B Flow: 10 Things I Love About Zambia

Musician & gender rights activist Brian Bwembya, better known as B Flow, tells us his 10 favorite things about Zambia.

In our '10 Things I Love' series we ask our favorite musicians, artists & personalities to tell us what they like the most about their home country.

For this new installment, musician and gender rights activist Brian Bwembya, better known as B Flow, tells us his favorite things about his home, Zambia.

ZAMBIA — Two years ago, OkayAfrica got to know B Flow closely when he joined our editorial team for a few months as part of President Obama‘s 'Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders Initiative.'

He's now continuing his music career and using his songs to advocate against gender-based violence and educate youth on HIV/AIDS.

B Flow will be playing NYC, D.C., Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh this month, check out all information and tickets for the concerts here, and read Brian's 10 Things I Love About Zambia below.

It's a haven for peace

I'm proud to have been born in a country that has no history of war and genocide. Zambia is known as "Africa’s haven of peace." We believe in resolving our misunderstandings amicably without resorting to violence and turmoil. When Zambian citizens are unhappy about something, they never react in a violent manner. If they have to, they will stage peaceful protests without breaking any property. On the political front, we're one of the few African countries that have had the most peaceful transitions of power from one leader to another.

Our female leadership

Since 2015, Zambia has had a female Vice President, Inonge Wina. This is good because it gives more women inspiration to take up leadership roles. It’s also great to note that Zambia is recording an increase in the number of women leading various civil society organizations, government departments and corporate entities. The nation is beginning to appreciate the fact that women are equally capable of driving its development process, and more women are now pursuing male dominated careers.

Our 73 united tribes

Zambia has 73 tribes, yet we are very united. We're not the richest nation but we can at least afford a smile compared to many rich countries that have everything, but their people are sad, stressed and divided. The game of football is one of the things that unite us. When we meet at the stadium, one would think we're all from one family. Our bond is further strengthened by what we refer to as "tribal cousinship." Traditional cousinship entails that a person from one particular tribe can joke about a person from another without expecting them to get offended. Since 1964, our motto remains "One Zambia, One Nation,’’ which was coined by our founding father and freedom fighter Dr. Kenneth Kaunda.

Talented young musicians

Gone are the days when young people waited for the government to create jobs for them. Many of us have discovered our talents and employed ourselves and others. Zambian musicians are now getting international recognition. Roberto and Mampi have toured most parts of Africa. The group Zone Fam recently won a Channel O award, Ruff Kid won a BEFFTA award, and Slap Dee has represented Zambia at the MAMA Awards. The growth of the industry has benefitted me too. Zambia has given me my shine, I can proudly brag that I am the first and only African artist to receive an award from a sitting U.S. President and to headline at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, yet I come from a country that a lot of people in the world don’t even know exists.

Traditions remain strong

The world has become a global village, and Zambia appreciates the changing global trends, but we have proudly preserved the most important elements of our culture. Zambian women and men still wear Chitenge, the traditional Zambian dress. With the growing fashion industry, Zambian fashion designers such as Kamanga Wear, Fay Designs, Kutowa Designs and many more are now designing clothes made out of the local Chitenge material.

Since time immemorial, we have continued to celebrate our traditional ceremonies. Young people’s respect for elders is still an important part of our culture. We've been taught to regard every elderly person as our mother or father, so we respect them and they respect us. At every state function, there's always a traditional dance group comprising dancers dressed in indigenous Zambian outfits, singing traditional music and playing the traditional Zambian drum, Ing’oma. While we appreciate Western instruments such as electric guitars and pianos, we still play our own marimba, which produces rich sounds that come out like a blend of piano and drums.


Some countries call it pap, others call it fufu, we call it Nshima. It is our staple food prepared by mixing corn meal and hot water to form a thick porridge that can be eaten with relish such as beef, chicken, sausage, fish and vegetables. Like football, Nshima unites us. You need to visit a Zambian family or restaurant to see how we eat Nshima like we are in fellowship.

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With good publicity, the Zambian tourism industry will become one of the biggest sources of foreign exchange. We are blessed with various waterfalls countrywide. One of the Seven Wonders of the World is the Victoria Falls which is situated in Livingstone, the tourist capital of Zambia. We're also blessed with copper, a mineral known as the pride of Zambia.

Music For Change

The birth of the #MusicForChange movement in Zambia has made me love this country more because it's given me hope and confidence that our children and future generations will not grow up watching and listening to stuff that can influence them negatively. I love the fact that the nation is gradually embracing a movement whose ultimate goal is to ensure that our society is liberated from immorality and social injustices. I love the movement because, for a long time, the music industry has been characterized by the production of music that promotes feuds or ‘beef’ among artists, lack of proper artist management, dominance of songs that objectify women and lack of professionalism among artists.

Vibrant festivals

In Zambia, there are many traditional ceremonies which celebrate the vibrant and colorful culture and history of a diverse nation. One such festival is the Kuomboka, which means “to get out of water,” celebrated by the Lozi people of Western Zambia. It marks the ceremonial journey of the Litunga (the Lozi king) from his summer home in the flood plains to his winter residence on higher ground. The king travels on a large wooden ceremonial barge and the spectacle involves massive war drums and around 100 or so paddlers wearing headdresses, sometimes featuring a piece of lion’s mane and skirts made from animals skins.

