Who would have thought such sweltering heat would have given birth to a fresh new t-shirt company! It's hot here, intolerably so. Worse, much worse, is the humidity. It weighs down upon one to such a degree that all the ceiling and standing fans in the apartment and office have shared sense of inadequacy. Yet this sticky Hades is home to great creativity, particularly in the area of design. Some years ago, when I first started out on my own, similarly unbearable summer conditions gave me the idea for my company name - Swelter. Somewhere along the line, I thought it would be great for a t-shirt brand. Mid last year, that brand saw the light of day and is now being worn by quite a few people (bless them!) from around the world. Today's the day I start to share with you some of the Swelter designs and the stories behind them (hey, and if there aren't any, I'll make them up. You might want to help me along there.) Right now, I have no energy, I'm in the mood for a chat, and I keep filling up my glass with water. Pray for rain!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007


We all have choices and, although we may make a plethora of wrong ones, sometimes we simply decide to do something because it is right. We perform an act of kindness, sacrifice some small pleasure for the sake of something noble and grand, or do something brave because taking care of someone else is more important than our own fears. Perhaps our issues are deeper and darker, and we have to combat disease or inhumane behaviour. Or perhaps our heroic deeds are simply the way in which we get through the day, how we love, and what we do for our family and friends. I leave that for you to decide. Of one thing I'm sure - you know someone who has done something great in the face of adversity, no matter how big or small that adversity may be. You know someone who deserves to wear one of these t-shirts. Or receive a Hero postcard. And every time you look in the mirror, you see a Hero. So get yourself a Hero t-shirt, cap or bag, give a few out to those you admire, and then wait to be hero worshipped!


Okay, you've waited an age for me to get back to writing to you and I apologise for my absence. In between other work, I have been putting together t-shirt designs for and two new t-shirt sites which I will do my damndest to launch before the end of the year.

In the meantime, here are some shirts for those of you who have waited way too long. Instead of cursing yourself for not acting sooner, get the shirt, wear it as a reminder, and move on with your life. Heck, she wasn't that great anyway. Now you can go out and play the field guilt free.

And for the ladies who have also hung in there and missed an opportunity or two, I'll be designing some shirts especially for you really soon. Of course, if you spot a guy wearing one of these shirts, move in on him. He is definitely available!

Good luck!

Monday, 10 September 2007


It's been awhile since I last wrote, for which my apologies. I got absorbed by my own busyness (which mainly involved business) and for a few spectacular moments, I felt on a high until I realized I was losing control of my own life. Which was probably why I got hit by a really nasty flu virus that has been hospitalizing thousands. And in between, the rest of our beautiful family emigrated to Australia. A sorry set of excuses, I know, but there we are. If you are at all like me (and I'm hoping you are in this one regard), then you have said "Sorry" (or felt it) so many times that you never want to say it again. Well, thanks to this ingenious (though I say so myself!) t-shirt, you never have to. Just one shirt pretty well apologises for everything. Leaving you free to get on with your life. Now that's a fair deal, I reckon.

If you can't read the words on the image, here they are:

for what I did
for what I didn't do
for what I said
for what I didn't say
for speaking
without thinking
for thinking
without speaking
for being who I am
for not being me
for refusing to change
for changing too much
for saying sorry too often
for not sayng it often enough.
In short, sorry for everything.
Now can we move on, please?

Sunday, 5 August 2007


From where does all this aggression come? It's been around since the origin of man and is showing no sign of letting up. Even I, philosophically always the pacifist, show signs of aggression every now and then. For example, when someone cuts into my lane without the courtesy of indicating. When people are rude and disrespectful. When someone misuses their power. And on countless other occasions, too numerous to mention. What I need when I'm all worked up is a good thriller or really violent movie of some other kind. Which is why watching 300 for the first time yesterday was so good for me. Just watching all those glistening muscles and tight torsos thrusting their spears and slashing with their swords was enough to distract me from any of my own feelings of anger. (In truth, not so much anger as frustration - I've been battling with flu for a week and am tired of not operating at my usual peak.) So here I was watching 300 honour-bound Spartans warring against Persians and mythological beasts to protect their country. For them a fight to the death was the greatest sign of bravery and honour and they were all prepared to sacrifice themselves for their country. It's interesting that we can watch a dramatization of history, albeit it with reference to Frank Miller and Lynn Varley's amazing graphic novel, and see the Spartans as noble. Yet, within a contemporary context, when people sacrifice their lives and kill others because of a religious or patriotic belief, we don't think them as being noble, we see them as terrorists. I live in a country where many of the "terrorists/freedom fighters" now sit in government and they have been transformed into "heroes". History has been rewritten. Simplistically, it all depends on whose side you're on, and who feels most threatened, and this determines who we label as noble or who we want to see behind bars or worse. In my mind, violence is violence, and it doesn't matter which side is committing it for which cause. It is, I think, natural for us to be aggressive, even violent, at times, but it is our greater spiritual purpose not to be.


