April Issue 2014
Celebrating Women of African Heritage
FOUNDER & PUBLISHER Patricia Miswa
ONLINE www.afroellemagazine.com WE ARE SOCIAL
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AFROELLE MAGAZINE | Encourage. Empower. Entertain. Elevate
Photographer: RASHEID SCARLETT On the Cover : NuNu WAKO Stylist: NICOLETTE ORJI (Nikki Billie Jean) All Things Ankara Hair: SOUL CHIC BOUTIQUE Makeup: GLAM BY ISOKEN Creative Direction : ANDREW COPELAND, TROYMASSA—LEONE CMG
A big thanks to our contributors who helped make this issue possible!
IMAN FOLAYAN Writer HOUSTON, TEXAS thepowermixer.com
ASHLEY MAKUE Writer SOUTH AFRICA ashleymakue.tumblr.com
TATENDA KANENGONI Writer HARARE, ZIMBABWE @tatenda25ethan
Submissions If you have a story idea or would like to share your wisdom or insights with women globally email AfroElle@gmail.com with ‘Submission’ on the subject line. If you know a woman we should feature that is a leader, rising star, inspiring communities and making a difference, send us her bio and link to her work at AfroElle@gmail.com 4 AfroElle
Learning How to Ask!
ne of the greatest lessons I’ve learned recently is how to ask. This may sound like something easy to do, but for a long time I struggled with getting out there and chasing after opportunities that I felt could be mine . I was afraid of rejection or getting a NO. But these were just assumptions. So its not that opportunities were not available , its that I wasn’t bold enough to ask– knock on doors or just show up.
After getting tired of being given the ‘You should have asked” response I decided to start asking, from asking for little things to knocking on big doors. After I got a Yes here and there , it gave me the courage to ask again and again. At the beginning of the year, I wrote down a list of people I wanted to feature in AfroElle. They were big names- of people out of my network or reach but who I admired and wanted to share their wisdom and journey with our readers. And there was always that voice in my head saying ’why do you think they would pay attention to your little independent magazine.’ But I didn’t pay attention. In this issue, we feature one of those people on my list, Tavia Forbes, one of Atlanta’s best interior designers. I came across the work she did for beauty brand CurlBOX and I knew I had to ask her to share her design tips with our readers and she said yes! It just goes to show that its all about asking. Until next time, I leave you with the words of Nora Roberts “If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place.”
Patricia Miswa Editor-in-Chief email@example.com
INSIDE 12 Valerie Kimani: Into the Light 19 Cover Story: NuNu Wako 33 Designer Profile: Abai Schulze 38 Nikki Billie Jean 42 A Home Fit for the Runwayâ€“ Tavia Forbes 50 Southern Belles with Hope Masike Samantha Ndlovu Tabetha Kanengoni Rumbi Katedza
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Celebrating women of African Heritage
Empower. Encourage. Entertain. Visit us at www.afroellemagazine.com
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Quotes of the Month <<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>> “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.” — John Pierpont Morgan "Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy." — Robert Tew “The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.” -- Leo F. Buscaglia You will never win if you never begin. -Helen Rowland
Into the Light The life of a celebrity is riddled with the constant pressure from the public, and under pressure stardom can take a toll on a person. The media has done a great job of embedding the public into the private lives of every celebrity but at the end of the day, celebrities are people with feelings, problems, and triumphs. After winning Africaâ€™s hit contest show Tusker Project FAME,
Valerie Kimani was thrust into the flashy lights and everything that comes with it. Now from out of all of the negativity that shadowed much of her early career, Ms. Kimani shares her personal journey of trial, triumph, and overall happiness.
Written By: Iman Folayan | Photography Copyright: Cirque-Jackson 2013 I.P., LLC | Photography: Isaac Brekken & Eric Jamison
fter winning Tusker Project FAME it seemed like you became an overnight celebrity. How was it adjusting to the instant fame and stardom?
It was a whirlwind for sure. Everything did seem to change overnight. I won the very first edition of Tusker Project FAME in East Africa, so there were no rules established. There was no one to look to who had been in my shoes before so it was a little terrifying. It was terrifying, then it was energizing because it meant that I was going into territories that no one had explored before. I was making history in my own little way. It took a long time to feel like my feet were on the ground again. That has come with time. Time keeps refining me. You know what they say about experience.
You’ve travelled the world doing what you love but you come from humble beginnings. As a young girl what was your first exposure to singing and music? How important to you is it to infuse your culture in every song? I remember being on vacation with my family at the Kenyan coast; I was maybe 12 or 13. And I remember being completely taken by this singer who was playing with her band on the beach. She was singing popular covers and everyone was singing along, dancing, and so happy! She had big, blonde curly extension and a red dress. Of course it was a red dress. And I remember wanting to be her, sans the blonde extensions. I wanted to be a singer because of that lady on the beach with the red dress. It is absolutely important to me to infuse my culture in everything I do. It’s who I am and I don’t even have to think about it. It’s the way I walk, talk, dress, how I think and express myself. I am a product of my age I suppose and my generation is very cosmopolitan. Growing up in Nairobi means exposure to a lot of Western influences but also holding on fiercely to things our grandmothers taught us, speaking at least three different languages and having diverse tastes and opinions. My culture is alive and aware, we question and break molds. I’m getting pretty inspired for a second album; I believe it’s time.
“ Time keeps refining me. You know what they say about experience.”
â€œ It takes courage to look inward and confront yourself.â€?
As a woman and a mother in the industry what challenges have you faced and how do you deal with it? Well outside of the usual challenges any performer faces, I now take a little extra time to plan and I exercise a bit more caution because of my son. I only commit to projects that are worthwhile for both of us. As for being a woman, there has never been a better time to be a beautiful African woman playing on the global field. I believe we have Lupita Nyong’o to thank for that.
How was your experience working in Las Vegas with Cirque de Soleil honoring the King of Pop?
My inspiration is my mother. She has a knack for bringing people together and teaching them something about themselves at the same time. It takes courage to look inward and confront yourself. It’s so much easier to avoid difficult situations, losses, and failures, that kind of thing. So with Valerie’s Concern we create connections and endless aha moments that help us navigate through the ups and downs in life. I am definitely one of the biggest beneficiaries of these programs. Like everyone else I know, I’ve had many ups and many downs. I really shouldn’t be here still functioning. I believe it’s largely thanks to the awareness and support from Valerie’s Concern.
Despite all the negativity that every artist/ celebrity experiences, what legacy do you “The story I have written so far is one of achievement, persistence, courage, and grace. If at the end of my journey someone still remembers my name, my prayer is that it inspires the very best in them to rise up.” Michael Jackson One has be an experience like no other. I will forever cherish all the lessons I am learning working with Cirque de Soleil and all the wonderful performers I now call friends. Every night I get to sing with Michael. I wonder if there’s anything that can top that.