Warm Welcomes

After touring across four continents in the last seven years, I've never seen a country as hospitable as Zambia. Zambians don't look at visitors as enemies but as global neighbors. It’s unbelievably amazing how Zambians offer greetings to strangers that they meet on the streets of our lovely cities. I've seen the friendliest people in Zambia.

Photo: courtesy of Natsai Audrey Chieza

100 Women: Natsai Audrey Chieza is Changing the World One Petri Dish at a Time

Her interdisciplinary approach to biology and fashion has sparked conversation about the future of sustainability and pollution in textile manufacturing.

The bold jewel tones of OkayAfrica 100 Women honoree Natsai Audrey Chieza's silk scarves aren't the product of hazardous chemicals or silkscreen printing. Instead, they are the product of bacteria. Specifically coelicolor, a strain of bacteria found in soil that happens to excellently synthesize organic chemical compounds. Working in the trade for six years, the Zimbabwean materials designer quickly came to understand why the textile industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Knowing that the most harm occurs during the process of dyeing fabrics, she decided to take action.

Chieza has worked with leading brands such as Microsoft, Nissan, and Unilever to usher in a new approach to science and design. Through her creative R&D; studio Faber Futures, the design innovator uses the process of creating with bacteria to assist in moving mankind away from our fossil fuel dependency. As the biopigment expert put it [last year during her TED talk "Fashion has a pollution problem—can biology fix it?"], in the future we must make sure that we are not "mirroring the destructive legacies of the oil age."

Her interdisciplinary approach to biology and fashion has sparked spirited conversation about the future of sustainability and pollution in textiles. Here, Chieza expounds on her start, the pros and cons of creating something new and the urgency of change.

The following has been edited for length and clarity

Akinyi Ochieng for OkayAfrica: STEM and the arts are often conceptualized as separate worlds. However, in your career, you've managed to find the overlap. How did you, a materials designer, end up dabbling in biotechnology?

Natsai Audrey Chieza: I've always really wanted to work within the creative field. I used to work in architecture where I really enjoyed my education in a systems approach to designs and designing for multiple contexts. But I wanted to explore a different side of the design world, so I began exploring the skill and context of material flows, and how technology and futures fits within this framework of how we design.

For my own work and my practice, not having a scientific background made me try things based on what I understood about materials and what I understood about the interactions in which those materials existed in society. I'm interested in a political lens, an economic lens, and how textiles perform in reality. That's not necessarily the approach that a scientist would have taken. Now that's not to say that science isn't important—it's vital. But innovation can occur in that intersection.

Did you go into this thinking, "Oh, I'll figure it out. There must be a path to make this work"?

To be honest, when I started off, the field was not defined. I think I found something really interesting, which was about how biology was becoming a realm of design, and I just explored that as best as I knew how as a designer and non-scientist. It just so happened that around me there was a context that was imagined but enabled me six years later to say, "That's the industry where this work belongs" and stakeholders who give me a space to further my work in a creative and experimental. The path was never anything clear at all. I learned as I grew.

There's a phrase that is often repeated today: "You can't be what you can't see." But you have really created a niche for yourself. What are the benefits of entering an emerging space?

I think what's amazing is not having anyone or anything telling you that what you think is impossible. If you're carving a new territory then you must trust in your instinct and vision to effectively push where the work can be and where it exists. You're not asking permission to do anything. Of course the flip side of that is you have to bring people with you, and so part of you being able to do the work is convincing people that your vision has legitimacy and it's worth exploring, worth taking a risk to look outside of that box.

It's often quite challenging to figure out how to find the strength to push something that hasn't been done before. There's no precedent or rulebook to my work, but sometimes it's really nice to have a rulebook. [Laughs] However, I think it's made me a person who doesn't see challenges as obstacles that are in the way, but more as problems that can be solved. And I think that's the good thing.

Much of your work is about biopigments. What color excites you?

It's not really the colors that excite me. It's color as a cultural context that really fascinates me. I'm really interested in if a microbe is almost like this living factory that produces this pigment, and the technology can be shared and deployed with people as to how you work with it across the world, then what are the cultural interventions that can happen in South Africa versus in Argentina versus in the United Kingdom, based on this common microbe. I think that's always been what interests me the most, the context in which our materials exist. I think a really good example is indigo, and how from Japan to West Africa, indigo is just this really, really rich material, and the process and the craftsmanship that goes into it. I'm interested to see how the future ecology of making arises in response to biotechnologies across the world.

Where do you see yourself and your work evolving in the near or long term?

I'm sort of going through that growth moment where you've been working toward something and then you've arrived at that and you're like, "Right, what's next?" I think I'm fundamentally somebody that wants to use design as a discursive tool to understand how our technologies proliferate. My focus is really on the imagined life sciences and how they're going to become very much a part of all of our lived experiences, and particularly in the context of really urgent changes that are happening from a local level to a global level. From global warming and climate change to resource scarcity across regions, our response to what I think being able to design with living systems, can afford us in the future. So my work really is about understanding how to engage stakeholders across different sectors to grow a consensus around how we're going to leverage these sorts of technologies so that they can be technologies for good. That's really where this is going.

This article appears as part of OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2018—a project highlighting the impactful work done by African women across the globe. Throughout March, we will be publishing a series of profiles, videos, interviews and feature stories on these inspirational women.

Click here to see the entire list of 2018 honorees.

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