Yrneh Gabon Brown Joins Mama at the Round Table

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A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune of being in L.A. and headed to the CAAM (California African American Museum). By chance, it was the final day of an exhibit called Visibly Invisible, by artist Yrneh Gabon Brown. As it turned out, Yrneh was there talking to visitors and greeting some acquaintances with a big smile on his face and a charming Jamaican accent.  After taking the time to move through the exhibit, which was brilliantly designed, I went over to say hello and tell him how much we’d enjoyed the artwork. The pieces were so varied, from multimedia incorporated in sculptures to bronze pieces that made me think of the amazing ancient bronze work of Benin. This piece, called Out Cry, is something I’ve quite literally dreamt about since the show…

The art was beautiful; but what I found most memorable, was the message it conveyed. Subjects like this one make people want to turn and run rather than face it head on. After all, it is depressing to think about the fact that such atrocities can happen. Facing the details of the torture, abuse and maiming of people suffering from albinism in Tanzania are so difficult to discuss. Who wants to come out on a sunny day and bring their children to encounter what could be such heavy information to digest?

You might be expecting me to say something about how the suffering of others ultimately affects us because we are all human. The thing is, you already know that; so I won’t insult you by giving speeches and standing on a soapbox.

What I will say is this: Yrneh’s work has certainly inspired many conversations. His sophisticated, yet simple ability to tell the story of so many through his art was moving. The pieces are done in a way that cause people to do what matters most: Dialog.

It is my prayer that museums worldwide will see the merit in inviting Yrneh to exhibit his work in their cities and nations. Because just as we see albinism in species of plants and animals; so too do we see it in peoples of every nation and culture on Earth. Perhaps (and fortunately) most don’t face the prospect of being hunted, abducted and killed like in Tanzania. But, many face discrimination and ill treatment due to their lack of pigment; as if facing the physical and economic challenges of the disorder aren’t already enough to bear.

If we trace our roots back far enough, we are all Africans. The fact that our skin is black, white, yellow or red is simply a detail. So, to all of my brothers and sisters across the world, no matter what your quantity of melanin… be safe, be well and be blessed.

Your comments are welcome below. After all, the motto of Mama’s Round Table is “Dialog matters!” So, let’s talk…

To learn more about the Endangered White project, follow the link at the end of our interview.

If you’d like to learn more about the Visibly Invisible exhibit, I highly recommend the catalog which you can buy on Amazon or heading over to see a video of the exhibit

You can support Yrneh’s efforts in another way, by helping him continue his training and research by funding him on GoFundMe.

Ms. Prosy Nabwami, Master Artisan and Weaver


Ms. Prosy Nabwami is the current group secretary and a master artisan in the Balikyewunya Women’s Group and the district at large. She is an active mobiliser and trainer with a passion of seeing her fellow artisans develop and improve their standards of living. She also runs the group’s store/showroom in one room on her house.

The group makes a number of natural fiber based products which mainly include:

– Fruits Baskets, Hats, Placements
– Shopping Baskets
– Assorted house accents

Recently, Ms. Prosy Nabwami was one of the first recipients of our “Light Up Their Lives!” project to provide solar kits to our cooperative members in Uganda. We have put much thought into our process and will be distributing kits based on how many children they household has, followed by their level of participation in our cooperatives. Thus, based on her long-term and important level of participation as a master weaver, trainer and group secretary; coupled with the number of children in her household; Ms. Nabwami was among the first on the list.

We forwarded some questions along with the solar kit and Ms. Prosy was kind enough to take the time to reply to them. Here, then, is our (remote) interview with her:

“We are very pleased to receive the solar kit; this is a catalyst in our development” said Prosy.

1. What is the greatest advantage you will see from having this solar kit?

– Better light for everyone in my house to do their work by at least 2-3 hours in the night. During this time, our children and grandchildren will be reading their books.
– For me, I will be able to add some working hours to my craft work/ especially weaving.
– Apart from my immediate family, 6 members of the group in the neighborhood work from my home for some hours in the evening, they charge their phone during the day.

