Meet Kandrisa in Morocco!

booooI’m a college graduate of St. John’s University, wearer of cute accessories, semi-decent speller, member of the Peace Corps, perfume enthusiast, budding feminist, Beyonce fan, proud owner of nothing because materialism is wack, art history lover, someone who is always trying to lose five pounds, a sister as well as a Sister as well as a sista, and to my utmost delight a black girl in the world.

1. What made you move to where you are today? Job? School? Adventure?        When I was young and even more naive than what I am now, I dreamed of becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was fixated on the idea of being a world traveler and as I am now, completely aware of how broke I am. I knew that I would need help “getting out there” (there being some place beyond Wal-mart) and so I made a pact with myself that I would join the Peace Corps. In those days, the volunteerism was secondary. In this day in age were I am continuously confronted with social inequality and discriminatory acts of all sorts, I am humbled by my decision to join the Peace Corps and I only hope to continue my advocacy for change.

walk2. How did you prepare for the move? How did you find housing? Did you need to learn a new language? Etc.?

I totally did not prepare for moving to Morocco. I mean I brought a mini-skirt. My ideas about living in a Muslim country were completely unintelligible and ridiculously uninformed. I remember looking at the CIA’s country factbook twice and being overwhelmed by all the information both there and in the “Lonely Planet’s Guidebook for Morocco.” Still, I had made a mental–and contractual–commitment to serve the nation of Morocco and that’s what helps me power through.

As far as settling down for these twenty-seven months, I originally lived with a host family in Sefrou, Morocco. I stayed there for three months in which I did a dismal job of learning Darija (Moroccan Arabic). It was just so cold! And sometimes learning isn’t on my agenda. Afterwards, I moved to my final site, a medium sized village on the outskirts of Marrakesh. There I lived with another host family who drove me up the wall. It was all I could do to find my lovely one bedroom apartment with newish tile and the water closet outside the front door. That’s a longer story, but in summation, I’m in my first ever own home and as cheesy as this may sound, I think its really special that the address is in Morocco.

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3. Whats the most difficult thing about being a black woman where you are? Blatant racism? no black community? No hair stylist?!                                        Wow! This question is this question. I’ll just start with the easy stuff. To know me is to know that my hair is a mess. Plaits all day, every day. I had embarrassing amounts of stereotypical racism to work through when I first arrived in-country. I held a monolithic viewpoint in which the only countries that stood out were the ones that I had connection to on a personal level. Plus, I just made the very ethno-centric, neocolonist (I do not give myself any leeway for practicing racism) assumption that all black people were the same. We aren’t and its our diversity that makes all of humanity beautiful. So what I really struggled with is developing a multiplicity in my understanding of what it means to be black in general and especially outside of the American racial binary. In Morocco, yes there is colorism, yes there are people who question the authenticity of my American heritage because I’m black, yes there are super ignorant comments about “Morocco not being in Africa,” but there is also a trend to recognize the indigenous tribal culture, ShelHa, a greater cultural connection to the Middle East, and other influences that make being black something different here than what I experienced in America.

4. On the flip side, what do you LOVE about where you live?
Can I be sentimental? I love the personal growth that I’ve undergone. I love the way my mind deliberates over issues. I love knowing that my family is growing and become amazing people without me. I love the people that I’ve met and the stories that they share with me. I love it because it was my dream.

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5. How have your friends and family reacted to you moving abroad?                           I know some very complex people. Their responses have been all over the emotional wellness map. Originally, my family was very angry with me for leaving. These days, sure they want me to come home, but they want me to succeed more. My grandmother is immaculately invested in my happiness. My friends can’t wait for 2015 so we can party together again. The loves of my life are proud. In there own way, everyone I know is rooting for me and I am incredibly grateful to have an amazing network of friends and family.

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6. Whats next for you? Plans to move back home? More living abroad?
I’m that girl with a ten year plan. I am so excited for the next countries in my life! Recently, my dad suggested that I take year off and live in Japan with he and his family. Maybe I’ll go there and be a live-in babysitter and/or meet a super handsome Japanese man and errr…live happily ever after. All jokes aside, I have always wanted a doctoral degree. My plans include going back to university and being an adult student. I hope to pursue a degree museum studies and in’shallah (God Willing) do public relations for a fancy museum. Promotion of the arts is a career I feel like I can commit to for the rest of my life. If not there’s always another term in the Peace Corps or maybe an extended vacation in an exotic land some place south beyond the border. And if not that either than I guess I’ll become a cat lady.
Follow Kandrisa’s adventures at www.Kandrisa.blogspot.com 🙂

My Mamas and their babies.

