Growing up as the only white person in a school in Crystal Park, my passion for other cultures grew from a very young age. Before every formal school event, braiding my hair in cornrows was a must! Moving to a school in Benoni later on, the unique humour we have as South Africans (especially when making a small town like Benoni the brunt of our jokes) became a big part of my creative outlook on life. Going to varsity in Pretoria, surrounded by Afrikaans culture, I quickly realised that I don’t identify with any single culture; at the core of it, I’m a South African. As a young creative, South African culture has truly become my biggest inspiration. We have such an amazing mix of people in this country, all working and living together to create the ultimate ubuntu! I started my business Kiffkak to represent just that – presented through a wide range of proudly South African products.
The use of South African slang, the spirit of our cultures and communities and my unique sense of humour all play a major role in my work. A lot of the products I create rely heavily on the use of typography. In these instances, my typographical work is heavily inspired by the hand-painted letterforms that can be found on signage in township areas. When using imagery for my products, I try to include a quirky, childlike, nostalgic quality in my illustrations. With a lot of the products I create (such as the Kiffkak lucky packet, enamel mugs, iron-ons and sticker book) I am trying to bring back those products that we used to engage with as children. Who says you can’t still make fun purchases when you’re all grown up? If Kiffkak can bring that nostalgic feeling – along with a little giggle and smile – to a South African’s day, that’s a pretty lekker thing!
I’m sure that every business owner would share a similar sentiment, but I truly have the 'kiffest' customers! Besides the odd ‘tannie’ and ‘ouma’ who get offended by the name (and some of the colourful language on the products), the response from my fellow South Africans has been nothing but encouraging! When people see the Kiffkak stand at the markets that I do, there is usually a specific series of reactions that follow: 1) a pointed finger at the name, 2) a big smile and giggle, 3) the sentence “Kiffkak!? That is so South African!” If Kiffkak can continue to make people smile, laugh and celebrate South Africa – then I know that the brand is headed in the right direction.
To date, some of my career highlights have been the following:
I would also have to add that every single time someone places an order, my heart does a little happy dance. Without the customers that have supported the brand, Kiffkak would not be able to continue growing. Every new order is not only a career highlight but also a highlight of my day as well!
A little background for those who may not be familiar with the business structure, I plan to grow in the coming years: Kiffkak, at its core, is a celebration of South African culture. The long-term dream is to open up a chain of Kiffkak stores in South Africa that directly serve the local market by providing access to proudly South African gifts and merchandise while helping communities and aiding job creation within the BBBEE spectrum. The plan is to have three distinct sections in each store, namely Kiffkak Cares, Kiffkak Collabs and the Kiffkak product range.
Kiffkak Collabs will serve as a monthly initiative where an up-and-coming South African creative will have the opportunity to work with the brand to create a selection of products that will be sold in Kiffkak stores. Often the same (already well-established) creatives are chosen to work with South African brands. Because of this, it becomes increasingly difficult for young creatives that are trying to establish themselves to break into the industry. Kiffkak Collabs will hopefully bridge this gap by helping unestablished creatives get their name out there. Kiffkak Cares aims to serve South African communities. South Africa has a large thriving informal economy (particularly within the scope of the arts and crafts) that provides many opportunities to unemployed entrepreneurs. When Kiffkak isn’t working to bridge the gap between the informal and formal sector by selling these goods in the store (and giving all the profits back to the communities where the products come from), I will be creating products that are specifically made to raise funds for local NPOs.
My biggest piece of advice to young creatives would be: Never discount the importance of celebrating your own story through your art. Personally, the reflection of one’s story always draws me to a creative’s work. By presenting an unapologetic, unique perspective on how you see the world – your personality is really able to shine through, solidifying what you can offer as a brand. There are so many eclectic mixes of people in South Africa, and so many personal stories yet to be told. When it comes to owning a brand (whether your brand is you as an artist or something you start like Kiffkak), something I have found is that people are much more likely to become invested in your craft when they also have a story to invest in.
Because I am only 22, I am sure there are a lot more lessons to come. But If I had to give my younger self some advice from where I sit today, it would be the following:
In five years' time, I would love for Kiffkak to be a household name! In order to achieve that, I hope that the next few years allow the dream of having Kiffkak stores around South Africa to be realised. Along with having stores, I hope that in five years Kiffkak is making a significant contribution to South African NPOs, creating jobs in the BBBEE spectrum, helping young creatives get their names out there and allowing entrepreneurs from rural areas to sell their goods and help their communities thrive.