The Power of Collaboration: The Launch of Mory Jay & The Return to My Roots

09/15/2017 09:15 pm ET Updated Sep 17, 2017
“I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.” —Chimamanda Ngozi

After I launched my label Mory Jay, in June 2017 I still felt like there was something missing. Here I was having dug deep and harnessed all the inspiration I could from my African culture to create this fourteen piece collection, yet I had not been back to Africa in fifteen years. I realized that there would never be a perfect time for me to go back to Zimbabwe. Things would not all of sudden fall into place and be perfect for me to embark on that trip. I just had to do it. So I did just that! I went back to Zimbabwe with some pieces from “The Midzi Collection”

The most amazing thing was that as much as I did not have a plan on what to do once I was there, the universe had it all figured out for me. I just had to make the first step and get on that plane to Africa. The Zimbabwe which I once I knew had changed so much since I had been there. What I came to discover though was that yes things were tough, but people continued to live and thrive despite the circumstances. The resilience and vibrance of the Zimbabwean people is so inspiring to me. I was even more inspired when I connected with Chiedza Mahere, a local creative who founded the fashion blog “Diary of Smurf Dinkie” Through her network I was able to connect with her boyfriend Ngoni ‘Zash’ Chinara Creative Director and Photoghrapher at Crafted Media. I also ended up connecting with Danayi Chafika, the designer behind the brand Haus Of Stone, and owner of the botique ISU Collections. Together with Eva, Chiedza’s childhood best friend and my aunt Raviro Mondo, we decided to have an impromptu photo shoot in the streets of Harare. We had no concept or plan but just a love for the city, art, and a mutual respect for each other’s talents.

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My new collection “Mory Jay” would be the center of everything! To be honest with you, that was probably one of the best days of my trip back home. Being among these local creatives who continue to follow and pursue their passion despite the circumstances and lack of resources, or opportunities. They are like flowers blooming in a desert which a lot of people have given up on. I was so blown away by everyone’s talent and the outcome of our collaboration! To me that is their magic and what makes me proud to be a Zimbabwean too. They are creating opportunities, staying true to themselves, and making in work for them. I got an opportunity to converse with Zash and Chiedza and got an insight of what it is like for them to be creatives in Zimbabwe.

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Image by <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.craftedmedia.co.zw/" target="_blank">Zash&#x2F;Crafted Media</a>
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Chiedza

I am a Graphic Designer by profession. My boyfriend insisted I start a Fashion Blog but I had my own reasons not to start when he suggested it. It took a good 2 years of convincing and here we are. If it wasn’t for Zash I doubt I would even be here talking about my fashion journey. He has really helped me work on everything. He even takes the amazing pictures on my blog and helps with the writing too. Some of the challenges I faced in the Fashion Industry in Zimbabwe is that I had to approach people who didn’t know who I was and I had to convince them that I kind of sorta knew what I was doing. And the fact that I mix fashion designed clothes and thrifted clothing a lot of designers didn’t gel well with that so sometimes I don’t see eye to eye with some of them, which proves difficult and why I have just started concentrating on my thrifted clothing.
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Chiedza

The pros of being a creative in Zimbabwe are that I’m one of the first Fashion Bloggers that ONLY shoots in the capital city Harare and that has really gotten a lot of attention from my fellow Zimbos. The cons are that most people still want me to post and talk about their fashion lines but they’re not willing to pay for it and they don’t see why they should. I think the people in Diaspora should by all means support Africa in general because there is so much happening here and there isn’t enough support like how we support the ones overseas. If you ask any teenager here they probably support a lot of artists overseas but the ones overseas don’t even know who exists here. I have hope, a lot of faith that all will change for the better good out here! I have so much love for fashion and I really want everything to be in place. Also Zimbabwe has so much potential! I think i’m trying to make a difference because I have been trying to teach my own people about our beautiful city through fashion and photography and the response from a number of people makes a difference. Zimbabwean creatives are putting in A LOT of work and it will soon pay off!
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Ngoni ‘Zash’

I was always interested in art but I never thought of myself as an artist. My entire creative journey could probably be described as slowly getting over my imposter syndrome. I went to college in Boston and I got really into the arts scene there. I was at business school but almost all my friends were musicians and fine artists. I didn’t even seek them out. It just happened like that. I was doing poetry slams, I was writing, I was making music with friends. I was really exploring my creative side. And then I took the plunge and bought my first camera. I was broke for a few weeks but it was the best purchase I ever made. I am inspired by so many things and people. I try and learn from as many sources as I can. I tend to draw inspiration from people with a “punk rock” mentality haha. I also love seeing people who make things happen no matter what the odds. In Zim we say “by ginya” which is like a motto that basically means getting it done no matter what.
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Zash

Being a creative in Zim is like being a pioneer. There is so much potential for the industry but there are also a lot of challenges. There is so much talent here but no industry to support it. In a developed country, a creative has the opportunity to rent equipment or take out loans for equipment or credit etc. Here a creative has to own all their tech and on top of that, you have to spend at a premium to get that equipment in this country. After all that, you have to charge at prices drastically lower than in other countries. Sometimes Ive been asked for discounts before a person has even seen my work. It can get  very frustrating. There is a lot of uncharted territory here. So when I take photos in the city, sometimes I’m the first person to ever take a photo in that part of that city. It’s a great place to pave your own path and grow creatively. Because there are so many untold stories to tap into.
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Image by Zash/Crafted Media Model: Eva

Zash

I love when people see my photos of the city and say ‘Wow, Ive never seen my city like this. You make Harare look cool. I hope I’m showing people photos of Africa that don’t just show where we live but HOW we live.
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Image by <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.craftedmedia.co.zw/" target="_blank">Zash&#x2F;Crafted Media</a>
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Zash

I think I really started exploring identity when I got here. Most photography of Africa before was “Suffer Photography”. People in dire situations and whatnot. It frustrated me because I felt like the complexity of Africa wasn’t being shown. Even in fashion photography people were either taking photos to make it look like it wasn’t in Zimbabwe or they took photos in some decrepit location to juxtapose the nice clothes. In photography I think its important sometimes to lay something bare and create a beautiful image from everyday life. Helmut Newton once said A woman does not live in front of white paper. She lives on the street, in a motor car, in a hotel room. I think what he was getting at was the fact that a good image shows how someone lives their life. I like to stage photos too, but for the most part, I make images that show how people live.
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