Zana Masombuka on Ndebele Superhero as a process of reimagination

“Africans need to interpret their history themselves and seek to reinvent Africa according to their own terms.”

Zana Masombuka, a graduate from the University of the Underground as well as Stellenbosch University presented her project The Ndebele Superhero on the 2019 antenna conference stage. 

Masombuka hails from a small Ndebele town in South Africa. Growing up, she says she and her friends had nothing but their imaginations to keep them busy during the day.

“When we were not outside playing, we were sitting with our grandmothers learning the ancient secrets of being through creation and expression.” These creative expressions took the form of beading, weaving and gardening and according to Masombuka they required absolute presence and stillness. 

In 2017, while studying politics and history, Masombuka’s younger brother underwent initiation.

“The initiation is a coming of age ceremony that takes place in the Ndebele culture every four years for young men,” says Masombuka. 

Deciding to document the celebratory homecoming of her brother and the other men who had taken part in the initiation ceremony, Masombuka felt her true creativity coming alive for the first time. 

“I had never felt more alive. I was finally being through creation and expression,” says Masombuka. 

Around the same time she came across a quote that reads: “Africans need to interpret their history themselves and seek to reinvent Africa according to their own terms”.

Out of these revelations the Ndebele Superhero was born. The project is a photographic series and platform that talks about the evolutionary process of culture through the perspective of a 21st century Ndebele woman. 

This talk is part of the third antenna conference, a collaboration between Design Indaba and the Dutch Design Foundation, which recently took place as part of Dutch Design Week.

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