My friend is going through that phase where she is panicking about whether she will ever find the man of her dreams. I keep telling her “Girl, chill out, the sea is not empty yet”.
She recently went on a date with this new guy she is seeing, and now she knows what she wants in life, and I admire her so much for that.
Before she even goes on a date with a guy, she has to have conversated with him for a while and after the first date, if she is not feeling it, she is not the “Let’s see where it can go” type of girl. Maybe that’s why she is not married yet.
Anyway, I asked her, “How did this one go? Do you think he is the one?”, she stared into space and after a while replied, “Yea he might be, but he asked me if we should do Dutch”.
I also paused and stared into space, what does that mean, I thought.
“So, for the rest of the date, we ended up talking about doing Dutch and women becoming more independent.” So, “do Dutch”, basically means splitting the bill. This made me ponder about a statement I once read which said – “These days women are now becoming the men they once dreamt of marrying”.
Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel like that’s somewhat true. Why is it that many women don’t rely on men as much anymore, is it because we don’t need them, is it because they are not providing what we are seeking?
Is a man no longer a man if he can’t provide? Should women turn down their independence just to maintain the man’s ego?
That’s a flat out, big NO for me. Women have been oppressed and have had their rights suppressed for a long time. Now that we have more privileges and equal opportunities, some men and women are slightly uncomfortable with our liberation. So much so that some women feel the need to hide their ambition.
There is something endearing about being humble, but there is a difference in taming yourself down because some people are uncomfortable with your star qualities.
There are men out there who feel threatened if their woman is earning more than them and they feel like they are not enough. If a man feels threatened by your independence, then those are his insecurities he needs to work on, not yours.
You shouldn’t have to pretend to be less just to please him.
The independence of a woman can often destroy a man’s masculinity. There is absolutely nothing wrong in building together with your man, he makes his own money and you make your own too. There is also nothing wrong with sitting back and letting your man treat you and you doing the same for him.
As long as the woman is not putting down her man because she is richer or more powerful than him, a happy, balanced, healthy relationship can be boded.
These are just some of the things you suss out when you begin dating someone, are they comfortable with you being the bomb ass woman that you are, can they handle you, what does their ego say about you being this boss chick? It is as simple as asking your potential suitor those direct questions.
Society depicts that the man should be the main provider of a family. As women, we should allow the man to be who he is and who he is destined to be. Our life’s purpose does not take priority over his your opinions don’t matter more because you have more money or are more powerful than he is.
In relationships, you often have to compromise yourself and compromising is not betrayal. When you find yourself having to kill your true, authentic, hardworking, go-getter self, its yourself you’re betraying. You don’t have to kill who you are to please your counterpart.
Independent women are often deemed as high maintenance, sometimes greedy and their standards are too high. Well if you don’t set boundaries or standards you will settle for whatever is handed to you in life and you will never be fulfilled.
Having said all this not all men think the same. Sometimes men want more than just an independent successful woman with her own money. Hopefully, there is more to you than just your successes. What are your family values, what are you like as a person without all your accomplishments?
Are you really this well rounded independent successful woman in all areas of your life. It may not be your independence and success that’s putting men off you. It’s a matter of looking inwardly, are you really this gracious, strong Queen you say you are?
Sometimes it takes another eye to see and encourage you for you to know that what you are doing really makes sense! Amarachi Attamah is just a young simple Igbo girl. She is someone who scribbles some lines and calls them poetry. Amarachi, by career is a broadcaster and she has worked with different radio and television stations.
As a young woman who loves who she is, Amarachi’s career draws from her identity, her roots and her cultural heritage. “My father would always say, ‘When you go out, remember that you have roots, so don’t go out and get lost’”, she says. Today, Amarachi is a performing poet specifically in Igbo language, and a writer. She has four published titles which include, “My Broad Daydream”, “Tomorrow’s Twist”, “Making a Difference” and her first Igbo collection, ‘’Akuko Ifo Nnem ochie koro m” (Folktales my Grandmother Told Me).
SLA contributor Onyekachukwu Asadu met Amarachi in Enugu to find out more about what she does and how it is contributing to the growth of her community.
Do you think you are making a difference? If yes, how are you making a difference in your community?
