Neema Walove

Style and Sisterhood

Discover what it takes to be successful in the fashion industry!

Neema takes us into the world of fashion and her journey to the point where she launched her own company, Walove by Design. Her clothing line aims to empower women by assisting in the formation of a sisterhood centered on appreciation for women and their contributions.

She draws attention to the difficulties faced in Kenyan and other African households where creative industries, such as fashion, are considered more as hobbies than as jobs that "put food on the table." She explores Taita beading tradition because it served as a major source of inspiration for her designs that reveal the creative process.

This is the sixth episode under the ‘Shifting Narratives’ program supported by the British Council SSA Arts.

*For the best experience, please use a headset/earphones.

IG & Twitter: @walovebydesign


Episode Transcript

[00:00:23] Adrian: So Neema, thank you so much for joining me on the show. Really looking forward to, to our chat. You have some really exciting work. And actually the first question we like to ask our guests is... is there a meaning or a reason behind your name?

[00:00:41] Neema Mnjama: Yes, but before I say that, I wanna say thank you, thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here and yeah, to have this conversation with you. My middle name is Walove, actually. So, from what we've researched and seen, it means fertility. Just a fertile ground.

[00:00:55] So, that's what it means. So, I just decided to go by my name because I want my brand to be fertile, wherever I put it out. It's a place that always, you know,

once you plant it, it gives back or, whatever we give out there, somebody can receive something.

[00:01:10] Adrian: Do you know the story behind where you got that name?

[00:01:13] Neema Mnjama: I'm named after my grandmother. So, that was her name. And so that's all we know. She doesn't necessarily know the full meaning of it. So my father has tried to find research, but they've not found much. So that's all that's there.

[00:01:26] So, what we do is we just say that, you know what, let's just create our own,

meaning of what this name means to us.

[00:01:33] Adrian: Great. Yeah, reappropriate it and, appreciate it as well. Pay homage.

[00:01:39] Neema Mnjama: Exactly. Exactly. And just also represent her well because she was an amazing woman and she, she also created an impact in her community and in her family. So, we also like to keep her legacy alive through that.

[00:01:52] Adrian: Brilliant. The last few conversations I've had have come back to grandparents a lot. My grandparents mean a lot to me as well, so it's really good to to hear that. And how did your upbringing then influence your path in life?

[00:02:07] Neema Mnjama: Well, I think generally, I've always been a creative child, at least I know that about myself, is that I've been a creative child, so I've been taken to schools that have allowed me to truly embrace my creativity. So for primary, I, I remember moving to now another school because then I think my parents were aware that, okay, this child needs a very creative environment.

[00:02:27] So I was moved to an I G S E school, and I got to do art and I think the thing

that really drove me was during my final year we did a project, an art project, and I picked to design an African wedding dress. And for me that was it for me. I was like, yep, I am clear. This is what I want to do. I want to design clothes.

[00:02:46] And I had also other inspirations because some of my classmates ahead of me, some girls who were ahead of me had also, you know, done something fashion

inspired. When I finished high school, I went for a short course in fashion at Everlyn's College. I dunno if it's all there now, but there was a fashion course and I was so clear. It was so much fun. I really enjoyed it. And for me, that was just it for me. I was like, this is it. That's what I wanna do. I want to create, I really wanna create your clothes.

[00:03:11] But that conversation with parents is one of a kind. As long as you're creative, they have to, uh, you have to explain why, why. So I remember having that conversation. My parents were like, uh, I don't know. I don't know about that. How about you do it as a hobby and then, you know, take something serious and you know, it made sense because at that point, fashion, putting food on the table, it was not a thing.

[00:03:34] And so even for me as I can made sense, so I picked another university. I went to another university for about a year, but midway I was like, no, this is not

for me. This is not something I want to do. This is not something I'm interested in. And I remember just giving the example. I remember telling my mom, You see how you go to work every day.

[00:03:53] And my mom had this thing where she'd come back home and say, I love what I do. I really love what I do. She's a psychologist. So I'd be like, you see how you

come back home every day and say that I want to be able to say that and this is not giving me that. So they're like, okay, fine. What do you want to do?

