Ingqosha’s mysterious cover girl unveiled, meet Ncumisa Mzaza.
When we were dreaming up our website cover page we wanted an image that would convey the sense of dignity one experiences when wearing a beautifully handcrafted ingqosha. I already had a concept in mind and the one person I could picture carrying this idea off was Ncumisa.
Ncumisa is a keen environmentalist from Marselle, and the educational officer for the Sustainable Seas Trust based in Kenton-on-Sea. We met up recently for lunch to celebrate the launch of Ingqosha and I asked her what her thoughts were about our enterprise.
“I’m excited about it, Ingqosha is more than just an online shop selling products, your vision and ongoing research is encouraging me to trace my roots and figure it out. As you have discovered the information out there is not always clear, in part due to our Xhosa oral tradition but also due to the our country’s history where politics influenced what we perceived as truth.
“I try impart what I do know to my daughter, Amahle, but I feel I know so little so I am excited to find out more and I think with Ingqosha going out into the world, we are encouraged to uncover more information. Due to our Xhosa oral tradition and growing up with my mother’s side of the family I do not even know much about my dad’s side of our family. I do know that I am from the Tshawe clan, the ruling house among all the Xhosa,” she adds and winks at me.
I laughed as I had shared with Ncumisa how René and I, were put in our place when we tried to rely on our usual ‘Western’ research approaches. For example, when researching our information for categorising our AmaXhosa range according to Xhosa clan names, we initially relied on trusted published texts but soon realised that what was published in the past as fact has post-apartheid surfaced as not necessarily true. We panicked and thought we had to review our categorisation and delay our launch but decided not to as indeed this misinformation and confusion is a genuine part of the Xhosa cultural journey and for us to to explore and unpacke over time.
Ncumisa was born in Bedford and initially lived with her grandparents but after her grandmother passed away, she joined her mum in Marselle, in the early 1990s. “I have limited memory as I left them when I was young, but I remember some of it. My grandfather was a Sangoma and lived in a very traditional manner, but when I joined mum our lives became modern and this meant we moved away from a lot of the old knowledge.
“Nowadays in fashion we mix all cultures and colour traditions, in one way it brings many nations together but in another way we are missing out. I posted a photo on social media where I am playing around with a headwrap and a wearing a small Xhosa beaded item. A friend of mine from Scotland contacted me and said she thought it was cool that I was wearing tartan as a traditional wrap, it hadn’t occurred to me before that the material is tartan and true to Scotland, for me the cloth was such a familiar part of my tradition it didn’t occur to me that it could have originated from elsewhere.
“We recently slaughtered a cow in honour of my uncle who passed away a year ago and I was wearing a small beaded item and I found myself wondering if I was wearing the right colours or even the right kind of necklace? I recalled how different I felt when I modeled for the photo shoot, when I put an ingqosha around my neck I felt such a sense of dignity and belonging, and the quality and feel of the beadwork is completely different from the items I have bought on the street before.
“I love the fact that on one hand you are trying to explore and keep to the more traditional origins of the ingqosha in the AmaXhosa range but that you have also allowed modern interpretations and trends in the Nelson range. I think it is a versatile jewellery item, one you can wear it to the office, dress it down with a t-shirt and jeans or step it up for that night out on the town.