Of course, I think I am making a difference. If I am not, I wouldn’t have continued what I am doing. However, the encouragement comes from seeing that what you do, actually makes a difference, even if it seems so stupid sometimes or unrealistic. I was born in Northern Nigeria and I grew up amongst a people that know who they are and are proud of it. As a child in that environment, I would tell you that I never saw a northern child that couldn’t speak their indigenous language; be it Hausa, Gwari, Nupe or whatever. They speak their language. They were always proud of their local food, or dressing.
However, coming back to the east, I noticed that it was different; we were not even proud of our names. This got me worried and I made a resolve that the negative trend of denying our culture had to stop. I am proud of my identity and culture, and I have to make others see the same. So I thought to myself, ‘perhaps I should bring in this consciousness’.
Honestly, I can’t tell when it started. When I was doing my NYSC, I wasn’t quite fluent in Igbo language but in my local dialect (Nsukka). I had published my first Igbo collection in 2007 and it was during that time that I met the literary icon, Professor Anezi Okoro. Despite my challenges at speaking and writing the Igbo language (I had failed Igbo language in my Senior School certificate examinations!) he encouraged me to do something in Igbo. I remained resilient and kept learning. I decided to dress in Igbo attires, making Igbo hairstyles.
During that time, I started thinking of how to present my poetry and when I started displaying my craft on stage, I got a good response! So I continued, I never planned it but I saw the opportunity and so I started creating awareness about Igbo language and culture. I went to secondary schools, talking to students and teachers and parents; persuading them to speak the Igbo language.
From there, we got the inspiration to organize festivals where schools make presentations and cultural displays in the Igbo language, then we published a collection of poems rendered by students. Gradually, people started coming around and getting involved with what we do. We have not gotten there yet but we have engaged the community, we have increased their consciousness and we are restoring the dignity of the Igbo race.
Tell us about OJA Cultural Development Initiative. What plans are you making to reach and impact a global audience?
OJA is ‘Odinala na omenala jikoro anyi’, which implies the culture and traditions that bind us together. It is an NGO created out of my passion to unite people. As a broadcaster working in the civil service, I discovered that even with most employees coming from Enugu State, there was still discrimination and segregation along village and local government lines. This did not sit well with me.
I also realized that at the village level, certain positive elements/practices of our culture that united us was no longer there. For example, the women associations that changed the communities, the kinsmen and age grade meetings were no longer as strong and edifying as they used to be. This is because we accepted/adopted the foreign individualistic style of living that is not our cultural heritage. In as much as culture can be modified, we should not destroy our culture or lose the major ingredients that bind us together.
This is why OJA is working with the younger generation because they are the ones that are mostly affected by this. To achieve this, we introduce regular festivals to bring these kids together and remind them of who they are. We go around reviving positive cultural practices that are going down. We don’t promote clandestine practices, after all, beyond Nigeria; there are cultures that are repugnant to natural existence.
In addition to OJA, we also have a cultural outfit, Nwadioranma (The child that puts smiles on people’s faces) outfit. It is into cultural performances and all creative enterprise promoting our culture. People call us to perform at their events for entertainment. We also train young and consenting adults to work with us there to raise funds and further support our work.
You once worked with a Broadcasting house. As a Mass communication graduate, tell us how you perceived it was time to leave paid employment to becoming the one calling the shots?
As you know, world changers are not regular employees. The world needs people with passion to drive a cause. To drive a cause, you must be creative. People will say you are crazy, they will assume you are not well.
It was challenging working for a media house, people didn’t understand why you would leave your office for a while to write a poem or visit a school to advocate for our passion. There were bureaucracies affecting my flow. Being a paid worker also meant I had to be at work every day. I love broadcasting because it’s a means of reaching the world. I have not stopped broadcasting, I can still make videos and audio files and share online reaching people all around the world. Yet, I needed to leave my comfort zone, I weighed my job against my passion and found that I needed to move because most people around me didn’t understand me.
If any African or young person here in this part of the world must pursue a just cause, they must learn to leave their comfort zone. For me, paid employment meant rest and I wasn’t ready to rest. If I listened to what people felt, I would be discouraged, so I also needed to go to where I will be inspired. If you must be in an office environment, try to create a difference so that when you leave, it will be felt. I do not regret it. The world might call you crazy because you are leaving paid employment even when many youths are looking for job. But because you have the vision, please go out there and make the difference you envision.
