Front row with Shwelabana | MAHLANGU LIVES
Spearheaded by the eclectic creative duo of Orebotse Diseko, aka 'moyo11moyo', and Reef Sithole – Shwelabana have finally returned with their latest offering for 2022. This is what I had to say about the brand in a piece covered a year back:
"The vision of the brand is purely rooted in the creation of distinctive views as well as opening the eyes of the generations that come after us, hence “ShwelaBana” which translates to “Die for the kids”. This is not a direct and literal statement, but simply put, means our struggles should build stable foundations for the youth."
And their new drop, 'MAHLANGU LIVES', isn't any ordinary merchandise drop.
It feels like an incredibly special moment for South African youth culture, as the entire release is referencing the life of the legendary youth activist, Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu, a cadre member of the ANC's revolutionary, 'Umkhonto we Sizwe', who was killed by the apartheid government. It's remarkable how Shwelabana manage to merge historical South African politics with contemporary fashion – in order to remind us of our culture and heritage as Black people.
A very poignant paragraph from an archive Umkhonto we Sizwe journal, written by Thabo Mziwakhe (April, 1982), titled: 'Let Us All Emulate Mahlangu' states the following:
"Solomon Mahlangu imbued the youth – the current actors in the revolution – with the spirit of no surrender. His selfless example in the face of the enemy puts him in the ranks of men and women who were cast in the mould of bravery. He was a true revolutionary."
That is why this figure plays such a pivotal role in Shwela's drop – which is live from today, 25 November 2022, on their website. Items for this release include traditional black and white long-sleeve tees & branded caps. I had the absolute pleasure of virtually engaging the Shwelabana team in order to hear more about the latest drop, why they chose to focus on Solomon Mahlangu, and more, where people can cop the latest pieces, and more.
Finally... Shwela have returned with a new offering. Could you please briefly tell me a bit more about the upcoming drop?
Shwela: Firstly, this drop is a manifestation of months of building some depth & research, mainly so we can tell a better story, and I guess it’s just translated into the product.
What types of clothing items did you opt to produce for this drop and why?
Shwela: This time around we wanted to finally make something that’s accessible – and most importantly affordable for everyone that believes in the brand. So we went with the traditional black and white tees with some caps for the streets.
I think finding inspiration from legendary ANC youth activist Solomon Mahlangu for your garments is sooo unique and special. Could you maybe inform the audience, why Solomon Mahlangu?
Shwela: Well, the whole purpose was to hopefully tell our story as South Africans better. Re-education of our people. We can finally tell our own stories and they can still be “Swag”.
I found the 'Dawn: Monthly Journal of Umkhonto we Sizwe' to be an exceptionally astounding read. Such an important literature remnant of South African culture. Why did you reference this article specifically?
Shwela: At that point I was trying to find anything about Solomon Mahlangu and a lot of the stories were whitewashed or changed in the long run – but there was something in that article that got to me. The article was documented within the time and was published round about those times too, and it got into detail about the Regime and what the people were dealing with. But not to over-exaggerate the trauma, like the what we see it recent documentation. I just loved how it captured the feeling of what was happening at that point in time – with no biased narratives.
So when & where do the Shwela clothes drop? We are soo ready.
Shwela: Finally dropping on the 25/11.