Imagine telling a waiter that there is something wrong with the food, and instead of changing it, they spit in it! That is the summary of the Nigerian experience at the hands of the police.
#ENDSARS is a decentralised social movement against police brutality in Nigeria. The purpose of SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) was to curb criminal activity including robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, cattle rustling and firearms. I say ‘was’, because their behaviour is contrary to their intended purpose.
SARS operate while dressed in civilian clothing. They are notorious for harassment of civilians and abducting them.
The first question one asks is that, “If the goal of these law enforcement agents is to protect civilians from themselves by regulating their behaviour and making sure that they comply with the law, why is their method one where they have to ambush them?” If something is a crime in a country, surely it is not a secret, and everyone must know the consequences of crime. The role of law enforcement systems in any functional country, is to regulate people’s behaviour. It is a fact that people are inherently animalistic, but even the jungle has rules.
The work of SARS, while it sounds ridiculous, appears very intentional in its execution. It is heavy-handed towards young people and women. When a young man is seen in designer clothing, he is sure to be harassed, and has to explain how he can afford what he is wearing. Many report being stopped at random and being harassed for owning iPhones, as that is an indicator that they may be engaging in criminal activities. One woman reported being slut-shamed for owning a car. SARS asked how she can afford a car, and accused her of being a sex worker.
In a world where we are still actively trying to be politically correct by respecting all professions without imposing conventional morality, slut-shaming a financially independent woman is an insult in this modern age. It reveals the rot in our system, where a man is seen as a woman’s door to success. Furthermore, is a person supposed to dress badly to fit in the role of being poor?
No self-respecting criminal uses an iPhone because there is too much admin that is involved in using an iPhone. One needs a phone that they can actually get rid of, a phone with the basic functions of just calling and texting. No internet. No camera. No fingerprint what-what. There is a reason why experienced criminals use burner phones guys!
When Nigerians eventually protested against the violent manner in which the law was being enforced, the response was… even more police brutality!
Is it an African thing; must the person of colour’s relationship with law enforcement be one characterised by tyranny and fear? The police are not your friends. #ZimbabweanLivesMatter was about the same thing. It was a whole country begging law enforcement to protect them. Unarmed citizens begged to be respected. What did they get in return? They were thoroughly harassed, and some prominent figures, particularly journalists like Hopewell Chin’ono, were arrested. Charges like incitement of violence were fabricated. Chin’ono was asked to stop speaking out about the reality of his country as he saw it, and he was arrested again.
It is public knowledge that the laws we have today are an aberration of the same laws that came to us on a ship and were used to oppress us. Now, our African police, in their Gestapo-like manner, are recreating the same oppressive atmosphere of colonial times.
The law during colonial times was a symbol of where one existed on the social ladder. The white man up to today can even shout at the same policeman who thoroughly beats up Tapiwa, and makes him apologise to them. The black man who experiences true justice under the law, is a black man with money, or the black man with friends who can engineer their own justice.
#BlackLivesMatter was trending, and our African presidents, in their true audacious fashion, called out police brutality in the United States. Once again we had to sit in our living rooms and bite our tongues, as we watched our African fathers beating us up at home, then going on to preach about violence to strangers.
Are these the growing pains of a relatively young democracy? Is there a country that can truly stand up and say that they have a perfect democracy? The US, which had a head start at democracy, is still suffering from systemic racism, which manifests itself through the way justice treats the person of colour. Justice and the courts do not operate in a vacuum; they operate in a system of prejudices and misconceptions, that find their home in how we make assumptions about other people.
There is a reason why when one is assessed to be an attorney, a fit and proper test is carried out – to check if their morals and lifestyle are consistent with the expectations of law-abiding citizens. However, this test is not enough when free will comes into play, because we all come from different backgrounds, which may inform our prejudices.
Lastly, the profession of a policeman or a law enforcement agent, requires a system which encourages people to see serving in it as an honour, and not just an opportunity for glorified bullies to play with guns. It is imperative that people go into law enforcement, not as people who are trying to sneak up on civilians, but rather to foster a judicial system of accountability. A law enforcement agent has to understand that, it is through them that we learn to respect the law, not because we are scared, but because we understand why the law exists in the first place!
