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Next month we’ll be celebrating our 50th year of independence! Eeek! How exciting.

Media 365 decided to develop a project to honour this momentous occasion. I won’t bore you with the backstory – you can read it on the website, but we basically decided to develop a documentary and music project to tell our story of independence.

64WD logo

When I say ‘our’ story, I mean one of the many versions that should matter to young people – the story of how to drive independence forward, how to get equitable wealth and development, how to determine our next 50 years. We’re doing this by talking to the people who lived through independence, the people who brought our nation to where it is today, and the ones who are here working for the next 50 years – the 64wders we’re dubbing them. I’ve had the pleasure of being present at some of the interviews and they have have been inspiring and led to other questions.

One such interview was with Kapumpe Musakanya, son of Valentine Musakanya, who did a lot for this country but was ultimately remembered by some as one of the key people in the 1980 coup attempt. Though the documentary doesn’t talk about any of that history, a pre and post interview chat with Kapumpe, and browsing through his dad’s book, The Musakanya Papers, led me to wonder more about this incidence in our history, and therefore others. Kapumpe did have a good point, we need to hear more of our STORIES of independence and not just ONE narrative.

I’m hardly an expert on our history, in fact I’d be hard pressed to remember anything I learnt in school about it, and the trip to national archives wasn’t that interesting – ok to be fair at the time we were only looking for photos – and so doing these interviews has been interesting. We have yet to interview the bulk of the freedom fighters and early politicians, but already it has been wondering…

Even when I was watching some of the Zamtel Road to Independence Day programming, I was worried about how much of it was fact checked, it seems all too easy to create and push the narrative you want.

The other day I was reading the Times of Zambia, where there was an article on the great friendship of KK and Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, it was written in a way that implied Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe was our first Vice President. To my shock, a young person in the office at the time asked me who it was if not Mr Kapwepwe! Poor Mr Kamanga.

In an interview with Mr Elias Chipimo Snr (and Jnr), he talked about early days of governing Zambia, and listening to him, and my father, it dawn on me just how innovative they had to be. These guys were about 40 years old running a country for the first time, still working with people who didn’t even want them to be independent and making it difficult for them when they could.

We spoke to Mrs Petronella Chisanga, who was one of the youngest women, in the UNIP Central Committee who spoke about running an entire secondary school, one of only two at the time, at the age of 25! I couldn’t even imagine such responsibility at 25. But to speak to her, she is an amazingly intelligent and talented woman – plus she later went on to be MD of ZECO. She was truly one powerful woman and a force to recon with!

Through our interviews and conversations with our parents – it’s always easy to forget the wealth of information parents have! – is how I learnt that UNZA was crowd funded. People actually gave money and whatever else they had to build the university because they understood or desired the education that would take them forward. Amazing.

So launching our crowd-funding campaign to put this documentary together is nothing new for Zambia! I’m excited by this documentary and even more excited about the legs it has, should we raise enough money and then some to keep producing content that speaks to our stories, all the stories of Zambia.

Look out for the launch of our Indiegogo campaign on Facebook and twitter and keep updated on the project at the project blog.

Watch the pitch video/teaser

The other day I swelled with pride when a trusted and respected associate of mine mentioned the name of someone who had once worked with Youth Media (a not for profit we founded long time before Media 365). It’s always so rewarding to have others talk fondly and with equal respect for someone you helped shape. I guess this is how mentors feel about their mentees.

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A few days later, I had another entrepreneur I know well visit us – we like having like-minded people come to the office where we engage in conversation for hours (I try to keep these visits to Saturdays for obvious reasons!), and we spoke about the role of stewardship in our respective businesses.

The principle of stewardship is very much linked to Christian teachings (if you google it). But in general it really is about shepherding and safe guarding something that is valuable. One of the things we set out to do from the very beginning – when we were still a not for profit, non-governmental organisation – was to bring up young people as we came up, being that they really are the most valuable thing in your organisation. It wasn’t just about paying it forward, but it was about empowering others to help them achieve their potential. We didn’t just want them to compete, but to truly stand out in the market.

This could be another reason I’m so passionate about mentorship. It’s not enough to be the best that you can be, you have to help bring up those coming behind you. I know some people are scared of that approach, scared if you teach people what you know, then you become redundant and they can take your job, your career etc. But to us that is a myopic view. If anything it helps better the environment we operate it. If you have a lot of like minded people, able to work efficiently, and professionally, with relatively similar skill and ambitions, ethics and other quality attribute, isn’t that just the greatest environment to operate in?

stewardship

I think it also speaks to our own beginnings. The people who believed in us and were willing to teach us what they knew to up our skills and make us compete competitively and on a broader platform than the Zambian landscape helped instill that value in us too. And that’s what we always strive to do with our own staff and the younger people we come into contact with, make them better today to compete tomorrow. And it’s deeply rewarding as I said before. I think that’s what can be said about all aspects of giving back, because it’s not just about you (though it is kind of selfish to want to have that rewarding feeling… maybe in a small way it is about you!), but a social initiative.

