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Hermon & Heroda

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Hermon & Heroda

This week In Conversation series, we talk to the unstoppable duo behind BEING HER. Hermon and Heroda discuss taking risks, personal style and important messages for the hearing world. 

What industry do you work in? 
Hermon : Actress. Influencer. Travel and Fashion Blogger
Heroda: Commercial Actress. Influencer. Travel and Fashion Blogger 

Tell our audience about your background (what’s your heritage, where did you grow up, where do you live now & what you do for work)? 
We were born and raised in Eritrea, East Africa, where we both became mysteriously deaf at the young age of 7. We moved to USA, for medical testing and our mother spent a year teaching us how to communicate in English when our loss of hearing struck. Then we moved to U.K for a better education. Heroda took the retail fashion path, Hermon followed an opportunity to become an actress which lead to many successful roles and Heroda featured in her third commercial. Now, we’re bloggers or we prefer content creators. 

What was your biggest motivation for this career choice? 
Our passion for fashion started at a young age, we attended fashion college and university. The competitive nature of the fashion industry made us feel patronised, we had the feeling our dreams were being diluted by our deafness. BEING HER was born from frustration. We were frustrated by the Fashion Industries lack of accessibility. For a creative Industry the volume of constraints being applied to who and what can be achieved is surprising. When we felt limited, that’s when we decided to push the boundaries. We decided to show people fashion, lifestyle and travel don’t have to be expensive. We also like to challenge the world’s attitude and views towards disabilities whilst embracing our own. Love being yourself and the world will love you. 

What has been the most challenging about working on your blog full time? 
BEING HER was created from zero, it was very challenging to promote our voice and to create our content every day, even grow our audience through social media, which we were told bloggers can take 4 to 5 years. We were lucky to be recognised after 6 months because we believe that being deaf separates us from other bloggers out there and our disability actually enhances our popularity within media. We had lots of barriers through our careers for many years but we are proud that we have managed to break down many so many. If it wasn’t for social media, we wouldn’t be here and couldn’t spread our message of inclusion. 

Your blog, BEING HER, is all about being twins with different personalities. How would you describe each others personalities? 
Heroda : What I love about Hermon is her confidence, she enjoys adventuring and her bubbly personality plus her creativity. 
Hermon: What I love about Heroda is her personality, she’s sensitive, creative and caring, expert at her make-up and styling. 

You’ve both spoken about how attending boarding school was a turning point in your lives. Can you tell our audience a bit about the experience and finding your identities through school? 
We found our identity at boarding school. Sign language was so beautiful, and the deaf community just became our family. Within the hearing world, it can be lonely. As soon as we were in that deaf world, we fitted in. It was where we belonged. Signing is physical and beautiful. It’s visual, it relies quite a lot on facial expressions and a positive vibe. We want to educate you on what sign language means and give you a sense of deaf awareness. You need to be more open minded and learn sign language. Our identity is so important to us because if we weren’t deaf, we would simply not be the way we are now. Life for us would be so different, we are proud of who we are, and our deafness is a part of that. Being deaf hasn’t held us back from doing what we want in our lives. 

What have you found are the top three misconceptions about the deaf community? 
Hearing people think deaf people are not as intelligent as hearing people. Wrong. Deaf people are not dumb. They simply can't hear. Just like the ability to hear does not make you intelligent, Deaf people can do everything a hearing person can do, except hear. 

Deaf people can’t drive. That’s not true, they do drive cars. In fact, there are studies that have shown that deaf people are better drivers than hearing people. 

But you don’t look deaf? How are we supposed to look? How exactly does a deaf person look? 

What’s something you would like African youth, both in Africa and in the diaspora, to work towards in the future? 
Yes, young people are going growing up in a world where they feel under pressure at school, bullying, body images and online culture. We believe that Being Her gives young people the best possible start in life. We are proud to help the younger generation be it African, deaf or any other denomination. We want to encourage them to believe in themselves, achieve their goals in the future. There are so few role models for deaf people, we really want to be there, to be able to support people, so that they can look up to somebody and think, ‘oh yeah, in the future, I can do that, I can achieve my dreams.

Young people need every bit of help, support and empowerment they can get, without helping them, they can easily get lost. It’s important to open yourself to the community around you. It can help you grow and expand yourself and your business or career goals. It’s important to connect your experiences with the community and they shouldn’t be afraid to use their voice.

You both emphasise the importance of believing in yourself. How long did it take for you to believe in yourselves? 
Hermon: I have always wanted to be an actor since young but didn't have confidence. Four years ago I was traveling in South America to explore my perspective, I realised I had to do something about it. After returning I joined a short course (drama group) to develop my confidence and skills and finally found my hidden talents. 

Heroda : I started believing in myself when I landed a role in a television commercial with Hermon. I’ve had an awful experience through my career when I stopped believing in myself because of my deafness. I looked up to Hermon because she followed her passion to become an actress. 

We didn’t pursue an ideal career or start our own business because we didn’t think we could. We have been talking about the blog for 3 years and decided to go ahead after that. Being Her gave us confidence and proof that we are capable of anything. We have our own brand as influencers, which we never thought in a million years... 

You both spoke recently at the Women of the World festival. Can you tell us a bit about the panel you were apart of and the biggest takeaway from that experience? 
The panel we spoke on was for Deafness and Self Care.

