The People & Things that have Me Inspired this Week

Breakfast View| Bolsover Street

Soho| London

The Incredible Force that is Nurse, former diplomat and activist Edna Adan| http://www.ednahospital.org/tag/somaliland/


Greenwich Park

4:30am| Sleepless

Fambul den, this is how we do…

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3 Things.

I have spent the earlier part of 2014 dealing with health issues, feelings issues, family issues, myself and the intolerable am i where i am suppose to be issues, work issues, loving my partner and then myself issues, and of course the mourning my friend issues. I have mourned the death of only two people my entire life. My grandmother and my friend, my friend because his untimely death rocked my core.  It has being a lot of issues and i recluded, disenchanted by daily offerings that when truly looked at, were always nothing less than sublime. Amidst getting caught up in being busy three things happened. 1. my intern who is far from expressive said " you have a beautiful soul, don't become jaded", i was taken aback, non expressive people who become expressive in a singluar moment always amuse - awake me. I always take heed to their words, I had to be doing something right. 2. I received this message from a 22 year old stranger and it goes,

First off I would like to say that I am in L O V E with you, I know its awkward but I just had to tell you. I was sitting on my bed thinking of what it is I would like to do once I graduated from college this December, and I was searching on Google for Public Health Advisor Jobs in Freetown. Some how your name came up in my search and I was led to your blog. I have heard of you before with the TEDx event, but today I took the time and explored your blog, and thats how I fell in love with you. Just going through your blog I felt very inspired and felt as though I had a connection with you and your blog. I was born and raised in America and went to Salone for the first time in December 2011, from then on I was intrigued and knew Salone is where I wanted to be and grow as an individual. Since then I made sure that I went to Freetown once a year but this year will be my first time going twice in one year ( Im super excited)! My parents don't seem to understand why it is that I am so in love with a country that I did not originate from, but its hard to explain that, Salone is where my mind, body, and soul feel at home and at ease. Your blog gave me a sudden empowerment and inspiration. When I go through your blog its as though I picture myself as you in a few years from now. As a 22 year old I am still doing a bit of soul searching, but I just wanted to let you know that you helped steered me in the direction that I want to go.   

3. I walked out of my office in London at around 4:00pm only to
walk right into a friend from Vancouver who i was suppose to have met yesterday for brunch and did not. I had not seen her for 5 years +. I literally walked into her.

FatouWurie Photography

From that I derived 3 things:

1. Be still the universe has you

2. Focus on the work, we ain't all Beyonce but someone somewhere looks up to you - rise up to the responsibility to be your best self.

3. Be still, even when you cannot answer how or why as long as you have the WHAT, the universe has you.

i know this to be true.

Please, remain inspired and committed to either a. discovering your WHAT the vision the essence of what your existence means to you b. owning YOUR WHAT. The why and HOW will present itself. Be still, the universe has you.

Fambul dem, this is how we do....


5 New Events & Opportunities YOU should know about

OPPORTUNITY:   Young African Leaders Fellowship : A new flagship program of the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative. APPLY NOW.

EVENT: AFFORD UK - Sierra Leonean Health Matters : The Event will bring together the IOM and the authors of the UK mapping report to present the key findings of the UK mapping exercise, and a panel of experts to discuss issues raised by the study and the broader policy context. The presentations will be followed by an open question-and-answer session.

OPPORTUNITY:  Vacancy - GIZ Regional Resource Governance project for a "Senior Advisor for Private Sector Cooperation". The position is open for Sierra Leone nationals. Feel free to share.For further enquiries please contact me (janne.kaiser@giz.de) or Mrs. Robbin-Coker (ruby.robbin-coker@giz.de).

EVENT: Le Pop Up Marche - A month Fashion & Lifestyle Shopping Experience

OPPORTUNITY: Academic Scholarships for Study, Undergraduate, Post graduate and Doctoral - application deadlines are soon approaching.

Fambul dem, this is how we do...


Snapping - it is a Community Thing.

