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"Culture is the heritage of us all. some may be more interested than others in the treasures of the past, but no one can fail to take a pride in his country's participation in the story of mankind, as represented in carvings, sculpture, music, paintings and the other arts. And there is a personal commitment to this, for no man can really say he is alone: we are all joined through our identity, with the cultures which are part of the mainstream of life"
- Simon Kapwepwe, Zambian Independence Freedom Fighter

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud" - Maya Angelou

"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinion drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - Steve Jobs

Monday, 30 October 2017

Laughter is not always the best medicine

When I saw this I didn't laugh. One, because the joke was not that funny - it was really predictable and has been told by many an African before this comedian. More importantly, it was a poor use of satire, one of my favourite tools we as humans have to communicate really serious issues in a disarming, more accessible way. I don't think when people watched this they thought goodness, I think that Africa is facing another huge preventable health problem, I think they thought this is so true - it's actually our mothers, grandmothers and matriarchs who have always been the problem. The argument was not strong enough and was poorly presented. It was dangerously dismissive of how this profound change in the way we eat can truly affect us. Worse, globally we have been idly seeing the effects for decades, so we here in Africa are literally following suit with our eyes wide open!

Recently there has been a huge explosion of malls and global fast food restaurants have scrambled to have outlets in them. The thing is, because we have heard about the strict standards these brands tend to have, we feel like we have hit a milestone in our development. In the late 90s and early 2000s only South African chains were opening up in Zambia. We now are worthy of such establishments and we find it cool to go eat and be seen there. I wonder how we will react when Micky D's finally comes to town as they are arguably the pickiest when it comes to granting franchise licences as they are finicky about brand consistency, standards and quality control.  We now have these companies sponsoring cool events, bringing more to do in Lusaka and making them ever more appealing. Worse part is they organise giveaways in the compounds (shanty towns) which I personally think is irresponsible - you are creating the perfect storm for brand loyalty from the most vulnerable in our society to seek out food that is cheap and addictive, not that nutritious and that could potential lead to health issues they will likely be unable to deal with. We are so focused on the appearance and financial gains of development without really stopping to think about the consequences

The growing middle class are excited about their new spending power and they are flocking to buy all the processed products found in the supermarkets in the malls that have flooded our neighbourhoods. I have 3 strip malls between 1 to 5 minutes away from me! It's ridiculous. In the same way we turn our nose up at our traditional grain based flour to make our staple food nshima for the trendier, less nutrious maize because it is white (and prettier than the shades of brown millet, sorghum etc produce), more fashionable and less village, we are doing the same with our food purchases. Why go to the market or grow your own food when you can be spotted at the mall with a trolley full of groceries in plastic bags? We love to be decadent and to show off even if it is to our detriment. We already have been unable to deal with HIV, malaria, TB, cancer and now we are going to further strain our resources by adding obesity and related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes to the list ?! The conversations I have had with doctors and medical professionals over the years scare me. Despite all the campaigns backed by government and development agencies that keep telling us this time we shall conquer, it seems our issues aren't really getting any better and the majority of Zambians are still grosssly under-served by our health resources.

I know a lot of people talk about personal responsibility, common sense and how the overweight and obese should be able to control themselves and exercise, but there are so many studies out there that show that the road to gaining weight is a highly complicated one, and for many one fraught with so many pitfalls as they try to regain control with healthier lifestyles. This issue needs to be treated with compassion and where possible thwarted before it has a chance to embed itself into the culture of a place.  Companies can still make money and be responsible about how they market and label their products.  However I feel that here in Zambia in particular, it may already be too late and we are not equipped with the emotional intelligence coupled with the political will to tackle this next real challenge on our health system. 