Deaf Women are twice as likely to experience mental health issues as hearing women, yet most “talking therapies” such as CBT are not Deaf Aware, and self-remedies such as mindfulness apps or mediation classes only cater to the hearing community. With higher risks of depression, suicide and self-harm. 

We had a discussion about the Deafness, mental health and self-care. We have learned a lot about mental health and deafness, the deaf community struggles daily with stigma and communication barriers, functioning in a hearing world can lead to mental health issues. The problem is, mental health services are too difficult for deaf people to access because of these communication problems. 

Think about it, if you were a deaf person seeking help from the mental health services having a BSL/English interpreter isn’t good enough. This approach isn’t working for deaf community as three-way conversations can cause stress and/or misunderstandings. What is needed are trained therapists who are either deaf or fluent BSL users themselves. 

It’s very scary that hearing people from the profession are not aware about the issues surrounding deafness and mental health. This is something we need to discuss openly due to the high-risk factor. If there are no BSL therapists or interpreters, how can they communicate? It’s important to make sure everyone has equal access to mental health services. 

What do you do for self care? 
Self-care is important for your physical health as well as your mind, soul. Because it makes you feel great. Taking care of yourself sends a positive vibe into the world that you want to be the best version of yourself. We always follow the lists to remind ourselves. 

If it feels wrong, don’t do it, say exactly what you mean, don’t be a people pleaser, trust your instincts, never speak bad about yourself, never give up on your dreams.
Don’t be afraid to say no. don’t be afraid to say yes, be kind to yourself, stay away from drama and negativity. 
Love.
Turn your phone off
Mediate
We always tell each other that if you really want something in your life, you have to take a risk and never let anyone tell you no. Especially if it’s because you’re deaf... 

What are your experiences with Africans in the deaf community? 
They are like a family to us. We’re lucky to have another community that has the same culture but also, understanding the deaf culture too. 

What is your go to styling tip? 
Photography, fashion and arts really allow our creative juices to flow. Style is dependent on our mood, it could be simple, boho, chic, sporty or glamorous. For us, social media is very influential, especially the various ‘fashion week’s’ and trends. We love taking a trend and making it our own. Fashion is about expressing your identity, showing someone who you are through style choices and using your clothes to tell someone about you. For us, it’s about expressing your personality through fashion without saying a single word. Always keep an open mind! 

Dream collaboration, who would it be with and why? 
There are so many brands who we admire and would love to work with. But you have to have a long-term collaboration with brand and travel, allows us to get to know the brands and create amazing content. 

Travel collaboration would be a dream because there aren’t enough images of female travellers who represented the true diversity of what women who travel around the world really look like. Every women deserves to have a chance to see the world, just like us. And sometimes it’s easy to feel intimidated because there’s lack of diversity and representation in the travel industry. We aim to inspire diversity in girls and women. It’s okay to be yourself and look the way you do while you travel around the world. 

Where would you like to see your brand in 10 years? 
Ooh, to expand our brand and launch our very own ranges... 

What is the biggest risk you’ve taken? 
We gave up everything in order to follow our dream, like we said Being Her was created from ZERO.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from failure? 
We’ve definitely experienced disappointing failures, they made us want to give up but failing doesn’t mean you should stop trying and it can lead to better things. We found that failure motivates us to be better and helps us grow. The important lesson we all learn from failure: life goes on and learn from the failures! 

What has been the best advice you’ve ever received? 
Our friend Chris Fonseca, a professional deaf dancer who encouraged us and said “dreams don’t work unless you do, stop wondering what if? And don’t waste your time. Just do it!” He’s a good role model and inspires others with Disability that the world is available to you. 
“Plans are made to change but dreams don’t have to...” 

What brings you happiness? 
Our family is the most important things in our lives.
Being with close friends you can laugh with and they can accept who you are, no matter what. Be silly. Travelling is the best things for us. Adventure, blogging and create content, working together as sisters is really fun and allows us to be creative everyday
Food
Dance
Gym
Eating ice-creams Summer 

Best place you’ve travelled to so far? 
This is difficult, we would say ALL, but Santorini and Chefchaouen were the most magical places we’ve have been too. Check out our website to read about our adventures in Santorini and Chefchaouen.

Tell our audience where they can find out more about your work and follow you online? 
You can find our work on our website at www.beinghermonheroda.com and you can follow us on instagram @being__her 

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Athandiwe Ntshinga

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Athandiwe Ntshinga

This week In Conversation series, we talk with presenter, soulful singer-song writer Athandiwe Ntshinga, known to some as Amara Fleur. She talks about travelling the world, responsibilities that comes with being a black artist, what it means to be woke, and of course, music!


What industry do you work in?
I’m currently working in the television industry at Viacom International Media Networks Africa, for BET Africa. I work in the digital marketing department.

Tell our audience a little about your background: What’s your heritage, where did you grow up, where do you live now and what you do for work?
I am South African, Eastern Cape born and globally bred! Throughout my life, I’ve spent time living in Tanzania, India, New Zealand and South Africa through my parents’ work. They live in Hong Kong now, so I’ve pretty much decided that it’s also part of the roster!

