Installation view of Thebe Magugu’s <em>Shipwreck, jacket, top and trousers, headscarf and shoes</em> on display as part of NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 – 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy

Thebe Magugu

Photo: Andile Buka

Thebe Magugu
South Africa born 1993

Level 2
NGV International
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South African designer Thebe Magugu established his label with the intention to decolonise fashion and honour his cultural identity and heritage. To date, collections have explored themes of personal, political, historical or cultural significance. This outfit from Magugu’s Folklorics collection is a comment on the importance of African modes of storytelling – legends, proverbs and oral histories. The nautical print is specifically inspired by the folktale of Mami Wata, a mermaid-like creature known to lure fishermen astray, which illustrates Magugu’s interest in representations of the femme body within African folklore.

Thebe Magugu was born in Kimberley, South Africa in 1993 and moved to Johannesburg to study fashion design, photography and media. Since establishing his namesake label in 2016, Magugu has earnt critical acclaim for his thoughtful and inventive collections that comment on African history, culture and politics.

To date, each of the designer’s collections has told a story. In 2022, his Doublethink collection (spring–summer 2022 menswear), looked at government corruption, while Genealogy (spring– summer 2022 womenswear), considered notions of family and memory. Deeply political, Magugu is typical of a new generation of fashion designers determined to decolonise fashion. In 2019, Magugu also launched the first edition of Faculty Press; an annual ‘zine highlighting the work of emerging African writers and creatives.

Purchased, NGV Gala Fund, 2023