My name is Pamhidzai Hlezekhaya Bamu and I am the owner of The Afrodiva. I hail from Zimbabwe, in southern Africa. This is the story of beginning of my journey to becoming an Afrodiva.
The Afrodiva was born out of the marriage of two of my greatest loves: my love for the Afrocentric and my love for the art of accessorizing. Incidentally, these two loves speak to the names I was given at birth and to my personality and who I have become.
The Afrocentric: I have always been proud of my heritage as a Zimbabwean and an African woman. From a very young age I remember being exposed to a lot of negativity about Africa and Zimbabwe. My family is very grounded, and my parents always tried to instill a sense of pride in being Zimbabwean and African. So, I embraced all forms of art that capture and express African culture, heritage and creativity. In an era where we were told that all good things, including glamour and style had to be imported, I was convinced that Africa had a lot to offer the world. So long before it was fashionable, decades before Wakanda, I proudly wore Afrocentric dress, even if it meant being a bit of the odd one out.
When I look back, I realise that my destiny was sealed when my mother named me Hlezekhaya “living at home”. This was because I was born when my parents returned to Zimbabwe after studying and working overseas for many years. I have always felt a deep connection to my country and my continent, and I carry them in my soul everywhere I go.
The Art of Accessorizing: I like beautiful clothes and I dabble in designing dresses and outfits from time to time. Take it from me, anyone can put on a pretty dress or a cute outfit. But it takes a special kind of person to look beyond that and figure out what jewellery, purse and shoes will complement it beautifully so that the impact of the entire look is powerful and unforgettable. Years ago, I discovered I was THAT person: it did not matter if we wore the same dress to a party because the way I accessorized it made mine shine :). Pictured here in the dress I wore for my Master of Laws graduation, Cape Town, 2006. It was designed by a young South African designer. I hustled the bone necklace and matching shell earrings to complement it.
So, I spent a lot of time and energy putting beautiful ensembles together for special occasions. I loved the process of imagining a look, putting the vision together slowly as I picked out each piece and working with people who could execute my vision. Pamhidzai means “add some more”, which means that I always demand more and give the most. My motto is go BIG or go home, no half measures here. Typical diva mentality.
I found that after all the hype of a big event was over, I yearned for more of this, especially when events were few and far between. So sometimes I would take time to walk around craft markets, with no intention of buying anything, just to feed my creative energy and hunger to put things together. I would study the materials, the origins, and the techniques: “Hey! Are these earrings made of coconut shells? Is that a Maasai or a Zulu neckpiece? How in the world did they make THAT?” I began to dabble with design: “What if it didn’t have this thingy and had something more like that?”
In 2007, I compiled some of my best pictures in Afrocentric attire that I collected over the past few years and I needed to give it a name. Of course “diva” had to feature there, but somehow I could not quite relate to the divaness of the famous Hollywood stars. I was a different kind of diva, there was a certain flavour to my divaness: a distinctively Afrocentric flavour. So I came up with the title “The Afrodiva” because it spoke to who I was and over a decade later, it became the name of my shop.
Pictured in an outfit that I put together for one of my best friends’ wedding in 2009. It was a Xhosa umbaco skirt and top set, but I had to gave it my own twist!