Our Story

For the Love of Shweshwe

Shwe shwe. Don’t you just love how pretty that sounds? It just rolls off your tongue…You’ve probably noticed that I love to use a certain vibrant fabric for Bamba Zonke. This fabric is called shweshwe. I use shweshwe because it’s both gorgeous and durable, but what I love the most is that it’s so unique and comes in a range of vibrant colours. I adore bright colours! I also enjoy working with the diversity of prints and at times the designs remind me of Japanese flower prints or 70s-style prints. It’s a fabric that keeps my inspiration flowing. These three are currently my favourite prints (click on them for a bit more info!) My favourites change all the time but can you really blame me?
I recently had a wonderful time unpacking shweshwe’s history. I was surprised to discover that as much as the fabric is very much South African, it’s roots lie in Holland. Shweshwe fabric is made from Indigo cloth, which first appeared in Southern Africa in 1652 after the Cape of Good Hope was established. The fabric was imported from Holland and made popular by the women German settlers. Soon it was worn by everyone from the Khoi-san and the soldiers, to the slaves.
Today a small textile company in the Eastern Cape called Da Gama Textiles is the sole producer of the original “German Print”.
So how did the printed indigo cloth get its name? Legend has it that King Moshoshoe of Lesotho was gifted the fabric by French missionaries in the 1800s, and the clothe became known locally as the shoeshoe cloth, which eventually became shweshwe. Shwe shwe is clearly a cloth that brings people together. What's not to love?