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The Face of Leadership

Lula Kiah on executive presence

Reading Culture

State of the nation: Online publishing in Kenya


Dereje Belachew: An IT officer & a gentleman

The Road to Lagos A tale of two journeys

Juliet finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog. Juliet finds inspiration in cooking, her family and her dog.

editorial | translation | publishing | printing

we know that a comma can save a life







Epsilon Publishers Gemina Court George Padmore Road P.O. Box 1175-00606 Nairobi Kenya Tel + 254 (0) 733 333 600 www.epsilon.co.ke



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Reading culture

State of the nation: Online publishing in Kenya

The face of leadership

Lula Kiah on executive presence




Dereje Belachew



Road to Lagos


Book review


The diary of a budding writer



A tale of two journeys


Staff picks

Festivities and resolutions

Madam & Me

EPSILON PUBLISHERS Gemina Court George Padmore Road Kilimani, Nairobi P.O. Box 1175-00606 Nairobi Kenya Tel +254 (0) 733 333 600 publish@epsilon.co.ke www.epsilon.co.ke @publisherkenya facebook.com/epsilonpublishers Epsilon Publishers

16 Executive Presence

Prose is published six times a year by Epsilon Publishers. The opinions expressed therein are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Epsilon Publishers. Š 2016 Epsilon Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission from the publisher.

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Of dressing to the nines, African cities, enterprising Nigerians and the ennuis of a budding writer.


he season of Christmas is upon us once again. It is also the time of year to reflect on the ups and downs, the highs and lows, what to start doing and what to stop doing. It is also a time when we have quite a bit of time in our hands because, well, things seem to slow down to a placid pace. We, the team, have selected a wide range of titles; an œuvre on Churchill, a Dicken’s classic, Coco Chanel’s biography, a book on phenomenal Kenyan women over 50 who have played a significant role in changing the landscape in their chosen fields, and lots more. Speaking of Coco Channel, fashion is at the heart of our face of leadership column in this issue. What does your executive presence have to do with your professional success? Everything. Lula Kiah, a certified executive presence coach, an international speaker, a celebrity stylist and author, was in Nairobi in October 2016. She gave a series of lectures and talks at Strathmore Business School and to groups of women and to university students. I had the privilege

of meeting her for a one on one interview. We’ve included a host of tips from her on how one can boost one’s professional comportment. I was at a forum about a fortnight ago, in which someone asked if we knew what our hobbies were, and if we did, whether we had the courage to pursue them. Dereje Belachew certainly walks the talk. He is our featured photographer in this issue. A trained IT officer from Ethiopia, he has relentlessly pursued and invested in his hobby of photography. He shares with us a resplendent collection of photographs of African cities. Perhaps making time for our passions, may be one of the things that we can resolve to start doing in 2017. Once upon a time, laws on defamation were very straight forward. One wrote or said something defamatory against someone and one was sued. With the advent of online publishing, this line has been severely blurred. At the time of writing this, Facebook and Google are trying to find ways to improve their algorithms to weed out fake and alarming stories

from their networks. Closer home, Kenyan blogs, online “forums” are awash with sensational stories that can neither be confirmed nor corroborated. Yet, we, the populace hang on to these stories and propagate them on other fora such as Facebook or WhatsApp. We get two expert opinions from an advocate in private practice and one from the side of the Government. On fiction, we get to know of a gift worthy of Christmas. We also continue following the ennuis of our budding novelist to find out how he is progressing with the draft of the greatest novel ever. Lots to read. Lots to mule over. And finally, we are overwhelmed and humbled by the congratulatory messages that we received from you on the launch of our maiden issue. I leave you with a quote from Shakespeare, “I can no other answer but make, thanks, thanks and ever thanks.” Merry Christmas and all best wishes for a prosperous New Year.

Mumbi Gichuhi



Logophile (n.) A lover of words.

A little bit of trivia Upper Crust

The upper crust, a term used to refer to people of the upper echelons of society, has its roots in 15th or 16th century English. When a loaf of bread was baked, the upper (and mostly unburnt) crust was served to important guests. Though there is no documentary evidence to support this, it was not until the 19th century that the term was used to refer to the aristocracy in the society.


Kindly vs Please

your language Imply vs Infer

To imply is to say something indirectly or to hint at something without explicitly stating it. To infer is to a draw a conclusion from what has been said. Usually, a speaker or a writer will imply something in his speech or text while the listener or reader will infer what has been written or said.

Famous quotes

The word kindly has insidiously crept into our everyday language and is freely used interchangeably with the word please. However, the two words have different meanings. For example, please take off your shoes versus kindly take off your shoes. The first sentence is a polite request while the second sentence states how the action should be performed, and/or implies a polite instruction which is expected to be obeyed.

The metal or plastic tip at the end of a shoe lace


Careless handwriting


The day after tomorrow


The earthy scent of rain when the first drops hits dry ground




There is another way of doing business. Yes, business is about profits, that is the first objective of business. But it also should be about people and about the planet.

We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to conserve the environment so that we can bequeath our children a sustainable world that benefits all.

And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.

- Philanthropist and advocate of excellence in leadership and governance




- Environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, (1940 –2011)

- Excerpt from Hillary Clinton in her 2016 election concession speech

C-Sectioned Commitment

Reading for the soul


ommitment is the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause or a course of action. At the organisational level, commitment means delivering on the organisation’s vision, mission and objectives. This calls for setting aside resources, communicating effectively with clients and suppliers on the organisation’s expectations and motivating personnel to deliver on the organisation’s promise. At the personal level commitment calls for fulfilling one’s part of the bargain

* Read light

* Read uplifting content * Read from a genre that you have never read from * Read a laugh-out-loud article or book * Read something that is unrelated to your work * Make notes of the ideas that strike you most * Browse pictures from a book or a magazine * Look up new words or phrases to enrich your vocabulary

(n) the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc; dedication

with regard to the various relationships (both intrinsic and extrinsic) that one is beholden. Core to commitment is passion and action. Passion means that one is ready to move mountains to achieve one’s goal. Indeed, passion is that beautiful dream that keeps one faithful to one’s cause despite arising setbacks. Action means the specific activities done and that gradually add up to the fulfilment of the dream- whether bettering one’s relationships or the organisation’s productivity.

Don’t be an oxymoron! An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction. Examples include: a fine mess, a just war, an open secret, act naturally, only choice, unbiased opinion, original copies, good grief and silent scream.

Kariokor origins Variously spelt as Kariokor in Kenya or Kariokoo in Tanzania, the name is a corruption of Carrier Corps. In colonial times, Carrier Corps were a contingent of Africans recruited or conscripted by the British Army in what is now the East African region for porterage of the army’s provisions.




A Shining In My Heart Loves goes around In wintry nights and sunny days In a smile and faces surly For in my heart is a shining. In Bethlehem there is a rejoicing The shepherd and the inn-keeper The wise men and the seraph For in their hearts is a shining. A jingle here and a bell there Carols gay and hymns sombre A harvesting or a sowing In our hearts is a shining. We play, we pray, we prey On a forgiveness unbound A mother’s love, a just father Tis Christmas in our hearts.

All’s well… Twinkle the stars and dance the fairies As the brownies- their magic-they work Strike a tune, the elves, on their harps To a merry Yuletide, they toast! Though pretty, seasons, they come, they go In the moonlight, the tide ebbs and flows Love been in the air, all year long Bathing the farm, the home, the school yard, with its glow Filling days, hot and cold, with life And turning ev’ry minute, ev’ry hour into a Noel! Families, they unite in merriment Hearty thanks, for a year bountiful Toasting to a new year full of promises Of sunshines, and rainbows, and starry nights Where each day, a Christmas it will be.




Make the most of your reading Reading- whether for study or for pleasure- makes us whole. This is so as we get to see the world from another’s perception. Reading helps us to become less judgemental and more empathic. To quote Anne Lamott, “What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you.” Here are some pointers to enhance your reading experience. Distracted, not Reading is like watching a movie. It requires you to immerse yourself in the book to fully enjoy the nuances, characterisation, plot, wordplay and the like. In short, you have to be present. As such, you have to make a conscious choice to set time for your reading. Choose a quiet place, room or corner and turn off distractions in the form of the radio, computer or mobile phone. If possible, set aside some time to visit the local library to do your reading as libraries provide a conducive environment for serious reading. The muse in music If you are reading something that is complex or technical in nature, background music can help you relax (as well as chase away the drowsiness when the mind becomes overpowered

in trying to process the material!). Preferably, such background music should provide for easy listening without interfering with one’s reading. Lounge music, ambient music, jazz or something by Mozart- music that is primarily instrumental in nature- comes to mind. Of course, with the volume of the music turned way down. Coffee and dates Snacking while reading can be the much-needed motivation to turn reading into a lifelong habit. That said, as reading is mostly a sedentary activity (ever heard of someone losing calories by turning a book’s pages?), light snacks are preferably. A cup of coffee and a couple of dates would be ideal as the caffeine in the coffee stimulates the mind while dates promote digestion.

