Kasi Corner Talks: Episode 8, Interview with Bongo from KeMet Designs



Finally got to the KeMet workshop at Ha Matala, the room was overpopulated with art. It was my first time to witness overpopulation as beautiful.

The interior inspired creativity, possibilities. Thabang Nts’ohi from Ha Toloane Mafeteng and Tebeho Moekoa (also known as Bongo among his peers) from Butha Buthe Makhoakhoeng when one crosses the Hololo River under the shades of the Qholaqhoe mountain.

Notwithstanding the fact that the blokes are from two separate ends of Lesotho, they were united by the passion for art at Ha Leqele. It is also worth mentioning that the guys used to attend the same primary school. Moreover, people always tell them they look alike. I did witness the striking resemblance after they mentioned it.

KeMet was described as having been an ongoing process of collaborations with the right people such as Thabang, whom they nicknamed mess because of the mess he did with the paint. I suspect it was an eye pleasing mess.

Bongo designed garments and garment accessories as well as bringing them to live through sewing. KeMet was then formed with the underlying understanding of coming up with a brand that has a story to tell.

KeMet as a brand strives to push the agenda of Pan Africanism using clothing as a vehicle. That fits well with how KeMet prides itself in producing Designs that Define. They do not come up with designs that are silent about Africanism.

Pan Africanism matters gigantically in this day and age because most of us Africans do not really know where we come from. The sad part is that we do not have a reading culture.

Therefore, for us to actually pass a meaning, an understanding, a message. It should be through things we relate to. This is where fashion comes in.

If one observes the global trends, this is the epoch where every ethnicity bears pride of who they are broadcasted through clothing.  We have got to tell a story of our past, who we are and where we are headed. This is simply done through clothing and can be summarized by the term Walking Libraries.

They admitted that their golden moment is seeing people wearing their designs. The feeling of fulfilment is invaluable. This is unorthodox because we are talking about guys who have won awards and been in several publications.

To them, it is not about the publicity. It is about their love for art. Their drive regardless of their challenges. Seeing their vision come to life.

An important lesson for those planning to be or already in the art business. Art is intertwined with passion. Even before business. Even before the material or financial benefits. Master your art before converting it into a business. Unless mastery is accomplished, even writing a proposal is futile because it will not be sound.

There is no unique business idea. The only unique thing is your approach. Seasoned entrepreneurs call it the niche. In pitches, they call it the unique selling proposition or competitive edge. The edge pierces more when sharpened by mastery.

Their proposals have won because they were in the field. This gave them a lucid comprehension of their business. One can only propose on something they have tried and witnessed from all sides. The merits and demerits.

They incessantly emphasized the significance of passion until it got to an example of a romantic relationship. Are you a passionate lover? They say you have to treat art like your lover, caress it!

Passion does not care what you have at the time. If it overcomes challenges in a romantic relationship, it should overcome them in business. Start with what you have, wherever you are, as they commonly lament.

Their passion burned through the times they had no resources, creating one item at a time. Now with material support, what would it take to discourage them? Stop saying their logo is upside down (like I did). The logo is the right side up. Employing the simple notion that the earth is spherical. Upside down is dismissed.

Why this complexity? KeMet is about perception shifting. It is about self education and not scholarly education, which is colonial. Kemet (Egypt) was one of Africa’s first civilizations. The truths portrayed through the brand have been founded during that era. (Almost Everything that you think is European originated in Kemet.)

Thus, the map of KeMet is the  right side up. It shows upper and lower Kemet. What you see at the apex of the pyramid is at the bottom. Duality. Hermetic principles. As above, so below (Read the Kabylon if interested).

As a growing artist, stick to business principles. The disregard of ethics spoils a lot of collaborations in art. We might as well throw in finances, accounting, your position, responsibilities and contracts into the mix.

Bongo, being the more verbal of the two concluded as follows. “My take with reality and the state of Africa at the moment is that we have grown up in a history of parents who did not know much. We are the rebelling generation. The more knowledgeable generation than our folks. It is our role to come up with ideas that will free us from various forms of slavery and exploitation. I have seen so much youth fall into politics. This phenomenon has crushed the spirit of so many people who had the potential of achieving great things. Now with me, politics. Especially African politics, are pension politics.

As the youth, let us come up with new progressive ideas. We have to rejuvenate the state of affairs. Change the status quo without complaining about politicians. It is quite important to learn that we have to be a generation of producers, not buyers. This should start at grassroots level and become a spiderweb economy. Let us champion that producer over consumer mentality a hundredfold.”

You can reach KEMNET by emailing [email protected] or by call on +266 59062778