You seem so passionate about culture and the Igbo language. Most young people wouldn’t see opportunity in those areas. They would rather see it as being old fashioned. What drives your interest?
I wouldn’t really say I know what drives my interest but I grew up in a close-knit family that didn’t have much materially, but we were content and loved each other. As a child growing up in Northern Nigeria, I saw that trend of close-knit family relationships. When I returned home to the east, I was surprised to see that such relationships are not commonplace, even families are turning against one another, despite cultural and tribal similarities.
It’s challenging being a young woman trying to venture into an area which is expected to be driven by men. In the Igbo parlance, a woman is seen and not heard so being a young lady with my interests is seen as absurd because it is assumed that going into cultural matters is a taboo!
Most times when I perform, I am the only woman at the event and people look at me as if I am from another planet! It takes a lot because you have to explain your motive before presenting. Despite the challenges, I am not deterred. Like I tell people, I have decided within myself to follow my heart and remain focused, no matter what distractions coming my way. When people see your passion, they will support you. If I didn’t continue, you wouldn’t have travelled here to interview me. It hasn’t been easy, but we have succeeded.
If you could change anything about your community, what would it be?
It would be that seed of unity and individualism that has been wrongly planted in our families. I recall the first OJA seminar we organized in my hometown. While visiting a family, I heard a child refusing to run an errand for the mother, ‘’A ju mu’’ meaning, ‘No, I won’t go’. I saw it became a trend in the community.
That stuck out to me. It didn’t show respect and that was not how I grew up. I saw brothers fighting over land, married couples separating. This I know brought hatred, pride and rancor, therefore, my passion would be to plant a seed of unity, where we eat, laugh, pray, sing and dance together. Even the holy book says that there is the presence of God where two or three are gathered.
There is a philosophy I believe in and advocate for, it’s called, ‘Igwebuike’’ there is strength in our numbers. When we join forces in love, we will succeed together and the world will be beautiful. Families make up the community so I would like to bring that back.
Considering the cultural perception of women in African/Igbo society, would you encourage Igbo women to aspire to largely responsible positions of Influence? Why?
In any community where women are given the opportunity to serve in leadership, there is always a difference. I am talking about women who possess positive values. That is why feminity is divine, not minding people’s wrong notion, feminity and masculinity is divine. Even in Igbo culture, there is a beautiful narrative of Ani (Earth) as a goddess of fertility and Anyanwu (The sun) as the god who shines and on her to produce and give life. It is believed that the earth is a woman because she produces a lot of beautiful things.
Women are powerful but sometimes they don’t know it. That’s why they shy away from leadership position; the truth is that this world in practice is not a man’s world. This is because every man has a woman that influences him. I don’t struggle to be a man because I am first human then a woman. No matter how strong a man is, there is a woman that tickles his soft spot.
My point is, you must not clamor to be a government official before making an influence, you can start from your family, club, workplace, etc start from there, make an impact and the world will feel your positive touch, so I am saying that I support women in governance. However, it won’t be easy that is why you must know who you are, and when you get out there, stay strong because challenges will come. Please assume your real responsibility, let your strength be invested into building and not pulling down.
Finally, what favorite Igbo proverb/saying keeps you going even in tough times?
If you look at my notice board, you will see I pasted some proverbs in Igbo language.
‘Oborochi nwere olili anya, ike agwulagi’, despite your failures, as long as you wake up and you are alive, there is hope. I use this proverb to encourage myself. There is nothing wrong in feeling depressed sometimes, so when I do, I just recite this to myself and it always revives my spirit.
For others, I have a saying to encourage them, ‘Akwu ji ibe ya agba mmanu, Igwebuike!’, there is no one palm nut that makes sufficient palm oil, it requires several palm fruits to obtain palm oil. In other words, it is in our coming together bringing our collective efforts that we can overcome our challenges and achieve common objectives. I also have a time set aside every day for innovative thinking. It helps me find out better ways to make my work better. The world needs creative thinkers.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.
Janine Gaëlle Dieudji is a bi-national French and Cameroonian graduate of Culture and International Relations from Lyon 3 University in France. She also holds a Master Degree in Political Science from Paris 2 Panthéon Assas University.
