Osmond Tshuma

Afrika - Love Letters

Welcome to Episode 24 of Afrika Design: a creative tour of Afrika.

Our next stop: Zimbabwe. Osmond Tshuma takes us on a journey into language and how it can influence art within a culture. We also explore the 'Afrika - Love letters' project that celebrates African independence and uniqueness through typography. We dive deep into Zimbabwean languages and their connection with art and technology, and how design mistakes can become a tradition and even part of the culture. We also look at 'Nyami Nyami', part of Zimbabwean folklore, how it came about, and its influence on the local people.

 

*For the best experience, please use a headset/earphones.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/osmond-tshuma

Website: https://mamgobozidesign.com

Music by: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Osmond Tshuma: I wasn't just celebrating African countries, but I was celebrating Africans around the world who identify as: from Cameroon, I'm from Ghana, I'm from Somalia, I'm from Eritrea, I'm from Tanzania. Being able to see this work. Beautiful.

[00:00:15] Hosts (A & N): Welcome to Afrika Design, a creative tour of Africa. 

[00:00:19] On this episode we speak with Osmond Tshuma and dive into African visual identities. Osmond is a Zimbabwean-born designer, director, typographer, and curator. 

[00:00:31] His passion for African-inspired visual themes has led him to work on projects such as the Obama Foundation's African leaders program, visual identity. Where he developed everything from the logo to the patterns and the merchandise. 

[00:00:45] He has also researched and reinterpreted cultures from every corner of the continent in a project that celebrates a condense through typographical and visual representation. 

[00:00:56] Osmond Tshuma: Good morning or good afternoon wherever you are. Good evening. Yeah, I am Osmond Tshuma. I'm a designer, a graphic designer by trade. I'm also now dabbling into... I'm now almost like a slash educator. I've been doing some guest lecturing at the University of Johannesburg. I'm a co-founder of Mam'gobozi design studio dedicated to celebrating the African identity in different forms of art, design, and poetry.

[00:01:22] I'm born and raised in Zimbabwe. But then I do switch in between Harare and Johannesburg. I can say sometimes I'm based in Johannesburg. 

[00:01:28] Adrian/Naitiemu: So How many African languages are you learning and what are the interesting specifics, the differences between them?

[00:01:36] Osmond Tshuma: I speak Ndebele, Shona, English. I speak Zulu and I'm learning Sotho and Chewa.

[00:01:44] For example, when I'm listening to Tshivenda, right. Venda sounds so similar to Shona. Right. I remember the first time that I heard, I was like they're speaking Shona. But no, it's not. But I can understand what they're saying, but I don't know what

language it is, you see? Because they're very similar.

[00:01:58] And then now being exposed to like, Sotho and all those. I think it's almost like… that the words themselves that interest me. I was literally in the morning going to buy my coffee and this lady was speaking Chewa over the phone and it was beautiful.

Right.

[00:02:10] And then I literally just asked 'how do I say good morning in Chewa?' African languages are just beautiful and deep. Like it's, it's almost some poetry. Someone just saying good morning, but it just sounds like poetry. Sometimes I just listen to people

speaking that I'm like, it's beautiful.

[00:02:22] When I say I'm learning Sotho, I know phrases. I know phrases, yeah. And I really love to be able to learn like most of those languages because it's different. Sometimes it's how they put like the M and the W's and I think it's just quite rich, like

all those African languages. And I think for me, that is where I think most of my inspiration comes from is literally like things around Africa. Like it's not just things that you see, but also what you hear like languages themselves. If I could, I literally wouldn't mind going to school just to learn languages again, just learn how to speak Sotho for the whole year.

[00:02:53] And then knowing that I am able to pay rent, but just learning that. I'd love to.

[00:02:57] Hosts (A & N): English, Shona and Ndebele have been the most widely spoken languages in the country. There was a need to diversify indigenous culture. And in 2013, the constitution of Zimbabwe was amended to give impetus to the recognition of 16 languages. This made Zimbabwe hold the title of the most official languages in the world in the Guinness book of records since 2013. 

[00:03:18] Osmond Tshuma: I know sign language is part of the official language in Zim. Shona, if I understand correctly, it's a group of languages under Shona, so it's not just one language. There's like: Karanga, Dori'o, Manyika. I forgot the fourth one, under Shona itself. Then there's Ndebele and there's Tonga. There's also Xhosa, in Zimbabwe. I was born in Gwanda which is like Ndebele side, but my dad is Karanga and then we grew up in Harare, which is a predominantly Karanga or Shona area.

