One on one

One-on-one with Sinegugu Mchunu

Written by Shereen Lurie

Entrepreneur and designer Sinegugu Mchunu is the founder of Bambizulu, which comprises a team of weavers and artisans committed to preserving traditional Zulu basketry weaving skills. This initiative involves collecting skills from internationally recognized master weavers and passing them on to the next generation through diversification, creating collectible baskets, art, and innovative furniture and décor.

My interest in weaving sparked from observing my grandmother, whose craft took her across the globe. I didn’t fully comprehend its significance until my late teens. Over time, I realised its immense value – its impact on the community, our culture, and the world. Its crucial elements lie in its natural components, the raw materials, the process of creating from scratch, and the intimate connection one develops while crafting a basket, from its inception to completion.

I grew up in a family deeply connected to various forms of art. My grandmother was an avid weaver and storyteller, while my mother, a school teacher, embraced a captivating bohemian style in her clothing, drawing my interest with her earthy colour choices. My paternal grandmother crafted straw mats and beaded headgear for the Shembe Nazareth church, a tradition passed down through generations, just like my great-grandmother. One of my uncles expressed his passion through paintings, African literature, poetry, and music, while another uncle exhibited creativity by crafting with telephone wire.

Bambizulu is undergoing a transition, having experienced numerous phases since its inception. Throughout its distinctive journey, collaborating and co-creating with designers and architects has been an incredible experience, teaching us numerous lessons that we continue to learn. At our core, we strive for more innovation and solutions while steadfastly upholding our commitment to preserving and protecting Zulu basketry weaving.

African art and craft holds value beyond its aesthetic appeal, and it’s truly heartening to witness people appreciating and understanding their significance. It would be fulfilling to envision a future where our generation invests more in African art rather than solely focusing on Western luxury clothing and items. Much of what our continent offers is incredibly unique, yet some aspects are at risk of extinction. Once these skills vanish, who will carry them forward?

The artists represented by Bambizulu are incredibly talented individuals. My team produces impeccable work, and what’s particularly fascinating is our ability to adapt to new weaving styles. Primarily focusing on weaving, we craft using various materials like grass, fibers, telephone wire, or leather.

A Beauty Ngxongo Basket is pure perfection. I have yet to encounter someone capable of replicating Beauty’s basket exactly. Even her long-term supporters, particularly basket collectors, attest to the impossibility of reproducing it—every attempt has failed. While others may weave a basket and even try to imitate its shape, nothing has ever matched the exactness of her work. That’s precisely what makes it so special – it holds a mystical quality.

I am currently working on some exciting new designs in furniture and decor and we’re even dipping our fingers in fashion which I’m quite excited for.



Shereen Lurie

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