This is one of the ways our business will always differentiate. And it is my hope that the people who have worked with us, whether at Youth Media or at Media 365 will take that principle of stewardship into their own careers and professional environments as well. Some of Zambia’s brightest (in my opinion) and recognized young people cut their teeth with us, and it’s great to see them succeeding and really making their mark. Allow me to highlight a few:

Kachepa Mtumbi who owns and runs KPR Consulting. It is one of the few PR agencies in Zambia and his client base boasts one of the biggest brands in the world, Samsung. He is not only one to watch but giving the other more established PR companies a run for their money!

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Masuka Mutenda is an accomplished communications specialist working with international organisations making a difference in Zambian people’s lives across the country. She also founded Zedhair a business targeted at the ever growing natural hair industry, a space few (if any) operate in.

Masuzyo Matwali not only does multimedia designs for all sorts of businesses and recording artists alike, he also runs his own design studio, Graphic 404, and is probably one of the most talented designers in Zambia right now.

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Janice Matwi now the Brand and Communications Manager at Airtel, also founder of Corporate Heelz, a business that aims to inspire and motivate career focussed women to achieve their potential.

Muchemwa Sichone (I knew him as Robert!) now runs his own company, Global Link Communications. They can be credited with various of communications work, not least the simplified (i.e. people friendly) version of the draft constitution.

mag44
Magg44 – not so much from Youth Media days (he’s probably too young :)) but from our early start with Media 365 he did some great score and sound engineering with us and just to see him, as an artist, and his business with IM Studios really flourish is also inspiring.

I could do a laundry list of all the people that came up the ranks at Youth Media/Media 365 and continue to inspire me with their personal and professional success but there are too many to mention – some who were here when I wasn’t, but are spoken of fondly by my other co-directors.

But just the few examples I’ve given above really speak to the importance of stewardship, mentorship, and investing in young people – when they are still young too. That’s one reason we will not stop.

Just recently we had a young guy who came to us as an intern, more or less straight out of high school. He left after two years as a competent video editor, with skills in sound and lighting techniques.

I see businesses today scared to invest in their staff, worrying (as is the norm in Zambia, where loyalty is such a coveted asset) that their staff will leave to work with their competitors or start out on their own, taking their client base, which are all real possibilities. The principle of stewardship is not just about training on hard skills but advising and mentoring with soft skills and advise. And that is far worth more than worrying about something that may or may not happen in the future!

Anyway, this is something I’m passionate about so I could speak about it for ages, so I’ll stop here and hope it gives you pause to think about how you can apply stewardship into your own life.

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly organised person. I know I’m process driven, because I think order helps the balance of getting stuff done, but in the last few months I’ve been thinking a lot about the role organization plays in doing something successfully.

ruff kaida performing at ZMAs

In February we (as in Media 365) co-produced yet another good Zambian Music Awards (I’m anxious for it to go online to share the link with all that missed it and embrace the talent of our local artists), approximately a month later the ZNBC Born and Bred Music Video Awards happened. There was a lot of talk, both on social media, and in ‘real life’ comparing the two shows. For the record I think Born and Bred really stepped up their game this year, and it wasn’t such a bad show.

And for all the people commenting negatively about it, the fact of the matter is you watched the entire show, so if we had people ratings, the show would still have been a ratings success!

I do think it’s important that we’re constantly learning and improving and maybe that’s why I’m not so ready to bash ZNBC for Born and Bred. I don’t think they really took into consideration the points raised at their stakeholders meeting in 2012, I do think they did a better job at acknowledging that if the ZMAs could do it, there was no reason why BnB couldn’t be better. And that needs to be applauded. I’m yet to understand why people in Zambia (and yes I’m generalising because it’s more of the norm than I care for) are so full of hate and malice. So quick to criticise and cut people down. I hope this year being 50 years of independence we’re learn to let go of our own issues (because the issues are with the person hating and fixating on the negative) and learn to embrace and support each other – it can be done, while there was some very quiet corners regarding Love Games and Freddy (repping M365 of course) winning an AMVCA (that’s for another blog), there was also overwhelming support from Zambians across the country and indeed the world. We can support each other, but there is still way too much hateful vibes from ourselves – what’s up with that?

Love Games wins at AMVCA

Anyhoo back to the matter at hand, when I watched the 3+hour Born and Bred Award show (it was unnecessary to be that long), their issues were easily fixed and somewhat minor, although they made all the difference to the show and the viewers experience (especially the at home viewers).

I can’t underscore the importance and need for planning and having the resources to enable you to get going with stuff. ZMA planning started months ago – and even that was too late. Realistically I think to put on a really amazing show you should start planning at least 6 months in advance. You have to remember that first and foremost it’s a show. And there is so much that goes into a show – Costumes – Cleo Ice Queen, Salma, they all had outfits made specifically for their performances.

Cleo Ice Queen channeling her inner Beyonce

Salma remixing old classic Mate

The choreography, the actual performance – Roberto had a pianist and violinist perform the musical arrangement for Good Woman (and it was originally supposed to be a string quartet – all female – yeah, hard one to find in Zambia, especially with only two weeks to the show! lol).

roberto

And stage design and lighting design? All those elements can’t be rushed. And ZMAs didn’t even have those six months but still pulled off a pretty decent show.