On top of being a leader in world music you also are a leader of Valerie’s Concerns. Tell us more about your foundation, your inspiration for it, and your success stories. I started Valerie’s Concern out of a desperate need to connect to people beyond what they saw on stage or on their TV screens. I wanted a real human-to-human connection in an environment that left us enriched and inspired. It’s a concern not to lose my real, authentic self to whatever else is happening around me.
want to leave as artist and a woman? I am writing my history everyday. The story I have written so far is one of achievement, persistence, courage, and grace. If at the end of my journey someone still remembers my name, my prayer is that it inspires the very best in them to rise up. To look beyond what we are told we can and can’t do. Give it our best shot. That’s all.
What upcoming projects can we expect from you this year? This year you can catch me at Michael Jackson One at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. I am concentrating all my energies towards making my performances special and memorable every night.
Shop at etsy.com/shop/nomose
Photography by RASHEID SCARLETT
Creative Direction by ANDREW COPELAND
Stylist by NICOLETTE ORJI (Nikki Billie Jean,) All Things Ankara
An Interview With
NuNu Wako R O A R Written by ASHLEY MAKUE
Bowtie (cover) & Skinny tie: Billie Jean Bowties & Designs Blazer & Pant Suit: MontRosee Ankara Bag: Debisi
HE POWER OF AN AFRICAN WOMAN IS NEVER MEASURED BY THE WEALTH SHE HAS BUT BY THE PEOPLE SHE DIRECTLY AND IN-DIRECTLY INFLUENCES. OUR COVER STORY OF NUNU WAKO IS AN ESSENCE OF INFLUENTIAL HUMILITY. THE ETHIOPIAN BEAUTY WITH BRAINS SITS DOWN TO SPEAK TO AFROEELLE ABOUT HOW SHE EMPOWERS AFRICANS AROUND THE GLOBE THROUGH HER SHOW AND BRINGS AWARENESS TO DISEASES AFFECTING MULTIPLE AFRICAN NATIONS. TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHAT YOU DO.
WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR INTEREST IN JOURNALISM?
I am NuNu Wako –an Ethiopian sophisticated village gal. A village gal – not in terms of the way I look (as some assume so quickly.) Although, there is nothing more beautiful than those girls dressed in authentic attire of their cultures in the villages of Africa in their natural supreme beauty but; in terms of how hard I work in what I believe in.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a straight shooter in my opinions and envisioned myself being in front of the masses speaking my mind. I knew that I wanted to be an outlet for the voices of others. I recall in high school that I was friends with the kids that my classmates thought of as weird because I just wanted to be the person protecting them. It was an innate feeling I had to always do good for those that I felt were at a disadvantage. But It was during my modeling days that I discovered that I loved being in front of the camera – whether I was simply shooting an ad campaign, doing a movie trailer or a commercial –I felt comfortable. I realized while modeling that I wanted to be a broadcast journalist and disseminate information because I saw how powerfully influential those ads and commercials were.
The most underestimated working girls around are village girls; and, I resonate with that as there is nothing else or anyone else I can possibly compare my work ethic to than an Ethiopian village gal. I am very ambitious, driven and a positive young woman who sees the world for the positive it has to offer and building others on that positivity that exists in all of us. Most importantly, I am a philanthropist at heart. I use the opportunity granted through my journalistic work to bring critical issues to light through a positive dialogue with likeminded individuals who have excelled in their own fields of career choices and empower others through the path they’ve taken. An opportunity wasted on negativity is nothing but detrimental to all of us. I use my voice, who I am in this world and where I am headed to always empower Africa.
It was a butterfly effect, broadcast journalism is the platform that I always envisioned myself speaking to thousands of people on and connecting with them on various issues. In 2007, an idea was presented. From this idea, two other young women and I started a web based television program called – Africa in Demand, which I am no longer a part of.
Shortly after formation, I realized that it was heading down a path I was not comfortable in being a part of. However, during the time that I was a part of Africa in Demand, I managed to connect with so many other African entrepreneurs that I was not otherwise able to connect with from modeling as the two industries are vastly different. The one person that kept popping up in conversations, being introduced and re-introduced to me, time and time again was the CEO of EBSTV (Ethiopian Broadcasting Services.) It was he that approached me with an idea to have my own talk show on his soon to launch international television show since I had a following from modeling back in 2008. This is truly how my journalism career developed and the NuNu Wako Show was born to become the internationally recognized television program that it is today. CONSIDERING YOUR MOST NOTABLE WORKS IN FILM, WHAT WERE YOUR MAJOR CHALLENGES AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THEM/ THE EXPERIENCE? Every endeavor has its challenges and certainly becoming a nontraditional journalist –a credible >>>
“oh, its a government owned television and they will be doing nothing but doing the same ol thing that the government is doing, talking propaganda all the time.” I felt at times that there was nothing we can do to convince people that we are free of politics and that my show –NuNu Wako Show is a lifestyle magazine for television that will be discussing ranges of topics involving the interconnected global community with Africa at the heart of the discussions. It was hard work. Sleepless nights and long hours but the experience of it all made me a stronger person. It made be become more aware of how as Africans, we hesitate to give our own a chance and believe a total stranger. This experience made me fall in love with my people even more. It made me want to work hard at being someone they can trust. It made me want to be someone that they can count on for factual based information. The lack of trust I experienced was a different form of empowerment.
“Believe you me, there were times I wanted to give up and just say –forget it” at that, was not an easy journey and still isn’t easy. Because the platform I was jump starting my journalism career was a brand new platform six years ago, it was absolutely difficult to earn people’s trust to even want to talk to me let alone get on camera to discuss the types of issues I wanted them to discuss. We (EBSTV execs) spent 2008/2009 and even early 2010 going to every African community related events, conferences, and festivals to get the network, NuNu Wako Show, our faces
and brand familiar with our communities across the nations. We spent countless hours traveling all over the place to earn people’s trust and support.
Their hesitancy made me realize how much they want to have someone or something they can call their own –but how often they are disappointed by someone they believed will be the real deal for them. As challenging, as difficult and exhausting as it was to crack into our tight knit communities, earning their trust, respect and support is PRICELESS. Nothing worth fighting for is achieved easily –this journey was worth fighting for. You reap what you sow –it is now starting to pay off. WHAT HAVE BEEN THE STARTING POINTS TO YOUR BROADCASTING CAREER?