[00:03:46] So my accent, when I'm speaking in Zim, when I'm speaking my Shona, they'll be like, ' what are you?' When I go to Gwanda, they be like... 'Your accent is so different.' It's because inside the house, I'm speaking Ndebele. When I get out, I'm speaking Shona. And so, it's like all this navigation off of languages.

[00:04:03] And again, I came to Harare when I was five. And then also those languages are quite different. So, in Ndebele, you've got an L. In Shona, you remove that L and then put in R. All right. So, then words where there's an L, that is very confusing because now it's an R. And also, as a kid, now trying to navigate all those spaces like,

it's quite funny. And then for me, it was like, yeah, I'm trying to put that R but I don't know how to say it. It's just... but R is L. Yeah quite interesting. And then my dad is Karanga, which almost... sounds kinda similar to, almost Shona. But yeah, like I just enjoyed languages. Yeah. If I could, I'll be like, " Hello guys, my name is Osmond Tshuma. I speak 200 languages." That'd be great. That'd be amazing. 

[00:04:44] Adrian/Naitiemu: That's really interesting. I used to aspire a lot to linguistics. You know, high school trying to pick up languages in that case, it was European languages as we were taught. I'm from Poland originally moved to the UK and then just really into linguistics and the stories behind the languages as well.

[00:05:02] And that's kind of when you discover the stories behind some of the words. We found in Swahili, it's very onomatopoeic, right. Things sound like the word itself. Is it fair to say you kind of grew up almost like a third culture kid within African cultures, right? And you absorbing that from different cultures. How was that and what did that teach you from the different places you grew up? 

[00:05:27] Osmond Tshuma: I was born in Gwanda and then moved to Bulawayo which is also still Ndebele. And then going to Harare, every single space is quite different? Like the mannerisms are how people talk. 

[00:05:37] Where we’re staying in Gwanda, there's a guy selling paintings, outside of the yard. Right. And then again like in Harare, we are going to this place called Chapungu. It's a cultural village. And I don't really remember why we were going there, but it was one of those trips that we used to go to, which is literally just a little cross by the house, almost like a 15-minute walk.

[00:05:57] But in that place is quite known, in the sculpture industry is the space of just sculptures. People would go there to buy sculptures or go to see almost like a gallery, an outside gallery. And it really didn't make sense. And also, the space that we lived at, my dad worked there. So, it was like a school.

[00:06:13] We lived in the staff houses but the buildings, were kind of painted like with all these African murals, they were quite beautiful. So, then it's all this navigating. And then me going to school again, I'm passing through spaces where there's also art and

all this stuff, but it never really clicks in and I'm just never getting these ideas of me speaking Shona. But then at home, Ndebele. And it's just like gathering itself, gathering itself. Actually, kinda interesting because I think I remember doing an interview two years back and then that's when it clicked like, oh wait, my brain collecting all this data. And that is why now I'm able to be like, oh, cool.

[00:06:43] The place that I grew up in is called Danica like a school. The school was built for liberation fighters who didn't go to school, and who decided to go to the war to liberate Zimbabwe.

[00:06:52] And then when they came back because you're not injured, you could then build a school like to accommodate all those people. Everybody who got injured or like everybody who got displaced in Blanco, you can come and learn and then something vocational training and you can get an education.

[00:07:07] But what fascinated me was the logo outside. It was quite big, big mural, beautiful. It included all the things like agriculture, carpentry, but it was beautifully meshed. And also, the murals, like around the space. I really never really thought about it until literally just some few years back where I was like, actually the reason why I do a lot of things is because of where I grew up, like, it is literally embedded in my subconscious. 

[00:07:28] The visual languages, putting together of symbols to making one mural, all that. Even though I'm doing it for a commercial use, but to tell a story. It's what I used to see when I was growing up, these big paintings. Not even knowing what they were.

[00:07:40] Adrian/Naitiemu: You grew that appreciation of how art communicates culture over time, perhaps. Right. And also you're creating things that communicate culture. How does that function? How does art communicate culture?

[00:07:54] Osmond Tshuma: I think it's by many ways education and preserving. For example, I think one of the most interesting things that we had at home was the Nyami Nyami stuff. And this stuff wasn't my dad's, but then it was like, like my dad's friend. Like from Jamien who came and he left his stuff around.