Then it’s about rehearsals. I think the artists at the ZMAs pretty much hated us for their constant rehearsals – the last two days they spent entirely at the venue rehearshing and rehearsing to get everything right. And I’ll give them credit because it would have been easy to be lazy about it and leave, but they committed to the rehearsals. And they received and welcomed feedback, which showed in their final performances.

The rehearsals were important for a number of reasons. The artists were performing live so they needed to rehearse to get that right – especially important for the singers. They needed to know their marks – the cameras needed to know their marks. I laughed the other day when we had some talent in the office who complained we ruined TV for them when I explained that rarely is anything spontaneous because camera, sound, lighting, producers all needed to know what the person in front of the camera was going to do at every moment to ensure it worked technically.

You’ve seen previous shows on TV (ehem ZNBC) where the camera didn’t follow an artist because the camera team didn’t know the artist was going to move off that mark – probably because they didn’t rehearse before hand. Each performance, each guest presenter, everything was timed. I’m not sure how the guest presenters on the BnBs managed to go so off script so often but I don’t see why that should have happened… perhaps it was the selection of presenters… I don’t know. There just seemed to have been a lot of issues due to timing and control of that time (I won’t speak to the non-live performances, think we all have a problem with that – though ZNBC said their audience for the show – the kids (who couldn’t afford to attend the show even if they wanted to) didn’t have a problem with lip syncing… alrighty then). I think if they could have got all their marks on their running order, we would have seen a notable difference just from that…

Generally this issue of time and allocation of it seems to be a common problem in Zambia. I recently started going for driving lessons – I figured with a bit of downtime on my hands I really ought to become compliant with the laws of the country. It is easy to drive around without a license but not only is it illegal, it’s also nerve wrecking to be dodging the police! I was shocked to find that you can rock up any time you feel like it and wait for an available instructor. For some of us who actually have time sensitive lives, this way of operating is really frustrating.

Finally I asked the owner of the driving school – who interestingly enough is quite hands on with how it’s run – why they simply didn’t allocate time slots to each student. She seemed nervous, but the way I see it, we (Zambians) need to start respecting time, there are only so many hours in the day. If we commit to something, let it be in an organised fashion. If I book my driving lessons for 10-11am then I need to be there during that time or I lose my slot, and therefore my money. Would we not follow that procedure? And for us more controlling people, we’d prefer services like that, because I can still plan my day around it. Right now, my driving lessons might only be for an hour, but I could be out of the office for over 2 hours as I wait for an available instructor or car. Doesn’t make sense to me. It’s the same thing with the driving test. All the driving schools rock up at the same time and convince the examiner to let their school go first. But surely again, each school can be given an allocated time and limit? It’s just more structured, and more organised.

Somehow it seems we just like to live in chaos for no reason… oh but then again, it’s in chaos that other businesses thrive I guess…

Wish me luck as I take my driving test next Tuesday! I so need to pass… I don’t do well with failure…

Yes, that was Lupita Nyong’o I was referring too. And the other two siblings I didn’t name check were Mary and Freddy – sorry about that, it’s just Tasha was there in the audience! 🙂

The whole premise of TED is about ideas worth spreading. When I was invited to speak at TEDXEuston, which is the premiere event on ideas worth spreading related to Africa, I was excited and anxious at the same time. Have you watched some of these TED talks? They are freakin awesome! So what was I going to talk about?

I had so many experiences, but what was worthy of sharing? I chose something a little bit controversial but true to who I was and what I was feeling (or going through) at that time. I’m less angry, but I still believe and stand by what I was talking about.

However, on the day, my nerves kind of got the better of me (plus 15-18 minutes is a lot less time than I thought!), so I’m not even sure I got my points across. My original topic was on how I believe that the development community kills creativity in Zambia (I couldn’t speak to other countries in Africa, though I did have similar experiences with my work in Kenya), yes I was having my Dambisa dead aid moment! But to be honest, that wasn’t going to be too helpful to sit around bitching about the problem, I needed to address it critically, to say so how do we change this?

Let me take you back a bit. My issue stems from when I look around at billboards, or TV adverts, posters etc related to some development issue, be it HIV, malaria, etc, and it’s bad. It’s not creative or compelling. It’s not comparable to the commercial ads (ok some local ones are questionable too), it’s not like coca cola, or FNB, or any other brand that’s doing some pretty awesome stuff. And don’t get it twisted, some of these ‘prosocial ads’ have a pretty good budget. Budget aside, they could still try and be creative.

But it was almost like there is a belief that because it’s made in Africa or made for Africa it needs to be, well, shit. Samsung do made (built) for Africa the best – it’s not shit, it’s innovative, and works for our terrain – which is what we need. But otherwise, we remain the dumping ground for rubbish.

It frustrates me because despite how many educated and skilled people are in the country, we still contend with Washington telling us what we can and can’t do. I’m not saying we have all the answers or that we can do everything, but we make a plan – that’s the point.

And why do they settle for substandard? There are creatives in this country (ourselves included) who want to deliver good quality and international products, who have pride in their own outputs and take exception to using low resolution photography, who won’t steal images off the internet, or not think through the use of colours etc. Rather than say ‘this is the best Zambia can do’, look around and find the best.

