Vocalist, bassist and fearless fashion iconoclast, the Noisette's Shingai Shoniwa is the ideal model and muse for KISUA's launch collection. Photographed by Lena Emery at London's Barbican performing arts centre, Shoniwa wears pieces that are the result of collaborations with designers from Kenya and Nigeria. With her signature sculptural up-do and high cheekbones, Shoniwa looks suitably iconic against the famed 1970s Brutalist architecture of the Barbican. Below the London-based performer tells KISUA about how her African heritage influences her every move.
Your mother is Zimbabwean, but you were born in London. How did you maintain your African roots growing up?
I come from a massive African family full of laughter. My roots, my African-ness, is not something separate to me. It is part of both my physical and spiritual make-up. All the stories my aunties and uncles told me as a child, the music, the food…I grew up surrounded by Africa.
You create hyper-realities through your music. Does your love of fashion play into this?
As a child my mother dressed us in extravagant outfits for family functions and I would customize further by wearing two different color socks. I have a profound creative thirst and my eye is always roving to shapes in nature. I am inquisitive about people and the world, and of course, fashion. I love to leave the house in a striking outfit and give the occasional person a smile and a wink if they look grumpy. Fashion is such a joy to share.
What is the place of African fashion on a global stage?
If Italian fashion is the guitar, and French fashion is the string quartet, then African fashion is the rhythm. It is the bass and the drums, setting the beat. African fashion is in a really great place right now. The tempo is picking up. It has the possibility to become commercial whilst still retaining the incredible heritage that all Africans share.
Do you have an African style icon?
My original fashion hero is my Malawian Grandmother, Gogo, who was the village dressmaker. She could stitch up a marriage and mend a broken heart with a sowing machine. With this foundation I am constantly on a journey to explore African fashion further.
How do your African roots inspire your sound with the Noisettes?
I use my voice as an instrument to tell stories, that's how my heritage comes through. I absolutely love African rhythm. Sometimes on stage I feel like I am a vessel to sing and represent something that is ancient—even if I don't totally understand it at the time.
Who are your ultimate African music heroes?Miriam Makeba, Thomas Mapfumo & The Blacks Unlimited, Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi and Fela Kuti.
Images: Lena Emery
Styling: Luke Radloff