Make notes Making notes as you go along with your reading will enhance your comprehension of the material as well as enhance your vocabulary as you can later look up any new words encountered. Further, making notes aids you in recalling the material, insights or ideas gleaned from your reading. Pocket it How many hours per week do you spend commuting to and from work? Or waiting for a meeting to start? Or for a client to show up? In the banking hall or the salon queue? This is where Pocket comes in to turn these dead hours into productive hours. Pocket is a mobile app in which you can save interesting articles from the internet for later, offline reading.





State of the Nation: Online Publishing in Kenya

T “Online publishing has taken centre stage on all fronts including education, “social books”, news, communication and social engagements. From a legal perspective, there have been a few challenges with aligning our existing laws to the new trend and at the same time enacting new ones to address the emerging challenges that have been brought about by online publishing."



he internet has come a long way since it first came into being. Initially started as a computer network to allow scientists collaborate on their research, the internet has become an indispensable tool in today’s global village. From the time the first dot com domain, symbolics.com, was registered in 1985, the evolution of the internet has been rapid. Indeed, it is hard to fathom that Google, the default search engine was registered almost 20 years ago in 1997, while two of the most influential social media sites, Facebook and Twitter, were launched in 2004 and 2006 respectively. In Kenya, many homesteads have access to the internet and which is driven by ready access to internet enabled mobile phones- be it a mulika mwizi (cheap phone) or an iPhone 7, with tech-savvy youth coming up with transformational apps such as Ushahidi for sourcing and collating information in real time and Soko Huru to connect buyers and sellers. In Kenya, we have a plethora of blogs and current affairs sites, with new ones mushrooming in the tens of dozens. These sites range from the credible to the downright ludicrous. As a populace, we seem to be addicted to the latter; the ones where intimate details are aired, especially on people's private (usually public figures and "celebrities") lives. Never mind that this "news" can neither be confirmed nor corroborated. In the comments section of these sites, Kangaroo Courts are set up. Judges and juries take their place and proceed to pour scornful and vitriolic views. Readers take sides and occasionally even insult each other in the course of their "airing" their views. What is more, one can read the same "news" from different blogs and websites, copied word for word, with no credit whatsoever given to the originating text, which also raises the issue of intellectual property and copyright infringement. Traditional media as we know it; newspapers, magazines and the like, cannot publish such content as it is downright libellous and would open a flood gate of lawsuits. However, on the online space, anything goes. The question that begs thus; do any laws exist to curb this menace. We sought the views of a lawyer in private practice, Felix Midikira, Managing Partner at Midikira & Company Advocates and a lawyer from a government agency, Mercy Wanjau, Assistant Director, Regulatory Affairs & Governance, Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).

An overview

MIDIKIRA: Online publishing has taken centre stage on all fronts including education, “social books�, news, communication and social engagements. From a legal perspective, there have been a few challenges with aligning our existing laws to the new trend and at the same time enacting new ones to address the emerging challenges that have been brought about by online publishing. Parliament and various other stakeholders have come up with amendments in the Kenya Information and Communications Act CAP 411A, Defamation Act CAP 36, and Evidence Act just to name a few. Online publishing has come of age and it is becoming evidently clear that newspapers, books and magazines have to fully embrace internet use. The opportunities that come with online publishing are enormous considering the number of readers reachable in a short period and the cost of doing this which is low. Online publishing can also enlarge the number of publishers thus creating opportunities for those who were unable to publish previously. WANJAU: Online publishing has taken root in Kenya where many writers, bloggers, academic writers and scribes leverage on the online platform to spread information and knowledge. This has provided a veritable repository of information to a diverse people and which has enabled them to participate in opportunities that would otherwise have been inaccessible. The reach of the internet and the affordability of gadgets that can support internet access obviously remains a limiting factor in the country and worldwide but the access trends are looking up. In time, the online platform has lowered the barriers of entry

and enabled content creators and entrepreneurs to have a presence online while it would have been a daunting challenge to do so through traditional media platforms. From a legal perspective, the content subject of publication is deemed a literary work and upon publication qualifies for protection as a copyright online.

On Intellectual Property (IP)

MIDIKIRA: Intellectual Property is a category of intangible rights protecting commercially valuable products of the human intellect. The category comprises of trademarks, copyright and patent rights. WANJAU: Intellectual Property is intangible property that is a product of human brain and endeavour and which qualifies for protection and prevents other persons from exploiting the same. It enables the creator to unlock the benefits of their creativity and enjoy the benefits thereof.

On Digital Rights Management (DRM)

MIDIKIRA: These are access control technologies that are used to protect copyright in digital media. Owners of content or service may impose a software or application to enable you have access to their content or service. WANJAU: Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a systematic mechanism employed to protect copyrighted digital works from unlawful and unauthorised exploitation. The purpose of DRM is to prevent unauthorised redistribution of digital media and restrict the ways consumers can copy content that they have purchased.

Any person aggrieved by any online publishing may sue for damages pursuant to the Defamation Act CAP 36 Laws of Kenya. The reach of online publishing is wide and the damage caused by online publishing can be extensive. Defamation discerned or gleaned from an online publication is still actionable in law if it meets the threshold of a defamatory statement, false and malicious publication with intent to injure/demean the character of the aggrieved person and the same has been disseminated to third persons. It is worthy of note that defamation on the online platform has far reaching consequences and one can never know how far it will go unlike traditional media.

On regulation of online content in Kenya

MIDIKIRA: Online content is guided by the Kenya Information and Communications Act CAP 411A, the Penal Code and currently there is a bill on Computer and Cyber Crime. I am unaware of any specific law addressing cyberbullying. However, one may get in trouble for posting or sharing libellous contents, if there is an existing court order barring the same. Further, one may get in trouble for sharing content that is prohibited by law i.e. seditious or incitement content. WANJAU: The governing regime on protection of online content is the Copyright Act 2001. However, due to convergence and internet enabled devices, the Kenya Information and Communications Act does cater for certain aspects of online communications. This is an emerging area of the law and there is a lot of legal reforms underway to ensure that Kenyans are able to enjoy the benefits of the online platform with minimal risk to their dignity, privacy and safety.

On freedom of speech and online publishing

MIDIKIRA: Freedom of speech is not unlimited as provided by Article 24 (1) and Article 33 (3) of the Constitution. Freedom of expression can only be exercised if the same does not prejudice the rights and fundamental freedoms of others. WANJAU: Freedom of speech and expression are fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and can be exercised in various forms/manners, orally and in written form in books, journals or articles and now, in digital format. So, online content is a form of freedom of expression. The distinguishing factor is the capacity to impact in an unprecedented fashion as compared to tradition media and the need to exercise due care and attention whilst doing so.

On copyright

MIDIKIRA: Copyright is protected under Copyright Act CAP 130 Laws of Kenya and the Act does not provide the definition. However, we may define copyright as a property right in an original work of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression giving the author the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, adapt, display and perform. Copyright infringement is when a person reproduces, distributes, adapts, displays or performs any work that has been legally secured by the author thereof. Locally, the body authorised to deal with copyright is the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) while internationally, the body mandated to oversee copyright protection is the

World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). WANJAU: The Copyright Act provides for protection of copyrightable works and confers exclusive right to the author and owner of a copyright work, for example, the right to reproduce and distribute. Copyright infringement occurs when another person who is not the author or owner of an exclusive right purports to reproduce or distribute without express consent from the owner or apparent Authority. The same law establishes a Copyright Tribunal to solve disputes of copyright infringement. The Kenya Copyright Board is enjoined by statute to administer and enforce copyright regime.

On awareness creation for bloggers

MIDIKIRA: In my view, there are two ways of creating awareness. One way is for the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) to undertake consistent and extensive campaigns both in the print and electronic platform. Secondly, to ensure that in clear cases of breach by bloggers, the full force of the law is realised to deter others. WANJAU: There is urgency on the need to reeducate Kenyans on the emerging trends of technology and the new obligations accompanying their use. Bloggers are of particular interest and capacity building in terms of trainings and workshops to empower and equip the bloggers on the subject issue are ongoing. It is, however, worth noting that with the advent of the internet, any person is a potential news creator, not just bloggers. As such, the Communications Authority of Kenya on its own and in collaboration with other agencies does provide awareness information to the general public on the how to conduct themselves online and ensure, in doing so, they uphold their dignity as well as that of third parties.

On government censure

MIDIKIRA: The government can, under the disguise of implementing the provisions of the Kenya Information and Communications Act, attempt to bring down a site. However, depending on the content, this may be challenged in a constitutional court. WANJAU: Negative criticism can indeed be inferred to be the expression of an opinion over an issue. As such, content creators (online and offline) are required to uphold the journalistic standards/ethics of verifying the accuracy of the content obtained with the subject person. The government will, however, intervene in instances where the exceptions on freedom of expression have been breached whether the content is hosted on the .ke platform or elsewhere.




