If you were having coffee with me we would be hanging out with Pamhidzai Hlezekhaya Bamu owner of The Afrodiva, an Afrocentric Accesories Brand and Movement… Pamhi hails from Zimbabwe and is currently based in the United States.
First question is always Coffee or Tea?
I am a tea person… I don’t drink coffee at all. I love tea especially decaf, so I am a big rooibos fan.
Are you a night owl or an early bird?
A night owl. I sleep around midnight or 1am. I am less of an early bird than I used to be, my schedule and way of working has changed.
I have always been a diva, I like attention to detail, fashion, style, nice things. I love things that go together, go big or go home type of person… but not a diva like other divas one sees. I have always loved the culture, the art and the essence of Africa and I incorporate that in my style. That’s why I came up with the name The Afrodiva.
The Afrodiva is name I started using in 2007 when I begun doing a lot around Afrocentric styles and compiled a folder of all my photos in Afrocentric styles and pieces; I named that folder The AfroDiva and over a decade later, it became the name of my shop.
I am a great fan of your Instagram feed you are bold confident and clearly have fun… Great strategy… Wait is there strategy?
Strategy… To be able to connect with the people I am trying to reach. I want my audience to know who I am and to make myself unforgettable.
Social Media is really crowded so many people appearing to do lot of what appears to be the same thing. One has to find a way to distinguish themselves and I found that coming out and showing up as myself, letting people see my personality and know about me helped me to stand out.
I am not just another person trading in Afrocentric pieces, I am somebody someone out there can relate to, Pamhi, The AfroDiva…
What sparked the dancing?
Before the pandemic, 2018 and 2019 the bulk of my business was from selling at events and festivals. I had an online page but I wasn’t actively marketing on social media. You can imagine that the global pandemic with events being cancelled, was a heavy blow. Although I had a long term plan to develop my website and work on social media marketing before then just hadn’t had the time to fully do this…
In the midst of the frustration and depression of it all, it hit me really hard not being able to visit, travel, go out… I wanted to do something to cheer people and cheer myself up. Dancing is part of who I am and I what I do. I decided to try an experiment where I danced as I presented what I had and see how it goes.. The feedback was overwhelming people saying how it put a smile on their face and made them want to dance too and how they looked forward to seeing what I did on Merry Mondays.
You are currently based so far from home and by home I mean the motherland… What do you miss about it.
I am based in the United States, Maryland, Washington DC, I miss home so much. I miss the people. My extended family and my in-laws are back home, I love being around them and the time we spent together. It was also easier to get support back home I miss that
The US is a great place but… everyone is busy, people get caught up in their schedules getting together with friends, its just different from what it is at home.
I am sure picking a favourite ensemble is hard but let’s say aliens showed up and said we won’t invade this planet if you show us culture what apparel would you showcase
….. I would want to show them our African prints, so I would put on a bold and bright print and put that together with a bright accessory.. But acknowledging that we don’t always wear these prints and traditional fabrics.. So would also wear another ensemble, be it trousers and a blouse or jeans and a top and top it up with African beads
We are multifaceted and being African doesn’t mean you have to wear African prints, sometimes you can show the African side style of flavour by incorporating accessories into an ensemble that was otherwise not African
What’s come as a cultural shock about being in the United States
Here people are more concerned with their nuclear family, back home we includes the extended family. A cousin is just a cousin you don’t have to explain if they are first cousin or second cousin.
There is a difference in how we deal with some issues, like when a friend lost their mother and there was a debate on whether they should take 2 day or 3 days off… back home this would not even be up for debate.
So are you East African Or West African Diva… And for those who havent observed it whats the difference?
I am inclined towards West African
East African suppliers are less inclined to prepare matching sets of accessories, they stand alone, a beautiful necklace wont have matching bracelet and you will have to mix and match through the collection.
West African dealers are more likely to present their pieces in matching sets, everything matches fabulously, the necklace, the earrings the bracelets, a very matchy matchy style
I like order, I like structure and prefer to have a matching sort of style but some of the sets can get overpowering having the same elaborate detailing and have come to appreciate toning down some accessories with others
How supportive is your family of The AfroDiva?
My family has been extremely supportive, firstly my husband who has been encouraging and understanding, giving his input, ideas, physical support, helping me stay the course. Sometimes when the doubt kicks, in my family is very encouraging. My aunt and uncle, my mbuya and sekuru have helped a lot especially in the beginning coming to all the events, help set up and take down, lending me their car. My dad is very understanding.
If this were a TV this is the part you wave and do shout-outs… Who your shouts going to?
My shoutouts definitely to my husband Tirivangani Chipunza, then to my dad, Uncle Phil, mbuya and sekuru Mugore and all The AfroDivas out there who have come out and supported this..its not just a brand or business: Afrodiva is a movement.
Thank you so much for your time…. And bonus question, off the top of your head what’s the most interesting thing you have discovered about an accessory or jewel…
They say Africa is dark continent and we didn’t know much before the colonial people came to Africa’s shores but there’s stories like the Krobo Beads from Ghana. Recycled glass beads. They date back centuries…
I used to see them and didn’t understand how they were made. Krobo beads are made of glass which is crushed, mixed with dyes, melted at high temperature and poured into a mould. Every single bead is unique, no bead looks the same because if the process they go through and the way the colour pattern lands as the glass is poured into the mould.
The resourcefulness, ingenuity and creativity that Africa has always had…
How do people connect with you?