There was a line that Dennis Hopper uttered in Apocalypse Now that has stayed with me for over twenty years. It went something like this - "Have you noticed that in the middle of the word 'Life' is the word 'If'?" It's true, of course. Life is full of 'ifs'. If I had more money ... If I'd married someone else ... If I were slimmer ... If I were younger ... If I hadn't been running so late, I would have ... If I didn't need the money, I would be an .... If I had met you sooner ..., If you were younger, ... If you were older, .. If I'd taken the other road, ... And so on. It's a sign of our discontent, I suppose, that we look back on opportunities lost, or ahead at future possibilities, and we use one little word to explain to ourselves why we didn't take the path of our dreams, or why we can't take that giant leap forward and try something new, move somewhere different, change our career, our body shape, commit to someone, break with someone, commit to yourself. Used differently, that same little word can set our course to a much grander life. It can project our thoughts in a very positive direction - If I win the election, I will do my utmost to make sure that everyone in this country has a roof over their head; If I start up a practice, I will make sure that 20% of our work is pro bono; If I dedicate just one hour a day to writing, by the end of the year I will have written a book; If I start up a blog, I will be able to promote my t-shirts to more people and make a few new friends along the way. Ah, the power of 'If'. To excuse, blame or inspire. In truth, life is one long 'if'. It is the unknown. And that is the wonder of it. It's what stimulates curiosity, the urge to explore and learn, and the desire to pack in as much as we can into this dear life, because what lies behind, well, that's another big 'If'.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007


This must be one of the best and most useful examples of iconography I've seen on a t-shirt! The tee has a phrase book printed on it - point a finger at the pictogram you need and then point twice at the question mark, smiling all the while. Another one of those moments when you see something and wish you'd been the one who came up with the idea. All credit to designer Artemy Lebedev. Buy it at Then purchase your round-the-world plane ticket and put the shirt to good use.

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Sunday, 1 July 2007


I am always right

You've always known it but others tend to be a little slow to catch up. Instead of repeatedly saying it and risk having it fall on deaf ears, now's the time to show the truth. Wear it on your chest - the I Am Always Right t-shirt. No-one can argue with that, can they?! And since there are a variety of different I Am Always Right designs, everyone gets to wear a t-shirt and be right in their own way. From where did the idea come? From repeatedly having to point out to family, friends and work colleagues what I've always taken to be my very obvious attribute - that I am always right! I assume from popularity of this shirt that there are many others out there who suffer from the same lack of recognition and have decided it is time to put the record straight. Bless you all. And good luck.


This is a departure for me. Usually I'm in self-aggrandizing mode, promoting my own t-shirt creations that are growing probably not as fast as they should along at my store But I've just been cruising through This Next when I was stopped in my tracks by a t-shirt by Zulu Rose. I'm sure whether or not you have to be African to fully appreciate their wonderful site and creations, but when I stopped over at their place I instantly got that wonderful smell, heat and soul from their web site layout, their t-shirt and other apparel designs and their use of language. I admit to being a little drenched in envy too. Their work is beautiful and everyone involved at Zulu Rose seems to have a really interesting background - from academia to design, shooting for MTV, dance (with SoulIISoul), costume design (for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company amongst other such luminaries), and concept work for Beyonce. Phew! I can't top that but I am inspired by what Zulu Rose has achieved, I'm always proud to be African, and I will be starting my very contemporary African t-shirt brand before the year is out. So, to the team at Zulu Rose, I say thank you and hamba kahle (go well!).