She’s been living in Florence, Italy, for the past six years, a city she has since fallen in love with. This is how Florence became home to her and the place where she started to build her career as an art professional. She considers herself as a ‘multilocal’ by believing that we belong to all the places we have lived in. Home is where the mind can create and feel rested at the same time. This is what the life journey is made for, exploring to become the person we decide to be.
For me, it’s a person who makes the art scene move and is committed to it. It could be a curator, an artist, an art dealer, a gallerist or a collector. The ability to inspire others by your achievements and the way you humbly contribute to the dynamism of this versatile field.
What gave you the sparks to follow this career path?
Well, I truly love what I do which helps a lot. The absolute truth is that this path in a certain way chose me, actually.
First when I landed six years ago in the renaissance city, Florence. I was there for a year through a study exchange program (Erasmus). I had no idea six years later I would still be here, but I fell in love with this city, and every time I tried to leave (I have tried three times), I always come back after a couple of months.
The second time (in 2012) I was about to leave Florence because I wasn’t happy professionally. Then, randomly, I met the artist Clet Abraham. We quickly got along and I think he saw something in me, which became a working relationship. After six months in Lyon to complete my Master’s degree, we started a three year, beautiful and enriching collaboration.
Two years before Clet, I had a two month internship at the city hall of Rosny-sous-Bois in France where I assisted the Director of the Cultural Department in the organization of Beninese artist Zinkpè’s exhibition. At that time, I wanted to be a journalist or work in a cultural department of an international organization like the UN, La Francophonie or a French Institute abroad.
What’s the best way for one to make a name for themselves?
It may sounds cliché, but I would say to be yourself, stay humble and always be curious to learn something new. I believe that these ingredients make people excel at what they do. Humility and originality are the key, but also the hard work you put on it. One can not forget that fears and struggles are important in ones daily development.
How is it like working with talented people such as Johanne Affricot of Griotmag.com?
It’s definitely inspiring. Johanne Affricot is one of a kind and I’m very grateful to work with her. She’s multi-tasks, a great mom, a wife and a do-er with no fear.
She created Griotmag.com two years ago, the first Italian webzine celebrating an aesthetic, creative and cultural diversity in and from Italy – African Italians – and the African diaspora. From this project, she pushed forward by creating a webserie, The Expats – a a documentary web series exploring the lives of African Italian creatives living abroad in the search of new opportunities. Two new episodes filmed in London will be released by the end of this month. The use of the term in the title of the series is meant to be provocative and encourage reflection not only about the idea of black Italians in Italy and abroad but also Italians who do not know this “different” or “diverse” Italy.
I was very excited when she approached me a year ago, we immediately clicked the first time we met, we have a lot in common and work well together.
You have a lot of experience as a contributor. What is the most valuable thing you have learnt so far?
I realized that together we do better and we go further. I like changing and renewing myself so being a contributor on different projects makes me do different things and it’s exciting. I recently collaborated with Justin Thompson on the organization of the Black History Month Florence, we had at least 50 events all over the city, in only one month.
My main satisfaction was the Clay Apenouvon’s installation “Film noir, danse de survie” which I curated in collaboration with the City Hall and Institut Français Firenze. I met Clay almost two years ago at 1:54 art fair in London where I discovered his work and I love how down to earth the artist was. After that, we decided we want to collaborate, so we started in Florence, and hopefully will do more in the future.
My point is we don’t have to be shy or afraid to share ideas with people, this is how beautiful things happen, by putting our strengths, capacities, and inspirations together. With this philosophy, I’m actually doing a collaboration with Wires eyewear on the Italian and French market, and I’m planning to organize a Street Art Festival in Cameroon for 2018, as soon as I find some partners to fund it.
So Janine is also a translator. Is there a code of ethics when it comes to translating?
I’m new in this field actually; I started a couple of months ago in a multinational corporation, General Electric, I was translating engineering and computer science files. Honestly, I had no clue of what I was translating the first days, so I had to study different manuals and technical languages, I did a lot of research and it made my life easier. I’ve always been passionate by languages, I actually speak three and half (Spanish is the half, I understand it well but since I’m living in Italy, I’m always mixing up with Italian when I try to speak it.) and I took a six month course of Chinese when in College, I really liked it, I wished I had gone into it in depth, but then I started working and let it go.