Executive Presence


couple of years ago, our local dailies splashed on their headlines that the Queen of Sheba was in Nairobi, and presumably with her entourage in tow. She was staying at a swanky hotel in town. I would imagine that the top brass at the hotel ordered their staff to cater to her every whim and to deny her nothing. The excitement in town was palpable. A Queen was in our midst. What seemed strange though was that there was none of the usual diplomatic fanfare; the being met at the airport by the foreign affairs minister at the very least; the meeting with the president and the posing for the ubiquitous photograph outside State House; the paying of courtesy calls to various dignitaries; and the scolding of the government on matters of human rights and governance (yes, this was in the era when Kenya was in the bad books of “the West” but this a matter for a different day). Matters took a turn after a couple of days when it transpired that the said Queen was unable to meet certain obligations (read, she was unable to pay her bills at the hotel) and if I remember correctly, a sheepish government official mustered the pluck to step forward to say that Sheba did not exist, and that if it did indeed exist, our government did not recognise it as such. The local dailies had since retracted their story about the Queen on Kenyan soil. As all this was happening, Her Majesty had vanished in thin air, leaving in her wake colossal losses to the said hotel (naturally, she had stayed in the presidential suite), distancing of the government from the diplomatic faux pas and of course, a huge embarrassment to the editors of our local dailies. I will not delve into the whys and wherefores of how an entire nation could have been so naively hoodwinked by a charlatan, and might I hasten to add, with the exception of those in the know that the real Queen of Sheba reigned in the time of King Solomon, around 500BC (1Kings 10:1-13)! Rather, what was it about the impostor that had us eating out of the palm of her hand? Executive presence. Variously defined as the ‘wow’ factor, charisma, gravitas or aura, executive presence can be thought of being a blend of temperament, competencies and skills that marks one out as a leader in his or her field. So, how can one leverage executive presence and in the process, fast-track one’s career? While you may not be in a position, currently, to hire someone to coach you on executive presence, the following daily practices can greatly aid you in creating an aura of executive presence. As the saying goes, ‘First impressions persist.’

You are what you wear Think of your favourite movie and what draws you most to it. Probably, it is the superb characterisation of the villains and heroes. Like how Anthony Hopkins owned the character that was Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs or Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in the Dark Knight. The thing is, we are judged by our looks and appearance- and though we cannot do much in the looks department, we can definitely spruce up our appearance with regard to personal grooming, fashion sense and etiquette. In the case of our two actors, their dress choice, as costumes for their roles, greatly lend credence to their portrayal of the assigned characters. As Mr. Mercer put it in Picture Perfect, “You dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” Inside out Take care of your inner environment. It shows up outwardly in the manner in which you carry yourself. Our inner aura is the sum total of who we are. It includes our attitudes, outlook, values we embody, virtues and habits. What is our attitude towards our jobs? Do we have a positive outlook on life? Do we accord the same respect to those under us in the corporate ladder as accorded to those over us? Are our values a virtue we embody everywhere or are they something pretty that we only practise when circumstances favour us? That said, only by letting our inner and outer beauty show through can we enhance our personal brand and radiate vibes that spell consistency, credibility and constancy. Inculcating the following as part of our daily routine can enhance our executive presence. Poise Poise is defined as ‘graceful and elegant bearing in a person.’ As an executive, you have to make tough calls such as firing personnel, dealing with a difficult client or supplier and the like; which calls for composure and tact. Poise then is in the how you say it, not what you say. Eloquence Eloquence is the ability to communicate articulately, concisely and with authority. As an executive, your communications- whether written or oral- have to be persuasive so that you can sell your ideas to others, more so your peers at the executive level. Knowledge/skills Knowledge is ever evolving, hence what you know today may be obsolete tomorrow. This means that as an executive, you have to be up to date with industry trends in regards to knowledge and skill-set as well as current affairs. As such, advancing your education, skillset and reading widely on diverse topics is a must.









ula Kiah is the CEO of Executive Presence/Style Innovators, Inc. She has over 15 years experience in empowering executives, up-and-coming managers, and entrepreneurs to confidently stand out and reach new levels of success. Lula’s diverse background includes Executive Presence System Coach Certification, Professional Image Consulting, Public Speaking, Business Etiquette, and Brand Strategy along with a previous successful career in International Finance. To date, she has consulted with over 2,000 individuals and organisations worldwide. Lula is fluent in both English and Spanish. She hosts a monthly style segment for Univision and regularly contributes to TV, radio, and digital/print publications. She is also the founder of Beyond Fashion, a non-profit dedicated to inspiring and educating on the dignity of women. Lula’s passion is showing people how to transform, and be their best selves so that they can make their dreams come true. As to how she stumbled into fashion, Lula says that she has been

interested in fashion from the tender age of six. She would make dresses for her dolls and her friends’ dolls. As an adult, she loves to use fashion as a way to help people feel better about themselves, thus increasing their overall confidence. With regard to fashion, Lulu lights up as she explains how passionate she is about helping others recognise their potential. She shows people how to use clothing and style to reflect what’s on the inside; what she calls a discovery process because it’s so tailored to the individual. “It’s a big confidence boost to look and feel your very best. Suddenly, my clients stand a little taller, smile more broadly, and are ready to take their success to the next level. It’s easier to put your best foot forward when you feel great," she adds. On transitioning from one’s current career to pursue one’s passion, Lula draws from her own example and recommends carrying on with both for a while. She elaborates that the key is to establish and accomplish monthly goals for the new career; the secret being that you need to do something that moves your dream forward every

day. She truly believes that if you have passion for what you do, you can achieve anything. Asked where she sees herself in the next 5-10 years, Lula hopes to open a school in New York City where people from all over the world will come to train. Naturally, she says that this is the next step to the certification programmes which they currently offer around the world. Lula feels blessed to share what she has learnt and to help others enjoy the happiness and sense of fulfilment she has. As to her personal style, Lula loves to look elegant with a touch of glamour. Her approach is minimalist— less is more. One of her favourite quotes being from the legendary designer Coco Chanel: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” (Read the biography of Coco Channel in our book review on page 45). Lula’s style icons are Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She states that these women knew their bodies, knew what worked for them, and had the confidence to wear it well.



Participants at The Style and Fashion Forum held at the Strathmore Business School pose for a photo with Lula Kiah, the CEO, Executive Presence/Style Innovators Inc. They didn’t follow fashion, they led it. All three women still influence fashion to this very day. Lula adds that Coco Chanel is who we can thank for making the little black dress (LBD) a wardrobe staple while Audrey Hepburn made ballet flats a timeless classic. In regards to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, though, Lula states that she can’t pick one thing to represent her! Lula also admires Michelle Obama and how she promotes young American designers. This is so as she effortlessly mixes high-end designers with affordable clothing lines. Lula quips that this feels very modern. As far as designers go, Lula says that she likes the creativity and drama of fashion shows, though often they are far from minimalist! Among her favourite design houses and designers, Lula counts Prada, Chanel, Stella McCarthy, Caroline Herrera, Vera Wang, Badgley Mischka, and Karl Lagerfeld.


Her thoughts on the Kenyan dress sense of executive presence is the recognition that Kenyans have of dressing up being a sign of respect for those one is doing business with and for one’s self. She loves how they incorporate aspects of their culture with an emphasis on colours, fabrics, and jewellery. Apropos Kenyans embracing their African prints and local designers creating beautiful chunky jewellery, Lula adds that the fashions she saw were beautiful and unique. She loves the pride in the local designers and their handmade jewellery. In the corporate world, Lula recommends choosing small prints because the smaller the pattern, the more credible they are for executive presence. She says that she would limit prints to tops and scarves only. As far as jewellery goes, Lula adds that one bold piece such as a statement necklace, bracelet or pin can work as long as the rest of


the outfit is understated and elegant. As to her crowing moments as a stylist, Lula says that every moment feels like a crowning achievement! She feels fortunate to have a career that has brought her so much happiness. She states that she is in heaven when she is presenting a seminar, conducting a training, or coaching individuals. She adds that one of her biggest pleasures in life is traveling. This is so as she finds it so rewarding to meet new people and get to know more about a culture. Lula states that leaders set the example and the overall level of respect within an organisation by their dress sense. She expounds that dressing well tells others that they are important to you. When people are dressed professionally, they often act more professionally.

