In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is the first instalment in our mini-series "Collective Conversations," a bi-weekly segment focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to model + fine arts major Amina Malual, a long-term collaborator of ours who is beautiful inside and out. To honour her as the star of our new Traditions campaign, we chatted to her about her traditions, growth and the importance of understanding what it means to be black and proud in today's world.
1. Describe yourself in three words?
Honest, loving and attentive.
2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you?
Heritage and tradition is in everything I do and everything I am. It’s in the food I eat, the clothes I wear, the languages I speak and the people I love.
3. Something that you’re passionate about?
I’m passionate about the black experience as it relates to everyday life. Something I try to explore in my studies (BA of Fine Arts) is the intersection between two opposing cultures where most members of the African Diaspora find themselves. A question I find myself asking is what should I do at this intersection? What customs do I keep and what customs do I leave behind? Essentially, does assimilation equate to abandonment or is there a path I can take where both of my worlds can exist as one? These questions are what drive my art and push my curiosity to attain knowledge of self. To me, it’s not the tangible objects and goals that make me want to get up and go in the morning, it’s the conversations (just like these). It’s through these discussions of shared experiences that we come closer to understanding the black experience and what it means to be black and proud in predominantly non-black spaces. Understanding my identity as it relates to my environment is what fuels my spirit for learning.
4. Who do you most admire?
Without a doubt, the person I most admire is my mother. I cannot stress how important it is for me to stay as grounded as I can in who I am. An attribute I can only credit to my Ma. At my age, with her young child in hand, Ma had fled a war-torn country and walked thousands of miles on foot to reach the nearest boarder. Despite this, she still found the courage and resilience to stand up and be a leading voice for the women caught up in the war that refused to allow their situation determine their outcome. What a badass!
Her resilience and unwavering determination as a young woman continues to shine through to this day. I speak for every member in my family when I say that our mother is both the anchor that holds us and the compass that guides us. She’s everything I could ever hope to be and more.
5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself?
Taking a mental health day is definitely something I’ve tried to do more of lately. It’s not so much what I do on these days, but how they make me feel.
I almost forgot the importance of days like these and it wasn’t until the lockdown measures were put in place that it really hit me. Consistently being exposed to high levels of stress often forces us to allow it as a norm. Amongst the turmoil, I was able to find peace through prayer, meditation and connecting with the people that matter to me.
6. What is something you’re proud of?
If you had asked me this question a week ago, I would’ve had a really hard time answering it. I’m a naturally anxious person when it comes to discussing myself. I have the habit of speaking highly others and, in the same breath, making some kind of self-deprecating joke (I’m still working on myself).
It wasn’t until I saw Laurinda and Fatuma on the weekend that I realised that I have a lot to be grateful for and, dare I said it, proud of. The second Laurinda saw me, she hugged me, looked into my eyes and said,“Chadwick Models, wow, congratulations! We are so proud of you."
What a beautiful feeling it is to be seen, especially by two strong black women. Every single time I work with the women at Collective Closets I leave feeling so much better about myself. So thank you Laurinda and Fatuma for reminding me to be proud of becoming a signed model. I love you both!
7. What's something you do to be kind to yourself?
I’m not sure if I was taught this by a friend or if I read it somewhere, but something I recently tried countering every bad thought I have about myself with a positive one.
8. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else?
Self-care has become a big part of my daily routine, which to some might be an indication of privilege. And, to be fair, it is. The way we view self-care today wasn’t really an option for people like my mother who were not afforded the same luxuries. They definitely had bigger things to worry about. Despite this, it feels encouraging to know that I’m a part of a generation of black women that are able to talk about mental health and create spaces of healing.
9. How do you align and connect with your intuition?
Connecting with my intuition is yet another self growth project of mine. Trusting my gut is something that I’ve only recently been able to achieve.
Looking back, I can really identify the times where not trusting my gut has led to my feelings and personal identity slipping through the cracks. Honestly, it makes me cringe but it also acts as a reminder that I may not know a lot . . . but I do know myself.
10. What's an assumption others make about you?
I initially found it hard to answer this question, so enlisted one of my closest friends to help me out. I asked her about her initial thoughts about me and surprisingly she said, “I thought you were about your business, had your life together . . . and I was kind of intimidated by you." What?! Although, she did follow that up with “but then I realised you were a hot mess too,” so you can’t take that one with a grain of salt.
11. Is there an item you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future?
I already love everything from Collective, the diversity in textiles and texture are already so much much than I could ask for. But if I had to make a suggestion I guess I’d like to see more accessories for shy girls like me who love but are deathly afraid of colours.