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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.

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  • About | Maokwo

    Our Story Our Story Make (MA-O-K-WO) is a Shona word (a native language from Zimbabwe) that translates to Hands. Physically and metaphorically speaking, our hands play a crucial role in our day-to-day lives and enables us to carry out simple and complex tasks. There’s a belief in Zimbabwe; that when a child is born, they come with clenched fists because they hold on to their gifts. However, their palms open up as they share their talents with the world. At MAOKWO, this is our philosophy and practice; we reach out to sections of society that need hands to hold on to, and we do so by giving them our hand How did MAOKWO come about? ​ Today, we are more global than a local city, region, or country. As people migrate to different places because of political and economic instability or even work opportunities, they bring along; their cultures and identity to their new place of residence. And this brings us to the question; How accepting are we of those who make this land their home? MAOKWO was born of the experiences of its Founder & Creative Director, Laura N Nyahuye, an artist from Zimbabwe who came to the United Kingdom in 2002. She acknowledges coming face to face with labels, like the other, the migrant, the asylum-seeker, the refugee. Laura's experiences got her to question what had happened to humanity? However, it was her faith in God and her art that helped her navigate through the journey. Thus, Maokwo was born with the ambition to bring about the change we wanted to see. And since our inception, we have always been ready to respond creatively to real-life issues and causes. We work primarily in supporting marginalised and minority groups, especially women, children, refugees, asylum seekers, and migrant artists. We do so through our various projects and programmes. Our vehicle to change is Love, Prayer, Peace, and Art. As people of colour, our stories matter. So we take responsibility to create our own. Why Maokwo Why MAOKWO? ​ We see Maokwo as ‘pfuko’ - a traditional clay brewing pot - with the lived experiences of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, minoritised humans, and artists from migrant backgrounds at the heart of what we do and how we creatively respond. We tackle under-representation, working with clients from all different backgrounds - communities on the margins, women, young people, families - developing a universal language, and ways of being that are inclusive. We tell the stories of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers; develop projects in response to needs and experiences of the artists and communities we work with; provide opportunities for artists from these backgrounds to explore and develop their creativity in an authentic way that is true to their cultures. We share their stories with a wider public as audiences, and provide consultancy for partners we work with. The majority of our advisory board are people with lived experience as first or second generation migrants, refugees and asylum seekers Meet the team Meet the team Laura Nyahuye Artist / Creative Director / CEO My name is Laura Nyahuye, a Zimbabwean born artist and Creative Director/CEO and Founder at MAOKWO. I am a mother, an artist, storyteller, a curator, producer, writer, performer, tutor, community worker. I design and make body adornments to address social issues and challenge perceptions. I have a call to design, to speak, to encourage, to write and to bring communities together. I practice this by exhibiting, storytelling, supporting artists and communities on the margins, producing, facilitating. In summary, I’m here to serve. I am passionate about the arts sector on the subject of inclusion and representation. Inclusion and representation in the arts sector, Inclusion in communities and inclusion for women. The current and next generation to come need us and we need them. Isolation, mental health issues, discrimination are real. They are real, things need to change. By creatively addressing tokenism, marginalisation, domestic abuse, mental abuse, and isolation we can create a dialogue to bring about change, in the arts sector and in our communities. I am passionate about seeing fellow marginalised artists thrive. I have a deep desire to see a change in these communities using art as a vehicle. I’m driven by the belief that together we are stronger. I have had the privilege of working as a support worker in various hospitals, as well as the community. My various roles have exposed me to people from various walks of life and l feel enriched by it. I am inspired by life experiences and culture (especially of those who have migrated). Maokwo's approach is person-centric focused; this support can truly change lives. I have experienced the positive result of person-centric support and l have observed positive results in other people. #fromthegroundup Karen Dhlamini Board of Trustee / Well-Being Consultant MBPsS MBACP BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Integrative Counselling. Counsellor/Coach/ Mental Health Advisor and Training Consultant. As we walk through life, we encounter stress or strain and, in those moments, it helps to be able to reach out for support. Working as an Integrative Counsellor allows me to support clients in a way that best suits their needs. Private Practice gives me flexibility in my work to support clients that come with different needs such as relationship breakdown, anxiety, depression, bereavement, domestic abuse, suicide ideation, self-harm, disordered eating as well as many other challenges that life may bring. My educational background includes, Training and Development, BSc (Hons) Psychology and MSc Integrative Counselling. My work experience in different fields such as customer service, management, training, youth work, project coordinator: has helped me gain insight into some of the challenges faced by the clients I work with as a Coach. I am able to design and develop workshops and training events to meet the needs of the different organisations I work with. I have the privilege to work with organisations that work to support communities in different ways all making a difference and giving much needed support in areas where there is need. Some giving access to mental health support to groups that would otherwise go without due to different circumstances in life. One organisation of which I am a Trustee, work to explore art as a vehicle for social change and as a form of therapy: working with different groups including women, children and families. In recent years I have been spending more time exploring my writing and supporting others as well by working together with a team of creatives to provide an online platform that showcases the vibrant and multicultural society, we live in. My passion, if we can call it that is to live a full life where I get to explore the different opportunities that come my way that line up with my interests. A common thread that flows through my work is encouraging and helping people live well. Melissa Jordan Youth Participation Producer Raised with a passion for theatre and the arts, Coventry-born Melissa Jordan joined the Belgrade Youth Theatre during her early teens, before going on to support the Black Youth Theatre whilst completing an apprenticeship with the Belgrade. During this time she also developed an interest in stage management and production. Since then, she has worked with organisations including Highly Sprung, Theatre Absolute and Warwick Arts Centre. In 2019 she produced Holding the Centre and currently works as General Manager for Ascension Dance Company. Melissa joins Maokwo as Youth Participation Producer bringing together her enthusiasm for supporting and mentoring young people and her love of the Arts. Lou Sarabadzic Writing Facilitator / Administrator My work experience includes translating, teaching French language, literature, and culture, and working as a customer service assistant in libraries. I feel so grateful to be able to share the love of languages, books, and reading, through all these roles. I have published 6 books in French, in a variety of genres - poetry, fiction, short stories, comic - because I love them all! I am also developing a multidisciplinary artistic practice. What I am really passionate about is how we can, as creative practitioners, support others to develop their own art and practice. So many issues can get in the way of exploring creativity: lack of confidence, anxiety, a sense of not knowing where to start... But all of these - and so much more - can also directly come from discrimination. In an unequal world, we don't have equal access to the arts. That's why I joined Maokwo, because the work they do is precisely this: support - in a very co-creative way. I love how open and flexible their approach is. Through the Writing the Journey programme, I've met great writers and performers, and it has been such a meaningful experience. And because working in the arts is also about admin, I'm very happy to be helping Maokwo with various tasks such as updating the website, discussing budgets and planning, as well as liaising with members, associate, and partners. Associates Associates Chrissie Okorie Maokwo Associate Chrissie is a writer, performer and producer who is transitioning into making art that connects to her ancestral ties through audio, performance and experimental theatre pieces. She is a future academic with a passion for Nigerian literature and the Igbo experience. Former members Former members - Thank you again for being part of our journey! Ashford Menezes Producer Quinita Colaco Administrator