[00:04:08] So I said, I wanna do fashion. So I then went... I went into fashion school, I

went to Arkansas School Fashion as one of the first. We were the first cohort of the school since its beginning. And yeah, that, that low key has been my journey. But I've always known I am creative, even as I was young. I really loved, you know, I've, the, the easiest example is playing with dolls at classes I took seriously. I really loved art. I really loved creating, and I always loved the story behind the creation. And for me, that's always been my inspiration.

[00:04:39] Adrian: Hmm. It's interesting. I've always had an interest in psychology and I know people who either have a background or someone in the family as... is in psychology. I find that psychology is very closely linked to design. I would almost say design is psychology with a slightly different aim perhaps sometimes.

[00:04:59] Yeah.

[00:05:00] Neema Mnjama: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. It's also interesting because my mother also did a bit of fashion design, so it was interesting. I keep joking if I'm telling her the reason I'm doing this is because you did not finish what you started , just for fun. I'm like, yeah, that's why I'm here. I'm, I'm finishing what you started.

[00:05:17] So it's interesting how it even works, you know, just generally, through

psychology and even just the influence of having behind my life and even just delving into understanding how psychology works and at the same time how fashion works. So it's actually really influenced my life at the same time and my creations.

[00:05:33] Adrian: So she could empathize a bit when you wanted to go into fashion?

[00:05:38] Neema Mnjama: Yeah, I think that was even the reason why she didn't want me to go into it, because she was like, uh, I know what it means. I know what it means to struggle, to fight for what you desire, but it's not time. It's not your time, because the industry has not yet established itself to that degree.

[00:05:51] You know, that allows you to flourish and be the best version of yourself. So I

think that's why she fought it. But after some time she was like, no, you know what? Do it. Just go ahead.

[00:06:01] Adrian: So, that first time you mentioned when you got to make a wedding dress, an African wedding dress, what was it about the process and the, the feelings and experience that made, you know, this was what you wanted to do?

[00:06:15] Neema Mnjama: I think for me it was the, the first thing was the research. When you asked to... what would it be be inspired by that, that only, that really got me like doing the research, trying to figure out what it is I wanted to do. And for me, it was inspired by a sunflower. So at that point, I don't know why I was into flowers, but I would really, really love flowers cause I was drawing a lot of flowers in other art projects.

[00:06:36] So I was like, let me just pick the sunflower and when I picked the sunflower

and went into research on the internet and try and figure out how to get it done and how to design and drawing. I think that's what really got my attention. And the imagination of imagining it on now a, a model and how she'd look and what should, you know, what people would say about it and how I'd feel. I think that's what really got my attention and the process to making it. At that point I didn't know how to stitch. So, my mother was also kind enough to help me just figure out how to do it at the same time. So it was also interesting seeing it come together piece by piece, having the model fit it

make some mistakes here and there, and then get it out again.

[00:07:14] So it was a really, I think, a really fun experience.

[00:07:18] Adrian: It's good to have the support as well. And what, what was it? How, how did you then go from that first glimpse of fashion into starting Walove and then getting into jewelry and other parts of design?

[00:07:36] Neema Mnjama: I think one significant moment for me was in fashion school. And one of my favorite classes was design and research, and we were being told how to come up with collections, how to design, what's your inspiration and what's your signature style?

[00:07:48] And this particular class, our teacher asked us, what would people, what would you be known for? What's your signature style? What do you like? All those questions. And I remember her asking me and I said, I told her purposeful fashion. And she's like, what does that mean?

[00:08:02] And I'm like, I have no idea , but that's what I know. And so for me, that started the journey for me trying to figure out what that me meant. But I knew for a fact that I really love the work that goes behind coming up with a design or a collection, just the research. I really enjoy research. I really enjoy like trying to figure out, okay, I think I'm going to be inspired by the clouds.

[00:08:20] Okay, what does this mean about, you know, just trying to come up with that. I really love that part about designing. So, I remember when I began my business, one of the things we're told coming out of fashion school was the first thing you need to do is you need to get your name out there.

[00:08:32] You need to get some experience. So I remember doing some internship with different designers and I remember one designer in turn for was Patricia Mbela. She's also a big designer in the country. And I remember interning for her and remember her telling me that, you know, one thing you need to do is do a lot of fashion shows so that you can get your name out there and people can know your name.

