Category Archives: Queens…

Celebrating women who have accomplished much in their different fields

Flawed Beauty 

A few weeks back I celebrated a birthday that has brought way closer to 30 than I would like to admit!  Birthdays normally make me feel iffy…I get into a funk and just want to cower in the darkness and really be left alone! 

This birthday was no exception. I did my very best to keep a low profile and avoid the world but my neighbors managed to get me out of the house and we enjoyed a gorgeous day outside the city in a hidden cozy location. We laughed talked and wine was had. It was a decent day and I managed to avoid all the unsolicited attention. 

My amazing friend KB gifted me with a birthday shoot a day after my birthday. Tradiotionally I am a lets get a make up artist and let’s style this shoot type of person but I wanted to keep it simple. 

It started off at a slow pace. I felt frumpy and my mind was not in shooting mode. Somewhere along the line I loosened up and we captured some beautiful images…

Here are some  

    
 
   
    
 
Shortly after seeing the images I was asked to submit a 400word story about myself. This particular image inspired my very short story… 

  

“I grew up a skinny and lanky tom boy. Naturally I was teased for my stick figure, it was something I could not change and ultimately I became a victim of my appearance. To make up for what I believed I lacked in a beautiful figure I became the class clown, always ready to make fun of myself before others did and having a smart response to all the teasing I had grown accustomed to. I grew a thick skin and accepted how I looked, it would not discount any of my other achievements in life. Right after high school I relocated to the US and the unthinkable happened…I ballooned! I went from being skinny to slightly obese. I gained so much weight in less than six months I could hardly recognize myself. I went from accepting I was a naturally thin person, to dealing with this strange being that was constantly staring back at me in the mirror. It damaged my self-esteem, I didn’t want to take pictures or be the center of attention. After having every person I knew tell me how big I had become I decided to do something about it. I went on an extreme weight loss regiment. I changed my diet, worked out constantly and it happened, I lost all the weight. In celebration of my new body I decided to enter a pageant and I WON. Modelling became my thing. I became so obsessed with being lean, having a perfectly flat tummy with no flab and no cellulite. My idea of beauty was now defined by how I looked with layers of make- up on, hair extensions and hours and hours of Photoshop. Everything just had to be perfect. Soon that too became old. No woman is perfect. The flaws we have make us who we are. In the past couple of years I have come to embrace the changes in my body, my hips have widened…I noticed cellulite the other day when I was wearing shorts, my arms will not always look sculpted and currently I don’t have a six pack. I love the woman I see in the mirror, how my clothes fit and how beautiful I feel with no make-up on. My definition of beauty is what is on the inside…happy people are beautiful people…they smile more. Every scar on my body tells a story, stories I would never want erased as they make me who I am. I hope that one day when I have a daughter I can talk to her about her self-image before the magazines define to her what beauty is. I am a flawed human being and that is perfectly fine.

I hope this short post may encourage  young women who feel they have to conform to the world’s standards of beauty. 

Thank you KB for such a thoughtful gift! 

“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”

Augusten Burroughs

📷 : KB Mpofu 

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Before You Say “I do”…

2013 can officially be dubbed ‘The Year of the Bridesmaid”, I was a bridesmaid three times in one year and successfully managed to attend over ten weddings. Lets face it, I am in that age bracket where most of my school mates, friends and cousins are getting married and if not for my good looks and body size, must be the fact that I conveniently reside in Zimbabwe so I am the “default bridesmaid” to local and foreign brides! I did the math, I am a size 6, which makes shopping for a bridesmaid’s dress for me very easy, I spent my university days partying away so I am most likely to pick up the wedding choreography quite easy and I happen to be almost 6ft tall when in heels making me a perfect match up for that one random groomsmen who is over 6ft in height. Its either that or am just really close to women who get married! We will stick with the second assumption for arguments sake.

As an experienced bridesmaid I have had the privilege to experience the behind the scenes action as a build up to the big and anticipated day! I have seen sweet angelic women turn into blood sucking bridzilla’s, the petty cat fights among bridesmaids, the unspoken rivalry between the childhood best friend and the current best friend who have both been shafted from being maid of honor and replaced by a young sister or cousin. You name it, I have seen it. Besides the 3 weddings of 2013 I have had my fair share of bridesmaidship from being a flower girl all the way to my teenage days of feeling like a bridesmaid for hire! So when my best friend of over 12years asked me to be a bridesmaid at her wedding I was more than delighted to be a part of her special day.

