Harare: An Imported Social Scene

Like South Africans go wild when international brands announce their launch into South Africa, Zimbabweans have enjoyed the introduction of some South African brands into their world. Think of the madness that ensued when Starbucks, Krispy Kreme and the likes touched down in South Africa.

Food Lover’s Market, Sam Levy’s Village
Photo cred: Sam Levy’s

I recently took a trip to Sam Levy’s Village in Borrowdale, Harare (commonly known as ‘the Village’, Harare’s equivalent of Sandton City) to watch a movie at South African major cinema brand, Ster-Kinekor. It was fascinating to see the brands that line the entertainment cul-de-sac of the Village. Restaurants and leisure brands there include Mugg & Bean, Newscafe, Smooch, Ocean Basket and Simply Asia in addition to Ster-Kinekor. All of these are South African brands. I felt like I had escaped the reality of Zimbabwe and transported myself back to Sandton City as the cul-de-sac buzzed with tweens, teens, young adults and families of different races.

Ocean Basket, Sam Levy’s Village  Photo cred: Sam Levy’s

In having a conversation with my parents about this phenomenon of South African brands, my Dad highlighted that the success of brands like Pick n’ Pay and Food Lovers’ Market has boosted the confidence of external investors. We have even seen KFC relaunch itself in the market after previous arrivals and unceremonious departures. This is great for our economy which has been on its knees for years and is in desperate need of foreight investment.

As an avid brand enthusiast, however, I cannot help but look and ponder at what this means for Zimbabwe aside from the obvious economic benefits. This is by no means a conclusive review of the Harare social scene. There are plenty of other local brands that serve the Zimbabwean population. You see, however, the unfortunate thing is the Village is targeted at a small minority of Zimbabweans who can afford to have a thriving social life unlike much of the population. This means the fortunate few are spending on brands that are essentially taking money out of a country that is in a huge cash crisis. Pity.

Another thing is, places like the Village foster a false sense of wellbeing when reality is, there are huge levels of unemployment and poverty in Zimbabwe. This increases the disparity between the haves and have nots. Typical of a struggling economy, it is a sad thing to witness the elite living in excess whilst the rest scramble to survive.

Finally, it saddens me that Zimbabwean citizens are so thrilled by these brands who have come into the country charging premium prices for their services which are, otherwise, standard-tier brands. Try stunt on someone in South Africa about dining at ‘Ocean Basket’ or having drinks at ‘Newscafe’ and see their reaction. It’s really nothing to write home about.

Newscafe, Sam Levy’s Village
Photo cred: Sam Levy’s

At the end of the day, I understand that there are many issues at play and this is a sign of progress for Zimbabwe. There are also some local brands that have done and continue to do well such as Pariah State and Chicken Inn (they opened a chain of drive-thru venues). My concern is that we become so enthralled with importing brands instead of creating, supporting and helping local brands flourish. We have a way to go before local brands can establish themselves and thrive as well as their international counterparts, but I don’t think it’s too soon to be careful.

I really want to see local and African brands grow from the ground up and thrive. One day, I hope we’ll be able to and be excited about exporting our own brands to countries that we have been consuming from for decades.

Black Woman, Still You Rise

Nina Simone
Photo Cred: Affinity Magazine

I recently watched two documentaries entitled ‘What Happened Miss Simone’ and ‘Still I Rise’ about the lives of Nina Simone & Maya Angelou respectively. Black women celebrated in history for journeys that were paid for in pain.

Theirs were influential lives led to inspire us all but at what cost? From Nina’s abusive marriage and lifelong struggle with depression to Maya’s rejection as a child, promiscuity and unfulfilled love life.

In watching these documentaries I found myself close to tears. Thinking of the struggle of not only them but so many black women. As black women, we can relate to such struggle. The struggle of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, sisters and friends. The amount we continuously endure, even though endurance shouldn’t be a prerequisite of our existence. My heart breaks to think of all we have been through and the great expectation of what we are to bear.

