the village in the city

“It frequently occurs in the growth of cities that villages are absorbed into the fabric of that city. But what are the consequences of this? How far and how do these villages become part of the overall fabric of the city? How does this affect the village, and what is the effect on the wider city?”

Excerpt from ‘Do Villages Shape Our Cities?’ – Wafa Al Ghatam.

 

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The force is strong with a title like that.

Remember how I mentioned in my previous post that I ‘briefly’ popped by Adliya with my cousins? It was the the third day of my trip and luckily this exhibition was on at the Al Riwaq Art Space. Imagine my excitement when I saw it was the result of research by a female Arab architect! That’s how I met Wafa – approachable, friendly and a creative. I couldn’t engage her for long that first time as she was about to be interviewed for a magazine/ television station so we exchanged contacts and agreed to be in touch.

With two days to the end of my trip, I reached out to her with the intention of both enjoying the gallery a little more, and interviewing Wafa for the blog. I had finally found a female architect from a similar cultural background as myself whom I could look up to, and from a quick Google search of her name, her credentials left me not only inspired, but enthusiastic too – like maybe I stand a chance at being not only good, but great at something too, you know? We agreed to meet at 4 pm at the Art Space on the evening before I left back for Nairobi to have a chat.

The phrase, ‘The Village In The City’, was first coined in a book by Nicholas Taylor in 1973, explains Wafa. Most of the time, the projects architects get involved in tend to be consumed only by a select few – those in the construction industry, professors, fellow architects or the client. Having an exhibition as such was meant to demystify and simplify the results of her research in such a manner that anyone would be interested to not only understand but also ask more questions about what they see. It’s meant to be engaging to the public. In summary, it is a study on how the growth of the city (Manama) has affected the villages, taking Muharraq as an example.

We spent about an hour discussing different things – from her entire research (in summary of course), and then onto women in architecture and what her advice would be to a recent graduate like myself. ‘Practice for about one or two years, and then you could proceed to further your studies’. At this point, Maryam joins the conversation. She’s an architect too, now doing her masters in London. ‘These days, students finish their Bachelors and want to go straight into doing their Masters. But how can you do your Masters without even knowing what to do, or what you like?’ she adds. My interaction with Wafa was more of a discussion than an interview, so towards the end of our discussion we walked around the exhibition to understand her thought process behind the items on display, and for me to take pictures of course.

Children, women, men, tourists like myself may walk into the space and view the printed images, text boards and even a plywood physical model. ‘The children love the model most,’ she says. I can see why, this laser cut technology has been around for a couple of years and is just beginning to grow in the Kenyan context as well. Upstairs, a cutout of the city map is placed on the ceiling and backlit from above creating an interesting play of shadows on the walls and floor. ‘What was the concept behind this piece?’ I ask Wafa. ‘In the shadow of the city,’ she responds.

‘Have you been to Muharraq?’ she asks.
‘Not really, I just drove by and my cousin pointed it out to me,’ I respond.
‘Would you like to go? I can take you there briefly. It’s fascinating how they live in their village. I trained some of my students to help me with the research and each one was stationed at a place so they helped me observe the patterns. The women especially are interesting subjects – within the village they can walk around in their ordinary clothes but once they leave their village, it’s no longer home territory so they wear their traditional abaya‘, she explains.

We left the gallery and drove by Bab al Bahrain, and since I’d never been, she parked her Jeep on the side street and walked me through the streets, explaining how they were planned, the whole while it being a discussion. I added that it feels like the streets in the coast of Kenya, Mombasa. We got to walk through Little India as well, an Indian neighborhood and briefly observed their patterns and how the spaces were planned. I got to buy a few souvenirs, and at this point my uncle called me to be back home so we couldn’t go to Muharraq.

We talked about a lot, but I remember asking her if there were a few things I could take from our conversation what would it be?