– For my children and grandchildren, they will be able to do read their books/do their school homework in better light.
-I also used to pay UGX 500 (about $0.20 US) each time I took my phone for charging and have to charge it 3 times a week; I now save this money.

2. How many people will benefit from using the solar kit?

– Six (6)members of the group who are close to my house will be able to meet at my house in the evening from 7-9pm as we work on our products.
– During the day we are able to charge our telephones at my house instead of walking a distance and paying charging fees.

3. What will you now be able to do that you couldn’t do before owning the kit?

– It was not possible to weave/ make crafts after sun set. With light of the solar kit our working time is extended.
4. How much time, energy or resources will you save because you now have a kit?

– I have been walking at a distance of ½ Km to take my phone for charging and I pay UGX. 500 ($0.20 US) per charging; It stays there for almost one full day then I collect it. In total I have walked two km and unable to receive calls when charging. With an old phone like mine, I have to charge it twice a week.

5. If you have children, how will owning the solar kit specifically make their lives easier or better?

– Reading light is far better and each individual is reached in the house. Children no longer have to gather around one kerosene lamp to read their books.
– Because of better light, they will now read their books a little longer without headaches or worries that the fuel is soon running out.
– Solar lighting is brighter than kerosene lamps. I couldn’t afford to buy several lanterns so children have to congregate around one lamp and read their book. They complain about headaches and pain in the eyes from time to time. I think over exposure to the kerosene lamps could be one of the causes.

6. What one thing do you want people who are considering making a donation to know?

– The Solar lamp is a key catalyst in development of our grassroots communities. The benefit of enabling us work longer, in better light is unmatchable.
-The initial cost of a Solar Kit is high for most people but again using kerosene lamps for light is expensive in the long term for example I use Uganda shilling 1,000 (about $0.35 US) for kerosene per night (6:30pm till 10:00pm).
– Most of us cannot afford to buy solar because the initial cost is high. We end-up using kerosene lamps but these too are expensive in the long run. I spend Uganda Shilling 1,000 per day on kerosene for one lamp, (approximately US$ 0.35).

If you want to help in an even bigger way, buy a product that is made by women like Ms Prosy over at our website. This is an amazing way to help us sell the baskets being woven by the very women in Uganda that you are proving light to. You’ll be giving twice!  For every Ugandan basket ordered in 2015, Mama pledges we will donate a part of the proceeds to our Light Up Their Futures! campaign.

Light Up Their Futures!

ProsyNabwamiLast autumn, we made a decision to start a new and exciting project in Uganda at the suggestion of one of our favorite people around… thank you Paul!  One of these days, we are really going to have to invite him to talk to us at the Round Table. He really is an amazing guy.

For decades now, I’ve watched as well-intentioned people trek off to Africa giving donations of things they deem important or helpful. The intention is definitely right; but the actions are often misguided and uninformed; thus rarely truly helpful in the long run. So, each year, we ask our cooperatives to tell us what we can do to make their lives easier, what projects they are working on, etc.

And at the end of 2014, we heard something that we got really enthusiastic about: solar power for our cooperative members’ homes. We’ve always known that fair and ethical trade should be tied to much more than just fair prices and working conditions. It is about a sustainable lifestyle for us and most issues are linked.

We have always understood that the way we do business might not always make sense to a “numbers guy”; but it will always resonate with someone with lots of heart. And, this is one project which did just that: it touched our hearts. Maybe donating part of our proceeds to projects like this one reduces our “bottom line”; but for us the real “bottom line” is treating people ethically and making the world just a little bit better. We’ve done so since day one and we’ll do it long into the future, with your continued support.

After some discussion, my family decided to forego most of our gift exchange last holiday season and do what we thought the season is really about: giving. We informed our friends and relatives that they wouldn’t be getting gifts this year and told them that instead, we’d be putting our Christmas shopping budget towards purchasing solar kits for some of our cooperative members in Uganda instead. The kits would allow them to work later in the evening and would give their children the chance to study once the sun went down. Of course, they all reacted with the grace and kindness we expected. A couple even decided to follow suit! To our personal donation, we added a portion of the proceeds from sales at the holiday season and here is the result:

Light Up Their Futures, the first round of lights are delivered and photos have arrived!!

