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About this story

Author: Nate Hopper, Danielle Waugh

Date: January 2011

People: Asanda Ncwadi

Asanda Ncwadi is saving for college in nearby Port Elizabeth next fall. He's saving money from the T-shirts he makes by hand.

T-shirt maker adds personal touch

By: Nate Hopper, Danielle Waugh

In America, lots of people have “I [<3] NY” or pictures of Drake or Che Gueverra splattered on their T-shirts. But few of those shirts actually had paint splattered onto them — most were screen-printed by machines that pressed them out in minutes.

But in a small home at the top of Hlalani, a township outside of Grahamstown, South Africa, where there are no computers, Asanda Ncwadi uses self-carved stencils, fabric paints and brushes to meticulously make his own T-shirts. Each one takes about 15 minutes (including the time it takes for the wind to dry each one as it waves on his barbed fence).

Ncwadi’s work has a wide range of designs: the outline of Africa; “I <3 SA,” with each province outlined; Drake or Mao Zedong; and African tea pots.

With each shirt, he paints a signature logo on the back.

And while Americans regularly drop around $30 for their Drake concert tees, Ncwadi only charges 50 rand — about $7 — for shirts with a little more effort and love painted into them.

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