Five Questions with Spearhead Branding and Kina Klothing’s Mkuki

Five Questions with Spearhead Branding and Kina Klothing’s Mkuki

T-shirt: "Mwalimu"

Did you ask your colleagues about the designer of the t-shirt Fid Q is wearing on Propaganda album cover?

Well, he goes by the name of Mkuki Bgoya — the founder and Creative Director of Spearhead Branding.

He is also actively involved in running Kina Klothing, an Urban-Afrika inspired clothing company.

We hunted him down and asked him five questions, which he was more than kind to answer…

1. Why did you decide to pursue graphic designs studies in the first place?

Actually, design [studies] happened by accident, although now looking back I realize it was meant to happen — I just didn’t see it at the time!

I have always been a very visual person and always liked drawing stuff. I was the kid at school who filled his “daftari la mazoezi” (exercises book) with doodles of type, logos and Ninjas instead of homework. It didn’t end there; I have always designed stuff since I can remember, although I didn’t know that’s what it was called or that there were people who did that professionally.

My father is a publisher, so I have been using a mac since I was like 8 years old. I actually went to college to study computer science (because I was always on the computer), and while I was doing that I also took a drawing class to fulfill my fine art requirement so as to get an easy A for my GPA. This became a major turning point as my professors, seeing that I could draw well, wondered what I was doing majoring in computer science. This is when I was introduced to design as a discipline and profession. Needless to say, after that semester I was no longer pursuing a Comp Science degree. Now I have a BFA in Design Communication.

2. Take us through the whole process of establishing Spearhead Branding as a company; the dream, the vision and challenges you face.

Spearhead Branding: One of the books designed for Mkuki and Nyota Publishers.

Spearhead is something that was going to happen. To begin with I have never thought of working for anyone, so it was inevitable that I was going to start my own company. The name is actually a mashup of Spear and Head that states what we do, which is spearheading our clients’ brands. My name Mkuki, which in Kiswahili translates into “Spear”, and the Head is where the ideas come from. So that was the first step, establishing the identity.

The dream is to wake up everyday excited to go to the office and have fun while creating great work in partnership with clients who understand how design can make help their brands compete and succeed in the market.

The challenge for me right now is trying to manage people, run a business and also find time to sit at my drafting table with my pencil and paper to design. I have to work late nights because of all the distractions during the day, without forgetting lots of wasted time in crazy Dar traffic peppered with TANESCOs power cuts! It’s insane but I never thought for a second that it was going to be easy.

3. Why Kina-Klothing? A success as far as I am concerned…

Yeah, we have been very lucky from the response and support (in cold cash) we have had. It has been great but we are a young brand and are still growing, making mistakes and learning from them.

I started Kina because I needed graphic Tees that were inspired by my background and of the quality that, being a designer, I would be happy with. Judging from the excitement and the reception we received I now know there a many design conscious people out there who are looking for the same thing and are willing spend their money to get it.

Kina Klothing: "1961"

4. What do you want to tell young Tanzanians who would like take a “risky” path like yours?

By risky I suppose you mean an entrepreneurial path, siyo? What I can say is basically a cliché, which is to follow one’s instincts. This is the most important thing, because there will be many obstacles in your way, and to get past them you have to have clarity of vision (also known as naiveté) and be prepared to make mistakes or even fail spectacularly, but learn from it all.

Most importantly, love what you do, when the going gets tough, that love’s going to sustain you. Lastly, do things right; no shortcuts, just hard work; the money will come, it’s just a result of good work. Godspeed.

5. Where do you think Tanzania will be in 10 years? In terms of (visual) arts, is there hope for young upcoming artists?

It’s hard to predict but if we cultivate a culture of criticism, we will be seeing a lot of creativity coming out of Tanzania. Right now I think we are at a stage where you have creators with a very small audience (albeit one that is growing even if slowly). Most Tanzanians do not consume art, they consume TV.

We need an ecosystem of creators, critics and an audience for us to really see a vibrant art scene emerging. We need more exhibition spaces (not knocking down institutions like Nyumba ya Sanaa) to sustain that community. This is for the visual arts as well as other forms of artistic expressions.

