AYA EDIT – IN CONVERSATION WITH SHUMBA BAGS – SISTERHOOD, LIONESSES, BEAUTY & INCLUSIVITY
Pai Kondile, like her creations for Shumba Bags, exudes an understated confidence. She put on a beautiful golden-coloured neck choker for our virtual meeting, with a black jacket and natural makeup. She comes across as soft-spoken, very thoughtful in her words, and deliberately intentional about what she wants to achieve and give to the world.
Shumba Bags, is inspired by the word Shumbakadzi (lioness in Shona), is a brand that is emblematic of feminine power, grace, and strength. “Lionesses bring up their cubs together, they are very protective over their cubs… Lionesses are primarily the hunters, they provide for their family… this is so true of women, we speak of the Proverbs 34 woman, who is she, what does she do? She is a woman who not only looks after her family but goes out to the marketplace…. A lioness is fierce, is protective, she looks after her sisters, there is no competition among lionesses……As woman we need to get to a point where we celebrate sisterhood and each other and lift each other up… in sisterhood there is strength… A lioness never hunts on her own, she hunts in a pack…..,” she narrates.
With qualifications in Accounting, Financial Management and Portfolio Analysis, and being dissatisfied with her life in the corporate world, she took a leap into the unknown and explored the fashion industry. In her third year at the Design Academy of Fashion (DAF) in Cape Town, she entered the South African Fashion Week competition and won the South African Fashion Week Student Competition in 2016. After graduating, she worked in a clothing manufacturing environment, to see how clothes were made. “I enjoyed it, but I didn’t feel I had enough scope to design in the way I wanted to design,” she recalls of this time in her life.
Her wandering into the worlds of accessories and fashion have been as much about finding herself as it has been about finding her audience. On the the topic she said, “Do you start your creativity in order to provide for a mass market or do you find your niche that you want to develop and find like-minded souls who will pay a little bit more but who will appreciate the workmanship, appreciate the effort that goes into it, and thats the route that I have chosen to take.”
There is a Pan-African feel to the work Shumba Bags does, and the first seven bags in its collection are named beauty in several African languages. However, Kiswahili names feautre more prominently in the collection as Pai feels it is a Pan-African language that is spoken readily by numerous cultural groups beyond their mother-tongues.
It’s her intention to position Shumba Bags as high-end and quality brand with cultural relevance. “Essentially, Shumba was birthed out of a need for inclusivity, in the sense that we adopt fashion, we adopt the narrative of how we should look and how we should be… We don’t always celebrate beauty equally, we have standards that we adhere to, which are not always necessarily inclusive…,” Pai says.
Pai was raised in a multicultural African household with a Zimbabwean mother and Mozambican father. Having spent time growing up and living in Zimbabwe, Botswana, the UK, and now South Africa; celebrating heritage is very imprtant to her. “We are all taught our first stories on our mothers’ laps, our heritage comes from the women we interact with. Heritage month is a continuation of Women’s month, with deeper significance,” she says.
She has had so many women who have influenced her but her late mother standsouts. She spearheaded the creation of the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), and since her passing she has come to understand how many people her mother impacted during the course of her life.
The Amahle Bag (amahle means beautiful in isiXhosa), features a bald headed woman which was partly inspired Ayanna Pressley, an African-American U.S. Congresswoman from Massachusetts’s 7th district, who has endured alopecia (a disease that causes hair loss). “You don’t need hair in order to wear a crown,” is a statement that Congresswoman Presely made that has resonated with Pai.
Pai is living the stories of a diverse and heady-mix of strong African women. Shumba Bags tagline is, “Embroidery on leather is not common but neither are you,” and she insists that the Shumba Bags collection will not be mass produced, “but will be special bags for special women.” Shumba Bags wants women to identify with the women who are portrayed on the bags.
Like many people of African descent and minority groups across the globe, navigating what is deemed to be acceptable and appropriate with regard to dress codes in the corridors and boardrooms of corporate workspaces, tends to result in the loss of ones voice. With Shumba Bags authentic subtlety, her bags are not only a fashion statement that expresses our collective African heritage, but they are ageless accessories that boost ones confidence and sense of self worth.
The Zawadi Bag, features a mother a daughter, there is so much that happens that gets shared in my house, on a Sunday afternoon, when you are doing your childs hair getting ready for school, you are pass on instructions, you are teaching her things, you are teaching her the value of looking after yourself.., its a bonding time.”
Pai is insistent on the fact that she does not want her daughter to lose her culture and heritage. She is asking and seeking answers on how should ‘Shumbakadzi’ stand together?
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