My bigger point though, was that as these development communication and/or marketing are supposed to improve our lives, we too have the power to say, ‘actually it’s crap, so I don’t want to buy what you’re selling – because it doesn’t speak to me, or my values’, and if these development agencies don’t want to work with us, or at least listen to what we have to say (regarding creativity and production values), then we have to do the communication our selves.

The same way we want to be responsible for the stories coming out of Africa, for us to tell our stories, is the same way that we should also get involved, and indeed be responsible for our development agenda, and our development messages. We don’t need to shortchange ourselves by putting out substandard products when it’s related to one of the most important product to sell – our health and our wellbeing.

Watch the full talk and I hope I didn’t miss my point!

It’s been awhile since I wrote here.  Teetering somewhere between exhaustion, stressed and overwhelmingly busy, I haven’t had much time to blog.  The last few months the emotional roller-coaster that has become my life has continued.  

I don’t want to blog about the things that are still draining me – you might think my life is really that bad!  So I’m going to focus on the things that make me happy.

 As terrible (financially and emotionally) as the Love Games experience was for us, it has helped raise our platform – both as a company, as producers and even as Zambia!  Love Games got picked up by Africa Magic, so now the show is airing across Africa!  How exciting is that?  It’s probably also allowing more people in Zambia (all those who don’t watch ZNBC) to watch it too!  And they get to see the great quality which somehow ZNBC never managed to get right when broadcasting.

If that wasn’t enough to excite us – and it really was – it’s also been picked up in the US and can be seen on Hulu as well as online at Reel African.  Last I heard there was also a Nigerian TV station launching it this month on their channel – all very exciting!  And a few days ago it was announced that Love Games has been nominated for THREE Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards – Best Television Series, Best Video Editor, Best Supporting Actress!  Yay team! 

The success of Love Games, has got us recognised abroad too, and I’m so honored and humbled to have been asked to speak at TEDxEuston, which I did yesterday.

The last few weeks have been so nerve wrecking as I’ve tried to figure out what to talk about.  TEDx talks are so inspiring, how on earth can I do one?!  I’ve focused on something I’m passionate about and just hoped and prayed, for the best!  (That’s for another blog, soon coming) 

We also got to shoot a short spot with the First Lady – that was actually fun – and it was at State House.  It’s great to do things like that every once in awhile.  She was really friendly and all – genuinely so.  It makes you wonder… ehem.  Anyway the end result of the spot looks great! 

After having done what I do for the last 16 years, I’m more passionate than ever about controlling the messages we put out.  Earlier this month we joined forces with IM Studios – and super star producer Mag 44, to produce a song featuring Cleo Ice Queen, Lulu Hangala, Judy-oh and Kantu to address the message we think we should be putting out to women – rise and realise your potential.  Every time this year we recognise the 16 days of activism against gender violence, and while talking about what we could do about it, we asked ourselves, well what do we want women to do about it?  People talk about standing up and joining the fight against this terrible act but then want?

 And if you’ve faced abuse, then what?  

We all really liked that ‘Women are strong’ advert from Sure, so that was our starting point – women are strong.  Let’s pay homage to these strong women, and recognise this strength lives within all of us (women).  Inspired by the Young Lions competition (Cannes Lions Festival), we thought, why don’t we get people in the creative industry to come together on an issue that we think is important and put our creative minds to it – without interference from development organisations and their respective agendas.  

So we’ve started with IM studios and Bongo Hive and hoping to bring in more creatives in the next few weeks.  We feel this is something that can live a long time – until women realise their potential even!  Look out for the song Nyamuka next week and the start of the campaign soon after (I hope!)

As we’re getting to the end of the year, it’s time to focus on next year.  2013 has been a huge learning for me, I can’t underscore all the lessons that have come my way.  I’m learning to focus on the positive and not the negative.  I can complain and whine all day about how unfair life is, on how everything seems to be going wrong blah blah blah, or I can take the lemons and make margaritas from it.  And I do like margaritas!

And I’m learning to be grateful.  This year we have done so much and worked with a great team.  Our focus might have been on Love Games, but we also produced a great video for the Brothers for Life song which aired across the entire three floors of the UNICEF HQ in New York, Love Games travelled and started so many discussions, while also rising the bar for dramas in Zambia.  We got to travel to Luapula to do a documentary for a client, we did the first informercial that set off a chain reaction with other agencies doing their own type of informercials.  Not mentioning the work I’ve already talked about above.  So while my accountant might not be happy with us this year, I’m so grateful for the great products we’ve released.

Take a look at our reel.

Stay Blessed

It’s been a minute since I’ve blogged.  It’s just been too difficult for me to come on here.  After the excitement and pride I felt for producing what I think is a great season of Love Games, we were hit with a very harsh reality, a shock that had me questioning whether we’d be forced to shut down the business.  I can’t go into detail for legal reasons, but there were things that happened in our finance department that made me spiral into depression.

Forgetting about the qualification of people, I beat myself up for being so trusting and not a harsher micro-manager.  Anyone who knows me, who has been managed by me knows that I believe people should take responsibility for their work and have a sense of pride and ownership, and that given trust and respect anyone can flourish.  Perhaps I looked through rose coloured glasses, or perhaps they are some areas that you can’t afford to have that outlook on.  Whatever the answer might be, I spent months not sleeping, working hard, seeking advice, just trying to figure a way out.  I haven’t got that answer yet.