What was your biggest motivation for your career choice?
I’ve always been fascinated with the entertainment industry. It’s always been a glamorous space on the surface, and as I’ve grown up, I’ve come across many people working behind the scenes. This part of the entertainment industry is like the little hamster in the spinning wheel; we keep the lights on so that everyone can enjoy themselves. That for me, became the reason why I thought it was a space I wanted to find myself in. During my time, I’ve learnt volumes; the extraordinary, the disappointing. I’ve had my fair share of “wow, so it’s not as wonderful as it seems” moments, but I have no regrets.

You’ve spent majority of your short life travelling around the world, how have you maintained true friendships along the way?
It’s been a real journey maintaining friendships. I have been fortunate enough to have friends that I can still talk to, but distance is definitely felt. I find that a lot of my greatest friendships last because we still have the same interests, even if I don’t speak to those friends everyday. I know who I can call when I reach their corners of the world.

How have you found transitioning back to life in South Africa as an adult after many years of living overseas?
It’s been a lot easier than I ever expected. I feel like I was mature enough to do it, as well. I came home with the mind to immerse and not look at myself as someone who didn’t live here for a long time. I thank my family completely for constantly allowing us to connect with home like we never left. There are still elements missing, but damn, I feel like I never left.

Where is your favourite place that you’ve travelled to and what makes it so?
I can’t really pick one. But I’d definitely have to say that recently it’s been Hong Kong and home sweet home, South Africa. There’s a quickness in the lifestyle there that makes me love it. Musically and culturally, South Africa is a goldmine, and I encourage anyone and everyone to visit any country on the continent for this. We’re the heart of the world for a reason!

What advice would you give to yourself as a 16-year-old?
If you’ve decided what career you want, investigate and stop faffing about! Knowing more about the things that build you is better than anything else out there. Oh, and learn how to save money, ASAP! You never know what you’ll need to do in 5 years time. Most of all, love your family. Love yourself.

If you had the power to change one thing in the world what would it be and why?
I’d absolutely change the fetishisation of black culture, as well as accountability within our communities. We need to be, and are definitely starting to be on the ball when it comes to calling out the appropriation of our cultures. However, we need to also take it into our stride to be ambassadors of our cultures. A lot of African talent are starting to be unapologetically African, and I love it. But there’s this boring aesthetic that’s starting to just look like an “influencer blueprint” - and that’s not what I’m talking about. Your Muholi’s, your Wanda Lephoto/Sartists,  Sjava’s (to name only a few) are doing it the way I imagine it being impactful, so I think we’re already on our way.

You’ve recently graduated, how have you managed balancing education, career and motherhood?
Honestly, it’s all been a choice. I think it’s almost similar to running a business, studying, and having a career. One of those is your baby, and it’s something you want to watch grow. I’ve learned very quickly that there’s nothing I can’t do. Sometimes it takes a little bit of reshuffling here and there, and family really come through for me. So, I thank everyone (both my son’s paternal family and mine)  for making it possible.

When can we expect an album?
I’ve been making a lot of empty promises, and for that, I apologise! Once I find the sound I’m looking for, that’s when I’ll know. I’m at a different stage in my life now, with new thoughts and experiences. I feel like I wouldn’t be doing my journey justice by succumbing to the pressures of silence. But I promise you, it’s on the way!  

Where do you see your work in 10 years?
All over the world, playing a role in the education of how our cultures are aesthetic blueprints, but also being one of the many examples of how African youth are unapologetically becoming part and parcel of the creative space.

How do you overcome self-doubt?
I don’t think I have! That’s why I still don’t have an album out yet. *Hides* haha. But I think for the most part, it’s the pep talks. Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and absolutely love what you see. Read what you write and tell yourself this is the best thing you’ve ever read/created. I try not to let negativity wear me down, and if it does, I remind myself how dope I am and keep it moving.

What has been the best advice you've ever received?
“If you find yourself in a new space but making the same mistakes or coming across the same people that feed you nothing - you are not evolving.” - My sister. I’ve gotten amazing advice throughout the last few years, but this is at the forefront of my mind currently.

As a self aware, young, female, black artist do you feel you must take a stand on social issues and engage in the discourse that is going on globally? And how do you stay true to yourself through all this?
Absolutely. It’s essential to engage, however I also believe I can only engage when I have thought through what I have to say. Africa and Africans in the diaspora are already extremely triggered, and my experiences can also cause further trauma if I speak from a perspective that I assume will work purely based on being a young, black female. There are people who fit the same description who have experienced things that I could never fathom, and in that regard, I have no right to speak on their interactions with the world. So, when I approach social issues, I must fully comprehend what the conversation entails, and throw my weight into that accordingly. We can’t hurt each other more that what we’ve already had to endure.

What brings you happiness?
My son and family!

Tell us about the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from failure?
The only way to bounce back is to get back up!

Who is an Africa creative you look up to, and why?
I’ve got several, and most are pretty much my peers. They teach me what I know. I don’t like to reach too far because sometimes you don’t have to. Other than that, East African Wave from Kenya, Sho Ngwana who create jewellery and amazing tee’s, Mo Matli, Rendani Nemakhavhani, Kgomotso Neto, the list is absolutely endless. I feel bad for leaving people out, that’s how long it is. Let’s have interview for that too!  

What's the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
My parents are DEFINITELY going to read this, so I can’t!

