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Q&A with Sandra Matamisa

Mutare-based fashion designer Sandra Matamisa was awarded the first-ever PPC Imaginarium Award for Fashion in Zimbabwe.


  • Tell us about yourself. Where are you based and what projects/undertakings are you involved in currently?

I was born in Mutare, Zimbabwe, where l am based currently. At the moment I am busy developing my brand Chiwhacouture, whose name I took from my totem, ‘chihwa’, which in my native language (Shona) means ‘wild cat’ or ‘dog’. I use mixed media such as yarn and fabric to make wild outfits that speak volumes. I design ladies’ wear and sell free range. I used to have an outlet in town but had to close down due to the increasing cost of rental. I believe in ‘art with brains’ and this permeates all my designs.


  • At what point did you become interested in fashion? What sparked the desire to enter a creative field?

I did my primary education at Chancellor Junior School. This was when I was taught crocheting by my mum and grandma, who were keen crocheters, at a time when crocheting sustained households in Zimbabwe. Crocheted wares would be exported to South Africa where there was a large market. It is a skill that l exploit in my brand of fashion; while most people think of it as a dying skill, I saw it as an opportunity.


  • Do you have any formal training and/or qualifications? If so, from where?

I am an English teacher by profession; fashion design is just a passion and a hobby. I first completed a diploma in Education and then a Bachelor of Arts in Education at the American-affiliated Africa University in 2000. I taught for seven years then left teaching full-time to take up fashion design; now I teach part-time. I have no formal training in art or fashion; they are passions that I am developing through experience, consultancy and staff development.


  • What is your opinion of the art and design industries in Zimbabwe?

I don’t think it can be called an industry, but a sector rather – that is unless critical fundamentals are addressed. For us to realise the process of industrialisation fully and to grow the arts sector, the government needs to inject capital into potential projects, professionalise the sector and institute MASSIVE training programs in creative entrepreneurship; in turn this can attract foreign direct investments and global partnerships. Arts must be seen as a form of employment; thus key strategic goals like job creation, poverty alleviation and sustainable development ought to be focused on. Relevant/robust structures such as art funding could be recognised on the government agenda, as well as the setting up or revival of sustainable art centres in all the Districts; the government should support marginalised artists and raw talent in an effort to match global arts practices.


  • What inspires you as a creative?

I am inspired by contemporary issues – societal issues that happen around me. My designs are all social comments.


  • What role can a platform like the PPC Imaginarium Awards play among emerging creatives in your industry?

Platforms like this are influential in the identification of raw or emerging talent, as well as in subsequent grooming and exposing of them. Thanks to this competition, I am now a nationally acclaimed artist. Established and emerging artists have the chance to mingle and share notes, and this can lead to internships, development exchange programs and collaborations, helping us to enhance our individual  branding. After winning, l held a conversation at the local gallery in Mutare, and it was a real eye-opener for college and university students. A platform like the awards reveals a diversity of products. PPC is helping to promote their agenda by showing the diverse uses of cement.


  • What are your plans for the future?

I intend to lobby the government through the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, to get Best Fashion Design included in the National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) and to host a fashion arts festival in Mutare.

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