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Njuhi Chege

Njuhi Chege

Nairobi, Kenya

Photos by Katherine Liew
Interview by Shab Kumar
Title designed by Prasad Ramachandran
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Riri means divine beauty. Intrinsic god-given beauty. Because nobody can define that for you. Riri ina maana uzuri wa Mungu. Intrinsic mungu aliyopewa na uzuri. Kwa sababu hakuna mtu anaweza kufafanua kwamba kwa ajili yenu.
Njuhi Chege is a peace activist and the founder of a socially conscious and empowering jewellery brand. Born and raised in Kenya, she has worked with the United Nations as the focal point for African youth. Njuhi Chege ni mwanaharakati wa amani na mwanzilishi wa kijamii fahamu na kuwawezesha vito bidhaa hiyo. Alizaliwa na kukulia katika Kenya, yeye amefanya kazi na Umoja wa Mataifa kama kitovu kwa vijana wa Afrika.
Njuhi Chege
Jewellery for Change Njuhi Chege

Tell us a bit about yourself. Kutuambia kidogo kuhusu wewe mwenyewe.

I am Njuhi Chege. Njuhi means a heap of metal, like a junkyard. I was born in 1984, raised and bred in Nairobi, Kenya. I come from a closely knit family. Including myself, my parents have four daughters. So as you can imagine, the dynamic in the house when we were growing up was predominantly female, although when my father came home, the balance would quickly be restored. My Aunt, fondly known as Aunty Flo, has also been a great mentor to me, and she and her daughter are a vital extension of our family.

I studied Political Science and Sociology at the University of Nairobi for my undergraduate studies, and a postgrad in International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame motivated by my experience of the post-election violence of 2007/8 in Kenya. I was looking for causes that would help me make an impact on my community. It was a two year course at the University of Notre Dame in the US with my field research in Israel and Palestine.

After my postgrad, I joined UN Women as a focal point for African youth in New York. Most of the research I engaged in focused on the creative renaissance within Africa. There were a lot of cool new fashion blogs, tech startups, new TV show ideas and many inventions coming along. That inspired me to come home and start something of my own. I came back to Kenya in 2012 and it has been a transformative period for me.
I am Njuhi Chege. Njuhi maana ya lundo la chuma, kama junkyard. Mimi alizaliwa mwaka 1984, kukulia na kukulia mjini Nairobi, Kenya. Mimi kuja kutoka familia karibu kuunganishwa. Ikiwa ni pamoja na mimi mwenyewe, wazazi wangu na binti wanne. Hivyo kama unaweza kufikiria, nguvu katika nyumba wakati sisi walikuwa kupanda juu ilikuwa unategemea kike, ingawa wakati baba yangu alikuja nyumbani, usawa kwa haraka kurejeshwa. Shangazi yangu, fondly inayojulikana kama Aunty Flo, pia imekuwa mshauri kubwa kwangu, na yeye na binti yake ni upanuzi muhimu ya familia zetu.

Mimi alisoma Sayansi ya Siasa na Sociology katika Chuo Kikuu cha Nairobi kwa masomo yangu ya shahada ya kwanza, na postgrad katika International Peace Studies katika Chuo Kikuu cha Notre Dame motisha kwa uzoefu wangu wa ghasia baada ya uchaguzi wa 2007/8 nchini Kenya. Mimi nilikuwa kutafuta sababu kwamba watanisaidia kufanya madhara katika jamii yangu. Ilikuwa ni miaka miwili bila shaka katika Chuo Kikuu cha Notre Dame katika Marekani na shamba utafiti wangu katika Israel na Palestina.

Baada postgrad yangu, mimi alijiunga Wanawake la Umoja wa Mataifa kama kitovu kwa vijana wa Afrika mjini New York. Zaidi ya utafiti mimi kushiriki katika ililenga mwamko ubunifu ndani ya Afrika. Kulikuwa na mengi ya blogs baridi mtindo mpya, startups tech, mpya TV show mawazo na uvumbuzi wengi kuja pamoja. Hiyo aliongoza mimi kuja nyumbani na kuanza kitu yangu mwenyewe. Mimi alirudi Kenya mwaka 2012 na imekuwa transformative kipindi kwa ajili yangu.
Njuhi Chege
Njuhi Chege

What does 'Riri' mean? Je 'Riri' ina maana gani?