 I then got an opportunity to talk about some of these issues when Janice Matwi decided to do a piece on sibling business – and therefore on Media 365 – for her e-zine Corporate Heelz.  While I could only allude to some of the issues we were facing it made me want to open up more. 

What I did find when I opened up to my friends, and some of the women that inspire me including Octavia from the Twenty Ten Club,and Yvonne from Al Jazeera, was this incredible support.  I felt like I was on the edge, and through their words of encouragement and helpful suggestions, they slowly talked me off the ledge.

My very good friend – also an entrepreneur – Mutale, sent me an article that really pointed to how I was not alone in this situation.  Many entrepreneurs have got to the point of nearly (if not actually) losing everything.  But they stuck it out, and when they made it back, they learnt from their lessons.  It was really useful.  But I also felt that we’d been here before – ok not as bad, but definitely here, and I thought we had learnt.  Perhaps it was just my turn to learn the lesson to appreciate how tough it was for those that came before me, and for us to bond further in the growth of this company.  (Now I understand why there are so many wantrepreneurs – it’s safer!)

I looked around me and realised that many of those closest and dearest to me were in the same boat, all suffering severe financial issues, with no sign of how to get out.  The depression getting the better of them.  This is a real issue that we take for granted – depression is real my friends.

Depression is not new to me, I think for the larger part of my life I have suffered with depression – I read somewhere that it’s a common affliction of Type A people – we’re too hard on our selves – our harshest and worst critics.  But over the years I’ve learnt how to deal with it.

To some the answer seems to lie in crawling back into bed and shutting yourself out from the world.  And you know, that’s really tempting and inviting – there are no problems in your bed, under your comfy duvet, watching bad day time TV with the phone off and a bottle of wine in reach. (Sounds great even now).  But the reality is that wallowing in misery actually just intensifies the misery.  You have to get up and face the world with your fighting spirit and never give up.  These are some tips that I have learnt that I encourage others to use when the feeling of sadness begins to take grip – but you have to be aware of it to catch it early.  

Get Up and Move

Exercise is one of those things that is like a super everything.  For almost any problem you have you find that exercise is suggested to address it.  There is something about getting your body moving that lifts your mood.  It also helps clear your mind so that you can think clearly.  There is a couple of things that I find can happen when you’re depressed – either you have knee jerk reactions and make decisions that don’t help you in the long run, or you get frozen and can’t make any decision.  Exercise allows you to have options.  And remember, if you don’t take care of your body, it won’t take care of you!

Do Something!

Addressing your problems head on is always a good idea.  Seek expert opinions if you have to – with your bank manager, financial advisors, lawyers, whoever you need to – or even people who have gone through the same thing before.  Maybe you’re not in the position to get that kind of expert advise yet, but then tackle your problem another way.  Begin by writing a to-do list of all you can do to get out of your problems and then start working your way down the list – try the smaller things first – those immediate wins will help boost your confidence and give you energy to tackle the big tasks.  It may seem insurmountable now, but it really isn’t.

Talk to your creditors too.  Let them understand your situation.  This is really difficult in Zambia for a couple of reasons: 

    • Being broke is a laughable offense.  Or an insult.  It is scandalous to be broke in Zambia, people would rather pretend to afford a livestyle or a business that they can’t.  Behind the scenes they are drowning in debt but are trying to ‘save face’.  Having a better understanding of money, and being comfortable with it will allow us to all have healthier conversations about finance, debt, budgeting etc.  It’s better to be honest about your situation than ruin yourself further or hide from your creditors.
    • Everyone is in the same boat.  Because of the fact that Zambia is a cash based society, with very few people having access to credit there is a knock on affect when the cycle of payments is broken. If my client doesn’t pay me, I can’t pay my suppliers (or employees), they can’t pay their employees, the employees can’t pay their landlords, or maids, the maid can’t send her kids to school and so on, and so on.  Most people don’t have excess cash to put towards savings or anything, excess cash is used to pay a bill, pay a debt, or get better food in the house.

But we have to just deal with facts, if you can’t afford to pay your bills, get on a debt plan and begin to trade out of your debts.

Get Creative

Taking your mind off your problems and doing something creative can help you find a creative solution to your problem.  Paint a painting, paint a wall, do some gardening, go dancing, read a book.  Anything that will put a smile on your face.  The distraction helps so that you also don’t tire yourself thinking about your problem – this will also drain you and make you more susceptible to depression.

Get Spiritual

I’m not ‘religious’ by any means.  I was brought up a Christian and did Sunday school as a child.  I don’t think I’ve been to church regularly since I was about 12.  But I don’t knock the power of faith.  And when I’m down, I do turn to God.  Prayer is my way to have someone to talk to, and I do think God listens to us all deep down.  I find it comforting and relaxing, it allows me to also put my problems in someone else’s hands and let’s me focus on what I can control.

If you’re not a praying person (or prayful as they say in Zambia), you can also try meditation.  It’s all about being still and quiet and focused.

 

Call your Cheerleaders

Your support network is absolutely crucial at this time.  You need the people who will surround you with love and encouragement.  These people help remind you why you are special and highlight your great points.  This positivity boost is also another way to keep you encouraged and ready to take on the world.  I’m am eternally grateful for my sister-friends, my family, and my boyfriend that drives me insane.