[00:08:50] Also gain the experience of what it means to create and start to know what your signature style was. So one of the first fashion shows I did was Swahili Fashion Week in Tanzania. And again, then I was inspired with a Butterfly. I did that and after all this I did, I think I did a couple of like three fashion shows at the end.

[00:09:06] I remember feeling like, okay, I think I'm really interested in the design work

and coming up with this creations but I want there to be something more to my design work. And so one of the things I did was after some time after doing a couple of fashion shows, cuz I remember I did that fashion show, finished my internship, went for other fashion shows.

[00:09:24] I mean, just coming up with all this creations and all this work, and I really

loved that part where everyone sees your creation and you walk down the runway and then they ask you, what were you inspired by?

[00:09:34] And you tell your story and, uh, you also remember the work that went into it. After that, I think I remember thinking, okay, I've done all these shows. I've left the country, I've gone to Paris, I've done all these shows, but I still don't feel the impacts I'm creating, you know, through my creations.

[00:09:52] So, I sat down with a group of friends or a group of colleagues, and we started thinking about how can we make this art more impactful? It was the season when elephants were really dying, you know, and this, the SDGs had just come about and we started just coming up with a project and trying to figure out how can we tell

a story through fashion that will inspire, especially the youth about the SDGs.

[00:10:15] And at that point, you know, forests were in danger. There were a lot of things that were just happening within the country. So we created a fashion project

that was inspired by the elephants, you know, I think it was S D G if I'm not wrong, nine and 11. Once we came up with that project, I remember feeling just the excitement that there's reason behind creation. So we wanted to do our fashion film. And after that we were like, okay, what does it mean for us to get this going?

[00:10:42] What does it mean for us to present this to corporates? And at that time, you

know, corporates were very skeptical about fashion things, at that point. But were like, what does it mean to, you know, present to them and what does it mean for them to take us seriously? And I remember we came up with a team, we were about like, If I can remember properly, we were about maybe 50 or more people involved in the project and we started presenting to different corporates and telling them, this is what we want to do.

[00:11:08] This is our fashion film, we want to tell a story. We remember getting a lot of

people on board corporate telling us, this is amazing. But you know, if this is your first project, generally first project, you know how it goes.

[00:11:18] Everyone is like, oh, that's really nice, that's exciting. But get your first

sponsor involved and then perhaps, maybe we will be part of your project. So to cut a long story short, we put a pause on the project and I had to think seriously. Like, okay, so I want to do this eventually. So how do I start small steps?

[00:11:36] What are the small steps I can take to get this going? And I remember thinking, is there a way for me to minimize, my big dream? My big desire, you know, for designing. And so make it in a way that people can start digesting it in small ways to so that I can eventually tell the story. And that's how I ended up doing beadwork.

[00:11:54] So I design collections and the first thing I'll think about was jewelry. I'm

like, people will see the jewelry first, is the fastest thing that can move, but what is the story behind it? And so then I started designing the chokers, like what I'm wearing and others, excuse me. And we started then selling it to different people, but our story was sisterhood.

[00:12:15] We wanted to also have a reason behind, we just didn't want to have jewelry. We wanted our jewelry to be tied to stories. So we started saying we want to help people, women especially build a sisterhood. So even let's try and understand what it means to have good relationships within our sister circles is a relationship with your mother, with your sister, with your aunties, with your friends.

[00:12:35] And I started having conversations with different women about just the

experience in friendships and relationships and using the chokers as appreciations to the women around us. So I also then, you know, tapped into social media, tapped into social influencers, and again, selling the same story.

[00:12:52] We are finding small ways to tell our story even before it comes to birth. Our

chokers is part of that. We also now have stepped into teaching girls between nine and 11, how to make their own jewelry. You know, using beads and all other types of beads. And even just learning about the culture and learning about good relationships because that's an important aspect to having a good life as a young girl is making sure that you have a sister circle around you that can support you through different seasons of your life, and building them as early as nine is as valuable as building them when you're 30 or if you're 40 or 50.

[00:13:29] Adrian: Mm-hmm. . Well, thank you. You mentioned that you went to Paris and it kind of opened you and maybe even helped you to change direction, right? By going to one of these, these fashion events. I think you've said you've been to over 10 of these fashion showcases, fashion weeks right now.