Riri means divine beauty. Intrinsic god-given beauty. Currently in Kenya and across the world, there is a huge discussion on what beauty is. Especially because there is a lot of skin lightening practices happening and misconstrued ideas of beauty garnered from the rising phenomena of socialites. I wanted to explore my own definitions of what it means to be African, what it means to be human and how the concept of beauty defines who I am, not only as an African lady, but as part of a community and society that has it’s own ideals.

I thought Riri would be a good place to bring the discussion back to intrinsic god-given beauty, because nobody can define that for you.
Riri ina maana uzuri wa Mungu. Intrinsic mungu aliyopewa na uzuri. Hivi sasa nchini Kenya na duniani kote, kuna mjadala mkubwa juu ya nini uzuri ni. Hasa kwa sababu kuna mengi ya mazoea ngozi umeme kinachotokea na vibaya mawazo ya uzuri imefanikiwa kutoka matukio ya kuchomoza vizito. Nilitaka kuchunguza ufafanuzi yangu mwenyewe ya nini maana ya kuwa Afrika, nini maana ya kuwa binadamu na jinsi dhana ya uzuri amefafanua mimi ni nani, si tu kama mwanamke wa Afrika, lakini kama sehemu ya jamii na jamii ambayo ina yake mwenyewe maadili.

Nilidhani Riri itakuwa nafasi nzuri ya kuleta mjadala nyuma asili mungu aliyopewa na uzuri, kwa sababu hakuna mtu anaweza kufafanua kwamba kwa ajili yenu.

Tell us more about the stories behind your designs. Kutuambia zaidi juu ya hadithi nyuma miundo yako.

To me, jewellery has always been what shoes are for many women. I remember years ago when I had my first job, I would spend a huge chunk of my meagre salary on jewellery.

When i'm wearing something unique and different, I feel very connected to my Kenyan culture or to nature. Anyone who has experienced the melting pot that is Kenya knows how multifaceted and colourful it is, coupled with rich histories and an intertwined heritage.

A lot of my jewellery is inspired by nature and our stories. My grandmother tells me stories about what they used to wear during dancing events or at social gatherings, and of course what to adorn to lure potential mates! They would wear colour coded jewellery sets to define where in life they were. If you were a married woman, you would wear a different set to a girl who was ready to get married.
Kwangu mimi, vito daima imekuwa nini viatu ni kwa wanawake wengi. Nakumbuka miaka iliyopita wakati mimi alikuwa na kazi yangu ya kwanza, napenda kutumia chunk kubwa ya mshahara wangu mdogo juu ya vito.

Wakati mimi nina amevaa kitu pekee na tofauti, mimi kuhisi kushikamana sana utamaduni wangu wa Kenya au wa asili. Mtu yeyote ambaye ana uzoefu wa kiwango sufuria kwamba ni Kenya anajua jinsi multifaceted na rangi ni, pamoja na historia tajiri na urithi kitu kimoja.

Mengi ya vito yangu ni aliongoza kwa asili na hadithi yetu. Bibi yangu inaniambia hadithi kuhusu yale waliyo kuwa kuvaa wakati wa matukio wanacheza au katika mikusanyiko ya kijamii, na bila shaka kile kupamba kuwarubuni mates uwezo! Wao bila kuvaa rangi coded vito seti ya kufafanua ambapo katika maisha hao. Kama ungekuwa mwanamke kuolewa, wewe bila kuvaa kuweka tofauti na msichana ambaye alikuwa tayari kuolewa.

Haha! That sounds like an ancient version of a stoplight party - red (In a relationship), Yellow (Unsure/It’s Complicated) & Green Parties (Single/ Looking for a relationship)! Haha! Kwamba inaonekana kama toleo la kale la stoplight chama - nyekundu (Katika Uhusiano), Yellow (Sina uhakika / Ni ngumu) Green Wanachama (Single / Kuangalia kwa uhusiano)!

