Saturday 27th May, 2017 saw many an enlightenment seeker head to The Mulungushi International Conference Center for Lusaka’s annual TEDx event. With an impressive list of 18 speakers lined up, and the theme To Get Lost is To Learn The Way, it promised to be a TEDx event of note. For everyone that’s hearing about TEDx (or reading my blog) for the first time I gave a brief introduction to this event in my last post Jump on the TEDxpress 🙂
Although I don’t really rate being an adult (I actually kinda sorta hate it on most days, because it’s a trap and I didn’t choose it) I’ve been working at being better at it and TED has been the coolest way so far. I wouldn’t consider myself as a woke individual so it’s been a world of inspiration and life changing perspectives, sans shoving down throatness of most inspirational avenues. I love it!
I’m usually in bed till 11AM on Saturdays (don’t judge me, I’m up at 5 AM on week days trying to be a responsible adult) but I was up at 6 AM, getting ready to attend an event that starts at 9AM! I was so keen, mainly because this was a chance to see people I’ve only seen on television or on the internet sharing ideas and helping me (us) be a better adult
lots of them
in the flesh
all in one place.
It was a chance to be reminded that these are real people, sharing real ideas and making real moves. If they can, why can’t I? Maybe one day I’LL be on that stage sharing MY ideas.
I got there at 8:30 and as soon as I was all signed up I was blessed with a gift bag of goodies from the sponsors. Being a lover of free things, I immediately opened it to check contents: Destiny magazine (a fave), TEDxLusaka magazine, a gym coupon, a groceries coupon, a few more coupons and A POWER BANK; my personal favorite, because I had been talking about getting one since The Kariba Dam gave up on us and load shedding woes began, but I never got to it. So thank you Team TEDxLusaka!
Now it being 18 speakers, I’m not about to share what each of them had to say with you lot, that would be the longest blog post ever! Attend the next event for all that 😉
What I will share is my favorites for the day and why.
How many of you have heard about the Lusaka Social Circus? Before TEDxLusaka, I had never. So our MC for the day, a Mr Kapalu Mutenda who I have admit was pretty effortlessly funny, introduced Gift Chansa as the founder of The Social Circus.
Cue drums, all the drums.
The Circus had invaded Mulungushi.
I sat at the edge of my seat as a whole team of acrobats, performed for close to five minutes; throwing each other in the air and standing on a team mate’s head. I couldn’t take it! I had never experienced such a dynamic display of fitness, agility, flexibility and TRUST in the flesh in my life. I was SHOOK!
This went for close to five minute – throwing, catching, walking on a line of team mates’ heads, splits and summersaults that made the stage look so brittle from where I was watching. It was an excellent display of what the human body, partnered with trust and practice can achieve. The Social Circus is one to look out for.
After such an amazing set, Gift Chansa majestically struts onto stage and is still able to give a 7 minute talk on what The Social Circus is about and how it was founded. If that was me, I would probably have passed out backstage, considering how winded a 25 minute HIIT workout session gets me.
Gift Chansa began by asking the audience “What comes to mind when you hear Chibolya?”
“Baleku senda!”, among several other responses from the audience.
He follows with the question “Would you let your child visit Chibolya?”, a unanimous “no” from the audience.
A Google search projected on the stage’s backdrop shows Chibolya as a place of confusion, with images of drug activity and heavy police presence and articles of police raids and crime scenes.
Gift however goes on to explain that to him, Chibolya is home AND the birth place of the amazing Social Circus we had just witnessed. He speaks of the challenges that he faced as a young man, growing up in Chibolya and how nobody ever viewed Chibolya in a positive light.
This is the beacon of the Social Circus, to engage young people’s bodies, minds and souls and allow them to be change makers. The Social Circus does this through physical exercise, education and tutoring at their hub and team building exercise (of course, for the trust with all the throwing and catching).