[00:13:48] So what have you learned? What have you taken? Away from them, is it different things each time that you've learned? How have they influenced you and how have they directed you by going to those events?

[00:14:02] Neema Mnjama: I think it's taught me different things. I think one of the assumptions I had going into a fashion career was that immediately you do fashion shows or when you put your clothes on the runway, they're going to sell immediately, or you know, you'll just make your immediate money. I think those are one of the deceptions or misconceptions I had about that.

[00:14:21] And I quickly learned that, that is not true. You might sell one garment, you

might sell none, but you have actually invested. It's an investment, with your art. I think it's a good opportunity to interact with other designers because I've met so many designers from all over the world.

[00:14:37] People who are doing different things, it's a good opportunity to network for

yourself. I remember getting opportunities they might not necessarily have gone through, but there are opportunities that helped in the moment. You know, even assuring your dream, that your dream is, you know, important and what you're doing is not, is not in vain, you know?

[00:14:55] So having people come and tell you, that was a beautiful collection. I see what you're doing, I understand what you're doing. And I think it also pushed my

creativity in the way, how I create what I create. I understand better things like, okay, simple things like making sure your seams are finished well, making sure that, If you are going to a place where there's humidity, how you pack your clothes is important because they can get messed up.

[00:15:19] If you have any paint on your clothes, if you have any beads on your clothes,

just making sure how you pack and ensure that everything is sectioned in a way that if they're thrown everywhere by the luggage people. The people who take a luggage on the planes, then you're safe. Your, your garments will not be in danger.

[00:15:35] Because yes, I have had an experience where the garment that walked on the runway was not what I brought. So, I think those are some of the lessons I have

learned. I think I've also learned that when you do fashion shows, it is not necessarily always the best path for somebody to take. It's a good experience, but it may not be the only experience or the only path you can take as a fashion designer and it doesn't necessarily always give you what you desire. So I think it's having a clear vision for, if I'm doing this show, this is why I'm doing it. If it's experience, then you go with it with the mentality of going for experience.

[00:16:11] If it's for making money and you don't make money, even going with, without

mentalities, how can I maximize the best? So if I would tell anyone else, I would say, make sure that whatever show you do, you maximize the best of what they're offering you. And at the same time, find a way to maximize the best for yourself so that then you can get what you actually design what you need.

[00:16:30] And even if you don't, it's not a waste. Just look back and, and, and try and

figure out, okay, what did I gain? What mistakes did I make? And then make the best of the next. But I would not necessarily say it is the only and the must way to experience the life of being a designer.

[00:16:45] Adrian: Mm-hmm.

[00:16:45] Neema Mnjama: Yeah.

[00:16:46] Adrian: What are some of those other ways then that you might recommend to people, maybe you wish you'd done more of something or you found it also really useful?

[00:16:55] Neema Mnjama: I think I'd begin with asking yourself the question of why are you designing? We start there. Why are you designing? Because that will inform where you move and where you go. So answering that question I remember being asked is, what is your signature style? What do you want to be known for? I think that's an important question somebody should ask themselves.

[00:17:12] And then that way you can, you can find places To plug in yourself either

interning or understanding how things work. But I think there's so many places with this film. There is makeup, there is SFX, special effects. There is photography, there is garment design. There's teaching, there is also designing online.

[00:17:33] And I would say teaching yourself merchandising or even teaching yourself

different languages. It helps even as you interact with different people all over the world. So I think it's asking yourself is why am I doing fashion? Why am I a fashion designer?

[00:17:44] And then moving from that angle. Teaching is also another place. There are many people who want to learn in fashion school, so that's another place. As you

continue to understand and grow your brand, those are the places you can step into.

[00:17:55] Adrian: And you mentioned purposeful fashion. That's a really key thing for you. So what is purposeful fashion to you and how do you go about ensuring that your fashion is purposeful? Are there guidelines that you've put together?