Ready, Set, Go

Lula’s Etiquette Guide for Executive Presence

1 2 3 4 5

Executive presence is the outward expression of power and authority. Executive presence marks you as a leader, hence, if you aspire to be one, you have to work at it. In other words, for you to be anointed as a leader, you first have to be perceived, act and look like one. In today’s world, it is said that who you know is more important that what you know. There is a clincher though, which is ‘how do they know you?’. Do they consider you as a leader they hold in high esteem or do they consider you a wallflower? Executive presence is that essence, in a manner of speaking, that lets you accelerate your career and reach dizzying heights of success. Executive presence enables you to harness your interpersonal skills to connect with others and get things done. As a rule of thumb, your upward mobility depends on your skill-set (15%) while executive presence contributes the rest (85%). Hence, it is apparent that hard work, performance and having a sponsor can only take you so far, thus the need to work on your executive presence. Complementary to executive presence is your appearance. Though we would have it otherwise, it is a fact that people still judge a book by its cover hence the 3Cs of appearance are crucial: credibility, communication and constancy. Credibility means you have to dress the part, communication is concerned with what and how you express yourself- with clarity and conviction, while constancy means that you are the same person to different groups of people with regard to your values and the aura that you project. Being a good communicator also allows you to network with ease; keeping in mind that networking involves developing relationships that will translate into business opportunities later on. The way to do this is to create a good first impression, which normally happens within the first two seconds at the initial contact. To enhance your communication skills always bear in mind that for you to be interesting, you have to be interested in the other person. Who they are, what they do, what they are passionate about… which calls for you to be present with that person such that even your body language mirrors the interest. Indications of interest include open posture, maintaining eye contact with the speaker, nodding one’s head and seeking clarification on a point that is not clear. That said, project professionalism at all times. Things such as speaking ill of your competition or bringing out skeletons from the closet are a big no-no. You also have to make a conscious effort to control your emotions by disconnecting from the issue. After all, you are a leader and others are looking up to you to take charge of the situation.

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DEREJE BELACHEW Computer engineer by training, IT officer by trade and a hobbyist photographer by passion.


or Dereje, photography is much more than a hobby. This is so as it allows him to express himself artistically. In his words, “Being able to beautifully capture a moment in time, and share that vision with others, is deeply gratifying.” Dereje expounds that photography is not a profession one becomes an expert at, with a fixed term investment of one’s time; rather, it is a lifelong quest of mastering the art of beautifully capturing life through one’s vision. As to his first camera, Dereje says that the very first camera he bought was a Canon Rebel SLR. It was not a point a shoot camera, so he thought he would be able to


take a picture like the professionals. However, he quickly realised that it is not the camera that makes the image. Dereje started off with the simple goal of consistently taking properly exposed pictures that were not blurry. He studied the camera’s manual from cover to cover and learnt some of the controls and functions of the camera. He learned how the camera determined the exposure of a scene, and how it acquired focus. Slowly, he moved from Automatic and Programme mode to Shutter and Aperture Priority modes. Around the year 2001, Dereje lost his beloved Canon Rebel SLR, and switched to a digital camera, the Canon Powershot G3. He adds that the digital medium instantly transformed his photography as it allowed him to learn and experiment freely. He also began to explore new styles of photography, beyond documenting his life. Once he had outgrown his Powershot G3, Dereje switched back to the digital version of his old Rebel, the Canon Rebel XS, with its 18-55 kit lens. He then added a 70-300mm zoom lens, and was declared as the family professional. He was constantly producing good images, and had


Being able to beautifully capture a moment in time, and share that vision with others, is deeply gratifying. relatively good control over the camera. At this point, he wanted to take his photography to the next level, and present his work to the world. After some research, he discovered the world of stock photography and decided to compete in that space. Dereje states that stock photography not only creates a level playing field for photographers at all levels across the world, it also means that hundreds of thousands of photographers are competing in that space. Moreover, stock image reviewers are very critical, and only accept professional quality images, which are technically flawless and commercially viable. Dereje realised that his newly founded skills, and his kit lenses, were not up to this challenge, when almost all of his images were rejected. His new goal became getting images accepted into these stock agencies.



Consequently, Dereje went back to the drawing board and started learning again. He also upgraded his camera to the Canon 60D, a semi-professional DSLR with better specifications, and bought a couple of slightly better quality lenses. He read books, watched tutorial videos, and reviewed the works of successful stock photographers. After a while, some of his images started to get accepted by the stock agencies. With time, his acceptance rate started to improve, and he began selling images on even the most critical agencies like iStock and Shutterstock. Dereje re-invested the money he earned

selling images into more photographic equipment. He bought more lenses, tripods, speedlights, studio lights, light modifiers, and other photo equipment. He finally started to see some improvements in the images he produced, and slowly moved out of the amateur world. Dereje states that stock photography suited his style of photography, and the lifestyle he was leading. This is because he was able to do it in his own time and at his own pace, balancing his work and family time. He is currently exploring the artistic aspects of photography by studying the works of the classic

masters and other well-known photographers. He is also interested in learning how to create meaningful images; images which can express his vision and ideas beyond a thousand words. Dereje expounds that in the business of stock photography, numbers matter significantly. One has to build a large portfolio with tens of thousands of images to start earning a decent income. He adds that though this takes a considerable amount of time and dedication, it can be done at one’s pace, thus making it attractive to hobbyist photographers. He states that he still has a long way to go to

reach his target, though he is slowly getting there. Once he masters a particular kind of photography, Dereje looks for a different style and makes that a challenge. He adds that he started off with portrait and still life photography, then moved on to landscape, macro, aerial, food, sport, long exposure, documentary, wildlife and astrophotography. He adds that he does not have one particular style that he prefers over the others, but he has realised that he has a thing for long exposure, wildlife and landscape photography. He states that he especially enjoys photographing birds

in flight and cityscapes at night. Dereje currently shoots with On the other hand, he finds a Sony A7RII, a full frame mirrorless himself shying away from event camera he bought after selling his photography and portraiture. Should Canon 5D Mark III. He decided to he need to take pictures at an event switch to a mirrorless system when though, Dereje prefers to work in the he realised that he was carrying more background, taking candid images of gear than the paparazzi. He also people instead of posing them while noticed that he would leave half of setting up the lighting and background. his lenses in his hotel room just to He says that he just finds it to be too keep the weight down. Further, he distracting to focus on making images. also did not enjoy the suspicious look He adds that event photography is his people gave him when he carried a least favourite style as he particularly big camera mounted to a giant lens; does not enjoy struggling with other which is the kind of attention he is not photographers to take a shot as the comfortable with. event unfolds.




One of my most memorable moments was seeing one of my photos on the cover of an in-flight magazine. Dereje adds that he is very happy with his switch to a mirrorless system, especially the Sony A7RII. Though quite expensive, he thinks that it is one of the best cameras, with features unmatched by even the most expensive DSLRs. In Dereje’s opinion, a professional photographer needs to invest more on his lenses than his camera. He prefers prime lenses which have a fixed focal length. He says that they are cheaper in price, have larger

aperture, and produce better quality images than their equivalent zoom lenses. Dereje adds that your camera bag will be complete if you have a fisheye or super wide lens, something around 24mm, a 50mm, a macro lens, and one prime or telephoto zoom. Dereje says that he usually draws his inspiration from some of the exceptional photographers at 500px. When he sees an image that captures his attention, he makes it his goal to learn how to create that image. He reads articles and tutorials on that style of photography; researches the photographer and similar photographers with similar works; and if necessary, buys the equipment needed to produce such images, perhaps a new kind of lens, a strobe, light modifier, studio light and so on. He adds that he has also learnt a lot from photographers like David duChemin, Ted Forbes, Bryan Peterson, Mark Wallace, Gavin Hoey and Joe McNally, who have posted several training videos online. Dereje states that he has many memorable moments. These include finding one of his images on the cover page of the flight magazine while boarding a plane. He quips that though he was flying alone and could not find anyone to share in his excitement, he couldn’t wipe the grin off his face until they landed. Another of Dereje’s memorable moments is when he received a message from a woman in Czechoslovakia. She had seen one

of his images on 500px, an aerial photograph of Manhattan Island, and she wanted to make a large print and give it to her dad to frame on his wall. The woman had asked if she could purchase the image directly from him, as the pricing model of 500px didn’t fit her budget. Dereje sent her the image and told her she could use it free of charge. The woman was very grateful and insisted on sending him the equivalent of 50 USD via PayPal. Then there was that time when his sister sent him a snapshot of a poster featuring his image and which was posted on numerous bus stops across Toronto. Dereje adds that since then, he has seen that very image on a few billboards, an article featured on Yahoo, on several magazines and newspapers, and to his surprise, hanging on the wall of the set of the Hollywood movie “Jupiter Ascending”. Such moments, he says, give him the satisfaction and encouragement to keep striving to become a better photographer. He adds that it gives him great pleasure and satisfaction to know that someone really appreciates his work. On finding a balance between his photography, family and work, Dereje opines that photography has become more of an obsession than a hobby, thus he finds it taking up too much of his spare time. Considering that he has a family and a full-time job, he adds that trying to fit photography into his life is always a challenge.