Connect with Rori via her Blog and LinkedIn:
Timeless Wisdom From Kenya’s Fashion Magnate, Sally Karago
I cannot say that it was because of my own cleverness, it is only the grace of God and my faith in God which have brought me this far.
So calm and collected, so humble, yet so firm and confident, and no doubt so bubbly, and you can tell from her voice that she’s so caring, and extremely passionate about what she does. That is Sally Karago, self-made fashion icon from Nairobi, Kenya, and one of East Africa’s best designers. Sally made headlines when she became the first Kenyan to showcase an entirely African collection, The Turkana Boy Collection, at the New York Africa Fashion Week – New York Fashion Week in 2014. Her achievements are numerous, from showcasing at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Accra, Ghana, to receiving the Lifetime Fashion Award from African Heritage in Kenya, and being selected as the East Africa designer for the first-ever MNet Face of Africa. Sally took a moment to narrate to us her journey of how she started in the fashion industry. Read on!
Growing up in Kenya, my neighbour was a fashion designer, and I think that it is through her that I became interested in fashion. I was about 12 years old at the time, still in primary school, and I used to love to stitch and knit; I even used to stitch for my dolls a lot – chuckles. My father happened to be very fashionable, and he used to make me choose his outfits, and he would insist that I do the same for my sisters as well when we would dress up for special occasions. In a way, he definitely pushed me into the fashion industry. However, when I told him after my O’ Levels that I wanted to do fashion design at college, he definitely had a problem with that. I was so persistent though, and I went to him and told him that I had gotten a place at a local fashion school and I needed school fees, and eventually, he agreed. I was not so sure about what career path I wanted to take, but I knew for sure that whatever I chose must have something to do with clothing.
This was back in the early 80s, and in those days fashion was not so big in Africa – we had no fashion icons to emulate, and we didn’t even have magazines to peruse through and get ideas from. During my time at that particular local fashion school in Kenya, I learnt so many skills, such as construction and pattern drafting, and I became very good at the technical aspect of the trade. We did not learn much on the design side though, and at the time, we only got ideas from watching soap operas. So when I finished my course, I then decided to attend fashion school in Europe. I applied and I was accepted at The American College in London, and that is where I learnt how to design. On my first day in class, we were told to design something, and I had no idea where to even begin – laughs.
Those were the days where I was taught that designing is a process. A lot of people think that designing is just something which comes from one’s mind, but in actual fact, designing is a process – a process of researching, putting together, and making sure that the design works for its intended purpose. For example, in Africa we have a lot of different cultures, so we can borrow one of those cultures and create something out of it, though a piece does not have to be completely traditional, we can actually make the piece very modern, and that is what you saw with the Infinix campaign which I did recently. The Infinix collection is actually based on a culture that I know in Kenya, so I borrowed some aspects of it and came up with very modern designs.
Being at school in London opened a lot of doors for me, because I actually used to work at different clothing stores as a sales-lady, and at school we were required to make collections for fashion shows. However, even in London at that time, the fashion industry was not as big as it is now. The downside of being there was that there were so many restrictions for us international students, and the competition in the industry was so stiff, so after four years of studying, I decided to head back home to Kenya after graduation with my BA in Fashion Design and Merchandising. That was around 1992, and my goal at that time was to get back home and become a haute couture designer.
When I got back home to Nairobi, fashion was still not a big thing in Kenya, and there were not even people that we could refer to as ‘fashion designers’. So there I was wondering, “Where do I even begin?” Eventually, I got myself a small place and started making clothes for people I knew, like my sisters, friends, etc., and each person who came would tell another person, and that is how the client base grew – never underestimate the power of word of mouth! The challenge I faced during that time was that many people couldn’t come to the place where I was, so I always had to go to them. This meant waiting for people at the toilets of their workplaces in order to do fittings, and through all these experiences, I kept on telling myself that “One day they will be coming to me”, – laughs.
