Not only the beat…General Mambo and Vision Africa invade the world with hair-clips artistry
My vision is for my products to be rated the best even in America within the next few years.
PRETORIA – To some, the name General Mambo is widely associated with musical group Vision Africa, who churn out reggae beats, but that is not all they are good at.
Mambo, the architect of the band’s existence, is also a master with with his hands, having invaded the world with wire beaded hairclips and Alice bands more than a decade ago, and refusing to look back.
African Voice Global recently caught up with the Pretoria-based artist and businessman for an exclusive interview, in which he verbally retraced his steps to where it all began and laid out his vision to take African art to the rest of the world.
“I invented wire beaded hairclips in 2003 and Alice headbands in 2007,” says the 42-year-old Vision Africa leader.
“I believe I am the first person to create wire and bead woven hairclips and Alicebands in the whole World. I create them in a wide range of designs to suit different people’s choices. Our hairclips have different sizes to suit the length of the hair and the age group; we have them in small sizes, medium sizes, large sizes and extra-large.
“They come in different shapes also. We have straight sides and Zig-zag-shaped ones, but they both work comfortably in the hair. Mostly, our hairclips are won by women. I have created a Raster Clip and I love it because it came as a result of public demand. They asked me to create a design for Rasta Farai people (who love their unity and peace colours ). Since the time I began to create these hairclips, I have never stopped. I can say this is the job that is putting food on my table.”
However, as a band member in a continent where musical sales have taken a dive due to piracy, General Mambo decided he had to give his band members something to do in order to grow the bond and keep the group together.
“I trained all my band members on how to make the hairclips so that we may be able to supply the world in large amounts. We realised that there was no employment in our country so I had to think deeply in terms of job creation for the band. The reason was that we wanted to be in full-time in music but we didn’t have the Music Intruments, so we wanted to have a business that may bring us money to buy instruments and vehicles to transport us up and down during shows. Up to now the hairclips are being made by me and other Vision Africa band members.
“I also trained my brothers and sisters and cousins to make the clips. All members of my family know how to make the clips. They also help our music band to make these clips, especially when we get bigger orders from overseas. I also had to train some of my guys in my areas and where I am based. Even here in South Africa, I train many South African young men and women to make the clips – both blacks and whites because I believe we can only make Africa a great continent by combining and sharing our skills. I have also trained a few guys from Kenya, who I found in South Africa. I want to help empower my community. I still love to teach more people, especially the young ones in schools and after schools.”
The Zimbabwean-born talent says he was touched when he interacted with people from especially less-privileged South African communities.
“I realised that most South Africans, especially the youth, lack critical skills and they got nothing to do after school. That is why the weak among them end up getting into drugs. Because I love every African and I am happy with the good reception I got when I came here, I decided to share my skills and any time I am available to teach more people. I only lack the resources like enough material to go and teach them at a place like an Arts Centre,” adds General Mambo, who adds that what he started as a pass time hobby has blossomed into something big.
“Little did I know that this would be a successful venture when I started. I was really shocked by the response of our women, especially the whites. They have been supporting us, buying from our hand made clips. Clients fly from as far as America to South Africa just to buy our clips. I thank God we still exporting lots of handmade hairclips to overseas countries like Canada, America, Australia … and we still praying to have more distributors from all over the world. We are calling for more people who could love to work with us in especially the distribution of our clips. Anyone is warmly welcome.”
Mambo, born Clever Mambo in Gandami area under Wiltshire Charter District in Chivhu Zimbabwe, did not enroll in any art school for his trade.
“I thought art myself. The wisdom of God is helping me create everything I do. I used to see my mother make some handmade art and craft with other women. She used to go with me to their club, where they made some bead works for the kitchen and other things,” he says.
“I used to learn from what they were doing and this I grew up with in mind. After inventing my hairclips, I registered my designs with South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry, who granted me Design Certificates for the ownership and protection of my products. I am grateful to the South African government for the honour. I am also glad that our hairclips and Alice bands have become the best and strongest hairclips in the world.
“I now want them to be the best clips in America. We give a one-year guarantee on our hairclips and since we started making them, none of them have ever been condemned or returned back by our agents from both overseas and locally. My hairclips are superior, hand-made and hand-woven by the Vision Africa Band.”
Mambo can be contacted via +27 62 359 0533 or via email at [email protected]