"I try to work with integrity and be true to my ideas and the people I work with,‚Äù says gifted designer Mkuki Bgoya.‚ÄúIt is my way of showing clients that Tanzanian youth can be reliable, honest people.‚Äù Get the full story below...
¬†Patriotic through design
Photo by: Gabriel Makupa
Mkuki is the brain behind the ‚ÄòNyerere‚Äô and ‚Äò1961‚Äô funky-designed T-shirts that have become popular in the country.
‚ÄúThese are iconic images that symbolize Tanzania, inspired by a period we hold dear as Tanzanians,‚Äù he says. The T-shirt designs, produced under his label, Kina Klothing, carry messages of identity and patriotism.
Mkuki‚Äôs story crosses years and borders in search of his dream career. He is living the dream, running his own design company known as Spearhead.
Born in April 1981 and raised in Dar es Salaam, Mkuki is the last born in a family of three children.
He studied at Loyola High School in Dar es Salaam, and then received a scholarship to attend Texas A&M University in the USA. Mkuki began his studies in computer science but halfway through he decided to major in graphic design ‚Äì his long-time passion. At first Mkuki was worried that his parents wouldn‚Äôt approve of him doing an art-related course.
Oh‚Ä¶; was he wrong!
‚ÄúMy father is an avid art lover and appreciates anything that revolves around the arts, so he supported my decision wholeheartedly.‚Äù Mkuki completed his studies and received a bachelor‚Äôs degree in Design Communication. In his final semester, he was offered a job as designer at The Richards Group in Dallas, Texas.
Challenges back home
He worked there until the end of 2008, when he decided it was time to come home, to give back to his country.
Today, Mkuki and his father, Walter Bgoya, run a publishing house and bookshop called TPH Bookshop in Dar es Salaam. It has one of the largest collections of books by Tanzanian authors, such as Shaaban Robert, Shafi Adam Shafi, Hoyce Temu as well as hundreds of locally published and imported titles.This is also one outlet which sells Kina Klothing.
When he is not busy designing, Mkuki organizes a periodic event called Pen & Mic with a friend. This is a live platform that features poets, writers and musicians who touch on citizen issues that they see as vital for the country to move forward. Issues related to alleviating corruption are often featured.
He explains sorrowfully that one of the major challenges in his industry is plagiarism. In the design world, stealing a design is unethical and a form of corruption. But it isn‚Äôt just corruption in the design world that upsets him. He is shocked by the systematic corruption one finds at ALL levels in Tanzania.
‚ÄúWhen I was in primary school, a teacher ‚Äì and I don‚Äôt mean all teachers did this ‚Äì would get us to sell juice and ice cream so he could gain an income giving us one of the treats as a reward,‚Äù Mkuki says, adding he would have been caned if he refused.
‚ÄúIt is difficult to change behaviour,‚Äù Mkuki explains, ‚Äúbecause our culture teaches us to give a ‚Äòthank you‚Äô for a service done. But public services are supposed to be provided equally for all citizens. People should not pay more than what is required by the law when they seek these
He says paying ‚Äòbaksheesh‚Äô (tips) risks breeding a culture of negligence and complacency in that people just sit back and expect or demand it before doing their work.
Imagine having a seriously sick relative in a queue at the hospital. Do you wait and wait until they are catered for, or pay the extra cost to get first priority? This is one of those very real and tough situations. We are willing to pay a bribe to get preferential treatment, but by so doing we maintain the corrupt system, so nothing changes.‚Äù
Advice for fellow youth
First and foremost Mkuki says, is for us as Tanzanians to stop being ‚Äòhypocrites‚Äô about corruption. ‚ÄúThe youth will inherit this land so they should look at the history of this country and consider some of the fundamental values of equality, solidarity and patriotism which we can still build on. Sitting around the whole day doing nothing and complaining at the ‚Äòkijiwe‚Äô is not going to push us forward. We are behind, so we should work twice as hard.‚Äù
Mkuki finds it ironic that we have holidays, rest days, to celebrate ‚Äúthe hardest workers this nation has known, Nyerere and Karume‚Äù‚Äì‚Äì when we should be emulating their example by working hard.
Did you know that...
- Tanzanian Publishers, Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, is named after Mkuki and his sister, Nyota.
- Kina in Kina Klothing is the word for ‚Äòdepth‚Äô in Swahili
- The name Pen & Mic stands for poetry and writing (Pen) and music (Mic).