Fungai Nembaware: I am not your average fashion designer, I am a cultural ambassador

Drawing on ancient Africa, Fungai Nembaware creates accessories from African fabric Click To Tweet

Fungai Nembaware, a mother of two boys, a five and eight-year-old started Zuwa Re in 2008. It started as a hobby and building it into a company was something that was just playing in the background. When her son was six months old she decided to go for it, and make shoes, earrings, jewelry, from African fabric. She terms herself a cultural ambassador.

Zuwa Re officially started in 2008. Fungai had no formal training but believes what she does is is part of her gift. “African fabric celebrates who we are, and Africa is bright and full of life”, Fungai says.

She was looking at re-living and preserving our culture and history. Read on to discover how Fungai Nembaware is teaching people about this history through her art.

Where does your name come from? And what does your logo signify?


Most of my influences are from ancient Africa.  The name is both Shona and Egyptian, Zuwa which means “sun” in Shona a Zimbabwean dialect, and Re which means “sun” in Egyptian. So it basically means Sun of God because I believe every gift comes from a higher source.

My logo is a scarab beetle, from ancient Egypt made from the shabaka stone. You can see the sun’s rays from the back shining.

What distinguishes your business offering from the competition?

I am not your average fashion designer, I am a cultural ambassador. My work comes from well thought out research and isn’t the same as the work out there. For example, when I started the totem earrings, people were skeptical about them and they thought they IMG-20170222-WA0000were anti-religion.

Being in the Diaspora, the totem earrings were a way of bringing people together because the family nucleus is diluted. It was to re-emphasize the importance of our culture through oral and creative tradition and educating people of our culture and the importance of togetherness. The totem earrings will help in identifying another sister in a foreign land.

It is hard to keep our culture alive because there is so much diffusion. Putting this across in wearable art was very personal. It involved the reawakening of people to a certain level of consciousness and understanding of our histories and culture. This was also a way for me to contribute to the writing of the story of our ancestors as this identifies us as a people. I would like to restore and reclaim our position as African people.

I would like to restore and reclaim our position as African people - Fungai Nembaware Click To Tweet

How would you describe your business model as you are based in the UK, but have a presence in Zimbabwe?

My umbilical cord is in Zimbabwe and therefore I try and work with a few tailors in my home country.

I believe every woman’s hands are gifted, and with the use of our hands, we will never be found lacking. We should always think of how we can create our own work.

What more can government do to support small businesses?

The government needs to find more sustainable ways of supporting women in Zimbabwe. They should speak to young girls and identify people that they can teach and or give loans to. There are a lot of people with visions but they lack resources.

What business advice would you give your younger self?

Firstly, I would say to parents don’t discourage your children if they want to venture
in a particular field. When I was younger I wouldn’t dream of saying I want to go to dress making but had I gone there, I would have achieved my dream a lot sooner.

To younger me, I would say do not be ashamed of following your passion, go in and go hard. Be resilient and focused and know that every time you send a positive vibe or word into the universe, a positive vibe will come back to you. Zuwa-Re-Fashion-Model-Main12

Find a tribe of like-minded people, who can encourage you. Know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses but improve your strengths. When you get into business, you should know what you want, and believe in yourself 100%.

Pursue good business practices, research, have a mentor, get inspiration from people who have done it before, and find out what made them different, what made them survive? You shouldn’t just wake up and want to do a business without a plan.

You should remember that we are all unique, even if there are a 100 people making the same thing that you are making. Improve your skill every time. Don’t limit yourself.

Fungai Nembaware - You shouldn't just wake up and want to do a business without a plan Click To Tweet

How do you achieve a work home balance?

I am a mother of two boys, studying and running a business. I won’t say that is easy but I will say that I am a strong person mentally.

Then I have a great support system, which is really important, we pray and encourage each other. I have a lady who helps me with school runs and the children when I am overwhelmed with work.

How do you market your business?

I haven’t done a lot of marketing, it has mainly been through word of mouth and via my facebook page.

However, I do plan on going bigger this year, 2017. I want more and more people to understand what my work is all about and be able to relate to it.


Where can people in Africa buy your creations?

Online. I have quite a number of loyal customers in Zimbabwe and I have been shipping to the US and Canada and recently Dubai. There was and still is a huge gap in shipping.

What should we look forward to in the next 5 years?

In one word, it will be diversification. I plan to do a lot more charity work and incorporate this into my art.

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