What’s on your playlist at the moment?
A lot of local music (Team Mosha, Daev Martian, Buli, Mpho Sebina, Moonchild Sanelly, Johnny Cradle. This is also another playlist!)
Scorpion by Drake
KTSE by Teyana Taylor
Both Kadjha Nin albums
Same as above! A whole new interview is needed.

And finally, where can our audience purchase or find out more about your work?
As soon as my work is available, you’ll be able to find me on all digital platforms.

Instagram, Twitter and Soundcloud

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Amy Iheakanwa

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Amy Iheakanwa

This week In Conversation series, we chat with the innovative and stunningly beautiful designer that is Amy Iheakanwa. She shares with us what it's been like moving her whole production to Nigeria, not believing in failure and the value of spending time alone.


 

What industry do you work in?
Footwear and accessories manufacturing.

Tell our audience a little about your background: What’s your heritage, where did you grow up, where do you live now and what you do for work?
Howdy there! I was born and raised in Australia by my Nigerian father and Australian mother. I lived in rural New South Wales (NSW) for a chunk of my childhood, then moved to Sydney where I spent my teenage years and part of my adult years. I moved to Lagos, Nigeria over a year ago because my gut told me to. Currently working as the sole Creative Director for the SHEKUDO brand which started out in Sydney but redeveloped here in Nigeria where I hope to expand it, followed by the rest of Africa and then Internationally.

What was the biggest motivation for your career choice?
I love creating, I love personal styling and I am so proud of my heritage. The creatives are often the underrated people we have in this country. So I wanted to create beautiful things with my people in an industry that I love.

If you could be anything — besides being a designer — what would you be?
Well, I’ve worked as many things in my short albeit blessed life - a Pie Maker (first job at 14), a Retail Assistant, Merchandiser, EA, PA, Drug and Alcohol worker, Youth worker, Community Development Officer, was a part-time Lead Singer in a very unknown band - could go on. But if I could be anything else, I would continue working with young women in sexual health education which is what I formerly did for some time - or I would pursue acting so I could get a support role next to Bruce Willis or Jean-Claude Van Damme and have sneaky kisses. Or an architect (My star sign is indecisive Libra - can you tell?)

What advice would you give to yourself as a 16-year-old?
Stop chemically straightening your hair and cutting your bangs by yourself to look like the Italian babes in your class - it’s not for you (then again, I still cut my own bangs and I’m 28). And boys don’t validate your worth baby girl - they still don’t know how to wash properly behind their ears anyway. Gross

If you had the power to change one thing in the world what would it be and why?
One is hard - 1. Colonialism and 2. Slavery - the weakening of states, fragmentation and so forth as a result, we are still healing and trying to find our feet in many ways. Independence for most of us wasn’t long ago so there is still a lot of (relationship) building between our people here and the rest of the diaspora to be done. Many have lost hope in Nigeria, but a new wave is coming. I feel like we should give ourselves more credit for trying despite our past and the current neglect from some of our leaders.

What advice would you give a young person aspiring to be a designer?
Look at what you’re offering because the market is saturated - how can you put a spin on it to make it different? What gaps need to be filled?

Who is an Africa creative you look up to, and why?
Hmmmm, I’ve got a white list from furniture makers, to photographers and performers.  However, I’ll go with Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie - authors are creatives right? I look up to her because of the way she tells her stories and how she can make anyone feel as if they were there, apart of it. I commend her for supporting made in Nigeria products and her ability to share her thoughts on feminism in a way which is unapologetic and unflinching (which isn’t always well received coming from a Nigerian upbringing). I also look up to Ozawald Boateng - his designer journey is brilliant - the man keeps reinventing his brand in subtle ways to stay relevant with what’s hot. Even if it’s not hot - he makes it hot.

Can you highlight the challenges and opportunities of sourcing and producing in Africa?
Yikes, there are many and it really shouldn’t be like this. But we have issues here in Nigeria with constant power - we just don’t have it - so sometimes jobs are delayed because the power goes off and then you have to rely on the generator which requires money for fuel. Then access to materials for shoemaking is often difficult, like lasts (shoe moulds) or heels, or leather - so you have to look at other alternatives. At Shekudo, we carve most of our shoe heels from wood because we cannot get a constant supply here in the market and importation can be difficult due to minimum order quantities of 500 plus usually. I prefer to be self-sustainable and utilise whatever I can source locally so I don’t have to rely on importing, hence why I focus a lot on using traditional fabrics (like Aso Oke weave) which I can design and produce here, locally sourced silver and designing shoes that don’t require hard to obtain shoe moulds or designs that can share shoe holds.

An issue with producing locally is our lack of modern machinery (most Shekudo products are made predominantly by hand with minimal machinery) and our workers maintaining good health. The chance of workers getting sick from diseases such as Malaria and Typhoid are much higher here than most places and it really impacts on productivity. As we grow as a brand, we are looking at workable solutions and ways to adapt.

Despite the many challenges, it is so fulfilling when it actually works and when you see the end product. I have a lot of love for Nigeria and I know we have a lot to offer particularly in the garment and footwear industry.

What has been the best advice you've ever received?
1. Do the best you can and leave the rest up to God.
2. A river doesn’t need to urge people into drinking. It’s water, people are naturally drawn to it, providing the water is pure, free flowing and sweet.
3. A situation is only as difficult as you allow it to be.