Saturday, 23 June 2007


I was reminded of one of my earliest t-shirt designs when someone kindly bought a couple of my I Feel Better Now tees yesterday. Whilst I can promise no immediate cure, I like to think that wearing this shirt will make a positive shift in someone's life. The least it will do is raise a chuckle here and there, and that's always a good thing. At the back of the happy trippy lettering is an opened pack of pills. You can tell anyone who asks that they are whatever you want them to be. Most people will assume they are some kind of designer drug and some may even consider this design to be pro-drugs. I like leaving things up to personal interpretation. Truth is, the drugs used in the graphic were beta blockers, designed to help the heart but with a surprise positive side effect in that they also help migraine sufferers. I've been battling with migraine for over sixteen years and when I finally met up with my second neurologist, I was put onto these drugs. Whilst they slowed my metabolism and made me a bit drowsy, they also radically minimized my migraine attacks and that was a godsend! Sad to say, the effects didn't last but I still feel good when I put on my original I Feel Better Now shirt, even though it is very worn and has now been designated as a sleep shirt. The design and sentiment is lasting, and I've used it in books, portfolios and as a price label on my exhibited artworks. I wish you every happiness when you wear it. (Hey, and even when you don't!)

Thursday, 21 June 2007


I was driving to work the other day, weaving my way between pantechnicons, trucks with trailers, and overloaded African taxis, and Lucinda Williams was wailing and swearing in the car. Well, she wasn't actually in the car but her CD was playing. Loudly. I admit I wasn't in the best of moods and Lucinda was starting to depress me. Nobody was allowed to be more depressed than me at that point, and she was beating me by spades. Then, as I got to the bottom of Field's Hill (named after my great, great grandfather but that's a whole other story), the last track of Lucinda's CD began to play. She kept singing about how "Words fail" and I thought "What a great t-shirt that would make!" Slogan tees usually have something philosophic or provocative or funny on them. They exist to make a stand or get a reaction or both. How ironic, I thought, if there were an anti-slogan t-shirt, one that admitted to the failure, on occasion, of words. I confess to thinking, at the time, that this was positively brilliant! A slogan t-shirt that was subversively against its self. Nihilistic, you could say. Suddenly, I was no longer on the verge of depression, I was inspired! I thanked Lucinda and couldn't wait for the working day to end so that I could get back home and create my Words Fail t-shirt. A few days later, I listened to the song again. I had got it all wrong. Lucinda never said "Words fail", she sang "Words fell". But I reckon I owe her anyway. And should you ever be in the mood for a real bring-me-down song, give "Words fell" by Lucinda Williams a listen.It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard.


Right across the river from where I stay people party through the night every Friday and Saturday. The music pounds across the water and the bhangra beat is relentless. Lithe bodies sway, sashay and gyrate to music as I toss and turn, trying to get some sleep. Well, that's the way it used to be. Now I've become so used to it that any lull in celebratory noise may well become disturbing. Maybe even more unsettling is that I now play bhangra music in my car. At full volume. I'm a great respecter of different cultures and the beauty of the new forms that arise from cultural blends. I tried to capture that in a range of t-shirts and badges, variations on a theme really, that mix traditional Indian dance iconography with something visually a little more energetic. A meeting of old India and Anglo-Asian rave. Something clubby that retains the dignity of past rituals and patterns. A new institution, dare I say. So grab one for yourself, go have fun on the dancefloor. Just bear in mind that, on my side of the river, the lights go out just before twelve.

BollyRave t-shirt

BollyRave t-shirt

This t-shirt's designed for dancing to bhangra or raving to any hip-swayingly repetitive beat. Look closely and you'll see a circle of Indian dancers in traditional pose. Truth is, you don't have to be Indian, like bhangra music or speak Punjabi to look and feel good in this designer 100% cotton tee. If you're after something different and enjoy people's admiring looks and the occasional pointed finger, then this one's for you. (via Kid Swelter)

Sunday, 20 May 2007


We're headed for the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve set in the heart of Zululand. Established in 1895, it is purportedly the oldest game park in Africa. If you look really hard, searching through 96 000 hectares of hills, bush and the Hluhluwe River Flood Plain, you'll likely come across the Big Five - lion, black and white rhino, elephant, buffalo and leopard. Not to mention an abundance of other animals, from cheetah (one of my favourites) to giraffe, blue wildebeest, zebra, hyena, jackal, warthogs, baboons and all kinds of buck (like waterbuck, nyala, eland, kudu, impala, duiker, suni and reedbuck). You'll even find crocodiles and hippos. And over 300 species of birds.

