There’s never a dull moment in Nairobi’s social life. And a couple of weeks ago the Radisson Blu was the place to be for the launch of This is Africa (TIA) – a website, which in the words of its Operations Director Nancy Onyango will be “a celebration of Africanism, freedom of expression and the quintessential elements that make Africa what it is: a continent of opportunity, growth, and innovation.”
The evening was a chance for me to learn more about this great platform, connect with industry professionals, put faces behind names and also do a few impromptu TV interviews.
The dress code was ‘afro chic’ so I pulled out my agbada from a Nigerian brand called ‘The Fia Factory’ – The agbada, traditionally worn by men, is fast becoming popular with women in Nigeria and in tune with TIA’s vision of celebrating African culture, I was pleased to bring a bit of the West to the East.
The highlight of the evening was the speech by popular South African celebrity chef Siba Mtongana, host of the TV show Siba’s Table, who I have admired and loved for years to the point of cooking some of her recipes in my own kitchen – my favorite being her no-cook cheesecake (which has fast risen to be one of my daughters favorite desserts)
Through her very personal presentation to the gathering about her career path, I got to know her as a warm and charismatic person stepping out of her persona as a celebrity TV cook, and came to appreciate so much better who she is and where she has come from – and especially how she has become who she is today.
She grew up in the UK but eventually traveled to her home country South Africa and obtained her degree in Food and Consumer Science. She however failed to find a suitable job in this field months after graduating until, urged by her professor to look at alternative options, she landed the job of Assistant Food Editor at Drum Magazine, subsequently becoming its Food Editor 2 years later. Her column was such a success that it eventually lead her to her present series ‘Siba’s Table’ on The Food Network.
Her story struck a cord with me. It shows how a combination of a strong will, competence, hard work and a bit of good luck can make your career snowball. Listening to her amazing life story and meeting her in person was such an emotional moment, since I could relate to her developmental path in various ways.
After university, driven by passion, we both ended up following our dreams in non-traditional careers, albeit without much initial support from our families and discovering happiness and success at the end of the rainbow.
I must admit, as much as I love her show, I had never really paid much attention to her life story, but after this remarkable night, I now consider her not only a gastronomical queen but an inspirational icon as well.
Photography by Charles Ngomo
Makeup by Debby
Agbada by The Fia Factory Nigeria
Rings and Bangles – Esmerise Accessories
Clutch – Gifted
Shoes – Backyard shoes