Q&A with Kanyisa Qaba

FIRST-YEAR BA Law student and fashion designer Kanyisa Qaba, has been running a clothing line, House of Manik, that caters for youth. She started the clothing line in high school with a friend, but has been running it as a solo operation since 2015 when the partnership ended. Wits Vuvuzela caught up with the 20-year-old ‘stylista’ to find out about how she draws inspiration from international trends and fits them in the South African fashion scene.

Kanyisa Qaba’s House of Manik                                 Photo: Provided

How would you describe yourself?

I would describe myself as a very motivated person, a very hard working person. I’m very direct and I also like to have fun. I’m a free spirit.

 

Why the name ‘House of Manik’?

I chose House of Manik by default. I wanted to name it Manik. When I was registering the company, Manik was taken so I decided on House of Manik.

 

How did the business get started and what was the inspiration behind it?

The business started out in 2014, first as Manic UK. The ‘Manic’ part of it, we just liked the name and then the UK stood for [the first letters of our first names]. When Unathi decided that she didn’t want to be part of the business anymore, I decided that “fine let me just keep the Manic but then change the C at the end of Manic, put a K which represents obviously my name, which is Kanyisa”.

What inspired the business was the fact that we didn’t want to ask our parents for money anymore. We thought, “Let’s do something for ourselves and let’s emancipate ourselves financially.”

 

How is your business funded?

I regenerate capital through sales and my parents have been very supportive of the whole thing. My mom put in an initial investment of about R10 000.

 

Who do you design for and why?

I have international trends in mind and things that will obviously sell. I am a business so I need to be able to keep the assembly line going. But I also have specific people like umama [my mother] for instance. She explored herself fashionwise in the 80s and 90s, so I take inspiration from her old clothes.

 

How do you handle varsity and running House of Manik?

It is tough because at some points, one has to fall. I have to just know what is right at the time. So obviously if I have a lot of work, I’d rather let the business kind of slide or take a back seat because at the end of the day I came to Wits to get a degree so that needs to be my number one priority. It has its challenges but it’s so rewarding.

 

What challengeshave come across?

There are so many people doing the same thing. So originality and just trying to express yourself as a fashion designer and as a business person without letting one of the components fall. That’s very challenging for me.

 

Who are your style icons locally and internationally?

I would say locally, my mother. Half of my stuff that I wear are hers from the 80s. Internationally, I would definitely say the likes of Rihanna, Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner. I like that very-high-fashion-but-comfortable look.

 

Do you get designers block?

I never get designers block. Sometimes I feel like there’s too much out there for me to even handle. My ideas are endless. I love designing, putting trends together and the whole creative process of coming up with a garment, trying to find material that will work. All those things for me are just so rewarding. I never get bored and I never run out of ideas.

 

What collection are you currently working on?

I’m really focused on selling Ebony and Ivory which is our current Spring collection. However, I am designing a capital collection which basically means that it’s a collection that is for the brand and the collection is going to be called Customs by Kanyi. So I’ll be starting off with my own ideas and making myself my own custom range and kind of spreading out from there. What I’m going to be doing with Customs by Kanyi is that I’m going to be making customised items for specific customers. So if a customer approaches me, I’ll try and take whatever idea or concept that they have and make it into a garment.

 

Finding the light at the end of the tunnel

Last week, I started thinking about the challenges and emotions I experienced at the beginning of the year. Without a doubt, this year goes down as the most stressful and trying in my entire existence. I have learned one lesson in the process: the invisibility of a light at the end of the tunnel does not necessarily mean that things will not get better.

I remember being filled with so much elation at the end of last year when I received the news that I had been admitted to study journalism honours. I was ready to embark on my newest academic adventure. My joy was soon overshadowed by the anxiety of not knowing how I was going to finance my studies. I had no money for registration, never mind my tuition and accommodation fees.

When the day of registration came, and Wits offered debt agreements for students who couldn’t pay registration fees there and then, I was left with no choice but to sign on that dotted line.  As I was signing, I was at peace with the fact that I was not alone in this battle, that there were other students facing the same problem.

When classes began a few weeks later, I found it difficult to enjoy the course that I had always wanted to do. At the back of my mind toiled the fear of being financially excluded from this prestigious institution.

The funding opportunities at my disposal and for which I had applied, returned with a negative response, if any at all. With several attempts at calling to enquire about my applications, some failed to explain why they were unable to fund my studies.

As the months went by, my experience was one of tremendous defeat. The pain felt more like a punishment. I suffered dreadful unhealthy thoughts, fear and worry. I found myself continually questioning the worthiness of proceeding with my studies. Returning to Limpopo seemed to be a much better option than enduring the strife.

I realised that I was lacking coping mechanisms and that it was difficult to perform well academically when I was distressed.

I have seen a number of students across the country taking out their frustrations about their funding struggles on social media. I also came across various articles that revealed student financial burden as the predominant source of depression. All of this made me realise that I was not alone and that there were other students who were swimming in the same pool of frustration.

Thankfully my darling mother, MaMmotla, dispelled my doubts and induced a sense of optimism in me. She would tell me, that it was going to be okay and that I should persevere and that something would come up. With that little encouragement, I was able to gather myself and weather the storms that lay ahead.