She asked me to arrive in Harare a week in advance to help with some of the preparations and to attend the Traditional Ceremony where she would be welcomed by her in-laws! I was super excited as I don’t come from a hugely traditional family so this was a first time experience for me.

I was informed that this Traditional Welcome was no walk in the park and that I should be well rested before we set out there because there would be much work to do! In my head I thought yeah right? What are the chances, I have met some of her in-laws they seem pretty modern to me, this is just ceremonial nothing to it. So off we went to her in-laws armed with firewood, loads of face towels and soap, live chickens, our head scarfs (madhuku) and our sarongs (wrap arounds).

On arrival my friend the bride was veiled with a white cloth and accompanied by her aunt (tete), her uncle’s wife (mbuya) her sisters and the other bridesmaids. We were all wearing head scarfs and sarongs as a sign of respect to the inlaws. We sat outside in a circle surrounding the bride and would not enter the premises until we were given money. We were given money but at first we did not move as per Tete’s instruction. When they increased the value our circle moved however we still did not enter the premises.  The groom’s sisters and aunts were hurling insults at us and taunting us (all in good spirit though) and we were under strict instruction not to laugh, respond or make any comments.  When they upped the stakes on a third offer we entered, being December it was pouring with rain and we could not afford to sit outside in the rain waiting for more money, so we entered the house.

The bride remained veiled this entire time and was not going to remove her veil until more money was paid. The groom’s sisters started singing: “Dai kusina mwana wedu wayiroorwa neguno remugomo” (if our son had not married you, a baboon from the mountain would have married you) At this point we all wanted to burst out in laughter but we remained calm. The inlaws paid more money and finally the bride was unveiled. There was a lot of happiness and ululating as they welcomed their new bride. I thought in my mind that was not bad at all! This is it? So why was everyone fussing? At this point it was way past 11pm. We were given a room where we would sleep. Little did I know the real ceremony was yet to begin.

"with the dashing bride to be"
“with the dashing bride to be”

When we got to the room we had what i would like to call a Strategic Planning Meeting. Turns out our ceremonial entry was just the tip of the iceberg. According to the “HTIC” (Head Tete in Control) we had to wake up at 4am and start sweeping the compound (yes you read that right…4am, sweep) we were not to collect the rubbish we swept up but to leave it in mounds around the compound. Next call of duty, we were to boil water on the fire (that’s why we had our own firewood) and give each member of the family from the eldest to the youngest water to bath when they eventually woke up.

We split into two groups, the sweepers and the water boilers. Luckily there were some family members who woke up early and we got started with the water distribution. We had brought towels and soap and each family member was given bathing water in a bucket, with a fresh new face cloth and their choice at wash soap or bubble bath. (This was very very new to me)

Wedding Things

Hard at work
Hard at work

While the family members were taking turns bathing we were cleaning the house, sweeping, waxing the floors, scrubbing dirty areas and we started making breakfast ON THE FIRE! There was a sizeable number of people present and we had to work efficiently! When all were done bathing one of the inlaws went about the yard putting money on the mounds of rubbish so we could collect it and throw it away.

Wedding Things

After serving breakfast the real work begun. We were to cook and serve lunch for the entire clan. It just seemed as soon as one task ended a new one began. Step one slaughter the chickens!!!!

Ready for Slaughter
Ready for Slaughter

Step two cook the chicken and sadza on the fire.

Braai 101
Braai 101
Work girl...work!
Work girl…work!
Team Work always succeeds
Team Work always succeeds

When all was said and done, we cooked we cleaned, we swept, we slaved and stood for hours on end, waited on the inlaws hand and foot. We proved our own. We were virtuous women as described in Proverbs 31! The point of the ceremony as I later learned was to prove that the new bride was a diligent woman who would be able to care for her husband and her in-laws. The point of receiving money for all tasks performed is to show the bride and her family members that through it all she will always be provided for. She is not marrying into lack but into a family that will care and provide for her while she nurtures and cares for the home! It was a beautiful experience but every beautiful experience has to come to an end! And when the day was done I was completely exhausted.

"A picture is worth a thousand words"
“A picture is worth a thousand words”

I came, I saw, I conquered and I made a few bucks while at it!

They made it rain!
They made it rain!