Dereje Belachew is currently based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. For a glimpse of his portfolio, visit https://500px.com/derejeb or his Facebook page at facebook.com/derejeb.photo/




Road to LAGOS Night scene of link bridge in Lagos City, Nigeria

Folk dance show of a Nigerian girl at the 1st international festival of intangible cultural heritage in Chengdu China


joke is told of a man who dies and go to Heaven. Upon arrival at the pearly gates, St. Peter gives him an orientation on life in Heaven. One of the rules is that he can visit his buddies in hell only thrice and on expiration of the third visit, he cannot return. And so he gains his admission. It is more than he had ever imagined. Streets paved with gold, endless perfectly manicured lawns and the most beautiful mansions that he has ever seen. However, after a few weeks, he starts to miss his friends down below. And so, he tells St. Peter that a quick sojourn would be in order. The good Saint obliges. On his arrival, he finds a grand party in full swing. There is meat on the barbeque, music on the decks and the Hades party-goers high fiving each other. He gets a rousing welcome from his cronies and they sit down to swap stories and to while the hours away. He goes back to Heaven, albeit reluctantly. He secretly wonders what the hullaballoo about infernal burning is all about. It was anything but-! Anyhow, he settles to the order of Heaven, angelic singing and all but soon, the temptation to return to hell overpowers him. And so he seeks leave from St. Peter once more. St. Peter gives him a stern look and warning that this is his second trip. His experience is even more memorable this time around. A golf tourney has been arranged. Once he lays his hands on his driver, the heady feeling of the game returns to him in a flash. Soon enough, it’s time to return to Heaven. This time around, he returns a very contemplative man. I have had so much fun surely, Hell can’t be that bad. And so this time, he doesn’t stay much long in Heaven. He tells St. Peter that he is off (permanently) to Hades. St. Peter asks him to reconsider but his mind is made up. And so he bids everyone farewell and he goes to Hell (pun fully intended). On arrival, to his shock, horror

and utter dismay, he finds a dry, hot and desolate abode. His friends are languishing and are parched to a point of no return. He enquires of the devil, “Where is the golf course? Where is the party?” to which he is told, “All that was marketing.” This is the closest that I can get to describe my two trips to Nigeria, the first of which was in a group. The excitement was rent in the air as none of us had ever travelled to the most populous country on the continent. All the travel plans had been made for us; pick up at the airport, drop off at the hotel, arranged tours; the whole nine yards. We even had Nigerian hosts who would look after us. All we had to do was to pay and to show up. The journey is fairly short, just a bit over five hours. On our arrival, we are taken to a swanky hotel to meet with our hosts. We get a rousing welcome to “Ningeria” (as they call it). Expensive beverages and cocktail bitings are on our guests. It would be unimaginable for us to suggest to go Dutch on the bill. We get a taste of Lagos, by day and by night. Our hosts are in the upper echelons of Lagos society; most of them are entrepreneurs and top CEOs who run successful businesses from real estate, to manufacturing, to legal practice. In our week long stay, we are inducted into life in Lagos. Contrary to what we hear about our West African brothers, they do work extremely hard, apparently, it is not unusual to hear that one has arrived at the office by quarter to six or even six in the morning. For many of us mortals, that hour of the morning signals that it is time to put on the snooze button for the alarm clocks (or phones, as the case may very well be) and snuggle in the covers for five more minutes. The traffic is not as nightmarish as it is here in Nairobi, though the drivers seem to have no concept of “personal space”. The cars drive so closely to one another, sometimes without even a sliver of

light passing in between the cars. I spend half the time with my eyes tightly shut in fear and the other half waiting to meet my Maker. The food is a different matter altogether. There is the traditional fufu that we all got to read about in high school literature books. And then there is a whole lot of other foods; pepe soup (pepper soup), that is not for the faint of heart, a lot of chicken, snails; and might I hasten to add that there is pepper in every dish. While I am not averse to trying out local cuisine whenever I travel, in Lagos, I draw the line at stewed hooves. I dare not ask whether they are hooves of goats or of cows. Besides, where I come from, hooves are used as raw material for the making of glue. The local artisans have beautiful crafts made from fabric, metal or wood; they are what collector items are made of. Intricately carved wooden masks are also very common. Incidentally, it is said that Juja town, just outside of Nairobi, is named after two “dolls” that a white colonial settler brought from Nigeria. It is said that they were displayed prominently outside his house. One was called “Ju” and the other was called “Ja”. I digress. Equally breath-taking is the fabric. Yards and yards of it. Ranging in price from Ksh 1,000 for 6 yards to Ksh 110,000. For the discerning and schooled eye, it’s easy to tell one’s social status just by looking at the fabric that they are wearing. I muster the courage to ask our hosts about the stereotype of Nigerians being cons. One says, “We are 200 million of us. If 10% of us are crooks that makes 20 million thieves.” He makes a good point. Another quips that if the Queen of England were to sign a document next to a Nigerian, her bank account would be cleaned out in a matter of hours! The days pass very quickly and on our return to Nairobi, we all have a newly found respect for our West African cousins. I decide to return (on my own)



Aerial view of a busy market street in Lagos to pursue business opportunities. This is when the rubber meets the road. My culture shock begins on the plane. I am sandwiched between a lady and a gentleman. The lady is rotund and very amply endowed, so much so that she takes half of my seat and hers. I sit, squashed like a sardine but too terrified to say anything. She looks like she could box my ears sans provocation. To my left is the gentleman, whom I quickly discover has just been released from jail in France; at least, those are his opening remarks to me, whether or not I want to hear them. I am caught between a rock and a hard place. The lady to my right looks like she’s spoiling for a fight. The mere suggestion that she is partially sitting on my chair and could she please move just a little might mean that I arrive on the other side with a broken jaw. On the other hand, the jailbird to my right looks determined to recount his dalliances with the French police. I pretend to be


fast asleep. It is a dry and sunny day in Lagos. I am met with the hostile indifference of passport control officers. I am received by a taxi driver whose number I had saved from my previous visit. His name is Tom. He looks sufficiently benevolent and so when he suggests that we go to a mall to get me a SIM card for my phone, I humbly oblige. We drive to a mall that is near an airport and he drops me off at the entrance. Without thinking twice, I leave my luggage in the car and head to the nearest mobile phone shop. It is only when I am on the queue that it occurs to me that I have entrusted all my belongings to a person that I barely know. I hastily leave the queue and frantically go in search of Tom. I don’t even know where he has parked his car. I don’t even know the model make of it. I try to call him. His phone is off. Breathe. I tell myself. At least I have my passport with me. After


several attempts, I finally get through to him. We drive in silence to my hotel in Victoria Island, which is the swankiest address in Lagos. It is built upon reclaimed land from the Atlantic Ocean. On the way, he points out Aliko Dangote’s (the Nigerian billionaire) house. It is all built from marble. We drive through many streets and he stops abruptly in front of a nondescript dull building. That is my hotel. The boutique hotel whose website photographs promised a slice of heaven on the island. Tom helps me to carry my luggage to the lobby. It is only when I enter the room that I ask myself what have I done? Courage. I give myself a pep talk and start to make my business calls. I set up my first meeting. My first appointment says that we meet at five thirty in the morning. I gasp. Anyway, I can’t be fussy because he offers to drop me off at the airport to my

second meeting, which is in Abuja later that morning. No wonder these guys constantly top the list of African (dollar) millionaires! The meeting in Abuja is disappointing. Extremely disappointing. It is the main reason for my return visit. It is all a sham. In the midst of the shambolic meeting, I slowly read between the lines that there is no business opportunity to speak of. Nonetheless my would-be business partner explains in the most gracious of terms that there is no opportunity now or anytime in the future because the said opportunity depended on the opening of a factory in the North, where the notorious Boko Haram reigns supreme. Without missing a beat, she takes me to a local hotel for me to sample Abuja’s finest. Every ball of fufu that I swallow goes down my throat like a bitter pill. I just want to go back to Lagos. And I do eventually, but not before missing my flight that

evening back to Lagos because my now immediate-former business partner's driver knows a “short cut” to the airport. It turns out that we are well on our way to a neighbouring state whose name I can’t quite remember. I feel a sense of strange comfort when the plane touches down at the airport in Lagos, albeit it being quite late in the evening. Tom meets me at the airport. He asks me how my trip was but I am too traumatised to respond or to engage in any meaningful small talk and so we ride to the hotel in silence. I manage to buy a few souvenirs on the eve of my return home. Tom picks me up early the following morning to take me to the airport. My mood is filthy. As I am minding my own business on the check-in queue, a man asks me in pidgin, “Ma sisto, why are you in horry, are you going to meet Jesos?” I am mortified.

Once on the plane, I sit next to a Mike Tyson look alike, complete with tattoos and a funny (and not ha-ha) looking haircut with some message or other embedded into the little hair that remains atop his head. This time around, I am not going to be intimidated. I shoot him a dirty look to suggest that I am not going to engage in any sort of conversation with him, civil or otherwise. I don’t even bother to pretend to be asleep. I am ready to fight. As the plane touches down Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, I muse, perhaps my hellish visit wasn’t so bad after all. Lagos did toughen me up somewhat, but I am not going back there anytime soon, at least, not on my own!