Where do you see your work in 10 years?
Global. My first priority is always Nigeria and the rest of Africa, followed by Global domination. MU HA HA HA

Who would your dream collaboration be with, and why?
MARNI or Traci Ellis Ross. Both are trend setters - both have huge personalities which is what Shekudo also stands for. I would also love to work with Yinka Ilori - furniture designer because of his bold designs. I would love to dangle which furniture pieces from my ears. Also, Simon Porte Jacquemus - fashion designer and Solange Knowles for a capsule collection.

What’s your biggest fear?
I have some niggling worries like everyone. Like losing our parents who are my heart, or not leaving a mark on this earth, but I’m trying not to plug into fear because it can be debilitating. Everyday I question my intentions and make sure I’m tuning into myself and doing what makes me happy.  It’s a process. I love to learn, I love a challenge and I’m trying to grow spiritually everyday so I can continue to take on life, free from fear knowing that I tried my best.

What's the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Leaving the comfort of my lovely Sydney home and well paying job with busses that ran (semi) on time and constant power, to move to the chaotic city that is Lagos where I started all over again as an entrepreneur because it just felt right. Oh and driving around New Zealand on my own for 10 days sleeping in a tent on the roof of my car - that was fun.

What do you do for fun?
Life is fun. I am a big outdoors person, I love hiking, camping, anything got to do with water, live music, I LOVE dancing.

What brings you happiness?
All of the above. But mostly spending time with myself - I need it to feel whole. If I don’t get time alone I don’t get time to recenter and then I don’t feel right.  Nature keeps me sane, so regular beach trips and nature walks are necessary (which isn’t always easy in lagos where it’s all a bit of a distance away). Gardening, writing, singing, and I love warm, wholesome nights with good people, good food and wine where there is thoughtful conversations and meaningful interactions.  Finding the right tribe is important.

How do you overcome self-doubt?
I question the doubt and try to get to the root of why I am feeling that way. When I can identify where the doubt is coming from it’s easier for me to acknowledge it and then move past it.

What is the biggest lessons you've had to learn in your career?
1. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing no one else will feel confident in what you have to deliver from products to projects you’re working on.
2. Time is a huge factor in life, but Lagos has given me a whole new perspective on time. Creating enough of a buffer to deliver a product because the amount of hiccups that occur along the way are endless.
3. Just do it.

What is your biggest strength?
My ability to adapt and my ability to build relationships with people quickly.

Tell us about the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from failure?
I don’t believe in failure, every experience to me is a lesson.

How do you think designers of African descent can gain recognition and prominence as other “mainstream designers”
Give Ankara a break (it’s not even African by origin), don’t get pigeonholed. Look at what other designers are doing - their marketing strategies, their websites, their audience and tap into that. The work has been done for us already, we just have to make it work for us. Everyone’s eyes are on Africa for inspiration so build your brand, build a solid story and grow your network. Sticking to a brand story is so hard but so important.

What is your favourite piece of art and why?
I don’t think I have one, I have many I love - but not just one.

Where can our audience purchase or find out more about your work?
They can head to www.shekudo.com to purchase. We do worldwide delivery, or they can jump onto our instagram @shekudo and contact me directly in DM.

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Ayan Makoii

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Ayan Makoii

This week In Conversation series, we chat with high-spirited Wellington based model Ayan Makoii, about living in the moment, pushing forward and not taking things too seriously


What industry do you work in?
I work in the fashion industry as a model, I am currently in my last year of high school at sacred heart college.

Tell our audience a little about your background: What’s your heritage, where did you grow up and where do you live?
I’m originally from South Sudan but I was born in Gambella, Ethiopia. I moved to New Zealand when I was two years old. We briefly lived in Auckland before moving to Wellington!

What was your biggest motivation for your career choice?
I've always wanted to be a model because I thought it'd be a cool thing to do for fun. However, Imogen Wilson who is my agent has been instrumental in my pursuing modelling seriously. She encourages me to give things a go in the nicest way possible and let's me know I have the option of not doing a shoot if I’m uncomfortable. Knowing that makes me feel secure and confident enough to step out of my comfort zone! Sometimes all you need is someone telling you to give something a try and with no pressure in you doing it.

If you could be anything — besides being a model— what would you be?
I would love to be a teacher. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher but not secondary I don’t think I have the patience for that. I would definitely teach primary and younger.

What advice would you give to yourself as a 10 year old?
Ten year old me - love yourself, step outside your comfort zone, it’s okay to be different and most importantly it’s okay not to be okay and it’s okay to open up to people!

You recently took part in your first big campaign for Karen Walker Eyewear. Tell us about that experience (ie. how you got involved, what you learnt and loved about the campaign).
I had previously been up for a Karen Walker online store shoot. I think that’s how I got the Eyewear campaign. Imogen messaged me saying that they (the team) wanted to use me. I was so surprised! I really didn’t expect it; that was a nice blessing. It was a great experience to be shooting for such a renowned brand. In terms of shoots, it wasn't majorly different to ones I had done in the past. What I found challenging was the range in facial expressions required for the shoot. It was all head shots and for that, you need to show a variation in facial expressions. It was a real learning for me. I loved how nice everyone on set was. The team were very encouraging and always told me how the photos were looking. I found that helpful. Overall, it was a wonderful experience and meeting Karen was very cool.