It's one of my favourite places to visit.
I love the indigenous growth, the wild dusty smell, and the sounds of thousands of insects and birds in conversation at the same time. Not to mention the feeling of intense heat pounding down on your skin, forcing even the most intense of individuals to relax and be at one with the African world.

Watching animals takes time and patience.
We have to respect that we are in their territory and must honour their natural rhythms. But the wait is always worth it. I have been privileged to have been amongst wild African animals all my life yet every time I see a giraffe I am struck by its graciousness, every time I see a lion or lioness with its cubs, I am in awe of its balance between purring gentleness and immense power, and whenever I see a cheetah, I cannot believe its beauty and speed.

I was in Hlulhuwe earlier this year with my partner, entertaining an American guest. And soon we will be lucky enough to go there again, this time with family from Australia. The game park is only three and a half hours drive from our place and yet we don't go there often enough. A few days out in the bush and you feel totally renewed.

Of course, the trick is to go well equipped. Since it is swelteringly hot most of the time, you'll need to wear something comfortable and cool ... like a t-shirt or
two from the appropriately named Swelter, perhaps. This range is just beginning. Expect it to take unexpected twists and turns, like the rocky pathways down to the Umfolozi River. The creation of each shirt is an exploration unto itself. Demanding, exciting and surprising. I'm approaching it with a pioneering spirit. And anticipate both the journey and the outcome to be a little wild.


I'd heard the sound of banging from the apartment beneath us a little earlier and got up to investigate. I always use my cats as a gauge. If they seem unsettled, then something's up. Our brightest cat had appeared a little twitchy but then seemed to calm down. I stumbled sleepy-eyed back to bed. An hour later, the gunshots went off. Five of them. Blam, blam, blam, blam, blam right outside our window. Or so it seemed.

We overlook the estuary of the Umgeni River and across the water is what we affectionately term as Bollywood - a motley group of restaurants, take-aways, marquees and an occasional fun fair patronised mainly by partying Indians. On Fridays and Saturdays, bhangra music fills the air and we eventually fall asleep to the rhythmic thump of the bass or to excited announcements over the microphone. It takes some getting used to, but we love it. A grassy verge goes down to the river and the celebrations spread out across its width and depth. What goes on between the dancing and the cars that rock in the shadows, we're not sure, but guns have been fired in the past.

A few years back, in the middle of Diwali (a major Hindu festival known as 'Festival of the Lights'), a bullet came through my lounge window
and lodged itself in the wall behind a painting about twelve metres away. It was late on a Saturday night, I had just returned home from visiting friends quite far away in Drummond, and, single a the time, I was lying on the bed reading the early edition of the Sunday newspaper. Explosions abounded, since fireworks are a major feature of Diwali and go off all over the city (and especially across the river) for nights on end. The sound of gunfire slipped innocuously amongst the constant banging of the fireworks. But what sounded like a metal tray clanging noisily to the ground had been running into the lounge to see what the cats had knocked over. One of my beautiful Arab trays with an ornamental inlay, perhaps. Instead I saw a large bullet hole in my window, shards of glass strewn right across the lounge, and a whole through the magnificent painting of Mombasa, my birthplace, that my late mother had painted many years before.

The painting sat above the couch where I would sit for much of the day, either working or reading, and all the time being inspired by the magnificent view. It was a 9 mm bullet that could have come from across the river, from the small park below me or been a drive-by shooting, possibly from the bridge that takes the freeway over the river. This I never ascertained, and trying to get the police to my apartment was a whole other story.

