By About Her Culture Team
South African Loré Botha manages to seamlessly swap from chemical engineer to artist, and fashion brand owner. She’s dynamic, no doubt. But, she says, it’s all fuelled by a deep sense of passion and purpose.
Her creative studio, the eponymous Loré Studio, channels her always present creativity into art. Her paintings are lively and colorful, often denoting a stylized version of her travels and experiences across Africa. A portion of the revenue generated is donated to the Ithemba Foundation – raising awareness about depression in South Africa.
The activism doesn’t stop there.
Together with close friend Lara Blevi, Loré started the clothing brand HempLove. The hemp-made line is dedicated to sustainable fashion production; it is a direct answer to the rapid and exploitative nature of conventional fashion houses.
Loré managed to squeeze in some time for us out of her busy schedule to dive into her creative process, address misconceptions about Africa and highlight the importance of activism to her and the continent.
Can you tell us about your projects and how you use them as vehicles for both environmental and social change?
Loré: I try to ensure everything I do has purpose and meaning behind it. My work with HempLove and my art go hand-in-hand and enable me to make an impact – however big or small that might be – on environmental and social issues. HempLove is a sustainable hemp-based company, which allows us to promote sustainability, create awareness around slow fashion and encourage people to become conscious shoppers.
My art is also inspired by environmental issues, but my latest inspiration has been around mental health and topics surrounding mental health. I want to talk to and illustrate matters surrounding psychology on a deeper level. My art allows me to contribute to charities that I support, such as Ithemba Foundation, a local charity focused on research about depression and mental health. They do incredible work.
How did sustainability, women’s empowerment and giving back become important to you?
Loré: I’ve always had this inner conflict while I was studying that I won’t be able to just do an 8 to 5 job. It would bore me and I can’t find the motivation and drive to give my best if I don’t feel like there is a meaning/purpose behind what I do. So, I guess I just manifested this idea and opened myself to identify the opportunities as they arrived.
There is still a negative stigma around white Africans, and white South Africans in particular. As a white South African woman, what are your thoughts on this and how, if it all, are you contributing to help change this?
Loré: I was born into a democratic South Africa in 1994. I don’t think this stigma is applicable to my generation or the generation to follow. Our country has deep rooted issues concerning poverty and the divide between rich and poor, but this is not “just” a racial issue. As a white South African, it discourages me when one is faced with a question like that and realizing the way the outside world sees our country or our cultures, and the struggles we face. It makes me sad to learn that this is how people view white South Africans, almost 30 years later after our nation has fought for equality and democracy – together.
To answer your question, I contribute by living in South Africa and staying here, where so many people are leaving. I have the opportunity to leave the country and move to the UK, but I choose to stay, to contribute through my businesses, and open my heart to those who need to see a smile to brighten their day, or a kind gesture to get hope to move forward. Africa is not for the faint-hearted and we as Africans have a certain spirit, the Ubuntu spirit, that brings us together in times of adversity.
My personal story and how I lost my father a year ago to the senseless violence that we all face in our country speaks for itself. I too have experienced the pain and suffering – when all that you know and all you care about gets taken away from you. So, today I feel more comfortable than ever in my own skin, content knowing the love and kindness I am able to give, and the empathy I have, due to experiencing my own pain and suffering. I plan on making real change – how I am not yet certain of. At the moment I am still busy healing my own wounds, but I know something is coming.
As an avid traveller of Africa, how have the different cultures across the continent inspired your work and who you are today?
Loré: I’ve always been inspired by the contrast between the incredible beauty versus the hardship, as well as the sense of freedom and abundance, while traveling through Africa. People have very little, yet they are really happy and content, and this is always inspiring to remember. I am an African, we speak an unspoken language, we go through hardship and share the joys of life together. It’s raw, it’s real and it is magical.
My father introduced me to Africa and took me on countless adventures. His sense of adventure has lit the spark in me from a young age. He showed me the liberation and the joy that can be experienced from living a simple life, being out in nature and feeling connected. I really love the people. It sounds strange, but I get a warm feeling and my heart lightens up when I get to interact with different cultures and, despite language barriers, I’ve learnt that love is really a universal language and it’s incredibly powerful.
I will be forever grateful to have experienced what I’ve been fortunate enough to experience up to date.
What would you say to anyone who is hesitant about travelling to Africa or even investing in Africa?
Loré: Come visit! It will be an experience of a lifetime. Our people are kind and you will be welcomed like you probably haven’t been welcomed in other countries. But, be streetwise. Our crime is real and you need to be vigilant. Don’t walk in dark streets all by yourself, or walk around the streets texting – that’s looking for trouble.
Africa will always be an investment hub due to our rich mineral resources, our labour forces and our high unemployment rates. I am not an investment guru and I don’t want to speak too much out of my area of expertise, but there are a lot of opportunities in the computer science, agriculture and green engineering spaces.
As an engineer, artist and fashion entrepreneur, you’re certainly multifaceted. How do you seek to positively impact the world through each of these areas of your work?
Loré: I hope to create job opportunities in South Africa through my engineering work and in the fashion industry. I also want to provide hope to young females in South Africa, to encourage them to build their own futures. The future will tell exactly how all this will unfold….my focus has also shifted to working with organizations focused on mental health, and I hope to increase my involvement in this area.
Visit Loré Botha online.