Three years ago I was on maternity leave with my infant daughter and deep in planning for my dream business. I asked myself why it was not possible to find online what I wanted to buy from Africa. I told myself that someone else would surely come along and launch something to fill the gap that I had seen. Nobody did. I told myself that maybe it was because nobody wanted to buy what I wanted to buy from Africa. I came up with lots of reasons why I shouldn’t launch a brand or an online store. I trotted out hypothetical reasons why an African home ware brand would not succeed. ‘’Too niche’’, ‘’too ethnic’’, ‘’too difficult’’. I ignored those voices and instead I researched the partners and products I wanted to stock. Then pumped up on Pinterest inspirational quotes (cheesy but great for gathering courage), I did a lot of calculations and took the plunge.
Thandi and her daughter Lili; as featured in Elle Magazine; photographed for in Deze Week/ Agenda
It has not all been plain sailing. There have been hiccups, mistakes and there have been moments that I have wondered if I had taken on too much. Logistics of moving goods from remote areas are sometimes difficult. Storage is expensive. Postal services can be frustrating. Launching Kudu was like jumping out of a plane and not being sure about whether I had packed a parachute.
Behind the scenes on various Kudu Home photoshoots – both in studio and on location in South Africa
I take a personal interest in each and every order. I like to know who is ordering what and where the items are going. I love the idea that something made by hand in Cameroon has found its way to a New York loft. I imagine the journey of a handwoven Swazi basket preparing to be unwrapped in a living room in Antwerp. I like to answer most customer queries myself. When we get things right, I am delighted. If we get things wrong, I want to know how I can fix things and do better. Running Kudu is a humbling experience and it is also a responsibility I take seriously. If I wouldn’t have it in my own home, I don’t sell it. On the one hand that makes things about my personal taste, which is for the out-of-the-ordinary. On the other hand, if you want to buy something ordinary then go to a big-box blue-and-yellow store and assemble it yourself. Those who have seen my home know it is a veritable showroom of African finds; Tonga stools, Namji dolls, carved animals, enamelware jugs, Swazi baskets, Xhosa pots. I really do live and breathe what I am doing.
Photos of some interiors of Thandi’s home
Here we are after a year of trading and I would like to thank everyone who has bought from KUDU. Every customer is valued. Those of you who have liked, shared on social media, signed up to receive our newsletters, thank you! It is thanks to support from all of you that African homewares are finally getting some of the attention they deserve. We have been featured in ELLE Magazine, Livingetc, London Metro, The Gay Times, Essential Kitchen Bathroom Bedrooms, Paris Match, De Morgen, Het Laaste Niews, and many more. The products stocked by Kudu provide valuable jobs to skilled and talented artisans, creators and cooperatives. They inspire people to keep on creating, keep traditions alive, be proud of their heritage and spread the cultural wealth of a beautiful continent.
Yours, bringing Africa home.