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Nompumelelo Nhlapo on creating from what lives within

 Nompumelelo Nhlapo on creating from what lives within
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The birth of Gadat House is the life of Nompumelelo

Creation is a journey back home and when we arrive home, after taking the time to sit down with ourselves, we understand that everything we need is alive within us. Gadat House is fashion designer, writer and visual artist Nompumelelo Nhlapo’s journey back home. It is more than just an aesthetic expression. It is a lens curated to carry her DNA and those who came before her, her mother’s orange top with blue flowers that birthed her love for fashion, a story about two hearts and the power of music. It is a long conversation that carried her home.

Gadat, pronounced guh-duh, is created from those who live within Nhlapo. The name Gadat comes from the ancestral calling of her surname, Nhlapo – Sgedede. In naming her creation, Nhlapo removed all letters until GADAT came to life and its pronunciation is the story of those who walked this Earth before she did. It is through colour that Gadat House carries Nhlapo home. In photographs, pieces from Gadat House are brown hues that find a resting place on the sitters or in boxes with the letters G, A, D and T carefully arranged below a ribbon of the same hue. It took Nhlapo’s outpour of love and attention to decide that brown will epitomize her creation and in doing so, epitomize her journey back home, the essence of Gadat House. She articulates this beautifully: “the colour brown defines beauty for me in every way. The place I come from is brown, the people I love are brown. I am brown”. Brown for Nhlapo is not just brown, it is her. It is the colour of the soil and the visual representation of “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” that defines where her journey back home began. “Soil births so much, and when all is done, all living things return to it”, Nhlapo explains on the significance of returning home. Just like everything that lives, with brown hues and Gadat, Nhlapo returns home to the soil that birthed the creator and her creation.

Returning home for Nhlapo means returning to seeing her mother wearing an orange top with blue flowers fearlessly, igniting a fire in her to scorch the ground with her passion and love for fashion that brought to life richer soil where different parts of her grew. Returning home for her means walking back to the many homes she found in others and in people whose stories and faces are stories woven for Gadat. It means reliving in the moments that saved her; moments of heartbreak, a story about two hearts that gave her the voice to tell stories in her first Gadat House collection. It means allowing music to be her muse. Her journey back home is also her fight in the war against black women. Inspired by Jason Wu, a fashion designer of colour who gave her the hope to fight against the systems that close doors, Nhlapo carries the baton to fight to see more (black) women leading the fashion industry.

“Gadat is an extension of my existence. It is some parts of me, other parts of every other person, place and creation. Gadat is the voice of Nompumelelo”. Gadat is created from within her and it lives inside of her.

Tshedza Mashamba