[00:08:09] So then it was this big stuff which literally showcases the story of Nyami Nyami. And this story is literally embedded on this stuff. Right. It's Nyami Nyami on top and then there's community at the bottom. Like literally talking about how Nyami Nyami used to protect the people, like the Batonga people.

[00:08:24] And then when there's a drought, he would literally offer his body to Nyami Nyami and then people would cut. And I think art plays a very big role, like preserving. In terms of one: story-telling, educating. Most people didn't know what Nyami Nyami was until most people go to Kariba or when they read about it. Or when they passing

by, and then they see this. Definitely ask, "what is this stuff about?"

[00:08:41] Now we are moving in a space whereby... how many people really want to learn about Africa? Very few. Because now it's more cool to be like in Europe. Right. Some of the things that we were doing 20 years ago like we're not doing anymore.

[00:08:54] Like some spaces, language is actually quite… disappearing. So, art can be used to preserve. And that can be in creating whatever elements that we're creating so that the future people can read about it. You see, like what can I do that? There actually was a way of preserving the different civilizations from way back and for us to understand what it is now because everybody who was during that time 4000 years ago has passed.

[00:09:17] But now we are trying to decode it and learning how it was 10,000 years back. Even though for them, it wasn't an art form. It was almost like a way of communicating. But for us, we were seeing it as both ways, as an art form and as a technology, as a language. But for them it was, this is who we are now. I'm going to put it down and now we're able to decipher that and say, 'cool, this is what was happening,

this is what they did.' And this is what we can learn from them. For example, finding all those things that they created many years ago, but we are nowsaying, how can we do it now?

[00:09:44] Oh, wait, there's no technology to do that now right now. I think it's quite interesting how far an art form can contribute to cultures. 

[00:09:51] Hosts (A & N): Osmond creates works focused on learning more about African cultures and history, and decolonizing the design systems. 

[00:09:58] Osmond Tshuma: And I think that story goes back to 2017 when I was in advertising. During the time, I was feeling quite stagnant with the work that was creating. And then I wanted something quite challenging and I joined 36-day challenge.

[00:10:09] But mine was more about creating letters that were inspired by Africa. And even during the time, like, even in my work at the agency was always aligned to something African or talking about Africa. And it was my first almost like opportunity to experiment with letter forms without being quite rigid to... ' it needs to fit in this grid.'

[00:10:28] It was more about celebrating the inspiration itself. I wanted when people looked at the letter form, they saw exactly the inspiration. Where the inspiration came from without even like, 'Oh, what is that?' And that made me look at many different things. And I think the cool thing about my project it's the knowledge that I get when I'm researching a country when I go deep and read because I have to try and find

something that really is speaking to the country. I see it as if the country has briefed me on a job and now, I have to present something for them. That is how I see it. So, something that I can give to the people. That is why I called the last project from 2020 to last year, Africa Love Letters. 

[00:11:04] Africa, sometimes dash or semicolon love letters because it's almost like a letter to meet, like to the African countries that you call. Here's a gift. Here's what I've created for you for this independence. It's for me to you. And I've learned a lot.

Sometimes people think that because you're in Africa, you know Africa. There is so much that I don't know about Africa. One of the biggest misconceptions is that the Benin bronze comes from Benin. Which is not. And it's things like that that sometimes people can just take and then use without thinking deeper.

[00:11:30] And for me, when I look at this knowledge that I gain, I question myself. Am I giving owner to the artifact, to the object, to the culture, to the ceremony? How will the people who celebrate this culture feel when they see an outsider creating this work?

[00:11:46] The truth is I'm an outsider of the culture, that's the truth. However, I have to create it in a way that even they feel like I read, I understood, even though I'm not Igbo or Yoruba. This was done with honor. I took into consideration, why this why that has been done.

[00:12:00] And I give it to them back as it is. And sometimes it is kind of stressful because am I perpetuating the past or am I perpetuating the new modern western view of African ideologies? I have to ask myself, what am I saying? Sometimes the work will say exactly what it is. And sometimes I do leave questions like for the people to

review it. Sometimes I will ask the question sometimes I'm saying all cultures is beautiful. So, it's like every single project has got a different way that I approach it because sometimes it is quite hard.

[00:12:27] So I can say with all the knowledge I've learned, I think it's learning to navigate between what I'm creating, but every single country has got beautiful history, rich history. Like it's a lot. And I still don't know much, so I keep on going back.

