Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Grace Matata, Seghito & Chi alternative TZ singers blazing a trail

By +Caroline Anande Uliwa

Grace Matata
As you flick your remote for the TV, stumble onto local music videos with an increasing number of European or Asian video vixens, romanced by our male music idols. Making you wonder if East African females aren’t good enough to cater to that all male ego, in acting that erotica or romantic spiel.

When you hear another Bongo Flava track on the radio, whilst searching for Afro jazz or Afro rock or music that has more live instruments and fail to find the same in Tanzania. You could think there’s no one offering an alternative sound, you wouldn’t be right though. We’re sitting with Grace Matata 30, Seghito 29 & Chi 28, all Tanzanian female singers and songwriters. They are solo artists who are passionate about live music working in the genres of afro-jazz, afro soul and neo soul music.

Aichieli Temu a.k.a Chi
Worldwide the music industry is still with a female minority meaning we’re consuming music mostly made by men. “A woman singer is accepted because using her body to make music is an extension of her femininity. Put an instrument in her hands or in front of her face, and it interrupts the impression of a woman as either “sexually available…”… In Pop music the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative published a study this year that notes that women make up only 22.4% of artists, 12.3% of songwriters, and 2% of producers” Playing like a Girl- article by Carrie Leigh Page & Dana Reason- 2018.

Annette Ngongi a.k.a Seghito
In breaking down the scenario here at home all three shared that the odds are stacked high for them. “Our industry is very one dimensional it’s changing slowly…throughout the value chain you cannot find producers who are making alternative sound. If you’re not doing what’s popular right now, that Nigerian pop. It means you have to work really hard to find a producer who can make your music.” Grace Matata went on to elaborate the challenges she & other contemporary musicians face.

Pertaining to a lack of distributors (only gospel music is physically distributed widely by distributors’ not secular music) and the lack of contemporary music being adequately featured in traditional media. She ascertained though that with media penetrations more efforts can be made by contemporary musicians. “I started with mainstream and I worked my way towards more of the alternative sound. Still the truth is my music hasn’t changed much it’s just my music was marketed as mainstream music from the beginning and I think this is where a lot of contemporary musicians go wrong...” Grace has been encouraging alternative sound musicians through a group called ‘Temeyai’ on social media to take bold steps in advertising their music.

When I caught up with the ladies
who are also friends Seghito left and
Grace Matata right.
“From the way society sees you to the way family views what you should do, there’s so much about being a female musician that is challenging. Sill it’s also true that we need to be more focused; I’ve attended several music workshops offered at CDEA (Culture and Development East Africa) offices, where the attendance from females was very low…I’ve heard other female upcoming musicians tell me oh but you come from privilege and I tell them ‘do you think my parents wanted me to do music, till last year they were calling this a hobby’. ” Chi here raises the topic of family support as well the lack of morale that female musicians can face from their immediate friends and family; which discourages them from putting the necessary effort to push their career.

Despite these odds these three ladies are forging ahead and making significant strides in their career. Even though they play instruments, are their own bosses and are making music that isn’t playing to their feminine sensuality as the sole ingredient.

Annette Ngongi or Seghito as she’s popularly known a name which means ‘girl’ from her Hehe tribal roots is a go-getter. Seghito who sings Afro Jazz and is self managed, released her EP album last year titled ‘Swahili Vintage’. Her journey began while she was still in high school where she joined THT (Tanzania House of Talent) music residency. A landing that saw her performing back stage vocals to acts like Ray C and Mwasiti touring around the country, she then went on to college in Iringa. Where she joined a local band and stepped onto the role of lead singer for the first time.

Ever since then after graduating university she was back in Dar es Salaam and together with her closest friend Florence Kibopile. She started a band called ‘the Jazz tribe’. The band has played annually at a time inside the Hyatt Hotel, Cape Town Fish Market Bar & restaurant, Akemi Restaurant and recently Samaki Samaki bar & restaurant in Dar es Salaam.

She is currently promoting her EP ‘Swahili Vintage’, when we asked her what performing music is to her she answered. “For me performing live is almost like a prayer, when I am singing that’s when I am most myself. That’s when I can just express myself …it’s a powerful experience.” Seghito has performed at Jahazi Jazz Festival and Marahaba Festival in Tanzania and has performed alongside Afro Jazz royalty Mr Moussa Diallo. She has also started a monthly platform called XOXO an afro jazz concert which works with a pop up shopping experience. https://inkphy.com/user/xoxoconcertz?hl=en

Grace Matata is an Afro-Soul songstress with an album on her belt Nyakati-2013; since then she has released seven singles and was nominated for the 2015 Kilimanjaro Music Awards. Her latest single ‘Baby’ was sponsored by Unicef and released last year on world childrens day. She has a loyal fan base on social media 75K-Instagram and has performed at the Sauti za Busara Festival (Zanzibar) in 2017, the DoaDoa festival in 2016 (Uganda), the Zanzibar Beach & Watersports Festival in 2015 and the Zanzibar International Film Festival in 2014.