The starting point to my career is the belief, support and unwavering confidence the team at Believe you me, there were times I wanted to give up and EBSTV had and still have in me. They have been the just say –forget it. There were foundation to my broadcasting career and continue people who were too doubt- to guide me in a positive direction. I would not be here today discussing my progress as an influential ful, discouraging, and prewoman had it not been for the potential they saw sumptuous and could not and nurtured in me to make me the trusted even be paid to have their journalist I am today. support. But the experience of going through so many negatives of the typical Africa rhetoric of
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“ WHETHER THEY LIKE TO BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THIS WORLD WOULD BE NOTHING WITHOUT AFRICA.”
TELL US ABOUT THE NUNU WAKO SHOW. NuNu Wako Show is a lifestyle magazine for television that highlights a range of social topics involving our global-interconnected community. With each episode, we seek to be informative and accessible. Our mission with the show is to expose our audience to a range of topics from business, development, entertainment, the arts, and politics, to charitable efforts. As
YOUR SHOW IS AN IMPORTANT PLATFORM FOR THE DISCUSSION OF AFRICAN ISSUES, WHAT IS THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND THE SHOW? The driving force behind NuNu Wako Show is the love I have for Africa. As an Ethiopian growing up in America, I grew up experiencing firsthand how Africans are misperceived and misrepresented in every aspect of our identity in the media at large. Growing up in a society where our schoolmates, peers and colleagues were made to believe that Africa is
The desire to educate others on who we are and how much of a powerful force we are in this universe is the driving force of NuNu Wako Show. Whether they like to believe it or not, this world of ours will be nothing without Africa. Not to mention –Africa is everyone in this world. YOU ARE CREDITED FOR YOUR
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such, the show aims to be a catalyst for multinational dialogue and discussion amongst leaders of various industries, pioneers, philanthropist and ordinary people with extraordinary stories. As I mentioned previously, it is a platform where credible information and stories are articulated in a conversation.
immensely poor, that we live in the jungle and the only great things about Africa in general is that we have exotic animals and great pyramids. I have always been defending us and trying to educate my counterparts. There is more to us than someone’s imagination and fantasy who never set foot nowhere on the continent.
QUIRKY STYLE OF INTERVIEWING, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO CONNECT PERSONALLY TO YOUR INTERVIEWEES? Ah! Yes. Taking the time to personally get to know someone who I want to share their private and professional life with the world is the principal of respect for me. I
Reversible Ankara/Leather Suit: Ohemaacloset Earrings + Black Braclet : Puksies Wardrobe respect my guest, their work, their opinion, who they are as an individual and to society. It stems from admiration and valuing the story or information they have to share with my audience. I am also an adamant believer of building a trusting relationship with my guest because for me, they are not just a temporary object of interest to fill a certain time slot on my show; they are another link to the chain of journey I have taken on –building a positive image of Africa and educating the masses on Africa and our various successes as well as struggles. It also goes back to the lesson I learned trying to build a trusting relationship with our community when I first started –be authentically NuNu Wako and in being so, getting to know my guest, understand the drive behind your quest, they too, become a supporter and open
up without feeling like they’re being bring another guest to further investigated. discuss the gap that exists between the two entities. Another issue that was also important for me as well WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST as my audience is the yet-to-beIMPORTANT TOPICS TO GO INTO eradicated prevalence of FGM ON NUNU WAKO SHOW? (Female Genital Mutilation,) this topic really hit home for individuals across the continent of Africa and I don’t view any topic more abroad. These issues are something important than another. However; that my audiences across the world the topic of building a bridge are still asking for me to revisit – between Africa and Africanagain. I of course, will like to Americans who can be and are our biggest advocate on African issues, continue to advocate for these issues. policies and affairs here in the United States and elsewhere, resonated across the board to every HOW HAS AFRICA RESPONDED TO African in Diaspora and most THE SHOW? importantly, on the continent. That issue was covered in season two of my show in 2010 and four years later, I am still being asked to
Africa is most receptive to the show. They are appreciative
because it is something new, different from the typical news like broadcasting they are used to and refreshing because of the information they receive from the show. The one thing I love and admire about my Africa is that they will watch an episode of NuNu Wako Show and immediately after, write me a message to let me know how they were impacted by the conversation. I receive emails from everywhere
thanking me for taking such an approach and becoming a resource that they can turn to. It is and has become a Billboard of Information like the ones in Time Squares for them and I am humbled by their honest feedback. I research and present a guest with Africa in mind and for them to appreciate my work â€“that feeling is immensely surreal.
OTHER THAN PUTTING AFRICAN ISSUES ON THE FOREFRONT, WHAT CONTRIBUTIONS HAS NUNU WAKO SHOW MADE TO THE ADVANCEMENTOF AFRICA? One of the conscience and morally appropriate steps that I always take with NuNu Wako Show is to somehow contribute to the advancement of Africa hence;
I am always presenting social issues that are tabooed to speak in public
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let alone on an internationally broadcasted program. For example, I have covered issues on FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) as I mentioned earlier and this for so long as been such a tabooed subject to discuss from women being ashamed to come forth to tell their traumatizing stories to our leaders turning a blind eye to it in the sake of tradition. I have covered issues on economic development in Africa and how the wealth is not disseminating down to the citizens, I have covered issues on women development and sustainability. The key thing is, I am not afraid to discuss any social issues that are hindering Africans progressing as a whole. I am not afraid to discuss and confront some of the issues that are obvious hindrances to the advancement of the citizens of Africa such as lack of proper educational institutions and sanitation. If the citizens are stagnant in their mental understanding of social issues, the nations of our continent is not forging forward with sustainable growth. I ardently believe that because I am able to cover such critical topics on NuNu Wako Show, such conversations are truly helping Africa and Africans advance organically and sustainably because viewers are being exposed to information they otherwise would not have access to and have proper explanation of the information they receive. I ensure that the topic being discussed is backed by accurate information from experts in that field. YOUR WORK WITH FOOTWORK (THE INTERNATIONAL PODOCONIOSIS INITIATIVE) HAS BEEN TO END PODOCONIOSIS, WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT COURSE? This is dear to my heart. It breaks me every time I talk about it. The work being conducted by Footwork is impeccable. Impeccable in the sense it is really bringing unparalleled results to affected individuals lives. Podoconiosis for those that are not aware, is a
“ I JUST FEEL THAT MY EXISTENCE WILL BE INCOMPLETE IF I AM NOT REACHING OUT TO TOUCH AND CHANGE ANOTHER’S LIFE IN A POSITIVE WAY.”
