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IN PICTURES | The ugly dress that made this designer

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Gracia Bampile’s dislike for African print made her turn it around into a full-time obsession.

It all began with a pink dress – a present she received a week before her seventh birthday from her parents. Gracia Bampile put it away excited for the day she would wear it. 

She recalls going to school and telling everyone about her new outfit. The enthusiasm, however, was short-lived. She changed her mind about her gift the moment she wore it and took a closer look at it. 

“I remember thinking I would rather not celebrate my birthday. I was traumatized… The dress was just horrendous.”

The material felt like plastic, it was ugly, it was not the right fit, and even for a seven-year-old, she knew the design did not make the cut.

“I felt like I was wearing a granny dress. My birthday was just ruined by that dress,” Bampile recollects.

 “I got so angry with my parents that I couldn’t let go. That’s how my passion for fashion started. I didn’t want to feel like that again.”

That was her epiphany, the start of a fashion journey, disliking African print as a result of a bitter experience. She thought it was too bright and stayed as far from it as she could.

 Today, Bampile is a fashion entrepreneur setting the standard for African print. She is the founder of Haute Afrika, a contemporary brand that prides itself in affordability and class.

She was born in a small town called Goma in the east coast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1991 – on the border line of the DRC and Rwanda. At the age of six, Bampile and her family left the DRC, leaving her seamstress-grandmother behind. They moved to East Africa and lived in Uganda for about seven years, then Kenya, then arrived in South Africa when she was 19. They left due to the conflict in the DRC that still rages on.

“My granny was a tailor. At some point, she stopped making clothes. My gran didn’t teach me to sew on purpose… [Yet], on holidays, we would go visit her in Rwanda and I would be her assistant,” says Bampile.

Just two years later, her aging grandmother saw her resourcefulness and promoted Bampile to crafting complete garments.

That is how her style evolved, through her grandmother’s experience in sewing. She was big on quality and passed it down to the next generation. 

“That is something that is seen in Haute Afrika’s designs today. My garments are not constructed to sell, we are big on quality and our sewing is impeccable,” says Bampile.

Her complicated relationship with African fashion changed, the more she interacted with patterns and the creation of garments.

“When I got to the age of 15, I thought maybe it’s not the African print [that’s the problem], it was probably the way it was presented to me. I went on a journey of rediscovering African print and design. My love for it was revived,” she says.

When she was a teenager, African print was not readily available. Her mind-set then was not to be a designer, she simply wanted to look good and got her clothes made by a tailor.

By 2012, when Bampile was 21, African print was rising in popularity – people started wearing it and it was easily accessible.

This was also a time when Bampile was in varsity and experimenting with African patterns. She says people would stop her and ask about her garments, and the idea of Haute Afrika began simmering in her mind.

“It started as an African fashion blog; I started an Instagram account, opened a Facebook page and reposted other people’s designs because I didn’t have my own stuff. I never saw this as an actual thing, it was just for fun,” she says.

“Clearly, it’s not the material or the tradition or the culture [that’s the problem], it’s just the way it was presented. And that’s what I’m big on – presenting African print as your normal everyday wear.

“I want to you to be able to wear this dress to church, work, a birthday party, a baby-shower or to a wedding.”

In her new collection, she aims to simplify African print as much as possible. There is less extravagance and the ordinary bright colors persist, to attract the everyday person who wants to represent Africa.

The brand was launched in 2016 after she started taking it seriously as a profession. She went back to her grandmother for design advice. She started doing research and did a short course in fashion to enhance her credentials.

Importing material from Nigeria, Congo, Ghana and Turkey, Bampile intends to expand her reach to other parts of the globe.

“The next step for the brand actually scares me. Sometimes I feel like my dreams are crazy. The name haute itself means height/high in French, so in fashion, haute couture means high fashion, but for me it’s Haute Afrika because this is Africa, I want Africa to have a brand that is big on its own and emphasize quality.

“This means taking Africa out of Africa. European brands are coming into Africa, but why aren’t African brands going out?” she says.

