Showing posts with label Culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Culture. Show all posts

8 Team Building Lessons from the Internationally Acclaimed Netflix show Money Heist

Image source

In an ideal world of team building, each person each day is excited to be involved in the project or work they do. Are you?

This piece is inspired by the Netflix series Money Heist and a business training I attended on building an awesome team by IE International University. As a viewer of Money Heist, I was impressed with how the heisters were able to make the general public join them in a rebellion all thanks to the remarkable team they had built.

As a writer in the entertainment industry, I have realized that collaboration is important and in order to collaborate well, great teams need to be built. 

The essentials of team building are purpose, mastery and autonomy. Businesses around the world that are able to successfully achieve these 3 goals usually also succeed in providing motivation, allowing for creativity and improving productivity in their teams. In addition to these 3 essential elements to team building are gender representations, adapting to changepersuasion, recruitment and networking.

Let's talk about all the essentials as inspired by this internationally acclaimed Netflix show.

1. Purpose

The Money Heist's team purpose is to print 24 billion euros and also to complete the greatest heist ever. The fact that they plan to print the money means that they will not steal; that is how they get the protestors on their side.

In a team, things happen and goals change but the larger goal should never change. In order to have a great team like the professor, it is important to educate the team into their behaviour and purpose as individuals and as teammates.

2. Mastery

Education should make sure that each team member has a high level of mastery in their area of expertise. In Money Heist, the person digging the escape tunnel, the person printing the money and the person keeping the hostages in check were the best at what they did.

We like to work in teams when we believe that we're going to get better at what we do or what we like to do. This is highly motivating. 

As a team leader, if you assign a role to someone and they act hesitant or say they don't want it, it's important to help that person understand that they are going to be incredibly valuable - not only in this team but also to themselves as they build towards greater competency for the future.

Nairobi: Image source

Aspiration for greatness inspires mastery. In Money Heist, the aspiration is to a great robbery, freedom, breaking away from traditional society, and its requirements. This aspiration for greatness gives an opportunity for mastery through practice. 

For instance, Nairobi is good at printing money but she goes to become an even greater master when she prints 24 billion euros in the greatest money heist in history. 

Berlin is a master of social, emotional and cultural intelligence. He understands people very well. He knows what makes them tick enough to know what and how to say things in order to persuade them to do what he wants them to do.

3. Autonomy

Money Heist highlights the power of a team that is formed by autonomous people who can make decisions within the guidelines of the culture of the group. Everyone was able to make decisions in order to change and adapt the plan to changing conditions on the ground. There's a culture of instant communication especially when it comes to who is in charge when the professor is not around.

It is important to remember that everything is derived from culture. The professor taught them to have shared values which included spilling no blood, making the money, and getting the money out so that they could improve everyone's lives. 

Denver: Image Source

Team leaders are meant to be driven and passionate about what they do so that the team members can learn by example. Each team member should be self-aware enough to know what drives them personally.

In one episode, the team leader Berlin who was not in full possession of his mental faculties ordered Denver to take Monica's life. When met with the dilemma of shooting her or being killed himself, Denver made a rather clever decision that saved both their lives and led to their love affair. This goes on to show the power of autonomy versus blindly following of leaders even when they are clearly on the wrong.

Berlin: Image Source

Therefore, in order to form a good team, it's important to foster a feeling of autonomy and ownership in each individual so that they can act in accordance with the purpose of the team.

Hierarchy also determines culture: the money heisters hierarchy was that of peer relations except for the professor who was slightly above. This contributed to the openness of the members when it came to communication. There are many moments in the series where different people became the boss. 

4. Gender representation

In Money Heist, there is a balance in gender representation; we see powerful female figures in Raquel and Alicia who represent the former and current head of the police. While Raquel allows for moral ambiguity and questions what the police do, Alicia does not. She is a member of law enforcement with questionable ethics and morality. She will torture and harm people in order to get what she wants. Although they were both in the same team, to begin with, they no longer are because they do not share the same values of good and bad.

Raquel shows her autonomy when she joins the heisters, a team she was once against. This is the beginning of her transformation into developing her own power and her own set of ethics and values. She becomes completely revolutionized, even wearing different kinds of clothing like shown in the picture below. She carries with her all the knowledge she has of law enforcement and becomes a crucial member of the heisters team. 

Raquel: Image source

5. Adapting to change

It is important to note that in every team there will be conflict and resistance. The reasons for resistance are fear, loss of control, uncertainty, surprises and unfamiliar things - all of which stem from change. One of the key features of teams is that they can change' this is highlighted by how the law enforcement team changed once Raquel left.