Really? That’s fancy!
Jewellery was also a central part of sacred occasions such as initiation ceremonies, drought, weddings, even funerals. During the drought season for instance, they would have special ceremonies to call on the rain using special ornaments on their feet. When they danced the jingle of the jewellery would call on the gods and sure enough the rains would come.

At that time, men were not only the heads of their homes but were also regarded as religious leaders and they would join a group of elders and go around a mugumo tree (fig tree) which was considered to be an altar, and again they would wear necklaces and bracelets that were only worn at specific times to get closer to god.

You can see why my designs are a direct result of stories and experiences soaked in from my culture.

I’ve been exploring crystals and the vibrations of the stones as they help heal the body. If you can incorporate that in jewellery, if it can help heal an individual, help them think better or ease their pain, that in itself is pretty an amazing aspect.
Kweli? Hiyo ni dhana!
Jewellery pia alikuwa sehemu ya kati ya matukio takatifu kama vile sherehe za jando, ukame, harusi, hata mazishi. Katika msimu wa ukame kwa mfano, wangeweza kuwa sherehe maalumu kutoa wito kwa mvua kwa kutumia mapambo maalum juu ya miguu yao. Wakati wao wanacheza jingle ya vito kuita juu ya miungu na uhakika wa kutosha mvua atakuja.

Wakati huo, watu walikuwa si tu wakuu wa nyumba zao lakini walikuwa pia kuonekana kama viongozi wa dini na wangeweza kujiunga na kundi la wazee na kwenda karibu na mugumo mti (mtini) ambayo ilikuwa inachukuliwa kuwa madhabahuni, na tena wangeweza kuvaa shanga na vikuku kwamba walikuwa tu huvaliwa wakati maalum ya kupata karibu na mungu.

Unaweza kuona kwa nini miundo yangu ni matokeo ya moja kwa moja ya hadithi na uzoefu kulowekwa katika kutoka utamaduni wangu.

Nimekuwa kuchunguza fuwele na vibrations ya mawe kama wao kusaidia kuponya mwili. Kama unaweza kuingiza kwamba katika vito, kama inaweza kusaidia kuponya mtu binafsi, kuwasaidia kufikiri bora au kupunguza maumivu yao, kwamba yenyewe ni pretty nyanja ya ajabu.
Njuhi Chege
Riri Flaming Red. Price $65.
Riri Flaming Red. Price $65.
Riri Flaming. Price $65.
Riri Flaming Red. Price $65.

Why is the "Youth Enterprise" part of it so important to you? Kwa nini ni sehemu 'Youth Enterprise' yake hivyo ni muhimu kwako?

I’ve always been more on the ‘development’ side. When I was in Palestine doing my research it was difficult seeing the kind of discrimination that happens there. I was living in Jerusalem and working in Ramallah, a major city in the West Bank. There is an actual wall separating the Palestinians and Israelis. We were once on a bus and they asked everybody to get down at their regular checkpoints. Upon learning that I’m from Kenya, they asked me to return to my seat. It was really weird and blatantly obvious that they were picking out all the Palestinians from the bus for a thorough inspection.

It was different because I’m usually on the receiving end of this discrimination in the context of my various identities such as my race, gender, religion e.t.c. It hurt being a witness of such inhumanity, and couldn’t imagine what it felt like living permanently in such a situation where your movements and agency was constricted, to such a great extent.

The situation in Israel and Palestine is extremely complex. I was working with a tripartite NGO that was bringing together Palestinian, Israeli and international decision makers to engage in constructive solutions for a just peace, that favours both Palestinians and Israelis. Although efforts of international organizations and NGOs are commendable, I strongly believe in the power of the people to influence their own situations and one of the means of fast tracking personal power is through economic empowerment.

There are concerted efforts by many incredible organizations and individuals such as Nobel Peace Prize winner- the late Professor Wangari Maathai, to push for sustainable solutions for our world which gives me hope. But there are also organizations that benefit from continued conflict.

We call it the Peace “Industry.” All this money being pumped into peacekeeping initiatives and every single issue is being abused by so many people. There are people living lavish lives in the name of peace-building around the world. And you’ll see more of such people in places of distress. It’s like they want the place to remain in its present state so that they can continue to benefit from it, and hence, they lose focus on what it is they’re really out there to solve.

