Popping up at local markets everywhere, the beautifully vibrant creations from Nyota Collections are hard to miss. They boast colourful modest wear and eye-catching accessories which perfectly mirror the irrepressible personality of the label’s founder, Aishah Dimpho Majogo.
While she may be taking South Africa by storm with her innovative clothing company, Aishah is originally from Lesotho. She was lovingly named Tshepo, after her grandmother, and Dimpho – an ode to her father’s side of the family. After accepting Islam in 2010, she chose the Arabic name ‘Aishah’, meaning ‘life’, which is most apt seeing how she encapsulates all that is wondrous and enthusiastic about being alive.
Coming from a Basotho-Christian background, Dimpho and her Muslim-Tanzanian husband struggled with the religious aspect of raising their children. She decided to try and embrace Islam to maintain the peace in her relationship, and ended up accepting and living it fully. This didn’t come without any setbacks. She faced many challenges as a new Muslim; she lost a few friends along the way, left her job as they didn’t allow her to wear hijab, and had to get her parents to finally accept her decision.
After moving to Laudium, Aishah’s children felt inferior to the rest of the community; her eldest son even tried straightening his hair in order to look like the other boys at school. Instead of compelling them to fit in, she wanted her kids to be Muslim and African. Aishah says that reverting to Islam was the best thing she’s done for herself and her children, “it was a choice I made for myself and not for anybody else.” She has even launched a campaign called ‘Unity through Diversity’ that contends with issues of race and diversity in the community.
Reverting to Islam made Dimpho realise that everything going wrong in the world is usually blamed on Muslims. She’s had to deal with people who base their opinions on unsubstantiated findings in the media, but she remains positive despite it all and advises: “When you’re human, you have to feel for the next person despite what race they are, or what religion it is.” She’s learnt to be strong emotionally, give support where she can, and pray for people suffering in the world.
Her dreams of becoming an entrepreneur became a reality after embracing Islam. Fatigued by the endless array of black-only abayas which she was given while attending madressah, Aishah established Nyota Collections to bring a world of technicolour to the closets of Muslim women. The colour black is also associated with mourning in the traditional ideologies she grew up with. Aishah wanted to retain her African identity while being a Muslim. “Along my journey, I discovered I don’t want to lose who I am.”
On a trip to Tanzania, people were impressed with her vibrant hijab. Dimpho loves travelling and buying African-designed fabric, and so she got the idea to embrace all African fashion under one hub, thus blending culture with religion. Her brand idea started from there. ‘Nyota’, meaning ‘star’ in Swahili, shines a vivid ray on Islam-centric, African-inspired clothing.
The mother-of-three is always trying to find balance in her day-to-day life. Aishah’s mornings begin after dropping her son off at school and then she is constantly on the road with her toddler in tow. (Her eldest son is currently at boarding school). She is back and forth between meetings and volunteer work, giving 100% of her passion and determination to every project. Aishah volunteers as a counsellor at Lifeline in Pretoria and also spends time at the Ma’had Deeni institute, where she does admin work and sits on the board. Ma’had Deeni is an organisation that seeks to build the community through education, networking and counselling. Her extensive work ethic and hours lie between Nyota Collections and the NGO organisations she works with. Making full use of her 24-hour days, Dimpho also recently joined the Salaamedia team as an on-air presenter.
Aishah loves doing collaborations with different organisations, as this enables her to reach a wider audience. The #Riding4SAeducation campaign has had a great impact on her. Nyota Collections became affiliated with the Salaamedia project and was required to send a representative to ride on its behalf. She couldn’t find anyone and the start date was quickly approaching. One day, while driving with her friend, she noticed a white male cycling along the road. She turned her car around and began tailing him, dissolving into laughter as she imagined how crazy this must have looked – two hijab-clad African women in a Lesotho-registered car following an Afrikaans cyclist. They asked him to represent them in the campaign and he kindly agreed. Dimpho was amazed that a man who didn’t know them and knew nothing about Islam took time off work and left his family to cycle on behalf of a campaign he knew nothing about, with Muslims he had never met. His sacrifice taught her about the true essence of humanity. The most touching and fulfilling moment for Dimpho was seeing the smiles on the school children’s faces when the #Ride4SAeducation riders touched down in Atteridgeville.
She advises fellow philanthropists: “The change has to start with you first to be able to impact it on other people.” Being a humanitarian is about teaching skills to people that will allow them to sustain themselves. Aishah relates that it is better to be empathetic over sympathetic, as the latter doesn’t change a person, whereas, with empathy, you’re able to jointly try and find a solution.
Her role model is her mother because what she lives is what she is. Dimpho says her mother is the most genuine person, and she aims to be even half the woman her mum is when it comes to raising her own kids. Her mother raised her to be a strong independent woman and taught her about generosity, giving, and holding resolute belief in God. Aishah doesn’t believe in celebrity role models, “I’m a person of ordinary people.”
The savvy entrepreneur says that success should be what fulfils you spiritually and being content with what you have. “My success is being able to say Alhumdulliah, I slept and I woke up.” She is grateful for each day, adding that success is not about the material things, as fortune can disappear at any time.
Aishah supports platforms like Proudly Muslims of South Africa as it creates much-needed awareness. She says that once you engage with the community, people learn that you’re also just human, “People think Muslims are foreign. We want the same things for South Africa and for our children. We go through the same things and we want the best nation for all of us.”
Her favourite Quranic verse: “Verily with every hardship comes ease” Quran 94:6.
She would advise her younger self to continue with school before starting work, and to be more lenient, forgiving and merciful towards herself despite any mistakes.
Her life motto: “Just be who you are and let people love you for what you are.”
This 30-something businesswoman is grateful for life, her husband, parents and supportive siblings. She is also grateful for Islam, the people she’s met on her journey as a Muslim and all the people Allah has placed in her life who make it worthwhile. Dimpho is appreciative of her business partner, Mamolefe and her team for working with her on the Nyota Breadbasket Foundation and other social movements. “I don’t define people’s success by what they have.” She admires people who serve the community and give of themselves and their time.
Her final last words would be telling her husband how much she loves and appreciates him. Aishah is grateful to him for not caging her and for allowing her to give of herself to the community.
She wants society to remember her as a bubbly African-Moshoto Muslim woman, and also for the person she is and not what they think they see. She’d like them to know she’s still a down-to-earth rural girl. Most of all, Aishah would like for people to recall her humbleness and selflessness.
Dynamic, ambitious and caring, Dimpho Aishah Majogo uses her entrepreneurial platform as a launch pad to help others. ‘There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise’, and as Aishah and Nyota Collections ascend to success, she lights the path of those below with her incredible spirit and kindness.