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disease triggered by abnormal reaction to walking barefoot over an extended period of time on red, volcanic soil found in much of the high altitude nations in Africa. There are -10 African nations affected by this disease with Ethiopia and Cameroon being at the top of the list of nations where it is most prevalent. These affected individuals are outcasts from their communities, disowned by their families and friends and are robbed of living the life they deserve as humans. Podoconiosis is an entirely preventable disease—because it’s not well known that simply walking barefoot on the red, volcanic soil puts them at risk, people are suffering from gruesome disfigurement and pain. I am just one of the many voices advocating and bringing awareness to this issue and foster support to end it in our lifetime as it is preventable and with treatment, can be curable. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MILESTONES REACHED BY FOOTWORK? My goodness, there are many to list that I’d probably need a whole different issue to cover them all. Footwork, although a very small organization is changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals in Ethiopia, other affected nations in Africa by sharing research database and providing treatment and preventative programs in hopes to eradicate it in our lifetime. Footwork is not like other NGOs who go into a village and believe that they can change things over night by doing things themselves. No. Footwork works with the locals on every aspect of its procedures.
They educate and assist locals on how they can assist the affected individuals. They are invested in working with area schools from elementary upto college in bring awareness to podo, the cause and how to prevent and treat it. It starts with educating those you want to help…. They do just that. Africans value the gift of shoes so much they save it for special occasions not realizing that walking barefoot every day is making them prone to podo. I urge your reader to visit www.podo.org to learn more about the work Footwork is conducting as well as to get involved and donate. WHAT INFORMATION CAN YOU SHARE WITH US REGARDING THE PREVENTION OF PODOCONIOSIS? All of us probably know someone that knows someone suffering from Podo but simply attribute it to being cursed or some myth of sort. But podo is simply preventable. It is a matter of educating our affected and unaffected communities to wear shoes, socks and wash our feet every day. It is basic hygiene. Everyone can help save an affected individual’s life by donating just $55.00 which provides treatment and therapy for a year to cure an affected person from podo. Again, visit www.podo.org to donate.
It is an innate feeling. I just feel that my existence will be incomplete if I am not reaching out to touch and change another’s life in a positive way. ARE THERE ANY FUTURE PROJECTS THAT YOU CAN SHARE WITH US? I am always engaged in something however; I have “don’t discuss it until it is completed” policy. I advise your readers to be a frequent visitor of my official webpage www.nunuwako.com to learn about all of the projects I am involved in. Thank you so very much AfroElle for this opportunity. I am excited at the opportunity to have such a platform to discuss my work and philanthropic endeavors. I am humbled.
For more about NuNu Wako, visit nunuwako.com and follow her on Twitter @nunuwako Facebook @nunu.wako
I also want to advice our friends and families to not allow our relatives and their children to walk barefooted. WHAT INSPIRES YOUR PHILANTHROPIC COURSES AND PROJECTS?
Abai Schulze treads the fine line between fashion and enterprise Written By: Iman Folayan Photos courtesy: Abai Schulze
ou may be hip to the new fashion trend thats sweeping the world, leather inserts. Leather was a major theme at New York’s 2014 Fashion Week and designers Alexander Wang, Micahel Kors and Max Azria were just a few that rocked the runway with breathtaking pieces in their new lines. But leather is nothing new. Since the beginning of time, before cotton was the go-to fabric, leather has been used for everything from shoes to clothes and even accessories. Most people think Italian leather is supreme to all other but Ethiopian designer Abai Schulze is proving that Ethiopian leather is equal, if not better, and is raising the bar with her chic and unique accessory line, The ZAAF Collection,
made for the everyday woman with a killer fashion instinct. This past November marked the official launch of the ZAAF Collection into the global market. As an Ethiopian based company the desire to provide a stylish handbag has led Abai on an even greater quest, to influence the job sector and economic welfare of her country. As far as inspiration goes, “I had an eclectic upbringing and was fortunate enough to travel,” says the young designer. Now every piece of the ZAAF collection is a testament to not only awakening the fashion senses but also giving each customer a unique piece of Ethiopia. “My products are functional, attractive and fashion forward, and I want consumers to feel a sense of where the product was made. That’s my deep and ultimate goal.” 33 AfroElle
You recently launched your line in D.C. but you’ve been in business for some time. How did you get started in the fashion industry with it being one of the most difficult industries to tap into? Well as far as the fashion aspect, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. When I was in high school I was very much involved with the fine arts department. I was always drawing something and I actually used to draw and design ties for men. So my dad wanted me to do something with it but I was occupied with school so I was just drawing then. I always wanted to go back to Ethiopia because I would see all these designs but they all focused on the local market. I definitely wanted to do something in the textile industry to create something that was attractive to the whole market and still pronounce the culture and the richness of it. It seems like a lot of people started doing that so I thought I should take on a different material; leather, which we have plenty of. So in 2012 I made a trip to get samples and loved what I saw. If you have an attachment to the country it’s easier to do business than if you just want to start a business and make money. I think my background helps. Throughout high school and college I went back to Ethiopia frequently and I did an internship at various hospital settings just to observe the potential our country has and the obstacles and challenges I would face eventually.
How do you balance infusing your pieces with culture and still appealing to the global market? I try to give my customers a sense of where the product was made. It’s really important for me to market and brand Ethiopia.
â€œIf you have an attachment to the country itâ€™s easier to do business than if you just want to start a business and make money.
My vision is to use the traditional raw materials, with an ethical value to appeal to a global market and raise the standard of Ethiopian products. So even when I’m showing my samples to potential buyers I have to perfect that sample so that if a zipper is wrong they won’t judge the entire product. There’s already a negative stereotype for things that are being sourced from Ethiopia and Africa in general.
Most people think Italian is the best leather. But what makes your leather and your line, The ZAAF Collection, especially unique? What’s interesting is that when you see these fancy labels that say “Made in Italy” or bags or what have you, the raw materials are all being sourced from Ethiopia. Obviously Italians have better stitching when it comes to making the bags, and they are nice. I do not want to compete with them because we have our own unique style and craftsmanship. So why not use our own raw materials and resources instead of outsourcing work. In this way we expand the job market. .My
brand is not trying to compete with Kate Spade or Michael Kors, it’s a entirely different niche. It’s very much in the celebration of handcrafted and “Made in Ethiopia” and that’s what makes it different.
My background is economics and after taking an economic development course, the material I was reading was quite tangible to me. I grew up in an orphanage and I realized that the only way to help the economic growth was to use the country’s resources and also export to not just the local market. And that’s how you raise the standard when you get it into the global market.
