that may the healer you are going to receive you and them (The Ancestors) and that this process goes well and the message gets received clearly.

The Bones are a guiding tool. They speak to us, through the spirit, all in favour of our well being. Bone throwing is always a practise to revert to when one is unsure and you need to receive clear information on a specific topic. The bones never lie. It is one of the best ways to receive affirmation.

Photographed by Sipho Mabuza (instagram: @sipho_snaps)

Please note that it is important to connect to the healer that is right for you. That is chosen for you. Only the Ancestors can guide you. However, you have to listen and pay attention when they communicate to you through your intuition, your senses, even through dreams and visions. There are many ways the Ancestors communicate and guide you.

When you get to a place and you do not feel at ease or feel discomfort, that is not your place of healing. There’s a difference between feeling nervous and feeling discomfort. This doesn’t mean that the healer isn’t powerful but that their methods don’t work for you and your Ancestors. If you do feel comfortable and feel more at home, then that is your place of healing.

It is important that we all receive healing and clarity of things that are going on in our lives. We have lost ourselves and are unaware of our culture, traditional practises and our true spiritual paths.

Follow the guidance of iDlozi. They will never fail you.

uGobela – The African Spiritual Hierarchy

uGobela, derived from the Nguni term “goba”, is a highly honoured healer/teacher whose role is to initiate and guide those who are called to become traditional healers. A gobela guides their initiates through their ancestral journey, instilling them with ancient sacred traditions to be passed down the generations of healers. The responsibilities of a gobela are numerous and crucial to the survival of indigenous spiritual practice. In the documentary, we go into detail about the role that a gobela plays in the initiation of iSangoma and the origins of this sacred hierarchy in African Spirituality.

On the spiritual path to becoming a traditional healer (iSangoma), a Gobela is the person chosen by your ancestors to execute your training and guide you along the process that your ancestors need you to undergo in order to utilise the gifts which have been given to you. This relationship is crucial to ensure that you grow as a healer and reach your highest spiritual potential. It is important that you find a Gobela and a spiritual home that is right for you.

Photographed by Zani Tsabedze

Having experienced the training (thwasa) process, Celi Nhlengethwa, sheds light on some important points to consider when seeking out a gobela to guide you through the journal to becoming a sangoma:

1. Do not be recruited.

Kuthwasisa is not a business. It shouldn’t be. There are all kinds of recruitment techniques used by out-for-a-quick-rand gobelas. These work because before uphehlo and ntwaso you are in desperate need for spiritual help and oftentimes have no idea where to go for it because of our upbringing.

2. Do your research.

Find information on the person. Interrogate their spiritual integrity. As you would anything that matters. Your spirit is your very essence surpassing all in importance because this part of you lives forever and it governs your physical.

Photographed by Sipho Mabuza

3. Find out who trained them. 

This is important because this will be your mpandze, your spiritual home. You want to be long to a clean mpandze that will also make sure that the skhwamas you are being gifted with are cleansed, I assume.

4. Find out how long they were in training.

I don’t believe in 3-month training that produces gobelas.
Even a year’s training does not a gobela make. A gobela does not just initiate, she also guides, has had good muthi training, has used muthi to heal herself and others, understands spiritual integrity, etc. A 3-month trained gobela knows nothing. This is why spirituals find themselves seeking regulation to restore the integrity of the calling.

Photographed by Zani Tsabedze

5. Trust your intuition.

You will hear stories of how people walk kilometres and wake up at their gobelas doors. I hope that will not be you. I hope your madlotis will find other ways to guide you to your gobela. Dreams, visions, voices, intuition, feelings, other people, etc and a combination of these are ways that your people communicate. Spirit does not guide blindly. Unless you have learnt to listen to spirit you will attribute even nonsense to spirit.

New Winter Dress

This original AfroSavvy dress is designed by Celi Nhlengethwa. It comes in denim, deep brown and black. We’re excited to launch this dress in winter as it’s perfect for layering with your choice of warm clothes. Check out our social media for more options and DM or email us for orders, pricing and delivery details.

AfroSavvy brown winter dress. Phoographed by Sipho Mabuza

*KingSaint

Phahla ntwana, ukhanye naphakade.

Thokozani.

AfroSavvy is distributing this proudly South African brand, owned by Lerato Lunga. The quotes are inspired by African Spirituality and can be personalised for you under the conditions that the quotes remain in line with the inspiration of the brand. Orders can be made via this website on the Contact Us page or via social media. You can DM AfroSavvy on instagram, facebook or twitter. We offer delivery services within Gauteng and posting can be arranged for locations outside of the province.

Check out some of the designs below and follow our social media for updates on new designs and more options.

Thokozani

UkuPhahla – Communicating with Ancestors

Ukuphahla is a small ritual that can be done on a daily basis that allows one to communicate with their ancestors. There are traditional methods of ukuphahla that have been kept and passed down many lineages in Africa. Though different tribes and families in Africa vary in their methods of ukuphahla, the foundations of this ritual are the same. It combines the four elements of life (earth, fire, air and water) in order to connect to spirit. The tools may vary amongst cultures, but according to the lessons I’ve learned, as a descendant of the Nguni tribe, from the spiritual healers and teachers that have crossed my path, the tools needed are as follows:

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Clay bowl of umqombothi, impepho in an enamel bowl, and snuif. Photographed by Zani Tsabedze.
  • Impepho
  • Snuif
  • Candles
  • Clay or enamel bowl
  • Small grass mat (optional)
  • Cup of water (preferably enamel)

The most important tool to have on this list is snuif. If you have nothing else on you, at least have enough snuif to toss a few pinches on the ground for your ancestors. The main component that activates this ritual is you. It is up to you to engage with all of your heart and your mind in order to summon your people.