If you had the power to change one thing in the world what would it be and why?
Poverty! It’s so sad that we are in 2018 and there is still poverty around us.  I don’t like to see people struggle or people be homeless. I think that as a society, if we could work towards ending poverty what a beautiful place the world would be.

What advice would you give a young person aspiring to be a model?
Young person! If you do not feel comfortable doing a photo shoot let your agent know. Do not get caught up in comparison. Also make good friends within the industry and do your best to be confident and don’t be so hard on yourself!

Who is an Africa creative you look up to, and why?
I came across this girl a few months back her name is Mowalola Ogunlesi. She’s a menswear print graduate from Central St Martins. The products she makes are just so beautiful and very out there! That’s what I love about her, she doesn’t limit herself when she creates these really cool fits. I think that she is paving the way for young African creatives. Her recent collection is all about the celebration of black African male culture, sexuality and desires. It’s nice to see her creating something that would make some people uncomfortable and that I find it very inspiring.

What has been the best advice you've ever received?
Sometimes you can’t capture the most beautiful moments and love always win! So love everyone even if they hate you.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I don’t know what I want to do next year so ten years time is so hard! Hopefully, I’ve come up as a model, been a part of big shows and campaigns while branching out and networking with different people. I would love to do something big with a charity for my home country.

Who would your dream collaboration be with, and why?
It would be a dream to collaborate with Vans. I’ve always wanted to make shoes and vans is my favourite shoe brand so collaborating with them would be surreal.

What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest phobia is heights! I hate anything to do with heights. My hearts starts beating crazy fast and I just have the biggest anxiety about being high up.  Even with flights!

What do you do for fun?
Hangout with my friends and dance parties at school.

What brings you happiness?
My friends. I love all my friends so much I don’t let them know enough.

How do you overcome self-doubt?
With me, it’s been a journey. Some days my self doubt levels are very high and other days they are very low. The advice I would give is, surround yourself with good people who make you feel loved and appreciated because then you start to love and appreciate yourself.

What is the biggest lesson you've had to learn in your career?
I haven’t had a long career but I would say don’t be late! I’ve started a habit of being late to things and that’s not good at all.

What is your biggest strength?
I would say not caring what people think about me is a strength. I’m pretty good at taking risks too.

Tell us about the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from failure?
To just keep going and pushing forward no matter the situation. Always try to see the light at the  end of the tunnel. Also remain positive and definitely do not beat yourself up about failure because how else would you learn if you don’t fail?

What is your favourite piece in your closet at the moment and why?
I can’t decide on one. so here are a few ... I have these red track pants and they can unzip at the knee to be shorts. They are just the coolest pants and I got them for $8.50! Another fav is my lazy oaf pink tracksuit that I got for my birthday last year. It’s so comfortable and a bonus is the track suit still looks cool if I don’t wear both pieces! Another fav is my illegal civ brick jumper. I love the jumper so much it’s literally me in a clothing item. I don’t wear it much because I don’t want anything to happen to it!

Where can our audience find out more about your work?
You can find my work on The Others website and Instagram.

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Lindo Khandela

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Lindo Khandela

Lindo chats to ADJOAA about the importance of positivity, dreaming big and her obsession with all things colourful.


What industry do you work in?
I am a visual artist.

Tell our audience a little about your background: What’s your heritage, where did you grow up, where do you live now and what you do for work?
I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. I moved to London in 2004 and I have resided here ever since. I am currently in my second and final year of my MA in painting at the Royal College of Art. I am a practicing artist, I also make hand painted false/fake nails.

What was your biggest motivation for your career choice?
I chose to become a visual artist because art is something that has always been with me, from a young age. I was naturally drawn to colours and patterns I observed in the traditional attire in my cultural background.

I loved looking at the illustrations inside story books I would read and I was generally drawn to anything that was colourful. From early on I really enjoyed drawing and painting and I knew that this was a career path I would pursue as an adult.

If you could be anything — besides being an artist — what would you be?
I would probably be a tattoo artist, a nail technician, or even a cake decorator. It’s really hard to pick one. Pretty much everything that I would pick as a second choice would involve art and design in some aspect.

What advice would you give to yourself as a 16-year-old?
I would tell my 16-year-old self not to be so doubtful and scared. I would encourage myself to fully go for what I want and not let negative opinions deter me from my goals.

If you had the power to change one thing in the world what would it be and why?
I would end all suffering. Be it poverty, violence against women and children, illness... It all just has to go.

What advice would you give a girl aspiring to be an artist?
As cliché as this is going to sound, I would tell her it’s going to be a long and hard obstacle course but no matter what, she should hold on to her passion and never give up because you only live once so you have to make it count. I believe that everything you plant in the universe will come to fruition.

Who is an Africa creative you look up to, and why?
I am drawn to Nigerian born, California-based artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby because she is very relatable for me. She is a woman, she has a dual identity (Nigerian, American) and she draws inspiration from political and personal references, much like myself. I really look up to her and she gives me hope, as a black woman, that you can make it in the visual arts industry.

What has been the best advice you've ever received?
My mother always gives me some of the best advice. Whenever I am in doubt she always reminds me to think positive and work hard and keep pushing on because nothing good comes easy.

Where do you see your work in 10 years?
I see my work occupying galleries, museums, and art collections. I also hope to expand my practice into other creative realms.