In your efforts to reach the global market, what has been some of your greatest challenges? Doing business in Ethiopia is definitely not easy since The World Bank has ranked us as one of the
lowest countries. But I think the most challenging this is to not quantify the amount of time it takes to finish something. You’ll learn soon after that nothing goes on at the speed of light. That was daunting. I just watched my brand launch when I had planned on doing that in September of last year. The system in Ethiopia is challenging and dealing with that can be interesting. The bureaucracy is challenging and I hope that people like me will do business here so they can experience the economies of scale. That way it will be easier for the next generation that follows.
How was your response at your U.S. launch? It was actually very positive. We sent out a survey so we’re still hearing more feedback but I was definitely very pleased. My brand is not trying to compete with Kate Spade or Michael Kors, it’s a entirely different niche. It’s very much in the celebration of handcrafted and “Made in Ethiopia” and that’s what makes it different. It is not massproduced in China so I think people respond to that very positively.
What can customers expect in this new line? They are unisex. I like my products to be versatile so that one product can be used for men and women and can be worn differently. For example, the tablet sleeve; I have men who use it to carry their iPad or laptop and then women can also do the same thing or they can carry at as clutch at night. And the same goes for the Weekender Bag. So it really depends on you, if you love the design of the bag you can wear it how you want. That’s what I love about it. I also like to listen feedback because I want to make it very consumer oriented.
For Abai, the ZAAF Collection gives customers the opportunity to not only be apart of fashion’s latest trend, but to be a small stepping stone into developing Ethiopia’s economy. Who knew a simple handbag could bring about so much change. Now it’s your turn to get involved, in style of course. To shop and for more information visit zaafcollection.com
Nikki Billie Jean The first time you encounter Billie Jean Bowties, you canâ€™t help but think of Michael Jacksonâ€™s Billie Jean. And that is exactly where Nicolette Orji, who goes by Nikki Billie Jean got her inspiration for her brand name. The Nigerian- American from Maryland is a well rounded fashionista, designer, stylist, blogger & model. She runs a personal style blog Styles by Nikki Billie Jean and popular fashion blog All Things Ankara. Nikki has always had a passion for fashion, but it was not showcased until she went to Penn State. At Penn State Nikki participated in pageants and fashion shows. She did everything from modeling to directing shows at her school. During her senior year she decided to launch Billie Jean Bowties & Designs at an annual show at her school, Touch of Africa. Nikki had been working on her designs for about a year and thought it was the perfect time to showcase her designs during her last year. We chat with Nikki about her menswear inspired clothing line.
Photographer: Bryan K. Winston, 1,000 Words Photography Model: Candiz Luke & Emmanuela Flomo Make-Up: Tiairra Shelton & Kecia Dickerson
Can you share with us the story behind your brand name? In high school, My name on Facebook was Nikki Nik. After Michael Jackson died in 2009, I changed it to Nikki Billie Jean in remembrance of him. I started college in 2009 as well and after people became friends with me on Facebook they started calling me Nikki Billie Jean so it stuck with me. I decided to call my brand: Billie Jean Bowties & Designs because music has a big influence on me and Michael Jackson is a huge inspiration to all mankind, inspiring people to “go above and beyond.” Billie Jean Bowties & Designs strives to “go above and beyond” to provide men and women with electric, classy, and sophisticated gear that will stand them out from the masses.
What do you like about your designs and is there a particular person/ designer/ celebrity you draw
your inspiration from? Billie Jean Bowties & Designs is a menswear inspired clothing line that caters to both men and women. It’s mens fashion from a girls perspective but with a twist. The twist is my brand having a “Pretty Boy Swag”, somewhat androgynous. I like how my designs or brand has a “Tomboy” feel to it, and how it is redefining the definition of “sexy” similar to one of my inspirations, Janelle Monae. My Brand, like Janelle Monae, is classy, comfortable, rebellious, & adventurous.
Who are some fashion designers who have influenced your work or whose work you admire and why? Stella Jean, Boxen Kitten, Rue 114, MontRosee are some designers that have influenced my work. I love how they mix Ankara Prints. There designs are colorful, spunky, risky and fun. They have fun with
Model: Lashawn Slayton Hairstylist: Maine Stream Style Makeup : Greggory Marcus
Photographer: Chibuzo Ononiwu Makeup: Dahlia Dixon
fashion and that’s what it’s all about.
“ My bow ties are a reflection of my personality. My bowties would have a unique, bubbly spunk and rebellious personality.
What makes Billie Jean Bowties unique? A couple of things that makes Billie Jean Bowties unique. The main thing that makes Billie Jean Bowties unique: is that a girl makes bow ties. A lot of people are amazed that I am interested in making bow ties. Another thing that makes Billie Jean Bowties unique is that I use out of the ordinary things to make bow ties. I have used broken glass, nails and even painted bowties.
Tell us about your lego bowtie (which is a favorite) and the story behind it. Yes. That is everyone’s favorite bow tie! It is my best seller! I was watching Sunday’s Best, a gospel singing competition show, on BET during Summer 2012 and one of the contestants auditioning had on a Lego bowtie. After watching that episode, I decided to make one for myself to wear.
The Lego inspired me to start Billie Jean Bowties & Designs. If I did not watch that episode, Billie Jean Bowties & Design would be in existence. It is funny how God works.
What are you currently working on and can you tell us a little bit about it? I am currently working on coming out with more variations of the Lego Bowtie; different colors and Lego Bowties for toddlers. I am also working on my Spring/Summer 2014 Collection, especially working on other accessories than just the bowties. I am focusing more on the “Designs” part of Billie Jean Bowties & Designs. I want my brand to be a clothing & accessory line.
