Sho Madjozi is the Of Africa icon we deserve3 minute read

Sho Madjozi is a human exclamation mark. Every time she takes the stage she delivers a dizzyingly high energy performance and before she hits the stage she suits up in a colourful Tsonga Xibelani skirt. It might not seem extraordinary that a young woman would choose to wear clothing that reflects her heritage, culture and people. But for young black South Africans seeing Sho Madjozi proudly and unapologetically embracing an extension of herself is a bold, revolutionary act. It has led to Tsonga fashion and culture being seen and celebrated on the world stage.

Sho Madjozi was born Maya Wegerif in the northern province of Limpopo, South Africa to a South African mother and a Swedish father. When reflecting on her experience of growing up Tsonga she said, “it was just growing up. I didn’t know there was another way to grow up. It’s only in hindsight that I appreciate having been immersed so deeply in my language and the cultural practices of my people because I see that so many black South Africans of my generation were not.”

She speaks Tsongo, isiZulu, Sepedi, English, French and Kiswahili, which she learnt while living in Tanzania. In fact, one of her biggest hits ‘Huku’, meaning ‘here’, is in Kiswahili where she sings and raps. In May, she dropped the music video for Huku and now a little over six months later the video has over 2.6 million views. The video stars Smash Afrika as her love interest.

Before her music career took off, Sho Madjozi lived in Tanzania, Senegal and the USA. Asked what her travels taught her about herself and race politics, she states, “So called race is completely arbitrary. I’ve been called “mlungu” meaning “white person” in rural areas, I’ve been called metisse and point 5 meaning mixed race in Senegal and Tanzania, and black in the US. I know that culturally, I identify as black, Tsonga, South African, but I also acknowledge that by being lighter skinned I get treated differently to black people who are not half white.”

Sho Madjozi is also known for her signature cornrows. Many, including myself, frequently flock to her Instagram for style inspiration. On November 18th she was awarded the Most Innovative Style trophy at the 22nd annual SA Style Awards. On the importance of the celebration of black hair and self-acceptance she explained, “Sometimes I look at a whole group of black women all wearing straight hair on top of their own head and it’s so obvious that we haven’t fully learned to love ourselves. We are not to blame, those women are not the ones to blame, but there is definitely a problem. ”

Her advice for women and girls of Africa? “Support each other. Protect each other. Don’t ever drag another woman for the approval of any man. Because an elevated position for women will benefit us all”. Sho Madjozi is currently working on her first documentary, ‘The History of Xibelani’. The film explores the traditional Xitsonga garment and tells the story of the history of an ethnic group and ultimately the history of black South Africans.

Today (December 14) her first album #LIMPOPOCHAMPIONSLEAGUE drops. Check it out here.

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Julia Chanda Zvobgo is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ‘Of Africa’. She was born in Zimbabwe and raised in The Netherlands. As an Afropean she is always looking for new and creative ways to “make the invisible, visible”. She is a co-founder and a member of 'ethnovision' a collective of visual anthropologists and filmmakers. Julia also volunteers as the Director of Communications & Development for Tariro House of Hope, an NGO that transforms the lives of children and their communities in Zimbabwe.