Exhibition at Café What in Maseru, Lesotho on Afro-Asian Wearable Art
For the past year and a half, I had the privilege of living in the village of Phutha in the mountains of Sanqebethu, Mokhotlong. It was here that I taught art lessons in and outside of school. I made many close friends, many of whom were balisana (shepards) in the village. It was with these young people that I became a student.
I learned the traditions of weaving with the two major grasses found in our mountains: moseha and lethepu. I learned how to weave in different patterns for different weather conditions and shapes–likatiba tsa letsatsi, likatiba tsa pula. I learned about hats and I also learned about my students, what they loved, what they feared and what they could accomplish with their hands.
After many cold afternoons of tangling grasses, I started constructing shapes that were not ordinary to our village life. These shapes were not very practical, but they were bringing together places that are special to me.
My time in Mokhotlong gave me space to contemplate my own identity and oddness. I’m an American artist living in Lesotho, with a Chinese father and an Indonesian mother. Over time, I shared pieces of this identity with the balisana. Through our weaving sessions, I learned Sesotho and SeXhosa, and I taught them English and Chinese and Bahasa. Through the hats, they shared with me a new way of life and I shared with them the stories that I am sharing with you all through this exhibit, stories from my childhood.
The name “Zhuang Ka Joang” combines these worlds. “Zhuang” in Mandarin (Chinese) means “powerful”. “Ka Joang” in Sesotho means “with grass”. The aspiration of the collection is that the wearer of these pieces becomes just that: powerful, strong, extraordinary in the presence of these natural, Lesotho-born materials woven into Asian styles.