Thando Hopa Partners with Lebohang Monyatsi and Mantsho to bring African Fashion Legacy to Life
International model, lawyer, and activist from South Africa, Thando Hopa has launched a new project called African Fashion Legacy (AFL), a concept that explores the history of the transcontinental African fabrics that have been part of the lives of African people.
“AFL was launched after a seed planted by my mother. One afternoon she told me about the power of working-class communities and their significant contribution to fashion and culture. Her example was how rural communities in Lesotho created parallel ownership over Sishweshwe, a heritage that was once only considered to be Swiss German.
“I then spoke to ma’am Angelique Kidjo when I was at the World Economic Forum, and she told me how Ankara, in West Africa, had a similar historical trajectory. I realized that if you follow the story of African fabric, it becomes a historical document that tells you several stories about many nations,” says Hopa.
To bring the AFL idea to life, Hopa collaborated with Miss Wheelchair World First Princess title-holder and model Lebohang Monyatsi as the face of the project. Fashion designer Palesa Mokubung, the founder of Mantsho, came on board as the lead designer for the garments that depicted the history of the transcontinental fabrics from ideation, drawing of the sketches to final garments encapsulating the origin of the fabrics.
“With this project, I am hoping that African youth will build cultural literacy and awareness on the fashion garments that have molded our heritage and still resonate with us in contemporary Africa,” says Hopa.
She adds that she wants to frame expansive lenses of representation within the stories of Africa.
“African stories should assert different bodies and experiences in a manner that values this diversity within our cultures. People with disabilities, first nation people, people with albinism or LGBTQIA communities all form part of the composition of Africa, and there needs to be greater effort placed at profiling these stories in mainstream and defining cultural narratives,” she said.
Monyatsi, who started modeling in 2016, appears on the inside pages of Glamour South Africa’s March issue, where Hopa’s vision is documented in the fashion spread complimented by the visuals that display the transformation of Seshweshwe, Ankara, Blaudruk, and Batik.
She is grateful to be working with Hopa, who saw potential in her and gave her a platform to showcase her talent.
“Working with Thando Hopa, I couldn’t believe it. She broke down barriers and opened the doors for me, and other girls. I feel that in her I have a role model and a blueprint of what a black child can achieve. She is the epitome of black excellence and achievement,” says Monyatsi.
The Miss Wheelchair World first runner-up who was diagnosed with polio at the age of three, says she would like to see more inclusivity within the fashion and modeling industry.
“I would like to see someone using a wheelchair or someone using an artificial leg as the cover of any magazine or participating at major fashion shows such as South Africa fashion week and African Fashion International Fashion Week. After all, representation matters.
As a person who grew up feeling inferior, lacking self-esteem and confidence, Monyatsi encourages young girls who want to be models, but have fear, to read and fully understand the poem “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.”
“Being persons with disabilities means that we need to work hard to be seen. We have to push back against the stereotypes against us and all the ways we have been defined before. We have to work hard to define ourselves. We need to fight the invisibility that comes with being disabled. We have to work to find our voices. You playing small does not serve anyone, go out and slay,” says Monyatsi.
Content Courtesy of IOL & NFH Digital Team