Soon, we will be posting an interview with Ms. Prosy Nabwami, detailing her experience with her new solar kit and how it is already improving her life and the lives of others in her community.
We expected, due to our years of experience working with African women and their families, that there would be some extended benefits for the communities we sent the kits to; but wow! As we have known for a long time, each woman (and some men) tends to support more than just their immediate family. Generally speaking, every African breadwinner supports an average of 10 people. Those who have share, it’s a simple as that. But, we had no idea that the positive effects of a single solar kit would reach quite so many people.

Here is a quick overview of our project and we are really hoping that you will join us with a small donation to help us continue to Light Up Their Futures!

Solar kit initial cost: $120. Reoccurring costs per kit: ($5.50 for replacement bulbs (bulbs last for approximately 8-12 months) and 35 cents for replacement batteries (lasting 3-5 years each). We have invested in high quality solar kits which are expected to last 20-25 years.

Benefits we expected and are seeing:
• Safer, cheaper and cleaner burning than kerosene lamps. Simply put, more sustainable and environmentally safe
• Allows weavers, etc. to work at least 2-3 hours later each night, thus increasing potential for income
• Allows children to do homework after daylight hours, thus reducing dropout rates
• Phone charging ability reduces cost and time spent traveling to/from charging stations
• Ability to have any light at all after dark for those who couldn’t even afford kerosene lamps
• Light is easier on the eyes than the light given off by kerosene lamps
• 100% renewable source of energy without the pollution

Added benefits we are seeing that we didn’t anticipate:
• Increases sociability as women now gather in their homes with friends 7 neighbors to work using the lamps instead of working alone
• More flexibility to do housework in the evenings allowing for more free time during the daylight hours
• Increased quality in work done because solar lights are brighter and clearer than kerosene lamps previously used
• Children now have increased ability to read for pleasure because there is still light available after homework is completed
• Ability to use cell phones 2-3 days more per week
• Women no longer have to leave their old phones at charging stations 2-3 times per week
• Savings of time and effort for those who used to walk 2 miles each time they charged their phones
• Over a dozen people directly gaining from use of each kit.

For those of you who are interested, you can either donate the $120 for a kit or you can give a portion of the cost, which will then be added to the funds given by other donors. Hey, if those women can work so well together, why can’t we, right? You could get together with a dozen friends and each donate just $10. Your group of 12 people will, in essence, allow 12 Ugandan women to weave a better future for their kids who are studying by the very light you donated. Beautiful, right?

We will continue to use part of the proceeds from all online sales to fund our Light Up Their Futures! campaign.

And, if you want to really help out in an even bigger way, buy a product that is made in Uganda over at our site. This is an amazing way to help us sell the baskets being woven by the very women that you are proving light to. You’ll be giving twice!  For every Ugandan basket ordered in 2015, Mama pledges to ensure that the usual donation we set aside goes directly to our Light Up Their Futures! campaign.

If your coworkers, classmates, friends or church want to make a larger donation or sponsor a few kits; please do so here, or contact Mama directly.
Blessings to you and yours. May your life be filled with… light!


Happy New Year! Remember… Nothing is Impossible

Most would agree that the New Year is the best time to sell salads and gym memberships and that by late January, most promises made over champagne in the early hours of January first are slowly chipped away to leave nothing but memories of what we hoped would be.

Like you, I have read many of those tips through the years like: write it down, tell a friend, find little ways to make yourself accountable, etc. But, when it comes down to it, it really isn’t a complicated formula.

In my house, we have a little way of reasoning which has often made my children wish that I had laryngitis. When a teenager enters the room with an excuse as to why they forgot their homework and couldn’t turn it in, or an elementary school aged child tries to explain how they didn’t have time to clean their room…. The response goes a little like this: “If the house was on fire and you had to clean the room before you could leave it to save yourself from burning… you’d have gotten it done.” Or, “if I had left a $100 bill on the table next to your homework and told you that you could only have it if your homework assignment was turned in to your English teacher on time; you would have turned it in.”

Needless to say my children cringe and wish I lived on a remote deserted island when I use this line of reasoning. But, I don’t feel too badly because I often use it on myself as well.

