My business partner, Mpho Muendane, is coming to Japan for the first time this week. The primary objective of her visit is to work with a textile manufacturer in Hyogo, but we will also be doing some events featuring her artistic vision and the design work.
If any of the blog readers are interested, please swing by at our event on December 8th. We are creating a pop-up gallery and have a designer’s talk event followed by a reception.
We just released the press release to announce that our digital gallery is now open! We believe that step-by-step communication is important to build the brand and get the words out. Here is the detail:
No matter where you are, you can always shine. – Mpho Muendane
These photographs were shot in one of the biggest shopping malls in Africa, Mall of Africa, in Midrand located in the midway between South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, and Johannesburg. Even if you are in the concrete jungle in the developed urban area, you can still live in dignity and pride regardless of your environment: You can live an abundant life however the world changes and wherever you are in the world. By showing the photography of two models in beautiful textiles, we are sharing our views on living in abundance. (Photos by Mpho Muendane, Creative Director, Maki & Mpho)
南アフリカの首都プレトリアとヨハネスブルグのちょうど中間地点に位置する都市、ミッドランドにあるアフリカ最大級の商業施設、Mall of Africaの一角を舞台に撮影。開発の進んだ都会のコンクリートジャングルにいても、外部環境に惑わされず、品位とプライドを持ち続けることができる。世界がどう変化しようと、世界のどこにいようと、豊かな人生を歩むことができる。テキスタイルアートを纏った2人のモデルの写真作品を通じて、そういった意志のある人生観を表現しています。（Maki & Mphoクリエイティブディレクター、ムポ・ムエンダネ撮影）
One and only David Adjaye, amazing architect of our time…
We’ve had an amazing opportunity to visit the NYC office of Adjaye Associates and to meet up with its director David Adjaye yesterday.
David is one of the most successful architects and he’s worked on multiple projects around the world including the most recent one – the National Museum of the African American History and Culture in Washington DC.
Lately he and his firm are doing more and more project in the African continent. According to Vogue interview, “[h]e’s done a beachfront house for former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Ghana, and the Alara Concept Store in Lagos, Nigeria. He’s currently working on a slavery museum in Cape Coast, Ghana; a state-of-the-art children’s cancer hospital and teaching center in Kigali, Rwanda, the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa; a World Bank headquarters in Dakar; and a high-rise apartment building in a former “no-go zone” of Johannesburg.”
David is a Ghanian-British who was born in Tanzania, but in terms of the scope of his work and his mind, he is truly global. That’s why we look up to him.
We had a great conversation, got lots of advice, and will be in the loop for his upcoming projects…
Do you know Ogojiii? It is a Pan-African magazine that shares stories about African innovation in design, enterprise, and current affairs and newly launched in South Africa and Kenya last year.
When I found out about this magazine, I was hyped. This is what I’m talking about. It’s basically Monocle or Wired of Africa. The magazine itself is cool and aesthetically well-thought, but the contents are also exciting and fresh that give you new discoveries here and there. And it is inherently global.
The magazine launched at the World Economic Forum Africa in Cape Town in 2015, and it was the idea proposed by an accomplished Danish entrepreneur / designer Jens Martin Skibsted and invested by African investors according to Bizcommunity. I also found that Bestseller Foundation, the private philosophic organization established by the family behind the Bestseller (a Danish fashion brand company that owns brands like Vero Moda or Only), bought 25% (and the investment of $120K) of Ogojiii’s stake in November 2015. While it started as a Danish idea, the vision, contents, teams are truly African and it aims to bring together people who look for creative design approach in the African context.
What’s really important here is that “design” is obviously not just about aesthetics and objects. Design thinking offers you new perspectives, ideas, and solutions and the world is starting to see that design thinking in the African context gives us a lot of cutting-edge insights for all of us, global dwellers, to live a better life both spiritually and practically.
Can’t wait to make our contributions to Ogojiii and beyond to further promote the dialogues around African design.
この雑誌は、昨年、ケープタウンで開催された世界経済会議のアフリカミーティングでロンチとなったもので、Bizcommunityによると、最初のアイディアはデンマークの著名な起業家兼デザイナーのJens Martin Skibstedが提唱したものですが、アフリカの投資家によって実現化されてものだそうです。少し調べると、Bestseller社（Vero ModaやOnlyなどのブランドを保有するデンマークのファッション会社）のファミリー財団であるBestseller Foundataionが、2015年11月に25%である$120Kを出資しているようです。デンマーク人のアイディアとはいえ、ビジョン、中身、チームはアフリカであり、アフリカの文脈におけるクリエイティブデザインのアプローチに関心がある人々の場を目指しているようです。
I tend not to write a lot about the stories that everyone else who is in the African business space would share or that the readers would expect to hear from Africa: Logistical and administrative challenges that create significant inefficiencies in business.
But sometimes, there are stories to tell.
Even there are so many modes of communication, you can’t always expect that you can easily reach out to people when you want to especially when you are dealing with people who are used to the less structured lifestyle, which more or less applicable to the people I deal with my business in Africa.
Suddenly people get unreachable for some hours and days. You can’t call them, message them, and email them. Usually, they re-emerge though. The reasons of MIA can vary: Their phones were off because they didn’t top it up, they were out of town, or they were just busy. They are not very apologetic.
When you can’t reach out to people when you expect them to be reached out, it makes you feel anxious or angry and gives you psychological stress. But after experiencing such incidence several times, you learn how to deal with it or hedge the risk of putting yourself into that situation by setting different expectations.
I have been talking a lot about the mission, concept, and vision of the company. But how about actual daily operation, you might ask?