Haute Afrika mostly sells online, to clients outside South Africa. She says her biggest clients are in Europe and America. Her most recent buyer was from Indonesia.

Speaking about her progress in the industry, Bampile adds: “I previewed my stuff at the Free State Fashion Week and it was super-awesome.

“The reaction was just unbelievable. Some designers take years to showcase at a fashion week and I took two.

“Last year, I was really surprised. I did 10 weddings – three white and the other seven were traditional. I couldn’t believe people trusted me with their weddings when they haven’t seen [enough of] my work.”

In 2018, she scaled up, doing about 15 weddings.

“I am also proud of myself this year because I have more people buying Haute Afrika for everyday wear,” she says.

The requests from her clients have also diversified.

“A gentleman came in and he wanted a transformation of his wardrobe. We made 10 pants for him. That’s what he’s probably going to wear next year. I’m also proud of the fact that I’m not only attracting people that have events, but also the everyday person, which is what I wanted to do with my collection.”

Bampile employs two full-time and two part-time workers at her studio in Sandton, miles away from that first garment that wrecked her seventh birthday but made her whole life. 


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2010 all over again: a musical extravaganza to honor Nelson Mandela

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Nelson Mandela’s centenary brought together headline-grabbing A-listers and pledges of over $7 billion towards pressing global issues. Though for some, it didn’t end well.


It was exactly 10 years ago when Australian humanitarian Hugh Evans, along with his friend Simon Moss, launched the Global Poverty Project, committing to end extreme poverty by 2030.

That dream launched Global Citizen, and with that, an eponymous festival in 2012.

“Over 5.65 million actions led to 58 commitments and announcements worth $7,096,996,725, set to affect the lives of 137,368,628 people,” summed up the Global Citizen Festival, held in December 2018 for the first time in South Africa, hosted at the FNB Stadium, in the historic township of Soweto, in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s centenary.

On a hot Sunday afternoon that also saw looming rain clouds, thousands wearing straw hats and shades, trooped into the stadium, some arriving as early as 5AM for what was billed a mega concert.

Presidents, delegates, CEOs, activists, musicians and more gathered for the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100.

Among them, a galaxy of international and local celebrities such as Beyoncé, Trevor Noah, Oprah Winfrey, Naomi Campbell, Usher, Danai Gurira, Bonang Matheba, Nomzamo Mbatha, Tyler Perry, Pharrell Williams, Bob Geldof, Ed Sheeran, and dignitaries such as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Amina J. Mohammed, Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, former South African First Lady Graca Machel and many more were all gathered for the one-day spectacle.

The Daily Show anchor and host of the event, Noah said: “This is 2010 all over again,” referring to the euphoria in South Africa when the country hosted the FIFA World Cup that year.

“Everybody is here in Mzansi to celebrate the work of Nelson Mandela,” he added.

Trevor Noah at the Neslon Mandela Global Citizen Festival. Picture: Supplied

More than 75,000 people were in attendance at the stadium.

On stage, dignitaries committed actions taken to end extreme poverty, achieve gender equality, and ensure food security, education and global health.

“Everyone is a global citizen and how you want to take action in helping others using your voice, reaching out to a representative and holding rallies, coming together, uniting to make a change is wonderful. Everybody has a voice now today,” model and activist Campbell who was on stage told FORBES AFRICA on the sidelines.

 “To have a 20-year with the great man, President Nelson Mandela, is something I will treasure for the rest of my life and it’s an honor to be here and see everyone come together, and to see the young generation understand what this man Mandela stood for, what he sacrificed and what he wanted to achieve. And we are still trying to achieve what he wanted to, which is to eradicate poverty by 2030,” added Campbell.

Nigerian musician Femi Kuti, son of the legendary Fela Kuti, who performed and got the crowds dancing, told FORBES AFRICA some of the issues he holds close to his heart are equality, poverty and the importance of accountability by all leaders worldwide.

“Every citizen must take responsibility for tackling these problems,” he said.

“My father is a really good example of this, Bob Marley is a good example of this. If musicians did not talk about such issues, we would probably be naïve.”

One of Nigeria’s best-selling musicians, D’banj, agreed.