He wraps up by showing us a mural painted (as seen in the image below) by the team in Chibolya, it shows two individuals looking at a number from two different angles; one sees a 6 and the other a 9. The 6 represents Chibolya’s already existing reputation while the 9 represents the reputation that Gift and the Social Circus tried to show us that morning, the positive face. I hope more people can see the 9 with time and with initiatives like The Social Circle. I see the 9 🙂
More entertainment came through via Namaala Liebenthal and her ZOCA (Zambia’s own Caribbean and African) dance groups. If you read my last post you know that I mentioned I was excited to see her because of her versatility: she’s a lawyer turned dance instructor (those two worlds could couldn’t be any further apart, I wanted to know her story).
First up was a bunch of ZOCA’s local and international instructors that performed a well-choreographed piece, followed by charming squad of ZOCA kids that were incredibly cute to watch as they tried to remember their steps and choreography and finally a set of teen girls from a program called Kuvina, a nonprofit that empowers through dance.
In her talk she sought to answer two questions, that she (and other people like her) gets asked a lot;
- Why would you leave NYC to comeback to Zambia?
Basically, the answer about finding and embracing her roots didn’t satisfy anyone anymore so here’s what she tells people; Africa is on the rise, investment is pouring in and long lost intellectuals are coming back so there is growth she is here for all that growth. There’s a 180 degree paradigm shift that’s occurring. So next time you meet someone that just got back from the diaspora, rather ask “What took you so long to get back?”
- Why would you transition from lawyer to dancer?
More and more people are building careers in unconventional ways. This is the future. To her, dance brings happiness and when you’re happy on the inside it begins to reflect on the outside, so you take better care of your surroundings.
Pick an innovative career that you’re passionate about and go with it sharing a defined message. That is how she managed to expand all over the world.
Another speaker I looked forward to seeing was the self-made Mr. Trevor Mumba. I was not disappointed.
He started by recounting the memory of the morning his mother passed on, and then told us how a year later his father passed on as well. He went on to live with his granny in Matero, who struggled to provide the bare minimum. He light heartedly explained how he had to hold his Bata Toughee school shoes together with a rubber band because they were in such terrible shape.
Fast forward to him standing on the TEDxLusaka stage, he sang “BIRTHDAYS WERE THE WORST DAYS…” and the audience aptly replied “NOW WE SIP CHAMPAGNE WHEN WE THIRSTY!”, well we don’t, but he does. Everyone cheered, millennials love a good musical reference. But that wasn’t it, he sang a Kanye West line “and now my grandmamma ain’t the only girl callin’ me baby!” to more cheers!
Everyone was feeling this guy, until he started to talk about what it took to get there.
You know, Team “while they sleep, we grind”? That’s him.
He started by asking how many of us had friends already asking us what’s for the weekend. His philosophy is to waste no weekends, he works Monday through Saturday with the goal to smash 20% of his targets on Monday while the rest of us mourn the weekend passed and/or nurse hangovers. He doesn’t even drink alcohol because he believes it’s a waste of time. At this point you could count the number of people in the room still clapping. We were conflicted. Inspired but challenged.
He proclaims he is the hardest working person he knows, and who can argue? He made a million dollars last year alone (via his firm Real Promotions, that’s all over SA and coming to Zambia soon)
He told us that his watch was more expensive than his Lexus, yo. GOALS!
He is always working and reading to better himself. He ended by calling himself a model of possibilities. If he can do it so can we?
Mafipe Chunga, chartered accountant and lawyer, walked onto stage in the loudest powder blue suit I had seen in a while. It made me chuckle.
He was the most engaging speaker though. He came on with a placard, on one side it read CLAP and the other YES. We, as the audience, were meant to follow the instruction on the sign shown to us whenever he lifted it. I couldn’t help but feel like this would land us in trouble but some point but everyone was so cooperative, it was cute.
He shared on what he called ‘The Chief System’. He started by demonstrating the impact of culture on us, by rolling a paper and then letting it go…it doesn’t go back to its original state, same thing with us. He used this to explain how the traditional chief system is present even in the urban work place:
Chief – CEO
Kapaso – PA
Indunas – Directors
Wealthy Peasants – Managers
The People – Everybody else
He gave an example of Zambia Airways. Nobody really knows why it closed down, there’s lots of speculation but he rates the ‘Induna’ charged with the project wanted to be close enough to claim involvement at success but far enough to detach himself if it failed: this in comparison to Germany’s BER airport that was 15 years in planning, 10 years in construction and was set back 3 times but they looked into the problem and fixed it.
