Designer teddies up for a cuddle
"I don’t want to have to explain, I want my son to see what is the right thing to do."
That was from top Johannesburg designer Thokozani Lloyd "TK" Mbatha speaking ahead of the launch of the first annual Brave Heart Bears Initiative in Joburg this week.
Mbatha was one of 36 selected designers and celebs to take part in the project which, in line with the annual 16 Days of Activism campaign which started this week, was to raise awareness around gender-based violence.
The Brave Heart Bears and top South African designers and celebs partnered with Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA) to create a rare collection of more than "100 beautifully dressed and exquisitely styled teddy bears".
Mbatha, who grew up in Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal and moved to Joburg in 2009 to set up his label Lloyd Hotsense, said he felt "very blessed" to be part of the initiative and, as a father of one son, believed actions spoke louder than words.
"The 16 Days are not enough, people need to be reminded about gender-based violence every day of the year.
"I wanted to make a difference. And as a father, being part of a project such as this, one day my son will understand me as a person and will see what I have done. I won't have to explain, he'll see what is the right thing to do," said Mbatha.
Under his label, he designed outfits for a pair of teddy bears which he said were done with the same flair as he would do for any client.
Spearheaded by jewellery designer Jenna Clifford, some of the labels in the Brave Heart Bears initiative are Scalo, Rubicon, Anel Botha, Fundudzi by Craig Jacobs, while some of the leading personalities are hip hop artist Riky Rick, ex-Miss SA Sasha Lee Laurel, Founder End Girl Hate Leanne Dlamini, Soweto Gospel Choir and TV host Kim Jayde.
The unique teddy bears made their appearance at the Jenna Clifford Design Studio in Johannesburg on Wednesday and are now for sale. It is expected they will be snapped up by collectors, teddy bear lovers and as gifts for that person who has everything.
WMACA founder Miranda Jordan said that during the lockdown, "the numbers of abused women and children literally exploded. Over the past 8 months, we have assisted with 3500 children’s therapy sessions, 90 parent sessions and 120 family sessions."
“It is well known and well documented that the long term, I often refer to it as a lifelong impact, of child sexual abuse may cause a range of negative consequences for the mental health and adjustment in childhood, adolescence and adulthood for the victim.
“I often refer to abuse as not only stealing the childhood, but it also steals adulthood and that is why our early work at our clinics is often followed by later work with our advocacy team.
“Important aspects of the abuse include the relationship with the perpetrator, the betrayal of trust, the age and gender of the child and the particular form of abuse; all are significant factors,” she said.
Jordan added that the campaign spoke to the attachment children had for teddy bears: “Besides being cuddly and cute, they offer unconditional love, reassurance, security and companionship.
“Even in our high-tech world of gadgets and gizmos, their love affair with the simple teddy bear runs deep, which is why Brave Heart Bears was the perfect initiative for what we are working towards. This will help us with a much needed financial injection to help those broken little souls by giving them tools to navigate a positive way through their pain,” she said.
For more details, contact Melanie Ramjee at [email protected]
The Brave Heart Bears are on display from November 25 to December 20 at the Jenna Clifford Design Studios in Morningside, Johannesburg.
The Independent on Saturday