Back to the question, why is youth enterprise important to me? Money is a key resource anywhere you go in the world as you know. It’s not everything, but having a certain amount of it can give you access to answers that alleviate a lot of basic problems. The Kenyan youth are a unique breed of people. Highly intelligent, super exposed to world affairs and very driven. However, access to resources such as education and finance is still a hurdle. I feel like if young people were financially empowered, they’d finish school, start their own businesses and make better decisions in life.

This would ensure that they are better placed to be economically thriving. Despite realities such as corruption, conflict and poverty which are world over, we are finding creative ways of overcoming these, while making money and contributing to transforming mindsets- especially of how the world views us. That’s the basis in which Riri Jewellery works as well.

First one is generating income and skilled resource - for us and for the people who work with us and then through that ability, change mindsets for the better.

Youth enterprise is about thinking constructively on how we want to access better housing, better health care, better education and more humane interaction among people. Because financial freedom alone is not going to solve the problem in the long run, we believe in the shift of mindsets. We need to redefine what money means to us, it’s role in our lives and fairer systems of its distribution.
Nimekuwa daima imekuwa zaidi juu ya 'maendeleo' upande. Nilipokuwa huko Palestina kufanya utafiti wangu ilikuwa ni vigumu kuona aina ya ubaguzi ambayo hufanyika huko. Mimi nilikuwa hai katika Yerusalemu na kufanya kazi katika Ramallah, mji mkubwa katika Benki ya Magharibi. Kuna ukuta halisi kutenganisha Wapalestina na Israel. Tulikuwa mara moja juu ya basi na wao alimtaka kila mtu kupata chini katika vituo vya ukaguzi wao wa kawaida. Baada ya kutambua kwamba mimi nina kutoka Kenya, wao akaniuliza kurudi kiti changu. Ni kweli weird na blatantly wazi kwamba wao walikuwa kuokota nje Wapalestina wote kutoka bus kwa ukaguzi wa kina.

Ilikuwa ni tofauti kwa sababu mimi nina kawaida juu ya mwisho ya kupokea ubaguzi huu katika mazingira ya utambulisho wangu mbalimbali kama vile mbio yangu, jinsia, dini e.t.c. Kuumiza kuwa shahidi wa unyama huo, na hakuweza kufikiria nini waliona kama wanaoishi kudumu katika hali kama hiyo ambapo harakati wako na shirika hilo constricted, kwa vile kiwango kikubwa.

Hali katika Israel na Palestina ni ngumu sana. Nilikuwa kazi na NGO pande tatu kwamba alikuwa kuleta pamoja Palestina, Israel na kimataifa watoa maamuzi na kushiriki katika ufumbuzi wa kujenga kwa amani tu, kwamba neema zote mbili Wapalestina na Israel. Ingawa juhudi za mashirika ya kimataifa na mashirika yasiyo ya kiserikali ni ya kupongezwa, Naamini kwa dhati katika uwezo wa watu kushawishi hali yao wenyewe na moja ya njia za haraka kufuatilia uwezo binafsi ni njia ya uwezeshaji kiuchumi.

Kuna juhudi za pamoja na mashirika mengi ya ajabu na watu binafsi kama vile Amani ya Nobel mshindi na marehemu Profesa Wangari Maathai, kushinikiza kwa ufumbuzi endelevu kwa ajili ya dunia yetu ambayo inatoa mimi matumaini. Lakini pia kuna mashirika ambayo kufaidika na kuendelea kwa vita.

Sisi kuiita Amani 'Viwanda.' Fedha hii yote kuwa pumped katika mipango ya kulinda amani na kila suala moja yanatumika vibaya na watu wengi. Kuna watu wanaishi maisha ya kifahari kwa jina la kujenga amani duniani kote. Na utaona zaidi ya watu kama hao katika maeneo ya dhiki. Ni kama wanataka nafasi ya kubaki katika hali yake ya sasa ili waweze kuendelea kunufaika na hilo, na hivyo, wao kupoteza mwelekeo juu ya nini ni wao ni kweli huko nje kutatua.