Who would your dream collaboration be with, and why?
I think my dream collaboration would have to be with a fashion designer — someone like Lisa Folawiyo. I really admire the prints and patterns in her unique designs and I have always wondered what it would be like to translate what I do with my art to fashion.

What’s your biggest fear?
One of my biggest fears has to be public speaking. Being that I am naturally a shy person I absolutely hate it. My anxiety gets the best of me, and since [public speaking] is a requirement in my field, I am determined to overcome it.

What's the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
The craziest thing I think I have done was probably printing and proof-reading my dissertation two hours before the deadline!

What do you do for fun?
I enjoy hanging out with my friends and family. I like going out to parties, eating out, watching documentaries, doing nails, baking, listening to music, reading, experiencing new things — new cultures — and just relaxing.

What brings you happiness?
Some of the little things in life, like a good meal, good company, a sentimental gift and money in my account lol!

How do you overcome self-doubt?
It is something I battle almost every day. But I’m thankful to have family and friends who always encourage me and I just have to keep reminding myself to believe in me because, if I don’t, how will somebody else?

What is the biggest lesson you've had to learn in your career?
The biggest lesson to date for me is to always trust my gut instinct and to not get caught up in what I think people want to see from me but actually do what I feel is right because you can never go wrong with something you firmly believe in.

What is your biggest strength?
I think my biggest strength is my patience. A lot of people tell me how patient I am and I think patience is a very important trait to have in the creative industry because things don’t happen overnight and you have to face 10 no’s before you get a yes.

Tell us about the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from failure?
Failure suck and it hurts in the moment but 10 months down the line I can look back and thank God for that lesson because, I would know how to better deal with the failed situation if I had to face it a second time.

What is your favourite piece of art and why?
One of my favourite art movements is surrealism and my favourite piece would have to be What the water gave me by Frida Kahlo. I was about 11 or 12 years old when I first saw it and it just blew me away. I was not only impressed by her use of colour and detail but also by the narrative behind it. The fact that she was able to transform her trauma into these beautiful works of art is really inspiring.

Where can our audience purchase or find out more about your work?
You can find out more about me and my work on my website at www.lindokhandela.com I am also on social media, you can follow me on Instagram @khandelaart.

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In Conversation with Nana Brenu

Nana K. Brenu founded his label, 1981, in 2012. The label expresses his quest for equilibrium between two highly contrasting genres of style. The first being his Ghanaian heritage characterised by vibrant colours and bold prints, and the second being his minimalistic design aesthetic which is influenced by modern art, design and architecture.


Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work?

I am Nana K. Brenu, a Ghanaian born designer residing in Milan and the creative director of contemporary fashion label 1981, which I founded in 2012. I grew up in Ghana and spent most of my adult years in Canada, United States. I currently live in Italy where I had my higher education and training in fashion design. I am also an alumni of Parsons School of Design New York and Istituto Marangoni Milan. After obtaining my Master in fashion design at Istituto Marangoni, I worked for a small design studio in Milan for three years before launching 1981.

What is your creative process?

My creative process involves weeks of research based on a theme or idea that inspires me. My research for a collection spans across fields of art, modern design, architecture (which I am heavily influenced by), Ghanaian/ African culture, fabrics and colours just to name a few. From this, I begin to create the collection, exploring and developing design details and themes, colours and materials.

What’s your fashion philosophy – i.e. ethical or/and sustainable fashion?

I believe fashion has to be ethical due to the large number of human resource involved, the impact on the economy, cultures and lives of individuals involved in  the design process. With everything becoming mechanised and industrialised, we are losing the human touch and the traditional craftsmanship involved in the design process, making the final product less personal and meaningful. It is our responsibility to ensure design traditions and traditional techniques are preserved and don’t disappear from history and is highlighted in the modern era.

What is your advice to aspiring designers?

Be sure it’s what you really want to do. Never expect success overnight and be ready to put in some hard work, long hours and have no social life. Always surround yourself with people smarter than you and who have had a lot of experience in all sector of the industry. Be open to constructive criticism. Most of all, believe in yourself and make sure you know when you are going down the wrong path.

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

Lack of education and infrastructure. There is also a severe need for technical skills and know-how which makes it challenging to produce in Africa. Compared to other countries, there is no support, government involvement or major institutions to increase the growth or help the industry thrive.

How do you give back to the community?

I work with local textile makers and designers who weave and dye fabric using traditional methods. This involves a lot of man-hours since almost everything is handmade. My work helps support these industries, emphasise their relevance, pushes them to be more creative and aims to modernise their process.

What’s your price range?

My price range is from €120 for a t-shirt up to €800 for a gown.

Where can we see more of your work?

Most of our work can be found on our website http://www.studio1981.com

In Conversation with Chido Dimairo

Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work

My name is Chido Dimairo and I am an aspiring fashion designer. I recently graduated from Massey University after studying fashion design and have been currently working on establishing my label. I was born in Zimbabwe but grew up in New Zealand where I discovered my love for all things fashion.

What is your creative process?

I don’t have a creative process that is set in stone but I am constantly inspired by my surroundings. Anything from sights, sounds, smells and touch can kick start my creative process. I consider myself a creative hoarder and really enjoy gathering items from photos, trinkets and fabrics that I can refer back to later for inspiration. Recently, I have been very inspired by my heritage and childhood growing between Zimbabwe and New Zealand.

