Fashion designer and proud South African Laduma Ngxokolo shares his views about South Africa’s Constitution and tells us how it has helped to shape him.
Considered one of South Africa’s brightest up and coming stars of fashion and design, Laduma Ngxokolo says his passion for knitwear and fashion in general started when he was just 15 years old.
In building on this passion and pride in his Xhosa heritage, he studied textile design in high school and later completed a four-year degree in textile design and technology. He established his clothing label, MaXhosa by Laduma, during his final year.
Ngxokolo has made a name for himself in the world of fashion and design, and talks about how South Africa’s Constitution makes it possible for those who are willing to invest their time and effort to realise their ambitions.
Ngxokolo sat down with Brand South Africa to give us his take on South Africa’s Constitution and how it has inspired him to greatness; this is what he had to say:
Mathiba Molefe (MM): Why did you decide to be a part of the Inspired by my Constitution campaign? What is it about the campaign that resonated with you?
Laduma Ngxokolo (LN): It was a fairly easy decision. Brand South Africa is a brand identity which is very closely in line with and has a synergy with my own, Maxhosa by Laduma. This is mainly because of the cultural relation.
AmaXhosa are the second biggest grouping in South Africa after the Zulu, so it made perfect sense for me to be a part of this cultural celebration. One of the outcomes that I have got from my work is that people have already made my work an ambassador of South Africa.
What I have found with tourists in Cape Town or Johannesburg is that on their essentials list is to visit my stores and buy a piece for themselves or as a souvenir for someone back home.
MM: Using your platform, combined with the one given by this campaign, what do you hope to achieve?
LN: What I hope to achieve is what the likes of uMama Esther Mahlangu and a few other South Africans have done – positioned themselves as ambassadors of South African heritage.
But in my context I hope to achieve a new perspective of what South Africa is and what it should be.
I take culture and translate it in a modern context that is often seen as new to local South Africans, to other African countries and internationally as well.
So part of my efforts are to position myself as a modern Xhosa South African who wants to be known for shaping the identity of South Africa.
I take a lot of pride in this because it’s a very important role to play, especially now in this time because we are the new generation that is coming up with a new point of view of how we see the rainbow nation, South Africa, should ultimately be.
MM: What message would you like to send, and who do you hope to benefit the most?
LN: One of the bold messages that I’m trying to bring across is that it is possible for any normal South African to translate what could be called a small dream into something so much bigger and take it offshore.
Also, I would like to show that our culture as South Africans is actually global, and we must take advantage of that.
Another message that I want to bring across is that South African culture can be high fashion as well, like Gucci and Versace and others.
MM: How has South Africa’s Constitution helped you get to where you are now? How has the Constitution shaped the person you have become?
LN: Our South African Constitution has really shaped my career for the better.
My late mother was a knitwear designer during apartheid, and she couldn’t grow beyond what the circumstances at the time allowed.
But I had the opportunity to get the best education that I could wish for; I had the opportunity to work with people across multiple races in South Africa and I have a clientele that is multicultural and multiracial as we are.
So it means that I had better opportunities than any fashion designer who was trying to work during the apartheid era.
Cultural pride as well is one of the things that, as Africans, the Constitution allows us to express and, because we have freedom of speech, I’m also able to talk about and comment on culture without being held back or get into trouble with the authorities or other leaders.
MM: What would you say is the most inspiring part of our Constitution? How did that help you to get where you are now?
LN: Freedom of speech is the ultimate right. I’ve travelled in many countries and realised that freedom of speech is not something that people freely practice.
In South Africa people can stand up and express whatever they want to say and are actually able to physically implement their ideas without being confined by oppressive laws.
MM: Tell us what you think about the relationship between rights and responsibilities. How do the two go together and how should we go about making the most of them?
LN: I think having rights is very important and when one doesn’t capitalise on that opportunity then they undervalue it or underutilise it.
As a young black South African I had a right to education, a right to support from the government through youth development initiatives and financing agencies.
In return of course, I had the responsibility to make sure that I used those opportunities in a way that I would grow. I have a responsibility to make sure I don’t waste those opportunities, resources and support that I get from my parents, from the government or from private institutions that develop me.
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