At the end of it all, I had a new found respect for the traditions and cultural practices of Zimbabwe. Although we have evolved over the years and adapted to new cultures and norms, it made me proud to know we still practiced things that are distinctly Zimbabwean in nature. It was an all round fascinating experience and I learned so much I had not known in the past. Marriage is a wonderful gift and I wish my friend all the best in hers! The wedding ceremony was a beautiful day as well and its a day I will live to cherish! PS I caught the bouquet!!!!! watch this space 🙂

Wedding Things

 

*all images courtesy of Leah Dorn & Amy Williams

  He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the Lord.- Proverbs 18:22 (NKJV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Moments…

Its November 14, 3.37pm CAT and I am exactly 24hours away from turning 25! My mother always tells me I was born November 15th at about 3pm after a lovely church service. A blessing she calls me because I was born on a Sunday.

A few days back I was doing an audit of my life and I was feeling kinda blue till I decided I would look at the glass as being half full instead  of half empty! So these are the last moments before I leap over to the big 25…what have I done thus far?

2012 has proven to be a very interesting year with many highs and an equal number of lows. The year started with uncertainty with which path I should take and what to do! Having competed in the Miss Earth International Competition and placing as one of the top 8 contestants, I hadn’t really figured what the next step would be after Miss Earth!

“After being announced as a top 8 finalist at the Miss Earth Final competition”

A few months into the year I took on a building project! I had challenged myself to manage the construction of a friend’s house in 30days. The first few days were absolutely exhilarating, seeing the concrete being poured into the foundation, the walls gradually coming up, reaching window level, then finally seeing  all the walls fully up. By day 29 I had lost momentum as I realized we were nowhere near completing the house. I quickly discovered a house is more than brick and mortar. I had  to get the building inspected. Countless walks up and down the Tower Block at the City Council, I discovered managing workers is not a walk in the park. (I received a call early one morning informing me my builders had been arrested for fighting with a neighbour and I had to go bail them out of jail) I had to manage the funds to ensure materials were always available and that the workers were always paid. I soon discovered a peplum dress and 6inch heels were not the appropriate attire for a construction site. The project stretched longer than anticipated. Who knew I would be purchasing conduits and brick force??? Needless to say it was such joy to see the walls plastered, the tiles neatly laid and each corner of the house complete. Although patience is not my strongest character trait, I learned that I am one tough cookie to crack. There were days material was delivered and I had to carry it myself. I had to stand hours in the sun while over ten thousand bricks were being delivered to ensure none were stolen….so in short I came, I built, I CONQUERED!

Shortly after I switched roles from being beauty queen to pageant director!

Speaking about the importance of Recycling at a local school

Am sure you thinking how hard could it be to run a pageant????? Its not hard, it can prove next to impossible…however somehow I pulled it off. The search for models to participate in the Miss Earth Zimbabwe 2012 contest was probably the best part of the whole process. I met so many young women from all over Zimbabwe. All with the hope of becoming the next Miss Earth. Our country has so many beautiful and ambitious young women who have had to overcome many barriers to be where they are now. I met university students, high school students, graduates, environmental advocates. I was inspired by the applications I read. It was the motivation I needed to keep at it.

Many people asked me why I was burdening myself with the task of running a pageant??? After all there is so many pageants in Zimbabwe, people are tired of those and no one will support it. True to popular opinion the support for our pageant was not great. This however was not going to deter me and October 6th we held a successful pageant in Bulawayo and selected a wonderful young woman to represent Zimbabwe at the International Miss Earth Pageant.

The Contest of Miss Earth Zimbabwe during a swimsuit shoot in Matopos

It was such an amazing moment as I crowned the winner. I looked back to all the hurdles I had to overcome. All the difficulties I had encountered along the way seemed to fade away as I looked on the glowing faces of the young women who had just been crowned winners. Our queen has travelled to the Philippines and on the 24th of November will compete in the final competition and I wish her all the best!

I had the exciting opportunity to attend the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa. I enjoyed the Dax Martin Burg Collection show.I met the wonderful Dr Precious Motsepe and her husband Patrice Motsepe… I hung out with supersports’ Rob Marawa. Fun evening indeed.

After the show with Designer Dax Martin and Miss South Africa Melinda Bam

Many have asked when you are not tweeting and updating your Facebook status about pageants what do you do??? I always smile and say “Finance”. Finance is such a broad term and before I am mistaken for a loan shark I would like to clarify that I have a regular, uneventful 9-5 that keeps me occupied. Lately I have found that since the pressure of Miss Earth has let down my work has picked up and often I find myself sitting at my desk till late in the evening! But hey baby steps…I have always been told to live like a Queen one must work like a slave.

