The African View of Sustainable Life: Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a widespread African value, particularly in Southern Africa. Ubuntu combines the root -ntu "person, human being" with the ubu- prefix forming abstract nouns, so grammatically it parallels the English term humanity (Ref: Wikipedia). However, this philosophical term signifies more than just humanity, and is not easily translated to a direct Western counterpart.

There are several definitions of Ubuntu: Kevin Chaplin, a South African business executive, describes them in his paper, The Ubuntu Spirit in African Communities, published on the Council of Europe's website. In Zulu, "the word Ubuntu embodies a distinctive worldview of the human community and the identities, values, rights, and responsibilities of its members. It is about 'we' – not 'me.'" Ubuntu means, "I am what I am because of you;" it is about being a part of a community integrated with its surroundings. 

Ubuntu is also about living and growing together. As Nelson Mandela described in a story in an interview about how villagers used to provide water and food when a traveler stopped by and took a rest, Ubuntu is the humanity of supporting each other for the good of the whole community. In the context of the modern, globalized world, Ubuntu is an African take on sustainable living and development: We share resources and prosper together.

At Maki & Mpho, we embrace and celebrate this value with one of our signature designs in our launch collection, Sweet Grass.

Sweet Grass. © Maki & Mpho

Sweet Grass. © Maki & Mpho

The central theme of Sweet Grass is Ubuntu: The layers in each motif represent the generations of ancestors with their roots in ancient Kemet, honoring the early civilization and abundance of human life, and the repeated motifs that create the bird's-eye view of an African homestead reflect the lives of people supporting each other and co-existing within nature.

We are currently printing Sweet Grass and other designs on luxurious silk twill fabric for our launch collection of men's accessories. Leave your email address, and we will let you know when yours is ready!


Meet Maki & Mpho's Designer: Mpho Muendane!

Wondering who is behind the scenes at Maki & Mpho? This week, we interviewed our very own Creative Director and head designer, Mpho Muendane. 

Tell us little about your background!

I am a U.S-born Mozambican-Zambian-Tanzanian-South African. (Yep, it's that simple!) My parents came to the U.S. from South Africa during Apartheid and I was born in New Hampshire then grew up in New York. When I was thirteen, my family and I moved to South Africa, and I studied textile design and visual communication there. I recently returned to the U.S. to teach a course on Fashion & Sustainability at Southern New Hampshire University.

What made you come back to the U.S.?

Unfortunately, in South Africa, I find that opportunities are still limited especially for younger designers like myself. I studied textile design in South Africa, and had fabulous opportunities to work with top talents in fashion and other creative industries there. I was a part of Design Indaba [one of the most prominent annual design conferences held in Cape Town, South Africa] showcasing my own designs. I also worked for leading fashion shows in South Africa such as African Fashion International and South African Fashion Week. However, there were limited opportunities for those Africa-based creative talents to really showcase and harness their competencies.

What do you think your role is as a designer from Africa working outside the African continent?

My background is pretty complex and multifaceted, but I identify myself simply as an African, and my design inspirations are coming from the African continent. My design style is a neo-African approach that values African heritage for the contemporary audience. It is important for me to build my brand and designs with an African perspective. Africa has a vast culture that has mostly been exploited. It is time for Africans to take ownership and to bring African culture to the global audience. I believe that Africa has a tremendous richness in culture that hasn't really been seen by the rest of the world. And it is my responsibility and passion to build the bridge between Africa and the rest of the world.

You have recently selected as a winning designer at Front Row Society's Design Challenge in Berlin, Germany. Can you tell me about the inspiration behind the winning design, Leopard Geckos?

My initial inspiration derived from the animal prints that were popular among designers like Christian Dior in 1950s, and I decided to incorporated that with an African narrative. In Africa, the land is valued as the ultimate source of life for the African people. So I wanted to show even the smallest creatures like leopard geckos that some people might deem insignificant, are valued in Africa. And that’s what gave birth to the Leopard Geckos design.

The scarf with Mpho's Leopard Gecko design is currently available at Nordstrom and other retailers worldwide for a limited time. Get yours before they sell out! And stay tuned to discover more of her designs at Maki & Mpho.

Click here to shop Leopard Geckos Infinity Scarf!

Click here to shop Leopard Geckos Infinity Scarf!