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 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.
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
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!
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:
Always carry your charger. Even if you think your phone is charged enough. Just put it in your bag.
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.
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.
Listen to people- useful information doesn’t always come through the channels you think.
Create the experiences you desire.
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!
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.”
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.
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:
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
Trust your Dopeness– Believe in yourself, believe in your work
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
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
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.
mentalIn 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
emotionalI 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
physicalDoing 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
spiritualI 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
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.