Denzel Vilakazi of NESU is a textile and fashion designer, born in KwaZulu-Natal.
He started off studying fine art , then later transferred to fashion design. He then pursued a career in the retail sector as a menswear trend coordinator. During this time he was exposed to different textiles and various means of production. His interest as a textile designer stems from his love of African classical music and the motivation to archive stories and cultures behind the veil.
He creates his designs from archives of older African styles in addition to his personal and ancestral teachings. Most elements in his artworks and designs are influenced by his Zulu heritage.
Denzel's mission is to preserve and enhance his heritage and culture. He aims to promote narrative-based design through cultural exchange.
Weaving narratives into textiles has long functioned as a medium of archival documentation in African societies. The formulation of Mpemba Helix draws motivation from the compositional elements used in Adire cloth.
This design commemorates Adire textiles prevalent throughout West Africa, particularly those of the Yoruba in Southwestern Nigeria while incorporating motifs synonymous with beadwork from AmaZulu. Primarily administered by women, the production of Adire cloth in contemporary culture has become more inclusive. The traditional production employed resistant dye techniques involving sewing parts of the fabric, dyeing it and later exposing soft blue-hued motifs against an indigo backdrop.
Additionally, the objective of Mpemba Helix is to cultivate similarities in communities disconnected along geographical boundaries while constructing reimagined identities.
Umbhele print brings interrelatedness to the forefront as an exemplified modern identity informed by ancestral memory and cultural cosmology.
The creation of UMbhele is in the traditional style of Zulu beadwork (Ubhlalu). In antiquity, most patterns were symmetrical and often provided distinguishing markers used as identifiers of gender hierarchy and social status. On the other hand, the usage of ubhlalu was for sharing coded love letters, working them into an intricate pattern with symbolic colour use, often
through the usage of the inverted chevron or triangles. Similar geometric elements constructed in the UMbhele print are echoed throughout many cultures in Africa across various works of art.
This print aims to encourage the observer into articulating meaning making and identity.