On the design side I am thinking we’ll see more designers emerging as the discipline is getting known more and perceived as a viable career choice. We are likely to see rapid changes aided by the democratization of professional tools. However, we need more schools or classes teaching design not just how to click around in photoshop or illustrator in order to get a certificate.

Design is discipline and tools by themselves do not make a designer; just like knowing how to use the mouth mirror doesn’t make one you a dentist.

We would like to thank Mkuki for this insightful interview!

Visit his companies’ websites to learn more about his works: Spearhead Branding & Kina Klothing. Or you can visit Kina Klothing’s facebook fan page.

Related posts:

Steven was born and raised in Dar es Salaam, and moved to Germany for his studies. He graduated with a BSc. in Physics (Jacobs University Bremen), and then a MSc. in Engineering Physics (Technische Universität München). Steven is currently pursuing a PhD in Physics (growth of coatings/multilayers for next generation lithography reflective optics) in the Netherlands. He’s thinking about starting his own business in a few years; something high-tech related. At Vijana FM, Steven discusses issues critical to youths in Tanzania, music, sport and a host of other angles. He’s also helping Vijana FM with a Swahili translation project.


  1. Anonymous 8 years ago

    Many thanks @SN and @Mkuki for this! As an amateur web designer, it’s a breath of fresh air to see your talent.

    I feel that we have a deep design culture, the tools are just different in Dar (paint, dala dalas, billboards). As you say though, if there’s room for exhibition and criticism, we will see a lot of new talent coming through.

    Thank you for your inspiration!

  2. Bahati M 8 years ago

    good interview Mkuki & SN, labda swali langu la kuongezea zaidi ni kwanini wasanii hawafanyi exhibition mara kwa mara, au hata kuwa na umoja wa kufanya exhibition hizo kwa pamoja ili kuongeza variety, hopefully hiyo inaweza kuongeza mwamko wa watu katika kutupia macho sanaa..

  3. Author
    SN 8 years ago

    Kweli, Bahati. Nilipata nafasi ya kwenda kwenye maonesho mara moja mwaka jana, bahati mbaya Watanzania walikuwa wachache mno. Kama Mkuki alivyosema, tunapenda TV kuliko kitu kingine chochote (ingawa tovuti za udaku nazo ziko juu siku hizi).

    We jaribu kuuliza watu kuhusu “Tinga Tinga“. Utapata picha karibia na hali halisi.

    Anyways, I learnt a lot from this brief interview, and will be on a mission to find people like Mkuki; just trying to inspire our younger sisters and brothers out there. So be prepared (you guys know yourselves!).

    Just a suggestion to Mkuki et al: You can gather artists and designers like you, then build up a portal (for eg. “Art @ Vijana FM” or elsewhere)* where everyone can submit their works. I know there are more than enough artists out there, but it’s extremely difficult to find their works. It’s either you are in a ‘network’ that will keep you up to date or out of it and eventually know nothing about art in Tanzania.

    *I am not asking people to abandon their websites/blogs/facebook fan pages etc; people can always cross-post. If you — poets, painters, designers, writers — are up for it, let us know and we will see if we can add another tab up there (Art @ Vijana FM).

    I would like to hear what AK thinks…

  4. ak 8 years ago

    I smell a new project…

    Have you guys heard of 99designs? It is based on the open-market concept, except it really is open. Check it out – do I hear this being needed back in TZ?

    If so, it would be neat to talk about how a portal like this would work in TZ. Are people using digital media to transport/advertise their art work?

    If they are, then building a portal would be easier. If not, we can still build a portal, but one that reaches mediums that people in TZ use everyday (radio, SMS, MMS – all of which are now available on mobile phones).

    @Mkuki – it’s great to see your work and hear from you! Thank you for coming by. We’d appreciate your input as we think about this project.

    @SN – Post kali mzee. Cheers!

  5. EP 8 years ago

    Safi sana Mkuki!Wewe ni artist wa ukweli.Kazi zako ni nzuri.

  6. Bahati M 8 years ago

    Dah!!, a veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery good idea, I think the idea of building a portal and also use other media to help artists reach the audience is a great idea.

    I think this project will be great for vjfm with the help of Mkuki and others of course.