Another major obstacle which I faced was buying the machinery, because I didn’t have enough money so I couldn’t afford to buy the machines. Here in Nairobi, we happen to have so many Asians who are traders, so one day I visited one old Indian man who sold sewing machines and told him my story. He didn’t even know me and neither did I know him, but I guess after listening to me he saw my drive and my passion, and somehow he just believed in me, and believe it or not, he gave me 4 second-hand industrial sewing machines, and he gave me 2 years to pay for them. It is because of this that I always tell my students, “If there is a vision, there will always be provision”. I soon relocated to a better place and opened my own workshop, and now clients were coming to me, including people from different cities like Mombasa.
After that I joined a competition called the Smirnoff Fashion Show in the Professionals Category, and I was awarded the first prize. This certainly opened another door for me. Two years after that, in 1998, we had the inaugural MNet Face of Africa, and I was picked to be the designer representing East Africa. The winner of that face of Africa was Nigerian Patricia Oluchi who is now big in New York, and recently did her own show, “Africa’s Next Top Model by Oluchi”. Whenever I showcased, word of mouth always opened more doors for me, because I always gave it my all.
Thereafter, I continued to make made-to-measure clothing. I continued with my love for fashion, and about 11 years ago, I founded the Mcensal School of Fashion and Design, which is currently the largest fashion school in East Africa. I actually started off with 4 instructors, and only 1 student. Currently, we usually have between 100-120 students. What I usually tell young people is that they must follow their passion, and impart their knowledge to the next generations. My desire right now is to impart all the knowledge that I have gained from being in the fashion industry all these years to the next generation. When you have a passion, take time to work on your passion and perfect your skills and your products. The quality of your products will sell your brand. For example, when I did the Infinix campaign, I actually didn’t know any of the Infinix bosses, and they found me through social media. Throughout the campaign, I only met them via Zoom, and the only people I met were the celebrities when it was time to take their measurements. So you see, the quality of your work should stand out in order for clients to put their trust in you, and there is no point in you selling yourself well yet your products are substandard. So it should never be about you, but your products. You should also make sure that your products will last a long time. I started working in fashion in my teens, and now I’m 55 and still going strong in fashion.
To find out what their passion is, I tell young people that they should identify a problem in society which really bothers them, and then work towards finding a solution for that problem. In my case, I identified the lack of fashion designers in Kenya, and I worked towards eradicating that problem. The Covid-19 pandemic has also taught us that as Africans, we should solve our own problems. For example, a lot of shops used to import clothes from Europe and China, but now that most of these services are not available, we now have to import products from around Africa. The pandemic has also taught us that instead of importing fabrics from Europe or wherever, we have to start manufacturing our own fabric.
Another thing I teach young people is that they must have multiple streams of income. Do not be dependent on only one source of income, but also, in your various ventures to make money, try and keep them related somehow. For example, I have my workshop where I tailor clothes, we also make corporate wear for hotels within Kenya and East Africa, there is the fashion school, and I also have shops selling ready-made clothes. In Kenya we have government tenders for women and the youth, I encourage the youth to apply for those as well in order to raise capital and make their dreams a reality.
To fund the school, all my initial funding came from the workshop. I would do orders for hotels and save up the money, and eventually, I had enough to open the school. Of course my husband also chipped in, but I am proud to say that I did not have to approach a bank for a loan in order to open the school. At the moment I’m actually expanding the school, because we have to move from the commercial building where we are now because of Covid-19 restrictions, so I’m building the school at a bigger location. This time around we have partnered with a bank to build the school as it is so big, but only because we can now afford to pay back the bank.
It excites me that this is where I am now in my fashion journey, but through all this, I cannot say that it was because of my own cleverness, it is only the grace of God, and my faith in God, which have brought me this far.
Connect with Sally Karago:
Facebook: SK Collection SHOP
As Narrated to Gugu Mpofu
Oyedele Abiodun – Nigeria’s Master of Fine Art
His close proximity to nature and his love for outdoor features, further enhance his artistic talent.
