“My African heritage and traditions are the core of my business. That is what inspires our prints, styles, colours hence it is very important because if we lose that, we lose who we are and what we stand for as a business.” – Nkatha
Neema Nkatha founded Ohana Family Wear Limited back in 2017 but the company was officially registered in 2019. The company designs, produces and sells men and women’s African print swimwear which also serves as the company’s flagship product. Nkatha, who has always been passionate about building her community, seeks to create stylish, inclusive swimsuits that leave her customers feeling confident.
With great emphasis on the African culture and heritage, Nkatha incorporates bold colours, prints with the latest fabrics to modern designs that are influenced by emerging international trends. As part of the British Council East Africa Arts cohort and an emerging entrepreneur, we spoke to Nkatha about her journey into design, the challenges she has faced, her aspirations and so much more.
Who is Neema Nkatha Kinoti?
I am a passionate, motivated and confident person who aims to build my community.
What is your identity as an artist/creative?
My African roots.
What is the inspiration behind Ohana Swimwear?
Our inspiration and mission are to change the narratives of Africans Swimming. We often hear the statement “Africans don’t swim”. A statement that is, unfortunately, true. The World Health Organization noted that drowning deaths are highest in Africa at rates that are 15-20 times higher than in developed countries. While there are various reasons why we don’t swim, what is undeniable is that people need to see that swimming is an essential skill. At Ohana Swimwear, we are doing our part by ensuring that Africans from all walks of life have access to swimwear that gives them the confidence to step into the water.
As a young female CEO, what challenges do you face every day in your work?
The biggest challenge would be making progress amidst the chaos. This year especially being a pandemic year, it is so easy to get distracted and be pulled in so many directions when trying to balance creating an exciting optimistic future while maximizing results today. Providing reassurance and sense of stability an organization needs especially during a recession is a challenge I face every day.
How did you come to be part of Creative DNA/ EAA?
My sister sent me a workshop poster that they had put out. Initially, I did not know what it was all about and who they were, but I decided to apply anyway hoping for the best.
What impact has the support from EAA had on your creative journey?
The fashion and business sessions they have provided us with have proved invaluable and that has been the biggest impact in my creative journey as I apply what we’ve learned in my daily routine and decision making and even reinvented my brand.
What opportunities have you gotten from being a cohort of the program?
The program has enabled me to meet and interact with not only creatives but business people whom I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to meet in any other way. These connections are important for the growth of my company. They have also given me a platform to grow Ohana creatively as a brand by challenging my thinking and the way I currently run the business and also through exposure by advertising my brand through multiple platforms. In addition to that, the grant money has enabled me to continue running my business and even expand it.
How important it is for you to incorporate your heritage and traditions to your art?
My African heritage and traditions are the core of my business. That is what inspires our prints, styles, colours hence it is very important because if we lose that, we lose who we are and what we stand for as a business.
What makes you and your product stand out from the rest?
We are a business with a purpose. Each Ohana swimwear is a real piece of art that conveys its inspirational side as well as challenges the senses.
What are your aspirations? Where do you want to be in the next 5years?
We are going to be the leading brand championing for Africans swimming.
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