    I am Bahati & I approve this project..hah!!

  7. Anonymous 8 years ago


    Uko na watu wengine kwenye biashara yako, au unafanya kazi peke yako sasa hivi? Nadhani kuna ma-designer kadhaa kutoka kwenye shule za computer dsm.

  8. Mkuki 8 years ago

    Ndugu, Thanks for the Post and comments.

    @Anonymous, I hear you we have a visual design culture but I think our design culture is still at its infancy. Graphic design in general is still a very young discipline compared to more established practices such as Architecture, Industrial & Product design for example. Kwa hiyo as a profession it’s got some growth to do and especially here in Bongo lakini tutafika.

    @Bahati, asante kaka, hata mimi sijui kwa nini lakini nafahamu kuwa kunakuwa na exhibition sehemu chache kama Alliance Francaise na Goethe Institute. Hata hivyo bado audience ni ileile ya watu wanaoishi wilaya upande wa pili wa Salender Bridge hususani wazungu. Inahitajika kuwa na sehemu nyingi zaidi za kufanya maonesho ili kuongeza kiasi cha wasanii watakaopata fursa ya kuonyesha kazi zao. SN amegusia kwa usahihi kabisa kuwa bado wabongo hatuna mwamko wa sanaa hivyo nayo inawia vigumu kwa sanaa kukua.

    @SN the idea of an art portal is great, tujadiliane zaidi, by the way these guys are doing a fantastic job at linking and showcasing african creatives working in the digital realm waone:

    @AK the main problem with 99designs is the quality is rarely good, no professional designer I know submits work on there because there is no guarantee of getting the job when you have already spent your billable ours on it.

    Google “problems with spec work” or “problems with crowdsourcing design” Gap just tried it recently and boy! did that backfire! There are many examples and cases where companies/individuals have paid for design only to find that they are getting clipart or worse copyrighted work so beware! The best way to commission design/advertising work is still as it has always been by reviewing portfolios and engage with the creative and see how they can best solve your problem.

    @EP, asante mzee

    @ VijanaFM team, I’m game kwenye hiyo idea tunaweza kuongea zaidi kuona njia nzuri ya kufanya hivyo. In the meantime I think it is ok to just open a tab as suggested and post work by local artists and see how people respond.

    @Anonymous mimi nafanya kazi peke yangu lakini mara nyingine ninafanya na watu wengine. Hata hivyo sasa hivi ninatafuta designers wazuri ambao ninaweza kuwaajiri. Wewe ni designer pia? I am reviewing portfolios kwa hiyo kama unamjua mtu anatafuta kazi basi anitumie pdf yenye kazi zake bora kati ya 8-12 katika anuani hii “mkuki at spearheadbranding dot com”. Ila kitu kimoja ni kuwa mimi ni very critical halafu napenda watu walio wazi kujifunza na kupiga kazi usiku na mchana inapobidi.

  9. Bahati M 8 years ago

    hahaha@”mimi ni very critical”. Nimependa maoni yako kuhusu 99designs, mimi mwenyewe niliangalia kazi zao juzi. Nikaona kulikuwa na project ya t-shirt design, nikaone design ya mshindi. The design ambayo ilishinda haikuwa mbaya, lakini sasa nilipoangalia wale wengine waliodesign pia lakini hawakushinda, kazi zao hazikuwa very impressive.

    Baadhi ya kazi unaona kabisa kuwa just random people decided to do the design, which leaves one wondering, kama wanaofanya hizi kazi ni professional kama ulivyogusia.

  10. Mkuki 8 years ago

    @Bahati sio utani mimi ni very critical lakini pia niko wazi kupewa critique ya kazi zangu pia. Being a designer you’ve got to develop a thick skin and learn not to take criticism as a personal attack. It’s not fine art nobody is insulting your self expression, design’s got to communicate a specific message.

    Unajua jamii yetu bado haipendi sana kukosolewa, mara nyingi we get defensive when somebody offers a critique of our work etc. When you put your stuff out there you’ve got to be prepared for people’s opinions of it whether those are informed opinions or not those are the pros and cons of sharing ones work. Lakini mwisho wa siku it helps people push the envelope because they know critics are gonna come hard on them if they don’t deliver. This is how others have developed and gotten to where they are and are constantly pushing, because nobody wants to suck!