A radical change also occurred among the hostages when Monica joined the heisters. This is after Arthur dismissed her when she told him that she was carrying his child. The painful dismissal leads Monica to the arms of Denver her captor and eventual lover (Stockholm syndrome). Monica fully embraces her new team and even goes on to take on the name of a city and what better city for her than Stockholm. 

Stockholm: Image source

6. Persuasion

Persuasion is a key skill in team building. And it requires a show of evidence and credibility. You are more likely to persuade people if you show them evidence that you believe they should do the thing you say and you have credibility in it. One should also have emotional, social and cultural intelligence in interacting with a group to increase the chances of successful persuasion. 

The professor is great at persuasion, an example is how he got Tokyo to the team by saving her from a trap the police had placed to arrest her. He also revealed some details about her life that no one else knew and explained how he was going to help her change her life.

7. Recruitment

Hiring is dependent on culture: what culture do you want to create, and who are the people who can help you create this culture? It is important to ask yourself questions such as

  • Will you have a shared purpose with the new member of the team? 
  • Will they be accepting of responsibility and autonomy? 
  • Will they be able to make decisions much like the ones the leader would?
  • What role will they take?
  • How will they fit with the other members? 
  • Will they be able to communicate easily in the group and will their addition be useful?

Mastery should be taken into consideration too because you want to hire people who are capable. For instance, the  Professor hired Tokyo because she was good with a gun and great at being a thief.

New Recruit Bogota: Image Source

8. Networking

Who is in your network? What are the networks of the people who are in your network? Networking helps us access expertise that we don't have and get our goals achieved as a result.

We should all be like the Professor who was a connector connecting networks. He had done his research and figured out a network of thieves with specific skills that he needed for this particular heist. He was so good at networking that he was able to bring Raquel who was once against the team to his side and into his network. 

Thanks to Money Heist we have seen the power of autonomy, mastery and purpose in accessing the drive and motivation of people to really want to be engaged in their work. People seek meaning and a sense of accomplishment as a primary motivation. 

Giving room for gender representation in our teams is also a great way to build healthy teams. We also need to improve our persuasion, recruiting and networking skills because after all, we all need each other. 

Have you watched Money Heist? What was your biggest takeaway lesson from it?

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African Creatives to the World with Africacomicade's Gamathon

Did you know that the Video Game Industry is bigger than Hollywood? Well, it is and in 2020, the global games market is set to generate more than $160 billion and increase by 7.3% year on year. In Africa, the market for games has risen from $105 million to $570 million in just four years! The African population is young with the average age being 20 years. This will form the labour force of the future, as well as the gaming community that will raise the user base for games.

Africacomicade Founders

Oscar and Oluwatosin the Co-Founders. Their talk can be found

The Africacomicade Gamathon is a virtual event that is hosted on It is an initiative that was started by Oscar Micheal and Oluwatosin Ogunyebi to showcase African Creatives to the World. This is not only limited to the Creatives in the Gaming Industry but also those in the wider Entertainment Industry like film, music and content creation. Gaming is an industry that brings other industries together and this will become even more evident once you register for free and attend the training sessions and talks. 

The aim of Africacomicade is to let the world know we have African Game Developers who are doing well. And to invite Creatives of all kinds from Storytellers to Illustrators, Marketers to Animators, Musicians to Sound Technicians and more to learn how they can plug into this inclusive Industry. It is a chance to show all these people the job opportunities they can leverage.

The Gamathon started on the 24th and will be running till the 30th of this month August 2020. The first 5 days are dedicated to training through talks and panel discussions. A lot of insight into the gaming industry will be shared by Industry leaders. Then on the final two days, Creatives from different African Countries will team up and create games for 48 hours in the exciting Africacomicade Game Jam.

If you are a newbie, not to worry. There will be training sessions in the program such as using platforms like Buildbox which requires no coding to create a game but focusses more on logic. Communication about all these training opportunities will be done through the Africacomicade Discord channel. Gaming and Game Publishing companies will also come in and inform new as well as established Game Developers what they have to offer.

The training sessions are in an effort to assist in the education needed in the Gaming Industry. It seeks to highlight how there are endless opportunities for what one can do with their gaming skills. 

As a player you can become a professional game tester and assist Game Developers with the much-needed feedback during the different development phases of their games. You can also become a Professional Esports Athlete and stand a chance to earn just as much as the professional football players do.

So as you can see there will be lots of activities before the Game Jam this weekend. If you are a Creative and, to be honest, I believe we all are, you may want to register and learn how you can offer your skills in this fast-growing Industry. Also, note that there are lots of prizes to be won. I look forward to seeing more African Creatives building their networks and growing in the Industry. And I hope you will be one of them.

