Sunday, 21 January 2018

#Art4Leadership: An Afternoon of Music, Great Discussion and Inspiration

How Can Art Foster Sound Leadership?

A Musical Concert by Dowe Music in Collaboration with the YALI Network.
Performance: Dowe Music Led by Douglas
Guest Speaker: Maureen Changawa- Community Development Worker & 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow

“Art testifies to the power of imagination, the unique capacity of humans to project, to dream and to reflect things not only as they are but as they could be”- anonymous

It was around 2:30pm last Friday, the 19th of January, when I walked into the Kenya National Library Services- Nakuru Building to an Instrumental live performance of the Kenya National Anthem by the Dowe Music Team. From The ground floor, you could hear the soul lifting blend of about 8 instruments playing our national prayer in a somewhat sombre tone. It was beautiful! 

This was the beginning of an amazing concert of spoken word, music performances and discussions that focused on the contribution of Art to Sound Leadership, in our communities and the country as a whole.

Presentations included displays of entrepreneurial art, christian classics, and own compositions on governance and a hit reggae like rendition on rising up for Africa. It was awe inspiring, to say the least.

An as one of the participants put it, had it been church, he would have been touched to get saved. Better yet, it was an #Art4Leadership Concert, and at the end of the afternoon, everyone had been inspired for change.

When Douglas, Founder of Dowe Music, called to request if I could speak at the #Art4Leadership Concert, I was literally running out of my house, late for a family meeting. I absentmindedly listened as he explained to me what the concert was about and in less than a minute, I agreed to speak on Art for Leadership at the Concert. More often than not, I always say yes to things and figure out how to do them later. 

We agreed that he would send me all the details and what exactly I was to speak about, and I did not think about it again, until two days later when he sent me the poster for the event.

Here I was staring at the topic with no idea what it was I was going to tell the youth of Nakuru, a brilliant group of young people who I had had the opportunity to interact with for a while now.

History and Use of Art
As I was pondering about it, I decided to read, listen and watch almost anything I could find on the history of Art.

From the Caveman drawings, to religious art, to art for political propaganda and finally modern art as we know it.., it was very clear that Art had always been at the center of societal change. 

Art has been used to document things as they are, to project things as they could be and to inspire change. It has been used in Business and Advertising, Mass Media, Government, Religion among others. It has been used to sell ideas, to make messages more emotionally appealing, to foster creativity and also to entertain.

Art As Creation
As I read more about Art, I came across many amazing stories and inspiring messages about not only art, but the artist behind the works of Art. 

From these stories I learnt that an artist is a very interesting and awe inspiring character; this was someone who believed in his capability to not only imagine what could be, but to also create it. 

Just like Creation, where God said let there be light, and there was light, the artist also imagines what could be and before you know it, there is something where there once was nothing! Of course in the case of the Artist, this creation requires more than just the word of mouth and a little bit more effort.

From Artists we learn so many things, among them:

  •  Attitude- You have to believe that you can 
  • Vision- You must have a dream, you must know what your end goal is
  • Communication and Application- Express and generate what is within you
  • Commitment to excellence- Be committed. It does not mean the it will be easy, but stick at it, and soon enough you will have something worthwhile

“Art testifies to the power of imagination, the unique capacity of humans to project, to dream and to reflect things not only as they are but as they could be”

As young leaders, we learn from art the inherent gift of creation placed in us. That we have the capability to dream and create the world as we want it to be. 

I imagine God as an Artist who sat and dreamed of a world with plants, animals, the ocean, the sky and a beautiful sun hanging in the sky illuminating its beauty. And then He made it happen.

The creation process of Art and Music in particular, testifies that this divine capability also lies within us. So what is your dream? What is your vision? 

Whatever it is, know that you can make it happen. And as art demonstrates, you too can be a Co-Creator with God, and change this world.

So let’s dream people, let’s apply and let’s create.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

My Journey to the Mandela Washington Fellowship

Let me start with Good News... I made the cut for the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship!!! Yaaayy!!! 😂😂😂 And Yes, this is a big deal guys... you even get a license plate for it! Hehhehehe!