So, as we all ring in the New Year together this year, I won’t bother you with lists of ways to keep yourself on track or bore you motivational speeches on the merits of keeping your word to yourself because you are worth it. You know all of that already. You know the whys and how’s. As my son, R, says so often: “Nothing is impossible”.

What I’d like to do instead is share a few of the things I will be doing in 2015. Not things I hope to do, want to do or will try to do. Instead, things I will do. The biggest decision has been made already: These ARE things I find worth the sacrifice to make happen. So, they will happen.

1. Become fluent in a another language and attain a basic conversational level in 1 more
2. Unveil our exciting new project in late Spring 2015
3. Add a new cooperative to our Mama Afrika family
4. Choose healthy ingredients, amazing friends and always, always… choose joy, hope and love.

I’m excited to hear what great and exciting goals you have set for yourself this next year. I’d love to hear what places you are doing to visit, what ways you will walk out of this New Year better, healthier, more successful and more well-traveled than you are entered it.

Share. Then, we can meet throughout the year for you to tell me how much fun it is along the way!
I wish you all the happiest, healthiest and most prosperous New Year that you have ever had. And yet, I hope it is only the beginning of a bunch of even better years to come.


The Clever Farmer, an African Fable

One day a farmer decided to take his cow to the market to be sold. When he met the merchant, he greeted him and told him he had a cow he wished to sell. The merchant asked how much he wanted for his cow, to which the farmer replied “Fifty measures of grain”. The merchant began to laugh and said that the farmer must be a fool to ask such a price since the cow was only worth a single measure of grain.

The two began to barter the price and their tempers rose as the argument continued. A crowd began to gather around the two men. Then the farmer said that he wasn’t a fool; because no fool could know where the center of the earth was or how many stars there were in the heavens.

The merchant got very angry and tried to punch him. At this point a few men in the crowd took both of the men to the judge so that he could decide.

The judge heard the version of both men then turned to the farmer to ask “If you are able to tell us the number of stars in the sky and where the center of the earth is; then here is your chance.” The farmer paused and reached for his cane which he lifted and plunged deep into the ground. “This is the center of the earth”, he said, “and anyone who can prove the contrary is welcome to do so now.

He then reached down and took a handful of dust from the ground. “The number of stars in the heavens is equal to the number of dust particles in my hand and anyone who can prove me wrong is welcome to speak now.”

The judge understood that he was dealing with a very clever man. So he ordered the merchant to pay the clever farmer fifty measures of grain for his cow.

Eritrean Fable: Even the Flies and Spiders

“Mother, I hate spiders and flies!” said the prince. The queen replied wisely, “There is a purpose for everything God made.”

Although he knew his mother was a wise woman, he doubted her words this time. After all, what purpose could either of those annoying creatures serve? He continued his day, giving it no more thought.

A month passed and something very horrible happened. There was a rebellion in the kingdom and the king’s family was killed. The only one to escape was the young prince. He knew that his enemies were not far behind him and that they would never let him escape. Having the prince alive would mean that he could one day gather an army to take the king’s place and rule the land.
He decided to go and live with an uncle who lived far away. He traveled only at night and through the countryside so that he would not be seen. But he soon learned that they were close behind. If only he could make it through one more day of travel, he would reach the safety of his uncle’s home.

On the last day he reached an open place with a small water hole where he could rest and take a drink. The long days of travel had made him quite tired; so soon he was asleep leaning comfortably against a tree.

A few hours passed and a fly landed on his face. He shooed it away; but it came back again and again. Finally, annoyed by the fly he opened his eyes and saw his enemies approaching in the distance. He had been sleeping so well that he didn’t hear them coming.

So, he jumped up and made his way into the hills as quickly as he could. There were many caves in the hills; so he chose one and made his way inside. He went deep into the cave and hid himself as best he could. Time passed and he heard his enemies talking outside of the cave.

One said to the other in a loud angry voice, “Don’t bother checking that one, can’t you see that there is a spider’s web? He could not have entered without disturbing the web and as you can see that the web isn’t broken! Let us leave and check the next cave!” So, they left and went to check the other caves.