For some of Billie Jean Designs check out their website billiejeanbowties.com 41 AfroElle
A HOME FIT
for the Runway
Tavia Forbes is one of Atlanta’s hottest interior designers. An avid ‘do –it-yourselfer’, Tavia shares her passion for design and design tips you can take home. WORDS: Iman Folyan PHOTOS COURTESY: Tavia Forbes
ome is where the heart is, true enough. And after a long days work nothing is more relaxing than coming home to your personal palace. “The style of your home is a reflection of yourself”, says interior designer Tavia Forbes, and there’s no reason why you can’t have all the nice fixings, without going broke in the process. After quitting her job and pursuing her passion, Tavia Forbes now has one of Atlanta’s leading interior design companies. Of course this came with much sacrifice and as with anything in life, hard work. When Ms. Forbes took the leap of faith to quit her job and pursue her passions full time she had no idea how much her degree in Business Management and Marketing would come in handy. Of course her background in studio art played a major role as she started this new venture but as the saying goes “experience is the best trainer”. While tagging along with her father as a young girl she learned construction basics and can now boast of building pretty much anything from scratch. Most designers may not have such extensive background as Ms. Forbes who has touched everything from event design to carpentry, but her greatest traits are vision and patience; the vision to quit her job 44 AfroElle
and the patience to see the outcome of her new prosperous business. “Nothing is automatic. You have to work first. You can’t expect a reward before the risk or the work. You have to work hard and have a great attitude”, she says. And it is these precise words that have taken Tavia from that first client to the many she now has . “I usually have to coach people while I’m managing a project” says Tavia. As you can imagine, people are sensitive about those close to them, and nothing comes closer than having an interior designer in your home telling you your room needs a serious makeover. When you first move in you often have a vision of how you want your home to look and feel, sometimes the execution is the hard part. That’s where Ms. Forbes comes in. With Spring and Summer underway now’s the best time to give your home that fresh style you’ve been craving. And while you may not be an interior design guru, there are a few do’s and don’ts that can enhance your living space and give you a home fit for the runway. Ms. Forbes shares a few tips that every home should incorporate to turn a “blah” room into an “ahhhhh” room
THE DO’S, THE DON’TS AND THE NEVERS 1. Never expect an Interior Designer to be your personal DIY handyman (or women) - Designers do not always specialize in do it yourself projects so be sure you know they’re background before you hire them to turn your living room into a castle.
2. Say No to Sets - Avoid buying from places that sell sets. Often times you’ll end up with a living room set that lacks personal swagger or that unique touch.
3. A Personal Touch - Add a personal item. Even if its just a framed picture of your child’s artwork, small items that have sentimental value always add more character to a room than any piece of furniture or curtains.
4. Looking for a Hook-Up, think again - Designers are not your source to discounts.
Although they may have good relationships with businesses do not expect lower prices just because you go through a designer.
5. A Comfy Budget - You may want to go all out and splurge on your new home design but remember a good budget makes for a great result. Sticking to your budget will ensure you get everything you want without the stress of buyers’ guilt afterwards. “Bear in mind there’s a difference between a regular budget and a DIY budget”, warns Tavia.
6. Be Inspired - If you have the vision in your mind but can’t seem to put on paper visit some of Tavia’s top picks for inspiration. Pinterest and houzz.com are great tools if your looking for great ideas and projects you can do yourself.
7. Is there an Elephant in the Room or a Mouse - Be sure you can furnish your space, and know when enough is enough. Overcrowding a space is a designer’s nightmare, equally so, don’t take minimalism to mean a single chair in a vast living room. Balance is everything.
8. It’s the Inside that counts - Landscaping shouldn’t be avoided but just like your body, it’s the inside that counts. Spend time beautifying your house on the inside so you can come home and be pleased and at peace. “It’s not just about your home, it’s a lifestyle”, says Tavia, and you’ll want your home to be reflection of you, inside out.
9. Patience, Patience, Patience - The reward of patience is patience, and this process will take plenty of it. Don’t be hasty in making decision about your home; take the time necessary in case you have a change of heart. The rebirth of your home is much like the birth of a child, so even if it takes nine months, the wait will surely be worthwhile.
10. Mix and Match - “When I first learned the world juxtaposition, I fell in love with it. I juxtapose everything”, explains Tavia. So explore your creative side. Feel free to mix modern with antique and warm colors with bright accessories. If you’re looking to make a room pop, go for the not so obvious, after all opposites attract.
See more of Tavia’s work at taviaforbes.com
Amina Touray Photography | Make up: Hary Villarreal | Model: Naka Biruma
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SOUTHERN Belles THE 21ST CENTURY IS AN EXCITING TIME FOR WOMEN ALL OVER THE WORLD, AS BOUNDARIES ARE BEING BROKEN IN TERMS OF WHAT WAS TRADITIONALLY DEEMED AS MALE OR FEMALE JOBS. THIS CROSS OVER IS EVIDENT IN ZIMBABWE, WITH WOMEN TAKING OVER THE WORLD OF POLITICS, FILM, MUSIC AND TELEVISION. FOUR INSPIRATIONAL ZIMBABWEAN BEAUTIES SHARE THEIR JOURNEYS AND LIFE LESSONS.
Written by Tatenda Kanengoni
Mbira Goddess he first time I saw Hope Masike performing live at a festival in Harare, I was in awe of her amazing talent and great command of the audience through her charismatic stage presence with her mbira in hand. Affectionately known as a mbira goddess, Hope makes you believe you can do it too; there is no doubt that a rich history resonates within this mbira goddess.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR TYPE OF MUSIC?
life of many ethnic groups in Zimbabwe.
My music has strong roots in mbira music of Zimbabwe. Because I felt Zimbabwe mbira music had been caged in the traditional mbira music culture for too long, for a greater part of my years in professional music practice I was deliberately together-blending this traditional mbira music with any music style I could get my hands on, from Hip Hop, Flamenco, Zimbabwean gospel music, the Jazz music styles, and so forth. Now it has developed into a healthy mix of the best music elements from many music styles. Besides the strong mbira base, I love pure, ancient Shona and Ndebele vocalizations, jazz scats and vocal improvisations. Even though sometimes I sing without the mbira, I am commonly known as a mbira-player. So, if we really have to call my music something, then we may very generally call it modern mbira-fusion.
There are many types of mbira in Zimbabwe including njari, matepe, mbira dzaVaTonga and forth. Among the most popular in urban Zimbabwe and in mainstream music circles is the nyunganyunga and mbira dzaVaZezuru or dzaVadzimu. I play both but perform with nyngua-nyunga mostly.
THE MBIRA IS A VERY UNIQUE AND EXCITING INSTRUMENT , PLEASE TELL US A BIT ABOUT IT AND HOW YOU LEARNT TO PLAY IT? Mbira is in a family of indigenous instruments found in many countries across Africa. In other countries they call it sansa, kalimba and many other names. The Zimbabwean mbira, however, is one of, if not the most popular of all mbira types in Africa. The ancient Zimbabwean spirituality and identity is heavily embedded in mbira music. In ancient Zimbabwe, and even in many other modern societies today, mbira played a paramount role in the spiritual beliefs and
I leant mbira dzaVaDzimu first through my Fine art lecture's friend Sekuru Romeo. He taught me for free. My calling, plus the introduction to mbira music and culture then inspired me to learn more. So I went to music school in Harare and leant much more music, including more mbira. WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR LOVE FOR MUSIC? I don't remember when exactly. It feels like I have always known I loved music. I don't remember not loving it. Everyone in my family has a beautiful voice. My mother was a beautiful alto. My father is a great tenor. We used to sing before praying every night. One of my sisters was once obsessed with Mariah Carey; I remember my brother dancing to Mark Morrison's 'Return of the Meck'; my other sister had a season where she only listened to R.Kelly; at school there was a period we all loved T.O.K and did their songs at variety shows; then we all loved Destiny's Child, and i remember we performed 'Suvivior', me and my friends; there was the Withney Houston session, the Boyz to men All photos courtesy of Hope Masike
season, the Brandy and Monica season and so forth. I was exposed to many types of music at different stages in my life. I don't remember ever not loving music.