Speaking many languages doesn’t make you able to be a proper translator, it’s really hard. This is why the first code is to always translate into your mother tongue, making sure you master all its intricacies. I document myself a lot. So every time I have to translate something new, I do an intensive research to make sure I’m giving a top notch translation.
Keep yourself updated through a lot of reading and practice.
You also assist artists to achieve and develop their work and you connect them with other professionals. Share with us your highlights.
Well, I easily make contact with people. I’m very sociable and it helps me to create new connections every time I travel, and I travel a lot. Once I’m back, I sit and start brainstorming about how I can put two and two together. Like I previously said, sharing ideas and thoughts with others is very enriching, this is how you understand someone’s needs and how you can contribute to make it happen.
This is how I connected Clet with the French film festival, France Odeon I work with for example. He told me that he wanted to do something new with his art, like a cartoon. On the other side, Francesco Martinotti, the festival’s director told me he wanted to make an animated jingleto screen before every movie during the festival, something artistic. So I naturally connected them and a great collaboration was born.
The process was almost the same when I brought together Anna Gargarian, founder of HAYP Pop Up Gallery in Yerevan, Armenia and Noumeda Carbone, French-Italian artist, or when I put together Clay with the Black History Month Florence project. And right now I’m currently doing a collaboration with the artist Barthélémy Toguo for the upcoming auction at Piasa “Contemporary Art from Africa and the Diaspora: Origins and Trajectories” on April 20.
Fun question! Janine if you were to be a city which city would you be and why?
I would definitely say Johannesburg. I’ve never been there, but it has always fascinated me, and I recently had a dream where I was there. The subculture and creativity in Joburg amazes me and attracts me.
I read a lot about and follow some creative South Africans on Instagram, like the Mukheli’s brothers, the talented Zanele Muholi I had the chance to meet in Florence, or one of my favourite designer Laduma that I met first in London then Florence. I find them very inspiring and cutting edge in their vision of creativity on the continent. I would definitely like to travel there very soon, to experience a swenkas” competition and connect with the creative community.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.
At 21, Lukunse Betty Paulls has already accomplished more than most women her age could even dream of. The Kampala native who is currently working towards her degree in Business Administration at Ashesi University in Ghana, is also a model, blogger and writer. Most recently, she added the title of social/cultural ambassador to her resume.
What began as a simple idea to find a way to showcase the richness and diversity of African culture has turned into Mutima_Wangu, an online platform that seeks to create awareness about the history and culture of Africa in different settings. Over the past year, Lukunse has directed a lot of effort towards growing the platform. She’s orchestrated everything from picking the concept, finding models and photographers and even doing a bit of creative directing herself. In her own words “Africa is rich (in culture), let us never forget that”.
For someone so young, you already have quite a list of accomplishments under your belt. Could you share with our readers your story so they understand your journey and how you have managed to take on all these roles successfully?
I don’t see them as many achievements but thank you. To be honest, I still feel like my journey has only just begun. I started writing at fourteen, even though my writing still hasn’t garnered much publicity. I self-published my first poetry collection in early 2015, and the other two books shortly after joining Ashesi.
As for modelling, I had my first photoshoot ever in June 2015. It was a great experience and the support I received from my manager and the filmmakers at the Uganda National Theatre was overwhelming. I’ve done a bit of modelling and had a few photo-shoots since moving to Ghana as well. I started blogging on and off since January 2015 and have only recently decided to start blogging more consistently and using that as a platform to share my voice and my work. And finally, about being a cultural ambassador, I guess that came about when I realized I could not focus on modelling without combining it with something else. For me, that something was art.
I have no intentions of being a runway model. I have always focused more on the more commercial aspect of modelling than the typical struggle of making it as a runway Queen. And I decided that if I was going to take the commercial route, I wanted to do it in a way that would be beneficial to society. Bearing all this in mind, I went through a period of soul-searching and consulting with my mentors Kobby Graham and Dean TK, and through this the idea for Mutima_Wangu was born.
I checked out the website for Mutima_Wangu and I think it’s really impressive how you are working to develop a platform that not only showcases but celebrates the diversity of African cultures. How did you come up with the concept and what are you hoping to accomplish through this platform?
