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3 May

Home Again

South Africa gives me a perspective of what’s real and what’s not real. So I go back to South Africa to both lose myself and gain awareness of myself. Every time I go back, it doesn’t take long for me to get caught into a very different thing. A very different sense of myself. — Dave Matthews

Express your passion, do whatever you love, take action, no matter what. — Valdimir Tretchikoff


Home is your family, your community, even the house you grew up in. It is the culmination of your memories from past to present. Years go by, you grow up, everything changes, but your idea of home remains. In a way, home is one of the strongest and most important things in our lives. Yet, the concept of home is a mix of so many different things.   


Returning from Cape Town, I always have images imprinted on my mind. They are like a slideshow on the inside of my eyes. I see the ocean where linen white sand meets cold and Caribbean blue. A rolling tablecloth of clouds cascades the lush green of Table Mountain. Winelands stretch over a vast horizon of distinguished and different peaks. I see the smiling faces of children and hear their laughter. Alongside them, the proud, and mixed faces of the rainbow city shine in their detail and uniqueness.  We are Cape Malay, Afrikaans, Xhosa, English, Indian and Zulu. The imagery of Cape Town and our people are with me every time I come back to the United States.  All these people and places make up, what to me, is home.


Out of this incredibly diverse melting pot, Cape Town has produced an abundance of creative talent. This is especially true in the world of visual art. Two artists that have impacted me greatly are Vladimir Tretchikoff and Loyiso Mkize.  


Vladimir Tretchikoff was a Russian-born South African painter. He was reportedly second to Picasso in wealth and popularity. He was loved by the public but scathed by critics. His endearing portraits of women are both passionately emotional and simultaneously tranquil. Recognizable by the blue-tinged skin tones of his muses, his work defined the artistic scene of South Africa in the 1950’s. I can just imagine him riding around Cape Town in a pink Cadillac, which through his bohemian and wild ways, he was said to have crashed more than once.


On my last trip to Cape Town, I saw his paintings in person. His imagery stood out to me as authentically Capetonian, even though he wasn’t originally from South Africa. But he managed to showcase the people and culture of the Mother City with the detail and appreciation of an outsider’s eye. Another artist, local, and friend of mine, Loyiso Mkize, has been able to master and capture that same essence in the most beautiful way too.


Balinese Girl, 1959



I met Loyiso Mkize in 2012 at a talking panel for young creatives held in Cape Town. His story and his point of view were as moving as his art. His ability to tell a detailed story through the faces he paints is inspiring. When you look at his work, you feel as if the person in the painting is with you. Like you are able to communicate with them through the realism of their eyes. Each of his faces are unique and alluring. They each tell a story of immense emotion.


He was born in the Eastern Cape, South Africa and has maintained a strong connection to his African roots. This is something that has always inspired me about him. He has an innate ability to portray the beauty of African culture through his thought-provoking portraits. The first time I saw his painting The Gentle Man, it brought me to tears. It seemed to impart the entire history of Africa upon me in an emotional burst of feeling.  

The Gentle Man, 2015


These two artists have completely different styles and come from completely different times. They share one thing in common though. They both have the remarkable ability to tell the story of Cape Town through people and culture.


Perhaps more than anything, the faces and stories of home are what affect me the most. The printed images of Cape Town in my mind give me that feeling of home. I have tried to channel this imagery into my newest look. I sourced a colorfully printed fabric to show the vibrancy and energy that my beautiful city and its people proudly resemble.  I chose a wide-leg jumpsuit because it feels as comfortable as a Sunday afternoon at home.  To me the jumpsuit also feels liberating and free like the artistry of this beautiful city.  It was a quick trip home for the most beautiful wedding of my dear friends, but it was renewing and full of love and life.  


In returning home, I always, in some way, become new again.  It is home and the idea of home that keeps me grounded. It is revisiting home that makes me remember where I come from.  Cape Town is my home.  It is a place of surreal beauty.  It is my mother and it is my heart.  No matter how far these little shoes take me, it will always be my home.

Come with me next week as I design a look based upon the art and life of one of my favorite painter partnerships, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera!

XOXO – Thoks

#designyoworld #thokitafeni 

Jump Suit – Thoki Tafeni

Shoes – Cotton On



  • Shahbano Khan

    Love that you photographed yourself in this jumpsuit!

    May 3, 2017 at 11:26 pm Reply
  • Kate Howsley

    Truly you are amazing and so inspiring.

    May 4, 2017 at 6:24 am Reply
  • Walt Maas

    Very cool, Thoki. Really like what you are doing with this.

    XXOX Wally

    May 4, 2017 at 11:35 pm Reply

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