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Visiting Dambudzo Marechera’s Grave

THE grave marked number 1237 at Warren Hills Cemetery in Harare does not seem at all special to anyone who might give it a glance as they navigate the narrow paths of the cemetery, trying not to disturb the dead.

Like other graves around it, grave number 1237 is a bit untidy, with mushrooming layer of grass threatening to cover the name of the man who rests there. It is the name of the man etched on that tombstone whose soul and bones have found a resting on that piece of real estate in Warren Hills that makes grave number 1237 special.

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The tombstone simply reads: Dambudzo Marechera, Writer. For any follower of Zimbabwean literature, the mere mention of that name is the only introduction needed to the late writer.

Marechera, the maverick of Zimbabwean literature who passed away in 1987, had a greatly influential role in the generation of writers that came after him. He inspired a troop of disciplines that read his classic books like House of Hunger, Black Sunlight and Mindblast as if they are scripture.

 

In fact, so great is his influence that 31 years after he passed away, one of the country’s current stars in the world of literature took time to make a trip to Warren Hills to pay homage and tend to the untidy grave of the fallen literature rebel.

Philani Nyoni, the winner of Nama awards for acting and poetry, made the glorious pilgrimage to Marechera’s resting place, fulfilling his desire to “meet” the man who had such a great influence on his own writing.

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“I met Dorcas Gwata two years ago. She had been referred to me as a ‘person to know’ in Bulawayo as much for my extra-curricular activates as for my work. After our meeting she wrote a blog piece which was published by a local online site under the title ‘Philani Nyoni the Next Marechera?’

“We got along quite well, in her subsequent travels to Zimbabwe we got to work together quite often in our attempt to fuse art and mental health to bring meaningful breakthroughs to mental patients. On that basis she invited me to a lunch with the British Ambassador and Zimbabwean alumni of the London School of Health and Tropical Hygiene. After lunch Dorcas and I did something we both had been yearning to do, which is visit Marechera’s grave,” said Nyoni.

Finding Marechera’s grave however, had been harder than they initially thought it would be.

“It’s a bit of a walk from the main road past the graves of Provincial Heroes. I learnt that some of the people buried there served in DRC. Most were buried between 2001 and 2002. It would be a long journey to the 1987 graves,” he said.

According to Nyoni, the grave they found was unkempt, although its state of untidiness was not alarming. After finding the grave, Nyoni was inspired to pen a poem as he sat besides the man who had such a big influence on his career.

“The fellow who took us to the grave works there and had a hoe. The grass on the grave was short but a bit taller than lawn for example. The cemetery is generally well kept. I did a bit of work on it but this was mostly symbolic but when I sat down to write the caretaker cleared the entire grave,” he said.

Having finally located Marechera at his final address, Nyoni could not help but muse at the writer’s legacy.

“We are very privileged to have him as the bedrock of Zimbabwean literature, to know that no matter how far you go, how close one skirts with the edge, there’s a man who did more and left the bar pretty high for all who followed. He gave his all to the craft. He brought newness into the world beyond his local context. Visiting him was a surreal experience,” he said.

Article written by Philani A Nyoni

Philani Nyoni and Dorcas Gwata visited Marechera’s grave in May 2018.

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Dorcas Gwata

Tribal Sands 2018

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Major of London launches new public health approach to tackling youth violence

Press Release: 20.09.2018
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CNWL has been at the forefront of tackling youth violence and exploitation working in partnership with the Westminster Integrated Gangs Unit. Our lead staff Dorcas Gwata, Clinical Nurse Specialist and Dr Tami Kramer, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, welcome the announcement by the Major of London, Sadiq Khan, about the new approach to youth violence using a public health approach, which mirrors the successful violence reduction model in Glasgow.

The roots of youth violence are embedded in poverty, inequality and other social risk factor such as school failure, family breakdown, unemployment etc. Many of those  affected by or exposed to gang violence develop mental and physical health problems, and struggle to access mainstream mental and physical health services.  Innovative interventions, delivered by integrated​ multiagency statutory and voluntary service providers, within a London wide strategy, are  required to tackle this growing public health challenge.
 
Dr Kramer and Dorcas Gwata are looking forward to strengthening their work applying evidence based public health approaches. The announcement comes at a time when we are planning an event in partnership with the Royal College of Nursing themed ‘Nursing Against Youth Violence’ to be held on the 12th of November 2018
 
 
We encourage staff to register and attend.
310315 30th March 2015 Dorcas Gwata - Clinical Nurse Specialist with model posing as gang members (Joseph Amuah (male in first cafe shots, and in hoodie for external shots) & Rachel Ryan ( female in 2nd set of cafe shots & with hooded jacket, and wool green hat for outside shots). Pictures include one or both of the two models named.
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30th March 2015
Dorcas Gwata – Clinical Nurse Specialist
Dorcas Gwata
Tribal Sands 2018
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Pasi Papfuma, A Grief Observed

 

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In August this year, we buried my father, Baba Christopher Chakanyuka Gwata in our rural village in Nenguwo, Chihota, in Zimbabwe.