At the Georgia State Revenue Authority... Yes i got a Mandela Washington Fellowship car license plate :-)

It was a Monday Afternoon in January, i was in a matatu at the Mololine booking office at Odeon in Nairobi, waiting for the shuttle to fill up so that we could start our journey to Nakuru. I do not remember why i was in Nairobi on a working day, but am sure it must have been a good reason (Disclaimer: I do not skive work..under any circumstances 😉 )

I remember it was really hot but i could not open my window because...well, because it is Nairobi, and therefore i could not wait for the shuttle to fill up. As i was sitting there, preparing myself to sleep through the journey, i received a call from an unknown number which, i did not pick. I know it is bad habit, but generally my call pick-up rate is at about 50% and that is for people i know. Most often, it is about 25%  for unknown numbers, and that is if you call in the early part of the day!

I stared at the phone as i waited for the call to end so that i could check who it was on true caller, but before i could, the number called again. I did not pick, again. And it called a third time, which i also did not pick! At this time i was worried. I was in a noisy matatu and that meant that i could not pretend to be somewhere in the office if it happened to be someone from work calling (Disclaimer: I do not lie... am just pointing out hypothetical possibilities here..😂)

So, again, i waited for the call to end and once my phone stopped ringing, i quickly went to true caller to see who it was. Lo and behold, my true caller listed it as the US Embassy! 

Of course i started thinking of the many job applications i had sent to the embassy, wondering which one i might had been shortlisted for. And in a bid to not lose any chance i may have had, i decided to call back immediately. And yes, as you might have guessed, the call was not picked!

About 10 minutes later, the number called again, and this time i picked before the first ring ended...heheh!  A beautiful voice on the other end told me that i had been shortlisted for the Mandela Washington Fellowship and was required to go for an interview on Thursday at the US Embassy. To be honest at that moment in time the matatu was too noisy and i could not remember exactly what MWF was but i quickly decided to say yes to everything and figure out the details later.

And that is how my journey towards the Mandela Washington Fellowship started. Fast forward six months later and here we are, by the grace of God.

Second Day at Georgia State University... 25 Fellows from 18 Countries in the Public Management Track

 Well.., there was the part of the interviews, getting permission from work to travel, visa interviews, Kenyan Fellows projects and everything else in between but that is a story for another day.
It has been an amazing experience so far, even though we are just a couple of days into it, and i look forward to many marvelous experiences in the state of Georgia.

Lunch at the Andrew Young Policy Hub

Ok... So I know some may be wondering what the Mandela Washington Fellowship is, so lets get that out of the way.

What is the Mandela Washington Fellowship? 

Briefly, the Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program for The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), a program started by Obama in 2014 with an aim to invest in and empower the next generation of African leaders.
The fellowship selects outstanding leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa and takes them to US Universities where they are taken through intensive leadership programs for 6 weeks.

The Fellowship is divided into three tracks;
  • Public Management- Mainly targets government workers
  • Business and entrepreneurship- Mainly business people
  • Civic Leadership- And these here are the NGO guys 
You can get more information about this from the YALI website


Sunday, 14 May 2017

Maybe you need a Bigger Vision...!!!

When you grow up with practically nothing,  you learn to appreciate the little things,  little joys and little victories.  Maybe too much even. 

You become satisfied with the little progress you make in life,  maybe because you think surely the Lord has been good enough to me already...

So you pray little prayers,  asking for little things and wonder why the Lord is not answering.  And you think maybe if you reduce your request a little,  then God will give it to you.

But.., have you ever thought that the reason God is not answering your prayers is because your request is too small for a God so big???!!!

My dears,  learn to not pray small prayers,  they set limits. If you pray bold prayers,  God will do bold things in your life.

Don't settle where you are,  if you'll dare to Ask,  God will bless you indeed. God can lift you out of that place. He can put a new song in your heart. He can put a spring back in your step. He can set you on high.

Ask God for supernatural increase.  Ask God for unprecedented favour.  Ask God to bless you in unusual ways,  not average,  not ordinary. 
Our God is a supernatural God, dare to Ask for Supernatural opportunities. That  is the God we serve.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Celebrating Growth

 “There are moments in life..,when life hands you the gift of perspective. Sometimes, we forget to show our appreciation.., And, sometimes, we forget how far we’ve come. But life always has a way of nudging you to remind you about these important things.”
Cassia Leo, Bring Me Home

Well it has been a while.., and i am not sure whether i still have the touch for this, but i felt like coming back. To my first love.