He performed his hit song, Oliver Twist, wearing his hallmark dark shades, a pair of metallic gold pants and jacket.

“Before I went on stage, I was so glad that this is Africa, I have performed everywhere in the world but this is my home, and my people are here,” he told FORBES AFRICA.

 “Getting out here and seeing my generation, the next generation, the millennials, and everyone coming out, I am just so humbled. I can just say that, from here, the future is going to be bright because the message of us stars coming together will leave a mark.”

The Nigerian artiste is not new to the Global Citizen scene.

Beyoncé performs at the Neslon Mandela Global Citizen Festival. Picture: Supplied

In 2015, he performed alongside Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am at the Global Citizen Earth Day in Washington D.C in the United States.

“Global Citizen coming to Africa meant a lot for me… Because after we leave here, we are going to leave a mark that is going to awaken them and everybody is going to want to challenge our leaders to give us the right change,” he said.

Back on stage, the host Noah addressed the crowds about why Africa should indeed be celebrated.

“When it comes to resources, Africa is the richest place on earth,” he said.

“We have more booty than any other continent on the planet. Men and women… The point is, Africa has a lot of natural wealth. But what’s crazy is that even with all this wealth, 40% of all children across the continent are stunted due to lack of access to food. Tonight, we are calling on African leaders to commit three percent of their countries’ budgets to nutrition by 2020.”

All through the concert, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals were unraveled.

The now former president of the World Bank, Dr Jim Yong Kim, said it was important to contribute to issues related to health because, “the crisis is much bigger”. As a result, the World Bank Group invested an additional $1 million to health and education.

Other celebrities and global leaders not present made their own pledges through pre-recorded videos screened at the event.

Businessman and philanthropist Richard Branson pledged a $105 million joint commitment to end the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness. Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, announced an investment of $4 billion made at the G7 Summit towards education for vulnerable women and girls globally.

Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel, pledged €63 million ($72.2 million) to Global Citizen over the next three years.

From a South African perspective, the Motsepe Foundation, a hosting and presenting partner of Global Citizen, committed more than $104.4 million towards education, economic inclusion and equality of women and girls, as well as the current debate on land reform in South Africa. Entrepreneurs Patrice Motsepe and his wife Precious received a rapturous applause when they appeared on stage.

President Ramaphosa committed R2 billion ($144 million) for youth in South Africa, and announced the government’s intention to spend R60 billion ($4.3 billion) to provide free access to schools for poor children in South Africa.


Beyoncé and Jay-Z
at the Neslon Mandela Global Citizen Festival. Picture: Supplied

But with all the pledges announced, the biggest question remained, what next?

The Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who was in attendance, weighed in on this.

“What I’d really like to see is we coming up with an integrated action plan so that it is not just raising the money but we absolutely identify how is this money going to be utilized and how we can work together better to support one another and to make sure that it is more likely that these issues will be delivered,” she told FORBES AFRICA.

“What I hope will come out of this is concrete action which will make a difference to the lives of the people who are so desperately thirsting for change.”

At the end of the day, what the 75,000-plus in the stadium had really come for was the culminating act by Beyoncé, one of the world’s highest-paid musicians listed on FORBES.

In one of the outfits on stage, Beyoncé wore a sequined body suit, thigh-high boots, and a dramatic cape that paid tribute to Africa’s 54 countries. It was designed by Mary Katrantzou, who said in an Instagram post: “Her coat has the 54 countries of Africa mapped out and on each country there is a different embroidery representing its diversity.” Beyoncé also wore a colorful beaded mini-dress with an elaborate back-piece, which according to her mother Tina Lawson, featured “one hundred thousand African beads”.

Some of the other designers the artiste wore during the visit included South African designers Enhle Mbali Maphumulo of Manual Rossa Apparel, Rich Mnisi, MmusoMaxwell, Senegalese designer Adama Ndiaye’s label Adama Paris, Sarah Diouf’s line Tongoro Studio and Ivorian label Yhebe Design.

Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z brought Africa to its feet to their tunes for the first time. It was a breath-taking, epic production which saw them perform hit songs like Halo, Perfect, Bonnie & Clyde, Formation and Forever Young.


