House of Bantu

Fashion | By Tadiwa Martin, Designer | 01 November 2014

Having grown up in beautiful Zimbabwe I can still remember all the colours that filled the air through the trees and all the colourful garments that the women wore everywhere. I am particularly inspired by splashes of colour that contrast dark spaces. I love how colour is such a good indication of life. It doesn’t matter what colours you use be it in a piece of artwork or a lovely piece of clothing, colour is such a good indication of life. Having lived in Australia for the last 12 years, I am constantly looking at colour through nature. Birds, especially have been such a good way of expressing this. Australia is a country known for its beautiful range of wild life just like Zimbabwe and in this season of my life birds are just that symbolism of freedom. I am a big believer in metaphors, and symbolisms. I believe that as artists we have a story to tell and when we use metaphors and symbolism we leave the interpretation of our art to the viewer. This opens up more room for conversation of what you have created.

It’s been 12 years since I was last in Afrika, but you would never tell that through my art and my designs. Afrika, in particular Zimbabwe still plays a huge part in my creative expression. I will always relate my designs and artwork back to my roots. My influences come mainly from the hope that I see in Afrika. The hope of Afrika one day being a worldwide leader in the arts sector. I have always felt that creative arts are the vehicle through which barriers can be broken and our views of the world can challenge people’s mind sets about what it means to be an Afrikan in the western world. Barriers of ignorance and hostility which open up room for education and conversation. It seems I no longer have to talk about where I am from and what it was like for me growing up. People see my influences through creative expression and they also see a connection through the normality of being just a human being born in a different part of the world with a different view of the world.

I love seeing Zimbabwe and most of Afrika having a surge in the push for creativity like never before. There are people’s stories that need to be told. What are we without our own personal stories? When we create something, it doesn’t matter what it is. We tell our stories; our lives are laid out for the world to see.

The world is hungry for a new perspective on how we see things. I see suffering in this world, pain and a lot of hurt. But underneath that there is a lot of hope, there is more hope than suffering and I suppose that is the story in each of us; a story of hope about the future. There is no group of people in this world that I think can tell that story better than Afrikans. We Afrikans carry that in our spirit, we have that hope always. I don’t know where it comes from and will probably spend most of my life trying to figure that one out. But I also believe that it is a true gift we have been given. Who knows but underneath all our suffering as a people we have persevered and stuck through the tough times and I can truly say as humanity we have not needed hope more than at such a time as this. And if we begin to rise up as a people, the ‘BANTU’ people we actually bring hope through our own stories and experiences to people who would otherwise see their situations as being lost.

So in telling my story, I have been on a long journey in search of freedom. Freedom from being swallowed by the disease of complacency that seems to be catching on quite easily and quickly in our generation, ‘the born free generation’ I feel like underneath we have such a massive story that we can all share both individually and as a collective. And that is what I am hoping people will see and catch in my latest jewellery collection. My latest jewellery collection is called “Taking Flight”. This collection is a story about my own journey to freedom which has been a twelve year journey which is all my life in Sydney, Australia. A journey associated with the heart aches of wanting to be seen and recognised as an Afrikan artist but some also personal journeys that are still working hugely in me.

As I truly believe in my heart that until the day each and every one of us, when our time is up we will always be working our way through this journey of freedom from something or someone. As humans we will always be fighting to break chains off of us. I realised this when being an Afrikan living in a predominantly white society I used to take every criticism and comment as being race fuelled or some sort of insult to my heritage when people asked simple questions like so, “did you have pet lions, why is it you don’t wear sun screen?” and “would you be offended if I called you black?”. I soon realised that as much as I took offence, I also had a revelation that my friends also just wanted to free themselves from their cage of assuming what they could call me without offending me or just wanting to be better educated about Afrika (which in itself is another whole conversation on its own). On a more personal level I have gone through the journey of realising that I am well and truly loved as I am and never need to seek approval from anyone. As a young Afrikan woman there can be times where approval can be the one thing that can seem to be some sort of relief from all the expectations that the world has of us. When we truly begin to see our individual selves as being valuable members of our community and having a voice that counts for something that on its own sets one free. Our motives change, our intentions and actions change. We turn from wanting the world around us to change and we rise up in who we are and find our voice and speak out loud.

We can stand firm in who we are individually and say I am born to change the world around me for good not for me but for those who will come after me. That is one of my passions, to grow constantly and challenge women and girls to rise up and live in their purpose to change the world around them. Through my creative expression I hope to transfer and ignite a fire in our younger generation that says no matter who you are and where you are from you have a story that the world needs to hear that is going to bring hope to someone who would have otherwise not seen or known hope.