But still – undeniably still – as Maya Angelou said, we rise. From abuse, from hurt, from loss, from straying children, from second class existence, from marginalisation, from pain, from disappointment. From the ashes, from rock bottom – still we rise.

I leave you with the words of the late, great Dr. Angelou in the hopes that it will inspire you to keep rising.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou
Photo Cred: Emily’s Poetry Blog

Jungle Book: 2016’s Best Blockbuster

Photo credit: Coming Soon Net

Photo credit: Coming Soon Net

In my opinion at least.

The Jungle Book holds a special place in my heart. The 1967 cartoon adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s book is my mother’s favourite Disney flick. Her favourite character? Baloo. Of course.

When I heard about the 2016 remake, I wasn’t too sure. This was a Disney classic and remakes can butcher a fan favourite. The trailer was great and I was convinced to check it out even though trailers, like looks, can be very deceiving (think ‘Avengers’).

I bought my ticket and 3D glasses. 3D movies can sometimes be incredibly disappointing so I wasn’t really holding my breath so I let it go. Boy am I glad that I was pleasantly surprised. The movie blew me away and here’s why.

Jungle Book FTW

  • Though an adaptation of the classic, there were new elements that were also incorporated to make it beautiful
  • The storyline was solid and captivating
  • They kept the classic songs like the upbeat ‘The Bare Necessities’ which always gets me jiggling
  • Idris Elba killed it as the voice of Sheer Khan *shivers*
  • I wouldn’t have recognised it was Lupita’s voice as Raksha (Mama of the cubs) had it not been for the credits. She slayed her vocal performance.
  • For his first full-feature film, Neel Sethi kilt it!
  • Rudyard Kipling also wrote one of my favourite poems ‘If’ which I have written about before
  • The visuals are insane. Shot predominantly in front of a blue screen virtual environment, the team behind the flick really brought it to life in such a captivating way. Kudos to them
  • Goose bumps. I had proper goose bumps as I watched it.

Why Issa Rae is Bae

insecure

Regular AF!

She created an entire show on the everyday experience of an average black woman in ‘The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl’!! Need I say more?

Most of the time, black women are portrayed as mad, angry, gold-digging, uneducated, pillars whose role is solely to hold the family together at all costs even ones own sanity, strong, hardworking and survivors. That’s not to discredit these elements that do feature in some black woman. But at last someone portrays us as women who go through everyday life questioning things and navigating life’s awkward moments.

Issa is a Senegalese-American who lived in Dakar, Senegal for a few years with her family. She understands the complexities of being too black and too ‘white’ in different environments that often lead to a feeling of isolation especially when growing up and as you move from one place to another.

Her trajectory is also inspiring. She is a Stanford graduate who was trying to figure out what to do with her life when she began her YouTube series whilst her peers were doctoring and lawyering their way up the corporate ladder.

She did what she enjoyed, had fun with it and created a strong following that led her to have her very own HBO show ‘Insecure’ that was released in 2016 to some rave reviews. Along with my favourite director, Melina Matsoukas, and other incredible team members, they are sharing our stories as black people in a humorous, real and relatable way that doesn’t get portrayed.

Issa is Bae because:

  • She is smart
  • She is important
  • She is gorgeous (yes to that glowing, chocolate skin)
  • She is hilarious
  • She persevered against all odds
  • She is creating opportunities for other marginalised creators
  • She is relatable
  • She got Solange to be the music consultant for her show
  • She likes to make up raps in front of the mirror (YASSSS!! *dusts off my Lil’ Ru mic*)
  • She celebrated the show with a Brooklyn block party

Peep the trailer below and see what I’m talmbout! I can’t wait to watch the whole season!

Sister Solange Slays

And those three words are so fitting for her.