  11. Author
    SN 8 years ago

    Dah! Mmegusa kitu muhimu sana (kuhusu ukosolewaji/criticism). Na ndio maana nikaongeza ile makala “Unajua kipaji chako?”… niligusia juu-juu, ila wachangiaji wakajadili kwa kina.

    Hatuna budi kujenga tabia ya kujengana kimawazo. Kuwa na midahalo ni mtihani mkubwa kwetu, kwasababu mara nyingi watu hutupa hoja pembeni na kuanza kutafuta vitu ambavyo havina msingi.

    (Bahati yako Mkuki jina lako limekaa “kipagani”… :)! Hivi, mdogo wako anaitwa Mshale?)

    Najua hizi tabia zinajengwa na malezi na maisha yetu kwenye jamii kwa ujumla. Ila nyakati zimebadilika.

    Kuhusu suala la kuwa na portal kwa ajili yenu wasanii, nadhani wengi wameafiki. Kwa hiyo, tutaanza kulifanyia kazi karibuni!

  12. Mkuki 8 years ago

    Haha @SN limekaa kipagani! Sina mdogo lakini nisingeshangaa kama angeitwa mshale!

    Hiyo makala ya kipaji nitaipitia na nichangia nikipata muda.

    Cha kukumbuka ni kuwa kama msanii, mbunifu na kadhalika mara zote unatumaini kuwa kazi yako itachochea hisia fulani kutoka kwa hadhira yako na kama sio hisia ya upendo basi walau ya chuki, kibaya ni pale mtu anapoipuuza kazi yako kwani haimuudhi wala kumfurahisha. Hapo ndipo utakuwa umefeli kama msanii.

    Ntakupa mfano, mimi mara nyingi kazi zilizotengenezwa kwa ajili ya kuvutia watalii huwa haizinipi hisia yeyote yaani ninaweza kuzipita bila hata kuzitupia macho.

    Lakini kazi ambayo mtu alikuwa na jambo fulani la kusema yaani kazi ya sanaa na sio bidhaa kama pipi au condom (tena afadhali condom maana inaweza ina nguvu ya kuchagua kama utaishi au utakufa) basi lazima walau nitasimama hata kwa dakika nijaribu kuona nini kinachoendelea. Baada ya hapo pengine nitasema loh! huyu msanii kweli kweli au nitasema aah! huu utumbo gani! Mara nyingi nitaweza kukupa sababu ya hisia hizo lakini mara nyingine sina sababu ni hisia tu imetoka ndani bila fikra yeyote au sababu ya msingi! Mwisho wa siku bado huyo msanii atakuwa amefanya kitu muhimu kwani katika ile dakika moja ameweza kusimamisha kitu au fikra zozote zilizokuwa zinaendelea katika maisha yangu muda ule na kunifanya nimpe attention yangu.
    Anyway sijui hata nimefikaje hapa lakini kimsingi inabidi tuwe tayari kusikia maoni na kushukuru walau mtu ametumia muda wake kutafakari kuhusu kazi yako! Ingawa ingekuwa vizuri kupata mawazo ya jinsi gani ya kuipeleka kazi husika kwenda kiwango cha juu zaidi na sio tu comments za “kazi yako nzuri” au “kazi yako bomu”

  13. Bahati M 8 years ago

    Umezungumzia jambo zuri sana @Mkuki. Nadhani swali jingine la nyongeza, Kina imepata changamoto gani na designs zake, katika subject hiyo ya kukosolewa, sio lazima uwe specific..hah!!

    Kwa mfano, kitu ambacho nilikuja kukigundua kwenye moja ya designs, ni ile ya brain ambayo ina majina ya mikoa mbalimbali (by the way, what does that suppose to mean?).

    Hili limenikumbusha kitu, nilikuwa nina wazo la kijadili baadhi ya designs za Kina, kujua maana yake kwa kina, na nia yake kwa jamii n.k n.k, ni wazo tu kwa sasa mpaka hapo ile portal ya vjfm kwa ajili ya sanaa na wasanii kuanza rasmi, but think about it…i hope sijamwaga mchele kwenye kuku wengi..