I had the most surreal experience with a lady I met through friends at a concert. As we were listening to the music, an obese person stood in front of us causing the lady to express with vitriol how disgusting the person was and how could they let themselves go like that and why was she out in public. I was so taken aback by the unabashed honestly and worse the fact that this lady thought that this wasn't cruel, and that she could freely speak to me like that. I replied that you have no idea why the person has put on that much weight, they are likely to be dealing with something physically, psychologically and/ or emotionally. Rather than judgement, that person has the right to dignified humanity from the world around them. I have heard people callously call children fat off the cuff.  We would rather see the overweight as a sign of wealth and health - being HIV-. Sick and/ or poor people are skinny. I don't think we have the will as citizens to push for change. We unfortunately will not be seeing people lobbying for USD42 million spent on gastric bypass operating equipment or doctor's training, the special ambulances and beds to handle the weight the morbidly obese, the medication... 

I am a really healthy eater. I was brought up that way and naturally gravitate to homegrown and home cooked nutritious food. Even though I spent my first years in the UK, my mother befriended Zambia Airways air hostesses to bring her kapenta (dried sardines). Our protein historically came from lean animal and vegetable proteins.  Fish could be caught fresh daily and dried to last months in the heat before we had refrigeration. It does not require large parties to be enjoyed without wastage. Apenta was one of my first words and to this day, one of my favourite fish dishes to eat.   Mum also found a way to grow beans in the cold Northern English climate so we could have chinkamba (bean leaves) to cook authentic traditional nshima meals.  We always had a garden wherever we lived and we grew things. I remember being proud of growing my own groundnuts (mbalala) and strawberries in my patch as a toddler. In Zambia and Kenya we only bought fruits that weren't growing in the garden. Since I moved back to Zambia in 2011 cashiers and/ or peopel in line behind me at supermarkets comment because I don't buy what the average Zambian purchases when they make the trip. I'm always told "you buy white people things" like broccoli, cauliflower, quinces, parsnips, pomegranate juice or assorted seeds like pumpkin and flaxseed. If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen how I love to post about food grown at the farm in my ancestral village, healthy food bought at stores and how I still eat well when I am travelling and eating out. I don't eat fast food often. When I do it's a guilt-free treat because I only indulge a couple of times a year. 

I'm really passionate about this issue. We are a young population in Zambia and across Africa who are destined to be crippled by so many things before we have a chance to bloom.  So I say if we are going to use satire, let's use it wisely and effectively and regardless, we need to be less dismissive and more proactive about this pandemic which I would wager is likely to become the biggest health crisis across the continent in the next decade.  Though I am the Queen of passion, I don't believe in sticking ones head in the sand or up ones ahem to maintain a sense of optimism in life.  So even though I have painted rather a bleak future, even though collectively we are falling short, I believe if enough individuals stand up and fight, eventually as communties, we can change the way we as society deal with obesity. 

Friday, 27 October 2017

Leadership Poker: Trumping with A.C.E.

