Thebe Magugu’s New Dresses Pay Homage to Eight South African Tribes

Thebe Magugu has released eight dresses that bear interpretations of South African tribes, collectively known as the Heritage Dress. The dresses celebrate Xhosa, Zulu, Pedi, Vhavenda, Tswana, Tsonga, Tswana and Swati culture. Magugu told Vogue, “I wanted to memorialise the main eight cultures that we have here in South Africa because I so deeply appreciate my own.” Of Tswana origin, he said,

“We’re best known for our storytelling and our handwork, but all the other cultures have their own traditions and quirks that I really wanted to represent in a dress.”

Thebe Magugu partnered with Vuyolwethu Reoagile to write about the heritage of each tribe, giving a history lesson together with the unveiling of each heritage dress design. Of the VhaVenda, she said, “VhaVenda are highly spiritual people who revere their ancestors and water spirits, Zwidutwane. These water spirits are said to reside at the bottom of waterfalls, and offerings can be taken to them to appease them. Artists also hold a special place in the VhaVenda culture as they are seen as direct links to the ancestral realm. Dancing, drumming and singing are central to celebrating rites of passage and connecting with the spiritual realm.” Every lesson has an invitation to the public to share their knowledge of the culture in the comments of the post, with people showing appreciation for the showcase of culture.

Each dress in the capsule is bohemian-style with bishop sleeves and a foulard neckline. Of the design, he says, “It’s a proportion that looks good on everyone. I wanted anyone who sees that dress to be able to see themselves in it.”

The designer also partnered with Phathu Nembilwi to illustrate her interpretation of the tribes, which are printed onto the dress fabric. The dresses are now available for sale on with each cultural lesson accompanying it.

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