Meet Nondumiso wa kwa Ndaba, well-know as Tumi wa Tuku Affair. Tumi’s love for prints, African culture and passion for people has taken her on a journey to starting The Tuku Affair. A head-wraps, accesories and clothing brand that is changing the way women see and wear headwraps.
Please give us a background of The Tuku Affair and the inspiration behind it?
Firstly, thank you for the opportunity, I am so honored. Your website is absolutely fabulous, everything and anything that stems to celebrate blackness and womanhood is so necessary for our era, so thank you.
My name is Nondumiso wa kwa Ndaba, better known as Tumi wa Tuku Affair, I am a dark chubby girl who grew up being made to feel less than what I am because of what I look like. I was blessed enough to have two very headstrong parents, mama, in particular, is very pro-African and conscious. I was highly bullied in primary and high school, I was bullied for being dark, I was bullied for being big, and I was bullied for the church we worshipped in. Every single day was a hassle for me yet going home was always my solace. My aunt and uncle are avid travelers and they would always go to Mozambique and came back with lots of African print fabric. I became obsessed with it. It was almost like I found my identity in print, a way to express my confidence without saying much. African print made a statement for me, it was saying: I am an African, and I will never change, so deal with it. Amidst my love affair with print I also became quite obsessed with other African countries and reading up on them; I basically fell in love with myself through learning about other people who were just like me. When I went to varsity, head wrapping in different prints became my signature look and later when I discovered Instagram (think it was 2012), I started #tagging #Thetukuaffair in all my pictures, soon after that, people started calling me that… When I eventually took the plunge to start the business, the name was quite obvious.
A headwrap/tuku means different things to different people, even the way we tie it can change people’s perception of us. What does a Tuku mean to you?
Oh I love this question. In Africa, not just South Africa, wrapping your head as a woman is a sign of respect. This is why whenever African families have any significant events, women wrap their heads. Whether it is a funeral, wedding, or receiving elderly guests, women wrap their heads. So to me, head-wrapping is a sign of power, respect wrapped with a sense of ownership. The ownership of our stories, our struggles, joys and mostly our womanhood. Lol, I always scold black woman when they tell me how they think they don’t look good in head wraps because according to me, it is impossible for any black woman not to look good in a headwrap simply because head wrapping is ours, it belongs to us, it is a part of who we are.
What is your favorite head-wrap style?
I would be lying if I had to mention just one, lol. I head wrap daily so I do not particularly have one style that I love, but I must say that there are some styles that I know do not flatter my facial structure so I am drawn less to them.
The Tuku Affair has hosted head wrap how-to classes. Will there be more of these?
In my first year of business, I hosted an event called “The Ndlovukazi Indaba” and I tell you Masego it was an epic fail. Lol, Everything I had planned for that day did not go accordingly. Even though I had a turn up of over 60 ladies (I am grateful to this day for their confidence in me) but literally after that day, the imposter syndrome kicked in hard and I vowed to never host anything ever again, but recently I had a corporate gig with South Gate Mall and had head wrapping classes with them. The class was so successful and I had so much fun. I have a passion for people so interactions always bring me joy. I am honestly considering hosting more classes and maybe even making them into full-on events and bring in my friends in the make-up industry, have woman talks, bringing in my chefs to teach us how to cook authentically African food. You know, just turn the classes into feel good but beneficial events for black women.
What has been the highlight of The Tuku Affair?
Just getting the business off the ground has been a highlight and the fact that it’s been in operation for almost 3 years now. When I lay in my bed at night, I still can’t believe I did it. I am helping women feel good about themselves and getting those Inboxes and DM’s telling me how I have helped, are the highlight of the Tuku Affair.
“…I think it is so important for people to know that there is absolutely nothing special about me, I am just an ordinary girl who has enough confidence to go after what she dreams of…”
We love the affair you have with your Tukus and we couldn’t help but notice the different names that come with each styled combo. What inspires the names of your combos?
Lol, I love it when people take notice of the names. The names are purely based my state of mind. I have named the combos and head wraps after African Queens; I have named them after Flowers only found in Africa. I have named them After African tribes and I’ve also named them after affirmative African words like Imboko which means a strong woman and Masebotsana which means a beautiful woman. The names will always be of things we can relate to as Africans; the names will always be ours.
What is the one thing you want to bring to the women who wear The Tuku Affair accessories?
I would like to bring them confidence. Confidence in who they are and confidence in what they are capable of doing. Whenever I upload pictures of myself on the page, I always caption them “ the ordinary girl who just decided to go for it” because I think it is so important for people to know that there is absolutely nothing special about me, I am just an ordinary girl who has enough confidence to go after what she dreams of.
What can we look forward to from The Tuku Affair?
This is the first time I am sharing this, so I’m super excited to let my sisters (and brothers) who follow the Tuku Affair that In November, The Tuku Affair will be expanding into clothing. I am currently working with a qualified fashion designer to create a range that I would like to refer to as Modest African. The range will not only be for women, but it will include male clothing as well. I am so nervous for this new level of our journey but I am also so excited to be doing this. I hope everyone will receive the new growth with as much excitement as I have bringing it to them. I’m planning to host a full-on launch in Johannesburg and Pretoria. I am yet to secure a proper venue and date for Pretoria, but I can confirm that the Johannesburg event will be on the 21st of November. Thank you again for this opportunity, I do not take it for granted. Keep shining your light on other people, I know this will make your candle burn brighter.