Patriarchs do not come any softer, he lived a life of charity, reading, writing, organic foods and laughter. Oral history lived here. The village boy who walked to school bare foot, became a teacher and later married a Mbare girl, together they raised more children than they birthed.

Baba’s funeral was spiritual and ritualistic in Shona cultural practises, his coffin lay in our mother’s sacred thatched kitchen, his youthful picture perched above, he stood tall in that picture, the father that he was, the father I wanted to remember, not the frail man riddled in poor health as he was in his last few weeks.

Women play a significant and incredibly valued role in our Shona traditions, many important decisions pass through their matriarchal veins, varoora’s (in laws) danced and cooked the night away, when your grief becomes too heavy, they come along and comfort and tickle you, they sweep the grave yard, and cater for the rolling numbers, when the dust settles they politely line up and claim for their efforts. They warmed my grieving heart.

Grief is the air in between, there are many dark moments, you can lose yourself in search of meaning, you find comfort in unexpected places and people, every loss is valid, the footsteps of grief are individual, each observed at their pace and time. I am still observing

In African cultures, a grief is embodied by crying out loud, whaling, screaming, rolling on the ground, arms in the air as people come along and say ‘nematambudziko’ (sorry for your loss) it’s a healthy expression of grief, it brings closure.

Dizzy in jet lag and sorrow, surrounded by tribes closest to my heart, I mingled with the mass, many had travelled a long way to come to Baba’s funeral, many spoke of his selfless heart, his love of education and his tenderness and his failing health.

I wanted it to be a dream, I wanted to hold his hand again and have that last conversation, but God had called his man. As they lowered him into the ground, next to his kindred, among the Shumba Nyamuziwa clan, I heard the sound of birds fly away in a distance.

In it all, I am reminded of the value of family and masahwira (friends) who stick around, even when laughter is not the order of the day.
I love spending time kumusha (our village) I love the simplicity, I am home here. Thank you to all who have supported us in this difficult journey.

In our Shona culture we say ‘pasi papfuma’ the ground is richer with you in it.

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Dorcas Gwata

Tribal Sands 2018

All rights reserved

Fierce Women: Dorcas Gwata, Global Health Expert Interview

Dorcas Gwata is one of those women who is so accomplished and passionate that it is hard to comprehend. How can one person have such a huge and positive impact on the world?  Dorcas is astounding. A Global Mental Health Expert and African Affairs Analyst, these two extremely important titles do not fully capture the complexity and depth of Dorcas work or the strength of character she holds as a person. I’ve decided to start with a list of her achievements and let her amazing interview speak for itself. 

An overview of the Fierceness that is Dorcas Gwata

  • Awarded for Mental Health and Gangs Interventions 2015
  • Global Health Specialist, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Ethiopia
  • Visiting Global Mental Health Lecturer at LSHTM and Kings College
  • Global Mental Health Expert and African Affairs Analyst
  • Winner, Zimbabwe Achievers Community Champion 2017
  • Winner Zimbabwe International Women Humanitarian Award 2016
  • Nominated Zimbabwe International Women Blogger 2015
  • Trustee for Zimbabwe Health Training Support Diaspora Charity
  • Sponsor at National Arts Merit Awards, Zimbabwe
  • Vodafone World of Difference Winner 2013
  • Women of the Year UK 2016

Can you tell us what sparked your passion in global health?

I moved to the UK  when I was 20, I was then fairly unclear about my career pathway, meanwhile the HIV/AIDS crisis was wreaking havoc in Africa; we lost many breadwinners, children were orphaned, many migrated in search of greener pastures, better treatment perhaps. The more I pondered these things, the more I realised I wanted to work in a role that bridged my interests in mental health, gender and migration. Today I am grateful to serve and give back to the continent that gave me so much. I have just been appointed Chair of the Zimbabwe Health Training Support Charity, a diaspora-led charity focusing on mental health and epilepsy training in Zimbabwe.

You are very well educated; can you tell us a little about the path you took to get where you are today?

I am actually dyslexic, I don’t recall my parents ever celebrating my grades. In my Shona culture, the word ‘dofo’ is a dehumanizing and stigmatising term inflicted upon people who achieve poor grades. I lived in the shadows of that stigma.
I truly believe in the art and power of emotional intelligence. Our sense of compassion, empathy and ability to navigate difficult terrain, the choices we make about the people we choose to surround ourselves with make us much more resilient and attuned to the issues that the world faces. These are matters of emotional intelligence. When we allow ourselves to be receptive, we open ourselves to an inner learning which protects and guides us.

If we collectively cared more about the issues of gender-based-violence, climate change, disturbing violations of human rights that continue to mar our lives generation after generation, our policies and approaches would demonstrate better care. That said, education is at the heart of most Africans, I waded through and later studied at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, it was here that I sealed my global health journey. Today I work with young people and families affected by gang culture in London many of whom are from minority backgrounds. In delicate moments they share their experiences of trauma, grief and vulnerability, I learn from every one of them. I know how vulnerability feels, I have lived it.