WHAT CHALLENGES DOES A FEMALE MUSICIAN IN ZIMBABWE FACE? Biggest challenge, in my opinion, is thinking we are disadvantaged as opposed to our male counter parts. We are not, and thinking this way is actually a huge limiting factor. Just as much as there are virtues of being men in today's world, there are many virtues too of being woman in this same world. For some time I allowed myself to believe I was more challenged in the music industry, than the men. Thank God I changed. I choose to believe I am beautifully woman, and I was designed to conquer.
WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING AS A MUSICIAN DESPITE THE CHALLENGES? Knowing that as long as I am still alive, I can still do something about it. Also knowing that I have a calling, a purpose. I didn't just happen! And knowing that no matter how bad it gets, I am not the worst, there is always a worse situation I wouldn't want to exchange mine for. And finally, the wise words of Ecclesiastics; many things that happen in life are quite senseless, unfair and so forth. So it is important to realize this, and just move on with life the best way you can.
WHAT PERFORMANCE OR SHOW WOULD YOU
For some time I allowed myself to believe I was more challenged in the music industry, than the men. Thank God I changed.
SAY WAS GROUND-BREAKING FOR YOU?
WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF BEAUTY?
My very first solo concert in November 2009 in Harare. I organized it myself. You see, when you don't have a promoter, you promote yourself! But the small challenge was that I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Threw myself into the deep end! I didn't sink, thank heavens! The concert went well enough, my audience danced the night away. I finished performing and ran away from the audience because I was so shy and scared even. A lot of other things happened that night, good and bad. After that night, I was never the same, and I grew wiser faster, stumbling, getting bruised, bleeding, laughing, smiling, crying, making great music, meeting wonderful musicians.
Beauty is knowing that you are beautiful regardless of what anyone else thinks, and handling that, your beauty with wisdom.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH FAME AND MEDIA BEING A WOMAN IN THE SPOTLIGHT? I have never had any challenges with both. If you are professional, ethical and true, I think both fame and media will not be a challenge. Either that or I am not yet famous and the media believes so!
nce in a while you come across a person whom upon meeting, you can immediately sense what they are destined to be. An upcoming TV personality from Zimbabwe,
Samantha Ndlovu is such a person. Her story exemplifies that the saying dare to dream is more than just an encouraging tagline; it is a reality that anyone can live. Samantha shares her empowering journey.
How did your journey begin and when did you discover your love for media? My journey began in 2012 when I started thinking about moving back to Zimbabwe after 11 years of living in Rome. I had an office job that I loved initially but as time progressed I realized that I was very unhappy in my profession and that this is not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My mother passing away in 2012 also influenced my decision to move back home and live my dreams. I suppose I have always been enamored by the silver screen since childhood. I remember as a little girl I wanted to work on a popular TV show for kids and I wrote them a letter asking to be a producer instead of a presenter! How does one get started in the industry?
I personally think there isnâ€™t a one way formula to get into the industry. This profession requires one to be creative and think outside the box. There is of course, the traditional route to take which is studying but I also believe that passion, talent and thirst for knowledge can go a long way. The internet has played a massive role in debunking traditional routes and has given a platform for one to showcase their talent through online shows.
Any challenges you faced along the way? One of the biggest challenges is that the TV industry at home is currently facing some changes therefore there is a challenge for TV personalities. I do however believe that all this will change within the next 2 years and in the meantime there are other avenues one can take.
There is no way I can afford to fail-every day brings new opportunities, possibilities in meeting someone and a new chance to perfect an idea. That keeps me going.
IF YOU HAVE THAT DREAM, DON’T STOP TILL IT BECOMES A REALITY, PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE AND THE UNIVERSE WILL DO THE REST. NETWORK, NETWORK! How would you describe your
fashion sense and do you have a signature look? I think I would say my fashion sense is very eclectic, I dress the way I feel that day. One day I am afro-chic, the next day I am in jean shorts, all stars and a tee. I try to keep my look very natural, I am all about natural hairstyles, if I don’t wear my natural hair out, I have crazy corn rowed hairstyles.
What motivates you to keep going? Paulo Coelho said “And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” My biggest motivation is that I changed my path when I packed up my life in Rome to move back home to Zimbabwe to follow my dream. There is no way I can afford to faileveryday brings new opportunities, possibilities in meeting someone and a new chance to perfect an idea. That keeps me going.
Who inspires you? I am inspired by Oprah Winfrey, Bonang Matheba and my mother. Oprah because she is the media guru
and she changed people’s perception of black women in media, Bonang because the girl is taking Africa by storm and she is marching to the beat of her own drum, my mother because till her last day on earth she was chasing her own dreams.
What advice would you give to women wanting to follow a similar career path? I say girl, do it! If you have that dream, don’t stop till it becomes a reality, put yourself out there and the universe will do the rest. Network, network, network!
What are your career highlights so far? Being on CNN’s Inside Africa, showcasing my beautiful country.
What is your definition of beauty? Beauty is knowing who you are, loving who you are, expressing who you are and making no apologies for it. I also think smiling is beauty.
etrospectively speaking, every event in Tabetha Kanengoni’s life prepared her for the moment she was appointed first as a Member of Parliament and subsequently the Deputy Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, all at the age of 31. Breaking boundaries and paving the way for other females, her story instills a feeling of hope that female empowerment is more than just an adage. YOU ARE THE YOUNGEST MINISTER IN ZIMBABWE, WHERE DOES YOUR LOVE FOR POLITICS STEM FROM?
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR POLITICAL JOURNEY? My political journey has had a mixture of ups and downs. As a female coming into politics, you face a lot of stereotypical harassment from men. They see you as an object for their pleasure. “A new shiny toy to play with” I had to work extra hard to prove myself. There were times when being female helped due to the world campaign for gender equity. It is currently more attractive to have females in high positions in order for an organization to be seen as highly credible and moving with global trends. I was very blessed to have parents who believed in my political career and vision and who supported me through thick and thin, particularly my late father-a national hero-the late Cde Elias Jonathan Kanengoni. I will never forget how much he used to support and root for me.