[00:12:38] Adrian/Naitiemu: So how do you feel representing perhaps other countries, other nations or the other tribes around Africa? How's the feedback been from them in terms of doing this?

[00:12:49] Osmond Tshuma: People loved it. People loved it. I think the interest in part was... like social media has got so much pressure. People started like, almost like saying 'oh, I can't wait to see my country.' And the pressure comes from African countries because I have to work day and night just to meet the deadline and then again there was COVID also. So, all alone, it's quiet, COVID and then now I have to meet three countries independence tomorrow, the pressure was intense. At first, I was able to meet the deadline, dah dah, but at some point, I literally had to think about my

mental health, my body. 

[00:13:18] So, then I would start now almost like delay by two or three days. And still, people like loved the work. I remember someone from Sweden reached out saying they've never seen an artwork like for their country but being represented in that way. And that was quite beautiful for me. This person is literally not in Africa, but they were

able to see this and to literally reach out and say, yo, this is quite beautiful, what you've done. Please keep it up. it was quite beautiful and almost like an inspiring thing.

[00:13:42] I wanted to keep on doing what I was doing because I wasn't just celebrating African countries, but I was celebrating Africans all around the world who identify as: from Cameroon, I'm from Ghana, I'm from Somalia, I'm from Eritrea, I'm from Tanzania. Being able to see this work. Beautiful.

[00:13:59] Hosts (A & N): Each country is uniquely portrayed. We wanted to find out what inspired the design style used for the specific countries. 

[00:14:07] Osmond Tshuma: I think the back history to that is that when I went to varsity, I was chasing the mark. Right? So, when you chase the mark, you make everything quite sure that you pass, you don't fail because you can't afford to repeat again another year because fees, right? So, my design style was almost like created already. Quite clean and simplistic. And then with this, it was a chance of experimenting. Putting the grid away, like literally, let's be free. Put texts upside down, put text on the side. Things that you never got to do. Here's your chance to create stuff

for you. And I think that was my touch. Experimenting, because I tried to create every single country different.

[00:14:40] Literally find a different way of approaching it. But every single project under that umbrella, Africa Love Letters. And for me sometimes my style, I love putting detail,

sometimes I go quite simplistic. And I remember one of my favorite ones because I love creating logos. I really love creating logos. And I love the idea of telling a whole story in just one symbol. And I think this one is for Seychelles.

[00:15:02] And I looked around on Seychelles, research everything there. Right. And I couldn't find something that I could grab onto. There was like a lot of stuff. Beautiful, rich elements.

[00:15:09] And then I looked at the logo. It was for the 44th anniversary. And then when I looked at the other flag, it literally created a fowl, I was like 'OMG'. Just taking this and doing this. I think I just went crazy. Like, oh, I'm like, I'm a genius, I'm a genius.

[00:15:23] And I'm like, come down, come down, come down. And for me, like, I love that idea of literally using something quite simple. But sometimes that can go into quite detail, almost like taking this piece to this thing, is between the two and then

putting them together to create a symbol.

[00:15:38] In this case I was like, you know, you need to experiment. Play around. Create letterforms that are long, some of them are short. Have fun. I think it's just this allowing myself to play and just create this work.

[00:15:49] Adrian/Naitiemu: I love what you said about that Seychelles flag, but by the way, I always say that's one of my favorite flags is just so like joyful. Right. 

[00:15:57] Osmond Tshuma: it is. 

[00:15:57] Adrian/Naitiemu: I haven't been to the Seychelles, but it makes me want to go there.

[00:16:01] Osmond Tshuma: Yeah. Yeah. That's beautiful. Yeah. 

[00:16:03] Adrian/Naitiemu: And those moments in design, when you like click, you just move something and suddenly it's something else, right.

[00:16:08] Osmond Tshuma: Yeah. Like, and yeah, and I love that. Those moments just make me go like; design is beautiful. I think as a designer, it's all about creating something new. And I think that is what design is about. Creating something new, finding new ways of communicating. Not repeating the same thing. Instead of using the Zimbabwe bird on every single thing. Because everything has got the Zimbabwean bird on it. Every single thing, every government logo. It cannot be Zimbabwe without the Zimbabwean bird. And for me as a designer is to find different ways of saying Zimbabwe without saying that because then you then reduce the whole country into just one item for like 20 years. 

