By Nathaniel Gondo
Kundai Ruwizhi, a 24-year-old computer systems engineer and fashion enthusiast, has been appointed as a member of the Creative Youth Advisory Council (CYAC) of The Assembly Hub, a platform for African fashion entrepreneurs and professionals.
Ruwizhi, who hails from Zimbabwe, is one of the thirteen representatives from across the continent who will advise The Assembly Hub on issues relating to the youth in the creative sector.
She remarked that she was surprised by the opportunity; but seized it to benefit not only herself, but also the Zimbabwean creative community, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Why me? I guess I have been asking myself that question all my life! But it was an opportunity that came to my attention because I am always looking for opportunities that can benefit not only just me, but the Zimbabwean creative community, especially young minds from disadvantaged backgrounds who do not pass for ‘class’ as they call it,” she said.
The Assembly Hub, founded by Yoanna ‘Pepper’ Chikezie and based in Nigeria, is a community and platform that provides business, creative and professional support for ambitious entrepreneurs, professionals and creatives in the fashion industry. They also offer creative consultancy services and access to knowledge, people and resources.
The CYAC is a non-executive partner in the governance structure of The Assembly Hub. Its main task is to ensure that the needs, ideas and solutions of young creatives across the fashion value chain are at the centre of their work and governance.
Ruwizhi had to go through a rigorous application and interview process to secure her position on the CYAC. She beat over a hundred applicants and became the only Zimbabwean on the board.
“I applied for it and went through a series of interviews and amongst hundred plus bright minds that applied, I was one of the thirteen selected,” she remarked.
Ruwizhi is already geared up for work and her first priority is to ensure that all creatives receive equal opportunities regardless of race, gender or class.
“I am looking forward to being part of massive change. I am looking forward to giving it my all in terms of making sure every creative out there gets the same opportunity as any other creative.”
Although the opportunity is international, Ruwizhi remains patriotic and proud of her culture and heritage. She seeks to foster a sense of pride and a spirit of collaboration among Zimbabwean creatives.
“I will fight for my kind and make sure we have a seat on the table and be proud of our culture and heritage and have the spirit of collaboration. There may be opportunities outside, but Zimbabwe will always be home and we have to preserve it and be proud to show that in our projects,” she said.
As for the current state of Zimbabwean fashion, Ruwizhi admits that there are many challenges, but she prefers to focus on the positives.
“If it’s about what the industry is lacking? It’s a lot, but we can’t just go without applauding the successes of the creatives who are making waves locally and internationally.”
She went on to highlight the nepotism and favoritism that is rife in the industry.
“It is hard because if you do not know anyone or try your best to suck up to people, your success may eventually be short lived.” Ruwizhi envisions a meritocracy in fashion, where creatives are recognized by their talent and hard work. “I want everyone to feel confident enough in pushing their work and talent without the fear of not being accepted by a certain class.”
Ruwizhi bemoaned the sad reality facing most Zimbabwean creatives who are forced to give up their dreams due to financial problems and a lack of support or guidance.
“It pains me to see a lot of young creators in Zimbabwe just give up due to financial constraints or even lack of real moral support and guidance. Where are the people who have made it and are supposedly giving back to the community? What criteria is being used to help?” she lamented.
It is evident that Ruwizhi shall be focusing on the subaltern during her tenure. She believes the real talent is being overshadowed by those with access to capital and opportunities, and destroying that perception is the first step to change in Zimbabwean fashion.
She added, “I have seen how tough and devastating it is to have talent, but not have a voice and that is the change I want to see. Talent isn’t in the city it’s in the outskirts! And once we embrace that talent isn’t the amount of money or opportunities handed down to you? Maybe we can appreciate these young creatives on the rise.”
Ruwizhi calls on the responsible authorities to enact laws that protect creatives from exploitation and she hopes to see a day where creatives are duly rewarded for their work.
“We need a set of rules or laws in place to protect these young creatives because I have seen them work hard and only be awarded a branded t-shirt as if that can pay the bills'” she explained.
She envisions a reality where creatives can have livable and respectable careers due to their talents.
“These are real people trying to make a living and we need to change the narrative of creatives and artists starving to death because their jobs are apparently not real jobs. Models need to be paid and not just peanuts, liveable wages. I will fight for the creative community until my last breath especially Key Populations.”
Zimbabwean creatives are blessed to have such an ambitious and thoughtful young woman representing their interests on an international initiative.
We are positive that by the end of her tenure, Kundai Ruwizhi would have brought some much-needed change to the Zimbabwean fashion industry.
Ruwizhi hopes that her appointment will open more doors for Zimbabwean fashion and inspire more young people to pursue their passions in the creative sector.
She believes that with hard work, dedication and support, anything is possible.
To stay up to date with this trailblazer and the work she’s doing as part of the CYAC, you can follow her social media: igobykundai.
You can also contact her directly on: +263 77 749 3544.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the Assembly Hub and it’s various initiatives for creatives, visit their social media: assemblyofficial.
You can also check out their website: https://www.theassemblyhub.com/