Josefina Bonsundy Nvumba   07 September 2018

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This story has been brought to you by WorldRemit in partnership with Rootencial. Rootencial is a social initiative celebrating the roots and potential of African and African diaspora communities, while also aiming to create opportunities for them.

Our story is of Muna Lobé, a shining example of someone with very similar goals in her work. An anthropologist by training and global nomad, Muna founded and leads a unique creative consulting agency, AYA Consulting.

In an interview with Muna, Josefina Bonsundy-Nvumba, founder of Rootencial found out more about Muna’s life, work, influences and aims. In particular, she spoke to Muna about the role art plays in our societies, the difference between short-term trending fads and longer-lasting cultural contributions, plus the need to invest in African, Carribean and diaspora art initiatives.

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Hello Muna, please tell us about yourself, your work and the journey you’ve taken to get where you are today.

I’m of African and Caribbean heritage – my father’s originally from Cameroon and Ghana, and my mother from Guadeloupe (French West Indies). I was raised and studied in Europe and the US, and I’ve lived and worked in France, east and west Africa, and in the Caribbean, working in international development, education, and training.

In 2013 I founded my creative consulting hub, AYA Consulting, specialising in culture and the arts. We work with artists, art practitioners, and art institutions, seeking to create, support and enhance projects showcasing the culturally rich realities and talents of the African continent, the Caribbean, and diasporic spaces across the world.

Who has inspired you along the way?

I grew up in a family of artists and academics – one that was very committed to the arts and culture. My dad’s a painter, actor, TV producer and author. My brother’s a writer, playwright, film-maker and actor. My mother’s a lover and champion of the arts; she’s supported literary initiatives in France and the US. She’s also hosted a radio show and cultural TV show on Africa. So as a family we’re truly committed to everything that’s directly connected to the arts and culture, and particularly to the cultures of Africans, Caribbeans, and Afro descendants. I became very passionate about the arts because of all of that.

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What were your greatest challenges and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge for any creative entrepreneur is to acquire visibility. It can be hard to communicate about projects that aren’t necessarily of interest to the masses.

How do you capture people’s interest?

AYA is not about organising events around food, entertainment, or natural hair – so we’re not necessarily talking about things that are currently “trending.” It’s harder in the Francophone world than it is in the Anglophone world, because even though there’s a lot going on, it’s not necessarily considered mainstream. So we’re tirelessly looking for solutions that are new and very different, using social media platforms and networking to develop sustainable collaborations with existing entrepreneurs and artists. We’re also working to integrate into existing communities and find champions who are widely followed, supported and praised – to be the voices of what we are doing.

The biggest challenge for any creative entrepreneur is to acquire visibility.

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You talk about building lasting value for society through AYA Consulting. What does that mean?

To answer this, I would refer back to AYA’s mission: to showcase and promote the diversity and richness of art and creative forms from Africa, the Caribbean and diaspora; to ensure that they are known; to ensure that people are fully informed about the people behind these different projects and ideas.

Why is that important? Well, I don’t equate art and culture with entertainment necessarily. Entertainment is absolutely important, but it’s also ephemeral. There’s something about the sharing of culture that is more long-lasting. The idea behind AYA is to support, create and be part of different initiatives that have the impetus to build something that will last for generations.

For example, organising a multidisciplinary art workshop hosted by an international visual artist, sponsoring and Afro-British web comedy, deploying an inclusive international branding strategy for an up and coming start-up or providing a press relation consultancy for a literary platform are all projects we are very proud to have designed and supported.

I want my children, even my great, great grandchildren, to still be talking about them, debating them, using them for inspiration and to answer burning questions about the world and society around us.

There’s nothing trending about culture or art; it’s been part of our societies and civilisations for as long as humanity has existed. It’s absolutely vital to preserve and encourage new artistic and creative forms as much as possible. I want AYA to foster and encourage that creativity.

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What advice would you give your younger self?

It’s hard to put myself in the position of speaking to my younger self, because I definitely believe I’m still my younger self! As a child, I was always in a hurry to grow up. I always wanted to be older and be a step ahead. As I look back, though, I realise that remaining a child for as long as possible is actually really cool – there’s no need to rush! I would tell my younger self to “stay you!” Be a kid for as long as you can.

However, this urge to grow up fast did push me to reach for new heights; I was constantly setting myself goals. It’s important to have new objectives and ambition; be brave enough to try things. You have to live without fear; there’s nothing to be afraid of. Always try; never ever stop trying, because that’s how you learn, that’s how you live, that’s how you love.