You have worked extensively in the field of mental health and worked as Mental Advisor for charity AFRUCA. Can you tell us a little about this charity and what their primary functions are?Victoria Climbe was trafficked from West Africa into the UK by her aunt as a young child. Many Africans particularly the poor believe moving to the West will better their lives. Victoria was extensively abused by those who should have protected her. When their own lives began to fall apart, they stigmatized and abused Victoria, they believed that Victoria was a witch. Victoria came into contact with many experienced multi-agency professionals including doctors, nurses, social workers, and teachers who all failed to pick up the critical signs of abuse associated with African cultures. Victoria later died a gruesome death in an inner London hospital, in one of the most developed countries in the world.Today my mentor Debbie Ariyo OBE runs AFRUCA Charity, https://www.afruca.org/ The charity looks into cultural practises affecting African families in the UK such as Female Genital Mutilation, human trafficking, child chastisement, modern slavery and the impact of culture and religion to safeguard vulnerable lives. I was privileged to work with the charity as their Mental Health Adviser, later as a Trustee and now a Consultant. The charity is embedded in communities and faith groups. Their model of outreach engagement with communities that are otherwise tarnished as ‘hard to reach’ is relevant and replicable in many communities around the world.How prevalent are issues such as witchcraft branding and human trafficking today and what is being done to help prevent these injustices?

A vast majority of African families lead lives the outside lens would term as very normal. Many are true to their faith, they have incredible social and cultural attachments which foster community coherence and resilience, social characteristics that are drastically missing in western society.  Many Africans work long hours, their children excel with top grades as well as in the workplace, many of us regularly send money back home to support our families in Africa. Issues of witchcraft-branding are few and far between however when they are associated with poverty, migration, trauma and mental health complications they can be complicated. Women, children and the disabled, at times people living with albinism are most vulnerable and more likely to be drawn into that circle. We still have work to do. Governments need to do much more to protect these vulnerable groups.

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From your experience, how have attitudes toward mental health in Africa changed?

Culture is intrinsically linked to health. The HIV crisis and to some extent the Ebola crisis helped to raise much needed awareness on the links between disease and culture. Much work has been done through research, media, faith groups and civil societies who work tirelessly to address the issues. Yet we still have so much more work to do in reducing stigma on mental health across the globe. Mental health and its stigmatisation is a global challenge; it is not unique to Africa. Switzerland and Finland are some of the richest countries in the world, they have very high suicide rates.

In the African context issues of poor and fragile health care systems, lack of funding, a deficiency of robust and updated polices along with inability to address gender and human rights issues make the experiences of those living with mental health problems much more challenging. Social and cultural factors such as domestic/gender-based violence, substance misuse and forced migration continue to compound the challenges further. Our data on suicide rates in Africa is still poor. In many parts of the continent, people who commit or attempt suicide are shunned; in some parts, one is not even given a decent burial.

Within the UK, what health issues are of most prevalent among immigrants? Are outcomes for these patients vastly different to non-immigrant communities?

Many migrants come to the UK and Europe as a whole and make significant contributions to local economies, adding many dimensions of cultural diversity that enrich these countries. I am reminded of the Caribbean communities who moved to the UK in the 50’s and  60’s and worked in the NHS; they built up the health care system that we access today. Of Irish and Polish communities who moved to the US and helped develop the fundamentals that Americans defend so fiercely today, and the fine Middle Eastern and Asian scientists that have contributed to our body of knowledge that helps us live in a better and safer world.
I reject the notion that migrants are burdensome to the west. That said, I think we need to reduce the push and pull factors that result in forced migration. Migrants are affected by the same health issues as natives; however the loss of community-support and challenges in cultural assimilation can further complicate their mental health. In these industrial Western countries, we live such individualised lives, we are lonely, we are losing our social and cultural skills to social media, there is a price to be paid for globalisation and development, that price is our mental health.

How has your experience been as female immigrant to the UK yourself? In your own experience have you seen a change in attitude toward immigrants, either positive or negative?When I first moved to the UK I worked as a hospital cleaner, a job that taught me so much about the British society. Many years later, well into my global-health career, I am occasionally mistaken for a cleaner, I take no offense to this; I only ask that we treat everyone equally, including cleaners. In Europe some still hold the stereotype that all African women are cleaners. Our  value is not wealth, education or class, it is measured by our servitude to society. Despite stereotype,  Black women tend do well in the UK, our greatest challenge is in protecting and fostering young  black men who grow into role models that multiply generations and beyond, the need has never been greater.
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Presently you are involved in helping families and individuals who are affected by gang culture. Can you provide some insight as to why gang culture is so complex and difficult to navigate? What groups are most at risk to gang culture and why?

