For a very long time Africans faced persecution, exploitation and oppression for being who they are and ended up losing pride in their culture. As I evolved spiritually and learning who I am as an African black woman I began seeing that there is a lot of African culture that is missing in our history books. A lot of it has been misplaced, replaced and misguided.
These are the words of Phomolo Masega. A 33 years old young lady who hails from Mmankgodi village and runs a creative business called Black Mantra. A true embodiment of all things African.
“I wanted a creative studio that will pride itself in African culture. When you see any product from my studio you have to see Africa and when you are in the studio you have to feel very proud of who you are as an African black person and you have to feel the soul and heartbeat of Africa. Black Mantra was inspired by African redemption.” She divulged.
Black Mantra is a creative hub that makes clothing and accessories. They make dresses for all occasions, t shirts, backpacks, shoes and sneakers.
A highly exuberant young lady with thick long dreadlocks wrapped in a bun and fully dressed in an Ethiopian habesha traditional dress made of hemp, accessorized with hula hoop earrings and gold bracelets to match her African inspired look for our meeting.
I am reminded of Haile Selassie I, Bob Marley and all the other Rastafari icons that have walked the face of this earth as I enter into what seems like her sanctuary.
Masega is also a certified events planner, a business she hasn’t been able to exploit due to covid-19 restrictions.
Her events centre around holistic retreats where she hosts sisterhood retreats and facilitates creativity workshops, womb wellness and women empowerment under a child of Black Mantra called Bahumagadi Agenda.
Masega is also a Fine artist but due to the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic she has been pushing the fashion studio side of things only.
She uses social media as a platform to sell her African inspired garments and to show her stylist side of business. You can never miss her posts as they exude a lot of sheek, colour and confidence.
A religious follower of the Rastafari movement for the past 15 years. She credits part of her success to a British Council Program that she was a part of in 2019 which she says harnessed her creativity and guided her on how to create creative hubs and run them, a model she says she has been using ever since.
The mother of three sells her clothes locally, regionally and in some parts of the US. Her clientele base is mostly a young people who want to connect to their Africanness or an adult who is reminded of what Africa depicts.
Masega says she has been looked down on because of how she dresses and her choices of living. She wants to liberate the African child from thinking that a more Westernised way of dressing or living is no more than superior to their African way of being. She hopes that with her sharing a lot of her journey on various social media platforms, young people will be inspired enough to celebrate and stay connected to their African roots.
Like any other entrepreneur Covid-19 has hit negatively on her purse as there are no profits due to people’s shifted priorities.
“Sales have gone down because my business requires me to be out there meeting people at social and market events. It’s a challenge because we have to find means of staying relevant to people without being physically in the same space for them to be able to make purchases which is not easy.” She noted with concern.
Outsourcing fabric now takes triple the time than it normally takes. It’s the same thing when you want to ship or courier orders outside the country.
She acknowledges that it’s close to impossible making profits locally and that the money she makes is merely for her survival. And it doesn’t make it any easier for her since her business is mostly promoting African culture.
“It’s not easy in this country because most people still want to look Eurocentric or Westernised.” She stated.
She says international designers are now looking to Africa for inspiration and collaboration and therefore she wants to position herself well if such an opportunity is to present itself.
If you are wondering what kind of books she is into they are centred around black consciousness and black women writers. She is vegan and eats plant based and raw foods only.