[00:18:12] Neema Mnjama: One of the things I've discovered about doing purpose fashion for me is that I needed to figure out what that meant. And for me, what it means is that every product I released, there has to be a message tied to it. So it can't just be, oh, I just created because I thought this was cool, but I wanted to have a message or find its way into a mentorship or helping people at whatever season you are in just figuring out how to figure out your process. So for example, if we are doing Maasai beaded chokers, the message behind is to sisterhood. How we then influencing

sister circles? 

[00:18:40] Then we get into mentorship and helping girls, even if it's not necessarily me

doing it, it's me even partnering with other organizations that are doing it. I also volunteer for an organization that does only mentorship for preteens and teenagers and just helping them maneuver what it means to grow up, you know, what are the things you can learn.

[00:18:58] And also finding ways to help them, even creating programs that help them

nurture their creativity, like what we're doing with dual recreation. And we also under development for another program called Idea Actualization and mentorship, where we're helping just, again, after high school kids and people who just finished high school or people who are just about to join university just to figure out their creativity and figure out where, what they want to be with their creativity and grow their creativity in a purposeful way where they can start understanding themselves and getting self aware so that it informs their creativity and informs where they're going.

[00:19:33] Adrian: So when you were discovering your style, right? That's kind of what you're trying to help some of these girls do as well, discover what they want to do. You, you said you were discovering your style and, and yourself as you were going round all of these, these festivals as well.

[00:19:50] What was it in those places? How did they let you reflect back on your own

culture and how did they help you to kind of... was there feedback you received at times, even whether in Kenya or abroad? How did you go about kind of finding that style and bringing in your culture into it as well?

[00:20:13] Neema Mnjama: For me, I received pretty good feedback, even though if it did not translate financially. I received good feedback. Like those are really amazing art designs. How did you come up with the design? What's the inspiration behind your design? And I really enjoyed telling that story because I know I did research, like I remember this collection I did where I was imagining if the Maasai were to conform to the patterns, lack of better word, of the 21st century, how would they dress? And I

remember doing a collection where instead of now putting beads on string, we were putting beads through PVC, which is plastic, and creating designs out of that.

[00:20:47] When I'd go out, I'd always say like, I want to be able to come back and say,

this is a representation of my culture. And I think one of the biggest things, I think generally, any person from a very cultural background, when you come from maybe many cultures, sometimes you're like, so where do I go with all this.

[00:21:02] It's a beautiful mess of different cultures, and I don't fully come from one

place, or I, I don't really identify with how my grandmother sees my culture. What does it mean to me? So I, I think coming back to ask myself, what does it mean to me as I interact with older people, as I interact with myself?

[00:21:18] What things can I pick so that then it influences where I'm going? So doing

things like looking back at, I, I remember also doing an art collection where I was inspired by the Twisted Tree and just how it just looks so, you know, looks really beautiful. And I was like, how can I then translate that to clothes?

[00:21:36] So it allowed me to really open my mind. So one thing I think I vouched myself is like wherever I go and I pick influence, I must come back to find what can I

learn from my culture and what can I inspire people through what I, I have seen and may not have experienced, but I have seen and what I have seen myself, and then come up with something. My method is picking from two different worlds that one of which those who came before us, and then that one of what are we seeing now and then try and marry the two. 

[00:22:05] Adrian: Sure, sure. What are those bits of culture, whether they're visible or not visible within your style, within the pieces that you're designing that people can spot if they pay attention?

[00:22:16] Neema Mnjama: Okay. I also come from a culture where bead work is big. I come from the Taita culture. So, one of the things I notice about them is that the bead work is in a straight line. But it used to, again, also a lot of the bead work from a lot of Kenya cultures was done on leather.

[00:22:32] So for us, one of the things we do is that there's a plastic thread on plastic

thread, and we use that to then design our chokers. Since chokers are more done, we're trying to find a way to not even just do it differently. So those are some of the things we've done.

[00:22:48] We have not stepped into, designing clothes yet. We do it small scale compared to it being a main product because our focus has mainly now been jewelry for a while. And then, yeah, as we get back to clothes, I think it's still doing the same thing where you find that either this African fabric has a lot of bead work or this plain fabric is inspired by, or looks almost like what was worn by maybe the Taita culture very long time ago, or another culture very long time ago.

[00:23:17] Just even picking those small things but making sure that whoever I'm

presenting it to being the young people who may see my clothes or the see my jewelry would find it cool. 

