Category Archives: Lifestyle

‘Africa is not a country’: Students’ photo campaign breaks down stereotypes

"All of the quotes are really powerful," she adds.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A group of students have launched a campaign to break down stereotypes about Africa
  • The campaign features images of students wrapped in the flag of their country
  • The photographs are accompanied by quotes debunking myths about Africa

(CNN) — They say there are no stupid questions — or are there?

How about, “Do you speak African?” Or, “What is Africa’s flag?

Yes, these are quite ludicrous. Tired of regularly having to answer questions like these, a group of U.S.-based African students has launched a photo campaign in a bid to dispel misconceptions about their continent.

The African Students Association of Ithaca College in New York has launched a photo campaign called "The Real Africa: Fight the Stereotype."

Called “The Real Africa: Fight the Stereotype,” the social media initiative aims to educate and raise awareness about the common stereotypes surrounding Africa and its people — misunderstandings like Africa being a homogenous entity rather than a diverse continent of more than 50 countries.

The social media campaign wants to create awareness about the common stereotypes surrounding Africa and its people.

The campaign features striking images of the members of the African Students Association of New York’s Ithaca College wrapped in different African flags or holding them proudly.

The students decided to launch the initiative after receiving questions such as, "Do you speak African?" or hearing remarks that described the continent as a country.

“What we wanted to do was embrace the individual flags of the countries of Africa,” says Rita Bunatal, head of PR for the organization. “We wanted to show the beauty and the power of the flag. We also wanted to break one of the biggest misconceptions about the continent, which is that Africa is a country,” she adds.

The participants, aged 18 to 21, posed with different flags from across the continent.

For each photograph, the posing students, aged 18 to 21, were also asked to come up with simple but powerful quotes that would disprove the ignorant and offensive remarks they would often hear.

"What we wanted to do was embrace the individual flags of the countries of Africa," says Rita Bunatal, PR for the organization.

As a result, the images boast statements like “Africans do not all look alike,” “Africans don’t need to be saved,” “Africa is not a country” and “Africa is not a land filled with diseases.” In addition, the campaign is saturated with educational facts that are designed to strengthen the students’ quotes — “I don’t speak ‘African’ because ‘African’ is not a language” says one student, his declaration accompanied by the fact that “there are an estimated 2,000 languages spoken in Africa.”

"We wanted to show the beauty and the power of the flag. We also wanted to break one of the biggest misconceptions about the continent, which is that Africa is a country," says Bunatal.

What we wanted to do was embrace the individual flags of the countries of Africa.
Rita Bunatal, African Students Association, Ithaca College
"We wanted to give facts, to correct, to give knowledge," says Bunatal, "trying to educate and stop people from saying these other things."

“We wanted to give facts, to correct, to give knowledge,” says Bunatal, “trying to educate and stop people from saying these other things.”

Each posing student used their photo as an opportunity to express a statement dispelling views they found offensive.

The African Students Association of Ithaca College first posted their photo campaign on CNN’s iReport platform on January 20. Since then, some 5,000 people have viewed the photos and more than 2,000 have shared them on Facebook.

"It was up to them," says Bunatal. "Whatever they were tired of listening, things that they were tired of hearing, that they wanted to correct."

“The simplest actions can create awareness and we are hoping to do this not only campus-wide, but also world-wide,” says Bunatal.

Teo Kermeliotis, source: CNN

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Why we love: John Kaveke, Kenya’s revered fashion designer

He is without a doubt a famed designer with his works having attracted a myriad of following not just in Kenya but beyond. John Kaveke began his journey at Woodgrove Fashion College in Kenya and later on headed to Instituto Europeo di Design in Barcelona. He worked as as a designer at other fashion labels before deciding to tread on his own path.

Kaveke has delved into men’s fashion; an area not touched by many, and his designs have had the pleasure of gracing a wide range of catwalks that include; Sarajevo Fashion Week, Bosnia, Hub of Africa in Ethiopia, Swahili Fashion Week in Tanzania, Catwalk Kenya, Festival for African Fashion and Art or FAFA Kenya, the International Smirnoff Fashion Awards, London Fashion Week…the list is endless.

Not only is he an edgy contemporary designer, Kaveke boasts of being involved in a number of successful fashion projects; being part of the Kenyan national dress design team, the International Smirnoff fashion Awards, creating Kenya’s representative’s (Big Brother Africa) Garment, M-Net’s Face of Africa, Sarajevo Fashion Week and Catwalk Kenya among others.

