The 25th Hour

I was really keen to improve on my reading habits last year. As a student, I rarely read leisurely because I associated it with academic pressure. I tried to get as far away as possible from books in my spare time. Time outside my studies would be spent engaging with people, exercising or watching shows.

I only recently started using reading as a tool to relax. But then, where is the time? My days are super busy and finding time in the evening often seems elusive.

Sometime last year I started reading in the car on the way to work in the morning. And it became a habit. Soon, I found myself finishing books that were taking me months to read.

I’ve realised I don’t need to set aside a period to sit down and read. I can make use of the spaces in my day where I’m unoccupied:

  • on the commute to and from work/school
  • at lunchtime
  • at a cafe while waiting for someone
  • in waiting rooms
  • on a road trip (although if you get nauseous on long car rides like me, you might need to minimise)

The thing is to keep the book you’re reading in your bag so you can grab it whenever. Those 10/15/30 minutes of reading while in traffic add up and help you finish books. I rarely read at home. Most of my reading is done while out and about.

This approach has really helped me be more efficient with time in general- if you find yourself having no time, think about how to utilise your small in-between times. 10 minutes can be little, but it can also be sufficient time to advance many of the small (or big) tasks.

Nairobi, Kenya

Last year I read (in the order I read them):

  • Coconut by Kopano Matlwa
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • Kitchen Table Series by Carrie Mae Weems
  • The Big Conservation Lie by Mordecai Ogada and Mbaria wa Mbaria
  • Dusk in the Morning by Kap Kirwok
  • Building a Movement to End The New Jim Crow by Daniel Hunter
  • Female Circumcision and the Politics of Knowledge by Obioma Nnaemeka
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

On my list this year:

  • Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • The Wretched of The Earth by Frantz Fanon
  • Matatu: A History of Popular Transportation in Nairobi by Kenda Mutongi

What else should I read? Let me know.

T

© Tessy Maritim

Good Writing

Happy New Year, friends! I’m feeling very happy and relaxed. I had a really good December. And I left 2017 feeling light but grounded. You want to relieve yourself of the burdens that make the journey ahead heavy while still staying rooted in the things that give you clarity and a sense of direction.

I’m starting my year off finishing Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things‘. Heh- I don’t know what to say. It’s an exquisite book. Wonderfully and delicately written. I’ve always struggled to give an answer to the question ‘What’s your favourite book?‘. Now I have a response.

This year, I want to become a better writer. I really enjoy writing. I also think it’s an essential skill- to be able to communicate and articulate your ideas clearly. I’ve been trying to flesh out what it means to be a good writer and obviously there’s no universal standard. I’m not going to be Arundhati Roy. Or Chimamanda. I’m Tessy– and that’s all I’ll ever be. But there’s a gap between where I am and where I’d like to be and 2018 is about closing that gap. Or at least, moving as close as possible to it. Practice makes perfect, ama?

I’ll also continue to read. For new ideas. For fresh vocabulary. To see the possibilities and to push them. I think readers make better writers.

 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17) | Knightsbridge, London

I’m asking myself, what does it mean for me if I’m a better writer? Writing is how I express myself. Becoming a better writer is about making room to understand myself more deeply. For people who love me to understand better. To know what I think. To know how I think. To be honest. To document and capture a journey that sometimes feels unbearable. To read this and remember what I’ve been able to overcome. To see the distance traveled. To bear witness.

I’m approaching 2018 with deep conviction and intention. It’s going to be beautiful!

T

© Tessy Maritim

Before We Close

We’re wrapping up 2017 and what a year it’s been! My year has been guided by a deep desire to explore and expand. I’ve been excited to learn about areas not typically within my purview- Kenya’s problematic conservation principles, emergency healthcare courtesy of the film 18 Hours and lots of new music (which I’ve been sharing via my playlists here). It’s been great to be back in Nairobi permanently- I feel settled.

