Rofhiwa Molaudzi, busy designing a piece of jewellery. Photo supplied.
Date: 19 May 2017 By: Anton van Zyl
A 23-year-old Venda-born designer is starting to make a name for herself in the top echelons of the international jewellery industry. She was selected as one of the 22 finalists in the 2017 Next Jeneration Jewellery Talent Contest. Her design will also be showcased during the Vicenzaoro Jewellery Boutique show to be held in the city of Vicenza, Italy, in September this year.
Rofhiwa Molaudzi was born and grew up in Thohoyandou, Block F. “When I was young I used to love drawing. I drew anything from flowers to my mom wearing dresses, and that was where I developed a love for art,” she remembers. The family later relocated to Polokwane, where she matriculated.
Coming from a family of academics, it was expected of her to follow in their footsteps, but she wanted to do something different. “I went to study jewellery design and manufacture at the University of Johannesburg. This choice left a lot of people astonished as it was not a common field of study,” she says.
In September 2015, when she was just about to finish her third year and complete her BTech degree, opportunity came knocking. She was one of 25 students selected out of thousands to further her studies in Rome, the capital city of Italy. “This was part of an in-service training in jewellery and watchmaking for two years under the management of the MQA (mining qualifications authority) and Tari Designo Scuola,” Rofhiwa explains.
For the young woman coming from rural Africa, the switch to one of the fashion hubs of the world was not easy. “My courses are conducted in Italian, so it was a bit challenging at the beginning, but got easier as time went by,” Rohiwa remarks, as if learning a new language is no big deal. She conquered the challenges and acquired a European qualification in goldsmithing and diamond setting. She is currently finishing her last design qualification before she can return to her country of birth.
“Through God and the support of my parents and friends, and not forgetting the South African embassy in Italy, I managed to cope with the changes and overcoming the difficulties of being a young African woman in a European society. It made me realize that when you leave your comfort zone, you’re forced to face new situations and make choices that give you a new-found independence,” she says.
Rofhiwa’s talent did not go unnoticed. Earlier this year she entered one of her designs in the Next Jeneration Jewellery Talent Contest. “I saw it as a possibility to measure my abilities at an international level,” she says. The competition is challenging for designers, as the theme for this year is “Jewellery with function”. The aim is to turn contemporary jewellery into something useful.
The young SA designer had no shortage of ideas when deciding what to enter. “The idea to design something that can alleviate pains, such as headaches, came to me immediately,” she says. She incorporated traditional remedies to address this common problem. “My jewellery piece is a substitute for the use of painkillers, because it uses a self-massage tool incorporated within the bangle. The piece is made from silver and foam. The foam balls can be used as a massage tool to put pressure on the back of your head and the front of your head, whenever you suffer from a headache,” she explains.
Rofhiwa’s design will be manufactured by one of the biggest brands in Italy, Tousce, and will be displayed at the Vicenzaoro Jewellery Boutique show in September. “I hope that the women who wear the bracelet will be empowered to take control of their own lives,” says Rofhiwa.
The journey to Italy has also been an emotional one for Rofhiwa. “I was forced to do some introspection to truly develop my design skills. It made me compare myself to the growth of a rose, not because of the traditional associations of love and beauty, but rather as a symbol of one’s life journey. Thorns on roses inhibit growth, but the rose blossom perseveres regardless. I discovered the beauty of life when I realized that challenges that could break us and the scars that we collect along the way enrich our individuality and make us who we are,” she says.
Rofhiwa urges parents to support their children’s dreams, regardless of the uniqueness thereof. “I would like to extend the message to young people all over the world that their dreams are valid. It all begins with self-belief, and then follows blossoming,” she says.
Anton van Zyl has been with the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror for over 25 years. He graduated at the the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and obtained a BA Communications degree. He is a founder member of the Association of Independent Publishers.