John Kaveke is indeed an inspiration to many an upcoming designers both in Kenya and Africa as a whole. We salute you for job well done!!

Date a Man Who Travels

Date a man who treasures experience over toys, a hand-woven bracelet over a Rolex. Date the man who scoffs when he hears the words, “vacation”, “all-inclusive”, or “resort”. Date a man who travels because he’s not blinded by a single goal but enlivened by many.

You might find him in an airport or at a book store browsing the travel guides – although he “only uses them for reference.”

736289010_692 You’ll know it’s him because when you peek at his computer screen, his background will be a scenic splendor of rolling hills, mountains, or prayer flags. His Facebook friend count will be over-the-roof, and his wall will be plastered with the broken English ‘miss-you’ of friends he met along the way. When he travels, he makes lifelong friends in an hour. And although contact with these friends is sporadic and may be far-between, his bonds are unmessable and if he wanted, he could couch surf the world… again.

Buy him a beer. Once a traveller gets home, people rarely listen to their stories. So listen to him. Allow him to paint a picture that brings you into his world. He might talk fast and miss small details because he’s so excited to be heard. Bask in his enthusiasm. Want it for yourself.

He’ll squeak like an excited toddler when his latest issue of National Geographic arrives in the mail. Then he’ll grow quiet, engrossed, until he finishes his analysis of every photo, every adventure. In his mind, he’ll insert himself in these pictures. He’ll pass the issue on to you and grill you about your dreams and competitively ask about the craziest thing you’ve ever done. Tell him. And know that he’ll probably win. And if by chance you win, know that his next lot in life will be to out do you. But then he’ll say, “Maybe we can do it together.”

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Date the man who talks of distant places and whose hands have explored the stone relics of ancient civilizations and whose mind has imagined those hands carving, chiseling, painting the wonders of the world. And when he talks, it’s as if he’s reliving it with you. You can almost hear his heart racing. You can almost feel the adrenaline ramped up by the moment. You feel it passing through his synapses, a feast to his eyes entering through those tiny oracles of experience that we call pupils, digesting rapidly through his veins, manifesting into his nervous system, transforming and altering his worldview like a reverse trauma and finally passing, but forever changing the colors of his sight. (Unless he’s Karl Pilkington.) You will want this too.

Date a man who’s lived out of a backpack because he lives happily with less. A man who’s travelled has seen poverty and dined with those who live in small shanty’s with no running water, and yet welcome strangers with greater hospitality than the rich. And because he’s seen this, he’s seen how a life without luxury can mean a life fueled by relationships and family, rather than a life that fuels fancy cars and ego. He’s experienced different ways of being, respects alternative religions and he looks at the world with the eyes of a five-year-old, curious and hungry. Your dad will be happy too because he’s good with money and knows how to budget.

This man relishes home; the comfort of a duvet, the safety stirred in a mom-cooked meal, the easy conversation of childhood friends, and the immaculate glory of the flush-toilet. Although fiercely independent, he has had time to reflect on himself and his relationships. Despite his wanderlust, he knows and appreciates his ties to home. He has had a chance to miss and be missed. Because of this, he also knows a thing or two about goodbyes. He knows the overwhelming uncertainty of leaving the comforts of home, the indefinite see-you-laters at the departure gates, and yet he fearlessly goes into the unknown because he knows the feeling of return. And that the I’ve-missed-you-hug is the best type of hug in the whole world. He also knows that goodbyes are just prolonged see-you-laters and that ‘hello’ is only as far away as the nearest internet cafe.

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Don’t hold onto this man. Let this man go and go with him. If you haven’t travelled, he will open your eyes to a world beyond the news and popular perception. He will open your dreams to possibility and reality. He will calm your nerves when you’re about to miss a flight or when your rental blows a flat, because he knows the journey is the adventure. He will make light of the unsavory noises you make when you – and you will – get food poisoning. He will make you laugh through the discomfort all while dabbing your forehead with a cold cloth and nursing you with bottled water. He will make you feel like you’re home.

When you see something beautiful, he will hold your hand in silence, in awe the history of where his feet stand, and the fact that you’re with him.

He will live in every moment with you, because this is how he lives his life.

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He understands that happiness is no more than a string of moments that displace neutrality, and he is determined to tie as many of these strings together as he can. He also understands your need to live for yourself and that you have a bucketlist of your own. Understand his. Understand that your goals may at some points differ, but that independence is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship when it’s mutually respected. You may lose him for a bit, but he will always come home bearing a new story and a souvenir he picked up because it reminded him of you, like it was made for you, and because he missed you. You might be compelled to do the same. Make sure that independence is on your bucketlist, and make sure it’s checked. Independence will keep your relationship fresh and exciting, and when you’re together again it will forge a bond of unbreakable trust.

