Mpho Muendane is a young Mozambican-South African innovator working in the textile industry. Her parents moved to the United States during the apartheid era before returning in 1998. Mpho then returned to Boston to become a lecturer in 2014 and is also the co-founder of Maki & Mpho.
ELLE caught up with her to find out more about her work:
Where did the interest in textile come from and when did you recognise this as something you wanted to invest yourself in?
Textile design was never a large part of my existence: I grew up in a very political environment as my parents were freedom fighters and did not have the outlet to pursue a creative life. My mom and older brother once told me that when I was very little, I used to draw all over the walls of the house when we lived in the US and my brother was often asked to clean up after me. Then, one year, I received a chalk board for my birthday (but I still prefer the walls!).
Can you tell us a little about your design process?
My design inspirations are influenced by the African continent. My design style is a neo-African approach that values African heritage for the contemporary audience. I start my designs by observing my environment and reading. After that, I start to hand-illustrate concepts and dreams. The product is a collection of croquis (sketches) that I then take into designs for fabrics, papers, and other materials depending on projects and clients.
Tell us more about the concept behind Maki & Mpho?
Maki & Mpho is a design and storytelling company that celebrates the African renaissance. It is time for Africans to take ownership of their own culture and share it with the global audience. We promote creativity, hybridity and modernity in Africa by developing original modern prints to collaborate with global textiles, fashion, interior, and other lifestyle industries, and by sharing stories from the African perspectives using design and digital media. Maki & Mpho is an African and global hybrid, and we continue to collaborate globally.
What is inspiring you at the moment?
Right now the concept of fertility is dawning on me the most! I love the female form because of its shape. So I have Ndebele dolls in my studio that I brought back from my very recent trip to Johannesburg. I call them my little African pleasures and I'm so inspired by them. Also I have an old soul, but Hugh Masekela is putting the pulse back into my heart, which is vital to tune your brain and heart to create something from scratch.
What excites you the most about being artist from the continent at this moment?
Firstly we are not a deep dark continent, given our continents past trials, Africa has a vast culture that has mostly been exploited. So as an ambassador of my culture and the creative sector I emphasise that there is a need for Africans to take ownership and to bring African culture to the global audience. That is why it is vital for me to build my brand and designs with an African perspective. I believe that Africa has a tremendous richness in cultures, which hasn't really been seen by the rest of the world. And it is our responsibility and passion to build the bridge between Africa and the rest of the world. I want to inspire, educate and excite the world!
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Right now I would say that my biggest challenge is spending a large amount of time drawing and conceptualising beautiful and earthy fantasies from the eyes in my mind. To be a textile designer, you will need to have a certain kind of temperament, and to be able to be by yourself a lot. So getting back to "Mpho as a person" in this fast-passed time is how I overcame challenges. Sometimes you just need to give yourself deep kisses, a pat on the back and be a warrior woman.
What exciting projects or collaborations can we see coming from you in 2016?
This year you can expect to see Maki & Mpho back in South Africa working with the Department of Arts and Culture to cultivate and mentor some really gifted African youths at Tshwane University of Technology. We will also be collaborating with a Japan-based global womenswear brand that makes beautiful and comfortable clothes for global professional women. We also start a new collaboration with Japanese traditional textiles to produce new fabrics for fashion, and are working with a Milan-based organisation aiming to showcase our new prints on runways in Milan.