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 another installment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Ma-Musu Nyande, a proud Sierra Leonean girl, activist, writer and business owner. Now residing in Adelaide with her beautiful family (mama and sister pictured below), Ma-Musu is using her platform to instil confidence in black and African women through open conversations about self-worth, beauty and strength. Her dream? To make life easier for African women in Australia, to help the next generation gain the confidence to occupy spaces without fear. Needless to say- she's pretty incredible. We talked to her about identity, knowing your worth and the importance of family.
1. Describe yourself in three words?
Empathic, Loud, Purposeful
2. What do heritage and tradition mean to you?
It means identity and knowledge; a sense of self. Heritage and traditions hold symbolic references to how I see myself and how I choose to present myself to the world. Moving to Australia aged 9, I had never been confronted with the idea of not belonging and being part of a minority group. I went through various identity crises and trying to unpack and figure out who I was and wanted to be. During this time I took my first trip back home to Sierra Leone, and it changed my life. Reconnecting with my family, having access to a daily representation of my heritage and traditions changed the way I saw myself. This trip was a rebirth. A rebirth of self, a rebirth of identity and understanding of heritage, family values, customs, and traditions. Heritage and tradition are identity and knowing self, understanding my people's historic past ensuring my children, the girls and women from my country always know who they are and the people they come from.
3. Something that you're passionate about?
My greatest passion is uplifting and supporting black and African women. It creating spaces where we feel seen, loved, understood, and are left to thrive in our magic. This includes holding conversations on mental health, self-awareness, financial literacy and so much more. My passion is to build a community of successful, self-sufficient, independent, joyful black, and African women. I just want to see us win.
4. Who do you most admire?
I admire and adore my mama JoJo. She’s my best friend, my partner in crime, and my biggest supporter. She encourages and uplifts me daily to be my best and do my best. There might be times where she would share her own story, but from what I know and I have experienced, my mama embodies everything that I aspire to be. She’s carried our family on her backs, she lost herself several times trying to ensure we don’t. She is my dream come true. I am thankful daily that God chose her to be my mama.
5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself?
My weekly tradition is taking a day for myself. It’s me either sitting on my bed reading a novel, going for a walk, or just catching up on sleep, but it is always time I give back to myself. I listen to traditional musicians and cook my favourite Sierra Leonean dish (Casava leaf).
6. What is something you're proud of?
I am proud of the community I have built online and in my real life, but I am most proud of the PEACE I have. Peace of mind, peace of purpose, and direction. To be in a place in my life where I am extremely comfortable with my direction. With everything going on in the world and coming from a space where my emotional and mental health was a shit storm, being in this place where I go to sleep at night feeling peace and waking up with peace is amazing. I am really proud of the emotional work I have done to get here.
7. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else?
One of my favourite traditions is eating together from the same bowl/plate. I adopted this from my parents. It's a communal style of eating and bonding. I remember as a child how much I hated sharing my food, but as an adult, I’ve recognised how fundamental those small traditions instilled and encouraged me to have a voice and speak up, especially when I wanted the biggest meat in the bowl lol.
8. How do you align and connect with your intuition?
I align and connect with my intuition when I am my most vulnerable. This happens when I am transparent, honest and when I share my truth. I find that having these conversations online and sometimes in person, it allows people to recognise that we don’t always have together and that I also have bad days.
9. What's an assumption others make about you?
A lot of times people assume I am Ghanaian. It makes sense because I am west African and spent a large chunk of my childhood in Ghana, but I am Sierra Leonean Girl.
10. Is there an item that you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future?
I would love to see your own range of African Masks.
11. What is something you do to be kind to yourself?
I’ve started speaking kinder to myself. Since being diagnosed with endometriosis, my body has changed drastically. This is the heaviest I have ever been and I didn’t like it. I went through a time where I spoke poorly to myself because I didn’t like my reflection. I had to relearn and teach myself new ways to love me at every stage. On days where I don’t feel my best self, I speak kindly to myself and point out things that I love about myself. From my lips and hips to my smile to my ability to uplift others, these are traits I adore about myself and it doesn’t hurt to say out loud- it doesn’t hurt to recognise and praise it.
You can follow Ma-Musu on Instagram here and visit her website here.