Nyuma ya swali, kwa nini ni vijana biashara muhimu kwangu? Fedha ni rasilimali muhimu kwenda mahali popote duniani kama mnajua. Siyo kila kitu, lakini kuwa na kiasi fulani cha iweze kukupa upatikanaji wa majibu ambayo kupunguza matatizo mengi ya msingi. vijana wa Kenya ni kuzaliana ya kipekee ya watu. Akili sana, super wazi kwa mambo ya dunia na inaendeshwa sana. Hata hivyo, upatikanaji wa rasilimali kama vile elimu na fedha bado ni tatizo. Najisikia kama kama vijana walipewa fedha uwezo, wao d kumaliza shule, kuanza biashara zao wenyewe na kufanya maamuzi bora katika maisha.

Hii itahakikisha kwamba wao ni bora kuwekwa kuwa kiuchumi thriving. Pamoja na ukweli kama vile ufisadi, migogoro na umaskini ambayo ni duniani kote, sisi ni kutafuta njia za ubunifu wa kushinda hayo, wakati kufanya fedha na kuchangia kubadilisha mindsets- hasa wa jinsi dunia inaona yetu. Hiyo ni msingi katika ambayo Riri Jewellery kazi vizuri.

Kwanza moja ni kuzalisha mapato na rasilimali wenye ujuzi - kwa ajili yetu na kwa ajili ya watu ambao kazi na sisi na kisha kwa njia ya uwezo kwamba, kubadili mawazo kwa bora.

Youth enterprise is about thinking constructively on how we want to access better housing, better health care, better education and more humane interaction among people. Because financial freedom alone is not going to solve the problem in the long run, we believe in the shift of mindsets. We need to redefine what money means to us, it’s role in our lives and fairer systems of its distribution.
Njuhi Chege
We need to redefine what money means to us, it's role in our lives and the fairer systems of its distribution. Tunahitaji upya kitu gani fedha maana kwetu sisi, ni jukumu zito katika maisha yetu na mifumo ya haki za mgawanyiko wake.

What were the few defining moments for Riri? Nini walikuwa wachache kufafanua wakati kwa Riri?

A friend who is a fashion designer invited me to Tanzania for a fashion show and asked me to bring some jewellery along. After the show, I put my stuff on the table and people were actually buying my products. They were very interested in the stories behind each piece! It is always humbling when another soul resonates with the piece you have designed or created. Many people don’t realise how vulnerable it feels presenting your work to them, and having them react to it.

There was this moment which was very simple but also profoundly defining for me as a designer. A woman who was a little shy about her body tried one of my products and was really happy because it was adjustable and it fit her perfectly. She said that she never found things that she likes that fit her right. Which I totally understood as well. This was an emotional win for me because I realised that we always try to “fit into” everything - from our houses to cars to clothes to a certain “standard” instead of understanding that truly, every person is different and his/her needs are different. I’ve incorporated this ideology across all Riri products from then on.

Generally though, the Riri Jewellery success so far has been through the support and effort of many, which continues to define what we do and why we do it. Family, friends, fellow artisans, clients, colleagues and people who believe in making Kenya better. My Kenya has a soul, my Kenya is the most amazing place I’ve ever been and it inspires the best in me!
Rafiki ambaye ni fashion designer alinialika Tanzania kwa fashion show na akaniuliza kuleta baadhi vito pamoja. Baada ya show, mimi kuweka mambo yangu juu ya meza na watu walikuwa kweli kununua bidhaa yangu. Walikuwa hamu sana katika hadithi nyuma kila kipande! Daima ni kufedhehesha wakati nafsi nyingine resonates na kipande una iliyoundwa au kuundwa. Watu wengi hawana kutambua jinsi mazingira magumu anahisi kuwasilisha kazi yako kwao, na baada ya wao kuguswa kwa.