Don’t be Scared (I tried to say it with a American southern drawl)

Talking about a mental illness of any kind is quite taboo in the black community – saying you have depression is like admitting you’re mad!  But the moment we talk about it we allow others to also talk about, and to start acknowledging that it might not be such an insane thing after all.  I’m sure people will spread this around like crazy – OMG Cathy suffers from depression, shame, maybe she should be committed. (I wouldn’t mind being committed if it means creditors will stop calling me and I can rest :))

This isn’t a long term solution sadly, and sometimes you might get depression when it’s past the point where any of those help.  And then you do need to take your day of hopelessness (as we call it) and just veg.  But then put back on your fighting gloves and get back to winning.  If you’re still a live, you still have the fight in you and the opportunity to succeed.  

And it’s not an easy path to walk.  You’ll find that one day you’ll be fine, feeling you can do this, you can conquer it all, and then the next day you’ll find that your water has been cut off and you’ll burst into tears, and think it’s all too hard and want to give up.

I’m still struggling with this but I don’t plan on giving up.  I have to go back to figuring out how we do come back but I’ll try to keep you posted on my life in Zambia and what I learn and any other strategies that work for me too.

Thanks for listening.

So I’ve never thought of myself as a social marketing anything, let alone a guru (but I like the sound of guru, might throw the term around a bit to see if it sticks 🙂 ), but the lovely lady from Diasporan Darlings decided that that was a deserving title for me in a new interview they did. I’ve posted the first few questions, but to read the full interview do go here

Ex-diasporan, Catherine Ndashe Phiri is part of an emerging group of creative Zambians who have returned home to change the Zambian creative industry. It’s often an industry that is undervalued and highly criticized in most African countries, yet it’s an industry that exudes hope; requires hard work and the ability to ignore scathing (warranted and unwarranted) critique.

For someone who was the former Vice President of MTV International’s Social Responsibility, Cathy’s decision to resign from MTV and return to Zambia to focus on the company she started with her siblings (Media 365 Zambia), was a little startling. She spoke to Diasporan Darlings about her reasons for leaving and whether she has had any regrets.

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DD: You have a blog at http://www.cathyphiri.com which we have unashamedly read from beginning to end. It’s a very honest journal about your journey from London (quitting MTV) to arriving in Lusaka and the various issues you have had to deal with. What have been the benefits of having that blog?

CP: I love to write first and foremost. I started that blog when I was making the decision to leave MTV, not really sure what to do next. The blog was inspired by Paulo Coelho’s book, “The Alchemist”. You know how it is, you read a book at a particular phase in your life and it just makes sense, this is how I felt about The Alchemist, I was looking for my personal legend. Once I got back to Zambia, I carried on blogging as it was a good outlet for me to deal with the challenges of relocating to a country I hadn’t lived in for eight years.

I try not to look at the numbers, I don’t write for my ego, so it’s always great when someone comments on the blog, especially when I’ve posted some of my low points and get an encouraging word from someone. A blog is also great for your brand. I try not to go too personal, but use it as a platform to share insights from my experience here to inspire change and also provoke some issues from our industry.

DD: You attribute your move home to wanting more of a work-life balance (particularly wanting to spend more time with your family). How is it for you now to work, play and live with your family? What aspects would you change ?

CP: I absolutely love my work-life balance! I do love every minute of it, but being an entrepreneur is not easy. When I had a job, I didn’t really have much to worry about knowing I’d get paid at the end of the month. But as an entrepreneur, running your own business with staff, every day you have to think about how am I going to pay my staff, my overheads etc. If I could change anything I might have saved a lot more before my move to ensure I didn’t have any financial stress for at least a couple of years. But other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Oh well maybe I would have bought a house here before I moved back, I love my parents, but being a 30-something year old who still has her parents give her outfit a disapproving glance can be irritating! Sometimes I wear outfits ridiculously short just to annoy them. But really I love my family and parents so just happy to be around them.

DD: We love the strength and honesty that comes from you through your blog and tweets. Especially when talking about being a businesswoman in Lusaka, in the creative industry. What challenges as an ex-diasporan do you deal with on a daily basis that you didn’t deal with as a corporate Exec in London?

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To find out what I said to this question – and for the rest of the article, go to Diasporan Darlings to read the full interview.

Once again, thanks for the support!

I’m so proud of the work we’re doing right now at Media 365. It’s not easy but it is testament that if you work hard, use your resources wisely, there is no reason we can’t make quality programming in Zambia for a Zambian audience. I believe the Mulange One on One series is one those examples.
Our client CSH wanted to do a series of public service announcements to address their campaign focus areas on key drivers of HIV in Zambia, including low and inconsistent condom use, multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships, and prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. Our research showed that people were aware of all these issues they just didn’t necessarily know what to do about them, how they could reduce their risk in the face of these issues.

With Mulange we came up with the concept of ‘show me how’, so using each spot to provide practical steps that people could follow, whether it was how to ask your partner to use a condom, or how to take an HIV test.

I’m really proud of the outcome, these spots are currently airing on ZNBC (national broadcaster) and Muvi TV. You can see all of them on the Safe Love site but I wanted to share one of them with you. This one is talking to the females on how to ask their partner to use a condom, Zee, an actress from Club Risky Business and one of the leading ladies in our new drama series, is the star of this one.