To describe the feeling she gets when being on stage she says, “I cannot put it into words…it’s like when you have a crush on this guy and you finally have a chance to be around him. It’s that kind of feeling and more.”

Grace for the last six months of the year produces a show which features her and other international/local artists she supports. The show called ‘Coffee House Sessions’ has been going on for 4 years now in Dar es Salaam.https://www.facebook.com/coffeehousewithgrace/

Aichieli Temu or Chi as she’s better known is a Neo-Soul revolutionary, Chi began her performance journey braving the streets of Liverpool busking (street performing). Working her way up to playing at festivals such as the ‘Brouhaha International Street Festival’, the ‘Oxjam Music Festival’ and the Sound City Festival, she has also been featured several times on BBC Radio.

When asked to describe her process in making music she says “I started to write because it’s all well and good singing to Destiny child or whatever but sometimes you just want to sing your own thing. So you sit on the piano and with the limited information you have because you were twat and gave up piano lessons (She laughs). You go with what you’ve got, you create something, you start writing and you find that excitement. That thing that you just want to thirst for, to grow for...”

Back home in Tanzania which she permanently returned to in 2013. Chi went on to perform live gigs in the city of Dar es Salaam; playing for Moët and Hennessy Artistry events, opening for South African musicians Bucie and Black Motion, being featured regularly in local platforms like Lyricist Lounge and Slow leopard music sessions.  To now where for a year she has been hosting her own event each month titled ‘Chi & Friends’at Triniti Bar in Oysterbay DSM; it  features herself with other upcoming artists in the city that she supports.https://www.instagram.com/chi_and_friends/

The music from these ladies is rich offering those who appreciate other genres apart from pop, something Afro-patriotic to cuddle their souls to. You can access Grace Matata’s music through this link http://www.panamusiq.com/music3.html Seghito’s EP can be accessed here https://www.boomplaymusic.com/share/album/1794631 and Chi’s music can be accessed here wwww.soundcloud/chibist90

This article was first published in the DailyNews paper in Tanzania on the 6th of June 2019

Sunday, 19 May 2019

'Love Bombs! with Karafu' a gift from TZ authors

By Caroline Uliwa

Nahida Esmail left cuts the tape to officially launch her book Karafu
The sanctified reason of painting the footsteps of East African youth, mouthing their desire, painting their perspectives; resting on the importance of telling our own African stories , is accomplished gracefully in the young adult novels ‘Love Bombs’ and ‘Karafu’.

At a Book Bazaar inside Soma Book Café recently in Dar es Salaam, literary lovers were gathered, where the author of ‘Love Bombs’ Mr Richard Mabala and the author of Karafu Ms Nahida Esmail, officially launched these books. It was a pleasure to sift through the pages of these works, here’s why.

‘Love Bombs!’ 

 Oh Marietta this brave, stubborn, drama queen of a teenager (no older than 15), had me laughing with my heart strings by her sleeve. Her naïve yet soulful antics lend this novel’s serious topics a down to earth ambience that is quiet riveting. “Have I killed someone? NO. So how did I get here? All I wanted was for Uncle and Auntie to be happy. No, that is not entirely true. I wanted them to think about ME. Yes ME.” Marietta inside ‘Love Bombs’ by R. Mabala.

In Love Bombs, Mr Mabala paints the landscape of modern middle class and working class families of Tanzania. While striding the fine line between advocacy and engaging fiction, by sharing characters that are neither saints nor heroes but whole human beings. Who bump into issues that anyone living in the region can pull from their own experience or those of their neighbors and thus relate.

“These mgambo (militia) people have no mercy. They just walk in, carry off your sufurias and leave you with nothing to find a way to start all over again. I am surprised they don’t all have big bellies the way they shamelessly confiscate and eat your food.”Marietta’s Mother inside Love Bombs by R. Mabala.

Mr Mabala has worked with children & youth for over 15 years, he is a renowned young adult author in the country with previous titles like ‘Mabala the farmer’, Hawa the Bus Driver and Run Free. “Whenever I’ve asked children what they’d like most from adults in their lives, all the time it’s not a big present, money or things that they mention. Rather they speak of being heard, supported and loved, they are the ones who inspired me to write this book.” R. Mabala speaking at the launch of his book Love Bombs.

Love Bombs follows Marietta’s antics to ensure her Uncle and Auntie who are her current guardians; don’t end up divorcing one another. She is convinced if this happens she will be tossed once again to another family and doesn’t think she can survive that. The book is a slow read at first but from a few chapters in you’re hooked as the pace takes off and soon you’ll wish Marietta & her kin live on beyond the last page.

