Have you heard of the saying that dreams comes with much activity? If you have ever dreamed of doing something, and went on to accomplish it, you know first hand the veracity of this statement. Some dreams are birthed out of pain, lack, need, want and ambitions while others are born out of pure love and a sense of destiny.
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.
Today, it’s almost three years since Cheza Nami was born, and the organization is committed to promoting the understanding and appreciation of African Culture through music, dance, art and play. Besides, teaching African art, dance and music, Catherine delights in connecting with other local artists, and is constantly sharing her culture with all both locally and abroad. She believes that we are living in exciting times where the world is changing rapidly and cultures of all is within our turf—and therefore those who regard themselves as global citizens will have a better shot at thriving in our diverse world. For Catherine, Cheza Nami is her way of contributing to our world. She is grateful to have access to other cultures in this melting pot that is the Bay Area, and she feels that she owes it to the world to share some of the awesome qualities her African culture has to offer. Qualities such as the sense of community—an embodiment of many African cultures and a phenomenon that could very well enrich our lives given today’s growing digital age.
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