Naomi Campbell at the Neslon Mandela Global Citizen Festival. Picture: Supplied

But despite the success of the Global Citizen Festival, it was a chaotic end to a beautiful night for some.

While heads of state and celebrities were escorted back from the concert venue, some festival-goers were left stranded in gridlocked traffic at midnight to face attacks by criminals.

Many took to social media to explain how they were mugged at gunpoint and were victims to violence.

One of the attendees, 23-year-old Kayleen Morgan, who witnessed the attacks, told us: “What was upsetting was for something like this to happen at an event organized on such a huge scale. People’s experiences were not taken seriously…”

A month after these unfortunate incidents, some suspects have been arrested and investigations continue.

It was a night Beyoncé stole, and a night some audience-goers will never forget, for being stolen from.

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Cairo Book Fair’s Gleaming New Site Opens Far From Historic Market

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The annual Cairo International Book Fair opened this week in a shiny new venue far away, literally and metaphorically, from the city’s historic book souk – and many of the old market’s merchants stayed away.

Marking the prestige of the event, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi inaugurated the fair’s 50th edition at the Egypt International Exhibition Centre in the affluent New Cairo area on the outskirts of the capital.

Back downtown, among the teetering stacks of mostly second hand tomes at Azbakeya, a book market that dates back more than a century, merchants complained they had been sidelined.

Dozens of them used to exhibit at the fair’s former home in Nasr City, a district easily accessed, including by metro. This year only six were allowed to sell books at the fair after agreeing to stringent conditions.

“We did not cancel the Azbakeya wall, but we set a booklet of conditions to participate in the fair which all publishers committed to,” said Haitham al-Haj, head of the General Authority for Books, which organizes the event.

Authorities are keen to prevent the sale of counterfeit books, which were rampant in the Azbakeya section of the fair last year, including best-sellers such as Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”.

Also at issue for the Azbakeya merchants was the cost – around 1,200 Egyptian pounds ($67) – of participating, and rules on how they must display their books – stacking them up in high, disorderly piles is no longer acceptable.

“When people are selling old used books, they have a thousand titles rather than one, so, they are unable to display them in any other way, unlike a publisher. A publisher has probably a hundred titles,” said Harby Hassan, a 63-year-old Azbakeya bookseller.

A woman asks a book vendor for information in Cairo’s historic al-Azbakeya book market at downtown in Cairo on January 16, 2019. (Photo by Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP) (Photo credit should read MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)

The Azbakeya merchants announced their own month-long book fair from Jan. 15, competing with the international event that runs from Jan. 23 to Feb. 5.

Attendance at both was sizeable.

‘Fifty Shades’ author is back with a new title

Customers flocked to New Cairo to avoid the crowds and squeeze of downtown, while others preferred Azbakeya for its highly competitive prices. -Reuters

-Sayed Sheasha, Mohamed Abdel Ghany and Yousef Saba

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Tribute To Oliver Mtukudzi – Zimbabwe’s ‘Man With The Talking Guitar’

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Musician Oliver Mtukudzi, who died at the age of 66, was a great cultural ambassador for Zimbabwe. Known to his fans as Tuku, he was a cultural icon for the southern African country. His aura and presence had a global resonance with fans around the world, yet the man remained humble and magnanimous.

I once boasted to some international colleagues that he was Zimbabwe’s gift to the world. But on closer scrutiny, he was the perfect gift for Zimbabweans especially during their tumultuous times.

Mtukudzi died in Harare after a long battle with diabetes, ironically enough on exactly the same day as his friend, the musician Hugh Masekela, who passed away on 23 January 2018.

READ MORE | Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi Dies At 66

He was also a businessperson, activist, philanthropist and a goodwill ambassador for Unicef in the southern African region. But it was his innovative music that made him deeply loved. Dubbed “Tuku music”, it was a blend of southern African music traditions, including mbira, mbaqanga, jit and the traditional drumming styles of the Korekore.