The beginning to the end of my financial stresses came two months ago, when I was awarded a full bursary. The burden I had been carrying around for so long lifted off my shoulders. It meant that I would now be able to focus on my academics and finish this year on a high note. I am now able to invest and immerse myself in the course a little more than I did, and focus on enjoying every moment of what is left of my honours year.

As clichéd as it may sound, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Things may not go according to your envisioned plans, but it is important never to cease searching for opportunities and definitely never to throw in the towel.

 

 

SLICE OF LIFE : The fear of the unknown

There are two months left of the 2017 academic year and I am honestly apprehensive about what the future holds.

I am anxious about two things: Firstly, doing well enough academically in order to meet the requirements to be accepted into a master’s degree programme.

Secondly, I am fearful of the possibility of becoming an unemployed graduate statistic.

There’s been a surge of qualified youngsters who have opted to stand on street corners with placards advertising their skills and qualifications, with some even using the #HireAGraduate hashtag to meet their potential employer on social media platforms.

This unconventional way of job seeking has led me to realise my ultimate fear: having to stand at the traffic light intersection holding a placard outlining my capabilities.

There is often a myth that university graduates don’t struggle to find employment. This is so far from the reality precisely because there are no jobs waiting for graduates, as they need to hustle harder because there are many graduates and too few jobs.

Growing up and attending public schools in Soweto, which had little or no resources, I was told “education is the key to success”, but experience has forced me to think otherwise.

It surely can’t be “success”, when a substantial number of graduates are unemployed; that when some graduates enter the job market, they are told they are underqualified or overqualified, never mind the hundreds of thousands of rands of debt hanging over them.

Part of the reason why I think this “success” thing is downright gobbledygook, is because I have a few friends who had to pull down their knickers to get jobs and these are jobs they are qualified to do.

I have friends who graduated with distinction but are still unemployed and this shatters me and probably adds to the fear I am venting about.

I do not want to completely dismiss the notion that “education is the key to success”, particularly because I’m of the view that it’s subjective and that education perhaps increases one’s chances of getting employment or attaining wealth.

More than 50% of job vacancies I have come across have as a requirement “work experience”, which I have not attained. One would probably say “but there are internships”, not taking into consideration that they pay little or are unpaid.

Besides that, black tax is waiting for me. Just last week my mother proudly said, “I can’t wait for you to start working so you can renovate the house.” What she said left me defeated, speechless, and helpless.

It’s absolutely normal for a black parent who received little education, who makes a living through informal businesses, to be proud of raising a Wits graduate.

I do, however, think it’s a bit impossible for her to imagine the same Wits graduate struggling to find employment. And perhaps, the thought would kill her. This is Wits we are talking about, a world-class university, as some call it.

Where I come from, very few people make it into higher institutions of learning. When they do, there is a lot of societal expectation that they have to live up to. This includes getting a good job and a fancy car.

The mentality is that material wealth is the measurement of success. If you don’t live up to these expectations, it is often assumed that you wasted money and time by studying and that it’s better to have gone straight to the workplace after high school.

The take out from my experience is that if you are still a student, find a part-time job, make a little bit of money and save because it will come in handy after completing your studies.  Remember that any work experience is a stepping stone for learning how to be a professional.

 

Cool kid on campus

LITERATURE SMART: Mafule Moswane standing up for women in his writing. Photo: Kayleen Morgan

IT IS National Book Week, and this week’s cool kid on campus is nothing short of a book worm. Word smith, literature enthusiast, author, entrepreneur and an avid feminist. Mafule Moswane is currently doing his master’s in geography and environmental studies at Wits and is the ambassador for Club Readership, an institution created for Africans and those in the diaspora to engage with African books written by African authors.

Mafule is also an author of two books, Katrina and other untold stories and A Learner’s guide to academic success.

Determined to break and make a valuable contribution to gender and cultural barriers, Mafule penned the story of Katrina, a woman frowned upon for defying cultural norms.

Katrina and other untold stories is an anthology of African short stories. “It’s me narrating my stories about my bae Katrina who I love so much. Unfortunately, in the rural areas they don’t want her because she can’t cook. She’s an academic and a businesswoman. I’m in love with her, but at home they are like if she can’t cook she doesn’t meet the minimum requirements to be a wife,” Moswane says.

“My work is challenging old ways of thinking and introduces a new way of thinking and encourages a conversation between generations. A conversation about feminism, gender roles and patriarchy,” he says.

It’s no surprise that Moswane’s everyday crush is feminist and Nigerian author, Chimamda Ngozi Adichie.

He shares his birthday and also looks up to the Harry Potter series novelist JK Rowling for inspiration and enjoys the author’s creative writing style.

Moswane believes he is compelled, as an author, to rewrite the wrongs of oppression and fight for women. He believes that his stories are unique and finds that it is important that Africans tell their own tales. “My stories are unique, they are told by an African and for a long time African stories were being told from the outside perspective,” he says.

LEMON & VODKA

The High Commissioner of Canada in South Africa, Sandra McCardell, says the world needs to deal with women who are “vulnerable, face discrimination, exclusion and violence, and instead, give them the opportunity to fulfil their dreams”.  (more…)