[00:16:40] Whilst we've got other things that can say Zimbabwe. And that's the thing for me. Right. Cool. For this project, I will use the Maasai, but if I'd come back and do another project again, I'm not going to use them. I'm going to use something else. There are a thousand things that you can create. If you were to take a million designers from Kenya, you have to see a million ways of saying Kenya without seeing one thing. There are a lot of things that can say, South Africa, and there are a lot of things that can say Malawi. As designers, we need to allow ourselves to think broader. This has been done. Yes, it works. But can you find other ways of saying it without saying that? Fresher ways of telling these stories? 

[00:17:14] Adrian/Naitiemu: Your work shows a lot of research in all these different countries. Are there some unconventional ways you've had to actually source this research that you'd like to share?

[00:17:23] Osmond Tshuma: The project happened whilst I was in lockdown. I would have loved to literally travel, but it was during a lockdown. So, then how the project was started, let me give you like a backstory to the project, the Africa Love Letters. Sometimes there's like xenophobic attacks like in South Africa. And I wanted to use Johannesburg as a living museum, as a living gallery. And I wanted to use the spaces of interaction. The spaces of conflict as the spaces of interaction. For example, if I could find a place like an old embassy, of a certain country, I could create my work and then put it up there.

[00:17:53] There's a space in Alexandra. Alexandra is a township. And there was a place whereby a Mozambican was stabbed. I was going to go there and actually create a space to say, cool, let's have these conversations about foreigners. Using those spaces to create like engagements. I think there was another fight between Nigerians and taxi

drivers. And then having a taxi driver wearing a t-shirt that says 'Happy Independence Nigeria'. Using all the space around Johannesburg to almost say, you know what, we can have these conflicts but we can also live, like in harmony. If you look on my Instagram, you actually see that I have the mock-ups, but I also have South Africans holding the posters.

[00:18:30] And those were literally people just passing by and then I just asked them, yo guys, can you please hold this thing? And I'm going to take a picture, it's for my project. And then they're like, yeah, cool. What's it for? No, no. Like Ghana is having

its independence and they're like, oh, I'd love to. And I really don't know these people.

[00:18:43] They're just passing by and I asked them. So then showing that these things can happen, but there's also love in the spaces. We also need to have those discussions. Two weeks later, lockdown. I literally had to source them like online.

[00:18:54] I literally had to look into academic papers and galleries. Because like everything was closed. Libraries were closed. It was looking at galleries and museum-online like everything was literally online. That is where I think I followed the power of

being connected, of having internet at home. But the truth is, I love holding things. I love going to galleries. If it was up to me, I would have loved totravel half the countries just to go.

[00:19:15] I'm like, here's this artifact. Taking a picture literally out of love. There like to feel the texture. To see the thing in front of me right now. But unfortunately, everything was online. 

[00:19:23] Adrian/Naitiemu: It sounds like it may have even made the project stronger, pushed you to discover new routes. Right. And now you've gotten back to museums and libraries. You can use them, but you've also got internet. 

[00:19:33] Osmond Tshuma: Yeah, and also, like for example, I'm close to the vet's museum and every single year they always repeat this collection that they have which is a massive collection which is kinda beautiful. I think the sound of the artworks borrowed from the Standard Bank collecting.

[00:19:45] So it's like artworks from 1920s. Some of the things that you wouldn't find on the internet which is kinda beautiful. When you go to museums and galleries because you get to see every single thing that is almost like a dusty that can't be washed because if you wash it, it then just breaks down.

[00:19:58] So, it is in its original condition and the beads, everything. And even those gold weights, like the Ashanti gold weights. It's quite beautiful like to actually see it.

[00:20:07] Adrian/Naitiemu: Incredible.

[00:20:08] Colonization runs many levels deep, right? 

[00:20:11] How do we make the right balance of understanding what came before and then still understanding that whatever is here already somehow fits into our culture as well?

[00:20:22] Osmond Tshuma: Yeah, true. Like for me, sometimes I do both because I feel like the African culture or African tradition sometimes, most of them are quite disappearing. For example, if you look at the tradition of Lobola which is the bride price. 

[00:20:34] Yes. That is evolved. That has changed so much that what we have now could literally be a tradition that was created 20 years ago. And then if you'd go back 200 years ago, people are like, no you trying to say that I'm chip, right? Like it depends on the project. Sometimes I take it as it is before the interruption. And I use that as it is. Or, I took the past and now and made it together to create something new. The reason why I think it's all because of the context, I think it will just depend on what is your question?