At age 18 when I left home to go study in Chicago I figured I would end up an analyst on Wall St and by age 25 I would be applying to study towards an MBA at an Ivy League school. However I am in my hometown of Bulawayo. Modelling, pageantry had never been in my plans (to be honest I used to mock beauty pageants) In retrospect I am a better woman for the decisions I have taken. The last couple of years have given me a platform to influence my community and especially young women. I can never place a figure on the number of people whose lives have changed because of the actions I choose to make on a daily basis but even if its one person I can proudly say in my 24years and 364days of living I have made a difference in someone else’s life.

This has been the best quarter century and am looking forward to an even better future. To all the people who contribute daily to my success, to my happiness and who love me unconditionally THANK YOU! I picked up a book a while ago in it was inscribed,

“To whoever reads this book I hope you are blessed. This book was a gift from my daughter Thandekile Emmah Muringa who was born November 15 1987. The day she was born, the doctor who delivered her said to me: I woke up today and put on my special white suit and I knew I would deliver a special baby. We named her Thandekile because she is loved and just as Dr Ferguson said, she has been nothing but special”

The biggest thank you to my mother! You are my pillar of strength and I love you very much! I do everything with confidence because I know you always have my back!

Wow 25 here I come…..I hope in a few months like Drake I can say,

“I’m 25 sitting on 25 MIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Investing Locally, Reaping Globally

The much awaited Zimbabwe International Trade Fair happened this past week and neighbouring Zambian President Michael Sata graced the occasion to officially open the event. The trade fair is more than just a trade exhibition but a time when the city of Bulawayo comes alive. If you live east of the City in any direction past Matopos Rd and Hillside Rd, you get to experience the much loathed traffic jams.

The city is for 5/6 days the host of international and local exhibitors, our hospitality industry gets a boost and the city generates much needed income. For the ordinary man, Trade fair is a time to walk around well decorated halls, collect flyers and any other give away, and eat candy floss and toffee apples and to see the President of Zimbabwe during the opening days.

The last I attended trade fair was when I was 12years old. It was routine every year; dress in your best clothes attend Trade Fair and see who could leave with the most flyers, pamphlets and booklets you were given by the various exhibitors. These pamphlets would prove very handy when the second term of school began as you could use the pictures to decorate your exercise books. Trade Fair as a child was about candy floss, toffee apples, eating more ice cream that your little body could handle. I was one of the unfortunate children who was never allowed to get their face painted (my mother is paranoid about things that can potentially harm your skin) The fascination was the crowds, getting lost and then having to turn yourself in at the information centre then having your name announced over the LOUDSPEAKER: “ May the parent of Thandi Muringa please report to the information desk, the parents of Thandi Muringa in a pink tracksuit and ninja turtle tekkies…” Who could forget the Coca Cola fountain and the fascination with the brown liquid that looked just like Coca Cola but you were strictly told not drink as it was recycled water. In a nutshell children lived for that April holiday. And who could forget Luna Park. If you were lucky you got to go at night when all the lights were on and have your fair share of all the rides.

Fast forward many years later and here I am as a young adult attending Trade Fair. It is amazing how my perspective and purpose for being at the Trade Fair has changed. During the business days, I was scouting for various businesses trading in my field of interest and was glad to make good contacts. Also I came across businesses I was not aware existed.

Many who attended the Fair from a business point of view expressed how much the exhibition had improved this year in comparison to past years when the economy was going through difficult times. They seemed impressed by the increased number of exhibitors and the quality of exhibitions.

Miss Earth Thandi Muringa by the African Sun Stand

What caught my eye the most was the effort put in by exhibitors to make their stands attractive and to offer relevant and useful information to potential customers. There were high levels of energy and an enthusiasm to exhibit the various products on offer.

I also attended the Fair in my capacity as Miss Earth Zimbabwe to highlight some of the green initiatives on display. I spent some time at the Forestry Commission Stand. Forestry Commission has been instrumental in my reign as Miss Earth helping me tackle issues of deforestation through tree planting as well as assisting with workshops to highlight the importance of trees.