Artisan headshots WC 027 Mubayange 063 Mubayange 079
Artisan headshots WC 024
Photos taken by our intern Yasmine while visiting our artisans throughout the villages. I strongly feel that African mothers are a different breed of human. There is a peculiar sense of  selflessness that, having experienced this first hand with Mme. Kimou, envelopes children and strips the mother of any sense of personhood. It’s like these Mamas become just tools to protect and nurture their children until they can take care of themselves. Like they can not be people until their families are ok. Does that make sense?

It’s a scary notion, but also very sane at the same time.

My Man Crush!

I recently found out what #mcm means, Man Crush Mondays! Ha, how cute. Well this Monday I needed to share with you all my crush. Blogger/DJ/Ashesi University Lecturer/DUST Magazine Editor/Accra Mover and Shaker Kobby Graham.

He’s an afropolitan living in Accra making moves through his awesome DJing sets, his innovative lectures at Ghana’s only liberal arts university (think analyzing the text of Kanye and Jay Z’s “No Church in the Wild”), his witty and funny take on life in Ghana on his blog, basically his overall cool. I mean really, a man of the diaspora who returned to his country and is shaping the conversations within one of Africa’s most burgeoning and influential cities through education, art, music, and journalism. Plus he shows loves for his mama. Yup.

I actually met him in 2012 at a conference I snuck into in Cape Town, I spoke to him for like 4 mins about the differences between Abidjan and Accra. I asked for his card but was too chicken to write cause I didn’t really have anything interesting to say lol. The struggle.

Sigh, unfortunately as I was stalking reading his blog recently I saw something about a girlfriend. Darn, the fantasy came to an end.

Nonetheless, he’s definitely someone to watch, and DUST is a great publication to check out. Oh and if anyone knows any beautiful West African men who sound like this, please contact me as soon as possible. Like seriously.

Merci.

Australian artist Virginia Ryan moved to my beautiful Cote d’Ivoire a few years ago and started making art inspired by Ivorian fabrics and of course our women 🙂 I love it all.

Once I save up enough money (in 1o years) I’ll buy one and hang it in my foyer. Cause thats what adults do, they have foyers and buy art. For now, one of her pieces is my current background, thats free.

African Women have BEEN Feminists

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Definitions of feminism first came from the West; a term deeply rooted in a history that didn’t include women who looked like my ancestors or me. I remember reading “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan in my undergraduate Gender course. Excuse my French, but that shit confused me, this was a book all about middle-aged white women who were tired of being housewives, they were unhappy with their plush lives and unsatisfied with suburbia. THIS Friedan called “the problem that has no name,” the unhappiness of 1950’s white homemakers who apparently wanted more for themselves than a life of leisure and reproducing. I was concerned, and that’s when I knew there had to be a different sect of feminism. I knew there had to be more layers to feminism because there were more women in the world than white suburban housewives.

I remember calling my mom in Abidjan one day asking her to define feminism. It was mostly a joke, like when I ask her opinion on Kim and Kanye or H&M’s Versace line.  Asking her about things that she doesn’t think impacts her life breeds funny answers like, “Does Kim pay for my fuel? Is Versace in my family?” So when I asked her for her definition she surprised me by telling me the story of how she urged my dad to play a bigger part at home when they first moved to the US. She told him that he needed to help clean, and cook, and wash my older brother because that’s what good men did, they helped their wives.  She said even though her in laws saw her as emasculating my father, she stood her ground that helping your wife did not make a man any less masculine.

My mother went on to tell me that my grandmother was a feminist; she fought with men for her space along the banks of rivers so she could fish for herself instead of depending on her husband. My grandmother was a single mother who happened to be married, so she worked hard everyday of her life to find the money to send my uncle to pharmacy school in Dakar and my mother to Paris. My grandmother knew that while my Grandfather was having children outside of their marriage, she had to be the one to provide, that was her role. My grandmother was a feminist, my mother is a feminist, neither is able to give you the long convoluted definitions that have confused the academic world for decades, but their strength and demand for respect and equality in a historically patriarchal society is their definition.