Sister
Infamous for being the younger sister to megastar Beyoncé, Solange once lived in the shadow of her sister’s relentless talent and ambition. She was formerly a back-up dancer for Destiny’s Child and when she decided to pursue her Solo (pun intended) career, fell pregnant, got married and moved to a new town. Isolated and alone she divorced her husband and started all over.

Photo cred: Pop Sugar

Photo cred: Pop Sugar

Photo cred: Huffington Post

Photo cred: Huffington Post

Solange
An individual and an anomaly, there really is no other Solange. A unique individual, Solange moves to the beat of her own drum, treading on uncharted territory and opening doors for other young, black people. Her style and vision is unparalleled. A constant inspiration to many. Her own 2014 wedding to director husband, Alan Ferguson, had us all in our feels and shifted the way we envision weddings and wedding hairstyles at that.

Photo credit: New York Post

Photo credit: New York Post

Slays
2016 is the year I think the world finally stared Solange’s talent in the face with her number one album ‘A Seat At The Table’. Yes, she had been referred to as the ‘it’ girl when it came to her fashion and style. But I don’t think folks took her very seriously. But look at God! His delay is never a denial. This album placed her and Beyoncé in the elite group of siblings with number one albums on the Billboard 200, all in the same year. A great feat that was seemingly long overdue, but right on time.

This year she turned the big 3.0. – a pivotal age for most and she managed to do the most as she entered into this new chapter. She did so with so much style on a birthday trip with friends and family to White Sands, New Mexico with an  Instagram feed that left us all with deep-seeded FOMO as she frolicked with her friends in matching AWAVEAWAKE frocks against a stunning white backdrop. Just one of the many ways Solo sets trends and raises the bar.

Photo credit: Instagram

Photo credit: Instagram

Photo credit: @saintrecords Instagram

Photo credit: @saintrecords Instagram

A Seat At The Table

Photo credit: Pitchfork

Photo credit: Pitchfork

“I’m weary of the ways of the world.”

The opening line on track two of her album sums up the tone of the album. This is not a pop-licked project for folks to dance to and forget their woes.

In actual fact, quite the contrary. This album forces you to think about your woes as a black person in the world, specifically in America.

She resigns, questions, struggles, fights, stands tall, defies and cries unapologetically on this project with so much finesse and beauty. This record, though tackling real and painful issues, does so without portraying the stereotype of an ‘angry black woman’. No. Solange strikes an incredible balance of making her voice heard whilst practising great restraint over an angelic backdrop as her melodious voice flitters and floats in exquisitely delicate harmonies.

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That is why this project is so special. It took four years to come to life (one of her songs and a fave of mine, ‘Cranes in the Sky’, was actually written 8 years ago).

Her story epitomises what it means to stay true to yourself and your vision whilst patiently pursuing your purpose. She has managed to forge her own path so beautifully and rise above in spite of all adversity.

One of my greatest inspirations. Slay on Solo Slayah!

Behind the Queen of Katwe

Underdog: “A person or group of people with less power, money, etc. than the rest of society” | The Cambridge Dictionary

Photo credit: Queen of Katwe

Photo credit: Queen of Katwe

A term in use since 1887 (according to Wikipedia, so don’t hold me to it), it remains a firm favourite in 2016. Why is it? Possibly because every single day, individuals – great and ‘ordinary’ are faced with numerous challenges. And as an ordinary somebody myself, it provides hope that your current existence does not have to be a waste. Everyone has something of value to offer and is entitled to do so.

As Tendo Nagenda, Executive VP of production at Disney put it, “It is my belief that genius is in all young people. Every young person is gifted – the only question is will they discover that gift, and once discovered, will that gift be nurtured by mentors, parents, teachers, caregivers?” He is also the man behind the development of the 2016 Disney anomaly, ‘Queen of Katwe’.

The Plot

‘Queen of Katwe’ follows the life of Phiona Mutesi, a young girl living in Katwe, the largest slum in Kampala, Uganda. She stumbles upon the game chess and thanks to her coach, Robert Katende, develops into an unexpected world champ. Her story was originally captured by Tim Crother in an article for ESPN Magazine which he developed into a book and now, has taken to the big screen thanks to Disney. It’s definitely a “Look at God” movie that will leave you incredibly inspired.