Love Bombs  is a valid depict of our times, there’s something special about reading African literature, much like watching the big screens come alive with streets you frequent, characters that could be your own family & friends. Love Bomb is a healthy reminder that our footsteps matter.


From left Godence Andrews (Editor at Mkuki), Nahida Esmail,
Nahida's relative & Fatma Akida (Mkuki Employee)
Nahida Esmail puts her big girl panties on when she wrote this novel, a historical drama set in the mid 1800’s. We’re on a boat from Salem heading for Zanzibar where we meet Samuel, a 14 year old boy. He is of African American descent and is there with Mr Wilson his European master; they’re both setting for Africa to discover the source of the river Nile.

Meanwhile we’re also introduced to another young teenager by the name Zainab; she is of Arab descent from Muscat but is born and raised in Zanzibar. Compared to Samuel who is a domestic worker for Mr Wilson, Zainab has enough ‘slaves’ at her beck and call with one even for her pet cat Simba.

Though Karafu is aimed for the young adults it can be enjoyed by any adult particularly from East Africa, for the plot puts breath in believable characters from our history. Zainab is the daughter of a wealthy businessman Mr Barwani, who has big ships and deals in the clove business among other things.

Samuel meets unexpected trouble when he lands in Africa for the first time; but it isn’t one with wild animals as he expected. Rather the wild deeds of men set in a period where slave trade is in full swing.

Standing is Mr Walter Bgoya Director of Mkuki na Nyota, sittng next to him
is Richard Mabala, Bgoya is giving his two cents inside a meet on the
topography of publishing fiction from his vast expereince in the field in
Nahida does a great job of sharing the reality of the period with relevant landmarks, customs. “The domestic slaves would put a long cloth on poles to produce a makeshift curtain, to protect the womenfolk of the Barwani family from the eyes of the male slaves.”N. Esmail in Karafu

Though the book explores slavery there’s still plenty of humanity as the story is pushed by this curious 14 year old, that mingles with all manner of people. Including Feruzi a Nyamwezi slave who has his own small patch of land in Zanzibar, he helps Samuel in learning Kiswahili, there’s Mrs Ghazali who educates Samuel teaching him facts about slavery and the intricacies of the Arabic language.

Nahida is brave in peeling the veil of an East African past that is foul, through her book she will bring history alive to a demographic that may not be aware of the details of this past,  as the work is relatable with details that informs our interactions to date.“Mzee Barwani had decided that Jojoba could be his domestic slave, helping around the house as the short clove harvesting was coming to an end. Mzee Barwani knew Jojoba had a lot of potential…even rare were slaves who could read and write the Latin script.”-N. Esmail in Karafu.

Nahida Esmail (left) with Richard Mabala (right)
taking a photo with a reader of their latest books Miss Tendai 
Karafu is a good read in that you will keep turning the pages; still I noticed a few grammatical errors like the word ‘Karafuu which is spelled wrong as ‘karafu’. Similar mistakes could be found with spellings of ‘unguja’ misspelled as ‘unjuga’ however many of these were made in diary entries by the main character. Perhaps they were intentional as he was just learning ‘Kiswahili’.

All in the entire book is worthy of praise, for it’s not easy to write from a time one has not lived. The story is an inspiring plot of how one can overcome adversity in an impossible situation. Samuel the hero though having met a lot for his young age, he lives in the present and gives his all to his tasks and ultimately changes the hearts of those around him.

Both Love Bombs! and Karafu are published by Mkuki na Nyota publishers they’re both finalists of the BuRT award for fiction. The books are available at TPH bookstore in Dar es Salaam otherwise you can order them with delivery online through http://www.mkukinanyota.com/

Photos are courtsey of Mkuki na Nyota Publishers & Soma Book Cafe

Friday, 10 May 2019

Chi's music to new Heights

By Caroline Uliwa

Pale peach and aquamarine threads shone off her skin under warm yellow lights, she’s singing her song Furnace of Desire. I think to myself ‘Yessss I have still caught her performing the first set’ for I thought I was late.

Miss Chi
It was 8 pm-ish at the Slow Leopard bar & restaurant in Masaki Dar es Salaam. On a Thursday evening where Achieli Temu or Chi as she’s best known, was performing with a bunch of scintillating musicians, which her persistent efforts in music have allowed in her circle. 
The sultry cello player Bernadette
on this night

Together with her onstage was saxophone songstress Irene La Veda on the sax, Bernadette Kleczka on the cello, Quentin on the keyboard with Romina playing the flute and Diego churning the base guitar. https://www.instagram.com/p/BxSLL3Bnve8/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Miss LaVeda on the Saxon this night
The result was a rich sound that totally inspired me to share here; Chi who has been performing live music in various circuits in Dar es Salaam for a few years now. To include her current monthly gig at Triniti Bar in Oysterbay ‘#FriendsofChi is a Singer/guitarist whose Soulful alternative afro rock music was all the more grown on this night.