Staff picks Women over 50

Celebrations, Lamentations & Knowingness Compiled by: Susan Wakhungu-Githuku Society unfailingly tells women of a certain age that their ‘sell by’ date is past. Across most cultures, the narrative is the same-with the piling of years, well magnified in greying or dyed crowns; children flying the coop; ensuing menopause, loss of once-svelte silhouettes and faces sprinkling wrinkles, tomb bells apparently peal to welcome the soon-to-expire. But, what do the women themselves have to say about this damnation? Right from the cover jacket, this book is riveting, but before that, just glancing at the bulky book and you would be tempted to ask why the author would go into such great lengths to cover the accounts of all these ladies; differing in race, personalities, professions, geographical regions and experience; Which said answers are to be found in the book. Of note is the style of the book; a reflection of boundless knowledge and experience in the very words of every individual featured. The book is a rich treasure of life’s lessons, more so with regard to having your cake and eating it. This is epitomised by the varied stories of the women therein and who have striven to strike an equilibrium between motherhood, family and successful and fulfilling careers. In addition, contrary to the fallacy that age brings irrelevance and obsolescence, 50 brings with it maturity, knowledge, confidence, liberation, fulfilment, self-discovery and acceptance of one self. This is so as you never have to worry if your makeup is okay or whether you have white facial hairs or you take too long to wake up and getting going. Further, most of the things that would draw judgement while one was still young are assumed and accepted. The society grows lenient towards your shortcomings and upholds you as a vessel of wisdom worthy of respect and emulation. Read on to find out why 50 is the new 40.



Little Bee By Chris Cleeve

Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming. Maybe I would visit with you for the weekend and then suddenly, because I am fickle like that, I would visit with the man from the corner shop instead – but you would not be sad because you would be eating a cinnamon bun, or drinking a cold Coca Cola from the can, and you would never think of me again. We would be happy, like lovers who met on holiday and forgot each other’s names. Thus begins Chris Cleave’s tale of a Nigerian refugee girl in a foreign land. On release from the immigration centre, there is the culture shock at just how permissive the British are. In the narrator’s words, “No, this newspaper was not for people like you and me. There was a white girl in the newspaper photo and she was topless. You know what I mean when I say this, because it is your language we are speaking. But if I was telling this story to my big sister Nkiruka and the other girls from my village back home then I would have to stop, right here, and explain to them: topless does not mean, the lady in the newspaper did not have an upper body. It means, she was not wearing any garments on her upper body. You see the difference.” The book unfolds from the view point of two women- Little Bee and Sarah O’Rourke, and whom fate has deemed fit that they meet, though in rather unsavoury circumstances. The books swings to and from two countries, Nigeria and Britain, and documents the immigration experience (if it can be called as such), and the underlying issues that would make one seek asylum in the first place vis-à-vis conflict. No doubt, the novel aptly captures what refugees, be they Somalis in Kenya or Syrians in Berlin, go through; conflict trauma, the culture shock that awaits in the host country, the resentment and xenophobia from local populations and yet, amidst all the chaos is hope of a brighter future.

The Joke By Milan Kundera I too believed in the imminence of a revolution in Western Europe; there was only one thing I could not accept: that she should be so happy when I was missing her so much. So I bought a postcard and (to hurt, shock, confuse her) wrote: Optimism is the opium of the people! A healthy atmosphere stinks of stupidity! Long live Trotsky! Ludvik. Milan Kundera’s novel is a study in philosophy, politics, personal convictions and nostalgia. Set in communist Czechoslovakia (now, the Czech Republic), the novel consists of seven parts told from the viewpoints of the four main characters: Ludvik, Helen, Jaroslav and Kostka. “Religion is the opium of the people,” a paraphrase of Karl Marx’s “Religion is the opiate of the masses,” is corrupted to read as ‘Optimism is the opium of the people!’a joke which pervades the rest of the narration that is the novel. It is this joke that lands Ludvik’s a date with the powers that be. As with most, if not all, totalitarian regimes, Ludvik’s corruption of the phrases is contrived to mean that he does not support the party in power by sycophantic party’s stalwarts at the university. A rather worrying trend considering that universities are meant to be bastions of intellect and free thought, communism and all. Other jokes that continuously run in the novel include Kostka’s detachment from matters communism due to his faith, Marketa’s- Ludvik’s girlfriend- seriousness and Jaroslav’s growing indifference to his Moravian folk lifestyle. It is no joke though that the author of the novel had to eventually seek political asylum in France due to his literature being perceived as anti-establishment in his home country, Czechoslovakia. That said, the novel is also a study in translation and what can go wrong in translation. Originally written in Czech, the novel has had five English translations as the author was not fully satisfied with the first four editionsperiods in lieu of commas, a change in characterisation, a wrong phrase here and there. As such, readers are advised to get the fifth English translation for the best reading experience. As the author promises in the 5th edition, circa 1992, “To my readers, a promise: there will not be a sixth English-language version of The Joke.”

Finest Years Churchill as Warlord 1940-45 By Max Hastings In addressing the history of the Second World War it is necessary to recognise the huge moral compromises forced upon the nations fighting under the banner of democracy and freedom. Britain, and subsequently America, strove for the triumph of these admirable principles wherever they could be secured- with the sometimes embarrassing exceptions of the European overseas empires. But again and again, hard things had to be done which breached faith with any definition of absolute good. If this is true of politics at all times, it was especially so between 1939 and 1945. Whether in dealing with France, Greece, Iraq, Persia, Yugoslavia or other nations, attitudes were struck and courses adopted by the Allies which no moral philosopher could think impeccable. The image is iconic- Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, the Big Three- at the Yalta Conference as they discuss the reorganisation of post-Nazi Europe in the wake of German’s capitulation following his defeat at the Second World War. The burly Winston, the enduring Roosevelt and the stern Stalin- the body language is telling as the three seek to secure a future for their countries and legacies for themselves. Though the image of the Yalta Conference that is included in this book is wanting, the text has definitely landed (pun intended), more so, in its treatment of the evacuations at Dunkirk and the Normandy landings. This book examines a most turbulent time that was the World War II and the preceding years when the fire was being stoked by the Nazis- a fire that would ultimately raze down the whole of Europe and beyond. And at the heart of the diagnosis is one of the central character’s in this war, Sir Winston Churchill, British statesman and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. As it characterises the man, peeling him one layer at a time, the reader is asked to consider whether Churchill is A Stateman for All Time. Considering that Churchill had succeeded Neville Chamberlain as the British Prime Minister, the answer might be in the affirmative. To quote Chamberlain as to Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, “How horrible, fantastic, incredible, it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.” PROSE MAGAZINE | DECEMBER 2016 - JANUARY 2017


Miguel Street V.S. Naipaul My Uncle Bhakcu was very nearly a mechanical genius. I cannot remember a time when he was not the owner of a motor-vehicle of some sort. I don’t think he always approved of the manufacturers’ designs, however, for he was always pulling engines to bits. Titus Hoyt said that this was also a habit of the Eskimos. It was something he had got out

of a geography book. If I try to think of Bhacku I never see his face. I can see only the soles of his feet as he worms his way under a car. I was worried when Bhakcu was under a car because it looked so easy for the car to slip off the jack and fall on him. One day it did.

Whereas a stranger driving into Miguel Street would see a slum, to its inhabitants, it is a world unto its own. A world like no other, Miguel Street has interesting characters: Bogart who made a pretence of making a living by tailoring; Popo, the carpenter who made the thing without a name; George and his pink house; B. Wordsworth, poet usurper; Morgan the pyrotechnicist… Then there is the Junior Miguel Street Club, of which the narrator is a member. Set in Trinidad, the novel is really a composition of vignettes- each being a faithful portrayal of the various characters that inhabit the locale. Though lightly recounted – with the author describing the work as sketches- the novel is quite evocative as to the human condition, more so, as to how the various characters cope as despondency and penury threatens to drown them. Of course, being set in Trinidad, the novel would not be complete without recourse to calypsos to make light of the various situations the characters find themselves entangled in. Inherent in the narration too- the naming of the characters, the music- is the evolution of the nation that is Trinidad and the confluence of different cultures. For example, one of the characters, Bogart- is named after one of American’s screen stars and cultural icons, Humphrey Bogart while Trinidad’s national musical instrument, the steeldrum or steelpan, originated from the conversion of oil drums left behind by the US army into percussion instruments.



A Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. As William Shakespeare begot us shylock to mean a ruthless moneylender, so too did Charles Dickens lend us a scrooge to denote one who is stingy. “Marley was dead…” thus begins this beloved and classic Christmas tale that never gets old. Set in Victorian England, the tale is divided into five parts (staves, if you will). These include Marley’s Ghost, The First of the Three Spirits, The Second of the Three Spirits, The Last of the Spirits and The End of It. The first part builds on the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, a mean and dour usurer who leads a miserable existence despite having much coin. We also get to know how Jacob’s Marley demise came about. Scrooge too gets a visitor from his former business partner, now departed. The second part onwards has Scrooge being visited by various ghosts and who port him to Christmas Past and Christmas Present. In these visits, Scrooge observes the misery and condemnation the mention of his name evokes as well as getting a glimpse of better days that was Noel then. However, not all is lost as Scrooge is able to find the real meaning of Christmas at the end of the tale and is redeemed, as should we readers. Written in the same vein as Dicken’s other famous works such as Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby, the novella has the sort of depressing description of the ravages of penury and human suffering as narrated from first-hand experience. In Dickens’ depiction of Ebenezer Scrooge as a dual persona- an irascible and foul tempered character that is redeemed into a kind and gentle spirit, is the mixed feelings Dicken had for his father. Dickens father was imprisoned when the boy was 12 years old, thus condemning the boy to find work in a factory. Suffice to say, the working condition in factories during the Victoria era were appalling, as were the living conditions of those less endowed with material possessions.