Gangs are a product of communities, environment, inequalities, questions of identity, generational violence; challenges in parenting, small economies, control and exploitation, in the midst of this are some very vulnerable young people. Gangs are invariably associated with violence and exploitation, often those who have been bullied become the bullies, young people affected by stabbing and gun crime are often traumatized and can develop mental health challenges such as anxiety, social phobia, psychoses, suicidal ideas, and poor nutrition. Substance misuse is high amongst those exposed to gang culture. Many young people affected by gang culture in London are from minority backgrounds, the lack of positive role models: fathers who continue to father at a time when identity, belonging and validity are so critical. This often leads young people into seeking unhealthy emotional attachments, gangs seek to reflect family needs, they offer protection and a sense of identity, the very issues that are critical in adolescent development. There is a strong co-relation between gangs and inequalities, we must do all we can to reduce inequality gaps in our society.

I am a passionate advocate of grassroots movements and activities and there is a growing recognition for the power of these movements within larger global organisationshowever we need to ensure that policies reflect issues at grassroots. Policy makers, politicians, need to be embedded and in tune with the very issues that matter in people’s daily lives, social mobility is  better achieved when everyone feels a sense of ownership of the process.

You are a passionate advocate for the testing of HIV and have recently been involved in a campaign encouraging people to get tested. Can you tell us a little about this campaign and why you support it so strongly?

I lost 3 brothers to HIV and AIDS, they were breadwinners, and their loss had a huge impact on my career development. At its worst HIV wiped out Zimbabwe’s middle class society, the very core of society that stimulates economic development and growth.  I wanted to stand up for the issues that compound our development including the impact of health on development. HIV has had a huge impact in the African continent and Africans living abroad. That said, we have made remarkable progress in containing HIV, however the social, cultural and economic impact is still with us. Many children have been raised by their grandmothers, many homes are single-parent led, often headed by women, it is important we recognise the role that women  in raising stable homes, raising orphaned children, often unacknowledged or validated. Their smiles, laughter, renowned singing and resilience urges me to push on for better outcomes for our communities.

The Terence Higgins Trust does an amazing job in engaging Africans in the UK, we need to encourage more African men in the UK to test early, there are many methods to test for HIV, and confidentiality is strictly observed.

In the Terence Higgins HIV National campaign you wear clothing made by Zimbabwean women artists some of whom are also HIV positive. And you yourself are an advocate for the African fashion and arts industry. Can you tell us a little about the female African artists you know and work with and how important their work is for the African narrative?

I took a leaf out of one of my favourite writers’ approaches to life. Nigerian author Ngozi Chimamande Adichie wears Nigerian designers, by doing so she is shaping the Nigerian narrative. There is more than one Zimbabwean narrative, when I wear an African designer, I feel whole, and when I wear a Zimbabwean designer I feel on top of the world. I love wearing Joyline Munaiwa’s Clothing, her products reflect the warmth of her heart. I love rocking Thandi Wraps, Thandi Haruperi’s work and heart reminds me again and again that there is more to the human soul than a condition. The Ndebele people in the southern region are renowned for the bold colours, vibrant arts and culture, for jewellery and all that is drama in African fashion, I run to ever vivacious Fikile Mqhelekagogo Dube. My dear friend Pumela Salela of Brand South Africa wears mouth watering African outfits, we are cut from the same cloth.

There is a symbiotic relationship between art and mental health, indeed artists are as fascinated about mental health as we are mesmerized by their work. I am proud of the collaborative work that I have been doing with Zimbabwean artists to champion health and social challenges in our communities. Philani Amadeus Nyoni’s poetry has enriched our work in mental health and epilepsy in Zimbabwe. Artist, Tariro ne Gitare is engaged in ground-breaking  work with adolescents living with HIV in Zimbabwe. Hope Masike supports our work in people living with epilepsy, who are often marginalised and impoverished.  The great Oliver Mutukudzi is a true champion of health and healing, he often visits patients in hospitals in Zimbabwe. I am loving the conversations we are having with Gemma Griffiths on how we can collaborate and address issues of substance misuse in young people in Zimbabwe. In our culture grief, trauma and happiness are often expressed through arts.

In a recent article for Zimbabwe Abroad Magazine, you identify silent killers such as obesity and hypertension as presenting a new challenge in the future of African countries and communities. Given the complexities of socioeconomics and equality of access to education, how do you believe these issues will be best tackled in the future?HIV is now a chronic disease, people are living longer with better quality of life, Africa’s middle class is growing, they are adopting western eating habits and their waistlines are growing. In the African culture, roundness and firmness is sought after in relationships and marriage, in the western culture many go to lengths to keep their weight extremely low. These differing obsessions of culture and health and extremely interesting to observe, this is the stuff of anthropology.In many ways infectious diseases such as Ebola have their shock and awe, they make their presence known, whilst hypertension and diabetes may linger on often undetected. I am excited about the appointment of Dr Tedro Ghebreyesus new Director General at the World Health Organisation. Dr Tedros is the first African to hold this important role; he is familiar with the global health challenges, not least because Africa holds the highest burden of disease. We are ready to serve and support his policies. I recently spend some time at the World Health Organisation in Geneva shadowing WHO Chief Nurse Elizabeth Iro, along with Lord Nigel Crisp and Professor Sheila Tlou who have championed the Nursing Now global campaign which is pushing for greater recognition of the nursing and midwifery role in its capacity to support health care systems and economic development.  I pushed on the need to ensure that there are more women in leadership roles and that mental health is a priority at all levels, including the health of the health care worker.IMG-20160717-WA0004Part of the purpose of this project is to encourage confidence in women. You are an incredibly accomplished woman who has found her own voice in a number of fields. How do you encourage confidence in yourself?