Chipolopolo Fans a a game. They featured in establishing scenes about the
importance of football to Zambia in my documentary e18hteam (eighteam)
Over the past couple of months, I have had a series of conversations and experiences at events that have convinced me even more that A.C.E. is the right way to professionally deal with what is going on around me and in the world today, in my own small way.
The first major instance was a Twitter conversation I had with the talented and insightful Zambian songbird Chembo about representation at the first TEDx Eucalyptus Road in Lusaka. Her contention with the organisation of the event by Bloom Management was that there were non-black faces being streamed from abroad as part of the experience.  I contested that the important thing was that there was a high representation of women, particularly in the on-site break out sessions to discuss the themes, which is still unusual for Zambian events.  We agreed to disagree, as she feels strongly that black people/ Zambians should speak to their own people.  I agree to some extent, foreign and mostly non-black faces and organisations are given  far too much freedom to come and tell us how to be ourselves without consultation or understanding of who we are, what we need and what we need to do to get to where we want to go.  I feel however, that sometimes issues like Black Lives Matter, an issue borne from a minority status and amplified worldwide due to the fact that Western Media dominates global media, can obscure reality. We also are prone to jump on the cause bandwagon, designing events round things like HeForShe to show we do care about women, but not to actually really do the work to give women and girls their rightful chance to find their place in society.
We here in Zambia are in the majority, identifying as Black.  When you go to events and hear speakers, the majority of them are usually black/ Zambian.  The problem is they are almost always all men, and a lot of the time its the same recycled speakers unless it is dubbed a women’s event and even then there may not be a female majority. I think it is important to focus on what is salient here, not to bring issues from other places and erroneously conflate them out of solidarity, or issues brought from experiences elsewhere. I do think it is important for young Zambian women to see people who look like them doing more than myopic destiny expected of us. And I do believe both men and women need to give the female perspective chance and also realise sometimes it’s not about gender but about knowledge. Same with race. Does it matter the delivery vessel if the truth is being spoken?! I attended the TEDx event and had a transcendental experience in the breakout session with CEO of COMESA‘s business council Sandra Uwera, who I need to follow up with about encouraging Africans to buy local and products made on the continent and how this ties to how we see ourselves. I enjoyed that fact that she was in a powerful position and from her questions and comments it was clear she was qualified for her job and was the right choice to moderate. If that had not been the case however, I would have written about how disappointed I was. She made me proud to be an African Woman in the world today trying to move things forward.  She is #goals!
Earlier this month, I organised at Modzi Arts thanks to Founder Julia Kaseka’s openess to the idea of showing my documentary e18hteam, with a discussion afterwards about Zambian identity, the future of youth in the country, and the importance of art in public discourse.  The day of, Zesco did not disappoint and was annoyingly and stereotypically inconveniencing, deciding to loadshed that area for the first time in Modzi Art history.  Though we didn’t show film, Samba Yonga and Tangu Msimiko were great panelists with insightful contributions and Julia was an awesome moderator.  During the talk, an audience member asked if I had chosen the panel to be all female on purpose. I have had many conversations about how to ensure better representation and I am not for putting a woman on the panel just to have one. I believe in equality and equity.  If you select the requisite people to speak on the right things I think it will all balance out. If there are no qualified women, don’t force the issue and end up fulfilling another stereotype that women are given opportunities by affirmative action without qualification.  However, I do believe at this time, if you have the choice with equally qualified people, I think one should tend to favour the ladies over the gentlemen, till diverse panels are the norm. In the case of my event, I picked Samba because her company Ku-Atenga Media is one of the reasons my documentary has been well recieved and successful and she knows the film and its journey inside out. I chose Tangu because she reached out to me about mentorship and is interested in creating discourse between creatives as well as in the mechanics of film distribution. We also happened to represent young Zambia being in our 20s and 30s.  Giving women a platform to speak was a coincidental bonus.
Modzi was able to screen the film the next day and I spoke with the audience after and the conversation focused on the fact that we as Zambians need to realise that the Chipolopolo’s story reflects who we are as a people. I have had interactions with young Zambians during and after the elections where they have expressed fear that the legacy of the Freedom Fighters and the current administration will be lack of agency for those of us who follow them.  That they have no place in the country, and that efforts to belong are futile.  I reminded the audience that just like the Zambian National Football Team, we have bounced back from other tragedies such as the deaths of two of our Presidents in the last 10 years, by coming together and persevering peacefully.  I also noted that despite being blindsided continuously with things like loadshedding descending upon us without warning repeatedly ad infinitum, ad nauseum, we continue to innovate and find ways to carry on and succeed.  We did not give in after the day before’s debacle, we rescheduled and made time to have the event properly.  In our lives, we know we have it inside us to surmount the challenges thrown at us and eventually find the strength to keep moving.  Unbeknownst to me, there was a young, Caucasian American lady moved by my impassioned oratory.  She took the opportunity to express how my words gave her hope for the USA, as she wrapped her head round Donald Trump being President-Elect at the edict of her people. She was elevated to tears (I don’t believe crying is a reduction by default but can also be a expression of your strength to being open to expressing vulnerability unabashedly) as she spoke and apologised.  I told her there was nothing to be contrite about, as we are all living through these trying times and it is important to reach out to one another however we can, wherever we are.  I first went to America after September 11th and remember how people rallied together and was present during the first memorial commemorating the tragedy.  I have no doubt America will recognise its greatness and make lemonade out of this this current batch of lemons and slay like Beyonce.
This brings me back to my original sentiments that I expressed to Chembo.  You can learn and be inspired by anyone.  I think opportunities globally should be given to qualified people of all races, colours, creeds, gender, sexual orientation and identities, because as humans, our strength is in our diversity and we all have something to offer.  I think it is important to distinguish between local and global issues surrounding misrepresentation and the flat out blocking of certain perspectives and voices so we intervene and rig for the good accordingly, not to just jump on some cause’s bandwagon for the wrong reasons. Sometimes we need to give voice to those that irk, confuse or have differing opinions or appearance, so long as the intent is to not to promote hate, intolerance and to divide to rule and profit selfishly.  Even if the outcome is agreeing to disagree, I think there is much to learn from our differences and solutions to the worlds problems will continue to come from finding common ground. Tonight my film is showing at the Southern African Institute in Basel and has been given the honour of being the Opening Night screening to officially start the Zambia in Motion Festival.  The aim of the festival is to bring the curated history to life through indigenous voices, to a Swiss audience.  The fact that a tiny country a quarter of the world away is preserving our history and is reaching out to better understand who we are is beautiful.  It is the essence of what A.C.E. is all about: Cultural exchange. Building bridges. Learning from history. Making new paths. Learning and growing together.
Leading is not only about taking care of your own, but its also about reaching out to the other side to gain understanding, to lend a helping hand and above all letting love guide us to conquer all.  We need more of this in the world right now. How are you going to spread the feels and bring people together? What are you going to do to bring about understanding, empowerment and opportunity?
For inspiration, watch e18hteam on video on demand anytime, anywhere online here.
For more on the A.C.E project, bookmark the blog, where this article first appeared, and follow it and ZeDream Team on Instagram.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Introducing ZeDream Team