What’s your fashion philosophy – i.e. ethical or/and sustainable fashion?

I am a big believer in ethical fashion and want it to be a core part of my label. Looking into the future, I want my garments to be ethically produced both on and offshore in places where I can confidently assure the conditions and welfare of the production workers.

What is your advice to aspiring designers?

Every failure is an opportunity to learn and better yourself. When things aren’t going right, channel that frustration to drive you towards finding a better solution.

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

Lack of infrastructure and recognition. African fashion designers tend to be put into a bubble and I think the global fashion industry assumes that the African fashion industry is unable to produce the same quality of luxury fashion. I think this is an assumption that many amazing African designers are disproving, as their works are being recognised and celebrated around the world.

How do you give back to the community?

Being a recent graduate and aspiring designer, I understand how difficult it can be to get your name out in the open so whenever I work on a project, I always try to work with other graduates and young creatives. I believe that there is an immense strength in numbers especially when young people work together to build each other up. In the future I want to extend this network and work with artisans and young creatives in Zimbabwe.

What’s your price range?

Pieces range from $150 to $600

Where can we see more of your work?

You can see more of my collections on my website http://www.chidodimairo.com

In Conversation with Diarra Bousso

Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work?

I’m Diarra Bousso, the founder of Dakar Boutique Group, a luxury holding company that houses my three brands; Diarra Bousso, Diarrablu, and Mint. I was born and raised in Senegal but spent most of my teenage years in Norway and subsequently in the United States where I did my higher education. I actually started my career trading bonds on Wall Street before pursuing my passion for fashion and development.

What is your creative process?

I find inspiration from revisiting works of the great masters of modern art. I’m especially inspired by the precursors of the cubism movement, Pablo Picasso and George Braque. Aside from visual arts, I also find a lot of inspiration from my travels and my academic background. The strong geometric focus in DIARRABLU line is influenced by my mathematics background.

What’s your fashion philosophy – ie. ethical or/and sustainable fashion?

Ethical fashion is core to our brands.  All garments and accessories produced through our three brands leave minimal environmental footprints, we provide good working conditions and fair wage for our artisans. Our luxury brand Diarra Bousso for example, is handcrafted by our artisans using recycled exotic leather from the Karoo region in South Africa. Our Mint and Diarrablu brands are also ethically produced in our workshop in Dakar, Senegal.

What is your advice to aspiring designers?

Persistence is key. My advice to anyone who wants to be successful would be, knock on as many doors as possible and leave a positive impression. You need to know the why for what you are doing, understand your mission and be able to clearly articulate this to the different people you’ll encounter. I think having a great team is also very important. I wouldn’t have survived without my amazing team in Dakar, New York, Paris and Beijing.

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

The main challenges I would say are but not limited to (i) the lack of understanding of the various roles within the industry – many people in the continent call themselves designers without really understanding what being a designer entails.  (ii) The lack of organization of the industry itself – the fashion industry is very complex with distinct branches such as design, manufacturing, PR, marketing and sales which all require thorough training and investment.Though the continent has strong talents within the different parts of the industry, the lack of organization hinders us. iii) The lack of support from our governments for the creative sector and creative entrepreneurs is stymying the industry’s development.

How do you give back to the community?

I launched the GEM (Global Education Movement) foundation before leaving Wall Street to empower women and children through educational opportunities. In terms of projects, we have succesfully provided training opportunities to women tailors in Senegal to improve the quality and efficiency of their productions. We are currently working on both formal and vocational training opportunities for young mothers and street children.

What’s your price range?

Diarra Bousso, our premium leather accessories start at US$1000. DIARRABLU, our contemporary womenswear inspired by geometry range between US$130 and US$380. Our affordable brand MINT, which targets a younger demographic and is priced  from US$40 to US$120.

See more of Diarra’s work at http://www.diarrabousso.com

In Conversation With Taibo Bacar

Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work?

I’m Taibo Bacar, a fashion designer from Mozambique in Southern Africa. I’ve been designing since 2008 and my aim is to take the Continent of Africa to the world through my work.

What is your creative process?

I don’t have a defined creative approach. I try to be in tune with my surroundings and that in turn influences how each collection shapes out. Inspiration for a collection can come from fabric I buy, an old fashion magazine or a woman I see on the street. I’m always alert to new inspirations.

What’s your fashion philosophy – ie. ethical or/and sustainable fashion?

I have a great interest in ethical fashion. Most of the production I do is in-house in Mozambique where our workers are provided with good working conditions. When we outsource we visit the factories to see for ourselves the conditions the workers work in and how the clothes are produced.

What is your advice to aspiring designers?

Look into the world to learn from it but always stay true to yourself and your beliefs.

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

We still have a lot to learn and discover and now I think the main problem is lack of materials and qualified and specialised technicians in the industry.

How do you give back to the community?

Our business create jobs for our local community and the taxes we pay also assist with developmental projects like building hospitals and schools.

What’s your price range?

Taibo Bacar produces three different lines. Our ready to wear range is from $50 USD – $300 USD. The high fashion/evening wear is priced from $450 USD -$2,800 USD and our bridal wear is from $3,000 USD – $10,000 USD. Most of the work of our high fashion and bridal wear is made by hand in house.

See more of Taibo’s work at http://www.taibobacar.com