We just love this range of Xhosa inspired knitwear from Laduma Ngxokolo. Here’s some background on this talented young designer as well as the fascinating story behind the inspiration for his knitwear.
Born in Port Elizabeth in 1986 Laduma Ngxokolo had his first hands-on experience of textile designing in 2003 when he studied at Lawson Brown High School, in Port Elizabeth. His love for knitwear design started with assisting his late mother Lindelwa Ngxokolo machine-knit garments for sale. Laduma’s flair for knitwear design earned him a bursary from both Port Elizabeth based Cape Wools South Africa and Mohair South Africa during his Btech studies at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in 2010.
He designed this range of men’s knitwear for amakrwala. Laduma tells us a bit more about this tradition:
“Traditionally, in the Eastern Cape Xhosa communities, hundreds of Xhosa boys aged between eighteen and twenty-three attend Xhosa circumcision schools for a manhood initiation ritual. After these Xhosa initiates return home from the initiation school, they are guided through a six-month process where their elders teach them manhood protocol. Xhosa initiates are traditionally called amakrwala during this process.
Before amakrwala go to a circumcision school, all their old clothes have to be given away as a sign of the end of their boyhood and their parents have to buy them a range of new clothing. Part of that new clothing range includes high quality men’s knitwear. Currently, for amakrwala to obtain high quality men’s knitwear means purchasing imported knitwear brands like Pringle and Lyle & Scott.
As a person who has undergone the Xhosa initiation ritual, I felt that knitwear brands like these bear no aesthetic resemblance to Xhosa traditions.
For this reason I felt that I needed to develop a Xhosa-inspired range of men’s knitwear for amakrwala, using my experience in machine-knitting and South African kids’ mohair and merino wool, because it is impossible to find locally-designed knitwear suitable for them. I discovered that in order for the knitwear range to be successful it needed to be trendy and contemporary, appeal to amakrwala who are being influenced by urban style and could be identified as part of traditional Xhosa culture.”