Lifting the curtain.
Feet on the soil.
Wind in our hair.
Spices in our blood.
Songs from ashore.
We came here from different seas.
And now, we are Creole.
-Rizqah Dollie and Lulu Maha
Gordyn, an Afrikaans word, translated to ‘curtain’ is precisely where the creative minds and founders of the fashion brand and concept Creole Van Cabo drew their spiritual inspiration from. Notions of unraveling, digging beyond the historical layers and lifting the veil inspired couple Reshaan and Rizqah Dollie to bring to life a sustainable fashion concept. Both born in the Cape, the two looked into their personal historical archives, recalling their lineage, culture, heritage and connection to the land of the Cape. Both are visual anthropologists, producing work under their company The Dollie House. With over ten years of working together immersed in unearthing the heart of community storytelling.
“The Dollie House engages every project with a keen eye and acute sense of respect for authentic stories as they emerge. Marrying skill and artful flair has never been this easy as The Dollie House documents and tailors every project with heart.”
The term Creole, deriving its meaning from the root Latin word “creare”, which means “to make, raise, produce or create”. The polysemous term has gained a lot more recognition in the fields of anthropology and cultural studies. According to Managan (2005), even though many scholars may be speaking about the notion of ‘creole’, it is evident that this word holds a lot more complexities and may therefore be considered heterogeneous in its theoretical explication.
More commonly known for its association to language, where Managan settles on the argument that, according to a majority of linguists, Creole is oft considered as having “no common linguistic features and can instead only be defined based on the similar sociohistorical contexts in which they seem to have emerge.” One such context highlighted by the research from both Reshaan and Rizqah are the links and interconnections between the notion of Creole and the history of slavery in the Cape. Simply working from the basis of creole from its direct meaning “locally born” (instead of its previous/current racial understones such as Malao or Half-Caste), the two interrogate this idea as having ancestral Cape lineage. Originally the slaves brought into the cape were referred to “by-name van Cabo or van der Kaap or Cape Creoles”. One such ‘slave’ name that comes to mind is the infamous Sara van de Kaap born in 1775, daughter of Trijn van de Kaap and Coridon of Ceylon, known for her resilience and ownership of property in Dorp Street, including the mosque. Celebrated, especially by the South African Muslim community, as the person who used her property not as a means of wealth gain but instead as offering the land and mosque into perpetuity (waqf). An example of a woman, known for her history of slavery and contributor to cultural reform and anti-colonial political resistance in South Africa.
The term Creole has completely transformed and taken on a new life in different contexts who have different forms of language.
“However, this original meaning has often changed over the last five centuries, and in most cases the term has come to designate some distinct local ethnic group — often, but not always, of mixed Slave, European and native ancestry. The African Islands (Cabo Verde, Mauritius, Zanzibar, Madagascar etc) and mainland centres where Slavery has left strong markers all have Creole populations and Creole languages. Here Creoles are generally people of mixed ancestry.” (ZINTO, 2007).
Creolisation, as we have come to understand it, is the celebration of this idea of mixedness. Ululating and sings the praises of ancestral heritage, food, music, art, dress and cultural practices. South Africa, in all its historical trauma, war, slavery, and democratic freedom, roots itself in its peoples’ identities.
Creole Van Cabo is a philosophical reclaiming. Taking back its reigns from the tyrannical iron fists of the colonisers, this fashion forward brand is held together by an umbilical cord of new generational whispers, land, languages and our mother tongues… all of this, all of their archiving, reclaiming and rebuilding for:
For Lulu Maha. Their daughter. She carries with her 16 great grandparents who have hailed from 16 different places of origin with different nationalities, languages and heritage. Lulu Maha, a source of the Divine, an ocean of depth and a wanderer of her own. Immersed in the cloth designed by her parents, translating the threads of her ancestral past.
Creole Van Cabo is a fashion construction of anthropology. Each garment is researched with intention and spiritual purpose. This not only solidifies the importance of cloth and the ways in which we inherit cloth, material, pattern that hold cultural significance for us, but it is almost a creolisation of its own. The mixing and movement of material crafted by local entrepreneurial South African women as a foundational growth of the “small business”, the “grassroot” business or the business which attempts “to decentralize local garment manufacturing and avoiding a four-hour daily commute, saving travel costs and more importantly, time and peace of mind.”
More importantly, Creole Van Cabo is about a languaging -it is the historical significance of fabric and how our garments carry energy, stories of those who have lived before us and with every fibre, is a woven tale of the young Lulu Maha as she lifts the curtains with her feet in the soil, her hair in the wind, the spice in her blood, the songs from ashore from the seas that had carried her here.
She is Creole.
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