On stage from left Quentin, Romina and Diego part of the band
escorting Chi on this night (9th of May 2019)

It’s not easy being a live musician female in the country but this Diva is pedaling on showing us all how it’s done. I shall interview her in detail soon and share more on her journey. For now it’s my hope she continues to invest more in this direction as something special was brewing on that stage.  

Chi in the middle
rocked us till her headband
became a scarf :)

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

To help victims of cyclone IDAI, Tunaweza wasaidia

If you have seen news of the harrowing effects last month from cyclone Idai, which hit parts of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe and have wondered how you can help.

The Graça Machel Trust, (GMT), the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, (NMCF) and the Foundation for Community Development (FCDP) have joined forces to mobilise resources to ensure the international community can respond.

This cyclone which has taken over 740 lives leaving thousands homeless, unsafe without food, emergency healthcare and other essential services. Ensures the magnitude of its disaster is immense for the three affected countries to handle it alone.

Kwenye hali hii ya majanga yanaoathiri wanadamu, bila shaka hali ya wanawake na watoto ipo hatarini. Mpaka sasa watu takribani milioni 7 wameathirika moja kwa moja kutokana na janga la kimbunga cha Idai. Vivyo taasisi hizi tatu GMT, FDC na NMCF zinakukaribisha kuwaunga mkono mamilioni hawa, ndugu na jamaa wenzetu tokea nchi za Malawi, Zimbabwe na Mozambique. Kuwasaidia kwa namna moja ama nyingine kujikomboa na janga hili.

Residents stand on rooftops in a flooded area of Buzi, central 
Mozambique,on March 20, 2019,after the passage of 
cyclone Idai.  (Photo: ADRIEN BARBIER, AFP/Getty Images)
The GMT, NMCF and FCDP  together are making a special appeal to the local, regional and international partners to contribute to their efforts in cash or in kind.

Donations can be done through the following channels/ Misaada inaweza tolewa kupitia mikondo hii.

Account Name/Jina la Akaunti: Graca Machel Trust
Bank Address/Anuani ya Benki: Standard Bank Place, 
1st Floor, Corner 10th & Rivonia Road,
Johannesburg 2128, South Africa.
Account Number/Akaunti Namba: 223662542
Swift Code: SBZA ZA JJ
Branch Code/Namba ya Tawi: 051001

Account Name: FDC Cyclone Idai
Standard Bank- MZN (Local Currency Account): 1184233071088
NIB: 000301180423307108821
Swift Code: SBICMZMX
Account Name: FDC Cyclone Idai
Standard Bank - USD: 1184233071096
NIB: 000301180423307109694
Swift Code: SBICMZMX

For further information on how you can help, please contact the following. Kwa maelezo zaidi kwa jnsi ya kutoa msaada wasiliana na:

Hernani Sevene
Foundation for Community Development
Phone: + 258 84 301 3199
E-mail: hsevene@fdc.org.mz

Richard Montsho
Graça Machel Trust
Phone: +27 83 340 8976
E-mail: RichardM@gracamacheltrust.org
Eunice Motsepa
Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund
Phone: + 27 (0)11 274 5600
E-mail: eunice@nmcf.co.za

To arrange for drop please contact:

Gwadamirai Majange
Graça Machel Trust
Phone: +27 66 486 5178
E-mail: GwadamiraiM@gracamacheltrust.org

Drop Off Address/ Anuani ya Kutuma mizigo

Nelson Mandela Foundation
107 Central St, Houghton Estate
Johannesburg, 2198
South Africa.

About the Partners

The Graça Machel Trust (GMT) is a Pan-African organisation which advocates for the rights and dignity of women and children; focused on child health and nutrition, education--especially girls’ education, women’s economic and leadership advancement, as well as good governance.

The FCDP is a civil organization with no party affiliation, which aims to bring together forces from all sectors of society to achieve an ideal of development, democracy and social justice. FCDP aims to empower communities to overcome poverty and advocate for social justice, and it targets women, the youth and children as primary subjects of change and development.

The vision of Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (the Fund) is to change the way society treats its children and the youth with the following focus areas: Child Survival and Development, Child Safety and Protection and Youth Leadership.

Kuhusu Wabia

'Graca Machel Trust' ni taasisi ya kiumajimui Afrika inayotetea haki za wanawake na watoto; hususnani kwenye afya ya mtoto na chakula, elimu-haswa elimu ya wasichana, maendeleo kiunchumi na kwenye ngazi za uongozi kwa wanawake pamoja na uongozi mwema barani Afrika. 

FCDP ni shirika la kijamii lisilo na udhamini wa chama chochote, dhumuni lake ni kuvuta nguvu za pamoja toka sekta zote za jamii. Ili kuafiki maendeleo ya kijamii ikiwemo demokrasia na haki za msingi ikilenga wanawake, vijana na watoto kama wadau wakuu wa mabadiliko na maendeleo.