As women of the diaspora, educated abroad, existing in many different worlds, its important for us to understand that our ancestors have BEEN feminists. Strong women who have triumphed over domestic abuse, single motherhood, colonization, war, all while carrying their communities on our backs. Senegalese writer, Awa Thiam, puts it so well when she says that “the Black woman of Africa suffers a threefold oppression: by virtue of her sex, she is dominated by man in a patriarchal society; by virtue of her class she is at the mercy of capitalist exploitation; by virtue of her race she suffers from the appropriation of her country by colonial or neo-colonial powers.”  With so many things against us, how could we survive without the strength to fight for equality, respect, and recognition? We have fought for our voices to be heard, for our pay to be equal, for us to be recognized as vital parts of our societies.

So, as the West continues to try to define Africa, and its women, in the paradigm of poverty, disease, and helplessness; its important to remember that while American and European white women were burning bras, our ancestors were raging against colonialism. They were becoming the first black women educated in their respective countries. They were fighting in civil wars. I mean lets be honest here, African women have BEEN feminists, lets not let academia confuse that for us.

Thanksgiving.

I’m Thankful for:

Africa and living here

My Mother and Father and their ability to make me laugh over skype

My brothers and their complete faith in all that I do

My job that pays me money even when I feel like running away

New friends I’ve made in Tanzania

My close girlfriends and their emails, calls, and messages

My nieces and nephew

My waist cause its small

My skin cause its pretty

My faith

The internet

My masters degree

Hello internet friends!

I just got back from a wonderful two weeks in Dar and Zanzibar 🙂 I went swimming, dancing, saw P Square in concert, ate all the food, and of course I did some work for WomenCraft (Holiday Season=ALL the craft fairs).

My coworkers and I even took some photos of the products out on the beach in Zanzibar! The photos came out beautifully! My girl Yasmine does it big behind the camera, she even caught my big behind in one of the shots! Its cool doe, she made my waist look small 🙂

Anywho,  I’m back in rainy cold Ngara, but in 3 weeks I’ll be back in Zanzibar for NewYears!

It is good oh.

Me and my Mamas

Me and my mamas 🙂

Seriously, living here has been a challenge. I have my ups and downs, many downs, some days are filled with my lowest hours lol. BUT, the instances I get to spend time with our artisans, laugh with them, dance with them, its really makes me feel like “Ok, this is why you are here, like really, this was the purpose.”

So, this is an appreciation post to all the mamas at WomenCraft, thank you for sharing your happiness.

More Tanzania Weddings!

Another weekend, another wedding! Well this time, one of our artisans got married and of course the whole staff had to go 🙂

It was in a little village called Benaco, about 45 minutes from where I live in Ngara. It was definitely eventful! From the 3 hour church service, to standing up and introducing myself in swahili in front of all the guests, it was quite the day lol.

Lots of fun though, I always enjoy outings out of Ngara 🙂

Saturday in the bush 🙂 Just sitting in my 2nd office using the internet, skyping, catching up on celebrity gossip (Kimye got engaged, how exciting, I’m mad Kimmy had a baby and is smaller than me now.)

Anywho, I’ve been a bit stressed and cranky this month, mostly tired of getting bug bites and taking bucket showers. But as of this month I have 6 months left of my contract so I’ve just been contemplating my life, whats next for me.

Law school? Moving to NYC? I may have the opportunity to work for my current org from Europe. Staying in Africa, but in a larger city, Nairobi? Dar es Salaam? Accra? Kigali? Sigh, I dunno, but I’m so blessed to have options.

In less important news, I’ve lost 6 pounds in a month from cutting out ALL carbs, running, and doing Jillian Michaels 30 day shred. This is great news as I am spending New Years on a beach with skinny white girls.

Me and my WomenCraft staff at a wedding last weekend!

We went and drank Konyagi, and talked about life, and relationships, and we asked ourselves; are we all single because we do things like move to the Tanzanian bush? Or have we moved to the Tanzanian bush because we are always single?You get it? LOL.

I know I’m still single because I have yet to meet any man who could stop me from traveling the world in search of employment and adventure. And no, I don’t have commitment issues like all my ex boyfriends would suggest, I just haven’t met a person completely worth committing to! I mean really, if an Idris Elba look alike with a degree and a love for his mama wanted me to stop being a nomad and settle down in the suburbs with him…uhhh I would not pick the Tanzanian bush over him!

I ain’t dumb.