As it turns out, just after he had entered the cave, a big spider had come to weave her web just at the cave’s opening. Since she was so large, it didn’t take her long to have a large web which covered most of the small opening.

As the prince escaped safely the next morning to his uncle’s home, he remembered the wise words of his mother. He wept remembering what she said each time that he had complained as a child saying he hated flies and spiders: “My dear son, there is a purpose for every creature God made… even the flies and the spiders.”

African Fable: How the Desert Came to Be

Kweku Ananse and his friend Akwasi were known to everyone to be very good farmers. They had such large farms that people came from all over to buy everything from them. As time passed they became rich.

Yet one year, everything turned bad as the rains stopped falling. Ananse and Akwasi didn’t know what to do. All the streams and rivers had dried up and people quit coming since there was nothing left to buy.

Akwasi decided to go to Nana Nyankopon, the creator of the universe, to solicit his help. So one morning, he called on Nana Nyankopon and said to him, “Nana, there has not been rain for a long time; so all the rivers and streams are dry. All the crops on my farm have dried up and wilted. Please, let me have some rain.”

God was touched and said to him, “I have delegated some of my work to people, because I get so tired of small requests all day long. I have given the chore of wind to Paa Kwesi, the chore of sunshine to Yeboah and the chore of rain to Nsiah, the hunchback. If you want rain, go and see Nsiah the hunchback and ask him to give you some rain.”

Akwasi was very happy and thanked Nyankopon. He went off to look for Nsiah, the hunchback. Eventually, he came across him sitting under a tree resting from the weighty task which God had given to him. Akwasi said hello then told him that God had sent him to ask the hunchback for rain. “If it is God who sent you, I cannot refuse. Take a small stick and beat my back” he said.
Aswasi picked two small sticks and gently tapped Nsiah’s back two times, thanked him and went home. In the morning, he went to his farm and sure enough, there had been a heavy spell of rain. All the plants were standing upright and green.

Ananse passed Akwasi’s farm the next morning and was so happy that he jumped up and down with joy. He punched the air and yelled “Yippee!” He thought the rain had fallen on his farm, too. But unfortunately when he got to his farm, he realized with shock that the rains had stopped at the boundary. There had not been any on his farm. But why had rains fallen on Akwasi’s farm? Surely, there must be an answer. He became suspicious of his friend and decided to go and ask him how on earth he got rains on his farm.

Akwasi did not want to tell Ananse about God’s rainmaker because of Ananse’s sly nature. But later he changed his mind, so he told Ananse about God’s rainmaker.
As soon as Ananse heard this, he too decided to go and look for the rainmaker. He combed the forest for many hours and at long last came upon him sitting under a tree taking a rest from the heavy task God had given him. As soon as Ananse saw him, he picked up a big stick and hit the hunchback’s back with all his might. The hunchback cried in pain. But Ananse continued hitting him at the back with all his might with the heavy club. The hunchback fell down panting, but still Ananse continued hitting him with brute force. After continuous beating, the hunchback lay still, not moving. Ananse called out to the hunchback, but there was no response. Ananse had killed the rainmaker. He had killed God’s rainmaker. He became frightened. “Oh dear, what have I done? I have killed God’s rainmaker.” He wanted to run, but realized that if he ran away he would put himself in difficult position. Because his friend Akwasi would know he had killed the rainmaker.
Ananse was so cunning though that, it wasn’t long before he came up with a solution. He picked up the dead body and went to hide it in the middle of a mango tree.
He then went to call on Akwasi and told him that he had seen a mango tree which was full of ripe mangoes. He told Akwasi that they should go and pick the mangoes. Akwasi liked mangoes very much but he was reluctant to go, because he didn’t trust Ananse. He later changed his mind and went with Ananse. When they got to the mango tree, Ananse told Akwasi to climb up the mango tree and shake it. So Akwasi climbed the mango tree and when he got to the top, started shaking it vigorously. Suddenly, there was a big crash. The body of God’s rainmaker had fallen from the tree top when Akwasi shook the tree. Ananse started shouting and wailing. “Akwasi, see what you have done. You have killed God’s rainmaker. He must have been hiding in the tree taking a rest from the heavy task that God had given him. See what you have done now, you have killed him. What will God say now?” Akwasi became confused; he didn’t know what to do.
He quietly got down from the tree; but then as he was getting down, his mind worked like lightening. He pretended to be shocked and said he was going to see God about it. Then, he went away. Ananse was very happy and jumped and clapped his hands. “Fool, I have put you into trouble. God will really punish you.” Little did Kwaku Ananse know that his friend Akwasi had gone to make a plan to teach Ananse that he wasn’t a fool after all.