[00:23:27] Adrian: Yeah. And other parts of Taita culture that are inspiring you that come back to you when you are creating, that have an influence on you?

[00:23:38] Neema Mnjama: I think the stories, honestly, I think that's the unsaid one, is the stories and the conversations then that I have. We come from a family that really love music, and really loves to get together and sing together. And that's what my father and his siblings have done over the years.

[00:23:54] And so it's been beautiful to see just the influence of music also on my life,

even as I create like... I like listening to music. I love creating even through music and also having siblings who are very musically talented. And I wasn't a musical talented one but just seeing how their work inspires me, you know, to step into thinking differently.

[00:24:15] And I think another way is because then I have also the psychology experiences that as I'm creating, then I'm able to think what would people, even as I even right now think through this, the script of our fashion film, upcoming fashion

film. In what ways can I tell this story and in what ways can I make sure that it's influencing people in the right way. And even as I talk about this experience, how do I make sure that, you know, it's relatable to these people. And even just being proud of your culture and even just being proud of who you are as a woman.

[00:24:47] I think even just making sure that even as we are sending messages through our social media, even through our different products, even on how we label our

jewelry. When a gallery receives a choker or a lady receives a choker, it also has a message. You know, one just appreciating them one just affirming who they are.

[00:25:05] So just making sure that those conversations I've had in the safety of my home or with different people in my life, it also comes out, you know, as we give

back. Yes. The products that we offer.

[00:25:18] Adrian: Hmm. That's really meaningful. What's the film that you are working on then? Is that to do with Walove as well?

[00:25:25] Neema Mnjama: Yes, yes. It's a fashion film that we can finally, finally, like, I'm so excited because I was just like, it's been years. It's been years. It's been years. Honestly, I think that was 2013 or 2014. So I think the beautiful thing about processes and the journeys we've been through is that I think sometimes God allows you to take such a long journey because they're different things.

[00:25:46] They're different projects still on the way that you still have to do. So this project we are doing right now, this fashion film was one of them on the way. And so what it is, it's a fashion, again, a fashion film inspired by women, and again, the culture, just a beautiful culture of Kenya and the environment.

[00:26:01] And what we're trying to do is tell a story of the emotional transitions women go through between the age of 16 and 28, so through a fashion film. Yeah, I'm excited to delve into that because one, it's been a long time coming but I feel like through the different experiences I've had through even mentoring different girls and hearing their stories and walking with them has allowed me to have perspective.

[00:26:24] Even as I look through the script, be like, if I had not gone through this,

then I would not be able to tell the story, you know, and not be able to write down. So it's also been an interesting journey because it means that I had to pick different skills along the way. I had to figure out what means to write a script.

[00:26:40] I'd had to figure out what it means to put together a story board film-wise,

and still I'll have to get the right team. But, you know, one thing is for sure is that at least I've done a small section so that when I present it to the people who are actually supposed to do the actual job, they'll, you know, they won't be like, okay, here's another clueless one trying to do our job.

[00:26:58] But it'll be more like I've tried to tell the story before we can conclude, you

know, or it's done in the right way. So I believe in also stepping into different, different skills because it also sharpens your own creativity, even as you tell your stories or even as you create, as I draw new designs, because that means that now I have to draw new designs for this project.

[00:27:19] I really also love collaborating with other designers, so I know there's not just

a project that involves me. I have to involve other designers. So I look forward to even collaborating with different Kenyan designers and even upcoming designers because if there's one thing that's important, throughout all creatives industries that as you move forward, there's always going to be somebody behind you.

[00:27:38] And if you're not creating room for them to experience and to express their

gift, not the way you desire, but in a way that they also feel appreciated and seen. If you're not doing that then I feel it's a disservice to the upcoming generation, you know? So I also have to make sure that that's, yeah, that's also part of the process for the project. 

[00:27:59] I look back and I'm like, if I'd done this when I was, you know, in, in younger,

if I'd done this in 2013 and 14, honestly I'd not be thinking like this. It'll just be about me. That's not how I'd want to go out. I really see the value in mentorship and I see the value in working with others and, I want the film to be able to do the same for people on screen and off screen.