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Mbira : The Fun and Interactive Game Inspired by Zimbabwe

On the 21st of May 2020 Zimbabwe celebrated the beginning of their culture week. Google Doodle honoured this day with an interactive game of Zimbabwe's 1000 year old musical instrument called the Mbira. The creation of the Google Doodle was a collaboration of different people in different fields, from writers to musicians, to visual artists and game developers.

Every game has a story and the Mbira Google Doodle is no exception.
This interactive experience follows the story of a little girl from the day she first fell in love with the Mbira to when she grows up and becomes a musician that plays the Mbira in a band. I loved watching how her mother was supportive throughout her creative journey.

The interactive experience challenged the player to play 4 traditional and modern songs in 4 levels. The songs are titled Nhemamusasa, Bangiza, Taireva and Chemutengure.

They played by simply hovering over a key on the Mbira at just the right time, following instructions that were laid out at the very beginning of the game. What I found special about this particular google doodle is that the Google team actually took a trip to Zimbabwe and worked closely with the Shona people so as to capture the authentic culture of the people in the game.

In this case, the levels and chapters of the interactive experience are synonymous. This is unlike in normal games where levels are strict and you have to finish one level to proceed to another; I realized that did not apply here. On the final page of the game, you can click on replay and choose a chapter you would like to play again or create your own mbira songs in free play. The game's 4 levels went as follows:

Level 1: It starts with the little girl walking with her Mum who is carrying a baby on her back. When the little girl hears an old Man play the Mbira, she stops right on her tracks forcing her mother to do the same. She then pushes the mother towards the old man's direction. The old Man notices her fascination with the instrument, stops playing and let's her touch it for her very first time. After that we continue listening to some beautiful Zimbabwean music as we are instructed on how to play the first song Nhemamusasa.

Level 2: Here we see a man making a tiny mbira. What's even more special about this particular moment is that the little girl has also participated in making it. We are shown the little girl picking bottle tops and handing them to the man for him to fix them on the Mbira. Once it is ready, he hands it over to the little girl and joy is written all over her face and we later see her hugging it dearly. After this emotional moment the player is taught how to play the song Bangiza.

Level 3: Takes us to the girl - now older - playing the Mbira with her peers who are dancing and playing other instruments. Her mother is still by her side as she is the one who brings her to this space. Before we proceed with the game play, we are taught about how the large calabash gourds used to make Mbiras help amplify the sound of the music. Playing the song Taivera is the next challenge in the game.

Level 4: The young girl is now an adult and plays in a band with a large crowd watching. We are taught that the Mbira can be featured with electric bands in Zimbabwe alongside drums and guitars. Things go full circle when she hands down the instrument to a young boy just the way it was handed down to her years ago. 

This highlights how the Shona people have managed to preserve the Mbira  for 1000 years through handing it down to the next generations. We then play the song Chemutengure and just like the journey of the young girl our journey as players also goes full circle.

It is a sweet story and an amazing interactive experience that introduces us to the special instrument of the Shona people. I'd like to urge you to try it out yourself here.The music from the mbira is soothing and with the current state of the World right now, the Mbira Google Doodle could not have come at a better time. 

Here are some wise words to follow as we stay safe and healthy during this pandemic. 
"Time is a healer, pain is a teacher, music is a stress reliever, be a believer" - Sauti Sol. And on that note I will leave you with these soothing sounds of the Mbira from Zimbabwe. Enjoy!

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15 Uplifting Animations Guaranteed to Leave You Feeling Good

I am sharing this in a bid to send some positivity into the world and I invite you to do the same in your own small way. I have arranged the trailers starting with those of the animations made on the African continent. I am wishing you and your loved ones good health and peace of mind as we all stay home, stay safe, and keep our spirits high. Happy watching and rewatching!

1. Liyana

2. The Snail and the Whale

3. Home

4. The Emperors New Groove

5. Bolt

6. Despicable Me 1,2,3

7. Sing

8. Coco

9. Moana

10. Wonder Park

11. Smallfoot

12. Rio 1,2

13. The Crood 1,2

14. How to Train Your Dragon 1,2,3

15. Angry birds

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Healthy Living : Yoga On Indian Rooftops

After sampling spicy Indian meals for a couple of weeks. My roommate who had also fallen in love with that tingling sensation and I decided that we needed to make some changes. Only we did not know that that decision, would attract someones attention and later give us a chance to experience Indian Culture soulfully.

Thanks to awesome hosts, a lot was done for us, from house cleaning to the preparation of savoury Indian delicacies. Those dining moments of pure bliss and a little too much indulgence were followed with guilt; an urge for us to take up exercise, and most importantly a decision to reduce our portions.

We got workout shoes and skipping ropes and started our morning workout routine, which included a dance routine by Bipasha  Basu and around 10 minutes of skipping rope.

I discovered Bipasha during my Campus days as an AIESEC member, so the workouts brought awesome memories of home with all the people I would work out with.