So lets play catch up..
What have you been up-to?? Anything new?

I see some of you got new opportunities, jobs, acquired new wheels, moved towns and even countries, got hitched, got your *litos, ran marathons, trekked mountains, swam with dolphins, flew with eagles, revamped their looks, went back to school, earned another certificate, learnt a new skill, made new friends, overcame addictions, revamped their image, awakened their consciousness, touched lives, and changed the world in whatever small corners they are in.

You go to social media and you will see people achieving left right and center. And yes, it is said that most of what we see may not be the reality, but how i see it is that at the very least you have people wishing, aspiring to be and thinking about that which they are and are not. Which if i may add may be the first of many steps towards achievement.

I see people who are changing everyday, evolving, growing and even learning.

And for this and many more unmentioned and at times unrecognized, it is good to once in a while sit back, reflect, take stock, give yourself a pat on the back and say thank you to the almighty for this far. To take time to celebrate the persons we are, and the persons we are becoming.

And so as we prepare to enter into the second and last half of the year, i want to take time to give myself a pat on the back for this far, and to take a deep breathe in as i prepare to conquer the reminder of 2016. With the help of the Al-Mighty.

You have done well earthlings.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

A Mission to break-in Shoes or Break my feet

I had an interview last week. One of the very few interviews where my head was straight as I prepared for it. Mainly because at the beginning of this year, I asked my dressmaker to make two official suits for me. Just in case. I had a feeling I would need them. Or rather I had planned to need them.And i did.

So, there I was, fully prepped, my papers in order, my outfit ready. Only one problem.., shoes. 

I have always had a love hate relationship with shoes. I cant stand physical pain at all. And more so on my feet. And somehow shoes and pain went hand in hand in my case. But that is not the only reason why I love hate shoes.

The only time I remember diligently wearing shoes was when I was in high school. And that was mainly because for whatever reason, my feet really smelled horrible. (I guess mainly because, I had only a few pair of socks that took forever to dry whenever I washed them, and so was forced to wear wet socks more often than not) Apart from that period, there is no time when I did not jump for the occasion to throw my shoes away, put my legs up and let my feet breath.

Growing up, I was always in trouble with my mother for leaving the house without shoes, or for  losing my shoes if I left the house with them. I was always walking around barefoot. Jumping up and down, walking on my toes or heels  at any given moment because either the ground was too hot ( we call this tsapi),  cold or had thorns. 

You would think therefore that I would end up with those feet that had soles as hard at the hide of a crocodile , and toes that were as tough as the hoofs of a cow then, right? No.

In retrospect, I tend to think that my feet may be the most sensitive part of my body. I don’t mean that in any provocative way. I mean it literally. Whereas I have always managed at one point or another, though not very often,  to squeeze and mold and mash many parts of me into outfits and structures that I have wanted them to fit into, I have always failed to do the same for my feet.

And that is where my love hate relationship with shoes begins. I generally like shoes. Not love, but like. I would not throw a fortune away on account of shoes, but once in a while, I will put my money on a pair of nice gold sandals, beautiful white heels or official black wedges. The other times, I spent my money on Maasai sandals.

Not because I love the Maasais so much, but because I can no longer take the disappointment that follows me after buying shoes. It is always the same pattern.

I spot a beautiful shoe. I try it on. Walk around for a few minutes to gauge its fit. Leave it. Come back after a week. Try it again. Leave it. Come back after another week and if the shoe is still there, I take it as a sign that it is mine, and buy it.
Only for me to be disappointed the very first time I wear it. It is all pain and blisters and all un-comfort-ability. And within no time, I put in on a shelf with the rest, waiting for about 6 months to lapse before I give it out to someone.

So back to my interview, here I was fully prepped, my papers in order, my outfit ready. The only problem.., shoes. So I did what I have always done. Borrowed a pair from my cousin. And they were the most comfortable heels that were not mine so far.

I realize now, it is solely because they were already broken in. Something that i have never learnt to do.

So, breaking-in shoes…these stiff-necked stubborn little things that make my life miserable.

It is decided. I am on a mission and it is official.

I am still not sure whether to blame shoes or my feet...but whichever the culprit is, they have been fore warned. This time there is no choice...

And I will stop at nothing till these shoes or these feet are broken.