Guest Blog by Clare Kagimu, a Ugandan-born, but now UK resident, this talented Interior Architect and Designer shares her insights on the new creative force of women in design.
"These people rise up like a lioness; like a majestic lion they stand."
- Numbers 23:24
The lioness rises from her slumber, a magnificent image of strength, passion, and beauty. Her mere presence commands the landscape, protects her young, and empowers the lion. In groups, lionesses become a creative and strategic force to be reckoned with, acting as one to change the world around them.
You too are a lioness....
Women, it’s time to…
God did not save you to tame you.
To a life of fierce passion.
To dangerous prayer, stunning power, and teamed purpose.
Your response could very well change your world.
This is a call for women to rise up in strength and numbers to change their world!
This feels like a long time coming to say the least. I have longed to see a platform be given to women with great creative and entrepreneurial skill all in one play. So please allow me to say hello, my fellow Lionesses! Let me hear you Roar! I would first and foremost love to show my gratitude to Lionesses of Africa for its pioneering endeavours to showcase each day the up-and-coming women entrepreneurs of Africa and now the Diaspora.
These small beginnings that Melanie Hawken, the founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa has paved for us women entrepreneurs, will in time be the pathway for those yet to come. To play any part in this venture is an honour - thank you Melanie. It is with this great responsibility, privilege and awareness as a new Diaspora member of the Lionesses of Africa community, now living in Glasgow Scotland, that I wish to offer a few insights that I have learned along the way to my fellow women in design in Africa.
To begin with, my foundation, coming from a very creative and architectural background myself, means there is a lot I could say on this matter, but that will have to wait for my start-up story. However, with this wealth of knowledge, I feel that my passion for design has been expanded by the few women who are pillars of architecture. For this article, I will focus my attention on one that has stood the taste of time.
“I strongly feel that Women in Design is a definite necessity - beyond anything.”
Zaha Hadid, born 31 October 1950, is an inspirational and award-winning Iraqi-British architect. Zaha received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004, the first woman to do so, and has since followed that recognition by being awarded the prestigious Stirling Prize in 2010 and 2011. Battling challenges and pre-conceptions relating to her gender, ability, and race, yet overcoming all these great obstacles, have become consistent features in this Prizter Award winner’s life. Yet, her ground-breaking architectural works have broken down barriers with a clever combination of self-belief, a great team, absolute focus, great technique, and advanced design programmes like organic architecture modelling, all of which have uniquely made her stand out from the crowd and become known in the architecture and design world as the “Queen of the Curve.”
In terms of her work, the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre is one of many buildings that will be erected in Azerbaijan this year, and it is one of several projects exhibiting progressive design elements and cutting-edge engineering solutions. Her forays into the greater world of design include the incredible limited edition footwear collection collaboration between Lacoste and Zaha Hadid (see photograph below). All these creative ingredients, like a great scrumptious cake, have formed the recipe that has seen her attain so many prestigious awards, year in and year out, in what is a very male dominated field.
Her example should be an inspiration to all aspiring women that we too can strive to attain our goals through sheer guts and boldness. We should dare to believe that any platform that we are ushered into, is our chance to defy and challenge all the odds against us and the status quo, and excel to the limit that we set for ourselves. I feel that if we decide to believe that we can, then what follows will be a very long journey of great faith and the realisation of our dreams. Forerunners like Zaha Hadid, can be our inspiration and our catalysts for action my fellow Lionesses of Africa - we can share their unique vision and build a pride like no others, leading the pack into new and unchartered waters in Design and Architecture.
Looking in from the outside, it fills me with great excitement to know that our future is great. We can dare to dream and pave new ways right here and right now!!! Africa is truly the next global business destination, “a literal last frontier ”- Africa is finally now stimulating a healthy global curiosity, interest and publicity for all the right business reasons. With the initiatives of on-line publications like Forbes Africa Woman, and like Lionesses of Africa, all pushing out inspiring stories, it is very encouraging to both new and existing entrepreneurs alike on the continent. I am encouraged to say that attitudes are turning in a positive direction. The time to jump into business is now! This open window of opportunity has to be appreciated and grabbed with open hands.