I am a photographer, or rather at some point loved to really engage in photography and developing the craft as an artist as opposed to for commercial purposes. I am usually found behind the camera, yet i am most comfortable in front of the camera when a random, ordinary person i happen to meet in a location that inspires me, takes photograph. 99% of the photographs taken off me are by your average lay person walking, living, sitting, chilling on the streets of Freetown. It is such fun to teach someone the basics of just pressing a button as you adjust yourself at an angle you think may work for the photograph. 

Photography by: A Girl ( i really need to get her name next time)
 Today i did the same thing. I spent time hanging out with some women and their three ridiculously joyful children, taking photographs and listening to the list of things the kids wanted me to bring back from them. Like i said, i just met them today. This immediate connection has inspired a new project that i hope to get under way this year. See #2014 is back to the craft, the art, the study that makes me feel whole.

 Inspiration ( as corney as this may sound) lives everywhere. Just choose to See.

fambul dem, this is how we do...

Freetown Chronicles: Ethical Fashion, Fashion, White Privilege or Effective Brand Identity?

Okay, so those of you who know me personally know that for designers like Mary-Ann Kai Kai of Madame Wokie, Amizo Bah of Maryzo Designs, and Kadiatu Kamara of VIVID that i continually repeat the following:  1.  They need to work BETTER together, 2. Be GOOD to their customers with consistency and reliability 3. Continue to push the boundaries! THE ODDS will continue to be against these 3 designers who are quite popular in Sierra Leone and beyond. I choose to begin this blog post with this disclaimer because this piece is dedicated to these 3 women and other up and coming Sierra Leonean designers who are talented, sassy,  beautiful fashionistas , stylistists and business minded not to mention who have also made some news coverage (internationally). They are also predominatly BLACK, FEMALE,  SIERRA LEONEAN and/or AFRICAN. This means the onus lays heavily on them to strategically develop their brand identity otherwise they WILL get lost in the wide wide sea of  simply being just another 'African Designer'. I say this with the assumption that most well known African inspired designers work within the limited spectrum of 'fairly good quality fabrics'.
Take a moment, despite the short comings, to clap clap clap for them. It is not an easy business anywhere in the world, fashion that is, and particularly for African designers much less Sierra Leonean designers to break into main stream fashion/designing.   To be fair African designers are HOT, HIP AND HAPPENING at the moment, with a select few breaking out with African owned establishments like ARISE that provide a high profile podium for designers to spark, or NY African Fashion week and all the other African based fashion week’s whether it be in South Africa or Ghana. Africans are beginning to capitalize on the ‘Afro-Inspired/Tribal’ aesthetic particularly appreciated in the West and in that are also beginning to not only infiltrate but attract more main stream support and appreciation for the Afro, African, chic, high end, print, cultural trend currently being marketed and sold by popular bloggers like ONE NIGERIAN BOY and the likes. However,  African designers still remain very niched and rarely enter mainstream chain stores or platforms unless they subdue their African-ness. Also, their brand story is almost identical, African, African & Female, African female and empowering other women, African, young and female, African young & male/ or male and gay ----you get the idea, the underlying current in the their brand identity is  African or situating the locality of their context, ie Madame Wokie's situates their brand identity on evoking their ancestral heritage - Queen Wokie, VIVID very afro-urban. Yet, what we get walking away from each of these brands is WOMAN, AFRICAN, SIERRA LEONEAN who more less use very similar materials in their work.
When in Nairobi, I kept on walking into a Mille Collines store, a Spanish woman who found inspiration in Rwanda and effectively catapulted into launching her high end brand with chain stores across East Africa. Her inspiration ‘the people of Rwanda,’ her market ‘ the African loving \westerns who won’t go too far off their comfort zone’, excuse me there, the fairly wealthy ‘expat westerners’ working in Africa or  who love ‘African-inspired clothing’  living in Africa or the West. Hey, I too am guilty of spending $20 on a thin note book from Mille Collines, I liked the quote at the front. See Note Book above. I digress. The Mille Collines' model also exists in Freetown with brands like Near Far and Salone Style. Lets start with Near Far who have a wonderful website, fantastic connections to some major magazines and  did I forget to mention, WHITE, okay, let us not play the race card here, people of Western decent....In short, Near Far considers itself an Ethical Brand based of out of Sierra Leone and according to Collins English dictionary if you "describe something as ethical, you mean that it is morally right or morally acceptable.” Please see summarized understanding of ETHICAL FASHION to base your understanding of the concept