Strengths Finder By Tom Rath If you have always wondered what your core strengths are and how you can tap into them, well wonder no more. This epic bestseller comes with an online assessment which helps you to uncover what your top 5 strengths are and what you can do to tap into them. As human beings, we seem to be inundated by our weaknesses and we are nearly always at our wits end trying to get over, to overcome, and to snap out of what we perceive such weaknesses to be. This is what makes this book so refreshing; it helps one focus on one's strengths rather than agonise on one's weaknesses. The online assessment is conducted by Gallup, a global consultancy and research company that develops analytical tools and helps leaders and organisations reach their full potential. In the book is an online code that one uses to access the online assessment on the Gallup website. One then reads what one's core strengths are. These range from strategy, to responsibility, to arranger, to futuristic. In total, there are 34 talent themes. Armed with this information, the book also gives guidelines on people of other strength types that you can partner with to further your potential. If, for example, responsibility is your core strength, it is suggested that you partner with someone whose core strength is focus or discipline to keep you from getting overwhelmed. It also provides you with an action guide aimed at helping you to immediately tap into your strengths. What is perhaps most striking about this book is that the author was diagnosed with a rare disorder that shuts off tumour suppressing genes and causes rampant cancerous growth in his body. It is against this that he has chosen to live purposefully and as far as this book is concerned, it is a living testimony of one who has decided to focus on what matters; one’s strengths. No more second guessing yourself, no more beating yourself at what you are not good at, and because no man is an island, this provides you with a platform to seek people who can plug into your areas of weakness so that you focus on what makes you great.

The Gospel According to Coco Chanel By Karen Karbo Delving into the long, extraordinary life of renowned French fashion designer Coco Chanel, Karen Karbo has written a new kind of book, exploring Chanel’s philosophy on a range of universal themes – from style to passion, from money and success to femininity and living life on your own terms. Written in a laid-back voice and humorous wit, with many laugh-out-loud moments, this book gives a mini-biographical account of Coco Chanel, whose real name is Gabrielle Bonheur. Considered, to this day, to be a woman ahead of her time, Chanel did not grow up with the proverbial silver spoon in the mouth. She was born in the summer of 1883 in rural France. Her father, who would later abandon his family, was a street vendor who peddled garments and her mother worked as a laundry woman at a nearby convent. At the young age of 32, her mother died of bronchitis and Chanel and her two sisters were sent to an orphanage in another part of France that was run by Catholic nuns. In her adult years, Chanel rarely, if ever, talked about her humble beginnings. And when she did, she gave a very sanitised and tear-jerking account of her past. Though not a beautiful woman, in the classic sense of the word, she had numerous dalliances, including a romantic liaison with a Nazi officer during the occupation of France during the Vichy regime (1940-1944), which subsequently forced her to go into exile in Switzerland after the Second World War. With that being said, she is portrayed in the book as a shrewd business woman, with unparalleled work ethic. Her designs were bold, iconic and avant-garde. The book touches on her philosophy on just about everything from style to success to money and to femininity (not to be confused with feminism). The most memorable quote from the book is Chanel’s take on luxury, “Some people think that luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity. Luxury is the opposite of status. It is the ability to make a living by being oneself. It is the freedom to refuse to live by habit. Luxury is liberty. Luxury is elegance.”



Festivities and resolutions




lose weight


join new gym-old instructor thinks I'm a joker!

visit mum more

remember to feed cat more often

get out of debt (seriously)


stop wasting time on social media



wsing limit bro a e c n o to ept week (exacrc for rese h)


write every morning clean house weekly monthly every quarter

join form a book club

Propose (she'll leave me if I don't)



estivities and New Year resolutions, what strange bedfellows these two are. I know, I know - I should have made considerable progress in writing my novel, the greatest novel ever written. Self-recriminations of coulda, woulda, shoulda are killing me. Still, it is that time of the year when I have to take a break and imbibe in all the festivities of the season as Christmas glides by. And with Christmas, comes the New Year, so you can guess yours truly has been busy researching on resolutions for 2017. It is a roulette, really, this resolutions thing. Live healthier, spend more time with loved ones, save moresame old, same old, it seems. This year, I promise myself, I will stick to my resolutions. In fact, to show how serious I am, I have started a rehearsal of sorts. You see, one of my resolution towards healthier living is to exercise. In mind is a 4-kilometre run, uphill one-way, downhill on the return, just outside my home. It is a famous run, this one, for every morn and every eve, runners wear it down- the footballer, the weightlifter, the elderly gentleman on doctor’s orders to do something about his weight- all of which I admire. Then again, I have no time for such a luxury as I am always dashing off to or from work, is our excuse. Truth is, opening hours for the run are from 4-10, morning, and 3-9, evening, from my observation on the happenings of this run. What to buy, what to buy. Oh the pressure of what to buy. I am thinking of the presents to give to my loved ones this Christmas. Last year I got Pops a fedora. The year before I got him a Seiko, though, in all honesty, it was more of a bribe considering the considerable amount of cash he had loaned me (and now that we are into

honesty, the Seiko was no present at all in view of the fact that it had been bought by part of the cash loaned. I guess that is what Pops are for). Mom got a silk headscarf, which I guess she wears occasionally when I am around. As to my beloved others, they got an assortment of presents depending on how close to them I felt during the Christmas season, the state of my wallet and randomness. The one keen on stealing my rib, as we folks say, got nothing (a great mistake, I later learnt, paid heavily come Valentine) as we were practically not on speaking terms then. We have since made up and I intend to make an honest woman of her come the new year- my second resolution. Indeed, I have lined up a couple of baby names going forward, which is to stay, shall I be permitted any say in the matter. If a boy- Amazulu, Jabali or Hakeem. If a girl- Lola (Swahili, not Spanish), Malaika or Pendo. Otherwise, if I am overruled, it’s back to Messi, Shawn, Sasha, and the like. Ambitious names like "Gift" or "Destiny" are not on my repertoire. As to my third resolution, which really, all things considered, should be my first resolution, is to write more. Make that to having my yet to be named greatest novel ever, done, dusted and published. Oh, the glamour and the glory that shall follow me… Here goes: The tramp, meanwhile, prayed that his cover was working. For a fact, he was no tramp, rather, he was Prince Zela, descended from the great King Achapo, Conqueror of the Seven Realms and Lord Master and Unifier of the Great Divide. His father, either through reason, conquest, or deceit, had managed to bring the Seven Realms together, save for the Delgi tribe, wanderers of the desert and vassals to no one. Had Prince Zela thought about

the matter, he would have perceived that he was the one chosen by destiny to save the Seven Realms from the Final Assault. Indeed, it had been foretold, from days of yore, that mighty giants would come from the north and wreak havoc in their wake as they plundered all and sundry in their march to the southern realm of the Delgi. Legend had it that the mighty giants would be in search of he who was promised and who would save them from a terrible affliction that ravaged their lands, scarred their faces, blighted their bodies and deformed their limbs. Once, these giants had been men of handsome countenance and beautiful stature before vanity had corrupted them. These men, the legend continued, had once ago visited the Seven Realms thousands and thousands of years ago. Then, they had come in peace, a peace mingled with curiosity in what lay outside their land and a certain mien of self-entitlement. They had come in a big, round ship with fascinating lights- a ship that now lay in the first Realm of Azalea- now the shrine of the Azalea seers, with only a select few others considered worthy to enter the shrine. On his part, Prince Zela, at first, took his commission in jest. Princely living sometimes made a man soft, so he had seen the king send his brothers on this or that errand to harden them as men. Then again, he was growing fond of one of the palace’s chambermaids- which fact did not sit well with his father as he hoped to betroth his son to a princess from one of the Seven Realms and consolidate his power. Well, now that he was to be sent out on an adventure of his own, he might as well pay a visit to the shrine of the Azalea seers, not knowing that the shrine, or rather, the ship, was a portal to the world of the invaders foretold thousands of years ago…



