The vehicle to travel out of depression is rarely available – if not impossible to be found. But one can always try his/her best to find a way out from such a weakening state of mind.
Kutlwano Mothibi, a second year Public Relations and Communication student at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), makes use of a clothing season – amongst other artistic expressions – as a vehicle to transit him from an enfeebling state of depression to one of hope and courage.
“I was in a very distressed state by the time I wanted to share the story behind Weirdo Season because I had come to a point where I could not express myself as an artist,” says Kutlwano.
He had to compromise his love for storytelling through music and the activities that couple this passion to pursue a career in academia, which is more desirable to his parents.
In so doing, “I felt like my parents and those close to me couldn’t understand me. That is why I felt weird, side-lined and like an outsider because they wouldn’t allow me to be the person I want to be,” ejaculates Kutlwano.
He ended up making what he calls “a deal” with his parents to study and then later “go out as an artist”. But this has so far proven to be beneficial for him as he says that he has learnt much from such an experience, which has made him to think big about his passion.
It was reasonably impossible for him to escape his passion of telling stories and although this story took another form, from his conventional medium of use, to be an item that people can wear, he is pleased with such a trajectory.
He, particularly, appreciates the fact that his story finally found a channel to be communicated because, “As an artist, I belief that when you share a story, you share a story on behalf of the people who are or were in the same situation as you,” says Kutlwano.
Hence, “This season is for any person who is able to relate to my story.” He added that it does not matter from what age group the recipient of this message maybe from, but the crux of the story is to deal with your distress by holding on to your dreams, even when it gets hard.
“It is tough being an African kid and trying to make it in the media because they (parents and other siblings) will always judge you for choosing a career in this industry and why not in science,” says Kutlwano.
Importantly, through this season, Kutlwano aims to boost the confidence of others, whom like him are conceptualised as weirdos by their entourage. “I don’t want people sitting on their dreams because they feel different. This is something that I went through,” he said.
Redefinition of the word: Weirdo
He also emphasised on the need for a redefinition of the word weirdo to add a different connotation that will be appealing to those who have went through what he has experienced.
“We are gonna use the word weirdo amongst ourselves (those who feel out-lined) so that we break the power it has – just like the Black African Americans use the word nigger amongst themselves for it to not carry more weight,” he says.
In this manner, they are trying to delete the taboo behind the word and normalise it to fit in within their ideas.
Source of motivation
The young artist draws his source of energy from a woman whom he describes as being stoic and resilient. “My biggest inspiration is my grandmother because she is from a generation that blacks were denied most of the opportunities, but she managed to break through those chains,” articulates Kutlwano.
She worked as a domestic worker and with the income that she generated from such a job, the dame took her children (one of which is Kutlwano’s mother) to primary school, high school and then university. “She took my mother to varsity so that she can put me in this level,” says Kutlwano.
The grandmother coupled all of those responsibilities with the establishment and later on growth of a successful business. “For a woman, that is even more of an achievement,” says Kutlwano.
His experience from the season so far
The season has so far managed to reach fans throughout Johannesburg but due to inadequate financial assistance from investors and the like, it did not go as far as out of Johannesburg.
The fuel behind the reach of this season has been the funds that he has been contributing for photo shoots, designs and the other activities needed to promote this season.
Of lately, he has been approached by a number of potential investors who like the idea and are willing to pump in some funds to help him promote this season that forms part of the Freshkids_ZA clothing brand.
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One of them is a female entrepreneur, who lived in Soweto and then recently migrated to New York City, United State of America.
He says that there are a number of lessons that he has acquired from this season but the paramount one amongst them is the understanding that team work is vital.
“What I’ve understood is that team work is everything. This has enabled me to work with different people from different races and backgrounds because a good story affects so many people, not just people from my race or neighbourhood,” says Kutlwano.
This lesson, in particular, has widened his perception about storytelling of it being specific and powerful when conducted appropriately.
On the other hand, there has been a uniform reaction from his fans about the season. “Most of them don’t understand the skull drawing and the reason behind it,” says Kutlwano. Hence, his fans consider such a season as ‘weird’ but he says that “one must never apologise for being different.”
Kutlwano’s outlook for the season
With the income that Kutlwano will generate from the sales of this season, he plans to “put something on the table to help change the circumstance of others who are struggling”.
“I’ve realised that if I’m to help people, I shouldn’t just be talking and telling stories; it does not really do much for a kid who is still in the same impoverished situation,” he says. “You boost their confidence, fine, but the circumstances around them are keeping them down.”
The Oken Samuel Foundation is the first place he desires to donate the funds from such a project. “I’ve told myself that I’ll make sure that this project becomes a success for me to donate a portion of what I’ll get to the (Oken Samuel) Foundation,” says Kutlwano.
He plans to do so because of his belief in the goodness of the activities performed by the Foundation, which he has been involved with for quite a while.
Images courtesy of @Joshxpeters Josh Peters.
Contact Kutlwano Mothibi: Kutlwano_21 (Instagram); Kutlwano Mothibi (Facebook)
(Contact Gaby Ndongo: firstname.lastname@example.org; +27 72 524 6053)