Even with those nostalgic memories, it was no easy task to keep up. And after a while, my roomie and I started missing out on some workouts. It was in those moments of near despair that AC came to the rescue.

If you read the piece on my life-threatening experience on Indian Transport you've met AC. See, AC wore many hats. Apart from owning what we called home for months, he would occasionally wear the cook's hat as well as the tour guide's cap on our first days in India.

During my time in India, I had also taken the habit of sparing around 15 minutes a day to meditate. It made me feel lighter, happier and more inspired. Some amazing ideas crept in between those minutes of silenced thought. And now, I have a meditation diary as a result. So the thought of reviving my yoga and practicing it alongside my meditation sounded Godsent.

"There's a world within, a world of thought and feeling and power; of light and beauty, and although invisible, its forces are mighty."

Charles Haanel.

I couldn't agree more.

How often do you stop, look at the sun and appreciate its presence? Well, I can't say I try; most of my mornings are usually very rushed.

Our first session was on the rooftop and AC introduced us to a Sun Salutation also known as Surya Namaskar. It was a great way to help me start my day on a high in the spirit of appreciation.

But before we move on, that sunrise threatened to leave me breathless. The fact that we were looking at it while elevated on the roof seemed to make it more spectacular.

He first took time to take us through the basics of yoga, the breathing techniques (pranayama) and the warm-up techniques that prepared our bodies for yoga.

He also talked about the chakras and tasked us with researching about kundalini yoga. The animation below shows how Surya Namaskar is done as well as its benefits. You can read more here.


AC was an inspiration to us, we learned so much from him about life. What stood out the most for us was how dedicated he was when he set out to do something. 

Some mornings when the cook was unwell, AC would wake up at 4 a.m to prepare breakfast and lunch for the 20 ladies or so that we lived with in the paying guest (PG). He would then join us for yoga at around 6 a.m and be ready before 8 a.m to tend to the PG and the other businesses he owned. His customer service was  impeccable. We were his first foreign guests and  he really worked hard to keep us comfortable.

AC's influence was so huge that my roommate ended up buying a yoga mat to use when she got back home. I, on the other hand, came up with a 20 mins yoga morning routine scheduled for 66 days  - which is the proven amount of time needed to form a habit. I'm still working on it. AC even contacted me a week ago to find out how I was as well as how my yoga practice is going.

To be continued...

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Experiencing The Synergy Of Sama Eden


The soothing music draws you in. The place looks really different from the last time you were here. It feels like it was just the other day, but it's not. India happened and it's 4 months later.

That's The Alchemist bar for you.  You wonder if you are the only one who asks yourself if its name was inspired by Paulo Coelho's book. Also, you think of how you really need to reread his book - it was an ocean of wisdom.
 It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon, around 1 p.m and the place is buzzing with activity. You meet Sarah at the entrance. Her warm hug welcomes you in. You are already soaking in all the awesomeness that the merging of the two brands, Sama Paints and the Eden Yard, have manifested.

The vendors are all set, some are talking to curious art enthusiasts. The rest of the crowd is just chilling, jamming to the awesome music that drew you in just a while ago. The vibe in this place is so good.
I mean, but what do you expect with such music and dope vendors like Zero By Zawadi who have yoga inspired merchandise right there for you to marvel at.

Photo credit: Zero by Zawadi

You fall in love with Zawadi's Sayaris; they are the African version of harem pants, that can also be worn as jumpsuits. And what's even doper, they are unisex! 

You try on 2 purple ones thanks to Faith a former classmate in a Creative Entrepreneurship class you attended last year. She works with Zawadi now.

Zawadi, also has some lovely yoga mat holders. You itch to ask the question, why yoga? And when you finally yield to the urge, she tells you that yoga and meditation have had a huge impact in her life. You don't wanna probe, even though that statement leaves you even more curious.  
You meet Edmond and he mentions that you look familiar. He is a vendor too and he is there with Santana Monda, the owner of House of Sahara. They have lovely furniture but you fall in love with this cutie; she's perfect for your bedroom.  You hope your pesky siblings will finally read and obey.

After a couple of minutes, you remember where you met Edmond. He was the youngest vendor at the Art In The Wild event at Kenya Wildlife Service Headquarters 2 years ago.

You catch up and find out some really interesting stuff about him. Stuff like his decision to stop watching telly and how consequently his photographic memory has improved so much that he can draw a friend from memory. You pick his contacts and promise to keep in touch. His story should one day feature here.

Artfordable Kenya

Speaking of stories you meet these really passionate guys. They strive to make beautiful art affordable, thus the name of their brand. Teddy Ngando from Artfordable Kenya is keen on explaining to you how they create their intricate prints out of wood cuttings.