Kulikuwa na wakati huu ambao ulikuwa rahisi sana lakini pia maana sana kufafanua kwa ajili yangu kama designer. mwanamke ambaye alikuwa na aibu kidogo juu ya mwili wake walijaribu moja ya bidhaa yangu na kweli alikuwa na furaha kwa sababu ilikuwa adjustable na ni kifafa yake kikamilifu. Alisema kwamba yeye kamwe kupatikana mambo ambayo yeye anapenda kwamba inafaa haki yake. Ambayo mimi kabisa kueleweka vilevile. Hii ilikuwa ni ushindi wa hisia kwa sababu mimi alitambua kwamba sisi daima kujaribu 'fit katika' kila kitu - kuanzia nyumba zetu na magari ya nguo na baadhi ya 'standard' badala ya kuelewa kwamba kweli, kila mtu ni tofauti na yake / mahitaji yake ni tofauti. Nimekuwa kuingizwa itikadi hii katika bidhaa zote Riri kutoka hapo juu.

Kwa ujumla ingawa, mafanikio Riri Jewellery hadi sasa imekuwa njia ya msaada na juhudi za wengi, ambayo inaendelea kufafanua kile sisi kufanya na nini sisi kufanya hivyo. Familia, marafiki, mafundi wenzake, wateja, wafanyakazi wenzake na watu wanaoamini katika kufanya Kenya iwe bora. Kenya wangu ana nafsi, Kenya wangu ni mahali kushangaza zaidi nimekuwa amewahi kuwa na kuwahamasisha bora katika mimi!

How has your family and surrounding shaped you as a person? Jinsi ina familia yako na surrounding umbo wewe kama mtu?

I always go back to that question actually, because I found that when I left Kenya that was my first real long term exposure to a different culture.

When I left for the University of Notre Dame I was going to be there for two years and it was the first time I was exposed to being different. It hadn't even crossed my mind that I was actually ‘different’ because until then, I was in an environment where everybody looked like me. When I’m in the US I get statements like “Oh! You have such interesting hair” or “Oh! Can I touch your skin?” and the famous “You speak such good English.” When you’re put in a different environment, you realise the things that you are usually blind to and take for granted. We are all different, no two humans are exactly the same, and that’s awesome!

Being a ‘representative’ of Kenya in the US, it made me want to understand better who it is I was really representing. When you say ‘Kenya’ it means something to someone based on the stories they have heard. However I had to be able to give my own definition of my experience. So that got me thinking more about who I am. When I think of discrimination for instance, in regards to gender and race, I grew up in an almost all girls family, where the girls rotated chores, and being on my parents good books depended largely on good grades and staying out of trouble. To me, girl or boy, you can do anything and of course do your best to be your best. My parents were always open minded and never pushed us into things we didn’t want to do, I appreciate them for that and much more. Thanks Mum and Dad!
Mimi daima kurudi nyuma na swali kwamba kweli, kwa sababu nimeona kwamba wakati mimi kushoto Kenya iliyokuwa halisi yangu ya kwanza ya muda mrefu yatokanayo na utamaduni tofauti.

Wakati mimi kushoto kwa Chuo Kikuu cha Notre Dame mimi alikuwa anaenda kuwa huko kwa miaka miwili na ni mara ya kwanza mimi nilikuwa wazi kwa kuwa tofauti. Ni alikuwa hata walivuka mawazo yangu kwamba mimi nilikuwa kwa kweli 'tofauti' kwa sababu mpaka basi, mimi nilikuwa katika mazingira ambapo kila mtu anaonekana kama mimi. Wakati mimi niko katika Marekani, mimi kupata kauli kama 'Ah! Una vile kuvutia nywele 'au' Ah! Naweza kugusa ngozi yako? 'Na maarufu' Unaweza kusema vile nzuri ya Kiingereza. 'Wakati wewe ni kuweka katika mazingira tofauti, wewe kutambua mambo ambayo wewe ni kawaida kipofu kwa na kuchukua kwa nafasi. Sisi wote ni tofauti, hakuna watu wawili ni sawa, na hiyo ni ya kutisha!

