Image via Pigments Studio

Who killed Steve Biko?: Siki Msuseni is asking the hard questions through fashion

Clothes are more than just a fashion statement. It is a testament to our ability of self-expression as well as a reflection of our ideas. Siki Msuseni has released a tote bag that is striking but also challenging our understanding of our South African struggle history. The tote features the iconic illustration of a tearful Steve Biko and on its other side the question, “Who killed Steve Biko?”

Motlatsi Khosi (MK): Who is Siki Msuseni and how did she begin her journey with Pigments Studio?

Siki Museni (MS): Siki Msuseni is this ambitious young lady who allows nothing to stand in her way in attaining her dreams. I am this young friendly, talkative and ball of energy person.

I began my journey with Pigments Studio a while back, for those that know me from way back knew that I had a Style blog called “All Things Intriguing”, with that I decided to rebrand my blog and call it Pigments Studio and have a business leg to it as I always wanted to own something of my own, to be an entrepreneur. So Pigments Studio started at the beginning of this year after months of business strategy brainstorming. This is a collaborative platform but also a business. So the name Pigments Studio comes from my love for colour.  The  ‘Studio’ aspect is the idea that one day I want to have a studio space where you have a whole production space where people are creating items. Pigments Studio is solely based on fashion / clothing industry.

MK: What brought about the creation of the ‘Who killed Biko?’ tote bags? What was the need for such a bag? 

SM: Well this is a collaborative work between Crowded Wolf (founded by Xolani Dani) and Pigments Studio (Founded by me).

I have always wanted to put meaningful work out there and always have ideas running in my mind so I decided to put this down on paper and send a brief to Xolani and asked him if he would be interested in a collaborative work of this sort and so we started this series of work.

A lot of things triggered the creation of the “Who killed Biko?” tote bags. A lot was omitted about South African history in our curriculum while I was in school, and it still is. Looking at the remarkable current events I felt that there was a need to open dialogue with the past events while focusing on what is happening now. We are in a state of political instability and this shows in our current events, the bags are a  way to say, let’s go back to the drawing board. Who killed all these great leaders? Would South Africa turn out to be this kind of South Africa if they were not killed?

MK: What do you hope to achieve with this project? 

SM: This is a series of works that I hope to start a dialogue with. For us to continue talking about South African history and educating each other while trying to find the answers. I have observed that in order for one to speak on any political matter one needs to be well read and articulate on these matters, I am trying to kill that. I want anyone to be able to have an opinion about the history of South Africa any ordinary person on the streets, We value everyone’s opinion. And that is why I have chosen to use fashion as a medium of activism. We’re not all eloquent but we can use different mediums to drive our message. So the person who is carrying one of our “Who killed Biko?” tote bag is essentially starting a conversation in their little corner.

I also hope to find answers of who really orchestrated the death of Steve Biko? Who was behind it all because I am currently getting a whole lot of different answers to this question.

I hope for us to celebrate being black, to stand together united and to share the little that we have and kill the ‘scarcity mentality’. So as one wears this bag, I want them to feel that they are part of something big and when they see the next person carrying the same tote bag, there should be a sense of pride and unity in the individuals.

MK: I see two stories at play in the bags. The first is the image of a Biko, a black man crying. Is this a Biko lamenting his untaught past or the tears of all of us at the loss of such a hero?

It’s a play on the fact that Biko has always been depicted as a strong and bold leader. So here on the bag I show his vulnerability and the pain that he went through when he was arrested in that roadblock and the brutality he experienced in his service of fighting for a better South Africa for black people. It’s also a cry of the unknown answer of who orchestrated his death?

The second is a call to change. An almost accusatory exclamation is being made about the ‘Biko myth’. It is forcing us to re-think the history surrounding his story. Please could you respond to this idea as well.

Indeed I want you to take a closer look at what was fed to us about our country’s history, and now that we have grown up to realize that the education system has fed us hogwash omitting a lot about South African history. This question is a way of saying that we have realized and taken it upon ourselves to dig out the honest answers about the history of South Africa.

Also please take a read of my blog post about the “Who killed Biko?” tote bags here.

You can also follow me on Instagram

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