The popular term “woke” is defined as being alert to racial discrimination and social injustice. Originally coined by Erykah Badu in the song "Master Teacher" in 2008, the term became mainstream through the Black Lives Matter protests from 2013. Since then, we have progressed into an era of “wokeness” in which brands are using their platforms to openly take a stand against social injustice. While other brands embrace socio-cultural dialogue and call for diversity and representation within various industries. The emergence of “Wokepreneurs” sees entrepreneurs simply answering to the spirit of the times. This is achieved by creating products, services and spaces that disregard social limitations and embracing themes of race, gender and culture which have been at the forefront of the “woke” era.
The beauty of hair is the ability to express yourself. The challenge at times comes with finding com-mercial products, such as helmets or swimming caps, that accommodate your hair when taking part in extracurricular activities. Founded by Nomvuyo Treffers, Swimma is a brand that produces swimming and shower caps for people with dread-locks, afros and braids which traditional swimming caps do not accommodate. Inspired by the desire to spend more time in the pool with her two daughters, Nomvuyo expresses the frustration of searching for a swimming cap that would properly cover her dreadlocks. “I kept looking for a solution until the ‘light bulb’ moment came. I realised that I am not the only one with this challenge. I was surrounded by people like myself, especially in South Africa,” she says. Since then, she has never looked back. Swimma is a business that promotes inclusivity and representation in swimming as a sport and recreational activity — regardless of one’s hairstyle.
Safe spaces are made with the intent of creating an environment that is free from bias and stereotypes, and promotes a form of openness to ideas, experiences and teachings. Ngungu, the Swahili word for “womb”, is a collective of female artists and aims to create safe spaces across Africa. It will develop these spaces in such a way that they become homes for people to re-establish their relation-ship with African female anatomy. The creative collective seeks to unscramble the experiences, traditions and cultures of African female sexuality while documenting their findings for future generations. One of the Co-Founders, and vagina activist, Nyaruai Mureithi hopes that her contribution to Ngungu will enable African women to understand the notion of consent. She also strives to help women realise their right to study universal laws as well as those of their country. Nyaruai mentions her hope “for women to be able to demand products and services that are safe and uphold the dignities of their womanhood”.
Founded by Mpumi and Bukwase Mgidlana, Zintle Intokazi is a clothing brand that celebrates iconic African figures through everyday apparel.“The inspiration behind our business was spearheaded by the need to build a brand that positively impacts society. What better way to do that than to consistently remind people that they too can reach amazing levels like the heroes illustrated on our T-shirts”, Mpumi says. As a non-conformist brand, Zintle Intokazi celebrates local public figures from all walks of life. “Our African public figures deserve all the recognition … we are inspired by the barriers they break every day and we want to celebrate them in their glory,” explains Mpumi.
Khumo Theko is the Cultural Identity Trend Spotter at Flux Trends, specialising in youth and socio-cultural trends that detect local and global cohorts. Some of her written work highlights business opportunities as seen with the observations on Generation M, the introduction of Generation Alpha as well as being a co-author on the New Urban Tribes 2018: Consciously Diverse report that explores local and global tribes, who are altering the traditional function of business and brand communication. Khumo has unpacked consumer insights with the introduction of Flux Trends New Urban Tribes and the New Rules of Retail. She regularly provides commentary on trends. This article originally appeared in African Independent August 2019 issue.