Honey Makwakwa is an African woman whose heart longs for the upliftment of African women. She is a genuine person who believes in doing things for the collective and not just for herself. She’s therefore an activist of sorts and is not afraid to push her agenda and speak up. I met her on set for the KWV Character Test audition years ago and I was fascinated by her as the host of the series because she carried herself with such confidence and poise but was so down to earth and real. I’ve since come to know Honey for her involvement in POST POST Music with her fiancé Tshepang Ramoba and from her fashion label, Sara Baartjies, which she runs with Dimakatso Nhlapo. You get to learn why I chose her to be part of the #womenatwork series.
You describe yourself as a stylist and wardrobe mistress. I’m going to throw in that you’re an actor and writer too. How did you create this working environment for yourself?
I started out as a child model. When I was about 16 a photographer told me I’d need a better long-term angle than modelling because of my height. I didn’t have the confidence to go with actress, but because I was wearing clothes I had made for myself when I was photographed by him, he pegged me as “fashion designer” instead of “model” when he published them and I ran with it. After a while I ran from fashion but it was inevitable that I would end up back in the fashion game. Writing has always been a part of my life and seems set to stay that way. The acting took a dose of fate and jumping into my own fear to get started. The work has taken conscious reevaluation and deliberate decision making to get to a point where I see growth. The way I see it, everything I do comes down to one thing; telling stories. Regardless of being behind or in front of the camera, or writing and conceptualizing for the camera, it all comes down to that. This is why @HoneyTellAStory and www.honeytellastory.com exist. I’ve been fortunate to make my mistakes while I was still young and build a support system of people who have been incredibly supportive of me through everything that life has thrown at me.
You are inspiring a generation of young women all over South Africa. What does it take to become Honey Makwakwa? What character traits did you use to build your life?
What is inspirational? Becoming Honey has been a matter of forgiving myself, again and again. Forgiving and never forgetting, knowing who truly believes in you, knowing when to trust and walking away when you can’t.
Life gets really difficult at times. How do you keep yourself inspired? And, can you tell me a story about one challenge that you faced?
Inspiration honestly comes from the fact that I have not achieved my dreams. The list is long and nothing is easy, not even the easy way out… I have faced more challenges than I care to remember. If I must share one story then perhaps the easiest to share would be the story about when my house burnt down last year. It was a strange thing to experience. One that seems like it should surely be happening to someone else. There were no fatalities, and that made everything easier to process. I knew it had happened and that we (my fiancé and I) were left with nothing, but it just never occurred to me to stay stuck on material loss. I wrote about the incredible support system we had through that time. But we also had each other and that was a major part of getting through the material loss and a pivotal part of realizing the spiritual gain of literally going through the fire with the person you love.
What have been some of the highlights that you’ve experienced along your journey?
Sometimes it seems as though there are so many highlights that maybe I need a new measure. But honestly it is the work and the relationships I have built. Alongside my fiancé Tshepang Ramoba; launching our first release (ELOGRAM in March this year) from our record label POST POST Music is a definite highlight. After 5 years in business with my best friend Dimakatso Nhlapo; opening the Sara Baartjies store last November is another highlight. These highlights all come after many years in business with the right partners. But personal highlights are the rare occasions when I realize that I have earned the respect of colleagues I admire.
So many people get stripped bare by life and forget that it’s more than just about getting a job, money, a family and then dying. Why are you so different? Were you always surrounded by people who challenged you to think outside the box or did you have a moment of serendipity which changed how you looked at the world?
For the longest time I thought life was just about marrying well, having babies and then figuring out whatever comes after that. My ancestral calling might be what changed that though. When I started intwaso I think my entire world view changed. As for being different, I tried normal but it nearly killed me.
You live in the heart of Johannesburg. In your vision, what does your ideal city look like?
Joburg is my ideal city. It’s the only place in the world that I know how to miss. My vision for Joburg is cleaner streets, more dustbins and a populace that actually cares to use those dustbins. Visible policing that serves to protect and as opposed to intimidating the public. 24-hour public transportation that caters to all demographics of our population that could serve to stimulate a more inclusive economy and foster social cohesion would go a long way to making the Joburg I see in my dreams.
Following on that question, what small steps could you do right now, or are doing, to make that future happen?
I don’t litter. It means trash (water bottles) can build up in the car when I don’t come across dustbins as often as I need but that’s a first world problem. Part 2 of the vision: I’m voting.
You’re always sharing posts on Facebook and Instagram which speak to the heart of issues that women face on a daily basis like rape and gender-based discrimination. What do you think we should we be doing as a generation to correct some of these problems?
Racism, gender-based discrimination and patriarchy are systemic ills of the society that we live in and serve primarily to hold us back from self realization. It all basically exists as a bullshit system for cowards to hide behind so that they don’t have to learn anything. I just don’t have time for those who stand for the bias as they are simply to cowardly to consider another truth. As a generation, none of us should have time for that. We should question bias in our homes, social circles and places of work. We should make it so that living a comfy prejudiced lives protected by cis/het/white/male privilege should be obsolete. And social media gives us all a platform to agitate for that.
Which women have inspired you to be greater than you are?
I’m inspired by all carefree black girls slaying their lives by their own standards.
I want you to complete this sentence, “I have one wish and I wish…”
I have one wish and I wish to slay.
Photos by Yetunde Dada