  1. Travel. You not only get to see and experience new places, but even grow as an individual through interacting with different people. This is a sentiment even Urko Sanchez conveyed to me when I interviewed him when writing my thesis.
  2. Ask questions. It’s always better to engage in open-minded discussions and not just take every information as truth, even though it may be factual. Make it a habit to understand the reasoning behind information you come across, make it a discussion and not a ‘lecture’.
  3. Experience in your chosen field is very important before pursuing further studies. If an opportunity does arise however, take it but get involved in practice too on the side. Be a lecturer’s assistant or get a part time job. The important thing is to always grow your skillset and gain experience.

In other news, the BAKE Awards gala took place last night 🙂
We didn’t win the title for Best Travel Blog this year but I’d just like to say a big thank you to all my readers! All those who nominated me, and voted for me. The nomination was such a huge affirmation to me, and I’m so grateful because either way I left the gala even more ambitious and positive as I would have if I won the award 🙂

Love and good vibes ❤

viva la vida

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”

– Frida Kahlo.

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When I first read the above quote about four years ago, I knew Frida was talking to me. I don’t quite remember how I came across this excerpt from her journal but it was probably on one of those late, sleepless nights I’d nurse my nostalgia by endlessly scrolling through my Tumblr timeline. Naturally, this was followed by hours obsessively poring through Frida Kahlo hashtags – images, quotes, basically anything and everything even remotely associated with Frida.

This woman was phenomenal, it’s no surprise she still has an almost cult-like following to date (Queen Bey included). I think people love her so much because despite all the pain she went through in her life – both physical and emotional – she did more than just survive, she thrived. She made art, and magnificent pieces at that. She’s become one of the quintessential images of a woman who embodies strength – a strong spirit despite her frail and aching body. A woman who didn’t define herself with her life circumstances – a survivor. An artist. Fully embracing the liberties that come with artistic expression – from her honest work depicting her real life experiences, to her personal style and choice of bold jewellery and facial hair – she would purposely darken her eyebrows and upper lip hairs – she lived her life to the fullest.

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To give you a better understanding of her life, here is an excerpt of Frida’s life from Wikipedia.

Frida Kahlo de Rivera (July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954) was a Mexican painter, born in Coyoacán. Perhaps best known for her self-portraits, Kahlo’s work is remembered for its “pain and passion”, and its intense, vibrant colors. Her work has been celebrated in Mexico as emblematic of national and indigenous tradition, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form….

When Kahlo was six years old, she contracted polio, which made her right leg shorter and thinner than the left… On September 17, 1925, Kahlo was riding in a bus when the vehicle collided with a trolley car. She suffered serious injuries in the accident (you make skip the next few sentences if you have a weak stomach), including a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. An iron handrail pierced her abdomen and her uterus, which seriously damaged her reproductive ability.

Although she recovered from her injuries and eventually regained her ability to walk, she was plagued by relapses of extreme pain for the remainder of her life. The pain was intense and often left her confined to a hospital or bedridden for months at a time. She underwent as many as thirty-five operations as a result of the accident, mainly on her back, her right leg and her right foot…

Wikipedia.

What I’m trying to say is if you can overlook the morbid and traumatic description of her life and see the woman that did more than just overcome her challenges instead, we can agree on a few things. The thing about life challenges is somehow you easily get overwhelmed and think you have no control over your life anymore. We get stuck in, ‘why is this happening to me’ and forget, instead, about ‘how can I fix this’. Because the truth is you have the power to fix whatever it is that is brought your way, it all starts in your mind. Whenever I read Frida’s story, I am humbled to tears just thinking of how this woman overcame all that life brought her way and became a legend in the process.

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You may have heard so many times from your elders, ‘stop complaining about this and that, someone out there is wishing they had what you are complaining about’. Case and point – F to the mother loving – rida Kahlo. Be grateful for life. For health. Can you read, see, smell, breathe? Can you understand what I’m writing? Can you think?  Be grateful for a healthy heart, an intact spinal chord. If you can read this, then you are more blessed than millions of others in the world.

