Savvy Lebogang Sadiki connects with her ancestors through art
What is it exactly that informs our decisions to do what we do? Some will say passion, others a desire to earn an income, or a calling.
For Lebogang Sadiki, who owns S'Africa Lamp Designs, it was a combination of creativity, entrepreneurial savvy as well as a spiritual nudge in the right direction.
"I think it's deeper than me being naturally creative. I think it's also a way my ancestors wanted to be embraced through my art," Sadiki says.
"So, with them finding me and my artistic and entrepreneurial skill, we found a gap in the market and also a way to embrace ubuntu bethu and my ancestors at the same time.
"So, it worked out for them and for me as a person as well."
The 26-year-old Winterveld, northern Tshwane, native uses different fabrics that are associated with SA's different ethnicities as covers for her lamp shades.
She has lamps in the electric cobalt that Tshwane people are famous for, the bright neon yellow associated with the Tsonga people of Limpopo, the geometric and colourful designs of the Ndebele people, among others.
It was these familiar yet eye-catching colours that brought her to my attention.
"And with regards to the light, I think it's also a deeper representation of Africa just being a light.
"And we haven't had anything that represents anything modern... I think that's where I conceptualised something deeper to something very practical," she says.
Sadiki talks about her ancestors and how her business was a way to connect and recognise them.
"I have a gift... my gift is to help those around me embrace where they come from and to also see light in all that they do.
So, not necessarily to heal, not necessarily to initiate.
"So, my gift would be to celebrate where we come from and to remind Africans of today where we come from. So, my gift is art to my people."
The University of Johannesburg accounting graduate says she learnt 'art from the street'.
With one failed business behind her, Sadiki says that it gave her a restart so she could focus on her artistic talents.
"I am planning on studying so I can have a formal qualification to back up my talent so that I get a bit more recognition and that people take me seriously and for people to trust that I know what I am doing."
She wants to study African studies as well as interior design because she wants to expand the business into homeware.
"The business side of it was covered when I studied at UJ, so economics and business is on lockdown, but the design side of things I don't have it on paper and I'm planning on doing interior design first then African studies later."
She's been running the business since November. In these few months she's received multitudes of feedback from praise to criticism which she's said she's grateful for.
"It's been very wonderful because to be honest, I wasn't expecting people to respond the way that they are to the idea.
"Some people [have said] I am overly simplifying something sacred, for example the Swati fabric/print, some people have it as iqhiya, so there's people that have this understanding of the material that I use and there is some material that I had to hold back because they're used for certain occasions.
"And there are people that would say I am over modernising something sacred and African, something that should only be worn.
"But I have consulted and I'm trying to be very careful about what I put out there. And I think also [people] have to understand the intention behind what one's doing; I think that helps."
Sadiki says despite the critical feedback whether it be about sacred material or people finding the lamps too different, there have been people who were impressed with her chutzpah.
"I have people that have embraced and actually like [my work] even if it is something that is not within their market or even if it isn't something that they would particularly go for, they're happy that there is something embracing the African culture and they're just happy to see a black young girl doing her thing, because this is a very difficult industry to penetrate."
Other challenges that the young entrepreneur faced were funding and bringing the product to life with little resources.
The self-described 'goofy character' attributes her other personality traits such as her inquisitive nature and desire to know more about others and their cultures in helping her get to where she is.
"On a professional note, I have an aggressive approach in representing myself as a woman first before anything. So I think my voice stands up for other women that do not have a loud voice."