Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo*.
By Ntsako Mlambo (Child.of.Afrika)
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 7 of VARSITY News.
The Congolese designer who is behind Hanifa Clothing, Anifa Mvuemba epitomises what being an innovative and creative black womxn looks like. She has trampled on the feet of adversity and came out as a strong and triumphant. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many brands have cancelled shows and shifted their strategies to adapt to the time. However, fashion designer and creative director, Anifa Mvuemba, decided to announce her latest collection called ‘Pink Label’ through an Instagram livestream on the 22nd of May. This was a virtual 3D fashion runway that owned the internet for days to follow and seemed like it would trailblaze in the digital space for years to come. The response she received from audiences around the world was inexplicable.
Mvuemba used the digital platform to spark conversation. She along with her team of black womxn were desperately in hunger for a challenge. The showcase of her collection relentlessly confronted the negative socio-economic and political representations of the DRC. It explored the history of Congo and demolished stereotypes about her birthplace. She not only served artistic expression but also saw an opportunity to educate people all over the world. One way in which she did this was through the Kinshasa dress which was draped in the colours of the Congolese flag, red, blue and yellow. The yellow specifically represents the hope, strong-will and the dignity of citizens, particularly the womxn in the country. Mvuemba speaks to the fact that she was raised around strong willed black womxn who were the dominant figures in her family. She draws inspiration from that narrative and tries to translate it into her work. She opposes the image created around black womxn who are always said to be “submissive” and “weak”. Hers is to defy that.
Compounding on that dimension of subversion associated with Mvuemba’s work, is her existence as a black and female trailblazer in a capitalist system, a system that is known to be inherently exploitive and produce structures of economic inequality especially against figures like Mvuemba in the DRC and globally. In turn, the success of Anifa Mvuemba’s virtual fashion show has inspired womxn, black womxn especially, and to her we say, “Womandla!”
*This is a famous South African maxim that developed from the feminist movements in the country under the Apartheid regime. The fragment directly translates from isiZulu as “You strike a [womxn], you strike a rock.”
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