My love for politics started at a very young age, as I have always been a leader in everything I do whether it was in school sport or clubs. I also had a lot of younger friends who I mentored without even knowing I was playing that role. When I went to university and started taking Politics courses as electives that is when I started to find my true identity. I then decided to major in Politics and Gender Studies which I understood much more than other courses I had tried. My life started to make sense. I love working with people and helping them. I feel as if this is a calling from God. This is the purpose I was put on this earth to fulfill. I am not the youngest Minister because I am the best or that there are no other young women out there who could be in my shoes. It was just my time according to God’s desire and I have to make sure that I use this opportunity to show the world that young women can sit at the table and contribute in a large way. HAVE YOU FACED ANY CHALLENGES BEING A YOUNG WOMAN IN YOUR POSITION? Absolutely . Some men in my ministry look at me in such a way that you know that they are thinking “Why should
we listen to this child, a woman for that matter.” Some may even think “She is way over her head.” I don't mind though, It motivates me. It is a shame though that women have to prove themselves worthy of high positions even to their juniors in rank, just because they have male genitalia. Men however don't have to work as hard. There have been some positives though. The young generation has found a place to go and speak up without fear of being judged for being considered too young. Even some older women have come to my office and said it is so refreshing to have a young woman in sport. There is an audience that I am capturing that has felt neglected for some time now. WHAT DOES BEING IN AN INFLUENTIAL POSITION MEAN TO YOU? To me this means I am in a position that makes people listen whether they like to or not. “Because it has been said by so and so, we have to action it.” It’s just like the influence Oprah Winfrey has had. Millions of people have read books in Oprah’s book club that they otherwise would not have read if Oprah had not endorsed them. Some will end up liking them just because Oprah liked them. That's being influential. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE FOR YOUR COUNTRY DURING YOUR TERM OF OFFICE?
I would like young women to be motivated and want to go into politics without fear of discrimination. If I prove to the nation that I can perform very well, I will be able to win a lot of young women over. In my Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture I would like to help raise the morale of our athletes, and those in the creative industries. I would like the females in those Industries to be recognized and to open many doors for them to benefit tremendously from their talents. Most importantly, I would like the women in the rural areas to have a loud voice. HOW DO YOU BALANCE BEING A WORKING MOTHER AND A WIFE? There is no perfect balance. You just have to do the best that you can. The trick however is to know what your role is in different spaces. I cannot be a Deputy Minister at home. Prayer and constant communication with God helps a lot. God helps you juggle things you never thought you could. I never forget to tell my husband and my daughter that I love them. I also try to show them by giving them my undivided attention whenever I can.
WHICH POLITICAL FIGURE INSPIRED OR HELPED SHAPE YOUR JOURNEY AND WHY?
The Honourable Vice President Joyce Mujuru, she is the first Female Vice President of this country, was the first female Minister and female Minister of Sport. She also has the potential of becoming the President of Zimbabwe when the time comes. Amai (Mother) Mujuru has shown all women that it can be done. She is a very kind woman who is interested in seeing other women prosper. She is my mentor and great one indeed. WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF BEAUTY? Beauty is all about what kind of energy you put out to the world really. If you are a kind, loving, caring person who has time for everyone from all walks of life, you are beautiful. Positive energy=beauty.
Beauty is in all of us. We manifest it in different ways.
ou cannot say the name Rumbi
Katedza without following through with
the word film somewhere in that sentence. A brand synonymous with everything filmmaking, Rumbi has worked against all odds to garner support for her projects by telling compelling stories through film. With such an inspiring and warm demeanor, Rumbi is an achiever, every word of advice from her breeds a sense of hope. How did your career as a film director begin? As a child I had many aspirations. First I wanted to be a marine biologist, then I wanted to be a choreographer, but when I got the opportunity to direct a play in high school, I got the bug - the creation bug. I was already a film buff, I loved watching films from all over the world, and I decided I also wanted to create films that could reach people all over the world.
Having been in the industry for a number of years how would you describe the changes, if any that have occurred in the Zimbabwean film industry? When I entered the Zimbabwean film industry in the 1990s it was very vibrant with companies from the United States and Europe shooting films and TV shows in Zimbabwe. It was a celluloid based industry so production costs were high. At the turn of the century, as the socioeconomic and political situation in Zimbabwe became precarious, we lost a lot of film business to other countries. Our industry had to be reborn and to redefine itself. Over the past decade we have seen the emergence of a digital filmmaking trend that has allowed for new players to enter the industry. What this has done is to shift our industry from one of service provision to one of ownership of products. Filmmakers honed their skills on short films, but now, more and more low-budget features are being made. We still have a long journey ahead of us as an industry to increase the number of films we make, and to make more films that can compete internationally, but we are going in the right direction.
How does the Zimbabwean film industry fare against other industries in the world? Depends on which film industries you are referring to. We obviously have a long way to go to catch up with the Hollywoods, Bollywoods and Nollywoods of the world, but I
believe that we are an emerging industry with strong prospects. Zimbabweans make quality productions that have fared well at international festivals. We have a history of producing quality, but not quantity, films like Neria and More Time, and more recently films like Legend of the Sky Kingdom and my own Playing Warriors. Zimbabwe has a rich filmmaking history. We just need to build on it.
Don't let negativity bring you down. Keep focused on your passion for film and be prepared to work hard to achieve your goals!
What have been your career highlights so far? There have been many moments that have defined me and uplifted me. When I produced a
You need to be thick skinned, hard-working and be able to constantly think out of the box to find opportunities and translate them into successful films.
Can one make a decent living working in the film industry in terms of income? It is not easy to do that in Zimbabwe, because we still do not have well developed distribution structures in our country. As a filmmaker you end up spending a lot of time trying to sell your film on different platforms. I believe it's necessary to up your game and make quality films that can be sold not only at home but abroad. We should tell Zimbabwean stories with universal themes that appeal to a wider international audience. One thing I tell young filmmakers is that they should have a distribution plan before making their films. They should know how they are going to market it and eventually sell it. Do research into broadcasters that are buying content. Explore VOD and see what options are available for DVD sales.
series of films by Zimbabwean teenagers, it was such a humbling experience. Those kids taught me so much about life. I was also thrilled when my short film Asylum won awards at some international film festivals. And when I finally finished my first feature, Playing Warriors, I had such a sense of achievement. It took us ages to make the film for various reasons, but we did it!
How would you define beauty? Beauty is in all of us. We manifest it in different ways. It can be physical, it can be mental and intellectual, it can be spiritual, and it is so important for us to recognize and appreciate the beauty around us, to recognize the beauty in others and the beauty within ourselves, and celebrate it.
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Our cover feature is NuNu Wako with an inspiring interview 'I' am A Woman Hear Me Roar.' NuNu is a broadcast journalist, independent filmmak...