Before long, Akwasi Owusu came back with some people and told Ananse that there was no problem at all. God was happy that the rainmaker was dead because he had been lazy at times and refused to work. “I am going to reward you for killing him” God said. Then Akwasi started singing and dancing happily. He said again that he had come with God’s messengers to carry the dead body to God. Ananse immediately became furious when he heard this. He said angrily “Look, Akwasi, don’t try to be too clever. I killed him! I was afraid God was going to punish me, that is why I hid the body in the tree. I am going to claim the reward.” So he carried the body on his shoulders and quickly went to God’s Palace to tell him that he had killed the hunchback and that he should be rewarded.

But when God heard the news He was so angry that he punished Ananse by never allowing rain to fall on his farm again. Ananse’s farm was where the desert is now.

Abu Nuwasi Sells His House, an African Fable

Abu Nuwasi built a two-story house for himself. He decided to live in the bottom and sold the top story to a merchant. After some years, he made the decision to move out of his house and live in a far-a-way town.

His hope was that the merchant who rented the upper story of his house would agree to buy the lower half so that Abu would have the means to build a new home elsewhere. But the greedy merchant refused Abu Nuwasi’s offer. The merchant hoped that if Abu could not find a buyer, he would simply leave anyway and the merchant would get the entire house for free.
After trying again to talk the merchant into buying the house with no success, Abu went to town. He returned with a dozen men whom he left outside and then went upstairs to talk to the merchant. “I have come to inform you that since I was unable to sell my part of the house I have hired some men to help me destroy it. I just wanted to let you know so that you could do what is needed to save your part.”

Needless to say, the greedy merchant changed his mind and decided to purchase the lower story from Abu Nuwasi at his original asking price and Abu was able to leave the town as planned.

Happy 4th of July! Now, Let’s Talk Leadership

There never was a truly great man that was not at the same time truly virtuous.   –Benjamin Franklin

Happy4thToday is the 4th of July and Independence Day celebrations will soon be taking place throughout the United States and by Americans living across the world. I could give you a lesson in U.S. history or talk about the founding forefathers. Instead, I’d rather discuss what was important to those who guided their people down a road that lead to independence from one of the world’s strongest nations of the time: freedom.

We could begin a debate here about politics and political parties and go back and forth about voting booths and the like. Or, we could discuss the fact that slavery was still legal and women didn’t yet have the right to vote in that era of American history. But, I’d like to go to the root of what most Americans today hold dear: freedom. How laws are made, what forms of government we have and even the role of women in society… well those are all relevant and important topics. But, it is impossible to get to that point without the first essential step to the process: freedom of expression. Be it George Washington or Patrice Lumumba, all truly great historical leaders understood that dialog matters and that we can build nothing great until tyranny is removed and the freedom to speak one’s ideas is respected.

Whether they are born to be kings or queens, come up through the ranks unexpectedly, are generals of large armies, are destined to take over a multi-billion dollar business empire or are president of their local high school junior class; great leaders have always understood that they must always be people of integrity first.

I spend most mornings brushing up on what is going on in that vast continent most of us hold so dear: Africa. The news seems filled with tales of corruption, mismanagement, short-term planning and the like. I’m sure that these stories are (sadly) true. But, I’m interested in hearing about true African leaders. Not those people we call minister or president or MP.