2017 was also led by an intention to be really active about the things I wanted to have in my life. I shared this quote by Akwaeke Emezi a while back and it’s been central to this idea:

It might not be advice per se, but I will never forget my mother telling me once how she realised that really, you are truly alone in this world. It was exactly how I was feeling and I was so grateful that she understood that stark reality. It sounds depressing, but it has helped me be self-sufficient, understanding that I am fundamentally responsible for myself and my well-being, and that never changes, regardless of what friendships or partnerships I may enter into. Centering on myself in that way taught me how to develop my own power, which I use to shape my world into one I want to live in” – Akwaeke Emezi

Being fundamentally responsible for my life has not meant I don’t engage or depend on other people. It’s just an understanding that I’m the only person accountable for my life. For all the things I desire- emotionally, physically, mentally, professionally, I’m responsible for: identifying the needs, establishing how to meet these needs and taking the steps to have these needs met.

I want 2018 to be the year in which I anchor myself more deeply. Since moving back, it feels like I’ve been catching and keeping up with so much. And although it’s been great, it’s also been terribly overwhelming and has made me feel burnt out at many points in the past year. In 2018, I want to focus on fewer areas but with some more depth. I also want to build better relationships with people across the board. I’m excited about this.

Some 2017 highlights for me that I’m carrying forward to the new year:

  1. Always carry your charger. Even if you think your phone is charged enough. Just put it in your bag.
  2. Be consistent. Try not to abandon the seeds that you plant with so much zeal, just because you get bored. Give them time to bloom! Water them, feed them, give them sunlight.
  3. Make a list of all your favourite things to do in your city. Or all the things you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had a chance to do yet. It’ll make things easy when you have friends visiting.
  4. Listen to people- useful information doesn’t always come through the channels you think.
  5. Create the experiences you desire.
  6. Plan for things even when you don’t have the resources. And then start with what you have. Just start.

Wishing you all a dope, exciting, special, rich, lovely and wonderful 2018!

T

© Tessy Maritim

T x Free Mind Sessions

As mentioned in my previous post, I had the pleasure of being a panelist for the Biashara edition of Free Mind Sessions. Free Mind Sessions is “a community that comes together once a month to chat about emerging issues as Creatives and Thinkers alike. Free Mind Sessions stands for something unique and powerful – being able to generate solutions together, as we grow each other.

photo by Kreative Vault

They host the event every month at The Yard which is inside the compound that hosts The Alchemist and several food trucks. It’s fitting that they host it there because the vibe and audience sync wonderfully- it’s chilled, expressive and vibrant. The team do a fantastic job with the event set-up.

 

photo by Kreative Vault

I was on the panel alongside some great people:

  • Charlene Migwe, Managing Partner at Considr, an innovative research and Monitoring and Evaluation firm that works with non-profit organisations, donors, corporates and government departments providing specialized services
  • Dean Okonji, Co-Founder and Business Development Director of Magiq Lens Kenya, a collaborative photography agency
  • DJ Andre, a deejay
  • Kevo Abbra, a fashion stylist, prop master, set designer and location & talent scout
  • Muthuri Kinyamu, Chief Evangelist at Metta and Co-Founder at Turn-Up Travel
  • Patricia Kihoro, Singer, Actress, Radio Presenter, Improv Comedian and Sporadic Blogger

We shared so much but here are some of my key takeaways:

  1. Don’t be Afraid of Time– Sometimes we are scared of the time it takes us to achieve. Time teaches us so much- to be patient, to be relentless, to be strong. There are important things we find when we allow time to take its natural course- so don’t rush yourself- relax and do your best
  2. Trust your Dopeness– Believe in yourself, believe in your work
  3. You Learn by Doing– The only way to learn the career that’s right for you, the type of food you like best, the kind of partner that suits you, is by doing- and that can be frustrating. But, by doing, you learn so much about yourself and open yourself up to the best opportunities
  4. Sometimes You Need to Put People in their Place– When you’re young, and particularly as a woman, some people feel that they can push you around and disrespect your time and work. Although I understand that it’s important to have ‘thick skin’, you can’t take everyone’s shit. Sometimes, you have to assert yourself and call people out. This can work out great and set a boundary for a future working relationship or it can put you at a loss. It’s up to you to assess what’s most important to you in the particular context
  5. Ask for Help When You Need It– Recognise when you need help and open yourself up to it. You can learn from other people’s involvement in your work and sometimes the best work happens through collaborative effort

 

photo by Kreative Vault

It was a wonderful experience- much gratitude to the Free Mind Sessions team for inviting me.