What fascinates you the most out of their story, is that they get their raw material for free from local workshops. They basically upcycle waste MDF(Medium Density Fibreboard) pieces by engraving the designs they want on them, applying ink on them and finally transferring the print on to paper. Clearly, anything is possible under the sun.

Fun Games 

At around 2.30pm, people start playing board games. You join in on the fun and learn a couple of new games - only you forget to ask what the games are called. While playing, you meet this little girl who is so full of life. She joins you and your female friend and you both have a blast watching her say she won every time.

You like how free her guardian seems, she too has a playful spirit. She hula hoops a couple of times next to the person singing at the stage, and she calls your little friend to join her.


You meet Max from the rock band Rash and exchange pleasantries. You were in campus together. He too is asked to go and play the guitar for a bit. Muthoni the Drummer Queen is also in the house. She is just here to chill. Later during the day, you spot her playing with one of the vendors' kid. So sweet.

More people are encouraged to go and sing on the stage. Anyone can go and at some point Edmond answers the call. You like how comfortable  he looks on stage. Talk about being grounded.

Grounded by Bree

Other than helping, you feel grounded and one with mother nature via the plants in her beautifully designed pots. Bree also contributes to the environment by recycling those big old plastic soda bottles and using cement to come up with the creamish-white flower pots you can see above. Here's to staying ever present to our connection to mother nature.

Thank you for staying present with me this long. I hope you've felt the richness of what was The Sama Eden January edition 2018. Lots more things went down and this is only a sample of the whole experience. More opportunities are coming up for you to experience all this awesomeness in person. I sure hope to see you there next time.

Until then,

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Indian Transport And How I Almost Lost My Life.

I think what really struck me as odd on the very first days after touching down in Chennai, was the insane number of bikes. And the fact that everyone rode them, from teenage kids within neighborhoods to grandmas and grandpas. 

I also saw grandparents with their grand kids on the bikes. They were so carefree cause you'd see the kids facing the other way round towards the drivers behind them. It was the cutest thing, a bit dangerous when you start thinking critically about it, but still cute.

I also really tried to photograph a family on a bike - the mother, father and kids all seated comfortably - but a phone camera could not capture that scene clearly.  So I resorted to taking a few videos instead.

I saw all this while in Ashwanth's comfortable AC ventilated car on the first days as we househunted. Ashwanth was my internship supervisor.Then he pointed out the buses and I remember thinking, who will get into those crowded buses like that?

I also remember noticing that most of those buses did not have windows, and that some people were dangling on the front and back doors because the bus was too full to house everyone.

It was so full that it slanted towards the left, the side with the two doors. It looked as though a little nudge on the right side of the bus would cause it to topple over.

In spite of that, in a few weeks time we had become loyal bus commuters. When I say we, I refer to myself and the other 5  East Africans I was interning with. Two from Rwanda, another from Uganda and the rest from Kenya.

The cab services Uber and Ola were considerably affordable; but again not the kind of affordable an intern could resort to as a constant means of transport. Tuk tuks crossed our minds but no one ever acted on those thoughts. They were also crowded because 2 people still found a way to sit with the driver at the front

Two months into the internship and our stay in Chennai is when the almost fatal fall happened. It's magnitude did not hit me until I got to Chola House, which was our home for the 3 months we were in Chennai.My head started spinning so I decided to sit down and take a breather. I remember looking at my left palm and seeing it tremble a couple of times. And then I realized that my body had just experienced a mini trauma.

I speak of my body as though it was a separate entity cause at some point, it felt like some other force had temporarily taken over and given it energy it was not aware it had.

After sitting down for a bit and  regaining my balance, I went to do what I did every evening before my evening meal, which was clean my lunch dish.

So when I turned the tap it hit me that I had just brushed shoulders with death, and boy was I terrified. My tears and the tap water started trickling down almost simultaneously. Then my imagination took over and I saw my family receiving the news about my death - and I just lost it.

The weird part was that in those split seconds I was dead in my head. A dead person crying about their own death. I clenched on to the dish not seeing it anymore; it was as if I was trying to get myself out of that false reality I had created.

That's when AC, the owner of the place we stayed in came to rescue me out of that mini depression or mini nervous breakdown, whatever it was I was experiencing. He took me to his office which was just a door away from the kitchen, and led me to the chair. All that time I was working hard to catch my breath. He tried to calm me down, then when I started breathing normally, the words 'I almost died' were followed with chilling silence.

Here's what happened. It was night time and we were trying to alight from a very crowded bus cause we had already passed the stage - and who knows how far this bus went. So my Rwandese friend Sue tried asking the guys standing close to the driver to tell him to stop. At that time the conductor was busy collecting money at the other end of the bus with his back facing us.