  • Home | Maokwo

    WE ARE ARTISTS. INCLUSION. CULTURE. The Projects we undertake at MAOKWO are platforms through which we work with the migrant and marginalised communities. EXPLORE PROJECTS Our Programmes are time bound and result oriented platforms that take our participants from one level to the other. EXPLORE PROGRAMMES At MAOKWO, we offer various workshops to spark creative ingenuity in people, because it is in creativity that lies the answers to most of our problems. LEARN MORE At MAOKWO, our consulting practice's mission is to help individuals, companies and organisations find a visual representation for their brands, events and cultural activities. LEARN MORE

  • Fusion Artist Network

    PROJECT Fusion Artist Network Fusion Artist Network Through this project we aim to provide a platform for artists, help them connect with potential partners and share opportunities that can take them to the next level. The Fusion Artist Network came about as a lived experience of MOAKWO’s founder Laura Nyahuye. The question that often came up was; Why should Art or creative practice be accessible to a few? And so was born the Fusion Artist Network Project. A Networking group made up by Artists and for the Artists. To promote themselves, their work and find avenues and support through like-minded individuals. Through an invite only Whatsapp group, participants are encouraged to share anything they come across that can help their projects or help other artists find new projects and work. Project Gallery Previous Project Next Project ​ Participate in this Programme ​ REGISTER INTEREST Are you an artist or someone based in Coventry, West Midlands, wanting to get involved in the creative industry. to join the project register your interest here. ​ Partner with us Are you looking for new talent in various art forms and disciples? Do you have an event or a programme that can benefit artists especially from the marginalised and minority background. To know more, register your interest here. REGISTER INTEREST Donate

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