[00:21:02] Like whatever purpose it is. If it is a purpose of preserving, then it's almost like taking as it is, right. And then say, cool, this is the Adinkra symbols. And this cloth is from 1875. And this is what it meant. And then if we're not talking about how do you

then teach the future youngsters of Nigeria about Adinkra? Maybe let's create a new writing system inspired by the Adinkra. Then we took Adinkra and then create a new writing system, and then here it is called Adinkra future. You see, which is now a new writing system that can be coded.

[00:21:33] It is a truth, in the next 20 years, we won't be able to really find out what some of those things meant. We need to be able to document every single thing. From the past, as far as we can go. And then we can say, cool, we cannot use Adinkra as to write a full sentence, but we can use it to create maybe a new writing system or

whatever we want to create or a new coding system. Here's what we've created. This is inspired by this. I think both can be used depending on what the purpose says. 

[00:22:00] Adrian/Naitiemu: I think also from just the conversation we are having a big part is connecting with our pasts, with our traditions. So as to be able to break the kind of boundaries that have been created with time. And I guess through that, we're able to recreate and you know redesign new things in different ways. That's important. Yeah, I guess also just thoughts on that was that sometimes there's like a fog, right? We're not even sure what came before, right. Which traditions, which cultures are actually African and which we're now saying may be old-fashioned, but they're actually

colonial or post-colonial? 

[00:22:36] Osmond Tshuma: Yep. So true. And I think that is where I think sometimes as designers, like for me even when I'm researching these elements or these artifacts. I have to literally go deep and ask. For example, when you look at the Basotho blankets, like the ones that they wear. Those lines, right?

[00:22:51] According to history, those lines were a mistake by the printers but those lines have become part of the tradition. And again, they were a gift to the king. But now they are part of the culture. And again, we cannot say no because it is part of culture to

grow.

[00:23:04] Hybridity, right? The mixing of cultures. And for me, it is that like to research and ask. Where does this come from? Can I use it for this? For example, the African fabrics, most of them are from the Netherlands. You see? Now when you say we're doing a wedding like we wearing the African print but these current African culture

come from Netherlands.

[00:23:24] Adrian/Naitiemu: There's that also here within our culture. I'm Maasai. And we're known for these red checkered shawls but really their origin seems like it's Scotland. Before we used to have just cowhide as cloth. And now the red is associated with Maasai. And yet I would assume before the colors were more brown, perhaps. Because of the cow, you know, stuff like these, the beads, right. These were made by women in the village but these are plastic beads and they told us initially they used to use cowrie shells and bones and then through trade, this happened. And this is now really what stands out in the culture. So again, like relearning what's changed with time. And what can we go back to again? 

[00:24:08] Osmond Tshuma: Yeah. 

[00:24:09] Adrian/Naitiemu: The balance between modern and traditions and changes. We say that these plastic beads are part of Kenyan culture, but what happened before that? Right... before we had the plastic.

[00:24:22] Osmond Tshuma: Yeah. True. 

[00:24:23] Adrian/Naitiemu: So, you said Basotho blankets. Can you tell us the story that they were printed by accident? 

[00:24:29] Osmond Tshuma: Yeah, I think if my history is correct. The first blanket was a gift to the king. It didn't have any lines in it. In Lesotho it's very cold. I know there's a certain time in the year where there's literally snow in Lesotho and the people go skiing there. And before that they used animal hide. It only makes sense because that's what they had. And then when the traders came, quite recently I think around 18 hundreds or 17 hundreds. They gifted the King with the blanket. And then that became almost

like a symbol. And then with the whole talks going through, they then started bringing more blankets. And then one time when they were printing the blankets overseas, there was a mistake. And then that is where the line in between those two lines.

[00:25:03] If you Google Basotho blanket, there are always those lines in between. Those were a mistake; it was a printing error. It wasn't the initial design. And then they didn't stop. They're like, oh, well it is what it is, and then just continue that. So, you

cannot now have a Basotho blanket without those lines. Like how this thing... just...

[00:25:17] Adrian/Naitiemu: Interesting. Accidental things.

[00:25:21] Osmond Tshuma: Exactly. 

[00:25:22] Adrian/Naitiemu: Yeah. 

[00:25:22] Really, a lot of things are redefined with time. 

[00:25:25] Osmond Tshuma: Hm. 