T

© Tessy Maritim

This is a Thinkpiece on #MTVMAMA2016

I spent my evening attending the MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs) 2016 vicariously through (a bad) livestream, Snapchat, my Twitter timeline and Instagram stories. I have many thoughts. Here they are.

Highlights 

Stylish Red Carpet Moments 

#MTVMAMA2016 Red Carpet … Watch Live #Africa to the ? styled by @boogymaboi

A photo posted by TheHighest (@sarkodie1) on

I love a clean, classic look, exemplified here by Sarkodie in this simple button down shirt and black cape.

Celebrating African Music with MTV hosted by The City of Joburg. #StuurmanStyleDiary #MTVMama2016

A photo posted by Trevor (@trevor_stuurman) on

No-one does eccentric menswear like my Instagram Crush, Trevor Stuurman! Yum.

Red Carpet…. Dress: Marchesa Shoes: Tom Ford Styled by @iamhdiddy #MTVMAMA2016 #Host #MTV #RedCarpet

A photo posted by Bonang Matheba (@bonang_m) on

I love this velvet black Marchesa dress on Bonang- she’s always fly.

All the #mtvmama2016 red carpet action ??? ? @gabimbele

A photo posted by MAJESTY MAGAZINE SA (@majestymagsa) on

Sizwe Dhlomo giving us serious Mobutu vibes. Fire emoji(s).

 

Sauti Sol’s Win

Congratulations to our fave boy band on clinching the coveted Best Group award!

 

Yemi Alade’s Clapback to President Buhari 

A week ago we heard Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari saying his wife “belonged to his kitchen and his living room and his other room” after she criticised his political judgment in an interview with the BBC. There’s been widespread condemnation of his remarks from across the continent and Yemi Alade added her voice to the conversation during her speech for Best Female Artist.

And women don’t forget, we are not only good in the kitchen, good in the living room and good in the other room; we are also good at anything we want to be.”

Yaass Yemi. Yaaass!

Domez (a sheng word; short for the english word ‘domestics’; synonymous with problems/issues)

No Papa Wemba tribute?! 

The show also featured a beautiful tribute to Kwaito legend Mandoza, who passed way in mid-September following a long battle with cancer. As I watched the tribute, I couldn’t help but recall Papa Wemba’s death earlier this year and wonder- no Papa Wemba tribute?! They could surely have flown in DRC’s finest Fally Ipupa or organised for a group of artists from across the continent to sing a medley. At the very least, a slideshow or video montage! Papa Wemba is indisputably one of our continent’s most iconic artists. What a shame that a platform of this magnitude had no semblance of honour for his legacy.

Tour d’Afrique

In 2009, I accompanied my Mom and sisters to the MAMAs when it came to Nairobi. The show was in its’ second year and was seemingly making its way to a new location somewhere on the continent every year. But from 2014, the show has remained within South Africa’s borders. Clearly if Africa was a country, that country would be South Africa (or Nigeria, to be honest)There are probably valid reasons for this- South Africa’s entertainment scene (and economy, in general) has been one of the biggest on the continent. Both the breadth and depth of the industry (not just musicians, but producers, media personalities, designers, models) far exceeds most of the continent. It’s also probably cheaper for Viacom Networks (MTV’s holding company) to host in South Africa, because they won’t have to keep shuttling their staff up and down the continent. 

Still, a brand that prides itself in celebrating contemporary music from across Africa shouldn’t be firmly rooted in one region of the continent. MTV Base should lend it itself to broader calls for cross-continental collaboration by using the award show as a platform for celebrating travel, music, fashion and tech in different regions of the continent. And although this would be an expensive endeavour a) MTV’s probably got the money,  b) If they don’t, there are big brands who I’m sure would jump at the opportunity to use the appeal of entertainment as an entry point to other markets on the continent.

If we can host the World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali (2016) and Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi (2015), then we know that there are venues across the continent that have the capacity to host a couple hundred entertainers and a few thousand fans.

Local (Band$) Brands

Looking at the list of this year’s sponsors, I wish there were more homegrown African brands investing in platforms like the MAMAs. Money is not a problem (Hi Aliko Dangote, Strive Masiyiwa, Mohammed Dewji, Tony Elumelu & friends). I would love to see Elumelu’s Africapitalism embrace underserved but promising sectors such as entertainment. The private sector too often overlook the entertainment industry by failing to recognise and understand how pop culture shape Africans’ current and future imaginations.

