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  • Sustainable Africa

    For many years rural African villages have preserved the traditional ways of living that their ancestors passed down to them. Using traditional cookery to cook their food. Building stoves from mud mixes and wood. Rural Africans have used sustainable ways of living for years. From growing their own fruits and veg to washing their clothing with their hands. It has been a simple way of life for them. However, there has been conversation around sustainable urbanisation in African countries, looking at how villages and towns can be redeveloped to meet the sustainable goals set by the UN. It sounds great, doesn't it? Having running water 24/7 will mean more young girls can go to school instead of trekking miles to fetch it. Running electricity will mean more uses of technological advancement for young people, allowing them to start a business, learn a new skill or complete their studies. A sustainable Africa will help countries build a good economic structure and lifestyle for their citizens. However, all of this does come with an expense. Major cities in Africa have taken the western way of living and communing. Many parents work full-time in white-collar jobs leading to them finishing later than usual. It has really destroyed the nuclear family that has been part of African tradition for years, leaving only rural towns and villages that still uphold it. Many ways of communing with loved ones have changed over the years in African cities, as many people would rather go to restaurants than cook and eat traditional foods at home. Many young Africans are slowly beginning to lose their culture and traditional ways of living. Having a new sustainable Africa would mean the reconstruction of kitchens. While it will lead to some improvements in lifestyle, it will affect the way households cook traditional foods. This is because clay pots cannot be used on electric stoves as they were created mainly for wood fire. Outdoor cooking promotes communalism, allowing families to gather, encouraging fellowship together by cooking and sharing food with each other. Having new housing means that more families are unable to breed chickens or other live animals. Another reason why sustainability in Africa may not work is because of the structure of villages and townships, especially when it comes to electric poles. Many rural areas in Africa are overcrowded and have poor roads and potholes. It can be dangerous to have electric poles in those areas, as it is advised that residents should live more than 600 metres from a power line. This is impossible in rural spaces because houses and shops are built close together, making it impossible to connect power lines to the area. Many places have their power lines on farms far away from residential areas. However, there have been some complaints from farmers who say that having a power line on their farms is affecting the health and safety of their workers. In rural settings, another issue is potholes. Many electric poles are installed in unsafe spaces where there are damaged drains and potholes. In Congo, there was an incident when an electric pole was struck by lightning and killed 26 people. The market traders say this was due to badly maintained potholes in the town. When thinking about sustainable Africa, a plan needs to be created so that the roads, potholes and drains are repaired and well looked after. On paper, having rural Africa urbanised sounds good. A new way of life, possibly leading to better living conditions and opportunities for the younger generation. However, it does have its disadvantages that could cause the next generation to lose their culture and traditions to a western way of living. If a re-development of roads in rural areas is not considered, then they could be a major health and safety issue which could lead to the loss of human life. A sustainable Africa has to really consider the preservation of traditional ways of living.

  • The Baton as a conversation starter

    For me, as a mother, artist, human, woman, woven into the conversations, collaborations, partnerships I have, is the desire to build a legacy, a legacy that will hopefully touch lives, build bridges, help us to see each other beyond the colour of our skin. We are all human with red blood running through our veins. The decision to be part of a project that centred around the Commonwealth was not an easy decision, bearing in mind the history of the commonwealth. One of the important deciding factors for me was Legacy. l quickly realised that it was important for me to be part of this rare opportunity. To tell the story, to be the voice that will inspire marginalised communities as well as ALL classes, that ‘together, we can’. My heart was on women and younger people. We are living in a world that has a long way to go to do with representation. Historical events like the Commonwealth Games are a platform to communicate meaningful messages that in turn births LEGACY (inheritance heritage). I grew up around creativity, l enjoyed exploring all forms of creativity. Once in the UK I further explored my love of crafts and designing. Little did l know that my creativity will weave in advocacy, community, humanity. About 21 years ago, when I migrated to the UK, as I always say, l became a black woman. Not only did l become a black woman, I noted the culture differences pretty fast. The general consensus is: it’s hard to make it in the arts and culture industry, well, tell that to a migrant artist or an artist of colour, the challenges are layered, therefore harder. As a result of my lived experience and observing other minoritised humans lived experiences l was compelled to found the organisation Maokwo, supporting marginalised, minoritised groups refugees, asylum seekers and migrants artists, engaging communities using Art as a Vehicle. The Queen’s Baton project consumed me. I became deeply invested like never before and l know why: - It was my lived experience: therefore, it was deeply personal - It was the Queen’s Baton, that’s a rare opportunity - l didn’t want it to be just a Baton that celebrates the Games and that’s it. I wanted it to be meaningful. It was to do with the obvious, complexities connected to the history of the Commonwealth, it was the complexities that were coming up in our collaboration with a team of white male humans, who were commercially driven (not in touch with the Commonwealth lived experience) vs I, a lived experience artist, young creatives from minoritised backgrounds and a community grassroot lived experience organisation. Tough combination. Here are some of the essential points I kept in mind throughout the project: 1. Women are thermostats, women are key to thriving communities around the world, they are mothers, aunties, midwives. The Queen is a mother, grandmother. How do we make her relevant? How does a woman in a village in Kenya, relate to the Queen? 2. The wear and tear of the Queen’s Baton was an important element, message: It was a representation of exchanging wisdom. Older generation to the younger. Younger generation to the older. Passing the Baton. Passing wisdom. 3. It was important to use non-precious materials like copper, aluminium, materials that are relatable to Commonwealth countries, materials that represent everyday humans. Affordable, recyclable materials. My expertise as an artist, designer, storyteller and advocate for minoritised/marginalised groups and women was key to this project, as a testament to what some may call ignorance or testament to my never tiring hope for a united world. But l didn’t anticipate the trauma and emotional labour that later came with my role. Collaborations can be challenging, however, this was my hardest yet. My mind is still processing that I’ve had the opportunity to be part of something so big, something beyond me. The opportunity to spread Love on a global level, it’s been humbling, exciting, terrifying and surreal. I’ve learnt a lot, met amazing humans along the way. These are extracts from the 2022 booklet Tip of the Iceberg: Laura Nyahuye, The Artist behind the Queen’s Baton. (linked below) Thank you to Karen Newman, founder of BOM, for inviting Laura Nyahuye/Maokwo to this project. The Queens Baton was created in collaboration with BOM (Birmingham Open Media), Raymont Osman, Kajul and Maokwo.