A small section of Gogo Khanyakude’s altar in his beautiful Ndumba. Photographed by Zani Tsabedze.

Clan names

The first thing to have in mind before you phahla is your lineage. What are your parents names, their parents and the parents before them? Do you know your clan names? Its important to state who you are when you open the portal to speak to the ancestors. You want to call on the right people and you want those people to know exactly who you are.

Intention

The second thing to have in mind is your intention. What do you want to say to them? It’s important to ensure that, whatever you are asking for, you start your phahla with gratitude and you end it with gratitude. Thank them for their presence, their peace, love, guidance, and their protection. It also is a great gesture to give offerings, if you have an idea of what some of them liked when they walked the earth. Some general offerings include alcohol, tobacco, tea and cake. The more you know about them, the more personal your offerings can be. It’s about building a personal relationship with them.

Gratitude

It’s also important to make sure you don’t phahla only when you want to ask for something. Expressing gratitude is the best way to honour them. Express your needs and desires, but prioritise the thanksgiving because they are already constantly doing things for you that you are not aware of, and we tend to take that for granted.

Candles

When I phahla, I start by lighting candles. Candles are a fun part of it for me because I learned how different colour candles give off certain vibrations and can intensify your intention. I’ve heard some spiritual teachers give strict instructions on which colours to light when you phahla. But these logistics depend on which traditions you are keeping. I personalise my phahla because of the relationship that I have with my ancestors. I, therefore, trust my intuition enough to tell me which candles are necessary for which times and intentions. However, the most important candle to light is a white candle.

Impepho

When my candles are lit, I pop a small bundle of mpepho into my clay bowl and burn it. I don’t set it ablaze for too long because the goal is not to spread black smoke but for the mpepho to emit white smoke.

Snuif

As soon as the smoke is rising independantly, I pick up my snuif container and begin my phahla by tossing pinches of snuif on the little grass mat as I call upon my ancestors. I state my full name and call upon all my descendants as far as I can name them. I call upon the good ones who walk with me in love and light. It is important to remember to call on the good spirits, because in all life, there is good and bad. We have the spiritual authority to set boundaries and protect ourselves from negative energy, as long as we remember to do so.

Meditation/Listening

After I have called on them, I allow myself to settle. This is a time for me to meditate on their presence and feel their energy. Sometimes, when I have had my own ideas of what I want to say, the meditation and their presence changes my mind about what I thought I originally needed to pray about. They can present you with more important things to discuss, they may impress upon you that they already know what you need and its already been taken care of. It’s important to keep your heart and mind open to their messages. Allow your intuition to guide this process.

Libation/water

The glass of water is an offering of sorts. It completes the incorporation of all the elements. Water is a highly spiritually charged element that cleanses and gives life through hydration. You can set the glass of water down on your grass mat after lighting your candles and have a sip when you’ve completed your prayers. In this act, you’re sharing the water with them. You can also pour it on some grass/under a tree afterwards. This process is also referred to as libation by many African cultures.

A vase of water and sea-shells on Gogo Khanyakude’s water altar. Photographed by Sipho Mabuza (instagram: @sipho_snaps)

My phahla can be anything between 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how busy I am that day and how much I have to say. If it’s cut short in the morning, I try to phahla again in the evening just to thank them for their protection throughout the day.

The disclaimer that I got when first learning about our indigenous spirituality was that this form of prayer (ukuphahla) is not the worship of ancestors but an act of honouring them. This communication is the best way for your prayers to reach Umvelinqandi (God) as your ancestors are the angels that carry your prayers to “heaven”.

The Pitika Ntuli Art Studio

The Pitika Ntuli Art Studio is full of spiritually charged artwork and literature. It contains Prof. Ntuli’s sculptures of wood, bone, metal, bronze and stone; along with his paintings and sketches. During his 30 years in exile, Pitika travelled around the world, spending the majority of that time in Swaziland and the United Kingdom; studying and accumulating political, cosmic and spiritual wisdom. He hosts seminars in which young africans can gather to learn about their heritage and traditional spiritual practise. In our conversation with him, he shares the importance of raising the depth of knowledge we should have on the origins of our innate nature as African people and the ways in which we can accumulate that knowledge.

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Prof. Pitika Ntuli speaks to the AfroSavvy team about African Spiritual Traditions. Photo credit: Sipho Mabuza (Instagram: @sipho_snaps)

The Pitika Ntuli Art Studio is situated in Wynberg, Johannesburg. It is constantly producing and distributing his sculptures to be displayed worldwide. We’ve been honoured to build a relationship with this teacher and to participate in his information-packed seminars. Below are a few photographs of sculptures and paintings from his gallery that inspired us, along with some of our favourite moments with him on the set of our documentary shoot.