Dira ya mfuko wa Nelson Mandela Children's Fund ni kubadilisha jinsi jamii zinavyokabiliana na watoto na vijana kwenye maeneo haya makuu. Kuishi na kukua kwa mtoto, Usalama na ulinzi wa mtoto pamoja na vijana na uongozi.

 List of priority items for the affected communities/Vitu muhimu kufikia waathirika wa kimbunga

- Dignity packs for women and girls (sanitary pads, toothpaste & toothbrushes) Begi la kusitiri wanawake (Pedi za hedi, mswaki na dawa za mswaki, sabuni n.k.)
- Children’s Diapers / Nepi za watoto wachanga
- Children’s Toys and books / Vitabu vya watoto na toi zao
- Blankets/ Blanketi
- Clothing/ Nguo
- Food stuffs; non-perishable/ Vyakula vya kukaa muda bila kuwepo kwenye friji
- Detergents / Sabuni za kufua
- Mosquito nets /Neti za Mbu
- Family tents / Matenti
- Kitchen utensils / Vifaa vya jikoni
- Water tanks /Tenki za maji
- Chlorine / Klorine
- Mobile toilets / Vyoo vya kusogea
- Reconstruction materials (cement, zinc sheets, iron bars, wood, nails masons kits,
carpentry kits, etc) / Vifaa vya ujenzi (sementi, mabati, nondo, mbao, misumari na vifaa kama hivi)

List of Services for Affected Communities/ Huduma zilizoathirika kwenye jamii mbalimbali

- Psychosocial Support for Children / Huduma za kisaikolojia kwa watoto
- Trauma counselling for affected/ Ushauri nasaha kwa waathirika
- Non - Formal Education interventions/ Juhudi mbadala za elimu
- Child Friendly corners and spaces/ Mahali salama pa watoto kucheza na kujumuika

All photos on this article were procured from the net

Monday, 18 March 2019

On Ubongo being nominated for EdTech Prize'19 with Doreen Kessy

By Caroline Uliwa

We’re cozying up with Doreen Kessy-30, chief business officer of Ubongo Learning, a social enterprise based in Tanzania. Now five years old the organization has made significant progress on the continent through edutainment.

Doreen Kessy CBO of Ubongo Learning
This by providing fun localized content to children through multi-platform educational media, that so far reaches over 10,000,000 million households, in 31 African countries monthly; including Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. This by using Television, Radio, the internet and interactive cell phone services to engage their audience.

Their programs include educational cartoons such as Akili and Me and Ubongo Kids, these animated shows feature African stories, songs and characters. Akili and Me teaches early literacy, numeracy, English as a second language and motor skills to 3-6 year olds, while Ubongo Kids teaches 7-14 year olds, Math, Science and life skills through fun animated songs & oration.

“We really believe that it is critical to invest in children’s minds, equipping them with life skills that will help them become successful in life.” Doreen passionately reiterates.

Ubongo Learning ubongo.org is enabled by partners like HDIF-Human Development Innovation Fund, Omidyar Network, The Grant Challenges Canada, the Goodal Foundation and DLi-Data for Local Impact innovation challenge to name a few.

It’s an organization with women at the helm including the CEO & co-founder Nisha Ligon. Currently it’s been nominated among 30 organizations from all over the world, to compete in the Next Billion EdTech Prize that recognizes the most innovative use of technology; which has the potential to radically impact education in low income and emerging economies.

African students watching Ubongo Kids 

“For us it’s beyond winning the 25,000USD for the top 3, the fact that we are recognized as one of the organizations having a big impact in education. With the potential to transform learning for millions of Kids in Africa is incredible and quite frankly, encouraging.

It’ll be great to be in the midst of this huge education conference that brings a lot of education ministers, funders, educators, innovators, investors & all kinds of stakeholders of education in one room. As a lot of opportunities can come up, I think it’ll open more doors for us to meet new partners and other stakeholders with interest in our work, we’re always looking to collaborate that’s how we’ve gotten this far.”Doreen shares more on this EdTech prize https://educationandskillsforum.org which will take place from the 22nd to the 24th of this month.
Maasai parents amused by the Hippo character in
Akili & Me who is wearing a maasai necklace

Doreen is a role model for many young women in Tanzania we thought to give you sneaks of her everyday life.

What’s your off duty passion?

That’s a good question. I am passionate about a lot of things. First of all what drives me is to help kids and young people achieve their potential and thrive, get rid of those ‘predators of dreams’ if you will. That is what drives me every morning when I wake up!

I also love working out, I love exercising because for me it says. I love me and I am willing to invest in me, I always say I am committed to Doreen first because if I take care of myself, then I can take care of other people. 

I as well love pretty spaces, I’m into interior design (her office can attest, its minimal chic with touches of African fabrics in pillows and ceiling board material that look sublime). I think energy is a currency and you need to be in an environment that really helps you thrive & flourish as a human being.