[00:25:26] Adrian/Naitiemu: I'm trying to think of a good cultural one, but I can tell you that on the Mac OS when you hold an icon over a folder to drag it into the folder, the folder flashes twice, and opens. 

[00:25:38] Originally. That was meant to be a folder opening animation, but the developer never got there. And that was in 1983 that they put that in as a placeholder and they've never gotten rid of it. It's always stayed as a double flash instead of an animation. 

[00:25:54] Osmond Tshuma: Look at that. 

[00:25:56] Hosts (A & N): We went further into African folklore. Osmond has a book that talks about the different religions across Africa. And Nyami Nyami is one of those stories. 

[00:26:04] Osmond Tshuma: So then if you go to Kariba, there's like a big dam, beautiful dam. And then once they were building it there were floods, crazy floods that were really unexplained. But then the story goes that Nyami Nyami had crossed over and the way they built the dam, the wife was trapped on the other side. So, then Nyami Nyami is on one side the wife is on the other side. The dam is literally preventing the two from meeting.

[00:26:23] And then sometimes there are tremors. Apparently, it's Nyami Nyami trying to go back to the wife. However, the story of Nyami Nyami is that Nyami Nyami is the river God. Head of a fish, a body of a snake. The Batonga people used to pray to Nyami Nyami and Nyami Nyami always provided.

[00:26:36] If there was a drought Nyami Nyami would offer his tail and then people would come and cut it and they'll go home and eat and the Nyami Nyami would regrow. If you go to Kariba, you would literally see like a sculpture that represents Nyami Nyami.  

[00:26:47] Adrian/Naitiemu: Where can people find you? Why should people look out for you, online?

[00:26:52] Osmond Tshuma: I'm available on Instagram, not all the time, but I respond to my DMs. Facebook. I don't check my Facebook. But yeah, people can find me on Instagram literally all the time. Or they can DM me at Mam'gobozi.

[00:27:04] Literally with those platforms. Or, if you're going to send me a message via Behance at Osmond Tshuma. Yeah. I think I'm a good person. I respond to messages. Yeah. Even though sometimes emails give me like anxiety, but I do respond. 

[00:27:18] Adrian/Naitiemu: Does your name have a meaning? 

[00:27:20] Osmond Tshuma: Well, Tshuma, I don't know. I'm not sure, but Osmund apparently, has to do something with protector. God will protect us, something to do with that. It's a Western name. Western or a Caribbean name. Meaning godly protector. Tshuma, I have no idea what Tshuma means. I think maybe that's a very good question. I should go ask what Tshuma means. 

[00:27:35] Adrian/Naitiemu: Is that your full name or what is your full name? 

[00:27:39] Osmond Tshuma: Well, that's a secret. 

[00:27:42] Yeah. In my family, I'm the only child who doesn't have a middle name. But doesn't mean that I don't have a middle name. I have a middle name. Just that when they registered my birth certificate, they didn't register my name. Full name is Osmond

Mfanekosi Tshuma. Mfanekosi means prince. So, godly protector, prince, Tshuma. 

[00:27:59] Adrian/Naitiemu: Wow. 

[00:28:00] Beautiful. 

[00:28:01] Osmond Tshuma: I think you're the first platform to get that juicy story. 

[00:28:05] Adrian/Naitiemu: Thank you. We're trying. I'm glad Naitiemu slipped that question in because every one of the last three or four people we've interviewed, we've tried to ask them their name and it always turns into an interesting story.

[00:28:15] Osmond Tshuma: Yeah. And my parents never called me by my name, Osmond. Never, it was always Mafana. Even up until I was grown, they never said Osmond. And I think it was always weird. I think when I came to university when people used to say, Osmond, I'm like" who are you guys calling?" Because my friends would call me 'Oz' and my mom and my dad would call me Mafana. When people used to call me by my full name, I'll always be like, " who are you calling?" You! Oh yeah, my name is Osmond. Oh, yeah. Sorry, what were you saying again? 

[00:28:40] Adrian/Naitiemu: So, it's like an inside family thing? 

[00:28:43] Osmond Tshuma: Yeah. 

[00:28:44] Adrian/Naitiemu: Thank you. Thank you. This has been a lot of fun, a lot of learning and yeah, it's always good to meet such amazing creatives like you. Beautiful work. Thank you so much. I love design and the history. And seeing how those things always had a big impact on me and getting to meet people and seeing how they've all had that impact on us and getting to learn from each other.