1.    Apart from the quarterly events where one can actually purchase NEAR FAR products, these products are predominantly for export. I don’t see people running around parading Near Far merchandise in Freetown the way for example they would with Madame Wokie products or clothing from Maryzo Designs. By people I mean, most economically viable Sierra Leoneans. NearFar is an ethical brand. I am so struggling to understand the ‘ethical’ part of the product. Is it because they pay their workers ‘fair wages’ with ‘fair’ being relative to context, uuuh…. Or is it because they tell the stories of their tailors (also a marketing ploy- effective at that), or is it because they have revolutionized the lives of their workers and transformed the Sierra Leonean local economy? Or because they’ve found a way to not use our Chinese made Africana prints that we sell very cheaply on every street corner in Sierra Leone and instead use ‘Eco-friendly’ made in Salone fabric? which by the way does not ACTUALLY exist.  Also, according to Near Far founder, Stephanie Hogg, with her newest project Gather & See “she is determined to show the fashion forward set that ‘ethical’ is on-trend and wearable. Steph plans to create an online market place selling the best ethical brands from around the world.” For whom exactly?  However Mary-Ann, Amizo, Kadi, here is a fantastic lesson to learn from this, perhaps revisit your branding strategy?



PS. every Sierra Leonean designer employes  between 5-10 tailors and pays them context 'specific fair wages', this is not the hook in their brand story.
    Salone Style, I personally really like their pieces. They are lovely and definitely identifiable with western consumers. The ethos behind the company, working with and in turn empowering female prisoners by teaching them how to make jewelry. Noble, yet I fail to understand the chain of commerce, for every piece produced how much goes to truly empowering these women break the cycle of poverty by empowering them to become business owners or at the very least self sufficient. I understand that these women are earning SOMETHING which better than NOTHING, but how much are they really loosing or not getting between the SOMETHING and the NOTHING?  See, my issue is this, the brand has a nice story, effective rather,  women, African, prisoners, etc…and yet beyond that I still do not understand how these women are TRULY benefiting from this brand nor do I understand how this brand  aids in tangibly transforming Sierra Leonean capacity, image or economy. Most Salone Style products can be found abroad.

Back to my Sierra Leonean designer sisters, what are brands like Near Far & Salone Style doing that you are not just getting yet? Why has Amizo not landed on Peppermint Magazine yet? Throw in Eco/ethical might help? Work better together? Better brand? How do you access these major main stream outlets from your Africaness? How do you define yourself beyond just ' an african designer' but rather a designer that simply makes beautiful clothing or accessories? Is your capital as strong as our expat designers?

Please understand that i am in no way shape or form laying claim that only 'African' designers should have access to African inspired designs, accessories, clothing or the proliferation of their products. What i am saying however is we must explore 'ETHICAL' from a local context, we must interrogate cultural appropriation and the gap it creates between local communities and international markets. We must begin to ask ourselves ( all i personally see is ______________ working at its best here), that beyond the notion of white privilege, what tactics, strategics and dots are brands like Near Far & Salone Style utilizing for their success?  Better yet, when they slap on Eco, ethical, social development on to their products, from  and for a local perspective what does that ACTUALLY MEAN?

Disclaimer II: This is not a them vs us article and I am open to stand corrected. However in the words of a facebook friend of mine:
Next best culture to appropriate but oh no you are creating jobs eh? When is the last you checked your local unemployment rates? ..throw in eco, throw in fair trade...only fair i see is your white privilege...

Fambul dem, this is how we do….