  

Nonetheless, the brilliant Alex Okosi and his team at Viacom Networks do a phenomenal job putting this show together. Well done!

T

© Tessy Maritim

#faves: African YouTubers

I’m on YouTube in the morning as I have my breakfast, at noon when I’m enjoying my lunch and in the evening for the 20 minutes that I’m doing my bantu knots before bed.

YouTube is a great platform for storytelling and I’ve found it such a delight to see a growth in video content creators from across the continent. About a month and a half ago I posted this on my Facebook:

We need to be careful about the ‘African narrative’ being told exclusively through a Nigerian lens.”

This sentiment comes from an observation that many of the stories told about and/or on the continent in the media originate or have a clear association with Nigeria. This is not at all a bad thing as there are some incredible and inspiring stories coming from Nigeria and West Africa as a region. It becomes problematic, however, when it is the dominant or only narrative of the entire continent. This hegemony not only speaks to Nigeria’s economic positioning on the continent, but also to a history that through the transatlantic slave trade, allowed West African culture to be exported to the US and subsequently the world. My friend Benja explains it perfectly,

I think the whole African narrative is very West African driven, and to narrow it further, I’d say it’s very Ghanaian and Nigerian driven. I think it comes from a historical narrative of West Africa being on the map due to slavery and its consequences in modern time. Think about entertainment, clothing and food. Even in sports! How many East African artist or sports persons can you name on a global scale?… The export of African culture into mainstream culture (read Euro-centric) is generally delivered by West Africans, due to circumstances I’d say. The historical narrative has created a contact between West Africa and the ‘global North’ since at least the 15th century, and consequently when we look at the display of African culture in the world, it reconnects right back to West Africa.”

With that said, unsurprisingly, a significant portion of my YouTube #faves are in fact produced in Nigeria! But I’d like to think that my interest in their content is driven more by the resonance of their content rather than their ‘Nigerianness’ per se.

Here are my YouTube #faves, creating from the continent:

Yagazie Emezi – Yagazie’s channel is my most recent subscription and current favourite on the interwebs! She is so funny, so witty and incredibly articulate about a wide range of issues from dating in Lagos to women’s sexuality.

 

The Fifth Estate– I first came across Mutahi Ngunyi on YouTube when he used the ‘Tyranny of Numbers’ theory to predict that Jubilee would win the 2013 Kenyan election. This year, I found him on a new channel called ‘The Fifth Estate‘ alongside a brilliant group of scholars, where they offer stimulating scenario-based analyses on Kenyan politics.

 

NdaniTV– I was introduced to NdaniTV a couple of years ago by a friend. NdaniTV is home to a wide variety of themed content. There is content on finances, motorsports, celebrity interviews and a few web-series (Skinny Girl in Transit and Rumour Has It fans, hey!). Recently, they launched a very cool and informative travel show called ‘The New Africa‘, which documents travelling across Africa from a Nigerian perspective. As an aspiring traveller, I find the show very exciting to watch and maybe soon I’ll be inspired enough to actualize some of my travel plans!

 

Miss Mandi Throwdown– Miss Mandi started off on YouTube doing a show for another channel but this year she launched her own channel and it’s been nothing short of amazing. I don’t enjoy cooking but still find her videos entertaining and informative to watch. She’s found a way to diversify her content while remaining true to a culinary theme. Dope.

 

Nancie Mwai: Nancie was the pioneer of fashion blogging in Kenya and has the best resting-bitch-face I’ve ever seen. Her style is impeccable. I love that she’s developed great editing skills for YouTube. She’s not consistent but has some really cool videos when she is.

 

Muthoni Muchiri: Muthoni not only has a great range of lifestyle videos but she’s also got excellent editing skills! I love her authenticity and especially enjoy her foodie videos that showcase a little of Nairobi’s restaurant scene. Cool-ness.

 

Toke Makinwa: I had noticed Toke on YouTube for a while before finally getting around to watching her videos. Toke gives me cool Auntie vibes through and through! She feels like the kind of girlfriend you’d speak to until the wee hours of the morning. I enjoy her videos a lot.

 

Capital FM TV: Capital FM TV is one of the only digital media platforms in Kenya making a notable effort to highlight Nairobi’s buzzing arts and culture scene and I commend them for it!