Everyone looked at her blank faced. So we were stuck in a full bus in the night going lord knows where. We had made our way to the front door, so when the bus stopped for a bit, Sue jumped out of the bus and when I was just about to follow her, the bus started moving again.

I have never learnt how to alight properly from a moving vehicle so all I remember after getting out of the bus was losing balance and falling backwards onto the tarmac. As I mentioned above, I don't know where I got all the strength from because I woke up so fast that the guys that ran to help me already found me out of the road.

I went to join Sue who had walked further ahead; she had no idea I had followed her and that I had also fallen. I was as embarrassed by the whole situation as I was in pain so I just casually mentioned that I had fallen. That is when Nelly, a fellow Kenyan who had watched me fall rushed to us and asked if I was alright.

Nelly said that she had temporarily lost all energy on her legs when she saw me fall and she had waited for the bus to stop, then rushed out to look for me. That time, the impact that fall might have  had had not hit me so I simply said I was fine.

There was a car right in front of me when I fell and a motorbike right beside it, so the thought of me being run over by either one of them or even both of them literally brings chills down my spine to date.

Anyway, AC got his first aid kit and helped me clean the open wounds. I experienced intense muscle injury on my left hand and my back, but with the painkillers and muscle injury rub I got from AC, I was feeling better in two weeks time.

But hey, I'm alive right? 🙂 On a light note I am very grateful for my fleshy African bum bum. Cause my bum took a lot of that fall's impact. I still experience some pain when I sit for long periods of time to date but isorait 😏. I am also grateful to AC and all my guardian angels who I believe must have been working extra hard that night.

It's important to note that not all my experiences in India were grim and gloom. This experience was still fresh in my mind so I needed to get it out of my system. Sharing about my vulnerable moments is hard, but I think, it's just as important as sharing about the fun stuff. So please stay with me. The fun stuff is in the offing.

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Art and Poetry : The Irony of He vs SHe

Flashback: I am 12 and as my girlfriends buy sanitary towels and slowly adjust their wardrobes to the changes happening to their bodies, a different kind of change is happening to my own.

I am not comfortable talking to you about it but my voice is changing. Now I definitely have to say something. It's either that or I remain mute for the rest of my life and even so, it will be a short lived solution.

So here goes, but before I say anything let me make one thing clear, I was born a girl.

I'm a Guevodoce which translates to the growth of the male genitalia at 12. They also refer to me as a Machihembra meaning first a woman then a man.

This is the story of many young children in the Dominican Republic.
Young girls who grow up to become boys.

The Art and Poetry event on Masculinity vs Femininity reminded me of this. Hosted by Ink Overflow, it took place at the Micheal Joseph Center Nairobi on the 18th of June. 

If you got a chance to read what I wrote on the one they did on beauty you'd understand why I was excited  and had to make it for the next one.

Masculinity and femininity is more dual than we realize. A single person can be both masculine and feminine. 

Actually biologically we all have a bit of both in us. The sex hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are found in everyone; the only difference is that they are found in different proportions.

That is the main issue the Ink Overflow team sort to address this time round. Many other issues that arise when we start categorizing people according to their genders were addressed by the performances we were graced with too. Having arrived a little late I will sample the few I got to watch.

Shikkiey on Feminism

The lights went off when she came on the stage. Then she did a couple of intense dance moves that totally caught my attention. She was joined by another lady who I later found out is called Seise. They recited some of the pieces in sync almost instinctively which was very impressive.

Shikkiey brought to light the fact that there is a difference between feminism and toxic feminism. She took us back to the 1980's during the onset of feminism. It became as a result of the fact that men assumed all power and were reluctant to give women a chance to air their grievances.

It was and should continue being a space for women to come and speak about issues. Issues such as voting  and participating in sports which not too long ago women were not allowed to participate in.

Thus feminism is meant to give hope for a better tomorrow to women rather than spread hate for men.She made it evident that we don't gain by fighting wrong with wrong or hate with hate. In fact we lose. The agenda is what matters than the title womanist, activist or feminist.

She finished her performance by saying, " What a man can do. a woman can do differently not necessarily better. In a world where only women exist the human race would be extinct and if men are trash then women are ashtrays"

Tetu Shani on Father's Day 

He was the surprise artist and boy was the crowd ecstatic. He lived up to and even exceeded expectations if all the applause he got after his performance was anything to go by.

 He started by wishing all the father's in the room a happy father's day. He went on to point out the fact that there are very few songs about fathers.

The few he knew had a not so perfect image of dads. Such as Queen Ifrica's Daddy Don't Touch Me There and Luther Vandross' Dance With My Father.