What would you do if weren’t a Business Manager?

I have an aspiration to become a life coach, I like to motivate others let them know they can be the best version of themselves. I also love to travel, travelling for me is like a classroom, I go there to learn!

What notes your personal style?

I think for me hair is a big statement actually before this I never did (motioning to her current hairstyle, an afro kink looking weave. She currently swims and prefers the weave as it makes managing her natural mane easier) weaves or whatever because I really like to make a statement with my natural hair. My hair doesn’t match what I do in so many people’s eyes.

They always say are you a musician, are you an artist? And I am like, no I actually am a business professional. I always show up with my own hair all out in this unruly afro. In that I don’t fit in the box of that typical corporate look. I like for my work to speak for itself not my image. 

While in East Africa where do you most likely spend your Saturday afternoon?

At home, meeting up with friends for lunch or perhaps at a good beach hotel reading a good book while in Dar es Salaam.

Best destination yet in East Africa?

Oh wowe that’s really a good question, so it depends I like different places for different reasons, I’ve been to many spots in East African at this point. Zanzibar is an all time favorite I’d go on Safari blue, I would do island hoping just be on a boat all day playing music, eating good food and going to the island just chilling and coming back in the evening. That to me is like Ah-mazing.

Doreen far left with a red top, is with her colleagues at their
head office in Msasani, DSM. Their CEO is the one sitting
at the table Mme Nisha
If I’m not doing that I’d be in Nairobi on a Saturday. It has to be a Saturday I would go to Karura forest, rent a bicycle and go cycling. Then I’d go to a 2hr yoga class at the Africa Yoga Project for me that’s like a perfect day in Nairobi. It’s crazy but I literary plan my trips to Nairobi around these activities, she laughs.

Do you have a must visit list?

I consider myself a global citizen and have a lot of travels planned during the year. One on the list is Madagascar and Thailand. I visited Seychelles last year, that trip was life changing. I would love to go back again soon.

In your opinion what is East Africa’s strength?

It’s very interconnected, all you need is an East African passport and you can get through all these countries without a Visa. Our diverse yet merging cultures aided by Kiswahili that is spoken widely in most countries; make it very easy for us to communicate and understand each other which is great.

Do you have a collection?

I’m not sure if I would call it collecting, but I have a lot mugs from different countries. So if I visit a new country, I usually buy a mug and a fridge magnet from that locale. I try to make sure it’s very particular to the culture, either it says Uganda or Barcelona or something. I always want to remember the places I have visited and this helps me do that.

Most thoughtful gift you’ve received?

Mhmm so I just recently received a recorder as a gift because the person knew I wanted to start a podcast. I thought that was so lovely and thoughtful. I also just love it when people give me a massage gift or just pay for my spa as I’m all about feeling good in my body. I’ve had this gift a couple of times, I’d hear ‘Hey I’ve paid for your spa just go to this and they’ll take care of you..,” I’m like yes, yes, how about that!

Most thoughtful gift you’ve given? 

Children watching Akili & Me in rural Tanzania
My twenties while I was in the U.S.A had no rest days, I worked really hard I went to college but I didn’t do it like a normal person. I went to college whilst taking care of 5 siblings.

 I think this is the most notable gift I’ve ever given, helping to take care of my siblings-attending parent teacher meetings or dropping them at soccer practice. All awhile working part time, doing community service and taking a full load of classes. This was not only a gift to my siblings and parents but also to me. I’m stronger today because of it.

A big book you have read recently?

Michelle Obama-Becoming It’s amazing I am so glad she wrote that book because a lot of women and girls look up to her. She really showed us real life; she helped me answer a lot of my own questions.

Like when she talks about earlier in her career practicing law and hating it wanting to do something else. I could resonate with that cause after I graduated from University I worked in a bank in the U.S and I hated it.

I’d be told ‘…but you have a business major and an M.B.A, if you don’t want to work at a bank where do you want to work, it’s the closest thing to the stuff you studied’. And I’m like no, whose life are we changing, I want to have impact are we just making the same old white guy richer, isn’t he rich enough by now (she jokes).

I loved the book it was very real and human she shared all the experiences we’ve wondered about, cause when you see successful people like that you think. They’ve always been great; they’ve always been this way taraa taraa taraa, no! Actually they’ve put work and all these pieces came together one after the other overtime.

A film that has most impacted you?

So when I was working in Washington, DC, my mother stumbled upon the first episode of Ubongo Kids and shared it with me. I was like yo! This is exactly what I needed when I was growing up and never had. So I decided to quit my job and come back home and make sure this quality educational content, gets out to more kids and that’s how I ended up here. The video changed my life.

How do you stay informed in this fast paced tech lifestyle?

I read the news and articles on CNN, BBC, New York Times, Business Insider and many others. But I also read books and other education focused media channels..