Tuku released his debut single in 1975. As a solo artist, Mtukudzi had his first successes shortly after Zimbabwe declared its independence in 1980. His debut solo album, Africa. The prolific Mtukudzi released his 67th album in 2018 – Hanya’Ga (Concern), saying it was “meant to share a message of introspecting and I’m hoping people learn a thing or two from it”.

Celebrated as “the man with the talking guitar”, Mtukudzi learned by experimenting: I looked for a sound the guitar couldn’t make in a guitar – that is how I learned to play the guitar. Professional guitarist at the time use to laugh at me. I used to look for a mbira (music instrument) on the guitar strings. I’ve always been experimental. But it was a blessing in disguise because I went on to pioneer a sound that was later labelled Tuku music.

A wide canvas

But Mtukudzi was more than just a popular singer. In his song “Todii” (What shall we do?), Mtukudzi reflects on the challenge faced by communities as a result of the scourge of HIV/AIDS. The song gives cadence and sympathy to those who provide care. At the same time it magnifies how despicable those in positions of authority are for violating their responsibility.

He ends the song with a solemn appeal for help and for ideas in view of this challenge. This is Mtukudzi, the social activist.

In another song “Mabasa” (The works) Mtukudzi paints a dire picture of how young people are the first to die, leaving the elderly to fend for themselves. For me this song attests to Mtukudzi reminding us all to be cognisant about how we live.

Mtukudzi also acknowledged the existence of deity and spoke against the attribution of success to luck or happenstance as he did in the song “Raki” (luck).

Conversely, in “Ndagarwa nhaka” (Inheriting) he brought attention to a Shona cultural practice of a widow being married off to the late husband’s elder or young brother. In this song Mtukudzi, using the voice of the widow, appears to praise the status quo as enabling the widow to get solace and protection given her loss.

A stark contrast, though, is found in the movie “Neria”. Mtukudzi crafted the soundtrack detailing the tribulations of a widow trying to survive past patriarchy in all its forms.

In the song “Dzoka uyamwe” (come and suckle) Mtukudzi bemoans the experiences of a person suffering prejudice based on how they look. Given this sad experience, the mother urges her child to come back home and suckle. The song then becomes philosophically charged, reminding us all that the core of all prejudice emanates from the mind and the heart. This theme of a concerned parent appears to reverberate in the song “Chengetai” meaning “to keep”.

This time, a role reversal: children are being urged to take care of their parents.

Some of Mtukudzi’s songs were sources of contention and deemed anti-establishment. For instance “Wasakara” (You are old) was interpreted by some as a reference to former President Robert Mugabe, given that a character in the song was in denial of age creeping up on them. In later years as a consultant, I would use the song in driving home the importance of succession planning for effectual and efficient organisations.

Mtukudzi also continues to give the same admonition to the elderly in the song “Mkuru mkuru” (the elderly leader).

Mtukudzi would also pen “Mutserendende” (the slide) and draw comparisons between two generations. From the first generation, Mtukudzi idolises how life was easy and pleasurable for children, a stark contrast to his generation’s life of toil and hardship in climbing the mountain. The solace, as argued by the song, is continued perseverance and determination.

In “Magumo” (the end), Mtukudzi raises some poignant life lessons on the importance of ideals such as humility. The most important question we should ask in everything we do, Mtukudzi argues, is: what will be the end of this that I am doing?

In the song “Kunze kwadoka” (the sun has set, it’s dark), Mtukudzi presents the questioning parent and the precarious situation of a child who has stayed out on a date for a long time. Giving advice to the boyfriend, “perekedza mwanasikana, perekedza bhebhi iro zuva ravira kunze kwadoka” translated “accompany the girl, accompany that babe the sun has set, it’s dark out”.

Now the sun has set on Oliver Mtukudzi. He leaves the world his greatest prized possession, the gift of song. Thank you, maestro par excellence.- The Conversation

-Willie Chinyamurindi: Associate Professor, University of Fort Hare

-Chinyamurindi is an avid narrative researcher. This piece was written using Oliver Mtukudzi’s Greatest Hits album – The Tuku Years (1998-2002).

The Conversation

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