Which brings me back to the recent gunshots that rang out so loudly in the quiet of the early morning. Three ten to be precise. My partner and I lay rigid for a few seconds, listening for screams, screeching tyres, fast-receding footsteps, anything that would give us an idea of what the scenario was and where it was taking place before calling the
cops. Nothing, just painfully loud quiet. We peaked out various windows, looked down onto the road and the communal garden below and there was no sign of life or death. Eventually we went back to bed, pulling the sheet up high over the old t-shirts we wear to bed. Mine was one from the Museum of Modern Art, New York, a much-needed replacement for my original MoMa, San Francisco shirt. Both of them black, with simple type. Firm favourites for years but, as with all t-shirts, they eventually transform into beloved sleepshirts until being designated a pitiful life as an artist's painting rag or being released from this world altogether and entering the ominous blackness of a bin bag.

As for the source of the gunshots, we have no idea. However, we did receive a circular soon afterwards about stepping up the security of this complex. And yesterday, we bumped into the previous supervisor of this luxury apartment complex and he told us that the apartment immediately below us had recently been completely cleaned out whilst the owner and his family were away. And this despite his alarm system, two security guards on the premises, security booms and gates that close overnight at the main entrance. Which made me wonder about the noises I had heard in the early hours of the morning, the ones before the sound of five gunshots.

Of course, this is a very tame tale in the light of what goes on in this country. It's not a touch on the story I heard last week about the
attack on a family in Kloof, where I often work, where ten assailants broke into a decent family home in the middle of the night armed with guns, axes and knives and set about destroying everything in site, stabbing any family members who awoke or stumbled dazed from sleep into the middle of the mayhem. Or the story I heard before that, where a couple woke up to intruders, the husband was shot dead and the wife ... well, I leave that one to your imagination. And the one where the husband, thrilled by how his home team was playing in the Cricket World Cup, stood up to cheer then heard a noise coming from upstairs, went up to investigate and died after he took a gunshot to the head and to the chest.

These are stories told by people I know about people they know. I, too, have been forced to look down the barrel of a gun (down three at a time whilst flat on my back on a badly lit road, and once when I walked into an armed robbery). It may seem inappropriate to talk about t-shirts in the light of such serious issues, but it is my aim to be both realistic and positive, and I believe that sending out frequent positive messages, whether on t-shirts, posters, graffitied walls, wherever, will eventually make a difference.

To turn violent crime around involves, in the most holistic sense, getting the criminals to respect life. And in order to do that, they first have to respect themselves. I am sure there are many ways to do that. On my part, I write, I create images, and I design t-shirts. I want to use those skills to do something good, however big or small that may be. I will be launching a new website and t-shirt collection with that in mind. Just give me a couple of months, please. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear your responses - from your favourite old t-shirts/sleepshirts to shirts you've created to turn things around, or tees that have made you think. We live in an amazing world and we can all make a difference. Cheers for now.

Monday, 29 January 2007


Of course, it all depends on what t-shirt you're wearing. If it's plain or sophisticated (or just plain sophisticated), then you're probably heading for some langoustine at that trendy new restaurant (in today, out tomorrow) with the massive sundeck overlooking the ocean, featuring lounging celebrities and champagne buckets. However, if your t-shirt is way past its sell-by date, flopping comfortably against your chest or breast, with thinning threads here and there, it is probably more appropriate for you to scoot over to your local for some fish and chips and a beer or three. Or, if you're in my neck of the woods, a bunny chow (more of that later) or some samp and beans with a tad too much chilli.

What got me onto all of this? Well, the other day I came across the most delightful foodie site, It's in the top five of the 7th Annual Weblog Awards.


Enticingly written, it has some really great food imagery shot by Matt himself, an art director turned photographer and very friendly guy. I urge you to nip over to Matt's place right now and wish him the best of luck. Oh, and ask him about his favourite meal and what he likes to wear when he eats it. Chances are, Matt will even share the recipe.

Talking about recipes, here's how you make a bunny chow. Grab a loaf of fresh bread, cut it half or in quarters, scoop out its middle and fill that with a curried stew of meat or beans, then place the soft bread that you scooped out on top of the curry, forming a lid. When you're brave enough to start eating (this one can be very hot!), use the "lid" to dip into the curry and then, once you've consumed that, tear off sections of the side of the loaf, taking care not to tear below the curry line, and use those to scoop up the remaining curry. The bunny chow was invented in Durban, South Africa and has a whole political history which I will probably go into on another occasion (perhaps with a new t-shirt to celebrate this great street food!) but, in the meantime, feel free to read Allan Jackson's article on it.