It is almost four years now since my brief interview with Catherine-Ndugu-Case, the Founder of Cheza Nami Foundation. I recall clearly her asking a few questions about African Childhood games, dances, songs and riddles we grew up enjoying back in our native land, Kenya. I also recall that a few weeks later, that Mrs. Ndungu-Case invited me to a Cheza Nami debut: African Culture Learning workshop at the Pleasanton Public Library. I knew Catherine to be an artist since she was perhaps 10 years old. I recall she loved to showcase her musical skills, but she always had an ear for unique art pieces across all genres. When her twins were born six years ago, her dreams love for the arts really began to take form. When asked what really motivated her, Catherine likes to point to her bundles of joy, her twins and now six years old. I think the video above summarize why she is best at what she does. She explains, “When my twins were born, I searched for resources to help teach my kids Swahili, the language of her native Kenya. "I was hoping to find some programs similar to baby sign language classes, which use flash cards and interactive play. I could not find anything, and thus I knew I had to come up with something.” Determined to find a solution, Catherine took matters into her own hands, and weaved her love for art with the desire to teach African culture—and there, Cheza Nami, which means “Play with me” in Swahili, was founded.
When she is not leading and programming at Cheza Nami, Catherine enjoys play with her twins while constantly strategizing on how to grow and bring her audience the best programs. When asked what she would like her organization to be known for, she shares her vision, “I hope to be an African Culture Ambassador.” And while she is aware of the diversity of African culture, she recognizes that the best way to accurately represent and share the different cultures of the continent is to collaborate, and partner with other local African cultural performing artists. She sees Cheza Nami as a unique go-to center for all things African culture learning and play, and she believes fulfilling this mandate is her destiny.
Authored by Carolyne Njogu
Lead Strategy Consultant, U&I Synergy Consulting Group