Let me know what you think of it!

How to Ask Your Partner to Use a Condom (Women) from Media365 on Vimeo.

‘>Mulange One on One How to Ask Your Partner to Use a Condom (women)

As you probably know by now – though maybe I haven’t mentioned this before – as much as I love producing TV programming, I actually hate being on set – it all takes so long, setting up, testing sound, sorting out lights, re-takes blah blah blah.  And shooting with 5Ds means you can only shoot for 12 minutes before you reset … none of this is good for a person like me who needs to be constantly doing something (i only sit still when watching tv).  So I’ve been less than thrilled that because of the two major projects we’re working on, I had to step in for Freddy, my brother and creative director, on the Brothers for Life Zambia shoot.

 

Paul Da Prince, Slim, Kangwa Chileshe, Cactus Agony

We’re shooting the mid-campaign review documentary that tells the story of the issues the campaign addresses from the perspective of every day Zambians living these issues.  So I’ve sat through an interview with Owas Mwape – a local celebrity who gained notoriety for his domestic violence saga with his wife, that the BBC made public soon after the Chris Brown-RiRi bust up.  I went with the crew when Cactus interviewed Chibamba Kanyama, now DG of ZNBC and author and motivational speaker, who is passionate about the abuse of alcohol and raising young people, especially men, as productive being ins society.  Then I sat in on the breakfast with the brothers – Cactus Agony, Paul Da Prince, Kangwa Chileshe and Chibamba Kanyama as they met as a group about 11 months after they were brought together as the inaugural ambassadors.  It was all well and good, and somewhat interesting, but I would have preferred to be at my desk responding to emails, looking at the scripts for the drama series were working, looking at the style profiles for the cast and even editing the blogs for the Safe Love site.

 

Today when I was asked if I’d go to the Slim interview, I said no.  I had a thousand other things to do.  But I had to approve the questions before they could go.  Reading the questions and seeing that Slim was going to talk about prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, I realised it could get a bit hairy and it was such a sensitive topic that I reluctantly said I’d go.

By far this was the most powerful and emotionally charged interview I’d done or seen.  To be honest, I’ve been doing this HIV work for so long, it wouldn’t be untrue to say that I’m a little jaded.  It all seemed the same type of story was told, and there were only two:  the poor person living with HIV in the third world (sorry developing country), who has overcome so much – by being HIV+, or the person living with hiv who has no story to their name other than they live with HIV.  Ok I’m being cynical, I do think that a lot of the stuff you see about people living with HIV has no depth to it, it’s almost like their whole life revolves around being HIV+, we de-humanise them in a way.  But Slim, Slim was different.

If you don’t know Slim, you might have seen him on MTV’s Me, Myself and HIV – a programme I conceived with my colleague at the Staying Alive campaign, though it didn’t turn out the way I’d envisioned, it did introduce Slim to the world.  And was the first time Slim came out as being HIV+, six years after he’d found out he was positive.  As much as I appreciate the work that documentary did, it didn’t do justice to Slim as a person – which sometimes the visual product can do, when you can’t interact or engage with the subject.  But I digress, the show told the story of a young man who was born HIV+, that would be Slim.  It also told the story of Slim, the music producer and singer.  The one correction I’d add to that story was Slim was not an upcoming producer, but actually was the producer behind Slap Dee’s first big hit – Gold digger.  I thought that was important to mention, but then again, I’m Zambian, so I know the value of that.  

Anyway, I digress!  The reason we did the interview was to go more in-depth into the story of Slim being a child living with HIV, I obviously can’t give too much detail on the interview – so you can watch the show! – but Slim did bring across the pain of being so young – 15 to be exact – and diagnosed with HIV.  And knowing the kind of stigma that was still around then, the loneliness of a secret of that magnitude.  It touched me so deep, yes me, the jaded one.  I guess because he made all of us in the room feel that emotion – I swear you could hear a pin drop in that moment (and I was with a bunch of guys too!).  

Again because of my years of doing this, and realising how easy it is to exploit a person living with HIV, to get that story that you want, the ‘human angle’ etc, how we can make the virus be more than the person, I asked him if it bothered him that this is the story people keep asking him about, about his HIV status and how it is to live with the virus.  ‘No’, he said.  ‘I believe this happened to me for a reason, and I know that by sharing my story I’m giving hope and encouragement to someone, someone who might be in that dark, lonely place that I once was in.’  Ok, it might not have been quite as profound as I re-phrased it, but it was his ability to think about the good he could be doing by sharing his story that touched me.

I don’t always think that people know the power their life stories – and we all have them – can do for other people, and when someone as young (he’s 23) could be so honest and so visionary about the impact they could have on someone else, well that’s just admirable.  For a lot of people it’s scary to open up and talk about something so life-changing like that, scary, embarrassing, humiliating, you name it – because most people put themselves first, instead of looking at the value in their story and it’s impact on others. Slim comes from a humble background, he’s still pushing his music career, but he’s taking his role as an HIV+ activist seriously to help other people, and simply by using his voice.  That’s powerful too.  You’re not going to see Slim starting an NGO, or giving up his music career to focus on telling his story, but you ask him about his life and he’ll tell you.  And that’s the other thing that I admire about him.  He’s doing what he loves the most – music – but he’s also willing to do his part in building our community by spreading the word about HIV.

