Thursday, June 20, 2013

Art: Mali before the coup

I was in Cincinnati, Ohio recently for my  husband's cousin's wedding. It was a great family reunion and such a beautiful wedding. The post wedding brunch was at the 21C Museum Hotel in downtown Cincinnati. For anyone planning a wedding in Cincinnati, I highly recommend it. The food was great and so was the artwork.   I was looking at some pictures from Malian photographer Malick Sidibe exhibited at the museum and was transported back to Mali before the coup.  I was reminded of the Recontres de Bamako , the biennial photography festival of African artists that ran from November 1, 2011 to January 1, 2012. The theme of the exhibition was "Pour un monde durable" (for a sustainable world). Here are some of the pictures I took from the exhibit at the Musee National. I've posted mainly the pictures of the archived black and white photos of Malian culture in the 1960s and the mosque architecture of Djenne and Timbuktu.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Inspired by....Baobab

I love the baobab tree (the tree of life), it has amazing fruit. The fruit is more super than a lot of superfoods with much more antioxidants than goji berries and acai. Growing up in Zimbabwe, I'd be all covered in the white powder from eating the yummy baobab fruit (mawuyu in Shona). In Bamako I loved to buy the baobab snacks from my local gas station. That was probably the best stocked shop around town. When I came across two companies, Bumbleroot and Aduna, that were launching baobab foods with great branding I was excited. Both brands source their baobab sustainably in Africa, with positive impact on the local communities. Bumbleroot sources from Zimbabwe and Aduna from Gambia and Senegal.

 {Photo credit: Bumbleroot and Aduna}

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Event : Global Diaspora Forum

Yesterday I had one of those pinch me days, where I felt like I was dreaming. I was selected to hang out with some pretty awesome and inspiring celebrities at the cool State Department’s Global Diaspora Forum. I say cool seriously because State Department has changed! This is not your mother’s State Department.  A few weeks ago I was at an Unreasonable@State event (love the Unreasonable Institute, great organization). It was one of those odd pairings that actually really worked, and when you think about it, it makes sense. So back to yesterday…

When we were being escorted down the hallway to meet the celebrities in a private conference I was asking myself “seriously how flattering and awesome is this”. I got to chat with some down to earth celebrities about running track and field (me), getting up and doing what you have to do even when you don’t want to, staying engaged with your home country, raising culturally aware kids and giving back.

Here are the celebs:

Michelle Kwan is inspiring. She got a Masters in International Affairs while managing to also be an Olympic medalist and World Champion skater. She talked about the sacrifices her parents, Chinese immigrants, made to support her dream. Skating is an expensive sport, but they were determined to provide a brighter future for their children.

I talked to Meb Keflezighi, olympic marathon medalist and runner, about getting started and motivation to keep at it even when it seems like the odds are against yous. He talked about ignoring stats and  winning despite being ranked number 39. How he stays motivated: thinking that his competition is working out while his considering slacking off  makes him get up and run. The sacrifices his parents made leaving Eritrea with nothing for a better future for their kids. He founded the Meb Foundation to give back to the youth in sport.

Liya Kebede is a model, designer and philanthropist. She is beautiful and so sweet. I didn't get to talk to Liya much which is such a pity because I have featured her line here AND if that wasn't enough we have supporting local weavers and the fashion thing in common. Should have, could have, oh well...I was really inspired by her story about starting the Liya Kebede Foundation to focus on maternal health issues after having her own children.

James Ihedigbo is the safety for the Baltimore Ravens, the 2013 Superbowl Champs Baltimore Ravens. He also founded HOPE Africa (which stands for Helping Our People Excel ) which provides scholarships to people of African descent. Now this guy is funny. He talked celebrating successes, but not for too long. Seeing what hard work looks like by watching the sacrifices of his parents who came from Nigeria with nothing, got PhDs while supporting 5 children! How his mom wrote a book entitled "Sandals in the Snow", about coming from Nigeria not being prepared for the US weather. Now that's a book I must read.

Didn't get to meet Hamdi Ulukaya, the CEO of Chobani, but really enjoyed his talk. Originally from Turkey, he came to the US as a college student. He saw a gap in the market, and used $5000 loan and his experience growing up on a farm in Turkey to build a billion dollar yogurt company in 5 years. One of the speakers, Susan Amat said at a panel that I attended that  "the American dream is not home ownership, its starting a business." She also said don't wait to start and that entrepreneurship is messy, so don't wait for perfection.

So you are wondering what else was going on at the Global Diaspora Forum. There was a lot of brain power in one place, honestly. If you are part of the global diaspora, an entrepreneur or just a worldly person and are wondering how to get involved and take action. Check out a few of the organizations that inspired me yesterday.

* Homestrings: Investment platform; enables diaspora investors to select  investment projects and funds that focus on their chosen development objectives.
*Venture Hive:  Technology accelerator that focuses on incubating tourism, creative IT and health IT firms, including foreign firms, in Miami.
* Pork Delights: Kenyan social enterprise that helps expand local pork production and food security using sustainable farming practices.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Artist Love: Saki Mafundikwa

Happy Friday!

Have a look at the beautiful work of Saki Mafundikwa. Saki is a true renaissance man, he is a typographer, filmmaker, design school founder and an author of the book: Afrikan Alphabets: The Story of Writing in Africa. His book explores typography in Africa, a subject that has not been studied much. Don't you just love it. I am so inspired by his work and his approach of looking inwards to his Africa identity for inspiration for his work. As a international development professional/fashion designer/mushroom farm co-founder/Africa blogger, this really resonates with me, and is something I want to explore more.


Mafundikwa left Zimbabwe in the late 1970s to study in the US. He talks about how he needed to leave home to find himself. He made the decision in 1997 to leave New York, cash in his 401(K) and return to Zimbabwe to start up Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts (ZIVA), a school of graphic design and new media. ZIVA, means knowledge in Shona. Saki believed that he needed to  inspire young people in Zimbabwe to consider graphic arts as a possible career option. I discovered his work through a colleague at my co-working space who had heard Saki speak at Yale.



In 2010, Mafundikwa presented an award winning documentary Shungu. Shungu is a personal journey that gives insight into the resilience of the people of Zimbabwe during the world's worst economic crisis. You can explore more of his work here and get his book here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spotlight: Macheke Sustainability Project

This is probably a good time to say that you are going to be hearing quite a bit about Dendere International and our upcoming mushroom brand, Soko Mushrooms. I will also be sharing  our journey launching an agriculture social enterprise that will provide employment, opportunity and fresh, local food in Zimbabwe.Talking about our ups and downs, lessons we learn along the way, measures of success and funding adventures. Stay tuned!

Today, I am spotlighting Moleen Madziva, a changemaker, who is giving back to the community that raised her--Macheke, Zimbabwe. I recently spent over two hours on the phone with Molly discussing her work. We talked about measuring success beyond just increased income indicators. She also shared the progress on a state of the art, healing center,  her organization is building in Macheke.

Moleen is software engineer, who left Zimbabwe after high school to study in the US. Her moment of obligation was arriving in Zimbabwe on vacation and seeing that although things had normalized a lot still needed to be done. With few jobs most people in her community, like much of Zimbabwe, could not afford to send their kids to school or buy basic necessities. She decided she needed to do something. That something was launching the Macheke Sustainability Project

MSP started as a farming project, but she quickly realized that they needed to adopt a more holistic approach to raising villagers out of poverty. One of the challenges, she said, was that every time they solved a problem she found that there was another one that also needed to be addressed. MSP is currently delivering a number of services including community health, education, and livelihoods development. What an inspiration!

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