L-R Tukiya (Mafashio), Chosa,
Sekayi (Mafashio), Leelee
Me (Ngosa)
Photo Credit: Fortress Media
Styling: Mafashio
Though I posted last week that I have been failing with aplomb, I have gotten a few things right.  One such thing is the creation of the ZeDream Team.  Serendipity may have brought each of these amazing people into my life, but their coming together for A.C.E. was by complete design.  They were my first choice, and I am so grateful that they signed up to create with this mad scientist and are equally invested in my multimedia experiment.
Some pick people to work with whom they know can’t challenge them, can’t do what they do, and would never usurp power and commandeer their operation. They want to stand out, be worshiped, and have no intent on truly collaborating and working together to create something that can only be realised because of amalgam of individuals brought together for the common cause.  I have no desire to be the despot. I want to collaborate.  This means bringing people in with different skill sets so that we can all enhance each other’s strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses. I want to learn and grow through this process and the only way to do that is to surround myself with people who can magnify the areas I need to work on and amplify my positive traits.  I in turn hope to be able to do the same.
Leadership is not necessarily about being the best, or about dictating to the people you are in charge of.  Leadership to me is understanding group dynamics and ensuring that everyone is able to put their best self forward.  To know how to create magic with the ingredients each person has to put in the pot.  To know how to assign the right tasks to the right person.  To know when to rally the troops and when to pull back.  To know when to micromanage and when to leave people to autonomously go about their business. Sometimes it means stepping back and letting others lead.
Chosa, Puthumile and the Ladies of Mafashio (Sekayi and Tukiya) all have something in common with me: a desire to create, to push the envelope, to question, and to make our world better a better place with content that engages, informs, entertains and explores new paths.  More importantly they are crazy , weird and mysterious in their own unique ways.  They have all pleasantly surprised me in some shape or form over the last couple of years.  They have made me think about things from different perspectives.  They have challenged my ideas and been catalysts to shifts in the way I do things, in the way I see myself and what I have to offer the world.  They are the reason A.C.E. exists.  I wanted to find a way to bottle all that they have to give and create, to then uncork it in an explosion of creative content across media.
I know that though things are uncertain, and the journey we are taking is only just starting to map itself out, that I can count on these things from each of them:
Chosa will always keep a cool head, and if he loses his temper it means that things are really bad and we need to get ourselves together.  That I will always have a visual eye that gets what is needed to capture A.C.E. points of view in stills and/or video in innovative and singular ways.  And when we are editing, we will sink into our easy dance until some sort of rendering, colour correcting or other irritating process will cause me to throw a tantrum as impatience gets the better of me, he will distract me till it is done.
Puthumile will bring all the ideas the team has together and distill them into a beautiful river of words that will touch our souls.  That she will step in when I cannot get to something, and that she will always be there for me to vent, parse ideas, and to motivate me to keep at it when I am thwarted by my mind, or by things out of my control.  She will remind me to keep my eye on the prize and see a new way ahead when I cannot.  All the while pretending to be the Thing, made of rock. I won’t tell that she is really the Pillsbury Boy, all cookie dough, love, and rainbows.
The ladies of Mafashio come as a pair but if their individual personalities and talents did not fit into A.C.E. I would have only asked the one that contributed positively to the dynamic. Luckily I didn’t have to because their brand is a 2 for 1 special.  I always say that once you are Fundafunda-ed you can’t go back.  They are part of a creative familial dynasty and if you ever have the privilege of encountering any of their cousins, be prepared for your life to change. These girls bring a youthful effervescence that counters the over 30 jaded outlook that the rest of us have. They also have a refreshing positivity; a lust for life and new experiences that spurs me on.  They have a window into a world that is beyond me, and they are nice enough to bring me into it.
So long as Chosa, Puthumile and I are not left to our own devices, A.C.E. things happen. When we three meet, things descend swiftly into the silly, the debaucherous and the unfocused as our creative juices flow. We end up having conjured something we have absolutely no means to achieve and depression sets in.  Luckily there is usually food to make us feel better.
Soon we shall be officially launching with a taste of ZeDream Team’s talent and starting production on our first mini project.  I will continue to document the A.C.E. journey on the blog at least once weekly so keep checking in to walk along side us as we re-imagine African storytelling.  For a more visual experience follow us on Instagram. If you would like to chat about the project or just to get to know me better, please start a conversation on Twitter.
For more on the A.C.E. Project, bookmark the blog, where this article first appeared, and follow it and the ZeDream Team on Instagram.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Failing is A.C.E.