He told us that maybe the reason he had not written a song about his Dad was because he was not perfect. Then he posed a question to the crowd. Do we just celebrate perfect? Immediately after that he sang a song about his Dad titled An Ode to Pa

He owned the stage and engaged the audience with ease. I still remember joining the crowd chanting ladidadida  mbamba  to one of his songs. It was truly an experience and a half, not forgetting his epic whistling and beatboxing skills.

FUN FACT: Tetu Shani got a scholarship to Berklee College of Music to study performance, but he turned it down. A really bold decision. Echoing his words he explained " Why go where the sun is setting when the Kenyan sun is rising. There are many opportunities here right now and Berklee will always be there but when a window is open it's not open forever"

Abu Sense on 
 Woman is To Man What Man Isn't

He was the headlining act. His first performance was out of this world. He impersonated a Jamaican boy occasionally behaving like a Jamaican woman in this case his mother. His patwa sounded like the real deal. I even got lost a couple of times but I did not care much. His gestures and body movements were hilarious enough to keep me attentive.

His next piece was about gender and gender roles. He spoke of the way we have worked tirelessly to come up with a measure of manliness or womanliness. It's main component has been comparison to one another, meaning individuality is totally exterminated.

He told us about his experience living in multiple households and having learnt the most from the mothers and the daughters. As opposed to fathers and sons who are reclusive and had to play the role to appear wise.

The ladies embraced life to the fullest and if there happened to be tomboy, he would be accepted and plugged in both worlds. Notice the use of the pronoun he, I believe that it was used deliberately. I believe there is power in embracing both your feminine and masculine sides, because she is he and he is she for they contain each other.

As the performances came to an end. Kaatoony was at the back doing his thing.With his  permission I got to take a short video of the whole process. That along with the picture of a happy client. Watch out for his interview and the video.

Thanks to Ivan Irakoze and the Ink Overflow team for yet another successful event. To all that performed we loved you. To those I missed out on I look forward to watching you next time. Until next time.

AA (Auspicious Art)
Wendi Mutisya

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Ten Life Lessons (TLL) from Trevor Noah's Book: Born a Crime

One John W. Gardner once said "Life is art done without an eraser". Today I list down some 10 life lessons from Trevor Noah's autobiography Born a Crime. I'll do so along with a few steps I took getting to the finished dotted ( pointillism/stippled) art piece I did of him.

The book is a memoir of  his childhood as a biracial in South Africa during apartheid. He was born of a South African Xhosa mother and a Swiss-German father. Interracial relationships were illegal at the time and thus the title Born a Crime. His mother had risked 5 years in prison when she had him.

The book caught my attention and embraced it gently that there was no letting go. I was always looking forward to continuing from where I left of.

The descriptions given in the book are so vivid and African that they resonated so well with me as a Kenyan. Through his words I could feel his joy and his pain and at some point he managed to make me an emotional wreck. A wreck in a good way though, because the point was driven straight home.

Trevor is known for his comedy and it goes without saying that the list will start with something related to laughter and a positive attitude.

 Lesson 1: Look for humor even in the worst of situations

Trevor's step father shot his mother in the head and she miraculously survived.

A few days afterwards in the hospital, his mother was the first one to crack a joke. Trevor was crying by her bedside and she said to him. Don't cry. Look at the bright side: Now you're officially the best-looking person in the family.He bawled his eyes out and laughed hysterically at the same time.

According to Trevor they overcame a lot because of laughter That is why he says he thinks he loves comedy so much. It is what kept his family going through every single type of adversity.

Lesson 2: Nurture your spirituality

At the very beginning of the book we are introduced to Trevor's mother and her strong faith. On Sunday's Trevor mother would take him from the black people's church to the mixed race church and then to the white people's church to attend different services. To her, each of the three Churches offered something unique.  

As I drew close to the end of the book, the vivid expression of the emotions that were felt after Trevor's mother got shot in the head drew tears to my eyes.

I still remember that day I was reading it in a matatu and I had to stop reading it for a while to prevent myself from crying in a bus full of people.I had to take a few deep breathes too in order to calm down. Emotional movies do that to me all the time, but that was the first time a book had evoked such strong emotions in me. 

When someone gets shot in the head and suffers no brain damage and is alive and does not need to go through any surgery because the bullet completely passes through the head, missing all the major organs. It is hard to deny the miracle in that.

Lesson 3: Language unites sometimes even beyond race

In many instances Trevor realized language unites. In the book he says "Maybe I didn't look like you, but if I spoke like you, I was you.

He can be described as a polyglot a person who has mastered multiple languages. He speaks several languages including English, Afrikaans, German, Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho.

Due to his light skin color Trevor got a hard time in school. In order to gain acceptance from the black kids like a chameleon  he would blend well with people when they spoke different languages. When someone spoke Xhosa to him he would reply in Xhosa the same applied to the other South African languages like Tswana and Sotho.