[00:29:06] Also understanding that a lot of these stories we're having to discuss and we're having to even double check because maybe we don't even know the full history hasn't even been discovered. So, it's still there. 

[00:29:18] Osmond Tshuma: Yeah. 

[00:29:18] Adrian/Naitiemu: Yeah. And it's very encouraging for me, even as an African creative to see how much we can gain from our history and how we can use our creativity to redefine our own path. So, just seeing all this knowledge and ideas from all over Africa is very inspiring.

[00:29:37] Osmond Tshuma: Yeah. 

[00:29:37] Adrian/Naitiemu: And what you said earlier. You said that African culture hasn't been the coolest, well, maybe I would dispute that coming from Europe where I feel like I've brought myself up on a dry diet of European design. Right. And that aesthetically and I mean coming from music, coming from everything. Aesthetically and creatively. There's so much that people haven't been familiar with so far and this is like bringing new things to them. So, it's actually exciting for planet. 

[00:30:10] Osmond Tshuma: True. And I think everybody that is in my inner circle, we are literally exploring how we can show Africa to the world because that is what I know. I think for me when I see African Art or African inspiration, it's quite futuristic. For example, when you look at the pyramids, right? How did they cut them so clean?

[00:30:27] Right. They had to polish them to make an edge, perfect. That is futuristic. How did you cut that? And of course, they're carving it.

[00:30:35] In some of these wooden elements or sculptures, when I look at this thing, it's cool. This thing is from 1700s, but I'm like, this is like 2065. This is like year 3000. And of course, you will see that these guys were dealing in some technology that we

still haven't figured out. 

[00:30:50] There's a culture in Africa that they've got a dance based on a certain star or moon. This tribe has known this for many years, but I think this moon or star was only discovered recently in the 1950s, but these guys have known this for a very long

time. 

[00:31:03] Hosts (A & N): This is the Dogon tribe of Mali, in West Africa. The Dogon are believed to be of egyptian descent. They're renowned for their knowledge about the Sirius system which dates back to 3,200 BC, long before scientists discovered it in 1862. Sirius A is a bright star. Which can be seen in the Western sky, through the naked eye. But Sirius B is invisible. 

[00:31:29] The Dogon people knew that Sirius B was very small, but very dense. The star wasn't even photographed until it was done by a large telescope in 1970. How did a people who lacked any kind of astronomical devices know so much about an invisible star? 

[00:31:47] Osmond Tshuma: So, we are... yes, referencing the past but we have to reference the past as the future. That is how we as Africans can also protect ourselves and protect our culture so that when the younger generation come up, they like, dad please tell me about Nyami Nyami. Oh, cool. Let me tell you about Nyami Nyami. For example, have a Nyami Nyami movie, have a Nyami Nyami animation, things like that.

[00:32:05] That's what we're doing it. Like to try and say, yo, it is actually cool. It is actually inspiring. For us, that research is quite deep… also very important and it just

doesn't help us, but it helps everybody. 

[00:32:14] Thank you, guys. Thank you. 

[00:32:15] Adrian/Naitiemu: Thank you. Have an amazing weekend.

[00:32:17] Osmond Tshuma: Cool, same to you. Cheers. 

[00:32:19] Hosts (A & N): The next episode of Afrika Design is a conversation between myself and Fenoson Zafimahova. Fenoson is an industrial designer and a concept designer who started as an intern at Hamon International in Shenzhen, China. And worked his way up to lead the design of products such as the JBL clip and the JBL extreme.  

[00:32:41] If you have any ideas for episodes we should do, people we should host on the show. Please let us know. We're really, really interested in hearing your thoughts. And if you've made it this far, a review would mean so much to us as well. On whichever

platform you are listening to us on, or even a recommendation to one of your friends or through a tweet.

[00:33:03] We hope to get these stories out there to more people I'm Adrian Jankowiak. And my co-host is Naitiemu. This episode was edited by David King'ori with music by Ngalah and Mercy Barno. Thank you for tuning in to Afrika Design.

Episode Credits

Produced by Nairobi Design Week

Hosts: Naitiemu and Adrian Jankowiak

Editor: David King'ori

Shorts & Artwork: Felix Owaga

Music: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)


Got a question or suggestion?

Leave a comment and let us know.

Subscribe on your favourite app

Search for 'Afrika Design' and leave a review!

Apple
Spotify
Google
RSS
Podbean
YouTube