My yoga mat is my prayer mat, it is there that I find solace, clarity and vision. Yoga is my breath. I was also raised by strong matriarchs, wide hipped African women who fought against all odds to ensure we had a viable future.  I constantly draw on their values, their outstanding resilience and strive to live up to my worth, always standing in my truth. It is what we make out of what we have not what we are given that separates one person from the other. I love spending time in our village in Zimbabwe, I love the organic life, simplicity and quietness. My soul is at ease here.

When we find and acknowledge the voice within, and we surround ourselves with the right people the rest falls into place. There is great value in mentorship, I love the mentoring relationship that I have with global health enthusiasts, Dalia Majongwe, Barbara Makunde and Marwa Mohammed, they are truly tomorrow’s leaders. There are many men who support women, they are feminists in their own right. Every challenge in our life is an opportunity to grow and learn; in our growth we must support girls and young women as they develop into this ever-challenging and giving world.

Out of the many things you have achieved so far, what are you most proud of and why? What is next for you? 

I was awarded for my work in gangs and mental health, In 2017 I was awarded The Zimbabwe International Women Humanitarian Award, and earlier in 2016 I was awarded The Zimbabwe Achievers Community Leader Award. I now sponsor young artists in Zimbabwe and mentor a number of young leaders.

​ I am absolutely proud of the Global Health Café platform that I co-run with Ade Adebusuyi. We formed the first African led platform for global health enthusiasts to meet, network and develop. We have grown from a start-up into a thriving global health community that meets regularly with leading global health leaders with focus on Africa. Of all that I have done, I am mostly honoured to have carried my mother’s charitable heart forward. I miss her dearly.

The future looks bright; I would love to tuck into a yoga retreat somewhere in Asia, alone with plenty of herbal teas, my books and yoga mat.

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 Photo credit: Tirivam
Interview by Fierce Women Collective
Blog entry by Dorcas Gwata 2018
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Of injustice, rage and genocides. A PAN poem for Ahed Tamini

For #ahed_tamimi

Award winning Zimbabwean Poet, Philani Amadeus Nyoni writes a moving poem for Ahed Tamini, a young Palestinian young woman that speaks of an observed injustice, a global grief and our restlessness for a better future. Zimbabwe in conversation with Palestine.

PAN Ahed


There is a fire in your palm
That speaks for all injustice;
It is the rage of genocide
From Rwanda to Gukurahundi,
From power to power
The plight of the innocent
Tower to tower. Fire to fire,
Your palm against fire power.
There is a fire in your palm
I wish was in mine for see:
The pen would be mightier
Than gunpowder and I’d free you
Back to the dunes you call home.
But there is fire in your name;
It burns of promise.

Ahed Tamini 2

Philani A Nyoni was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe sometime in the last century. He has authored four books: “Once A Lover Always A Fool” (2012), “Hewn From Rock” (2014) with John Eppel, “Mars His Sword” (2016) and ‘Philtrum’ (2017)

Ahed Tamini

-PAN,18

PAN Picture credit of KB Mpofu

Dorcas Gwata

Director of Tribal Sands 2018

All rights reserved.

South of Africa: Ubuntu: Styled by Fikile Mqhelekagogo Dube

 

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It is often said that the beauty of African fashion comes from the   authentic hands that craft it, the innovation that turns a worn out maize sack into a head turning figure-hugging skirt, the visionary eyes that see beyond our everyday waste, and the delicate hands that put finishing touches to wearable arts fit for grand ceremonies.

African fashion is actively participating on the global stage, we are shaping the global fashion industry with our bold colours, tribals prints and wraps that have no beginning or ending. 

Fikile Mqhelekagogo Dube hails from Southern Africa, her world is wrapped in all things African, she is as unclaimed as her brand, there are no cliches here, there is nothing ordinary about Fix, as I call her. Her jewellery has clout, it is loud and bold yet grounded in a deep cultural presence that our collective ancestors would approve. I love her unique accessories designs, she embodies strong Southern African themes that have a strong sense of belonging, yet not tied to any particular country or tribe. Fikile is present, she is here and she is not afraid to ‘go there’ and disrupt our cultural norms. She whips up our usual culturally themed styles into mesmerising garments, the kind that acclaims remarks wherever you are. I love that she continuously pays homage to her roots and honours the origins of her inspirations, that she sources her materials from the continent and  actively supports local women to produce materials, collaborating with them to improve their participation in showcasing the best from Southern Africa. 

I caught up with the ever vivacious Fikile  Dube on my blog, Tribal Sands, and she shared her journey on how it all began with your brand, South of Africa.

