KhumbulaTurn back the clock for something fashion forward
They are young, elegant, and extremely well-dressed: the new dandies of Johannesburg. Retro is trending in many African countries, and the vintage fashion collective Khumbula is among those at the forefront of the movement. It aims to show a new image of Africa through fashion. Read More
Once known as one of the most dangerous places on earth, Johannesburg has become a streetstyle metropolis. And as dandyism and the retro look are trending in Africa, the Johannesburg vintage fashion collective Khumbula is well ahead of the pack.
The dandy is the African hipster: In many African countries, dapper tuxedos, tweed jackets and trilby hats are becoming the new ne plus ultra. There are the Congolese dandies, the “Sapeurs”, who, although they live in slums, dress in tailored suits, smoke pipes and wear immaculate footwear. There’s Namibian designer and stylist Lourens Gebhardt who calls himself “Loux the vintage Guru”, and who is setting fashion trends for the whole continent by adding a modern touch to his father’s generation’s garb. And there’s Khumbula – the vintage fashion collective from South Africa.
By combining history with fashion, Khumbula wants to raise awareness and pride among young Africans.
Khumbula consists of three designers, Bafana Mthembu, Andile Biyana and David Maledimo, photographer Harness Hamese, and writer Phirima Motaung. They regularly dress up in the style of their grandparents and take to a dusty street or a shabby backyard to do photo shootings. The results are beautiful and extraordinarily atmospheric fashion picture series that use the streets of Johannesburg as a stylish backdrop.
But Khumbula aims to do much more than just showcase beautiful photos: The group wants to challenge the media’s one-sided picture of Africa with new images from their continent. Designer David Maledimo told us how by combining history with fashion, Khumbula wants to raise awareness and pride among young Africans.
David, the six of you are from different parts of town and you have different professions. How did you meet and how did the Khumbula project come about?
It was a matter of love at first sight when we all met. In a city as busy as Jo’burg, it is really pleasant to find people you relate to. As we all have the same taste, we related quite well. When we noticed that people appreciated how we dress, we decided that maybe we should document this. That’s how Khumbula happened.
You chose the word “Khumbula”, “remember”, as your brand name and vintage fashion as your style. Why?
We enjoyed the stories that the old pictures of our parents and older family members told. When we looked at these pictures, it hit us that during apartheid, there was a lot more happening than all the negative aspects we all know about. Despite the struggle, our parents looked rather stylish. So we thought about how we could start something that would serve as a reminder of the good times from the old days. Hence the name Khumbula. You can transfer this message to today: It makes sense to remind people that Africa has more to offer than the negative image that’s normally seen on TV.
What is wrong about the images from TV?
The media only report on war, poverty, suffering, diseases, and how underdeveloped we are. As the reporters are usually not from here, they present our home in the way they see it. But one has to live here to understand it. We’re not saying that all the above is not true. We’re simply saying: This is Africa – it's not perfect, but it's our home.
Do you mainly want to address people from other continents, or would you prefer to change Africans’ own perception of their own continent?
We’d like to do both. We want to inspire and teach Africans about their continent to make them believe in Africa, and at the same time make them understand that all this suffering should end with a new generation of leaders and builders of an independent united Africa. Additionally we want to share and showcase the beauty and the beast of our home with the rest of the world.
How does it feel to slip into these historic personalities for the Khumbula photo shootings?
Just the sophistication of sartorial wear alone gives one a sense of pride. And it is very humbling to see the faces of older people telling us how we remind them of their dads or aunts.
What makes Khumbula so special is the fact that, apart from stylists and photographers, the collective also embraces the poet Phirima Motaung. What is his role?
The idea behind Khumbula is to showcase the art and science of craftsmanship on our continent. So we like to utilise as many crafts as we can in our projects. Phirima Motaung knows how to put our intentions in proper sentences and thereby enhances the effect of our projects.
Just the sophistication of sartorial wear alone gives one a sense of pride.
Where do you get inspiration for your photo series, and who are your style icons?
We get inspiration from our parents’ and elders’ stories and styles; we get it from where we are from and how we live. Our icons are our brothers Lourens Loux Gebhardt, the famous vintage fashionista from Namibia, Sthembiso Mngadi of the Fruitcake vintage store here in Jo’burg, and the lovely Nicola Cooper, trend-researcher and fashion geek from Pretoria, for her amazing vast knowledge of trends.
What’s the main challenge you face as a fashion collective?
Insufficient funds and resources are our main obstacles. We believe that we have a lot to show and say to the world, but the lack of finances, guidance and equipment humbles us. But we are working on changing that and are planning for the future. So please stay on the lookout for Khumbula.