Born in 1991, Oyedele Abiodun Oyewumi, from Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Nigeria, is a master of fine art whose talent is unmatched. Having discovered his love for Art in high school, and even as a sciences student doing maths, physics, chemistry, etc., the kind and bubbly artist went on to studied fine art at university. Fascinated by the happenings in his environment from his teenage years, his decision to pursue art as a profession was inspired simply by his love and passion for Art. His close proximity to nature and his love for outdoor features, further enhance his artistic talent.
When asked if he is happy with the choice that he made of not pursuing a career in Sciences and following his heart to do Art, Oyedele said he is absolutely happy with his decision, and even more so because his parents support him completely, in all ways, and they never judged him or put pressure on him to do so called “stable careers” in the sciences sector, but instead, they encouraged him to follow his heart and do what he loved and enjoyed.
Oyedele graduated from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, in 2015 with a Second-Class Upper Degree in Fine and Applied Arts and a concentration in painting. He majored in Painting and minored in sculpture. Says Oyedele, “I believe Art and science goes hand in hand, in terms of material used for the creation of art, the form of Art, and the process. Science and technology give me more understanding about how art materials are made at the factory, and how they can be improvised and produced locally. For example, one would ask, “How can we make the process of creating an art piece faster, durable and efficient?” Technology has been able to answer these questions.”
After graduating from LAUTECH, Oyedele went on to do a year of National Service, which is compulsory in Nigeria. He served in a village called Daudawa, Faskari Local Government Area, Kastina State, Nigeria, as a class teacher in a public Secondary School. “The experience was a great one”, says Oyedele, and he was able to impact and inspire the young ones positively. He also enjoyed meeting people from a different state, who have different cultures and a different identity altogether.
Upon completion of his National Service, Oyedele taught Fine Art at Gomal Baptist College for a year. His focus was to help the young ones foster the same enthusiasm he has for Art. “What excited me most was the passion my students have for Art; this was expressed through their willingness to come to my office for additional drawing class during their spare time. It was a great experience.”
Currently, the fine art creative is actually pursuing a Master’s Degree in Technology in Painting (M.Tech.) at LAUTECH, whereupon on completion, he will emerge a true “Master of Fine Art”. M.Tech is equivalent to Master of Fine Art (M.F.A.), and it holds the same qualification advantages as the M. F. A.
Oyedele says he markets his art personally via social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and an online art gallery. Says Oyedele, “The advent of online art marketing has been a great help to the emerging artists to share their work to the rest of the world. Ultimately, it has been a real lifesaver.”
What he enjoys the most about being an artist is the feeling of being at peace, and the sense of fulfillment whenever he finishes a piece. According to Oyedele, one of his biggest achievements as a professional artist was having one of his pieces titled ‘Catch Them Young’, recently selected for the global conversation exhibition UN75, 2020) by the United Nations. “It was a great honor”, says the artist. He has also taken part in some exhibitions, including ‘The Other Side’ (Alliance Francaise, Ibadan, 2019), ‘Broken Earth’ (Nexus Exchange Nigeria, Lagos, 2019), and an international group exhibition, ‘Seen Form’ (HYB4 Galarie, Prague, 2020).
According to Abiodun, obstacles faced as an artist in his state and in Nigeria wholly, include low patronage and very few opportunities for emerging artists. “It is very difficult financially, because you don’t always sell a piece every day”. He thinks that to address these obstacles, provision of more funds to the Art sector can be looked into, and more opportunities can be created and availed to upcoming artists.
His parting words to a young artist who would like to study art professionally but is being discouraged by family or society are, “Do what you like doing, follow your heart, don’t give up. Consistency is the key, keep at it.”
Connect with Oyedele:
Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu
Zimbabwean Musician and Model Rudo Amor Talks About Her Invisible Scars – #EndGBV
“I would just sit and try to calm him down, which would only make him worse, until one day he “accidentally” hit my jaw. But even after that, I stayed.”
Award winning musician and professional model, Rudo Nyoni, popularly known as Rudo Amor, is not a stranger to speaking out about Gender Based Violence (GBV). She took time to share her experiences with us, and to give a few words of encouragement to women who are afraid to leave abusive relationships.