As we are currently at the stage of strategizing, pre-launch marketing (including B2B sales), prototyping, producing, and financing not a lot of B2C sales and logistics activities are happening yet. And my role at this stage (or at any stage) of the business is to communicate well.
Communication is SO SO SO SO SO important both externally and internally.
And I can’t say that I am perfect at it. Communication is always a challenge. I constantly need to practice, improve, learn, and re-strategize. Languages add additional layors of challenge when you want to get your message across globally.
I failed the relationship with my previous business partner partially due communication issues. We were not really listening to and respecting each other so we couldn’t build trust.
I experienced a number of times when you walked out the pitch feeling the message was clearly not delivered after being exposed to clueless eyes and off-point questions.
It might not be intuitive, but communication actually needs a lot of preparation. You need research. You need a lot of brainstorming and writing. You need trial and error.
To deliver a message to any external parties, say, my business partner, clients, customers, manufacturers, or financiers, I always have to research and understand the situation the other party is in and put its hat on me. Then I strategize to get my message delivered followed by drafting or simulation. Many times this works, but other times this doesn’t. Massive fail. Big time. Sometimes I underdo or overdo the process resulting either in mistakes or inefficiency.
Yet, I still think that communication is a very important driver for the success of our business. This is because we are trying to present new perspectives and ideas (Read: The African perspectives) to the audience (the global audience). I am trying to create different kinds of relationships with manufacturers or other value chain partners: Instead of working with them as vendors, we want to collaborate by getting their ideas and insights which they take for granted. I want to challenge the status quo at every level by figuring out how companies, businesses, economies, and societies can work better by not simply accepting how they operate right now.
Every day is hustling! You never fully expect what responses you get!
This is my 50th blog post on this website. And since I have been writing in two languages (sometimes with slightly different nuances) for every post, I think I deserve to say I’ve written 100 entries as I finish writing this post. I have been thinking and writing about opportunities, perspectives, and challenges around building Maki & Mpho, but maybe it is a good time to step back and ask myself, “so what?”
I believe that societies, countries and the world work better when people across different cultural values and backgrounds trust each other more, care about each other, and work together while acknowledging both similarities and differences.
And the first step to building trust among people across different values and backgrounds is to learn about each other through experiences and conversations.
Our brand, design, and products are the entry points for people to experience new Africa, engage in conversations, explore different ideas or values and see the world differently.
As I have been sharing in this blog, the splurge of creativity in African cities is real. Those young Africans being tired of the way in which their continent, countries, and people are looked at and how “African” stories are still skewed to those that evoke sympathy, fear, and nostalgia.
We offer creative solutions rather than advocating or ranting. We offer delights and surprises that engage people organically and emotionally.
This is inside the leather bag factory in Nairobi…
It seemed like TICAD VI highlighted how Japan would take a different approach to Africa’s development compared to the one taken by China. The politics and diplomacy of the far east were played in the African continent. I also kept hearing how local Kenyan people were comparing what Chinese people and Japanese people have been doing. Like any other discussions, there are pros and cons for both sides, but whether you like it or not, China will continue expanding its presence in the African continent.
So why can’t we collaborate more instead of emotionally unfriending them or diplomatically trying to overpower them?
If there’s one country that will build more infrastructures, buildings, and factories, that would be China. That means that China will be the biggest external driver to create jobs in the African continent.
If we are to build a textile factory or garment factory in Kenya, I would definitely want to look at opportunities for the joint venture with a Chinese company…
I’ve read the series of articles published back then right after the previous TICAD V by the expert of Asia’s economic development, Mr. Hirano, talking about how Africa “cannot” develop by simply applying Asia’s development model to industrialize the countries. The articles also mention about how Japan should work together with China, and there were quite insightful.
Having lived in Shanghai and learned Mandarin, I cannot stop thinking about how my company can do better by collaborating with China…
Trying to get into my designer’s head… Impossible! (Wait, what? Cuba?)
From Amsterdam to “New Amsterdam” and from England to New England, here we are, we’ve crossed the Atlantic Ocean to come to the East Coast US, and I am right now briefly in Boston to follow-up discussions with my business partner Mpho who’s finishing up new design for our upcoming textile products (while literally singing out loud) and to make new business connections in Boston/NYC while coordinating with South Africa/Kenya via Whatsapp/Emails and getting some documentations done for upcoming meetings my potential sponsors and investors in Japan.
しBoston is a really important city for Maki & Mpho for many reasons. Boston is where I first met Mpho, we discussed our initial business concept, launched our first collection, and got featured in the major newspaper, The Boston Globe. I still remember vividly how we sat down at the coffee shop at the Harvard Coop in Cambridge. While there have been some interruptions and pivoting in the course of the development of our business, the core value and commitment remain the same.
I still remember vividly how we sat down at the coffee shop at the Harvard Coop in Cambridge, and naturally came up with the core belief and value of the brand: Our core belief is that your individuality is your culture; therefore, we value and celebrate individuality.
Celebrating individuality is not about being individualistic or self-centered. It is rather opposite. It is about nurturing empathy, respecting others, and working together toward the common goal to make a better society while co-existing with the natural environment.
Maybe the environment where we can celebrate individuality in that sense is what we would call a truly diverse society. And this is the kind of diversity that we want to communicate through the means of the contemporary African design and storytelling. Why do most people always want to paint Africa with a single color? Why do we still have so much tension around differences in racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds?
We believe that design and art not just heal such tensions, but can also create economic values by suggesting different relationships and creating trust.
We all know that capitalism is not about money but about trust!!! (No, we don’t trust Trump!)