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‘I have always been unapologetically afrocentric and in the 90s when I arrived in the UK African accessories and clothes were not easy to find (unlike now), and because I enjoyed working with indigenous mediums in Zimbabwe I was more than eager to make my own rather than to abandon wearing my African clothes and accessories . A friend of mine came to visit me one day and said “these shoes are Dope! why don’t you just make these to sell?” and the rest is history,’ Fikile smiled.

Fikile’s ethnographic approaches embody the ethos of Ubuntu culture, she has a way with fabrics, kaftans, shawls and rems of mouthwatering jewellery. I wondered what grounded her so firmly in her roots.

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‘I like to think I was raised in the spirit of Ubuntu and it’s importance for our ability to thrive and grow as a people. It’s something that was ingrained in me from childhood and up to this day I believe, live and practice it. I therefore believe that it translates naturally into my brand.’

‘My inspiration is without a doubt drawn from the African continent and her traditional cultures, her colours, her smells, her vibrancy, her people, her pain. My emphasis on Southern Africa is mostly because of my diverse heritage from the region. I have Ndebele, Sotho, Shona, Swati and Zulu blood and influences from those cultures have been constant in my life’

As an Analyst and Global Mental Health Specialist, I see synergies between art and mental health, I love supporting African artists. I am all too aware that we are documenting African fashion at a time when the continent is rising, and the African Diaspora is keen to play its part in the continents development. African women in particular are defining their own narrative through spectacular designs. This is an exciting time to engage in  African Fashion. African designers too have social responsibilities and can leverage and amplify cultural impacts in the community.

‘Africa is trending,’ Fikile insists,  ‘African influence is at the forefront of not only the fashion industry but a vast majority of other disciplines in the creative world. This is our moment as fashion and accessories designers to not only tell our story about Africa but also to influence how people dress. This is our opportunity to influence how people perceive Africa and how us Africans perceive ourselves. It’s an opportunity for our young girls to realise the beauty of Africa and the beauty of being African’ she adds.

Although many African women are progressing well,  the issues of domestic violence, which are further complicated by our cultural beliefs and practises continue to affect us all at all in the continent and in the diaspora, I wondered how Fikile was using her brand and voice to advocate on these challenging issues.

‘South of Africa works with women who have been affected by issues of abuse. We source and sell products on their behalf. We also work with a team who proactively work with these ladies to make sure they have access to information and knowledge on how to access resources for women who may be abused. In addition, we at South of Africa have been proactively vocal on issues of abuse. In this day and age no type of abuse should be considered acceptable,’ Fikile says with a passion that is clearly seeking for a better tomorrow for us all.

‘You are out and about and unapologetically bold about your accessories, how does this reflect your personality,’ I asked Fikile. She smiles, broad red lipsticked, adjusts her bold signature squared glasses and whisperers, ‘I am unapologetically African, vibrant, vivacious, and a non conformist’  Our spirits mingle and I breath into a timeless friendship.

Fikile’s craftsmanship skills are fascinating, she dyes her own materials to enhance her designs,  I wondered why is it important to her to maintain the traditional skills of design, even with all the technology that we have today.

‘For me the perfection of Africa is in its imperfections,’ she says. ‘The flaws in my design give them character and the traditional skills best reflect this beauty. Whilst technology might be quicker and more efficient I don’t believe that it can adequately capture all the skills of design that we’ve acquired over years and years.’

Fikile has been awarded for her work. ‘I have  had many happy moments,’ she said ‘but being recognised by my peers as a fully fledged designer rather than someone who just makes accessories for fun in her living room was a very happy moment for me, she adds.

‘There have been challenges too’ she says ‘challenges that I’m sure many other African designers face too. The economic challenges in Zimbabwe make it difficult to import and export our crafts, we hope that this improves and opens up greater opportunities for the local producers and the diaspora, the scope for development is immense’

Fikile maintains a ground footing in a number of community projects in Zimbabwe. ‘It is important for the diaspora to support home based brands,’ she says, ‘because Zimbabwe is home and whether we like it or not it has moulded each and every one of us into who we are today and where we end up. It’s only right that we give back to the earth that has given us so much,’ she adds.

Young and experienced designers look up to Fikile, I wondered what advice she would you give to a young person who may be considering a career path in African fashion today.

‘Believe in yourself, she says, believe in your talent and don’t ever create anything that you would never publicly endorse. Don’t let your fears inhibit your goals. Embrace your fears,’ she concludes.

Fikile Dube thank you for talking to me on Tribal Sands.

 

Dorcas Gwata

Director of Tribal Sands

Photo’s credit to Fikile Dube

Thank you to Dalia Majongwe, Manager at Tribal Sands

January 2018, all rights reserved.

Mental Health and Migration at Global Health Cafe

The Global Health Cafe community met again recently and explored issues of mental health, migration and economies of migration with special guests, Turkish Psychiatrist,  Dr Vesile Senturk and Kenyan Economist Agnes Gitau. The context:

Despite the notable public health improvements across Africa, there are still significant challenges that remain. All the current global health initiatives; SDGs including UHC (Universal Health Coverage), GHSA (Global Health Security Agenda), One Health, provide optimism for sustainable health solutions in Africa. However, if Africa is to truly improve the health of its population and attain the desired goals of these initiatives, collective and African-led efforts are needed. Local leadership has proven vital in disease outbreak response and is a strong example of the effective and sustainable benefits of African-led approaches to public health improvement across much of the Continent.

