Women Making It Better For Others…Thandiwrap!

On my daily travels I come across so many men and women making incredible contributions to the well being and lives of others. Sometimes what they do is not recognised or validated because it doesn’t come with much fanfare. In these times of grandiosity, modesty is often ignored; even jeered at and other forms of great achievements are missed. Once again let me take another opportunity (any chance I get) to applaud the AW community whose dedication and support are an indication of a growing group of people who are doing their part in making lives better. There is room for all efforts to make lives better, in raising hope and standing up for meaningful causes. I have been inspired to recognise some of these people, especially the women and possibly make it a regular addition to this column. Time will tell. Today I recognise one of such women. I am sure you will agree with me what a remarkably inspiring woman she is.

Thandi Haruperi
Thandi Haruperi

There are times when you meet someone and instinctively your spirit tells you that you have known them a lot longer or maybe even that you have met them before in another life. There are a handful of people I have had that experience with; Thandi Haruperi is one of those people. The truth of the matter is that my meeting with her was so organic on one level and spiritual on another, I cannot actually state the time and day we met. In writing this piece I was desperately trying to think of when I first met her and as I struggled to work it out, it suddenly dawned on me that I had been communicating with her long before we actually physically met, which was why I was unable to place the exact meeting. The point being, it was irrelevant.

Thandiwrap 2
I was acquainted with Thandiwrap the product before I met its creator. I remember the feelings I had and the thoughts that went through my mind when I donned it. I immediately thought this is more than just a head wrap; this is something that will bring life to women everywhere. This is a product that will not only bring visual beauty and colour to its wearer but will also be a source for well being, comfort and validation. I instinctly felt it would become a part of a movement in its own right. I told my daughters and they shook their heads and gave me that look I’ve seen from them over many years, The look that said, mum what are you talking about, where do you get these things from? I admit I did think for a minute they may have been right and I might have allowed my imagination to run over time, but hey that has never stopped me in the past! So I stored those thoughts and feelings in my left hand. When I met its creator Thandi Haruperi, I expressed my sentiments to her. She has a very unassuming, humble manner and she graciously with deep appreciation accepted the views. Let’s now hear from the artist herself.

Thandi Wrap
Making it Better (MIB): How did Thandiwrap come about?
Thandi Haruperi (TH): Hmm… (She laughs). God has a sense of humour. Heeding the call to do something different and also desiring the freedom of self employment I had resigned from my job in the housing sector without an alternative job to go to. This was soon followed by a health diagnosis. Coming to terms with my health crisis and away from the rules and expectations of a professional job/life, I found myself head wrapping my hair with pieces of cloth. Appreciating the positive feedback I was receiving about my headdress, a good friend encouraged me to recreate the headwraps in a simplified tailored form. I started trying out different variations. Encouragingly, people were willing to pay for this product and they kept coming back for more.
MIB: What were some of the challenges you encountered on your journey?
TH: I think I would say trying to manage and maintain an effective business is an ongoing challenge. Knowing that this is no longer a hobby, and that the product must be of benefit to all those involved is daunting. Peoples’ livelihoods are depending on it so I have to be disciplined and focussed. Also finding financial investment to sustain and grow it is has been an issue as well as having the right people on the team. I have an understanding of my area of weakness. I am not an administrative person, or strong in the business aspect, which is why I need to have the right people around me. I am happiest just being the creative person while someone else does the managing.