He’ll propose when you’ve breached your comfort-zone, whether it be a fear like skydiving or swimming with sharks, or sitting next to the smelly person on an overcrowded bus. It won’t be with a diamond ring, but with a token from a native culture or inspired by nature, like the penguin and the pebble.

You will get married somewhere unassumed, surrounded by a select few, in a moment constructed to celebrate venturing into the unknown together again. Marry the man who’s travelled and together you will make the whole world your home. Your honeymoon will not be forgotten to a buffet dinner and all-you-can-drink beach bars, but will be remembered in the triumphant photographs at the top of Kilimanjaro and memorialized in the rewarding ache of muscles at the end of a long days hike.

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When you’re ready, you will have children that have the names of the characters you met on your journeys, the foreign names of people who dug a special place in your heart if only for a few days. Perhaps you will live in another country, and your children will learn of language and customs that open their minds from the very start, leaving no room for prejudice. He will introduce them to the life of Hemingway, the journey of Santiago, and empower them to live even bigger than both of you.

Marry a man who travels and he’ll teach your children the beauty of a single stone, the history of the Incas and he will instill in them the bravery of possibility. He will explain to them that masking opportunity, there is fear. He will teach them to concur it.

And when you’re old, you’ll sit with your grandchildren pouring over your photo albums and chest of worldly treasures, while they too insert themselves into your photographs, sparked by the beauty of the world and inspired by your life in it.

Find a man who travels because you deserve a life of adventure and possibility. You deserve to live light and embrace simplicity. You deserve to look at life through the eyes of youth and with your arms wide open. Because this is where you will find joy. And better, you will find joy together.

And if you can’t find him, travel. Go. Embrace it. Explore the world for yourself because dreams are the stuff reality is made from.

I will be waiting right here.

(source: Ramon Stoppelenburg)

Beauty in Culture

I’d like to believe that everyone comes from somewhere and has a sense of belonging be it in a tribe, a certain culture and so forth. In terms of Fashion and style, it seems that culture is steadily being overtaken in great speeds by different trends which tend to change periodically.

This is causing ripples with people constantly looking out for the new trend in fashion throwing out the original cultural sense of     belonging. We have forgotten how beautiful culture is; for instance in Kenya one can actually pinpoint the few tribal groups that have maintained their culture and style with the Maasai and Samburu         being an obvious stand out.

 

Today we take a step back from the trends and look at some of the most beautiful cultural styles from all over the world. Trends come and go but where we come from shouldn’t..culture and heritage should be widely celebrated.

Celebrate your Heritage!!!

Poverty’s Poster Child: Why slum tourism is causing more harm than good to Kibera residents

Poorism, ‘Slumming it‘, slum tourism or however you prefer to call it is a phenomenon that has rapidly emerged in the Kenyan tourism sector albeit controversially so, having sparked numerous debates – not only in Kenya but the world over – bordering on whether the tours are exploratory or plain exploitative. Prior to some high-profile obligatory visits, (U.N. Secretary General – Ban Ki-moon, Chris Rock, then-Senator Barack Obama, former United States Secretary of State – Hillary Clinton and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – Gordon Brown) itineraries to the ‘chocolate city’ (Kibera’s alias) were simply unheard of.

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b&w kibera sewer railway

Many can also argue that aside from the high-profile visits, showbiz has had a bigger hand in the promotion of slum tours whether intentional or not; with the release of big films like Kibera Kid, The Constant Gardener (brought a wave of tourists to Kibera), City of God (increased tourism in Rio) and the biggest one yet, Slumdog Millionaire (The award-winning movie recorded a phenomenal increase in the level of poverty tourism popularity in the world). The films go a long way in showcasing not only the poverty in shantytowns, but that these areas can also provide for excitement and thrill in terms of cultural vibrancy, drama, vices and lots more calling for exploration.

Constant-GardnerA scene from the Constant Gardener

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Today, the prominence of poorism has seen a number of slum tour outfits offering tailor-made tours to slum areas within the capital crop up (not without opposition off course); with the most popular slum destination being Kibera as it is the largest in the country. Those set against the entire slum-tour practice (many of whom are slum residents) and with supposed good reason, argue that it is not at all beneficial to the community and see no significance in its existence. What slum tourism does instead, as per their belief is invade the residents’ privacy and have them treated like park animals, which is insulting.