This photo was taken during our first A.C.E. shoot in 2016
Photo Credit: Fortress Media Styling: Mafashio

I have been failing. Spectacularly. All throughout 2016. And I have been winning. Why? Because failure is the route to success. If you are truly creative and or/ entrepreneurial, you live in the certainty of stumbling, mumble fumbling and falling.  A thick skin is required to keep picking yourself up, to keep, and carry on.  In Zambia , it is the norm to pretend like everything is okay, as admitting fault, inadequacy or challenges is seen as weakness, not as an opportunity to innovate, learn and grow. The fear of losing out or giving up power is so ingrained, it stops people from actually realising their dreams because they are spending so much time looking over their shoulder.
Moving on to your sophomore project is always hard.  My first production was a documentary about the Zambian National Football Team aka the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) called e18hteam (eighteam).  Last year it enjoyed much success after it premiered in October 2014.  From the unprecedented Zambeef sponsorship of the archival footage rights, to travelling around Zambia and film festivals around the world, winning awards in Indonesia, Spain, the USA, Nigeria and Peru, as well as screening in Cannes, I should be on floating in the clouds, basking in the rays of achievement. That is past glory though and cannot and should not sustain me.  The film continues to go to film festivals and is now used as a tool for motivational talks to motivate, inspire and/ or for cultural exchange, but it is time for a new challenge.
An artist never stops creating and the best place to start is inspiration from the depths of one’s soul.  That is where the African Cultural Exchange project, aka the ACE project, is borne from: a frustration so visceral, the only way to assuage it and turn that negative energy into the positive, is to work through it with my art.  It has taken much to get to this point and I haven’t really started.
Luckily I have 4 amazing people to work with here in Lusaka: 3 Zambians and 1 Zimbabwean. I have dubbed them ZeDream Team, because in another life I was named Big Pun, and they  were my first choice of crazy talent with beautiful spirits to work with. This blog will chronicle the entire process of this multimedia experiment aiming to re-imagine African storytelling, through creativity in all its forms, as I journey with this team down the rabbit hole.
What I have learnt so far, as I have embarked on this sojourn into the unknown, is that I still have much to learn, and that is okay because I believe life is about growth.  Leadership in this new capacity is much harder than I thought.  Collaborating and expressing what is going on in my head to get everyone up to speed is overwhelming, because my brain is too quick and sees everything at the same time perfectly laid out and connected in my head space.  It all makes sense to me, but parsing that out into the world in a way that makes sense is incredibly challenging. Focusing on what I want the project to address first has also taken a while to identify. But we have persevered and things are coming together.
I am known as the Queen of Passion and thankfully this Ndhlovukhazi Storyteller has enough fuel in the tank to keep regenerating, adapting, and is not afraid to change her mind. I am reveling in the uncertainty and in the crazy because beauty is starting to shine through. I just have to trust the process.  Keep tweaking. Keep researching.  Keep bandying ideas around. Staying open and allowing myself to be mentored by the team and people in my life whom I love and trust, while looking for new sources of knowledge and inspiration.
So as we count down to the official launch of the ACE project, to be announced on the blog in due time, please get to know ZeDream team through our Instagram account
In the meantime I will continue to fail spectacularly in style because I know it will all come together in the end.
Here’s to failing spectacularly to success.
For more on the A.C.E. project, bookmark the blog, where this post first appeared, and follow its progress and the ZeDream Team on Instagram.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Ngosa. Alive. Thrive.