  14. Mkuki 8 years ago

    @Bahati, nitakupa mfano, Tshirt yetu ya Bongo Flava ingawa ina mauzo mazuri lakini sio kama tulivyotarajia nafikiri sehemu mojawapo ni kwa sababu maneno “Bongo Flava” si rahisi kuyasoma na hii ilikuwa issue ya printing zaidi kuliko kwenye design maana screen printing huwa ina shida kuonyesha transparency kama utataka kutumia screen moja kitu ambacho tulilazimika kutumia, matokeo yake watu wengi ambao hawa “pay attention” huwa hawasomi maneno vizuri. Nadhani ukipata nafasi uipost picha ya hiyo design hapa ili watu waweze kuiangalia fresh na kuelewa ninachoongelea. Kwa kweli hatujapata mtu kutukosoa hivyo sina la kusema kwa hilo lakini inawezekana ni kwa sababu tu hatuna utamaduni wa kumkosoa mtu ana kwa ana lakini pengine kuna watu ambao wameona kasoro fulani fulani. Hata hivyo mwisho wa siku bado muumbaji ndio ana haki ya kuchagua kufuata ushauri au la (maana sio kila ushauri unaboresha)
    Kuhusu design ya Brain (Nayo ukiweza iweke hapa ili iwe rahisi watu kuelewa) hii idea ni kielelezo cha “Bongo” yaani ubongo ulioundwa na mikoa yote. Tanzania kama tunavyojua inaitwa pia Bongo na watu wake ni wabongo hapa si mikoa mbalimbali bali ni mikoa yote inayotengeneza nchi ya Bongo.
    Mkiwa tayari tunaweza kujadili designs kwa kina zaidi.

  15. Bahati M 8 years ago

    @Mkuki, nitashukuru sana kama utatupa fursa hiyo ya kujadili kwa KINA baadhi ya michoro ya KinaKlothing ili tuweze kuelewa fikra ndani designs za Kina. Bila shaka, tukiwa tayari kufanya hilo tutakutaharifu.

    Naamini kuna umuhimu wa kuelimisha jamii kuwa kazi za sanaa/ fasihi zinaujumbe, its not random. Mimi nina amini kuna watu wengi wameangalia designs zenu na kusema, hiyo nzuri au thats nice wakanunua tu. Kwa upande wa biashara hiyo ni nzuri, lakini naamini kwa upande wa mbunifu anayeweka ujumbe kwenye kazi zake, hiyo inaweza ika count kama failure.

    Mimi binafsi ni majuzi tu nimekuja kugungua kuwa kuna ramani ya Afrika katikati ya sura ya Mwalimu Nyerere kwenye tee yenu ya uhuru/ Nyerere

  16. Mkuki 8 years ago

    @Bahati, wakati mwingine kazi ya sanaa inataka upigane nayo mieleka kidogo ili uweze kuchomoa maana au kuona picha na maana zilizojificha ndani zaidi (kwa mfano hiyo Tee ya Nyerere).

    Kuna nyingine unazielewa mara tu ukizitupia jicho na nyingine zinataka ufikiri kidogo zaidi.
    Hata hivyo sanaa hailazimiki kuwa na ujumbe mzito mara zote, wakati mwingine inaweza ikawa ni juhudi za kuweka tabasamu au kicheko kinywani mwako tu na ikatosha.

    Kwa kampuni ya nguo mafanikio yako kwenye mauzo, kwa msanifu wa nguo hizo kama ana ujumbe basi mafanikio yake yanakuja pale watu wanapoweza kuupata ujumbe huo. Cha muhimu ni kupata balance between simplistic messages ili kila mtu azielewe haraka haraka na complex compositions ambazo hakuna anayezielewa. Ila hapa tunaelekea kwenye topic nyingine inayohusu “uhuru wa msanii” au “leseni ya kusanifu.”

    Nimefurahi kusikia umeiona ile ramani ya Afrika kwenye uso wa Mwalimu, ile ni zawadi kwa wale wanaotaka kupekua kwa undani zaidi.

  17. FREDRICK MARIKI 7 years ago


  18. Candytav 4 weeks ago

    ???????,??????????! .

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