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 amazing singer-songwriter Mwanje Tembo. She hails from Zambia, is Botswana born and raised and now resides in Melbourne, where she makes music that explores everything from feminine energy to heartbreak. We chatted to her about performing, growing up, change and knowing yourself.
1. Describe yourself in three words?
Creative, Intelligent, Hard-working.
2. How have you been staying motivated?
Words of affirmation and staying connected to my goals. In these really scary and difficult times, it feels like we will never go back to the way things were. In many respects, that's exactly what we want but I do value some form of stability so I can re-align my goals. I am also putting less pressure on myself to be productive and doing things as they come naturally.
3. Something that you’re passionate about?
I am passionate about my people and community. Coming from Zambia but being born and raised in Botswana, I felt very disconnected from my own culture for a long time. As I educated myself and gained more knowledge of my history I was able to find more pride in my country and myself. I am determined to express my story as well as the stories of my people through my music and art while being a participant in the African sphere of art. Growing up in Botswana, we were heavily influenced by the art and music coming out of South Africa and Nigeria. I would love to see more collaborations and projects involving Africans from different countries, both on the continent and within the diaspora.
4. Who do you most admire?
Black women. (PERIOD LOL). Black women have literally been my backbone my entire life. They have helped in the shaping and molding of who I am today, they encourage me to love myself and value sisterhood. My mother, sisters and friends inspire me to be and do better every single day. In their respective fields, they have motivated me to challenge myself and expand past what I initially thought I was capable of. My father has also been a huge role model in my life, he has taught me so much about professionalism, work ethic and entrepreneurship. These as all things I am working on within myself and would love to continue nurturing.
5. What scares you the most about the unknown?
As a person who likes being in control of every aspect of their work and craft, a lack of control is a very scary thing. Allowing yourself to be open to the tides of change and charging with no direction in mind requires deep confidence in your abilities and resources. I think this applies to every aspect of life, nobody likes feeling lost and disoriented but the strength and knowledge of self that you gain afterwards is so valuable.
6. What is something you’re proud of?
I am proud of the art direction I'm currently on. Coming from a relatively conservative background I have found the courage within myself to explore past those lines. I hope to be as creative, eccentric and expressive as possible when it comes to the music and art I create especially as an artist coming straight from the continent. I have been influenced by music all over the world and would love to expand what music looks and sounds like on my journey, and encourage others to do the same.
7. What's something you do to be kind to yourself?
I decided to be more conscious of my inner dialogue. My friends and family see the best in me as I consciously choose to communicate with love. I came to a point where I decided to talk to myself the same way I talk to them. Whenever I don't do my best or fumble the bag, I acknowledge my mistakes and try to stay kind to myself as I push to do and be better.
8. What are you most looking forward to post-isolation?
I cannot wait to perform again. I've definitely missed the rush of preparing for a set and the thrill right after executing it. I miss my band and being around other creatives. It's a special environment to be in and one I'm looking forward to returning to.
9. How do you align and connect with your intuition?
I have discovered that there is a thin line between intuition and self-sabotage. I am learning to push past my fears, traumas and insecurities and trust the gut feeling when approaching certain situations based on what is in front of me. It's easy to make assumptions based on the negative experiences you've had in the past but to a certain extent. Sometimes we let that anxiety get the best of us and as a result, block our own blessings. Knowing yourself and your triggers really helps you to distinguish the difference between the two a lot easier.
10. What's an assumption others make about you?
That I am a loud and assertive all the time, I try my best to take up space artistically but I'm actually quite a shy person. I am extremely comfortable around the people I know but when meeting new people or when I'm introduced to a new environment I am likely to be quiet so I can take everything in. As I get more comfortable, I come out of my shell. I'd encourage everyone to live in their truth and take up space as confidently as possible, as I am learning to as well.
11. Is there an item you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future?
I'd definitely love to see bodysuits and fitted clothing. I am a huge lover of African print, I love to wear and celebrate my culture so seeing cool and innovative designs would be lovely to see. I would also love to see a variety of body types being catered to and represented within the fashion industry in general. Collective Closets has so many beautiful pieces that I've had the pleasure of wearing and as a person who is really into fashion, I'd like to see such beautiful pieces being available to anyone of any size.