My early twenties came with what seemed to be a sudden loss of control of time – everything seemed to be moving terribly fast and it seemed as though my luck was ‘running out’. It was all new, and everyday reminded me of this newness. There was no script, no high school teachers to grade homework on an almost daily basis – keeping track of my progress and calling my parents over to reprimand me if it seemed that my grades were declining even in the least. Increasingly, it became clear that and all I had to fuel myself was myself, and in all honesty, I struggled.

For somebody who endured so much pain in her lifetime, Frida sure was a positive person. Most of the time at least. You see, there is no such thing as luck running out. You take what you can out of every situation and make your own luck. Legends like Frida have to be strong, because, in Beyonce’s wise words, a winner don’t quit on themselves. What if I told you that you can be great? That you already are great? That it all starts in your mind?
I am trying to break down the self limiting beliefs I have picked up over the years and rewire my mind to be better and enable myself to do more. Be more. Be better.
If you fancy an elaborate read about her, please check this link out. And while you’re at it, whether you’re a fan of Lana del Rey or not, listen to her new song! :’)
With Frida’s last painting aptly titled ‘Viva la vida’, I think I will take her advice – live life.
Peace and love ❤
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A big thank you to Joyce and Magati for helping me actualize this concept in recreating iconic Frida Kahlo pictures.
Concept and styling: Fatma Sultan (myself).
Photography and art direction: Magati Maosa.
Makeup: Joyce Osodo. Podoa by Joy.
Skirt and blouse: Moderne.
Jewellery: Alan Donovan | Location: The African Heritage House.

the hills

“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything”.

– Theodore Roosevelt.

 

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Random question – Did The Weeknd’s song ‘The Hills’ start playing in your head when you read the title? Is it playing now? Because from the time the thought of going to The Ngong Hills Windmills came to my mind, I found myself humming the melody of the song and singing out, ‘The hills have eyes, the hills have eeeeeyes, who are youuu to juuudge, who are youuu-oouuu-oouuu’. Now do you understand why I dubbed myself comedian on my Facebook page? Haha. I changed it to ‘artist’ because no one seemed to get the joke and it is a more accurate description of who I am anyway. Please like and share the page, I’d really appreciate it 🙂

I type this post with a need to revive my spirit. Of course with the new year, most of us find ourselves reflecting on the previous year – trying to set goals and come up with a plan for a ‘new and improved’ version of ourselves. See I’d always wondered why they’d say that on adverts, ‘new and improved’. It makes sense to me now. Growing up is more than just aging, it should be a process where you keep improving on who you are. A new and improved version of yourself emerges after every chapter of growth. My goal is to open such new chapters on a daily basis because it seems like the only thing that keeps me sane.

Part of the reason why I try to explore and take on more adventures these days is because well, I do struggle with myself. I think we all do sometimes – for me, all the time. It’s not about wanting other people to approve of me, but I want to approve of me. I want to do more things for me. Not for anyone else’s approval or admiration – not for popularity or numbers. I do this for me, to boost up my confidence and get the rush I always get from being my goofy self and still getting things done. From seeing that, me, Fatma, exactly as I am, I can still get things done – and that is a victory. Even the smallest of victories give you that little boost and make you walk with your head held just a little higher.

I do this for me, and post about it here with hopes that someone just as shy, or someone who is struggling to feel better about themselves can see that, “Hey, this goofy chick is sorta trying (because truly I’m just trying so hard) to chase her dreams and maybe I can too”. In moments when you’re craving for growth and progress chap chap, just get started on something small and trust the process. Today, I encourage you to take on more adventures, however small they may be 🙂
And even if you fail, it’s all good because you learn something and you can try again. Which is better than never starting, don’t be too hard on yourself ❤

Ngong Hills Windmills

Entrance – 400 Ksh ( which has to be paid via MPESA on arrival so make sure you have enough money on there).

Dress up warm. If you feel sick, short of breath and develop a headache just go back down in case it is altitude sickness.
Pack a picnic 🙂
Go with great company ❤
And just chill.

You can find more information by following this link.

Happy second week of January!