  • Reflecting on the Creation of the Queen's Baton

    Creating the Queen’s Relay Baton took several creative and experimental thinking with an immense amount of consideration for the Baton's journey, its practicality and design. I believe our initial goal as Maokwo representatives was to create something that will inform the ideology from which the Commonwealth is established and a representation of the common society. Nurturing and Leadership are some of the fundaments that narrated our concepts. With the Queen’s upcoming jubilee, it was important to celebrate this alongside her role as a motherly figure in a leadership role. The structure and shape of our Baton took inspiration from these ideas, with organic material promoting sustainability and commonwealth. The composition of natural commodity and fluidity included all walks of the Commonwealth nations. We also felt the city of Birmingham has largely influenced the culture and shaping of the UK in terms of its democratic and industrial revolution history. The designer engineers at Raymont Osman and Kajul were essential in visually dissecting our ideas and concept while implicating all practicality of the object. Raymont Osman organised an amazing productive space where both artists and designers worked perfectly in collaboration by sharing researched observations and product knowledge while exchanging ideas and thoughts. I believe the concepts we established were important based on the topics they addressed, such as women’s equal rights, black lives and gender marginalisation. These topics were not only important worldly conversations but also personal to some of the members of the creative parties. We as Maokwo were concerned that in the manifesto of the Baton, some established ideas weren’t elaborated on nor exuded at all. This, unfortunately, suggested a lack of interest from the designing team to challenge the oppression some minority groups must experience, therefore leaving the story behind the Baton disorientated between the product and its functional concept. It’s no surprise that the judging board sensed some of this disorientation and asked the design team to reconsider the concept. Once they did, we still detected the design team only included ideas they felt most comfortable with. Despite these challenges and lack of acknowledgement of the process from which I believe originates the basis of embarking on the opportunity to complete this project, I still strongly believe the Baton itself holds the concepts and ideas we narrated. I am extremely proud to be part of conceptualising this Baton and I enjoyed the opportunity to experience the process. Thank you to Karen Newman, founder of BOM, for inviting Laura Nyahuye/Maokwo to this project. The Queens Baton was created in collaboration with BOM (Birmingham Open Media), Raymont Osman, Kajul and Maokwo.