Photo credit: ESPN Magazine

Photo credit: ESPN Magazine

The film resonated so deeply with me for a number of reasons:

  1. It struck me how Disney funded a film based on the lives of real, young Africans who excelled to beat the odds against them and did it for themselves
  2. It is an African film shot on African soil with African creators in front & behind the camera sharing an African story with the world. I am a strong advocate of Africans telling their own story & creating their own narrative without waiting on someone else.
  3. Underdog actors were used for this movie. Aside from renowned Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, most of the actors in the film were unknown and had to attend a training camp. The rawness of their talent was evident in the film.
  4. Africans are the heroines and heroes of this story. There is no white protagonist playing saviour here. Phiona Mutesi’s talent nurtured by Richard Katende’s coaching and vision are what enabled this story to come to life and make it a beautiful one.
  5. It is relatable in a lot of ways. The film highlights the struggles one faces to gain victory:
    • the seemingly unsanitary (excuse the pun) circumstances that we often find ourselves that appear to be unconducive to success but in actual fact, are essential to success
    • it is a human story which we can connect to
    • it highlights how as humans, we all have the capability to a better life outside of what we know
    • it provides hope that so many of us thirst for everyday

If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend that you go and see this moving memoir.

“The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them.” 

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Beyoncé’s Lemonade: The Visual Diary Of So Many Black Women

Lemonade | Beyoncé

Lemonade | Beyoncé

Listening to ‘Lemonade’ for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d been highly disappointed by her previous body of work on her self-titled album ‘BEYONCE‘, so I tuned into Lemonade with much skepticism.

I was pleasantly surprised. At last I felt that we had caught a glimpse of the actual woman behind Beyoncé. Not in her state of performance – picture perfect and well poised. But she allowed us a small glimpse into the true pieces of herself for us to ponder and think on.

From infidelity to desperation, anger to reconciliation, we see Beyoncé battling the inner turmoil of so many women who’ve experienced the infidelities of their loved ones.

Fascinating enough, she ends the album off with a glimmer of hope. That all is not lost. Many women who have been in a similar position would understand. When you’re bent on walking away from a marriage but somehow you still have fight left in you and are committed to your marriage beyond what you thought you could tolerate.

The ugly truth is what she relays on this album – whether or not this truth belongs to her and Jay Z. It has resonated with so many. It is the story of our mothers, aunts, sisters, friends and so many women before us, amongst us and our daughters to come.

The first half of the movie was uncomfortable for me. There were no holds barred and it was a true testament to the genius in this body of work. She speaks a truth so bluntly and boldly, a truth that so many of us can resonate with. There is so much power in that.

Media and manics alike have been bent on watering down this body of work as a pure marketing stunt or about figuring out who ‘the other woman’ is. It was inevitable that many would think this way, and I don’t doubt that Beyoncé wasn’t aware. But at the heart of it are tales and testaments that we can all resonate so deeply with.

Ijeoma Oluo’s article in the Guardian put it so well. There is so much value that can be derived and the story of the black woman is being relayed as has never been before.

Forget Piers Morgan. Forget Rachel Roy / Rita Ora or whomever else the other woman can be. Forget the publicity stunt for just a moment. Forget the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype for just a second. I am not even asking you to delve into the visual excellence that was accomplished in this movie. No. I believe the focus should be on the fact that there is a lesson and meaning to be drawn from ‘Lemonade’. Can we acknowledge that and what it means to the many women who’ve had to draw strength from the deserts and dried up wells of their lives after hurt, loss, betrayal, pain and so much more. The women who have managed to pick themselves up and carry on.

A corny title it may seem but truly, when life gives you lemons the best thing you can do for you and your loved ones is to make you summa that lemonade.

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