Kuwa 'mwakilishi' wa Kenya nchini Marekani, amenifanya wanataka kuelewa vizuri ni nani kweli nilikuwa anayewakilisha. Baada ya kusema 'Kenya' maana yake ni kitu kwa mtu msingi juu ya hadithi wamesikia. Hata hivyo mimi alikuwa na kuwa na uwezo wa kutoa ufafanuzi yangu mwenyewe ya uzoefu wangu. Hivyo kwamba got me kufikiri zaidi kuhusu mimi ni nani. Nadhani wakati wa ubaguzi kwa mfano, inayohusiana na jinsia na mbio, nilikua katika karibu wote familia wasichana, ambapo wasichana kuzungushwa kazi ndogondogo, na kuwa wazazi wangu vitabu vizuri wanategemea kwa kiasi kikubwa juu darasa nzuri na kukaa nje ya matatizo. Kwangu mimi, msichana au mvulana, unaweza kufanya kitu chochote na bila shaka kufanya bora yako kuwa bora yako. Wazazi wangu walikuwa daima wazi timamu na kamwe kusukuma sisi katika mambo hatukutaka kufanya, mimi kufahamu yao kwa kuwa na mengi zaidi. Shukrani Mama na Baba!

You told us that the post election violence of 2007/8 had a huge impact on you. Can you tell us about it? You walituambia kwamba ghasia baada ya uchaguzi wa 2007/8 alikuwa na athari kubwa juu yenu. Unaweza kutuambia kuhusu hilo?

Kenya is blessed with a foray of rich and diverse cultures, each with unique beliefs, values, rituals and celebrations. Incitement over the past few years to view each others differences as the source of the inequalities around us have been damaging and heartbreaking.

I’d like to see more of us young Kenyans show more and do more of exemplifying that we are all equal regardless of ethnicity. It is up to each and everyone of us as Kenyans to manifest change and not relegate responsibility to the leaders.

No one ever thinks jewellery can be political. But it is. No one thinks fashion is political. But it is. From the materials used to design the pieces, the conditions of the people who make the pieces, the remuneration and ethics of supplying to markets are all aspects that need to be considered when developing a brand. Riri Jewellery uses materials sourced from different cultures and crafted by artisans encompassing different backgrounds, which makes for interesting soulful designs. Our clients, called Riri ambassadors are largely from Kenya exemplifying that Kenyans do invest in local brands that they believe in.

I try and follow the path of least resistance and that’s my sign that I’m on the right path. Because then I can focus on really creating an impact long term.
Kenya ni heri na kuliingia wa tamaduni matajiri na tofauti, kila mmoja kwa imani pekee, maadili, mila na sherehe. Uchochezi katika miaka michache iliyopita kutazama kila wengine tofauti kama chanzo cha kukosekana kwa usawa karibu nasi wamekuwa kuharibu na kuvunjika moyo.

Ningependa kuona zaidi ya sisi Wakenya vijana kuonyesha zaidi na kufanya zaidi ya ge exempel kwamba sisi wote ni sawa bila kujali ukabila. Ni juu ya kila mmoja na kila mmoja wetu kama Wakenya kwa wazi mabadiliko na si kumtelekeza wajibu wa viongozi.

Hakuna mtu milele anadhani vito inaweza kuwa kisiasa. Lakini ni. Hakuna mtu anadhani mtindo ni ya kisiasa. Lakini ni. Kutoka vifaa kutumika kubuni vipande, hali ya watu ambao kufanya vipande, maslahi na maadili ya kusambaza na masoko ni masuala yote ambayo yanahitaji kuzingatiwa wakati kuendeleza bidhaa hiyo. Riri Jewellery anatumia vifaa sourced kutoka tamaduni mbalimbali na crafted na mafundi inrymmer asili mbalimbali, ambayo inafanya kwa ajili ya miundo ya kuvutia soulful.
Wateja wetu, iitwayo Riri mabalozi kwa kiasi kikubwa ni kutokana na Kenya ge exempel kuwa Wakenya hawana kuwekeza katika bidhaa za mitaa kwamba wanaamini katika.

Mimi kujaribu na kufuata njia ya upinzani mdogo na hiyo ni ishara yangu kwamba mimi niko kwenye njia ya haki. Kwa sababu basi mimi kujikita katika kweli kujenga madhara ya muda mrefu.

And you're doing all this while making mobile applications too? Na unafanya haya yote wakati kufanya maombi ya simu pia?