You’ve had all the success as a musician and professional model; however, you have also experienced your fair share of heartbreak, as well as ‘aggressive’ partners in relationships, as you put it. You actually did an Instragram post quite recently, about a very emotionally abusive relationship which you managed to get out of. Can you tell us briefly about that, and how you managed to pull yourself out of those kinds of relationships?
I was involved with a guy I had known for years and we dated for almost 4 years. At first he was the perfect gentleman; he was sweet, thoughtful, funny, and he would sing to me… but then things started changing! He started getting jealous of my friends and the amount of time I would spend with them, till he would insist on seeing me every day, and he would humiliate me in public by shouting at me or making me feel stupid. I thought it was a bit much, but because I was in love and wanted him to be happy and secure, I went along with this. He then started getting emotionally abusive when we would argue, and most times it was about how I had somehow disrespected him. He would lock his office door and shout at me for hours, and tell me not to speak. He would punch walls and break chairs at times. I was terrified to do anything, so I would just sit there and try to calm him down, which would only make him worse, until one day he “accidentally” hit my jaw. But even after that, I stayed. I broke it off after spending more time in prayer and with my friends who never gave up on me. I believe if it wasn’t for God and for those good friends of mine, I would have married him, despite the fact that I was so miserable.
At some point a few years ago you were dating someone else, and you went as far as calling off your wedding to him just three or four days before the big day. Can you tell us more about that situation, and what gave you the strength and courage to put yourself first and get out of an unhappy relationship, despite the fact that you had spent thousands of your own money on the wedding preparations and knowing that people will talk?
Firstly I would like to say there was nothing really wrong with my ex, he was a great guy and very passionate about God. We just were not meant to be together, and God made it very clear towards the wedding. I still feel like I was a fool at times for not asking more questions, and why I could not just put my foot down and refuse to pay for the things we agreed to get for the wedding, and why I believed in him so much. But well, I was naïve and in love, and under the philosophy that ‘you always trust your man’.
A lot of people thought that I was the one pushing for the wedding, because people could see that he wasn’t ready for the financial commitments involved, but I believed him when he said he had it all figured out. So when he came to me a week before the wedding to tell me that he had no money and couldn’t pay me back or pay his portion of the wedding, and that he had been lying about his business and finances, I forgave him – on the condition that he wouldn’t lie to me again, and that he would ask his parents to assist him, and I would get mine to do the same. Well… that promise was broken two days later when he asked me to postpone the wedding and forfeit all the deposits and money I had paid for, so that we could then have the wedding in the manner which his father wanted. I felt shattered because I had worked 7 days a week, seeing service providers and making payments, and he didn’t even appreciate the efforts I had made and would still want to please his father, even though the father wasn’t willing to contribute.
I had been praying and fasting the previous two weeks with my mum, so I somehow found the strength to call off the wedding and engagement. My eyes were opened and I realized that things would never change, and that if I continued, I would be doomed to a life of investing myself in a relationship where I hardly get any support from him, and that our lives would be dictated by his family and what they wanted. I chose to leave for the sake of my peace of mind, and it was a very difficult decision to make because we were attending the same church and horrible things were said about me, even though I was the one who was betrayed and financially drained. I recovered no funds, but I turned it around and donated a lot of the things I had paid for to other brides and people as a seed offering to God. It was the strength of my family, especially my mum who would sleep with me for a month, praying for me daily after the break up, the relatives who drove from Harare just to see me, and relatives who called, and friends who prayed for me and my grandfather’s love and support that brought me through it. I did not return to my former church because too much was said, and I felt I could not heal and move on if I continued going there.
You have had all the success as a professional model for corporates and big organisations. Can you tell us if you have faced (or continue to face) any form of gender-based discrimination, seeing as most firms are usually male-dominated, and if yes, what did/do you do to stop that from happening?
