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Rwandan fashion designer to represent East Africa at AFI

By : Eddie Nsabimana

Multi-disciplinary, textile and fashion designer Amza Niyonzima is among four African creatives expected to participate at the forthcoming African Fashion International (AFI) and pan-African network of creatives slated for May 25 in South Africa.

Niyonzima, whose clothing brand ‘Masa Mara’, made it to the AFI line-up of runway collections and will represent East Africa alongside David Tlale representing the South, Said Mahrouf for the North and Ituen Basi from the West.

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In commemoration of Africa Day, which recognises the founding of the African Union, AFI will host an intimate fine-dining, fashion, and music experience for guests and creatives who are steering the African renaissance.

The pan-African experience will fuse fine-dining with fashion, and will incorporate music and dance elements led by renowned producers and artists such as Ayo Solanke a Saxophonist, Vuyani Dance Co and Ndlovu Youth Choir.

The experience is hosted in collaboration with Aurum restaurant and pan-African chef Coco Reinarhz.

“The African Union’s Agenda 2063 aspires for, amongst others, cultural identity and heritage that contributes to Africa’s transformation. The notion of a renaissance, which refers to the European period of transformation that was driven by philosophy, literature and art, calls on us to rediscover and elevate the arts in order to transform Africa into a hub of creativity and innovation,” said Dr.Precious Moloi-Motsepe, AFI’s founder and CEO.

Since its founding, AFI pioneered pan-African co-operation within the fashion industry.

In 2019, AFI launched a campaign, African Fashion Unites, to bring continental creatives together in response to xenophobic attacks.

In a similar response to the pandemic that has harshly impacted small and emerging creative entrepreneurs, this showcase is a pathway to ensure their sustainability whilst celebrating the aspirations of African people and the African Union.

For audiences at home, the collections that will be shown on the runway will be available to shop online at www.houseofnala.africa and at AFI’s concept store House of Nala at the Leonardo in Sandton, South Africa, and streamed online on AFI Facebook page from 19h00 SA time.

About the designer

Niyonzima developed a love affair with fashion and art at a young age. Even as a young boy, he meticulously put his outfits together, and used his clothing to express his culture, personal taste, and his zest for life.

His fashion journey began when he started customizing his personal style, this sparked interest from friends.

He began creating and printing his own t-shirt designs, and also taught himself patterns and sewing. This propelled the designer to seriously consider the development of his own clothing line in 2013, which he proudly named Ma Casi, which means ‘strength’ or ‘power’ in Swahili/Lingala.

According to the designer, the name ‘Ma Casi’ was inspired by African strength, which is exemplified by our formation of powerful empires, and our ability to conquer our struggles victoriously.

“Ma Casi’ honours our freedom to go anywhere and to be anywhere in the world by our will. December 2014 marked the inception of a new collection called The Brave Ones,” Niyonzima said.

This new collection captured Niyonzima’s ever-evolving nature, and represents a new direction for his brand aspirations: Masa Mara, which means ‘The Brave One’.

Masa Mara came from a Rwanda saying Amara Masa (Empty handed or something from nothing).

Given that the brand was started literally from nothing, Niyonzima worked for two months in a clothing store and asked to be paid in t-shirts where he redesigned the t-shirts and presented to the store owner who was very impressed and bought them all.

The owner offered to work with him on the next hoodies and crew necks and from there the brand was born with nothing but Niyonzima’s hard work and bravery.

The designer started to educate himself about the fashion industry, taught himself about pattern making and sewing and added his artistic nature to make his brand different from the rest.

Masa Mara uses colors and African symbols of different cultures and tribes to redesign Africa prints to better tell African stories from Africa child’s eye.

In 2016, Masa Mara launched an African Sports luxe range which spiked interest in Europe and Africa.

He was previously invited for African Fashion Week in Amsterdam, and Bennie Fashion Week 2017 among other fashion events.

His ‘Masa Mara’ clothing brand holds an international prize dubbed ‘Young African Fashion Innovative Award’ provided by NNUA in Canada.

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