Our Kangamama history

‘Oh wow, I can’t believe you made that yourself, with your own two hands’. I am sure that statement has passed through your mind, or even left your lips, while admiring a hand crafter’s unique creation. 

As awesome as it may be, there is no ways you’re attempting that seemingly impossible task, even for brownie points’ sake.

I too had these thoughts and feelings while memories of a hideously pink scarf from Home Ec jogs next to the above. I even had a friend offer me a go with her newly bought knitting needles in 2011, where I responded with a, “Get those granny things away from me”.

Funny story is, when I was in my 20’s, I would half pray and half wish to be able to have all the skills I needed to do whatever needed doing for my family. That memory didn’t pop into my head while making the granny comment, however.

So, there I was, pregnant and looking up ways to parent as naturally as possible. After hours of research, I learned of the wonders of babywearing. So, I found a pattern for a front carrying stretch baby wrap, made one and started making great use of it.

Once people saw me wearing it, they encouraged me to start making them to sell. It took me a year or so to start doing so. This brings us to 2013/2014. I have recently tweaked them by adding African print fabric to give it that chic, just had a baby, look.

Being a new mom, one gravitates to other new moms or families with little children. My husband and I already agreed that I would be home with the kids, I still am, with many of my friends doing the same, even educating our kids at home.

Some of my stay home mama friends are hand crafters, along with juggling looking after kids, home, husband and a project to complete. It was all just so beautiful and purposeful. I thought to myself, hey, we are investing in our families, and staying home is not social suicide. We won’t lose our identities, it’s just being woven into that of our little folk.

With a lot of patience and one heck of a juggling act, we can make money, get back into the loop and still spend some time in the park.

This popular notion of success may not all happen as has been scripted but is already happening at our pace, a slow and steady pace, life is really not a race.

In 2015 I started knitting, starting with the initial expeppermenting with things for the fam (my husband still wears the first scarf I made for him), realising I had the knack for it and, I must admit, a growing addiction. Now that I think about that ugly pink Home Ec scarf, I can smile instead of cringing because I rock at it now, I sure as heck would not have thunk it.

My initial use of acrylic yarn came to an end after meeting a lady from Norway. She informed me that in Scandinavia, only natural yarns were good enough for their skin, so, if I wanted to retail there, I would have to up my game. That kick-started my yarn education of natural fibres, hand dyed yarns, super expensive yarns and GORGEOUSLY created yarns. Not to mention, I could buy them from right here in S.A. Even better! I thought to myself, if I am going to do this thing, I am going to do it right and take some people with me on this journey.

If I wasn’t all about supporting local then, I sure as heck jumped right into that. Now that I was hand crafting goods with beautiful materials, I started to get a better understanding of this particular creative space. I started seeing why similar items cost what they did. Little did I know how much time it would take to make a beanie so I began to appreciate that hand crafting goods is a lifestyle and not just a means to an end.

It is truly a reflection and gift of love from the hands that create, to the heart that receives these goods.

Market Stall - African Print - Kangamama

In 2016 I attended my first Business Fair, which was running in conjunction with the Essence Festival here in Durban. Since then I have participated in a few and have learned that beading is seen as the ultimate craft here in KZN. With that has also come the notion that Durban’s craft comes cheap. Where do most tourists go to get their travel trinkets? The beachfront! As ‘expensive’ as us locals may think these items are, I thought the same until I too started hand crafting, these crafters literally sacrifice their lives and even eyesight. How does one even quantify or put a price tag on that?

So here disembarks the content of a tour bus, at the beachfront in front of all the beaders, of course. They ooohhh and aaaahhhh over the pretty things and tell the beaders what a great job they are doing. When it’s time to pay, the googling turns to haggling. Haggler wins hands down…again…

I have travelled extensively, have lots of foreign friends, even married a foreigner, so I hear comments about how cheap things can be bought in Africa and that one SHOULD haggle. I have yet to hear such remarks after a visit to Europe or Australia! This madness really needs to come to an end!!!

So, on your next trip to ZA, be prepared to spend lots of ZAR and know that you are helping create jobs, empowering the disenfranchised and helping our creative industry grow. By buying local, you are looking into the eyes of at least 2 generations that you are personally impacted. Put an end to all that haggling, it’s so colonial!

In order for those on the outside to see our value, however, we need to establish and embrace our own value as African crafters. We Africans are worth more than what lies beneath our feet. We are the gold, the original gems. In order for others to see that light, we need to reflect it.


In the media