So the last post I wrote (eons ago) was all about how I was going to do better at how I put my life out here on social media. I did start off well reloading Pellie Reign, particularly on my new Facebook page, as well as on Instagram and Twitter. However, I am now currently still wading through the right old mess that I have found myself in for most of the year. As usual, my writing on MbA has been affected. Something that really has to change as writing in this open diary is therapeutic. I chose this photo to accompany this article because at the time I was visually portraying my life storytelling in a patriarchal society. The storytelling has never been hard. It's the patriarchy part that is really throwing a spanner in the works amongst other things...
Trying to write my way back to lady bossing, to being my best, bubbly self.
Photo Credit: Kwitu Group Styling: Mafashio Location: KC Vaghela Brand Store

Life is a constant tackling of the haphazard, and it can blindside you when you least expect it. Somehow you are supposed to fashion interwoven narratives to make heads or tails of it all. A deluge of personal and professional f-ery has inundated me in ways that I not only did not expect, and found I was not quite equipped to deal with.  Trying to make sense of it has me battle weary. So much so that since my phone was stolen a few weeks ago, I have been rather listless. I am more overwhelmed than ever.  Last thing I needed to happen to me really.  It has messed with my story by cutting off easy access to global life lines and there is really no substitute for the function my phone has in that regard. So until my new phone arrives in a month, I'm likely to be not quite with it on another level.

I have started over so many times this year, only to have to scrap my course of action to jumpstart things and restart afresh, trying to find the passion I'm famous for. So I have decided to accept that life is a mess right now and that my fires need stoking before they are at full flame consistently. I'm going for (new) small victories to build up to a cohesive effort to make the big changes I had plans for, and the new ones I've discovered are required. So over for the foreseeable future on MbA, this is what I'm going to do:

Share the blogposts I wrote on my currently stalled next major creative undertaking, the African Cultural Exchange project: A.C.E. The first post was all about failure and how it can function as stageposting on the way to success. I am using my current inability to troubleshoot and jumpstart the project to reflect and share here on Soulfood Friday.

Things on Thursday will be, like this post, updating where I'm at in this process of metamorphosis, rediscovery, reclamation and change.

Mama Monday will feature posts on things in Zambia that have me disturbed about the lack of empathy we have for each other and those beyond our borders, and how that is manifesting in really disturbing ways.

I will finish my Love. Marraige. Sex. Babies. series that I started on Woolgather Wednesday.

I will not be furnishing Twit Tuesday on the blog as Twitter is where I'm most active currently, so if you'd like a daily dose of MbA, find you way to my profile.

So long as my name is Ngosa, and I am alive, I will always find a way to thrive he he ;} xo #NgosAliveThrive