Sho Madjozi

Sho Madjozi, third from left, with some dancers in their xibelani skirts. Image via Facebook @shomadjozi

Watch: The colourful truth behind Sho Madjozi’s ‘proudly Tsongan’ style

She may have a personality as bright as her outfits, but Sho Madjozi doesn’t wear vibrant skirts and tops merely for the love of colour.

Sho Madjozi

Sho Madjozi, third from left, with some dancers in their xibelani skirts. Image via Facebook @shomadjozi

Her signature look draws from Tsonga culture and reflects her proud heritage. Madjozi’s now iconic performance look is a xibelani skirt – a traditional Tsonga garment. 

Selected to be the first official speaker, the popular South African rapper opened the 2020 Design Indaba, at the Cape Town Stadium, on Wednesday 26 February and shared that “wearing her cultural identity” comes natural to her.

Sho Madjozi: Proudly Tsonga performer

In her session, she explained how she has changed the South African fashion and music scene alike as a proudly Tsonga performer. A key focus of her talk was her informative insight into the history and future of the xibelani.

She started off by showing the trailer of a video she’s been on working, titled The History of Xibelani:

Xibelani video offers fascinating glimpse on colour, shape

Still a work in progress, the video offers a fascinating glimpse into the importance of colour and shape in the traditional skirts, and how they’ve been made from all manner of materials through the ages, from grass to maize-meal bags and the now-popular wool skirt.

Having chosen to wear a xibelani on stages the world over, Madjozi shared her reason for this with the Design Indaba audience:

 “If we only wear it on special occasions, who are we the rest of the time?”

In an informal onstage fashion show, Madjozi also had models demonstrate the xibelani’s evolution through the years. She shared how the current version, also called a xilemba, is usually bought ready-made, these easily contain 10m of material, pleated together and needing to be unravelled when washed, “as no washing line is long enough”.

Madjozi loves the message this outfit conveys.

It’s not an African idea to cover up the body, but the xilemba says: ‘I have the right to dress colourfully and lightly, without losing my tradition.”

Madjozi concluded her Design Indaba session with a live performance of her hit track John Cena, which had members of the audience on their feet singing and dancing along.