 

Centonomy– I think a lot of local brands could learn from what Centonomy is doing using YouTube to create an understanding and appreciation for their brand.

 

With Facebook and Twitter embedding video on their platforms, I’m quite interested to understand how YouTube is staying competitive. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed compiling this list, please do recommend any YouTubers from across the continent for me to indulge in! Thank you, let me know your thoughts below.

Disclaimer- I started off this #faves post with the idea of sharing ‘African YouTubers’ but realised as I came to the end of the list that it’s more of a Kenyan and Nigerian list of YouTubers! Unintentional, of course. But I do think it affirms the issue I raised earlier in this article on dominant narratives. Do I not look widely enough on YouTube? Or are there truly a limited range of ‘African’ narratives on YouTube? This leads us to other offshoot questions such as what ‘African’ content really means, especially in a globalized world and what can be done to introduce a wider range of ‘African’ perspectives on major platforms such as YouTube that go beyond politics.

T

© Tessy Maritim

On Darkness, Demons and (self) Destruction

Marshawn McCarrel, a 23 year old American activist, died last week from self-inflicted gunshot wounds. This is the message he left on his Facebook,

My demons won today. I’m sorry.

I read those words and felt defeated. I feel defeated because it reminds me of the helplessness I feel watching people close to me suffer emotionally and mentally.

Unlike physical pain, which is typically overt, emotional and/or mental pain is very difficult to detect. You can spend time with someone and be completely unaware of the demons they wrestle.

But soon, they can no longer hide the darkness.

You notice that they look different. Sound different. The energy is different.

Is everything okay?

They promise their okay. They smile at you, laugh with you and things flow back to their usual.

But it doesn’t last long. The darkness is persistent.

You hope. You pray. You hug them, tight.

You reassure them endlessly, “I’m here for you, you know that“.

If your love could heal them, it would.

But they can’t receive the love. They can’t help it.

You get angry with them. Please, stop self-destructing.

But mental illness isn’t self-destruction. It’s like someone falling over, cutting their arm and then telling them to stop the bleeding. How?

There’s no switch on or off button for mental illness. It creeps into your life and you wonder how, why – I didn’t invite you..?

Here’s what I know- you can’t fix people. You can try- but it’s an exercise in futility. You don’t have magic healing power. Healing comes from within. Healing comes from God.

So don’t take it personally when your efforts are met with no response- it’s not about you.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying. Or that you won’t cry endlessly knowing that someone you love so much is in such pain.

You would give anything to see them whole again.

But again, just remember- it’s not about you.

IMG_5268

See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”  (Isaiah 60:2) | Glasgow, Scotland

For mental health information and support, check out:

 

T

© Tessy Maritim

#faves: Blogs & Vlogs

When I started blogging in 2012, I didn’t have much to look up to except for the few gossip blogs that would often pop up on my timeline.

Today, I relish the work of so many thoughtful, engaging, creative and inspiring content creators. It’s beautiful to watch journeys start out, metamorphoses and move-making right before my eyes!

This #faves post pays homage to some bloggers and vloggers whose work inspires me (not in any particular order).

writing to lift your spirits// Hayet Rida | thathayetrida.com

photo via www.thathayetrida.com

If you want raw, heartfelt writing, look no further than Hayet Rida’s blog. I love that she uses her blog as a space to uplift herself and others. She seems like the kind of friend who’d sit opposite me at a cafe chatting about life over copious amounts of tea, cake and laughter. She’s basically my spirit sister-friend. Her style and hair is also sooo swoon-worthy! Yum.

comedy with a conscience// Chesca Leigh | youtube.com/chescaleigh 

Chesca Leigh

photo via franchesca.net

Chesca Leigh is remarkable. I came across her work earlier this year when I had just started making my own vlogs. Although I am not a comedian myself, her content inspires many of the topics I speak about. I love that she makes profound social and political commentary in an accessible and easily understood format.

photography & lifestyle// Cynosure by Lyra Aoko | lyraoko.com

Lyra Aoko

photo via lyraoko.com

I love the clean aesthetic on Lyra Aoko’s blog. Her photography is beautiful and I can hear her authentic voice through her content. I also keenly follow her segment ‘Play Kenyan Music‘ which features new Kenyan music each month. Truly an all-rounded lifestyle blog!

