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Friday 2nd of December 2022

Nairobi, Kenya

8 South African Tribes Are Honored In Thebe Magugu’s New Dresses.

Posted On : May 25, 2022

Oscar Alochi

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Designer Thebe Magugu was exposed to a number of African tribes and traditions as a child growing up in the South African cities of Kimberley and Johannesburg. His design work has always been influenced by the unique beauty of his homeland. Magugu adds, “I’m always focusing on topics that are relatively specific but run the risk of being forgotten.”

Magugu sought to keep this attitude alive in his latest effort by designing a clothing for each of South Africa’s eight major tribes: Zulu, Tswana, Swati, Vhavenda, Pedi, Xhosa, Tsonga, and Sotho. “I wanted to commemorate the primary eight cultures that we have here in South Africa because I value my own so much,” says Magugu, a Tswana tribe member.

“While we’re recognized for our storytelling and handiwork, all of the other countries have their own customs and peculiarities that I wanted to capture in a dress.”

Each tribe was designed in collaboration with South African cartoonist Phathu Nembilwi. “I urged her to paint her own abstract depiction of the eight tribes,” Magugu recalls. The illustrations by Nembilwi were then printed on crepe fabric and sewn into “bohemian-style garments with exposed necklines,” according to Magugu. “It’s a proportion that flatters everyone.” I wanted everyone who saw the outfit to recognize themselves in it.”

Despite the fact that each outfit in the collection is graphic and summery, Magugu wanted each one to have its own distinct personality. For example, the Tswana-inspired outfit displays two individuals drumming on a drum that they made themselves, a tribute to the tribe’s beadwork and craftsmanship history.

Magugu incorporated the Soto tribe’s traditional attire into the outfit. “They wear a really particular triangular hat, and they’re often clad with these incredibly enormous wool blankets surrounding them,” Magugu explains.

Magugu was able to transmit the collection’s message clearly and with care with the support of South African photographer Aart Verrips, writer Vuyolwethu Reoagile, and stylist Chloe Andrea Welgemoed. The models, all of whom are Magugu’s friends and South African creatives, were photographed wearing the gowns and coupled with unique South African things.
The conch shells, baskets, and other items would be found in a normal South African home, according to Magugu.
Reoagile also penned tribe descriptions that will be posted on Magugu’s website.
“I truly wanted it to be some form of education,” Magugu adds. “Vuyolwethu offered a quick review of the cultures, including where they’re found in South Africa and what they’re most known for.”

Magugu learned a lot while putting together the compilation. “I knew a lot about South African culture from friends and family, but seeing each culture in detail gave me an even greater appreciation.”
That, according to the designer, is why he enjoys fashion: he wants to continue to share the beauty of his homeland with others.

That, according to the designer, is why he enjoys fashion: he wants to continue to share the beauty of his homeland with others. “I might want to look at another field if I was only doing clothes for the sake of doing clothes,” he says. “I’m not a particularly outspoken person, but I feel heard when I make garments and engage with fashion’s cerebral side.”

Content courtesy of Vogue Magazine, Thebe Magugu & NFH

Oscar Alochi

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