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The Global Health community in Britain is growing and those with a passion for Africa are increasingly seeking to amplify their voice and ability to remedy these problems. There is a sizeable community of Africans outside of Africa and they too have a role to play in ‘Africanled’ approaches. The Global Health Cafe is a new platform formed by Global Mental Health Expert, Dorcas Gwata and Global Policy Expert Ade Adeyemi with great support from Dr Titilola Banjoko (Director of Performance, Planning and Informatics, NHS) and Professor Aliko Ahmed (Director of Public Health England, East of England), the founders of Better Health for Africa. Our regular Global Health Café meet-ups take place in Westminster, London. Enthusiasts come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences to meet and discuss Global Health issues, with a view to stimulate progressive dialogue that can inform innovation, health policy, evaluation and practise. Progress so far Recently, we have explored the impact of Brexit on Global Health, career opportunities in Global Health and this month we will be discussing the relationship between mental health and the economics of migration with special guests Turkish Psychiatrists Dr Vesile Senturk and Kenyan Economist Agnes Gitau.

We will explore the mental health outcomes in migrant communities with a particular focus on Turkey and Kenya; looking at the economic, cultural and social impacts of migration on these countries. We will also focus on lessons that low income countries can learn from middle income countries, where we will move to understand the effects of migration on these countries and make representations to the appropriate authorities.

We explore business opportunities and the economies of migration in Global Health, in the paradigm of a politicized migration. Are we missing the business opportunities than can arise from migration, could economies of migration help to develop health care systems and businesses in Africa? The Global Health Café series is an African-led platform, with focus on health in Africa, importantly so because, despite progress Africa continues to carry the heaviest burden of global disease. The future Over time we will be looking to develop these discussions on bigger think-tank platforms, seeking funding to grow our influence in Global Health.

The timing could not be more right with the new appointment of Dr Tedros Gebreyesus WHO Director General, the first African to hold this post. The community that gathers at the Café will serve as the “vehicle” for informed and credible delivery of sustainable public health improvements in Africa, supporting the new WHO DG in its own little way. All efforts to support and magnify our impact are welcome

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Dorcas Gwata, Global Mental Health Expert and

Ade Adeyemi, Global Health Policy Expert

 

Thank you to all our volunteers on the Global Health Cafe series, we very much appreciate your efforts

All rights reserved September 2017

 

Ghosts of Freetown by Philani Amadeus Nyoni

Ghosts of Freetown

You are not Haiti,
You have no Wycleff Jean,
And too far to make your problems our own,
So we can’t hear the crackling of your fires,
Nor smell your smokes of desperation.
The forests are buried as coffins,
Children drowning in mud
While the world chews the cud.
Is it because your skin is muddy
That there’s no humanity for your agony?
And what of those who look like you,
What did they say, what did they do?
How lonely is misery,
Though diamonds bring much much company!
But diamonds are stone they cannot see,
And children are precious beyond measure.
Today your real treasure returns to the dust,
Africa has buried her future again!
Weep not too hard, times death is mercy.
The future is buried again dear Africa,
Buried with hope, not just any hope,
With the hope, and a prayer to the Nile,
That one day we will all be free,
Truly free, as free as death,
Free, as these ghosts of Freetown.

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Poem by Zimbabwean Award Winning Writer Philani Amadeus Nyoni

Nutrition in Zimbabwe, a Global Health perspective

LSHTM 2017

Global health challenges accelerate in conditions of poverty, poor economies, and geo-political uncertainty. Infectious diseases thrive in poverty, viruses do not respect boarders. It is therefore imperative that we discuss and explore measure to strengthen regional responses to health challenges in Southern Africa and improve health security for all. In analysing Global Health threats and challenges, Zimbabwe must be viewed in the broader context of region, an ecological view across the African landscape. The Cholera outbreak in 2008 in Zimbabwe became a regional challenge, just as the Ebola crisis defied all boundaries as it a spread across West Africa and beyond.

In Zimbabwe poor nutrition particularly in children and women has coincided with poor harvesting, drought and poor economic opportunities, this report draws on information gathered in clinical practices, observations and collaborations with non-governmental organisations in Zimbabwe.