africa to the world// Siyanda Writes | siyandawrites.com

Siyanda Mohutsiwa

photo via siyandawrites.com

I first came across Siyanda’s name and work on my Twitter timeline. The first line on her Twitter bio says “I don’t come here to be governable“- it was love at first follow! Her content is witty, smart and stimulating. She writes book reviews, speaks about black consciousness and has a dope vlog called ‘Africa This Week With Siyanda‘ featuring hot topics across the continent. Another spirit sister-friend!

p.s. Please support her as she raises money for her project ‘Africa this Week’. Details here.

I’m grateful to each one of these content creators and many others- for being a reminder of the power of stepping up to be seen and heard. Wishing you all much love and flourishing!

 

T

© Tessy Maritim

Self Care- Mental, Emotional, Physical, Spiritual

Just before I boarded my flight to England three weeks ago, I called my cousin-friend. It’s a ritual for me to call 7 people before I travel- my cousin-friend is one of them.

We talked for a bit and just before we cut the call, she said “See you soon babes! Take care of yourself.” I shuddered a bit and almost choking with emotion I said, “Yes, I will. See you soon.”

Her words made me reflect – do I really take care of myself? What does that even mean? Outgrowing this cocoon of mine has meant that I’ve acquired the independence and agency over my own life- how am I using it

Her words reminded me of my duty to myself. My little holiday retreat where I enjoy chasing my Dad every night (it’s a game we play called Kunet- all my tupchet will know what I mean), eating my Mom’s delightful food and catching matatu’s with my sisters was now over. I’m grown now. I have grown people things to attend to. 

I’m not equating studying abroad with growing up. They are two separate things. But in my case, and for many others, the two have a symbiotic relationship. They feed into each other. I’ve found that growing up has been amplified because I live abroad. And similarly my experience living abroad has been influenced by the fact that I am currently defining myself. Doing and undoing. Becoming and unbecoming.

This past couple of weeks I’ve really been conscious of what it means to take care of myself. So I wrote a list of things that mark my mental, physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

mental In the past couple of years, the one principle that has marked my growth mentally, is speaking my mind. It’s come to the point where I feel a heaviness when I am silent about something that I feel strongly about. Even for something as small as my hairdresser blow-drying my hair too much. I can no longer sacrifice my mental stability because of the fear of offence. Who cares what the hairdresser feels about how my hair looks? It’s my hair, after all, and I’m paying for a service.

If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it” – Zora Neale Hurston

emotional I have learnt to be responsible with my emotions- especially towards myself. We are often so generous to others but utterly reckless towards ourselves. I’ve been the girl who has blamed herself for break-ups, fall-outs and misunderstandings. There has to be fault- it’s either mine or yours. And if it was mine, I would completely self-destruct. I had no understanding of the fact that sometimes life just is. And that you can’t depend on people to be your world. I’ve learnt that you can give your all in situations and sometimes they still. won’t. workout. Because that’s life! I know better now. I am kindest to myself first, because I know that is the source of my kindness to everyone and anyone else. I have learnt to embrace my emotions- I am open about when a close friend has uset me. I tell those I love that I love them. I appreciate when I should. I give of myself freely but cautiously. My heart has learnt how to balance the two. But sometimes we get it wrong. In those situations, I allow approximately 6 hours of wallowing in a puddle of my own tears and then it’s over. We get up, take a shower and face the world. Emotionally responsible.

I find comfort in knowing that anything meant for me has not missed me. It knows me by name. And when the time comes, it will knock on my door and I will wonder where this missing part of me has been all my life.” – T

physical Doing my eyebrows or not. Working out or not. Dressing to the nines or not. Wearing make-up or not. The beauty (pun intended- wait, do people still say that?!) of growing up is that you choose. The decisions had always been made for me- either by parents, other people or media. Not anymore. I do what feels good for me. I understand what I need, when and how. And despite the popular narrative that my self-care is for the pleasure of others- I defy. I resist.

“My body. My dress. My choice.” – T 

spiritual I nurture my spirituality by questioning. Why, why and why?! I have a friend who articulates my thoughts and questions so accurately. I won’t mention his name here but if he reads this he will know. I talk to God. A lot. About things other than my questions. But I have a feeling I should probably address them directly with Him. I like this stage, but I am also wary of going too far off the edge. Hold me tight, Lord. 