I am talking about real, everyday people like my aunt who died last week, (May God rest and keep her soul). She was a leader, a peacemaker and a quiet revolutionary. She didn’t call attention to herself and none of you will even know her name. But, she led a struggle quietly to see her son freed from prison in Eritrea. He is most probably in one of that nation’s secret prisons as I write this today. She did all that she could and spoke her truth regardless of the risks. She did what it is unsafe to do: exercise her freedom: freedom to think, to speak, to believe. In her old age, she never shied away from using all that she had, her voice; not to incite people to violence or hatred; but to spark dialog. She understood what all great leaders do: that we can build nothing of substance without discourse. It triggers a process that makes us creative, challenges our views and makes us better, stronger families, communities and nations.

She taught us by example and her words were taken to heart by her phenomenal daughter, Freweini. If one day, I was able to be one-tenth the woman she was, I would call my life a success. For, you see, true leadership isn’t about how much money you earn or how many people have to listen to you and follow your orders. It is instead about how many people want to listen and follow your example.


Photo courtesy of etawau,com

Photo courtesy of etawau,com

I am sure that all of you have examples of true leadership in your families. I would like you to share those examples with us here. Because, my aunt is your aunt. If we both create our family trees and trace them back far enough, we will find that our branches inevitably connect at some point. After all, we all started from the same first people. Whether you, like me, call them Adam and Eve; or you have some other creation story that your culture uses instead… we are all related ultimately. And just as my aunt is your aunt and you have ownership of her greatness; well, we too share in the communal heritage that is your family.

So, take a few minutes away from grilling hot dogs or after the fireworks show is over and honor your ancestors here. Tell us a few lines about what examples of excellent leadership they have shown for you, and for all of us.

Why? Because dialog matters! And thankfully, there are still a few places on earth where freedom of expression and opinions is still respected so that we can do just that: talk.




Luba Art Featured at LACMA

I love museums. Of course, it’s a pleasure to see the renowned paintings such as the Mona Lisa or famous works like those of Renoir, Picasso or van Gogh. And, who wouldn’t enjoy seeing the sculptures created by artists like Bernini, Dalí or Michaelangelo?

But, I have an equally strong desire to see what the hands of artists from other parts of the world created. Despite my sincere appreciation for Western art forms; I would be leaving out most of the planet if I stopped there… what a sad thought!

One of the things I like most about art is its uncanny ability to tell the story of the culture it comes from and the era it was created in. Much more attractive than volumes of books on anthropology and often as informative. I can afford neither the time nor the money to travel every corner of the world. But, I can afford to spend a few hours touring a museum and learning about people from Papua New Guinea (home to our coffee of the month for January 2014!) or the Tonga islands (141 islands which make up the only Pacific kingdom never to fall to foreign rule) . I might not have the resources to jet off to Niger or India whenever the mood hits me; but I can pack a picnic, hop in the car and head to see a concert, hear a speaker or see a limited exhibit at a local museum.

So, recently, I did just that: packed a light lunch and headed off to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to see some art done by the Luba people of the Congo. Due to the presence of art from the Luba in both museum and private collections in the West; many of you might recognize art of the Luba without knowing its origin. Its style is appreciated by African art collectors and if you’ve visited a large collection of African art in one of the museums of major cities like New York, London or Rome; you have certainly seen a Luba piece among the art.

The reason I went to LACMA specifically though was two-part: 1- to support their new initiative to showcase more African art in Los Angeles and to see a few pieces which rarely leave Brussels. I was not disappointed!

Here is a video which highlights the exhibit. It does an excellent job; so I’ll leave you with the video and these words… If you are in the Los Angeles area, go see the exhibit (exhibit open now through May 4, 2014)! It is definitely worth your time. Also, if you have children age 17 and under, LACMA has an incredible program called “Nexgen” which allows kids in FREE, yes free! They also have the ability to take an adult with them free of charge. The program costs nothing, just ask about it at the ticket counter, or sign up by using this link.

Pack a lunch if you are short on cash and eat at the park between LACMA and the la Brea Tar Pits, or treat yourself to lunch at the museum’s café. Either way, I can’t think of a better way to spend a couple of hours… or all day if you have it.

Other African art worth seeing can be found throughout the museum’s permanent collection.

Please feel free to share information about your favorite African art museums or upcoming exhibitions that include African art.