[00:28:22] Adrian: Mm. Great. Well, wow. What else did you wanna share about Walove, about what you're doing in totality? What haven't we touched on yet?

[00:28:33] Neema Mnjama: We also have creative coaching, which I do. It's just helping people just again, figure out their uniqueness and creativity. You don't have to be a creative, it's an non-creative or creative, just helping you just maneuver the uniqueness of your creativity and then finding contentment in it because as you create, that's one of the hardest things to do is not step into comparison or not step into... am I doing enough head spaces? How do you change your mentality every time you step into that kind of space where you're questioning your creativity or you're wondering if it's enough? So just helping people maneuver those different scenarios with their creativity, whether you're an architect or you're a singer or songwriter.

[00:29:14] Adrian: And how would you do that if you can advise without giving us the full mentorship package now? How can you, yeah, advise for people to step into themselves?

[00:29:26] Neema Mnjama: Well, that's a good question. I think I'd begin with asking the question of what do you desire? I think we start there. What do you desire? What do you desire to see for yourself? And then from there we step into what is your biggest challenge right now? You know, if you can identify that, then we can step into how then can we find a solution for that.

[00:29:46] So I think the first solution, I'd say, if you're dealing with maybe imposter

syndrome or just feeling like you are tired of your space of creativity is maybe step away and do something outside the space you are creating in. So painting has been extremely therapeutic for myself, and I use it just as a tool.

[00:30:10] So using painting but not necessarily doing it from a place of I have to create something great, but doing it from a place of self-expression and fun. And it's a space where stick figures also matter. That's allowing yourself to express that and doing it in an environment that you don't sit in.

[00:30:26] If you are working from home, go paint in the forest. Sit in Karura, paint and

just, I can even sit and help you facilitate that if it's, if you work from an office, again, take steps, you know, take 15 steps away from where you sit and pick your, you don't even might, you may not even have paint in the office, but if you have a black pen and a red pen, that's something that's a start and just start doodling and creating something.

[00:30:50] Just stepping away from that. 

[00:30:52] Adrian: Mm. So, first of all you said change environment. That's a really important one. I've heard that even if working from home, it's good to take a walk in the morning to get out of the office before you step back into the office. Uh, so changing environment, that's really good. Good advice. Drawing stick figures, like you said in terms of, you know, you can create with anything, right? And you, you don't have to put the pressure on yourself. You can create art with stick figures. You can draw any sort of line and for it to be art and for it to be satisfying to you, of course. Right? So that's really important.

[00:31:33] Neema Mnjama: Yeah.

[00:31:33] Adrian: And the next thing you talked about painting, kind of stepping away from your typical creative skillset, right?

[00:31:40] Because often we think as, oh, I'm a creative, I need to therefore do this

thing, rather than, oh, maybe I don't write poetry well, but actually writing poetry might help me with that design problem. Right?

[00:31:54] Neema Mnjama: Exactly. It's a beautiful way to see it because I found that even for me, stepping away from creating, you know, clothes and everything. I'd step into music, I'd step into film, I'd step into painting, and I'd be like, oh my gosh, I'm so inspired. Or take a day with somebody.

[00:32:10] I remember taking a day with a producer. I'm going to search with him, and I was just like, this is so amazing. I feel inspired. And you can go back and create, and you find solutions in those spaces for your biggest creative problems. Or even an extreme environment where you go to somebody's office and you're like, yeah, this is definitely not where I wanna be.

[00:32:27] But being in that maybe chaotic environment might be just the thing that will push you. You know? So just stepping completely out of what you know. 

[00:32:35] Adrian: Good. Nice. Thank you. Anything else? Would you like to tell people where to find you?

[00:32:42] Neema Mnjama: I think I'm on every social media platform. Okay. Not every TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and of course we have a website. So all @walovebydesign. If you just type in Walove by design, you'll find us on any of the platforms. 

[00:32:57] Adrian: Awesome. Thank you, Neema. This is really great, really fun and great. Great to meet you.

[00:33:03] Neema Mnjama: Great to meet you as well. Thank you so much. I appreciate also taking the time to speak to me and hear my story.

Episode Credits

Produced by Nairobi Design

Host: Adrian Jankowiak

Producer: David King'ori

Shorts & Artwork: David King'ori

Music: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)

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