What doesn’t miss in your fridge?

Kids from Njeula village in Morogoro show their
appreciation after being visited by Ubongo Learnin
Oh Cacao powder, which I buy from Ghana the real stuff and I put it in the fridge because I don’t want it to ever go bad. So it’s a bag of cacao powder in my fridge (she laughs). I protect that so much it’s part of my morning smoothie which I don’t go without. Also I always have a few choices of hot sauce in my fridge.

Ubongo programs are broadcasted in RTV in Rwanda from Mon-Friday at 4:30pm, on TBC and TBC taifa in Tanzania from Mon-Fri in the 2:30/3pm slots as well the weekend from 9am. They also show in NTV in Uganda on Saturdays from 9am, as well on Citizen TV in Kenya on Sat from 9:20am and Azam 2 TV from Mon –Friday at 5:30pm in Tanzania.

Monday, 25 February 2019

My Sampling of ACF & Segou’Art in Mali

On African Culture Fund (ACF) procuring its first call winners 

The river niger and it's inhabitants with the fresh
vegetables grown by the locals on its banks as seen in Segou, Mali
It was mud coloured walls with jutting arrow like edges at the centre culturel Kôrè, it was home baked scones for breakfast, it was French sentences waking from a comma of my o’ level classes finding sound on my tongue. It was meeting the Kora, djembe sounds at every corner. It was my first time in Mali.

After landing in Bamako in the late afternoon, we passed a bit of wilderness before meeting the bustling city of Bamako. Inside the minivan I soaked in this new landscape, looking out into the semi desert expanse, I noticed its sparse human population. The lorry like minivans acting as public transport; the open table stalls by the road with green leafy vegetables that looked to defy the encroaching caramel dust. There was the regal stride of men and women clad in the fabrics of boulan, vitenge, western batik or the occasional expensive ‘bazee’. We were heading to the smaller city Segou, about 3 hours away by car from Bamako. 

Centre Culture Kore, where ACF offices are in Segou
is located and where we did our work inside the fund
In late January this year till earlier this month, I was invited by the African Culture Fund-ACF http://africanculturefund.net as a member of its jury for their first call of admissions. ACF was launched in June 2017 in Seychelles by African visual artists, it’s a pan-African organisation officially registered in the Republic of Mali. The particularity of the Fund is that African artists, all disciplines combined are its first contributors, guaranteeing the necessary autonomy to professionalise and develop the cultural and creative African sector. Last year ACF launched its first call admitting culture projects within the visual arts, offering no more than 10,000USD per project with around 100,000USD in its basket for the same.

During the day 'Light Art installation part of the exhibit by
Wadi Mhiri, Houda Ghorbel,
Bettina Pelz & Aymen Gharbi inside Segou'Art 19'
Arriving in Segou I also met Joseph Gaylard (South Africa) and Vitshous Mwilambwe Bondo (Democratic Republic of Congo) both notable culture stakeholders from the continent. Together we were handed the proposals from applicants who had passed the guidelines. Based on the criteria of innovation, creativity, financial accuracy, technical consistency and relevance we were tasked to grade the same. Afterwards with meaty debates we ended up giving our independent recommendations on those projects we thought deserved the available funds from this call.

At Night 'Light Art installation part of
the exhbit by Wadi Mhiri, Houda Ghorbel,
Bettina Pelz & Aymen Gharbi inside Segou'Art 19'
It was riveting to read the varied entrenched efforts of various creatives on the continent hailing from Ethiopia, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Morrocco, Egypt, Tanzania, Kenya, Congo, and various other countries. This garnered from the proposals which included animation film making, teaching of fine art and other disciplines to youths, textile workshops, artist collaborations and moving exhibitions all exploring such relevant topics like insular post colonial perspectives, support of mentally disabled persons, aquatic pollution and so much more.

“Indeed, the absence of adapted mechanisms with adequate resources to fund projects of African artists and cultural entrepreneurs. Is one of the major challenges undermining the development of the cultural sector across the continent?” Mamou Daffe chairman of ACF, highlights on the core inspiration of this fund, which has its core contributors being successful African artists working within and outside the continent.

ACF has now announced its winners from their first call. You can find the list here http://africanculturefund.net/the-results-of-first-call-for-proposals-visual-arts/. I am happy to report that the fund ensured that gender equity and diversity in terms of geographical location was central in its decision making.

Inspring diverse artworks inside Segou’Art 2019

Part of the installation by Cheick Diallo inside
Segou'Art 2019 festival notice the circles by the white walls.
This trip as well allowed me to bump into a visual arts festival going on at the same time (the 31st of Jan till the 9th of Feb), namely Segou’Art. Art does have a way of allowing the imagination to soar and give voice to natural emotions in a healthy facet. I was so honored to see this translation by fresh artworks. The bulk of the artworks in this festival were held at this art center, which used to be a cotton factory that Mamou Daffe and other stakeholders transformed into an arts center. It’s located near the river banks of the Niger River that runs alongside the city of Segou.