My words can’t do justice to how I felt today, and what Slim sparked in me – which I can’t talk about yet – and I hope that we captured it on tape for you to see in the interview, but one thing is for sure, Paul Slim Banda is one of those people God sent to earth to inspire us.  (Now you know how moved I was because I’m not usually that corny or sappy!)

When the show is out, I’ll let you know!

The last couple of weeks have been in crazy. First I took more or less a 24 hour journey to Seattle to attend a one and a half day meeting and now I’m wide awake at 5am in a Nairobi hotel (though I’ve been awake since 2am willing myself to go to asleep, alas at 4.30am I gave up on that).

In between I’ve been working like crazy at my own company, about to launch a new TV show that I’m really excited about, while also managing new aspects of the Shuga project in Kenya. Crazy, stressed and hectic is how my life has been recently. Needless to say I’m exhausted. But my brain won’t quit, probably the reason I’m wide awake now, as I think about the multitude of things that need to be done – rolling out the media buy for the Brothers for Life campaign in Zambia, developing the new timeline for Shuga’s new components, writing reports to clients, casting for our show, oh and did I mention we’re about to sign on two new clients in Zambia – one to be the biggest that we’ve ever had. Not to mention when I find time in my spare time, I co-manage (marketing only) one of Zambia’s hottest artists. It’s exciting stuff but not for the lazy that’s for sure.

Last weekend we were doing our first open auditions for presenters we were looking for, for a new young and hip show we’re doing. I was less than happy with the results. It made me question what is going on with ‘our youth’ of today. I remember when I was 17 I had already launched an organisation with my sister and we were planning our first edition of Trendsetters. I researched everything I needed to do before going down that path – knowing that print journalism wasn’t something I knew about, but I read magazines to find a style that worked for me and for what we were looking for for the magazine. This seemed to be a foreign concept to the people that came to the auditions.

But I don’t entirely blame them, as my friend wrote in his blog, mediocrity has long been accepted as a way of life in Zambia. While I agreed with his post, I also thought it was a cop out. As an individual you can choice not to fall into that category and certainly not to accept it – which is what I strive to do in my life. These kids that came to audition should not have looked at our national broadcasting channel and thought that was all there was to presenting. Knowing that this is a show for young people, and that we were looking for young, dynamic, full of energy type of people, they should have looked for references to imitate. At one point in the interviews, the judges, including myself, got fed up and literally told people to leave if they were going to come in with low energy and no confidence. Yeah I know that’s mean considering I can be low energy, but hey, I wasn’t auditioning!

The truth that a lot of them spoke about was the lack of opportunities for them, opportunities to nurture their talent, and while presenting might not have been their strong point, some of them could kill it with their singing! But we weren’t doing Zambia’s Got Talent. Though some did have access to DSTV to see international shows like Oprah and Tyra (not really the style we were looking for), the majority of them watch local shows, which frankly, are still in the 80s. This was their only reference point. This was a clear indication that the media in Zambia needs to switch it up, provide new ideas and inspiration to young people. Not to toot our own horns, but nothing is around to do this the way Trendsetters did.

In Kenya, I met a group of young people taking part in our Shuga Rising Stars mentorship programme. They basically get the opportunity to work with the some of the core people across the Shuga initiative from the award-winning director, to the marketing people, through to the public health partners. As I’m a strong believer in mentorships, myself being mentored by Aaqil Ahmed and having my own mentee, I thought this was an amazing opportunity for anyone on this project to be a part of. In a hard to break into industry like the media/creative field, this was an opportunity these young people couldn’t pay to be a part of it.

But after sitting with them, and I did think they were lovely, I just didn’t get the sense they understood the magnitude of what they were a part of. Sure, they recognized they got some great contacts and learnt some new skills, but I wasn’t sure if they could see how it could fit into the big picture of where they were trying to go. OK, me and my I’ll give you my advice even if you didn’t ask for it self did share my thoughts on how they could really own this opportunity and make it work for them. Though, after our one hour talk and I asked them if they had any questions – again, not to be more than who I am, but I’ve also been in the game awhile, not everyone has access to my knowledge (did that really come out as conceited as I think? Insert smiley face) – I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have any questions. I’m not one to give up on young people who are determined to make it in their careers, so shared my contacts for them to reach out to me whenever they wanted to. I don’t see why everyone has to go through the hard work unnecessarily, if someone can help you out, that’s why I believe in giving back, each generation has to do better than the one before right? I do believe that, but I’m not getting much hope of that with the young people I’ve met in my six odd months in Africa so far.

I won’t give up on them, without seeing what role I can play – like everyone else – to continue to develop Africa and nurture great talent coming out of the continent. I hope the work I do in Kenya and Zambia will impact them and see new directors, writers, marketers and more coming out of the continent, along with our more traditional career options of educators, doctors, lawyers etc.

I’ve been up for more hours than I’d like to think of and my alarm just went off, so I may as well get up, hit the gym and watch the sun rise over the city of Nairobi.

Until next time.