East Africa Meets London Cool In Guatemala

Tanzanian-born designer Christine Mhando's Chichia London teams up with the Project Tribe style duo on a series of colorful photos in Guatemala.

Photos shot by Norman "Haz" Coore

Conceptualized in February 2014 by Rio de Janeiro's Juliana Luna and the California-born, Atlanta-based Vanessa CooreProject Tribe is a stylish platform intended to connect likeminded women across the globe. "This movement, although initially aimed to inspire women of color, has managed to connect with men and women of all backgrounds," the founders say. "Our purpose was to build a community of people who come together to uplift, encourage and inspire one another, no matter where they are in the world."

Over in the UK, Christine Mhando is the Tanzanian-born fashion designer behind her own label of "East Africa meets London cool" womenswear. "Chichia London is a contemporary ladies clothing brand inspired by the fusion of two cultures — my Tanzanian heritage and my London upbringing, with a splash of quirky design," Mhando told Okayafrica in a 2012 interview. "The label is known for using locally East African printed fabric ‘Khanga’ in most of our collections," she added.

Earlier this year, Mhando's Chichia and the Project Tribe founders teamed up on a series of photos shot in Guatemala. The dazzling editorial sees Luna and Coore adorned in the brand's colorful SS15 collection. "Hadithi Hadithi, which literally means 'Story Story' in Swahili, serves as the primary inspiration for this collection," Mhando says. "For SS15 we are looking back at one of our favourite pass times as children... story time! Our unique prints have been specially designed and selected to evoke a sense of nostalgic fun in the clothing."

Chichia's SS15 collection is available to purchase from the brand's online shop as of today. In the lead-up to the launch, we spoke with Mhando, Coore and Luna over email about their collaboration.

Okayafrica: What inspired your SS15 collection?

Christine Mhando: Inspiration is drawn from colourful Tingatinga paintings from Tanzania and the sayings found on traditional khanga fabrics, this collection focuses on injecting that much needed sense of humor to your summer wardrobe. Our signature transpires from the artful application of the 'khanga', a traditional printed East African cotton fabric used by local women as wraps. Each Khanga is unique and often has a Swahili written message on in the form of riddles or proverbs allowing the wearer to express themselves and adding another subtle layer of meaning."

Okayafrica: What have you been up to the past year with Project Tribe?

Project Tribe: Oh my gosh!!! In one year we've grown sooooooo much! It really happened so organically, and we both did not expect this to become such a big movement so quickly! We focused on fostering our community and finding new ways of interacting with them. We traveled a lot to build that "get out there and do it" type of energy. People often think that to travel, to live, to explore one needs to have ABCDEF in place to actually do it. With us, it's different!!! We want to set the example. Traveling is part of the Soul...apart of discovery. The bond one creates with others depends on how open hearted one is to the new and unknown.

Last year was about growing our •{Inspirational}• side, and spreading #PositiveLoveEnergy. Making sure we were sharing our experiences of growth, challenges, and daily inspiration with as many people as possible. Helping them connect with one another through events, one on one interactions, and social media. Drawing clear lines so our movement would keep growing organically. At the end of the day, we are two girls with an overwhelming sense of purpose, passion, love and hot-mess-ness!! Together our main goal is to spread Positive •{Energy}•, through Positive •{Imagery}•!!!

Okayafrica: How did the collaboration with Chichia and Project Tribe come about?

Juliana Luna for Project Tribe: Originally, Chichia had emailed Vanessa about a collaboration and an IG takeover!! When Nessa told me about it, we were looking for collabs to engage with Project •{Tribe}•. WE had a road trip planned to Miami, so we suggested to Christine to do the collab as Project •{Tribe}• instead, She totally agreed!!! We've been Boo Loving ever sense!!! I think the •{Cenergy}• between our two brands is clear!!! Her clothing is an extension of our •{Spirits}•, that's why it looks so effortless so easy!!! She is such a talented designer, and with each collection we collaborate on we become more and more •{Inspired}•!!!! That's what a partnership should be, that's how a partnership should feel!

Okayafrica: What were you doing in Guatemala?

Luna for PT: We were going out there to do some #GypsyTrappin, and have Nessa's "Spiritual Ceremonial Situation"...also known as she got married. We went to celebrate her union with Haz, her official lover (the rest of us are not so official!LOL). So we thought that was also a great opportunity to get some great photo material, as the city of •{Antigua}• is so unique and full of culture! As soon as the ceremony was done we were right back to running around while Haz captured our photos!!! We have a really great support system which is why we're able to get so many things accomplished!!!

Okayafrica: How would you describe your personal style?

PT: We live in a kaleidoscope of colors, patterns and prints!!! That's pretty much our signature. But we both have a different take on it...Luna is Tropical lust with a twist of gypsy and some minimalism werk...and Nessa has this very Global Gypsy Bohemian Chic vibe!!

Okayafrica: How can people get involved with Project Tribe?

PT: Right now we are restructuring that. We are very aware that people love our movement, and we normally send out stickers so our •{Tribe}• members can get actively involved in the mission of spreading #PositiveLoveEnergy with us!!! We've changed our logo, so now we are updating that system, and changing all stickers to new ones! They could also email us at to connect, and find out even more about the movement!!!

Okayafrica: What's next for Project Tribe?

PT: We are collaborating with more brands, have some amazing travel opportunities, and we are focused on the developing the "business" side of Project •{Tribe}•. We will reunite in June, to stay together for at least 3 months while working intensively on the development and business aspect of our movement. We have some great things coming ahead! Stay Tuned!

For more on their collaboration, head to Chichia's official site, and keep up with Project Tribe on Facebook and Instagram.


6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox


How Nigerian Streetwear Brand, Daltimore, is Rising To Celebrity Status

We spoke with founder and creative director David Omigie about expression through clothing and that #BBNaija pic.