With the staff of EMA

I was at the Environmental Management Agency’s stand as well. EMA is instrumental in the area of Environmental Awareness, Management and Advocacy. They enforce all laws pertaining to the environment and are doing an excellent job of preserving Zimbabwe’s environment.

I managed to walk around and handout the much wanted pamphlets and take pictures with attendees of the Fair.

I really felt a great sense of Patriotism knowing I could be part of something that promotes Zimbabwe and shines the light on our nation in a positive way.

The rebuilding process will take some time, however we are the people to take over and begin rebuilding our nation. The theme of the fair was so fitting to the occasion, “Investing Locally, Reaping Globally”. As a resource rich nation, it is in our best interest to invest locally and I am confident the results will be far reaching.

Overall the Trade Fair was a good event and an exciting time for the Bulawayo people. My favourite exhibition was the Delta Beverages stand. I hope next year’s fair will be bigger and better.

 

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
Benjamin Franklin”

 

Driving the Economy…

There is nothing more refreshing, than setting out on a road trip through the open grasslands of Zimbabwe. A while ago we took to the road with upcoming rapper TehnDiamond  and members of the Defzee Team

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First things first we had to stop for gas (fuel).  We gave no thought to the fuel station selected and ended up at BP station. While there we discovered something we were not aware of but did become a significant part of our journey.

For the first time we were all introduced to the Blend Fuel with 10% ETHANOL.  This blend fuel is locally produced by Green Fuel. Green Fuel uses the latest plant and distillation technologies to produce anhydrous ethanol.  Ethanol blends of 10% and up to 25% are safe for use in all petrol vehicles.

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What really caught my attention was that this ethanol is 100% Zimbabwean!!!! Green Fuel ethanol is produced locally from sugar cane grown in Zimbabwe. Already the project has created over 4500 jobs in agriculture and is offering training and skills development in new technologies adopted from Brazil.

This safe and clean transportation fuel will reduce pump prices and bring significant benefits to our economy, individuals and businesses included. The production of ethanol locally could see the potential reduction of fuel importation and transportation costs.

Image The greatest thing about this new generation biofuel is that it uses ethanol which is known to be a clean burning fuel that reduces air pollution. Additionally ethanol decreases greenhouse gas emissions by over 60% and as high as 90% in some cases. The blended fuel also offers a higher octane rating and improved performance for petrol vehicles.

We drove from Harare all the way to Bulawayo without having to refuel along the way. Once we arrived in Bulawayo we were concerned about switching back to regular fuel however it is easy and safe to switch between blend and 100% petrol.

The International Energy Agency stated that, “Bio-fuels, whether used individually or blended with other fuels, improve air quality”.  So next time you fuel up with Green Fuel feel good as you are playing your part toward a greener Zimbabwe! A green revolution in Zimbabwe will drive economic growth and reduce our Carbon Footprint!

Journey to Miss Earth 2011…

Its official, bring out the party hats and whistles, I will be representing  Zimbabwe in this year’s Miss Earth Pageant. The contest which is scheduled to be held in December in Bangkok, Thailand is the third largest pageant behind Miss World and the Miss Universe Pageants.

I am extremely excited to be representing my beautiful nation in a pageant that promotes the greening of our environment and the preservation of our Mother Earth. My goal is to see the reforestation of Zimbabwe through tree planting in both urban and rural areas.

Please follow me on twitter @Ndi_Baybay for more updates leading up to the final day of the contest as well as information on how to get involved with my environmental projects around Zimbabwe.

"Thandi Muringa"

“A tree today, a forest tomorrow”

Bringing home the Crown…

I have heard it said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a few steps.” My favorite verse in the past six months has become Habakkuk 2:2, “And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” The inspiration of this blog was to keep me motivated and focused on my goal of entering and winning a pageant! And it goes without saying that I DID IT! I WON! May 29th I entered the Miss Zimbabwe USA Pageant and all the mental and physical preparation I had put in, in the past 6months paid off. I was crowned Miss Zim USA 2010 and it was all fun and laughter.

Opening Presentation "World Cup Promotion"
Fashion Show- Clothes provided by "Makho's Closet"
Interview/ Casual Wear
Evening Wear
Miss Zimbabwe USA 2010

I had the pleasure of attending the ZimExpo Picnic the next day. It was such a humbling experience people of all ages coming up to me and congratulating me, wanting to take pictures with me. I had a number of young girls ask to wear my crown and some went as far as saying they wanted to be like me when they grow up!