The 2015 Demographic and Health Survey estimated that 27% of children under 5 years in Zimbabwe are stunted (chronically malnourished), with significant disparities between urban (22%) and rural (29%) areas, and between boys (30%) and girls (24%). 3% of children under 5 years are estimated to be wasted (acutely malnourished), with severe acute malnutrition at 1%. The rates of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months currently stands at 48%. Only 8% of children 6–23 months are given a minimum acceptable diet. (Dfid Zimbabwe 2017)

The DFID Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) aims to improve nutrition through promoting production and consumption of bio-fortified crops such vitamin A maize, iron and zinc enriched beans and millets; and providing trainings to smallholder farmers on good agricultural practices, various technologies (crops and livestock), good nutrition, and financial literacy. (Dfid Zimbabwe 2017)

There are significant nutritional disparities between rural 29% and urban areas 22%, which could be explained by the fact that people in rural areas have limited access to diverse means of income compared to urban areas, which is further complicated by poor health seeking behaviours, thresholds to seeking help and access to transport to access health care. Clinically patients presenting to health care services with nutritional problems are often presenting with co-morbidities and complex faceted medical complications such as HIV and poor nutrition or Diabetes and poor nutrition.

There are gender differences in poor nutrition, with boys presenting at 30% and girls at 28%, these differences have been observed across other low income countries and the evidence base for the difference is still weak.

In mental health terms, suicides amongst farmers are significantly high throughout the world, and suicides are highest in men, overall farmers are particularly vulnerable at times of poor harvest. Farmers tend to use highly poisonous methods which are at their disposal, eg pest controls which are more likely to be fatal in death. Poor nutrition will have implications on early marriages and gender violence; we are observing an increase in HIV infections amongst young women across the country which may be related with poor literacy and the desire to get married in search of better outcomes. Some patients in mental health hospitals may prefer to stay in hospital long after they are well and dischargeable because the conditions at home might be poorer than in hospital, this is further complicated by their disabilities and stigma and lack of food.

Africa’s middle class society is growing, in what many are coining ‘The Pot Belly Economy’ Globalisation means people are able to access information and model lifestyle behaviours from communities afar, the African middle class is modelling western lifestyles and indulging in fast foods at the cost of their health. In the wake of the HIV crisis, and in a culture where ‘big’ is much preferred than ‘thin’ which is opposite to the western phenomena, non communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and alcohol related conditions are the new threat and often neglected health challenge in the continent. Poor infrastructure compounds access to health and number of traffic related death and injuries is a public health concern.

More critically in these difficult economic times, poor people having to make tough choices between feeding their children or using the $1 they may have to travel to hospital for treatment. They are many female led households in Zimbabwe, headed by highly resilient and resourceful women, however the lack of economic enterprise compound their health and social outcomes, a growing concern for this highly vulnerable population.

There is a need to strengthen regional responses in the Southern Africa region, the East African region has become increasingly co-ordinated and coherent, economically culturally and socially, all this despite the challenges they continue to face. The Ebola crisis and response brought the West African response even closer and we are encouraged by the launch of the Africa Centre of Disease Control in Nigeria. Southern Africa region needs to be much more robust coherent regional planning and responses, we need to re-define SADC’s role and remit and strengthen where possible. We must leverage on the new appointment of Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, the first African to hold this post, an important development given that globally, Africa carries the heaviest burden of disease.

Thank you to Annabel Gerry and Dr Sajil Liaqat of DfiD, Zimbabwe

Nutrition in Clinical Practice, a Global Health perspective.

Dorcas Gwata

Global Mental Health Specialist

Britain Zimbabwe Society Conference 2017

Zimbabwean Fashion Designer Joy-Line Clothing Takes Stage

I have a thing for Africa and African fabrics, when I wear an African designer, I feel grounded and stylish, when I wear anything by a Zimbabwean designer, I feel on top of the world.  Whilst so many  designers stand out, old and new, over time I have been blown away by Joyline Kim Munairwa’s work. Her’s is more than just a love of fabrics, I caught up with Joyline Kim on Tribal Sands, she tells us how it all began.

‘There years ago I had a tragic accident at work that left me seriously injured and out of employment’ Joyline begins, ‘inspired by my family, especially my little girl, I picked up a pencil and pad to jot down my first drawing of a little dress I had been imagining. From there on I enlisted myself into a few weeks basic college of sewing, which taught me from threading the machine to cutting of different materials’ she says.

 

 

‘In order to enhance my knowledge I decided to grab whatever information about the design world I could find and I have been working as hard as I can since then,’ Joyline continues, ‘God has continued to bless me until now and it has been a whirlwind of amazing opportunities coming my way. In the next few years I would like for Joy-Line Clothing to be internationally recognised as a statement for all the women that no matter what size, colour or shape you are ,we are all amazing in our own special way’ she says.

 Joyline’s work speaks for itself, she is unapologetic about her African heritage and her love for long skirts and dresses  peppered with African jewellery. She has the ability to visualise  fabrics in three or four dimensions, then as ever, whip them up with an authentic African angle, quenching our thirst for innovation in fashion.

‘I have worked and met plenty of supportive people on this wonderful journey and would like the continuing growth of our company to be an inspiration to anyone who has ever had a dream, that with hard work and determination you will succeed’ Joyline concludes.

African designers are rising, they are embodying and modernising the African fashion landscape to new heights, they are  embracing a new dimension of creativity with dazzling layers and colours that can light up even the darkest of rooms. I love wearing Joy-Line Clothing.

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Dorcas Gwata

Director of Tribal Sands

June 2017

All images have been posted with the consent of Joyline Kim Munairwa