  • Creating The 2022 Queen's Baton

    One Baton travelling across 72 nations of the world, held and admired by thousands. Meaning different things to different people. Bringing joy, excitement and intrigue. Showing that even though miles apart, we are all still connected. My name is Hope Macho and I was part of the team responsible for designing the Queen’s Baton for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Inspiration, Thoughts And Ideas. What should The Baton Represent? The life, joy and vibrancy in African countries, the passion and vitality of the Caribbean. Each country, nation, culture and individual has something special we can learn from, be inspired by and implement into our own lives, to transform our mundane days into ones of passion, excitement and exuberance. Sitting around a large oval table with a team of creative innovators, we had the honourable task of creating the 2022 Queen's Baton. How should it look? What's the story behind it? What should its technology be? My inspiration was for the Baton to represent the vitality and vibrancy experienced in other Commonwealth countries, especially African ones, by its colour, materials and vividness. And for it to symbolise us learning from different countries and cultures. As the Baton was to be passed from one Baton bearer to the next, from one country to the next, I wanted it to represent the passing on of wisdom, culture, inspiration and ideas from one nation to another, from one generation to the following. How do they celebrate marriages in Uganda? Could we merge that in our own ceremonies creating unique memorable moments? What's the traditional food in the Bahamas? Could I replicate that recipe to spice up my Friday night meals? By exposure to these new cultures and ways of living, new passions and inspirations are ignited and we are encouraged to restructure our everyday lives, adding diversity and freshness. The Baton contains a strip of LED lights that run through a lighting sequence depending on its state. Light is illumination, light is revelation, light is wisdom. Light ignites. When the Baton is passed from one Baton bearer to the next, the lights run through a colourful, compelling sequence to display what we called the ‘Kiss Moment’. This symbolises the act of transmission and sharing between communities, countries and generations. From Imagination To Creation From the imaginations of a group of inspired individuals, to sticky notes bursting with ideas, transformed into detailed sketches, then captured in Computer Aided Design. Made alive by 3D printed plastic moulds, assembled as Copper, Brass and Aluminium, birthed into the Queen’s Baton. Being an Electronic Engineering Graduate, it was a fascinating and privileged experience. I enjoyed collaborating with creative, like-minded professionals in an environment where I felt encouraged and productive. As a young adult it boosted my confidence in working with and sharing my ideas with people who have been in their industry for years. I learnt a lot and it gave me confidence in starting my first role as an Engineer. The Experience The Big Reveal - BBC and ITV news, radio presenters, the general public. The Baton, something we created was now on display for the world to see. People were amazed! They loved its slenderness, detail and uniqueness. The Launch Event - Visiting Buckingham Palace for the launch of the Baton Relay was exhilarating! The Queen's Band played an attention grabbing performance, and a musical piece from Birmingham Symphony Orchestra set the ambience. It was slightly emotional to witness the Baton at the launch. Watching the Queen place her message inside it and then into the hands of the first Baton bearer it went. The feelings of proudness and delight were shared amongst the team. We then had a drinks reception at Marlborough Mansion, celebrating our accomplishments and hearing the positive, affirming feedback from everyone. Complete From imaginations to a physical product. From the UK to across the globe. To know something you created is impacting thousands of lives in ways you aren't even aware of is heartwarming and rewarding. Videos of other countries intrigued by and admiring the Baton blessed me. One product with an immense effect, carrying a weighty meaning and purpose behind it. It was a wonderful experience and a true honour. Creating the Queen's Baton, igniting change. Thank you to Karen Newman, founder of BOM, for inviting Laura Nyahuye/Maokwo to this project. The Queens Baton was created in collaboration with BOM (Birmingham Open Media), Raymont Osman, Kajul and Maokwo.

  • How we helped make the Commonwealth Queens Baton

    Many reoccurring themes involved in our initial conversation revolved around being female and the concept of motherhood. This heavily influenced the concept structure and colour, which is something in my opinion the past Batons never really portrayed. After all, the Queen Is herself a woman and mother. The other concept we were quite keen on exploring was sustainability. I believe woman and sustainability created when reflecting on the storytelling aspect of the Baton. This project came about at the start of the year, so at that time I was really reflecting on what it means to be sustainable and how I can do my part through my gardening. The topic became quite a solid forerunning concept. Regarding ideas, I really wanted to touch on the ever-increasing mental health issues young people are facing. Yes, the games are inclusive and so they should be, but I do feel there is a gap. Yes, we have room for the disabled, but we need to create further space for those that are fighting invisible battles. Those young people that find it hard to actually step up and find these opportunities, or those who find them but may also find it difficult to pursue them because of various self-esteem issues. I want to speak out for those people. I can say for me, as a first-born daughter and second generation immigrant, there are a lot of challenges that I’ve faced that have made me aware of silent battles. It was very important to me to make a plea for the recognition of those silent and unrecognised change makers in the Baton. The fabrication process was quite interesting. Collaborating with product designers and engineers alike, butting heads in healthy and unhealthy ways. It was both challenging and enlightening at the same time. Sean and Us at Maokwo were quite keen about legacy and I feel that the impact and knowledge I’ve taken away from this project has already made me part of that legacy. Initially, being briefed about the Baton seemed to me more of an engineering commission rather than something I’d like to get involved in as an artist. However, I went with it anyway, because at that time I was quite interested in academic related subjects, and though I was commissioned as an artist to share ideas and help formulate the concept, my heart was really on brushing shoulders with people that are nothing like me, a source of inspiration and direction, and I got that and more! Through immersing myself in this experience, I got a few engineering core skills, one of which is soldering. I have now started venturing into stain glass work which is something I would have thought unattainable if I hadn’t soldered before. Though presented with many challenges including deep seated things like discriminatory and oppressive audiences, this experience was a life lesson. Thank you to Karen Newman, founder of BOM, for inviting Laura Nyahuye/Maokwo to this project. The Queens Baton was created in collaboration with BOM (Birmingham Open Media), Raymont Osman, Kajul and Maokwo.

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