Madam F I C T I O N



hen madam is not in, I like to pretend that I am her and prance in front of the mirror. You should see me then. Me in her favourite Superman-blue dress. Chiffon. Then I hold my nose between my thumb and index finger and speak like a European the way she doth speak through the nose, “Nanjero this… Nanjero that.” Then, I imagine I am Naomi Campbell or Lupita Nyong’o – boarding planes, doing catwalks, Glamour is my name. Madam is not a bad person, rather, she is impatient. When she wants you to do things, she wants now. Not after ten minutes or five minutes, no. Not after I finish peeling the potatoes or I take the boiling milk off the stove, she wants now. I guess when you are an impatient person, you must be a very important person, so they made her president of TechBankFinancing Your Online Start-Up. Madam has two angels. Nana and Nina. Twins. Alike as peas in a pod, at


least in resemblance. She has raised them right, Madam has. They say ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ and ‘good morning’. They call me Auntie- as in like I am their real aunt, not the obsequious other aunt with sneers of plasticity. Nana is the older twinboisterous, confident, infectious laughter- she knows everyone and everyone knows her. Nina is a bit reserved and likes her booksstorybooks with nice drawings of beautiful people and beautiful places. They are five years old. So Nana got me my current boyfriend. It happened this way. Madam’s house is big- a mansion it is, Nina says. All our neighbours have houses as big as ours, with spaces for cars and three big swimming pools which we share. A gated community, Nina tells me. Usually, Madam does the monthly shopping, but should I need anything she overlooked, she says to send Mulu. Well, Mulu was not in that day. In the house, were the two of us- Nana and me. Nina was at


school while Nana had decided to be sick. I am no doctor, so I told her to stay home. I called Madam. She was in a meeting, said the officious sounding voice at the other end. Meanwhile, Nana had gotten up from her bed and was all over the house vexing my spirit. Nana said that she would stop being sick if we made banana waffles. As I said, I am no doctor, so waffles it was. This meant that we now had to walk to the grocery kiosk outside the main gate of the estate for bananas. Sweet bananas, Nana was emphatic. I locked the house and off we went with Nana. She skipped along happily, asking a thousand and one questions as we went along. Where were my parents? Was my mother beautiful as hers? In which country was the overhead plane going to; that sort of thing. Then we had to go bump into Denda. This Denda, he worked in one of the other houses in our big estate. We had bumped into each other

I hold my nose between my thumb and index finger and speak like a European the way she doth speak through the nose, “Nanjero this… Nanjero that.” Then, I imagine I am Naomi Campbell or Lupita Nyong’o – boarding planes, doing catwalks, Glamour is my name.

occasionally and he had been quick to flash a smile and a quick hi before Madam dragged me hurriedly into the car and gave him bad looks. Said I should be careful of such men, but my heart was content and that is all that mattered. This Denda- tall, handsome and all those things they write in newspapers and magazine about such kind of people. In my fantasy world, replayed in front of Madam’s dresser, I would be decked as a princess (Madam’s silk blouse, Chanel brocade dress, pumps from Prada, a pout dancing on my lips)- and this amazing prince, Denda, would sweep me off my feet. So, we bump into Denda and Nana is all chatty chatty with him. How old is he? Does he have brothers? A sister? A car? Nana tells him that I am a princess; she had caught me once or twice in my play-acting and relayed this, innocently, of course, to Madam. Madam had brushed it off, with lotsa patience, as a proper mother ought

all big words with me. Dichotomy. I should step being ‘a fortiori’ with her on how to eat her vegetables. Immanent- like Immanuel, she says. She loses me half the time. I can tell my Nina is going to be a big person in future. She is prodigal or prodigious or precocious, I once overhead the doctor say to Madam. Perhaps, she to. Denda asks, “Are you a princess?” misses her papa. I too would get and we both laugh. I tell him about prodigal if I did not see my papa for a my dreams to be a model someday, whole 2 years. Madam says he went or a nurse, or a doctor, or to be like to read books in America. In my heart, Madam… “Will he be my prince then?”, I wondered whether he had read all I counter. You can see how happy the books in this country that he now Denda is. had to go read books in America. If Now, we are seeing each I remember, I will ask Nina about it other off as Denda has reached the when she comes back from school. house he works in. We are telling each The waffles are now done, other to ‘see you around’, as Madam but still, Madam is in a meeting. says. Well, trust Nana to be on top of Nana is eating the waffles like she is things. “Your number. Give her your being paid to eat waffles, so I am not number.” Nana is unrelenting in her overly concerned about taking her to botheration. “Give the princess your the doctor. Last time I took Nana to number.” Perhaps, Madam should pay hospital without checking with her, more attention to what she permits Madam was pretty upset and said her children to watch. Then again, my that money does not grow on trees. number is safely inside Denda’s phone, Perhaps it was because Nana had so what do I know? That is Nana for smashed the doctor’s periscope for you. seeing into people’s heart and Madam Nina. She intrigues me to no had to pay for it. However, I knew that end. With her, you can never tell. One the doctor had seen Nana had a big minute, she is all playful, the next, she heart when she looked inside it and I has retreated into her books. When was not upset when Madam told me she is annoyed with me, she goes PROSE MAGAZINE | DECEMBER 2016 - JANUARY 2017


off. Nana is now bugging me to eat some waffles for myself and I have a half mind to refuse her as I have preserved my belly to do the lunch chicken. “Nana. That’s enough waffles for the day.” I implore her. “We should leave some for Nina.” Nana readily agrees, so you can see she loves her sister to bits. I suspect the idea of making waffles was to surprise her twin sister in the evening then she done forget and eaten nearly every last one of them. She is a good bargainer, Nana is. Now that we have closed the business of waffles, Nana gets me to read her Rapunzel, in the course of which I will do her hair. Ten minutes, I tell her, in mock severity, though we both know I will end up not doing the dishes or even cooking lunch if I am not careful with her. I love reading. I can read the whole day. I can read for me, for her, or even for both of us. I especially like reading Nina’s storybooks. Nina, she is my reading teacher. When I first came to Madam’s house, her piles of books fascinated me to no end. When Madam was not around, I would pick a book, trace my finger along its spine, sniff it and take in the heady aroma of the paper and the ink. I especially liked the fusty smell of her old, yellowing books. It reminded me of fresh hay and the smell of earth as the first droplets of rain landed. Petrichor, the smell of rain, Nina told me later when we became friends. I would then open the book and wonder at what magical tales the fascinating marks in the books were telling. So Nina caught me poring over a book and asked me if I could read. Nope, I said. Well then, I will teach you how to read and write. Nina was forthright like that. ABCD… your alphabet soup. 1,2,3… Arabic


numerals. Sounds. Enunciation. Pronunciation. Press your lips like this… no, no! Not like that! Like this! Round your lips to read an ‘O’… Hold your pencil like this. Don’t press hard on the paper, rather, let your pencil glide and skim over the surface… Then she had Madam buy me a big book that she said contained all the words in the world. Dictionary, she called it. Nina said ‘practise to perfect’, so I started reading daily once I had run through all my allotted chores for the day. I read laboriously, going painfully over every word, checking with my big book of all words in the world to improve my ‘vocal library’‘vocabulary’, I learnt later, was the right word. I read about Snow White and her charming dwarves, Beauty and the Beast, Jack and beans that stalked him. The story about a princess and a pea confused me. In the first place, why was she sleeping on food? My mother always said to never show God belly, now that one was full. Then again, back in the village, I had always slept on a mat with pebbles on the floor to massage my back till morning lights. Perhaps, that is why she was a princess, I reckoned. Then I started reading more serious books. History, biographies, politics, philosophy… Madam’s books. I read about a fellow called Christopher Columbus who discovered the land Nina’s papa had gone to read more books. I read that he had found some Indians there, so I had to consult my dictionary on what discovering was all about. Another book told me that the fellows discovered by Columbus were not Indians, rather, they were Native Americans. Apparently, these contradictions were beyond Nina, so I had to ask Madam. She said it was all about semantics and political correctness, flavoured with a bit of epistemology and etymology, so I left


it at that. Here is the circumstances I asked the questions. I was prancing in front of Madam’s dresser, this time poised as a lady prime minister à la Benazir Bhutto; in my mind, addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations on an issue of importance like the education of the girl child. I was narrating the story of a village girl, interwoven with deft oratory and hard-hitting facts. I was narrating a world view that was cruel and without opportunity as glanced through her eyes and how it could be betteredappealing to both their emotions and their logic. On my right, I could see the president of the United States of America nodding in agreement to my every word… Gradually, it descended on me; that creepy feeling perceived via a sixth sense that something or somebody is watching you. I turned around slowly, guilty as charged, my gaze meeting that of Madam’s. The gaze held for an eternity, a gaze at the primordial level where the predator and the prey size up each other before the kill. Well, today, there would be no killing. Madam said she would sell one of her houses and top up the money to set up a foundation for girls’ education. I was to be the first beneficiary, Madam said. She would enrol me in an adults-literacy programme at a level equivalent to Grade 6 after Christmas. That said, we would need to work out the modalities of how I would be doing my household chores. Foundation- the word tasted of strawberries when I rolled it off my lips. I imagined it did to a person what it did to a house, anchor her up. Madam’s foundation was the best Christmas ever anyone could conjure.

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Profile for Epsilon Publishers

Prose Magazine Dec 2016 - Jan 2017  

Prose is a bi-monthly publication of Epsilon Publishers. The magazine delves into industry trends and insights of publishing.

Prose Magazine Dec 2016 - Jan 2017  

Prose is a bi-monthly publication of Epsilon Publishers. The magazine delves into industry trends and insights of publishing.


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