“I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” – Psalm 91:2

IMG_3327

backdrop to my thoughts | Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh (taken using my trusty iPhone)

Taking care of yourself is a learning process. There will be ups. There will be downs. My only request is that you be intentional about it. Think about it. Mediate on it. Learn yourself to the level where no-one can tell you about you.

© Tessy Maritim

T x Gen 50 +

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with a group of 17-21 year olds on the topic of how to use social media as an effective tool in communicating a powerful message. I’m always eager to speak to young people so when the Gen 50 + team got in touch with me, I could not say no.

Here is an excerpt of what I spoke about:

My name is Tessy and I write. I write because I enjoy it. I write because I’m good at it. And I write because my voice is important.

I was asked to host this masterclass on how to use social media as an effective tool in communicating a powerful message. But you know what? I’m not going to take you through how and why you should use social media. You know all that already. Your entire generation was born into the internet age. Most of you probably knew how to use Facebook before you learnt to count.

Today I want you to leave this masterclass with an understanding of why your voice is important. Because that’s what scares most people about starting a blog or using any other online medium to communicate a message. You ask yourself- what will people think? And it can terrify you to the point of paralysis.

I started my blog in my first year of university abroad. My blog was a lifeline in many respects. I started it to help me cope with living away from my family. But most importantly I wanted to document my journey. Sharing is a powerful thing. It brings people together; it highlights commonalities and also celebrates differences.

Over the years I have realized that what makes a blog successful is a writer’s ability to sustain an audience through consistent content. But more importantly, to me at least, a successful blog is one that is authentically and unapologetically you. People connect to a blog when they can feel the personality of a person shine through.

As I’ve grown, so has the content on my blog. I look back at some of the posts I used to write and feel embarrassed. Thank God for the glow up!

For a long time I was a very safe writer. I wrote about what I thought people wanted to read. I filtered a lot of my thoughts, packaged them gently and posted them with caution. I was also a shallow writer. Glossing over issues; saying without really saying.

That changed when I joined student politics in my former university in 2014. I found myself in the thrust of a politically charged, socially conscious team of elected representatives. They opened my mind, exposed me to new concepts but most importantly- they taught me to speak up.

I’m very much an afterthought kinda girl. I need time to reflect on a discussion before I can share a viewpoint. Discussions on politics and social issues with my team were always very intense and I found it challenging to articulate my thoughts immediately. Which is why my blog worked so well for me- I could reflect on an issue, gather my thoughts and share them in my own time.

My students’ union colleagues were by and large much more knowledgeable than I was on politics and social issues. They were involved in campaigns, joined political parties and knew feminism like the back of their hand. Then there was me- 20 years old, never been involved in politics and having a shallow understanding of world issues.

It didn’t take long before their passion and fearlessness rubbed off on me- I started sharing my thoughts- or as my friends called them, mini-rants- on my snapchat story anytime I felt strongly about something. One day I downloaded one of my videos and shared it on my blog page- the response was overwhelming. I had 3000+ organic views in just a few days.

But I also want you to know something- as I’ve made videos over time, some of them have had a really poor response rate. Can you imagine being welcomed so nicely with 3000+ views and then that reducing dramatically to like 200 views?! I almost stopped at some point because I felt shortchanged I couldn’t be baring my soul like this and only getting only a few hundred views- No way!

These days I find myself watching my videos and reading my posts several times before I upload them. It’s scary to be honest and vulnerable. But whether I get 100 or 1000 views, it’s my voice and it’s important. It’s my responsibility to share my experiences. Especially when it comes to gender-issues.

Equality is what we’re trying to achieve. And I believe feminism is the vehicle that gets us there. Feminism has two important tenets: firstly, understanding we live in a patriarchal society and secondly, a belief that there must be a women-led liberation.

Saying that this liberation must be women-led is not to say that it’s exclusively a woman’s job to fight for equality. Men must be involved, but should acknowledge the power that women have to lift themselves up from the jaws of the dreaded patriarchy.

You don’t need to look far to see the patriarchy manifest:

Catcalling – how many of you have experienced catcalling in the recent past?

