Artistic self-expression to a T
Durban – T-shirt enthusiast site TeeFetch.com said the garments first surfaced in the US when they were issued by the US Navy sometime around the Spanish American War.
“They featured crew-necks and short sleeves and were meant to be worn as underwear beneath the uniform. Soon they were adopted by the army as part of the standard issue ensemble given to recruits.”
The shirt got its name from its shape resembling the letter “T”. “Dockworkers, farmers, miners, and construction-type workers also adopted the T-shirt, preferring the lightweight fabric in hotter weather conditions.
“The inexpensive cotton, easy-to-clean garment became the shirt of choice of mothers for their sons as outerwear for chores and play.”
While its origins are far from South Africa’s shores, we have tried to make the garment our own.
It doesn’t get more local than the T-shirts made by community group the Indabuko Embo Art Project, which uses KwaZulu-Natal’s own iron-rich soil to dye its products.
The co-ordinator and chief executive of the Embocraft Training Centre Trust, affiliated to the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust, Linda Venton, said the project was started by a German volunteer, Margarida Vidal, who was in South Africa at the time and wanted to share her knowledge with local unemployed youth.
“Indabuko means going back to our roots. The project – through art – reflects the rich cultural heritage of the Zulu tradition. Each shirt in the range is a form of art to wear with the aim being to communicate a part of the Zulu tradition.”
Venton explained that all processes involved in the project were environmentally friendly and sourced locally.
“Shirts are dyed using iron oxide-rich soil from PheZulu. The artwork is exposed on to screens for printing on to the shirts. All dyeing and screen-printing processes are carried out by the artists, resulting in a unique income-generating business for the artists.”
She said Vidal had returned to Germany but had left the organisation with “this amazing skill” which it marketed in the Woza Moya Embo project.
“Prices range from R180 to R200 per adult garment and are dependent on the availability and price of stock from the suppliers at the time.”
As and when shirts were now required, she said, they called upon the community members and students to join them to print and dye.
“By supporting a local project you are uplifting the lives of unemployed youth who otherwise would be home without any hope.”
Another brand, called “Beleave”, is a proudly South African clothing and accessory company.
“We aim to educate the consumer on our natural biodiversity and the challenges facing conservation. ‘Beleave’ means to stay behind or remain. While others left for seemingly greener pastures, we decided to stay and explore the prospects of Africa, that is, ‘beleave in Africa’,” said the brand’s creators in a statement to Goodlife.
Their brand, they said, was for those that remained and believed in the prospects of not only South Africa, but Africa as a whole.
“Our three most popular artworks all include birds (Masked Weaver, Cape Weaver and quelea).
“All have distinct African elements – the continent shape or the word ‘Africa’. Our product retails between R239.95 and R269.95.”
The brand uses the finest local raw materials available, and partners only certified and accredited local outwork and CMT (cut, make and trim) factories or companies.
“We produce an international-standard quality garment at an affordable price, which is proudly designed and developed in South Africa.
“International brands sell the same product across the continents; they address a global market. Local products speak to our people, as well as those who visit our country who would like to return home with a memento that is uniquely South African.”
Beleave T-shirts are at wtf! at 143 Bulwer Road, Glenwood, Durban, 084 208 5517.
Indabuko T-shirts are at the Woza Moya Embo shop at 237 Old Main Road, Botha’s Hill (next to Kearsney), 031 765 3697.