There's one instance Trevor heard a group of guys speaking in their native language planning to mug him. He turned and started speaking their language saying "Yo, guys, why don't we just mug someone together? I'm ready. Let's do it" They looked shocked for a while then they started laughing. The fact that he spoke their language made them change their attitude towards him, they even apologized and told him they thought he was something else.

Lesson 4: Use your gifts and be keen on spotting opportunities

Trevor ran very fast. His naughty nature had helped him improve on his speed. He wrote" Nobody ran like me and my mom. She wasn't one of those come over here and get your hiding type of moms. She'd delivered it to you free of charge." Even if it meant running after him.

This was a gift that he leveraged at school. Immediately after assembly, there would be a race to the tuck shop because the queue to buy the food was so long. Every minute spent on the queue was working against people's break time too.

Trevor was always first in line, so people started going to him to buy things for them in return for some money. He grabbed that opportunity and started telling everyone at assembly to place their orders. He was an overnight success and in his words " Fat guys were my number-one customers. They loved food, but couldn't run."

Fun fact:
 Trevor was a naughty child but luckily unlike his cousins he never got punished by his grandmother. "A black child you hit them and they remain black" she used to tell his mother. "Trevor when you hit him he turns blue and green and yellow and red. I've not seen these colors before I am scared I am going to break him. I don't want to kill a white person."

Here I was working on his mischievous grin

Lesson 5: Fear regret rather than failure

In his own words; " I don't regret anything I've ever done in life, any choice that I've made. But I'm consumed with regret for the things I didn't do, the choices I didn't make, the things I didn't say. We spend too much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection, but regret is the thing we should fear most."

"Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have an answer to. ;"What if?" "If only" "I wonder what would have..." You will never, never know, and it will haunt you for the rest of your days"

Lesson 6: Be comfortable being unique

Imagine yourself living in a land where you are isolated because you are not black enough even though you were born and raised in an African family. You are not white enough because only one of your parents is.

Trevor was able to see and feel what both races went through during apartheid. He could not walk next to his mother in public and at some point his mother had to hire a mixed race lady friend Queen to walk with her and Trevor. So that she looked like Trevor's mother and his real mother would look like his nanny. Trevor could also not call his father Dad. He grew up calling him by his name Robert.

Trevor used his unique qualities to his advantage. He used his language skills to reach all races, he may not have felt like he fit in anywhere during his teenage years but speaking a certain groups language helped him earn trust.  Even to date Trevor says he enjoyed his childhood because it was all he knew. He never felt like he lacked much.

Lesson 7: Even in hardship home is where the heart is

Trevor got tired of seeing his mother abused by his step father. He felt helpless because he did not know how to assist her. They had reported him to the police a couple of times but he had some police friends. So nothing really ever happened to him.

His mother is the key personality in his book and he wrote the following " Finally, for bringing me into this world and making me the man I am today, I owe the greatest debt, a debt I can never repay, to my mother."

Lesson 8: Be better because of your past

Patricia Trevor's mother being a key personality in his book and in his life in general had the following to say" Learn from your past and be better because of your past, but don't cry about your past. Life is full of pain. Let the pain sharpen you, but don't hold on to it. Don't be bitter."

Patricia had gone through a lot but she practiced what she preached. She was never bitter. The deprivations of her youth, the betrayals of her parents, she never complained about any of it.

Lesson 9: Have respect for other people no matter how they treat you in return 

Patricia had suffered a great deal from her husband Abel, Trevor's step father. Trevor was hurt when he saw his mother suffer in Abel's hands. He did not at any point disrespect this vile man though.

It was only when Abel shot his mother that Trevor lost control and called him. At that point he thought his mother was dead. She had been shot in the head so it was hard to imagine she would survive that. Trevor threatened to kill Abel at that moment of rage.

He says " To this day I don't know what I was thinking. I don't know what I expected to happen. I was
just enraged." Clearly Patricia raised Trevor exceptionally well.

Lesson 10: Make the most of your situation

Trevor was hidden from the real world. His innocence as a child hid the truth behind his special treatment. To his young mind he did not think his special treatment was because he was light skinned. When it came to his grandmother to him it was "Trevor doesn't get beaten because Trevor is Trevor.

For a while Trevor did not have friends because he was neither black nor white.He learnt to accept his situation and resorted to living in his head. He would also read a lot while he was a lone. That would eventually make him the awesome author he is today that penned this amazing book. If you are going through a tough time, remember it is there as an opportunity to learn something new. That lesson is bound to stick and will probably help you a whole lot in the future. So hang in their and try to make the most of the situation.

AA (Auspicious Art)
Wendi Mutisya

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