By: Nosipho Ntombela
Born with Osteogenesis Genesis Imperfecta type 3, a condition which weakens bones, cause breathing difficulties and slow growth, a 26 -year -old Nokwethemba Vilakazi has not made that determine her path.
Raised in Nkandla by her grandmother and an unemployed single mother, Vilakazi was titled 2017 Miss South African Citizen Living with Disability. Before she won the beauty pageant, Vilakazi had a “wonderful” (she said) once in a lifetime opportunity to work with the KZN Fashion Council despise her physical challenge.
“I’ve never imagine myself being in the audience not to mention being called a model. I was the Basetsana Khumalo I had always wished to be,” explained Vilakazi.
Vilakazi who is currently working at the Unlimited, says that one of the privileges of growing up in Nkandla was to play with beads at a young age. She learned most of the things behind beadwork from elders and for her it was more about passion, than money.
“Back then Nkandla didn’t have schools for disabled children like me and so my mother decided to take me to Mason Lincoln Special School in Umlazi. In 2010 I did my matric, and passed with enough points which allowed me to study a BA in Cultural and Heritage Tourism and graduated in 2015 from the University of KwaZulu -Natal,” said Vilakazi.
“Seeing many people wearing beaded items gives me great joy. Other than finding the meaning behind the colors and designs, the process of doing beads itself teaches patience, and sharpens your concentration which are qualities most of us lack,” added Vilakazi.
Vilakazi says that she can do almost all kinds of beadwork, and currently fascinated by everything that is happening in the fashion industry. In her mind she always try to design an item that will set her apart from the rest, but still be fit for any style and outfit.
Vilakazi recalls a time in July 2017 were her old wheelchair was falling apart as it had reached it life span. She says she tweeted about it, asking people to support her beadwork business so that she can raise enough money to buy it.
“Black Coffee approached me for beads, I wasn’t ready until the last day. I was able to finish his items. I was scared, thinking that I won’t be able to meet his deadline or he won’t like them. Seeing him wearing my beads and tweeting about them, was a dream coming true,” shared Vilakazi.
She says if there is one thing she cannot live without, that would be her electronic wheelchair. Vilakazi said that it has brought her so much fearlessness, pride, elegance and style.
“Right now my life is about faith, adventure and growth,” explained Vilakazi.
Like everyone Vilakazi has goals she wants to achieve in life and for her is to fully understand her position at work (The Unlimited), get a driver’s license and showcase her beads all over South African. Vilakazi wants to work for the United Nations, be a TEXs guest speaker and have her beads / artworks featured on movies like the Black Panther.
“My life is unpredictable; few years ago I was a voiceless nobody from nowhere, today I can speak on someone’s behalf and be heard by many. In 2020, I’m sure I’ll be doing great things in South Africa, especially for children living with disabilities who don’t have access to schools,” added Vilakazi
Her daily motto says “I’ve heard, smelled, seen, touched and ate failure; how about success now? Yeah, why not me she said!
“As black child you are afraid to dream big, your mind is limited to achieving what our role models have achieved and because of your obvious daily experiences, you don’t realize the potential you have to become better, new and extraordinary. For me lacking confidence at a young age based on where I come from, what people labeled me as, and how I look, really delayed me. Had the younger me known that I’ll be this kind of a woman (fearless, confident, intelligent, classy, beautiful and strong), I would have taken every opportunity believing that I am capable. I would have smiled more and kept my head high,” concluded a happy Nokwethemba.