Lionesses of Africa too can be a vehicle and a force to be reckoned with, if fully expressed. LoA will create something beyond our current expectation of only start-up stories, for as I read the daily potential within its publications, I feel we have touched the tip of the iceberg and are only just beginning to unveil a movement that will take back specific spheres of influence with creative intent and voice - the voice of Women in Design and Architecture.” There is so much room at the top for all us aspiring women entrepreneurs - from the statistics shown below, it's safe to say we are on the right track.
With these encouraging stories being shared with one another, we are placing the focus on what we have in our own hands - each gifted woman profiled, each product crafted in a unique way - all these beautiful expressions of Art, Design, and Architecture are not mere random segments of code, but instead intentional tools all interwoven to awaken and restore these unique crafts that have for way too long been sidelined and limited.
It’s our time ladies to unite under the umbrella of Lionesses of Africa and explore these glorious avenues. Technology is now our best friend and we can now be more innovative than ever before. At the click of a button, we can take forms into 3D, cut out fabric using lasers, and much more. The book is endless and so too can be our creative minds. I implore you all to dig deep, hold nothing back, share and keep investing in one another, cross network, educate yourselves and become the specialists of each field you have been ushered into. Design can now be given any expression that you can conceive. The ‘box’ no longer exists. Looking at the trends here in the Diaspora, there is a need for purity and innovation - colours are no longer the only set mark - our consumers are hungry for authenticity and greater depth than just a brand name. It is safe to say that the hidden gems that are African fabrics, textures and jewels, are now rising from the ashes once again to be given a very valid global stage upon which to be unveiled and be in a league of their own. A daring force to be reckoned with! How exciting! I just hope with a sense of urgency that this cross pollination of designs will make its way here, for we too are constantly enticed with the online demand, and the desire for easy access to high street shop outlets that offer ALL THINGS AFRICAN. My amazing childhood friend at BOLD Kampala, is clearly setting the pace in Uganda with their beautiful fashion and design retail and showcase outlet #BoldKampala.
As I leave I wish to send a message of encouragement to you all.
"No matter what, do not give up on the creative deposit that you all have been entrusted with, for in its simplicity lies a local and global solution if nurtured with zeal and passion. You will achieve a level of greatness and leave behind a legacy for future generations of young women like myself to run with, once the batons have been passed on to us."
I hope that we will rise to the occasion and commit ourselves with intent to maximising the opportunities that come with the current positive trend in global interest in the design work of the Continent. The foundation that we set now before the next generation, will be a collection of Jewellers, Seamstresses, Fashion Designers, Architects, Songwriters, Poets and so much more, like a beautiful symphony and tapestry to be read and enjoyed by everyone. Let us dare to venture outside our homelands, and pick up the necessary tools that will enhance our small businesses to a growth level of the franchisees reflected here in the Diaspora high streets. Why not I say! All things are possible to those who believe.
As a spectator, looking in from the outside, I see great potential in all you lovely Women of Africa. I see a great desire for success, and a talent that is driven with a collective boldness and courage. The world is truly open for business to those that dare to believe and take responsibility for what has been entrusted to you. Let our voices be heard that bit louder.
As a spectator looking in from the Diaspora, but a participant in my own field as an aspiring Interior Architect, I see a thin line between the possible merger of Architecture and Design. I see a transition into the latter that will only be achieved with a healthy childlike curiosity of the designer within you. I pray that the more we women apply our inherent gifts into these new fields of Architecture and other design expressions, the more we can create a whole new arena. If conceived with childlike abandonment, we will see an unprecedented wave of new structures and buildings never seen before, clothed in a array of layers / floors spaces all coming to life in a their unique settings - lighting, cities, commercial spaces and homes all pioneered by women in design who have branched out and enlarged their territory with intent, through careful planning and the realisation of their vision. And, like a fine designer gown, accessorised with the finest textures and materials, all tied together with a posture to suggest a flare of confidence in the way that only a new unveiled building or beautifully tailor-made dress can, it is possible to soar high above the skyline, elegantly displayed in splendour for all to see - a beautiful union of Design & Architecture.
That is what I see - can you dream with me? I hope so.
Clare Kagimu is an interior architect and designer, originally from Uganda but now living and working in Glasgow in the UK. Her company Phoenix Design is a branding solutions company, and her portfolio of creative work has included such unique projects as the designing of some of the eye-catching and highly specialised Velodrome suits worn at the prestigious Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow, UK. Clare comes from a creative background, her late father Paul Archie Kagimu was one of the pioneering architects of Uganda.