ZimExpo Picnic

Now the question that is on everyone’s mind is “WHAT NEXT?” I had an opportunity to sit down and draft my short-term and long-term goals for my reign as Miss Zimbabwe USA. After writing two pages worth I had a reality check and realized although zealous of me, I probably would not be able to do it all! A brief run down of some of the commitments I will have this year.

My first and official appearance will be at the airing of the opening Soccer World Cup game between South Africa and Mexico at Daley Plaza on 11 June 2010 at 1:30pm CST. This event will also feature a fan tent that will display exclusive South African goods and products. There are many volunteer opportunities at this event and I would encourage all soccer fans to attend!

My second endeavor will be to host a fundraiser for Vanavevhu, Children of the Soil within the upcoming weeks. Vanavevhu is the brainchild of Elizabeth Mhangami a native of Zimbabwe. Mhangami was recently featured in the New York Times Details of the fundraiser will be up soon and all who can attend should make an effort to attend.

Amongst other charities I will be working with is Munhu and Mwanandimai Foundation. I will constantly updated my blog on what am doing and where I will be. If I am in a city near you, come out and support. I have several speaking engagements and I hope the next coming months will highlight all the work that needs to be done for the underprivileged community of Zimbabwe.

Thank you to all my friends and the people who follow my blog who kept me encouraged during this process. Now the real work has begun and I will be looking to the same support network to carry me to the next stage. For current updates on my work become a fan of me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter

My theory stands! Contestants in Yellow Dresses always win…and my evidence? Former Miss America Ericka Dunlap won in a yellow gown and so did current Miss America Caressa Cameron! And now Miss Zimbabwe USA Thandekile Muringa also won in a yellow gown!!!! To all pageant aspirees stick to the yellow dresses! LOL

I leave you with the words I read on the Bulawayo South Rotary Club Site,

Ngenxa yothando labantwana, JUST DO IT!” (For the love of the children, Just do it)

We all have different callings in life and at this point mine is to stand as a voice for the children of Zimbabwe…I hope you will all rally along with me and always remember-its for the love of the children!

Necessary Evil or Pure Selfish Motives?

Some are blessed with friends who keep them informed on the latest fashion trends by forwarding Fashion-Alert emails. My celeb obsessed friends feed each other’s hunger for the latest gossip by tweeting each other Bossip and Huffington Post articles. I on the other hand have been blessed with a friend who not only keeps me grounded but ensures that every time I assert that I am African it is backed with evidence. (kudos to you friend you know who you are)

Last February, i.e Feb 2009, this “friend” sent a moving email that not only inspired me but also humbled me in the process.   This was my first encounter with the musical group Liyana. Being a native of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe I had as a child had the opportunity to volunteer alongside my mum and her friends at King George VI School or as it is known KG6 School. However I had not heard of Liyana. Liyana is a musical band made up of 8 talented musicians with Prudence Mabhena as the lead musician. Liyana which means “it rains” is a significant name for this group as all its members face a physical disability. As most know rain is a gift from God; at least in a place like Matabeleland which has experienced severe droughts in the past.

Since February of 2009 I have followed the group in the news, papers, their tour across the US. It was with great pride and joy when I read that a short documentary about the group had been nominated for an Oscar. I sat through the entire Oscar night show waiting for that special moment. Then it came the nominees for the Best Short Documentary and “Music by Prudence” won the Oscar. I was giddy! I was more that excited…Finally something good highlighting Zimbabwe. Then it happened- the Kanye-moment. The Director of the documentary Roger Ross Williams went up to accept the award and from nowhere appeared the brash Elinor Burkett who interjected his acceptance speech and rambled on until the two had to exit the stage.

Williams and Prudence Mabhena on the Red carpet (Photo by Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images North America)

Elinor Burkett who is said to have “discovered” the group and introduced Williams to the idea of making a documentary on the group. Initially Williams launched the documentary as “iThemba” (Hope) and this documentary was going to focus on the entire group, however he later changed the direction of the documentary to tell the story through Prudence and titled it Music by Prudence. This created the conflict between Burkett and Williams. Burkett wanted the story to  be about the entire group. I have not studied film nor do I claim to know about the art of telling a story through a lense but I somehow supported Burkett’s view. It was wrong to highlight one musician in the group because the success of the entire project was through the efforts of all the members. Although this seemed slightly unfair I am under the view that Burkett failed to see the final picture. Her actions on Oscar Night proved that her anger was not  motivated by the exclusion of the other 7 members but rather that she did not have her way.She seemed riled up that she discovered the group therefore she should have had the final decision on the direction of the documentary.