According to Mafipe, the chief system ridicules genius, bold ideas and experimentation. There is no place for thinkers in this governance hierarchy.
For example, KK wanted to grow plantations of sugar cane for bio diesel but the Indunas were already hard at work and picked his ideas to shreds already.
Another example he gave was an idea of underground trains that was proposed but the Indunas picked unrelated issues from his ideas and shut it down.
For Zambia to move forward we need to have an “I don’t care that you don’t approve, I’m going to do it anyway.”
The chief system doesn’t only exist in the corporate set up, even our minds, self-doubt hinders our genius.
He wrapped up with, “If we’re going to lead the Zambian revival, identify the chief in yourself and destroy the chief in yourself.”
Is your change gene still dormant? These last two last speakers (from the many I enjoyed) might shake it awake.
If you’re into the Zambian political and social news scene you have probably heard about Linda Kasonde, FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT OF THE LAW ASSOCIATION OF ZAMBIA.
Her talk was one definitely meant to inspire change, about women and for women.
She spoke about how she went from being a shy girl that couldn’t even run for office in the student council to 17 years later being elected Honorary Secretary of LAZ and then the first female president of the body that regulates the entire legal profession in Zambia.
Reading a book by Billi Lim, called ‘Dare to Fail’, a book that defines success as a day to day progressive journey towards a predetermined worthwhile goal. In this book she read of a girl that sought to be a ballerina and performed for a ballet master who shot her down and she walked away devastated. Years later she bumped into the ballet master and confronted him and he told her if she really had wanted to be a ballerina she would have pursued it no matter what he said. Failure is a part of life, the more you put yourself out there the bigger the rewards.
As a woman, she has discovered it is way tougher to be considered a good leader. People focus on all the wrong things and will hardly ever attribute good results to you. She cited examples of how women in leadership positions are made to grow thick skin because of what goes on around them. When she was elected LAZ President, she was praised and given awards simply for achieving this fete, but she still fought to prove she deserved it.
She ended with some advice for women:
- Have the courage of your convictions
- Pay it forward (it is lonely at the top so bring others with you)
- Never give up “The non-exceptional rejoice when the great fall because it relieves them from believing that they too can be great.” So GET UP, if only to drive the haters crazy J
- Build character (worry about character more than you worry about reputation)
Someone needs to be the first so that no one is the last.
Finally, Michelle Chimuka.
This one really touched my heart.
Her passion is for people with intellectual disabilities. While development increases this group of people are falling behind.
She started by saying how she could have shown us slides with statistics on people in Zambia living with intellectual disabilities but there are no stats, “they don’t count so they’re not even counted.”
Michelle’s younger brother has Down’s syndrome, so this gave her firsthand view of what life living with an intellectual disability is like. As she grew older and got ahead in life she saw her brother fall further and further behind. This triggered her to start The Sani Foundation to provide relevant holistic training to young adults with intellectual disabilities, allowing them to get jobs and live independently.
She shared the story of Diana, who came to The Sani Foundation saying “I wanna cook” so they took it on to train her. 2 years down the line, with no work experience and / or paper work she got a job, was hired (with pay) and is now supporting her family in Makeni off a job she works at Subway.
The Sani Foundation’s aim is to change the narrative: people with intellectual disabilities are no longer beneficiaries deserving of sympathy, they are active members of the working community and stats show they are loyal and efficient once in the system.
So how do we personally change the narrative? EMPATHISE to kick start inclusion. Get to know someone with a disability, REALLY get to know them.
Michelle Chimuka proved to us that the current system has failed people with intellectual disabilities not because they are not good enough but because IT is not good enough.
This only but a third of the day’s events so you can imagine the range of conversation that was had.
It was an amazing day of cohesive eye-opening, life changing knowledge. Videos from the event will be available SOON, if you’d like to see what you missed or relive the experience, keep your eyes on the TEDxLusaka social media pages.
See you at next year’s event
Photo Cred: TEDxLusaka Team.