It’s funny actually. Not too long ago, I had no idea about mobile technology, so much so that I tried to delete the Google Play store from my phone thinking it’s a waste of space! Now my team and I at Appy Spot Kenya have designed and developed apps such as the Capital FM Kenya app. I realised that if jewellery can open doors, technology can open bigger doors because of it’s ability to defy borders.

Jewellery and technology, one is soft power and the other is hard power. It balances very well and I continue pursuing it because I think it has great answers to all the questions we’ve been speaking about of new ways of thinking about poverty, the youth, empowerment and thriving as an entire human race.
Ni funny kweli. Si muda mrefu sana iliyopita, mimi nilikuwa na wazo kuhusu teknolojia ya simu, hivyo kiasi kwamba mimi alijaribu kufuta duka Google Play kutoka simu yangu kufikiri ni kupoteza nafasi! Sasa timu yangu na mimi katika Appy doa Kenya kuwa iliyoundwa na maendeleo ya programu kama vile programu Capital FM Kenya. Nilitambua kwamba ikiwa vito unaweza kufungua milango, teknolojia inaweza kufungua milango kubwa kwa sababu ya uwezo ni kumpinga mipaka.

Jewellery na teknolojia, moja ni nguvu laini na nyingine ni nguvu ngumu. Ni mizani vizuri sana na mimi kuendelea kutafuta ni kwa sababu nadhani ina majibu kubwa ya maswali yote tumekuwa akizungumza kuhusu njia mpya ya kufikiria juu umaskini, vijana, uwezeshaji na thriving kama jamii yote ya wanadamu.

If you had one piece of advice to give, what would it be? Kama alikuwa na kipande moja ya ushauri kutoa, itakuwa ya namna gani?

Wow! Is this where I say something profound?

I think the most important thing is to not wear masks and to move beyond human insecurities. Starting from zero where you’ve to let go of the negatives. We are so much more than we can ever imagine. Believe that. The biggest thing you think you can be, is still really small compared to what you can truly be.

I used to be stressed out trying to answer the question “How do I make a change?” Accepting that change takes time and that it really is in the details, will bring more harmony and impact. Accept and realise that we can do something, small things everyday that will collectively impact on a larger level.
Wow!
Je, hii ni mahali ambapo mimi kusema kitu ya kushangaza?

Nadhani jambo muhimu zaidi ni si kuvaa masks na hoja zaidi ya kukosekana kwa usalama wa binadamu. Kuanzia sifuri ambapo wameweza kwa basi kwenda ya negatives. Sisi ni hivyo zaidi kuliko tunaweza kudhania. Kuamini kwamba. jambo kubwa unafikiri unaweza kuwa, bado ni kweli ndogo ikilinganishwa na kile unaweza kweli kuwa.

Nilikuwa kuwa alisisitiza nje kujaribu kujibu swali 'Je, mimi kufanya mabadiliko?' Kukubali mabadiliko ambayo inachukua muda na kwamba ni kweli ni katika maelezo, ataleta zaidi maelewano na athari. Kukubali na kutambua kwamba tunaweza kufanya kitu, mambo madogo ya kila siku ambayo itakuwa pamoja na athari kwa kiwango cha kubwa.

One super power you wish you had? Moja super nguvu unataka alikuwa?

To have a contagious, everlasting laugh. Kuwa na kuambukiza, laugh milele.

What does success mean to you? Je mafanikio maana ya wewe?

For me, success is peace of mind. It’s waking up everyday and being at peace. Really. Enjoy all your senses. Be here. Be mindful. Kwangu mimi, mafanikio ni amani ya akili. Ni kuamka kila siku na kuwa na amani. Kweli. Kufurahia akili yako yote. Kuwa hapa. Kukumbuka.
Njuhi Chege
We need to embrace the fact that there is no 'standard' and that every person is unique and different. Tunahitaji kukumbatia ukweli kwamba hakuna 'standard' na kwamba kila mtu ni ya kipekee na tofauti.

Article Credits

Yashas Mitta
Interview

Yashas Mitta

@yashasmitta mukha.co
Prasad Ramachandran
Title Design

Prasad Ramachandran

@prasadesignn behance.net/prasadesign
Katherine Liew
Photography

Katherine Liew

@katherineliew katherineliew.com