Liyana Performs in Newark, NJ

Burkett who is an author and divides her time between New York and Zimbabwe maintains a website which was last updated November 2009. Additionally in her most recent posts  she writes about summer vacations and fails to mention Zimbabwe; which if you live there would know boasts of great tourist destinations. The ramblings of Burkett, her former book title “So Many Enemies, So Little Time”, her obvious neglect for Zimbabwe and its monuments leads one to really question the sincerity of this woman and her intentions with the group Liyana.

Williams may have taken a risky angle with the documentary but he helped make the dreams of a young woman once rejected and despised by her family into more than a reality she dreamed of. Today Liyana has become more than just another group from Zimbabwe but an award-winning group. At the end of the day whether the documentary was titled Music by Prudence or iThemba, it has made the rest of the world aware of this phenomenal group of young people.

The change in direction of the documentary was a necessary evil. Though unplanned the Kanye-moment by Burkett did more for drawing focus to the documentary than any press release could have done. Kanye West upstaged Taylor Swift and she went on to win 4Grammy awards. Burkett ruins Williams award acceptance speech hopefully this will equal huge publicity for Liyana in the near future.

Thank you Roger Ross Williams for telling Prudence’s Story…thank you oh so MUCH Elinor Burkett the world needs more abrasive redhead’s like yourself!

Appreciation is a wonderful thing; it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”-

Voltaire

Women of many words

In honor of International Women’s Day I would like to highlight two African female authors who have inspired me and whose writing I find most captivating. First I would like to wish all the women across the world, of all ages, races and religion a Happy Women’s Day. Feminists would argue women should be celebrated everyday and not just  on Women’s Day and I would argue my birthday should be celebrated everyday but we all can’t have our way all the time, can we? On to our Heroines:

Tsitsi Dangarembga :

Author of "Nervous Conditions"
Author of "Nervous Conditions"

Born in 1959 in the village of Mutoko, Zimbabwe Dangarembga is by far in my books a phenomenal author. Her best work has been “Nervous Conditions” which she wrote at about the age of 25. Dangarembga spent some of her early childhood in Britain but later returned to Zimbabwe, where she did her Primary school right through her A-Levels. She later returned to study Medicine at Cambridge University. After getting homesick she returned to Zimbabwe where she worked as a copywriter at a Marketing Agency and studied Psychology. It was during this time that she began writing. Her other works prior to “Nervous Conditions” include; “The Lost of the Soil”, “The Letter”, “She No Longer Weeps” and also participated in the production of Katshaa!” and Mavambo“.

“Nervous Conditions” gets it title from Jean-Paul Satre’s introduction to Franz Fenon’s “The Wretched of the Earth”, which states, “The Colonial condition is a nervous condition.” In this book Dangarembga tells the story of a young girl Tambu who after the death of her brother has to alter her life by attending a missionary school to be able to support her family and also moves in with her uncle whose family is westernized. In this story education and its relation to gender are big components.The story brings an interesting twist through Tambu’s cousin Nyasha an anglicized anorexic girl. The story is really a great read and gives insight  to the mind of a writer living in Post Colonial Zimbabwe.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

Author of "Purple Hibiscus"

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria. She grew up in Nsukka in the same home formerly occupied by Chinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart). After completing high school she too like Dangarembga went to the University of Nigeria to study Medicine and Pharmacy.[ Is it safe to say medical schools are robbing us of incredible authors?] Adichie then moved to the East Coast in the US where she studied communications. It was during her senior year at the age 24 when she started working on her first book “Purple Hibiscus”. Adichie just like Dangarembga launched her writing career at an early age proving to all young budding authors it’s never too early to start writing.  Her other book “Half of a Yellow Sun”– chronicles the struggle of the Igbo people just before the Biafra War. This book in particular gave me an insight to a part of Nigerian history I was not aware of. I could barely put down the book and it has created a desire to further study more of West African history. She is also the author of a collection of short stories, “The Thing around Your Neck”.

I look forward to more works by Adichie.