I have been fortunate to have worked with big brands such as P.P.C, Edgars, Econet, Delta etc., and to have been under a great agency, AM Model Management, and these great companies I have mentioned were so professional. I was shielded from unsolicited attention most times, except for events that were with other companies and event organisers. As I am also a singer, most events are organized by men and sometimes the lines of professionalism are blurred, especially when dealing directly with them, and even in terms of music producers.
It isn’t easy being a female singer and model in Zimbabwe… well Africa in general (laughs); because we are taught as females from a young age to respect men, specifically older men, as they are ‘father figures’, but there are so many times that men try to take advantage. I’ve had cases where I have had men approach me wanting to be my manager or offer opportunities, only to then try to date me, and when I would refuse, the show would be cancelled or the deal withdrawn. I have since learnt that the only way to deal with these things and to stop them from happening, is by avoiding meeting potential male managers and booking agents and promoters alone. Through the grooming lessons I have conducted with Open Eye Studio (owned by Samantha Tshuma), I have highlighted the need for models to set boundaries and personal goals, so that no one can attempt to take advantage of them and succeed in doing so all because of an ‘opportunity’. I continue to talk to models and singers about the dangers in the arts industry and the business world in general.
The world has just been commemorating 16 Days of Activism Against GBV. What have you as an influential person in Bulawayo done during this period to raise awareness of the need to curb GBV?
During this period I have used my social media to share on my own experiences, and we have a series we are working on under SisNxtGen. We want to focus on the root cause of GBV, which in most cases is how a child is brought up. We have many boys growing up being told to not show their emotions because that is weakness and it’s only for girls, and as such, some grow up with anger and resentment, and because they were not taught healthy ways of expressing their emotions, they lash out at women and men and children. We also have girls growing up being conditioned for abusive relationships through watching their mothers being abused, and being told that this is normal and okay. I believe that raising awareness must be a daily thing and not just over a certain timeframe, as cases of GBV keep rising and have alarmingly done so during this Covid-19 pandemic.
You are currently the Programme Manager for SisNxtGen, an intitiative founded by Culture Fund Zimbabwe and supported by EU in Zimbabwe, whose aim is to train upcoming female musicians in production, management, sound engineering, radio presenting, podcast and DJing. What inspired your decision to want to get involved in that kind of a programme?
As a female musician having faced so many challenges in music production, like how to communicate to producers exactly what I want when recording, and the lockdown forcing music recording to come to a stop, I decided with the team that we have to come up with a programme to address such issues. You will also notice that there are very few female music producers and sound engineers in Zimbabwe, and those professions have been male dominated for years, worldwide.
In your opinion, do you think that such programmes are useful in empowering women to become independent and to stand up for themselves? Are you already seeing tangible results from this particular programme?
We believe that this initiative will firstly empower young female artists to get more control over their music, and be able to produce for themselves and other artists. The various programmes which we are running will assist them to earn an income in fields normally reserved for men.
We have already finished the Music Business Management trainings where 15 females were trained and I watched them come out of their shells and regain confidence that they could make it in the music industry. Some who are already managers have already begun implementing the information they received with the artists they are managing.
We completed the training in Music Recording and Production on the 19th of December, and some of our participants have already almost completed their own original compositions. All the participants now know how to set up a studio, capture vocals and instruments, and have learnt the basics in mixing.
Cases of GBV have been on the rise this year, especially during lockdown. What are your words of advice to women who would love to get out of abusive relationships, but because of financial dependency, and cultural and societal norms, are finding themselves stuck in those situations?
You are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and He is your source – not a man, and if He is in your corner, then He will provide for you, if you will just believe that everything you need in life to survive and succeed is already inside of you. You carry gifts inside of you that only you can give, and no man can ever take that away. You have the potential to carry and give birth to life, and that is by far the greatest miracle on earth.
Remember that you can only live your life once, and once its gone, you can not get it back or redo it. So today, decide to choose to love yourself enough to leave that man who doesn’t love you, and let the man who was created for you love you as you were created to be. “Love is patient, kind, doesn’t envy, doesn’t boast, it doesn’t dishonour others, it is slow to anger, forgives all things, it protects always, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres; love never fails”. 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 (paraphrased).
Connect with Rudo Amor
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