Forced early marriage– Many girls in African communities face this today. This is different from an arranged marriage.

Rape culture – the idea that men are entitled to women’s bodies and that no somehow sometimes means yes.

Feminism needs to be intersectional. This means we acknowledge that gender can intersect with other identities such as race, sexuality and class. The issues faced by an upper class woman from Lavington will not be the same as the issues faced by a young girl from Samburu. Let’s stop applying Western feminist ideals to ourselves.

Too many people out there are trying to define and control the narrative of what it means to be African, Kenyan, Woman- if you’re not African, you don’t know what it means to be African. If you’re not a woman, you don’t know what it means to be a woman. Stop trying to speak for us. For those who define, use the internet to tell your story.

Social media allows us to share the African/ Kenyan story. We can’t all be interviewed on NTV or CNN or Al Jazeera, but we can create our own platforms via the internet. No one needs to invite you! Invite yourself and have something powerful to say.

You’ll hear those people who say “OMG, everyone is a blogger these days!” Guess what? No-one owns the internet. If you have something to say and want to say it consistently, do the damn thing! Don’t let anyone shame you into thinking the Internet is some kind of exclusive club.

With that said, have something to say. Read, watch, listen and learn. There’s already a plethora of vacuous content on the internet- please, don’t add to it. We need to hear intelligent, well thought out perspectives from young people.

Your voice is important. Your voice is so important. Don’t be a closet believer. When people are sharing sexist memes on Facebook, call them out. If you have friends shaming women for wearing ‘skimpy’ clothes, speak up. It takes courage to put yourself out there- but do it.

When you are afraid remember these words, “It’s not the critic who counts. Not the person who points out where the strong person stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the person actually in the arena.” The credit belongs to the person actually in the arena.

It doesn’t end on social media. Social media activism is powerful but it does Not. End. There. Grassroots action is so important. Use social media to inspire, galvanise and mobilise people into doing things on the ground. Have a protest on the streets. Write a petition. Speak to the authorities, whoever they may be- but do things on the ground.

Things are looking up. Even if just one of you leaves here today and does something to challenge status quo, Gen 50 + has done it’s job. Thank you.


After I spoke, the questions came in thick and fast. If I thought, for any second, that they were going to just nod and accept what I shared, I was wrong. They challenged, critiqued and questioned.

What do you mean when you say men shouldn’t speak for women? The best example I can think of to explain this is the diaspora saviour complex- the idea that people who have studied abroad are more capable of contributing to their respective countries than local people. Those who have studied abroad have had the privilege of exposure and can often be blinded to think that this makes them the answer to all their nation’s challenges; without an understanding that the people on the ground can often be equally as capable as they are. Similarly, when men speak up for women, there’s a danger in that being interpreted or understood as them using their superior status in society to save women from the oppression they face. This doesn’t sound bad at first glance, but where there’s a power dynamic, there’s a danger that this could continue to be enforced when the more privileged take up the role of ‘saviour’. The people who are oppressed should take a lead role in liberating themselves. But that’s not to say men shouldn’t speak up for women at all- so Iet me correct myself- men, speak up for women, but just be conscious of what you say and how you say it.

What do you mean by gender equality? Someone from the audience made a really interesting point. He explained gender equality as this:

10 = 10

7 + 3 = 6 + 4

2 + 4 + 4 = 3 + 1 + 6

His point was that when we speak about gender equality, we do so without acknowledging that men and women are different. And that gender equality can be achieved, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll have a 10 = 10 situation.

Okay, I really like how he explained this. And I agree. But think we should note that some times, the differences in women are socially constructed to keep women in their place. For example, someone once wrote to me asking me how rape can be eradicated when women are (often) physically weaker than men.

Having strength is not inherently a bad thing. It’s how you’re taught to use that strength. And men are often taught that their masculinity is defined by how they exercise that physical strength- through media, sometimes family and even friends. This has contributed to the rape culture mentality- if she says no, I can still use my strength to get what I want.

So we should be careful when we say that men and women are different- yes, it is true, in many respects. But how these differences are spoken about is often a social contruct designed to uphold a power dynamic.

Gen 50 + was eye-opening. It’s great to be challenged because it helps you reflect on what you believe and why you believe it.

T

© Tessy Maritim