28mm_women_kiberia_trainaction_2 Many abhor the fact that slum residents, who play into the whole equation as mere commodity guaranteeing profit for the tour operators, have no say in the organization of these trips. Nobody seeks out their thoughts or perspectives when planning what activities can or cannot be carried out nor do they get to decide what areas the tourists can or cannot see. This feeling is not only restricted to Kibera though; the same is echoed in regard to the favela tours in Rio de Janeiro and Dharavi tours in India where organizers of the tours are labelled as parasites leeching off of the plight of the poor.

Nairobi-slums

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According to Cejas 2006, this sort of tourism turns poverty into entertainment more so like ‘reality television’ whereby the tour operators, like television producers, can essentially write a script for tour guides on what is said – who is hero, who is villain, and what areas should be highlighted.

“They see us like puppets, they want to come and take pictures, have a little walk, tell their friends they’ve been to the worst slum in Africa,”David Kabala – Kibera resident.

On the other end of the argument however, proprietors of these ‘pity tours’ are seemingly convinced that tourists on an adventure, snaking along narrow mud-ridden alleys fascinated by the novelty of capturing images of the newest spectacle in tourism ‘the bipedal slum wildlife’, while sampling the varied tastes that poverty and slum life has to offer; lack of sanitation, water shortages, lack of access to education, health hazards and diseases, sale of illicit alcoholic brews, HIV/AIDS amongst many others is not a mockery to the slum residents’ situation, au contraire.

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Aside from being good money off course, slum tourism from the tour operators’ view is a form of promoting social and cultural awareness; a tool that aids tourists get more accustomed to what being a slum dweller really means and to better grasp the issues and challenges that slum residents have to tackle in everyday living. The generated income from the slum tours supposedly makes its way back to the community to help support schools, children’s homes, art centres and many more but in many occasions; this is sadly not the case as much of the cash registered is pocketed by the slum-tour outfits. This very common scenario is arguably the main reason behind most of the residents’ stand in opposing slum tourism as aside from enriching the tour operators, it simply does nothing for them.

02Now granted that most of the individuals paying for these tours on a whim may genuinely want to understand how shantytown life may be, – not that it is advocated that one enthusiastically sets out on an adventure capturing images of individuals without their consent in the name of understanding poverty – a two to three-hour visit no matter how well-intentioned you may be would do nothing to help one nearly comprehend the slum situation, not in the least bit. Perhaps those that truly seek to understand slum life should dive all in and literary walk in the residents’ shoes; do away with the one-way street affair that is a few hours slum tours and say hello to home-stays within the slums areas. That way, the visitor gets to experience first-hand the situation on the ground without relying on stories and on the other hand, host families get to put food on the table by actually getting profits from the trips.

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In all honesty though, in spite of the organizers’ high expectations that the experience may lead the tourists into action, how many of these tourists actually do something about what they see during their slum tours after they get back home? it all seems to be a lip service affair Just as is the case with many of the dignitaries.

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An example of endeavors to understanding the depth of poverty associated problems that many Kenyans grapple with in the slums brings up Famous, rich and in the slums. For those who might not have watched it, Famous rich and in the slums is a two-part documentary series  that follows four British celebs – comedian Lenny Henry, TV host and journalist Angela Rippon, actress Samantha Womack, TV and radio star Reggie Yates – into the slums of Kibera away from their privileged lives, as they fully immerse themselves in slum culture for one week and undergo an emotional, life-changing encounter, forming deep bonds with people living with a range of devastating issues all too common in Kibera . Stripped of all their possessions, and with just Ksh200 to start them off, the four had to eat, breathe and work every aspect of slum life for the seven days. How did they cope in their new environment? living by themselves in the first few days and having to work tough jobs to survive, Lenny, Angela, Samantha and Reggie discover just how harsh the realities of poverty are.

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This documentary was filmed as part of the annual BBC Comic Relief charity telethon – Red nose day, an event that saw over £70 Million (£74,360,207) raised that year to help change lives of extremely vulnerable and disadvantaged people across the UK and Africa (including the ones featured in the film). Aside from being emotionally hard-hitting, the documentary unlike many others, gives a voice to the slum dwellers as they share their stories as well as homes with the four personalities. This is a side of Kibera that we rarely get to see in the media, we see resilient individuals who despite hardship and abject poverty have not stopped hoping and work extra hard for a better future. Although some may argue that this is all a ploy for ratings, one cannot deny the impact that this experience had on the lives of the residents that the four personalities engaged with, even if just in a little way. Comic relief continues to make an impact on people’s lives both by raising funds and raising awareness about just how life can be for those on the opposite end. Another similar feature from comic relief is Famous, rich and homeless a documentary that unveils the realities of living in the streets of London.