Inside the festival this installation by Cheick Diallo had my mouth agape. Cheick Diallo who now lives in Mali but has worked most of his career in France and Europe, is a design visual artist. An architect by training, he is the president of the Association of African Designers (ADA). For this festival he was giving a master class as well showcasing.

Part of the installation by Chieck Diallo, inside Segou'Art festival
2019 in Mali this month

I better understood his installation after speaking to his brother (Cheick speaks French and mine is rusty) who speaks English. “These circles are an indication of our globalised context today, how we scramble to belong to clicks no matter we rank on the social ladder. Though the clicks get smaller as you’re higher up or at the bottom of the ladder; this desire to belong it seems is a unifying human factor.” Cheick’s brother was pointing me to a 3d artwork on the wall, understanding now that it was a representation of globalization. I could read more into it, the homogenous circles depicted the characteristic of globalization that have us drumming to the same beat.

One of the women photographs inside the exhbition
'creations for women' she is from Mali and is
public bus driver
The installation also took on heavier topics relating to home, the chair like dress hats were representative of the local tribal conflicts between the Dogon and the Fulani currently afflicting the country. Here Cheick showcased the tribes differences, depicting the hats of the Fulani tribe and the Dogon ‘stools/chairs’ in sculptures as embodied characters. He shows their individual beauty in parallel then in one artwork with wings he merged the symbols to signify peace.

I was also lucky to bump into an East African artist in this festival by the name Pamela Enyonu from Uganda. Her work was part of a mini exhibition ‘creations for women’ with other female artists. “In this festival through Arts Collaboratory and Centre du soleil d’Afrique, I was invited here from Kampala to lead a workshop of female creators. The theme of our workshop was Africa is a future and the future is the woman. So they were three Malian artist one Ugandan artist and one Columbian artist, we tasked ourselves to sort of interpret this from that point of departure as female creatives’ of African descent. We have two photo exhbits and one video and then I made an installation and we made a painting.” Pamela kindly explains to me.

Pamela Enyonu staring in an artwork inside the 'creations for women'
exhibit inside Segou'Art festival 2019

The video she speaks of was playing a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack in mouthed acoustics, showing an African woman washing clothes, then picking rice pellets from one mound to another. Juxtaposed to the video were photographs which I later learned are of Malian women except for one with Pamela herself as the subject. The photographs show them doing jobs you wouldn’t see women doing everyday from Taxi to ‘daladala/matatu’ drivers; to a Balafon player (normally the instrument is allowed to be played by men forbidden for women).

The Video installation inside the exhibit
by Pamela Enyonu at the Segou'Art 2019 festival
“We’re imagining a future where women are more in charge, obviously we’re more empathetic, we’re more socialistic. So I’m imagining what world problems would look like. If they were solved from a female perspective.” Pamela goes to share more of what their exhibit means highlighting to me that though females on the continent find themselves doing chores that aren’t valued monetarily by society they still are the bedrock of their community.

I as well met art collector Ekiko Ita Nyang from Nigeria I asked him on what he thought of the festival “Yes uhmn I think Segou Art is getting to be one of the emerging market platforms for artists to showcase their work, coming from West Africa. We have a culture of the biennale spring up in West African cities, these are meeting points are not only for collectors to engage with the artists. But it’s also very important transaction points for collector enthusiasts.” Ekiko shared, on asking him whether his industry is growing and what role it had in raising African visual art to the international market he had this to say.  

Sculpture by Siriki Ky from Burkina Faso inside Segou'Art Festival 2019
First of all it doesn’t matter how the world sees African art, what matters is how Africa sees African art because how we want the global community to view African art. Is the way we present African art, the way we preserve the way we try to disseminate its information which is very key. I think we’re moving towards the right direction a lot still has to be done, it’s important that we have these initiatives.”

Light Art installation part of the exhibit by Wadi Mhiri, \
Houda Ghorbel, Bettina Pelz & Aymen Gharbi inside Segou'Art 19
Meeting Barthelemy Toguo’s artwork from Cameroon at the festival was also a treat to see, the man is another great visual artist from the region. Working between Bandjoun and Paris he is a Knight of Arts and Letters in the French republic and is founder of Bandjoun Station a place of residence and artistic exchange located in western Cameroon. He like Cheick gave master classes to participating artists; he also presented artworks in this festival. Using water colors, ink and acrylic his series of paintings went to highlight the integration of man and nature, her equality not supremacy to the environment. You can follow more of this festival and its works http://www.koresegou.com/segou-art/

Artwork by Amaliguere Doho from Mali inside Segou'Art festival 2019

 Article by Caroline Anande Uliwa, first published here https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/magazine/Artists-awarded-10000-from-ACF-project-kitty/434746-4995222-113ocfm/index.html