I chose these two women to honor on women’s day because their writing parallels both the African and Western experience.Though not primarily focused on the West you can see the influences of Western culture in the characters through education.On a personal level reading the books I could always find a character I related to in the book. I hope the strides they have taken in their writing will spearhead a movement of women writers whose writing is not dictated by the Western culture but really tells the story through the authors eyes.

“Can you cook books and feed them to your husband? Stay at home with your mother. Learn to cook and clean. Grow vegetables.”
Tsitsi Dangarembga (Nervous Conditions)

Unsung Heroines…and heroes

Today I was privy to watch the last show of DePaul Theatre School’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” production. The famous Shakespeare play was adapted and directed by Catherine Weidner. Being a lover of the arts and a closet actress myself, I purely enjoyed the adaptation. In this production targeted to an audience of age 8 and above the play is set in Athens but the time period is 1952. The language was kept as is but the play is not performed in its full length. I would imagine it would be difficult to pay attention to and fully grasp Early Modern English of the Elizabethan era for an audience so young. The incorporation of the 5Os fashion was purely genius and reminded me so much of American Bandstand.

"Lysander comforts the weeping Hermia", Kelsey Jorissen (Hermia) &  Derrick Cooper (Lysander)
"Lysander comforts the weeping Hermia", Kelsey Jorissen (Hermia) & Derrick Cooper (Lysander)

The play though not in full detail managed to relay the message and much credit should be given to the entire cast for a stellar performance on the stage.I would like to highlight a dear friend, a rising star whose interests are akin to mine; Loresa Grigsby. She did an amazing job playing Hippolyta & Titania .

"Titania helplessly in love with Bottom"- Loresa Grigsby (Titania) & Dave Daniels (Bottom)
"Titania helplessly in love with Bottom"- Loresa Grigsby (Titania) & Dave Daniels (Bottom)

My first year of college I took a class at the Theater School, though I do not claim to be a theatrical genius, I picked up a few terms here and there. Drama turg, stage manager, theatrical fog etc…Sitting in the Merle Reskin Theater took me back to days of that class and it got me thinking; What does a novice of the theater know about a drama turg? How often do you sit and enjoy a play and all the cool lighting and effects and not stop to think for a second who created all that? There is all these different scenes that make the play enjoyable and really give you a sense of the setting, time period etc. Can you honestly say after seeing a profound production you went home and googled the light designer because you were curios to see more of their work? My point is, there is so many behind the scenes players without whom the play would not be a success but often the general public, myself included are less inclined to efforts of these “backstage individuals.”

This led me to another train of thought: The magnificent skylines, the augmented asphalt highways, the proverbial drinking hole (office water cooler) have and I quote Thabo Mbeki, “all been panels of the set on the natural stage on which we act out the foolish deeds of the theatre of our day.” Picture this if you will, early morning you wake up at that ghastly hour and venture out on your journey to work. As soon as you step out of your building/condo/house you are greeted by a beautiful CLEAN sidewalk, which you don’t notice because you are already mad about being up. Whether you drive to work, take a bus or a cab you are forced to drive on pothole free roads that are clearly marked! If you are unlucky or lucky whichever way you view it, you work in a highrise building where you have the privilege of taking an elevator to your corner office on the 50th floor…OK WHERE am I going with all this? Try replaying the previous scene but this time replace the clean sidewalk with a cigarette stub, banana peel, plastic paper & scrap covered sidewalk. That highway you could be cruising on at a 100mph with a pothole infested road that almost resembles a piece of Swiss cheese. Your crowded elevator with NO elevator!

I am not really concerned about the comforts that we so often take for granted but rather the individuals who help maintain that level of comfort. You hardly smile at the street sweeper- if anything you are walking past them wondering why they chose that profession. A  road construction sign makes you boil with anger and if not for the heavy $10,000 fine or 5year jail sentence you would so love to run over one of those construction workers for being the cause of your delay. Dare I talk about the maintenance guy  whose skill is questioned by everyone even the girl in the copy room. However these people are instrumental in making our everyday lives more bearable. They are our drama turgs we forget to pay tribute to, or the costume designer you have never googled.

Today I pay tribute to these and other overlooked individuals, who may not have invented the toaster but whose existence is as important to our being as is the next person. Hats off to amazing people who help make our everyday lives just that much easier…

In the spirit of Shakespeare and the theater I leave with these famous words from “All the world’s a stage”

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players:

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages.”William Shakespeare (“As you like it” Act 2, Scene 7)