That being said, it’s about time Kibera stopped being Kenya’s poverty poster child. Despite the inescapable poverty and hard living conditions, Kibera is teaming with so much life, energy, community and promise; with so much talent yet to be harnessed. Kibera needs land/tenancy rights, housing, water, electricity, health clinics, education, employment, security plus much more; issues that are being addressed to a lesser or greater extent by many organizations including Churches, UN-Habitat, MSF, AMREF and many others, with funding coming from organizations such as Gates Foundation, Bill Clinton Foundation, and other well-known charities both local and international. The major question here though is where does the government fall in this picture? why should Kenyan citizens have to rely on outsiders to do something for them when the very people they elect sit by and watch them suffer?

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In essence though, we all should be on the forefront of alleviating the rich-poor divide in the country. The much-needed efforts of willing and compassionate people would definitely go a long way in extracting  the “me vs the poor” attitude.

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural, it is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings” Nelson Mandela.

Maasai cricket warriors: Find out why these Morans are trading spears for Cricket bats

With their latest venture having been geared towards advocacy against poaching, the now acclaimed Maasai warriors took to the field to do what they know best; cricket. Not so long ago, the unusual Maasai cricket morans (unusual because unlike any normal cricket team, the morans play the sport in their colourful garb instead of the traditional cricket whites) faced the Ambassadors of Cricket; an Indian cricket team, in a T20 cricket match at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

feature1The event’s main goal was creation of awareness against poaching of elephants and rhinos in Kenya; an issue that has increasingly exacerbated overtime. Ol Pejeta was selected as the initiative’s venue for the simple reason of being home to some of the endangered species i.e black and northern white rhinos.

imaging.ashx imaging.ashx11 imaging.ashx65The Maasai Cricket Warriors have awed many in their years of existence (believe it or not they have a decade under their belt as a team) not only for the sassiness they bring in the game of cricket (their sport attire is colourful; made up of colourful shukas, beads and sandals made from tyres alias akalas) but also for the main reason behind their playing this gentleman’s game. Its a peculiar sight coming across a Maasai whom instead of a spear holds a cricket bat. However, this peculiarity has a noble drive behind it; the warriors main mission through this is to empower youth by targeting social problems in order to bring about positive change in their Maasai communities.

The Maasai warriors cricket team, to quote an old Pepsi tag line, has nothing official about it – and that’s where the beauty lies! The team consists of 11 men (plus another 14 reserves) – each one striving to be a role model in their community. Their campaigns are targeted against traditional female circumcision (FGM), child marriages, and HIV/AIDS among tribal youth.

Maasai Cricket Warriors.

feature2The Maasai community is male-dominated and the women have very few rights – even to their own bodies. The Maasai women also grapple with Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) where girls as young as 6 are circumcised facing pain, psychological trauma, considerable health problems as well as high-risk of infection since materials used are not entirely sanitary (the girls are circumcised with materials that have been used over and over). HIV is also rife here and the victims face a lot of stigmatization. Another major challenge is child marriages where in some cases children are married off in return for livestock or alcohol. The cricket warriors feel that education and change is the only way to secure the health of the community, provide equality to their society, and as a result protect their future.

[photo/funsterz.com]It is a tough challenge to accomplish what they are going for seeing as the Maasai elders fear changing their traditions will herald the end of the Maasai. However, with great drive and determination, they continue to make a difference – one step a time. The warriors are also spending their time trying to stop cattle rustling a practice that has now degenerated into a militarized activity among the Pokot, Turkana, Maasai and Samburu communities. Today’s incidents of cattle rustling are driven by hatred, political instigations, unscrupulous commercial activities, general crime, and availability of firearms. The warriors plan to curb this through proactive engagement of the youth from the pastoral communities in this region and also with cross-district involvement in sports, such as cricket while at the same time reawakening and revitalizing the traditional mechanisms of peace building among the different communities. The community elders will also be facilitated and enabled to carry out traditional peace building and conflict transformation strategies.

[photo/dailymail.co.uk]The Maasai cricket warriors have come a long way and are not planning to call it quits anytime soon. They dream of reaching England and playing in the Last Man Stands World Championships – a pilgrimage of sorts to the ‘home of cricket’ – not only because they genuinely love the game, but also because they believe it will give them a status to positively influence the future of their village.

We Don’t Only Play Cricket – It’s Our weapon to Eradicate Social Evils