Sheli Masondo

The Visual Narrator

Clothes can tell you a lot about a person, their value, character, aesthetics, or the role they want to portray for the night.  Clothes also have a powerful way of making you identify a person’s culture,  heritage, lineage, age, and era. In terms of storytelling, clothes are referred to as “costumes” and sublimely they help drive the narrative of a story. Here is a Youtube video to her visual interpretation of Shaka Ilembe customs:

Sheli Masondo understands this completely, she’s the creative costume designer for Shaka Zulu Ilembe, and her designs are majestic,  breath-taking and craftily capture the beauty and essence of that period from the different types of beads to ibheshu nesdwaba as well as the significance of each custom. Masondo has an incredible eye for detail from the diverse natural hairstyles which celebrate African pride and beauty, to the beaded jewellery which shows craftsmanship and the vibrant colors of our culture.

Sheli Masondo’s work dignified characters from Baleka, a sangoma or traditional healer whose beauty was amplified with different types of beads as well as cowrie shells which were seen as sacred and represented currency and fertility in most ancient Bantu cultures. Elaborate necklaces and bracelets were used to represent the character’s social hierarchy and cultural celebrations. Masondo has truly opened our eyes to the versatility of black beauty.

She intensely studied for more than a year at the heartland of the story and got privileged to be guided by the best of our older generation who’ve kept the ancient craft and design of our cultural attire alive. She visited museums that have preserved historical costumes and artifacts for future generations.

Through her costume interpretation of the story Sheli Masondo has taken us through a visual stimulus of remembering our ancestor’s legacy and stories.   

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