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The Call of Mami Wata

September 12, 2018

It is fitting that one of the most colorful and exciting shops we’ve stumbled upon in a long while, the Mami Wata Surf Concept Store, should be found in one of Cape Town’s most colorful neighborhoods, the Bo Kaap. Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, the Bo Kaap (literally translated as ‘above the Cape) sits on the slopes of Signal Hill in the city centre and dates back to the 1760s when numerous ‘huurhuisjes’ (rental houses) were built and leased to slaves from as far afield as Malaysia, Indonesia and the rest of Africa. That this community remains pretty much intact today – along with the neighborhood’s penchant for brightly painted houses – makes it one of our favorite and most authentic experiences in Cape Town. All of which made our discovery here of Africa’s first surf brand, Mami Wata, all the more fortuitous.

The brand was conceived by ad man Nick Dutton, surf journalist Andy Davis and designer Peet Pienaar – in a bid to tell the story of surfing in Africa. ‘There’s a big surf culture here, and yet everyone wears international brands that speak to the cultures of Australia, California, and Hawaii,’ explains Nick. ‘As a continent surrounded by four different seas and oceans, Africa is the destination for some of the world’s finest surf breaks that are largely undiscovered and commercialized.’

Mami Wata is about celebrating that – African style. ‘We see ourselves as a surf, adventure, travel and design brand,’ says Nick. ‘And nothing encapsulates that better for us than the mystical tale of Mama Wati, West African Pidgin English for the African water deity or Mother Ocean.’ Their mission to tell the stories of Africa, its countries and surf breaks by weaving the continent’s many cultural and design traditions into the design of their apparel, surfboards and incredible surf break maps is exciting stuff. From the brightly painted chevron striped walls of the exterior of the shop to the colorful interiors, funky coffee shop and music store, and of course the ubiquitous banana logo that is found on everything from T-shirts to board shorts.

‘Bananas are our common fixation,’ laughs Nick, as is their desire to support the local manufacturing industries. ‘We insist that all Mami Wata products are produced locally and in pleasant working environments, adhering to decent labor standards and health and safety conditions.’ And as they know too well the economic development that happens around a surf break, they have collaborated from the outset to promote surfing at a grassroots level. ‘Our collaboration with Missibaba, the luxury leather accessory label, gave birth to the Bananananana Luxury Board Bag, in a bid to raise funds to build a clubhouse for the African Youth Surf Charity Waves For Change in Harper, Liberia. They also host a fundraising platform for the club on their website.

 Sponsoring young up-and-coming surfers such as the 22-year-old Transkei surfer, Avuyile (Avo) Ndamase is another passion. He is the subject of a film made by Peet Pienaar for Mami Wata, that has won numerous awards including Best Cinematography at the Patagonia Film Festival in LA. And with Mami Wata recently named as the ‘hottest brand coming out of South Africa’ by WGSN, a leading European trend forecaster, we expect great things to come. 

If you’d like to visit the Mami Wata showroom on your next trip to Cape Town or if you’d like to add surfing to your list of adventure activities in Cape Town, mail welcome@roarafrica.com – and we’ll make it happen.

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