The idea for Mutima_Wangu first came to me in my philosophy class. I’m a firm believer in acting on an idea the moment it is conceived and so I knew I had to do something about it. But I also realized that I could not do it on my own, so I started looking for photographers on campus and sharing my idea with them until I found one who was willing to work with me. Next, I scouted potential models for the project.
For Mutima_Wangu, it was never about finding the girl or boy who was perfect for the runway, it was more about finding the person whose composure suited the craft. Through this project, we are teaching people what being African means to us and we demand to be heard. Our ultimate goal is to create awareness about the history and culture of Africa in different settings.
What is the process like for curating the content on the platform? How do you identify the topics that are discussed, what is the research process like and how do you decide on what aspects of the topic are important enough to be showcased and how?
To be honest, the process is not hard. I personally think that there is a lot of content to choose from. I also believe that I am naturally creative. So when an idea pops up into my mind, I note it down. I also get ideas from my sketches, from lectures I attend, from the literature I read and the images I see, from conversations with my neighbors and from observing people I meet.
My sources of inspiration are limitless and once an idea is conceived, I work on expanding it and bringing it to life. Throughout this process of creation, I remind myself that there must be story, a lesson, a history, a piece of information that the idea delivers to the intended audience. In the end, it must be art.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced in running this social enterprise?
So far the biggest challenge has been sourcing funds for the project. We are in the process of devising the best strategy to get sponsorship to drive Mutima_Wangu forward. I did not realize how expensive this project would be when I started it. But after completing our first shoot, and seeing the number of people who would like to be part of this project, especially those who would feature as models, I quickly realized that it was going to cost more than I had expected.
It takes a lot of time and effort to come up with a concept and implement it, it takes time to style all the models, to bring the concept to life the way I envision. There are costs involved in shooting, directing the project and securing the right locations. This means that to keep the project going, we must first find a way to secure the funding we need.
What have you learnt through this process that you have found most surprising, exciting and/or enlightening in terms of African culture?
I have learnt that African culture is diverse and that it is inexhaustible. It is impossible to capture it in its entirety. For every shoot that we do and for every story that we tell, there are tons more stories waiting to be told. There is a lot about African cultures that is not out there yet in the mainstream media and it is up to individuals to create this awareness. Thank God Mutima_Wangu is one of the many ways to make this dream come true.
I have also learned that with a project of this magnitude someone has to step up and take responsibility for the outcome of the events. And I have risen to this challenge. I am learning how to be in charge of things and how to manage people efficiently. In the long run, Mutima_Wangu has given me the opportunity to polish my creative skills in terms of directing and problem-solving.
So far, what has been your favorite piece that has been showcased and why?
My favorite piece has been the concept of ‘THE TRINITY’. Originally, it was meant to showcase three divine African females from different African cultures, Spiritism and animist perspectives.
However, it came out a little differently in the shoot, making me realize that the concept had way more potential than I envisioned. I am certain that in the future numerous other concepts/series under this theme will arise.
What is your vision for Mutima_Wangu moving forward? How do you plan to scale the platform to reach a wider audience in and beyond Africa?
My vision is that Mutima_Wangu will become a large foundation with several affiliates. Like I mentioned before, African culture is extensive and so diverse that we are never going to run out of ideas and concepts to explore and talk about. My goal is to create something with a long-term vision and mission. And despite the initial setbacks that we have encountered, I can say with all conviction that Mutima_Wangu is here to stay and we are not going anywhere. We are still up and running and moving forward every day, along with the rest of Africa.
In terms of publicity, the intention is to use the media to push our agenda even further. Through online publications, for example, the site, my blog and numerous hashtags, on both Instagram and twitter, we’re hoping to expand the network. Check us out and help spread the word!
If you could leave the readers with one piece of wisdom, to guide them as they strive to delve more deeply into African cultures and understand its richness and magic, what would it be?
My advice would be that they open their eyes to the vastness that this culture has to offer. That they are willing to be optimistic, creative, and diligent when it comes to understanding, being part of and spreading awareness about African cultures.
There is nothing as satisfying as watching a seed you have planted grow, and knowing that it is causing a positive change somewhere in someone’s life. Africa is rich, let us never forget that.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.