Thandi warap 3
MIB: What experiences in your own life that you can share have impacted on you positively or negatively?
TH: I have found or made meaning in almost everything that has happened to me so far. From my divorce, to lone parenting to the immigrant experience. However it’s fair to say that receiving my health news significantly shaped me.
MIB: What do you mean by that?
TH: Well, I died a psychological death when I got diagnosed with HIV. By the way, I never say I am HIV positive. Language is important and physiologically impacts on how we feel and act out the things we say. Instead I try to say have HIV.
MIB: Can you expand anymore on that if it feels ok for you?
TH: Oh Yes, I don’t mind at all. It has been a journey and a process. To be honest the initial five months of my diagnosis I couldn’t account for. In that time my role changed as my children looked after me. But then, what started as a negative thing became my awakening. I started asking deeper life questions.
MIB: You speak so openly about your health status. Have you always been that way?
TH: Well, it was 20 years ago! At that point I realised I wasn’t my health. Or any of the things that happen to me. I now see my experiences as objects of my possession rather than who I am. I reminded myself that while the physical aspects of my life had been compromised or threatened, there were many other aspects of my being that were still sound. So I decided to leverage that by strengthening what I had, against what I had lost.
MIB: How were you able to accomplish this?
TH: The stark realisation of what I was faced with birthed purpose, and so many seeds I didn’t know I had been endowed with. I learnt about other things I didn’t know I could do. As my fears evaporated, I found strength, and a voice, and unfolded gifts I didn’t know I had. For example the skills of public speaking and training. As human beings we have the capacity to overcome the insurmountable.
MIB: How has your health been? Have you encountered any stigma?
TH: To be honest if I hadn’t been given my diagnosis, I wouldn’t know there was anything wrong. It’s been 20 years since the diagnosis and I remain well. While the HIV guidelines stipulate that anyone who tests positive for HIV should immediately start treatment, I haven’t started taking antiretroviral therapy yet. When the time comes and I feel I need to, I will. Regarding stigma, when I was first diagnosed, I asked the doctor if he could put me in touch with other people with HIV. This was when I was first introduced to the experience of stigma. He told me that he couldn’t introduce me to any of his HIV patients due to patient confidentially. He also warned to be careful who I tell once I left the clinic! That was perhaps the at most defining moment of my health journey. It was this that shaped my response and pushed me into coming out about it. I have refused to buy into the narrative or default link of HIV to promiscuity. I don’t know how I contracted it. It could have been sex, injections or other healthcare procedures, Aassuming it was through a sexual transmission I make no apologiesf or something so normal. I did nothing abnormal. Sex is a fundamental part of life. We are created through it.
MIB: What does Thandiwrap mean to you?
TH: Ahh… (She tears up). To be able to offer something that others want to own is one of the biggest compliments that can be bestowed on you. It’s really humbling. It means being able to contribute, to be of service, to leave a legacy.
MIB: What does Thandiwrap represent for you?
TH: I want it to give women self assurance, confidence, to make them happy and beautiful. I want Thandiwrap to offer women a choice. I want women to experience convenience, to have a piece of fashion that is timesaving, offers ease and gives you an instant ’face lift’. By giving me another identity outside my negative (patient) status, Thandiwrap has levelled my playing field by countering that with positive (creative) status!
MIB: What is your vision for Thandiwrap? Where do you see it going or where are you taking it?
TH: To be positioned as a product created by an African woman but made for the benefit of every woman. I want Thandiwrap to be a woman’s alternative choice; the woman losing her hair to cancer, alopecia or fashion or style statement, or just something that enhances a woman’s life.

Some of us may be going through challenges, visible or hidden; some may not have a care in the world. The one thing that we all share in common is the inability to predict tomorrow. Regardless of how wonderful or despairing your situation is today, it could shift dramatically tomorrow. The mystery and unknown quantity of tomorrow should bring us to a place of humility.

 

Gloria Ogunbadejo writes a weekly column for Punch Newspaper. She is a Psychotherapist, a life coach, a holistic counsellor and an ordained Minister. She can be reached at Gloria@AboveWhispers.com

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One Response to Women Making It Better For Others…Thandiwrap!

  1. Femi Diipo December 22, 2018 at 11:24 pm

    I feel so touched by this interview, I can still feel the shrill as I type this comment. This woman is so strong, she’s such a fighter and an inspiration. I can only imagine how many lives she’s touched with her this positive attitude. We need more people like this in our community

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