Lusaka - The Roller Coaster
This is my 5th full day in Lusaka. It's been a roller coaster. The ride started with a comforting but long drive from Shamiyoyo to Chileshe's house near the Lusaka airport. I enjoyed the privileges of using a toilet, light switch, wall outlet, and hot shower for the first time in 4 weeks. I was startled to hear my pee hit water and see my reflection in a mirror. Yikes, my facial hair was scraggly but I wanted Andy to see it for a laugh. It was so nice to be at their house, be clean, and sleep with no rooster crows or bar music. Zambian hospitality continues to impress and I'm very thankful for Chileshe and his family's open arms.
The roller coaster then took a sudden vertical drop and went through a few loops. Long story short, there were complications with my visa extension and we spent the entire next day and a half resolving the issue. At one point, it was suggested my best option was to drive to Zimbabwe and wait there until we could get it sorted out. With about 7 hours to spare, I got that elusive passport stamp signifying my legal status in Zambia for the remainder of my trip. Thank you Chileshe! We had reached the light at the end of the tunnel…or so we thought.
Later that day, we were informed that my good friend, supremely talented photographer, and Day by De creative director had to last minute cancel his trip to join me. We were both looking forward to this leg of the trip together but it was not meant to be. Zambia isn't going anywhere so we'll take a rain check.
I spent the next few days sorting out a few more unforeseen complications with Day by De projects. And Chileshe and I discussed at length the Foundation's successes and failures. With Narendra and Andy's input, we developed the framework for a new approach moving forward that should significantly improve the success rate and efficiency for our projects. It was a productive few days.
The roller coaster finally reached a peaceful, refreshing stretch. Yesterday, I visited the Lusaka Collective at Longacres. It's a quaint shop that houses arts and crafts from authentic Zambian artists, not the copycat work found at tourist trap markets. Among others, they sell jewelry from two organizations that Day by De has been in contact with as potential partners - Mulberry Mongoose and the Foundation for the Realization of Economic Empowerment (FREE). Mulberry Mongoose employs rural Zambians in the South Luangwa region (eastern Zambia) and supports anti-poaching efforts, and an in depth review of FREE is discussed below. The jewelry was elegant, original, and importantly, genuinely made by and benefitting Zambians.
While we were at the Collective, Chileshe's employee Sinclair arrived and introduced me to his friend and multi-talented artist Callen Moses Chisha who goes by the artist name 'Twice' (stylized as '2wice'), referencing his talents as both a musician and painter. Twice brought his guitar and played me a few songs. The first was about a girl he knew who overindulged in vices as life drew on. The second was about striving to be a better man and setting a good example for Zambian youths.
He then showed me his portfolio of acrylic paintings.
I was impressed. Twice is an appropriate moniker.
Today, I met with Dawn Close, the founder and director of FREE. She grew up in North Dakota and received her Master's degree in International Development from University of Pittsburgh. FREE focuses on employing young Zambian women who make copper jewelry for sale domestically and internationally. Without Dawn and FREE, these women would likely be unemployed, struggling to make a living. Many Zambian women, even with an education, fail to find employment and turn to prostitution or simply settle for marrying a man with a job and give up on their own career aspirations. FREE provides an opportunity for these women to achieve independence and cultivates self worth and women empowerment. It's an inspiring operation.
The copper is sourced from broken water heaters and wire. The metal is cleaned and reshaped into earings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings. Some is treated with ammonia and other chemicals to make a rich dark turquoise color they call patina. They are also expanding into household decor and other metals including silver, gold, and aluminum.
While we will further internally discuss the logistics and feasibility of partnering with these artists, I encourage you to support them.
Mulberry Mongoose: https://mulberrymongoose.com/
Callen '2wice' Chisha: http://www.callen-chisha.com