Mambo - The healthier lifestyle magazine for Africans
Empowering Africans in the UK to get the most out of life, good health and well-being. MAMBO aims to provide readers with news and features on how to live a healthy lifestyle without putting their health, and in particular their sexual health, at risk.
Horcelie Sinda Wa Mbongo is the reigning Miss Congo UK. She is actively engaged in various inspirational community projects. Mambo’s Takudzwa Mukiwa spoke to her to find out about what it means to be Miss Congo UK.
Mambo: Congratulations Horcelie on being crowned Miss Congo UK. When they announced that you were the winner, what went through your mind?
Horcelie: When they said my name, tears covered my face. I stopped thinking about the pageant at that point as I reflected on the journey of my life and how far I have come.
Mambo: What motivated you to take part in the contest?
Horcelie: Miss Congo UK to me was a great way to get more involved in the community here in the UK to raise awareness of HIV. I volunteered in South Africa on an overseas volunteering programme for 18-25 year olds, funded by the UK Government. As part of the programme I also had to complete an ‘action at home’ and I decided Miss Congo UK would be a suitable way for me to deliver this.
Mambo: What do you hope to achieve in your year as Miss Congo UK?
Horcelie: I hope to encourage more discussions on HIV and AIDS in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I think people are aware of HIV in the community but lack a substantial knowledge of what it really is. I think it is time that people learn about HIV and are taught it is no longer a death sentence.
Mambo: When you won, you spoke openly about being born with HIV and there was a lot of media coverage and discussion on social media. How did you feel about this?
Horcelie: To be frank I had no idea the media would consider my story – I’m happy it is raising awareness. It is crucial that HIV becomes a global discussion and that is what has happened in the media, well at least for now. I hope it doesn’t end with my story but continues with stories of the less privileged who are living with HIV in developing countries.
Mambo: Can you tell us about the work you have been doing around HIV awareness?
Horcelie: I have volunteered with Youth Stop AIDS as a speaker for the UK Speaker Tour campaign – this involved speaking in six universities in the UK on HIV as a global issue. It was an amazing experience speaking with four other individuals who were living with HIV.
Together we visited the Department for International Development, the Scottish Parliament and Terrence Higgins Trust in Glasgow. We met with Members of the Scottish Parliament to discuss the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and the role of governments in addressing this.
We were also featured in the Metro as well as Huck Magazine discussing our experiences of living with HIV, and explaining why we were campaigning with Youth Stop AIDS. I speak about HIV at various events to encourage people to take action and raise awareness.
Growing up with HIV
Mambo: What was your experience of growing up with HIV?
Horcelie: It wasn’t easy at all. Being a teenager in school was challenging as I couldn’t seek advice, even from my teachers, because of fear. And we were not taught about HIV, which made it even more challenging to talk about.
Mambo: What’s the most random question you’ve been asked about HIV?
Horcelie: Someone has asked me if I can still date and I said of course. I mean it is challenging but that does not mean people living with HIV cannot date. That is so absurd to think people living with HIV will not have a love life.
Mambo: What do you think are the most important things that people should know about HIV?
Horcelie: People need to understand that HIV is no longer a death sentence. There are so many people who are living with HIV here in the UK and have access to medication and treatment. Even globally, those who are on treatment live a normal life despite the challenges that come with living with HIV.
Mambo: What do you do for leisure?
Horcelie: I love going to art galleries and attending events with my friends, whether concerts, stand-up comedy or poetry. I absolutely love shopping, I just love buying clothes – I’m really into fashion and style.
Mambo: Who has been a big inspiration in your life?
Horcelie: My biggest inspiration has been God. As a Christian I have put my trust and faith in the Lord. I believe it is God who equips and guides people around me (such as my pastor, my family and friends) to advise me about life. Without the word of God, I do not think I would have the courage to speak about HIV at all.
Mambo: What are going to do after your year as Miss Congo UK?
Horcelie: I would love to work in African countries to learn more about development in education and health in sub-Saharan Africa. I want to also continue my studies for a Masters Degree in Fine Arts.
At Mambo we are always on the lookout for African excellence in the UK and our culinary explorations brought Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen to our attention.
This year she was considered a ‘standard bearer for West African cuisine’ in The Observer’s Rising Star list for 2017. We saw Zoe’s food mentioned on social media, saw her book in Foyles bookshop, she was at festivals and on television. Taku Mukiwa just had to hear the remarkable story of Zoe Adjonyoh and her fabulous Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen.
Who is Zoe?
Zoe is from south east London and was born to a Ghanaian father and Irish mother. She’s a writer by trade who completed an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmith’s University. So how does a writer become a chef? Interestingly, Zoe insists she is not a chef in the usual ‘chef’ sort of way but is more focused on homemade favourites and traditional flavours.
In 2010, after selling her peanut butter stew from the front of her house during Hackney Wicked Arts Festival, some of her customers and friends suggested that she should cook some more. This led to a Supper Club, hosted in her living room. She sharpened her skills in Ghana in her grandmother’s kitchen and at the famous Kaneshi street market, where she met with cooks who shared their own takes on traditional recipes.
Image credit: Matthew Lee
So what’s the all excitement about?
You may be asking what all the fuss is about if, like lots of us, she makes homemade favourites and uses traditional flavours. Now here is the deal. Zoe is bringing Ghanaian food to the masses, not just Ghanaians. As such, this is about inviting everyone to enjoy Ghanaian cuisine.
Zoe explains: ‘I believe we are on the cusp of an African food revolution. There is a longing to try something that is actually new, not just re-spun, and African cuisines are filling that gap. It’s the last continent of relatively unexplored food in the mainstream domain. For too long Africans have kept this incredible food a greedy secret.’
Since she started out, Zoe has travelled to festivals across Europe and taught people how to cook Ghanaian food. This is a journey we are keen to keep watching as African cuisines continue to get the attention and appreciation they deserve.