Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lagos Museum Hosts All Female Art Exhibition

From the Guardian: The 5th International All Female Art Exhibition tagged Colours and Creativity, showcasing painting, sculptor, textile and leather designs will run from May 5 - 16 at the exhibition hall of the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos. There will be a roundtable discussion on May 9 dwelling on topics such as Risk Management and Insurance for Creatives, which will be coordinated by Development Initiatives Network and The Woman and Her Creativity: Cooperation or Conflict by Juliet Ezenwa-Pierce.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Girls in ICT Day in Nigeria

For the first time, Nigeria celebrates International Girls in ICT Day today April 26. The International Girls in ICT Day is celebrated on each fourth Thursday in April, when girls will have the possibility to get themselves acquainted with the opportunities for education and work in the ICT field. The objective is to make ICT familiar to girls, and to present to them the jobs within this sector, as well as to motivate them to opt for a career related to these technologies. International Girls' Day is an initiative launched through Resolution 70 (Guadalajara) by the International Telecommunications Union with the idea creating a global environment that will empower and encourage girls and young women to consider careers in the field of information and communication technologies. Activities in Nigeria include:
  • A week-long Technology Camp hosted by Women's Technology Empowerment Centre - W.TEC in Lagos (April 23 - 27)
  • A 1-day Girls Day celebration hosted by eBusiness magazine at Golden Gate, Kingsway Road, Ikoyi, Lagos (April 26, 10am - 2pm)
  • An ICT eContest organised by Women in Technology in Nigeria - WITIN (April 26 - August 31)
Learn more Nigeria's Girls in ICT Day celebrations. Meanwhile enjoy this video put together by Facebook to encourage more women into technology careers.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Gives Commonwealth Lecture 2012

The author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was selected to give the 2012 Commonwealth Lecture. She shares her thoughts on many things, including her influences, the power books have had in her life, what propelled her to write Half of a Yellow Sun, and Africa as depicted in literature. Start watching from the 10.00 point.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Visiting Bruce Onobrakpeya

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of visiting the home of the artist Bruce Onobrakpeya. He has been called a "national treasure." A walk through his home gives a little glimpse why. As you walk through the gate, you are greeted with installation pieces. The flight of steps that rises from the ante room is covered in oil paintings, water colours, plastographs and installation work.

Upstairs is his work room and out of the turmoil emerges the beautiful work that I saw everywhere. His work is notable for its diversity. He is not an artist who works within one particular medium. He experiments and learns from other artists, including from his students. These influences are evident in a myriad of ways from the materials he chooses to use, from the way he presents the work.

Photo Credit: Ore's Notes
The stairwell in the Onobrakpeya house. It took me at least 15 minutes to move up one flight of steps.

Photo Credit: Ore's Notes
Inside the artist's workshop.

Photo Credit: Ore's Notes
Work in progress.

Photo Credit: Ore's Notes
The artist talks about this installation piece, created in celebration for Nigeria's 50th year of independence.

Photo Credit: Ore's Notes
Bruce Onabrakpeya uses all kinds of materials - including lace fabric - in his work. Waste not. Want not.

Photo Credit: Ore's Notes
Full view of the 50th independence installation piece.

Photo Credit: Ore's Notes
The artist signs one of his paintings.

The Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation organises the Harmattan Workshop for artists, which is supported by the Ford Foundation amongst other funders.

Do you want to support a worthy cause? Then think about the Bruce Onabrakpeya Foundation.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tayari Jones - Coming Soon

One of my favourite writers is Tayari Jones and I love her work for her bold storylines. Not for her, the perfect lead character. Neither does she go in the opposite direction with completely unlikeable characters. No, her characters are complex and multi-layered. In short, they are as human as you or I.

The first book of hers I read was The Untelling. I read it several years ago and the main character, Aria stayed with me for a long time afterwards. I can't say much about it without giving major parts of the plot away, but I will say that something Aria did not say (an impression she does not 'untell') caused her to drift into a situation that spun faster and wider than she could have imagined.

Tayari is fearless in creating fully-fleshed characters who sometimes make horrible decisions. You - the reader - know already that the end will not be a good one for the character. But they are like that friend who knows the right thing to do but chooses a different path. You can smell the very likely dangers on the horizon, but you can't do much to stop it.

Tayari is equally as bodacious in her third and most recent novel Silver Sparrow, where she explores the subject bigamy. I admire that the themes of her novels are as different from each other as can be - child murders, infertility, bigamy - and yet each uses these subjects as vehicles to explore our desires and weaknesses as human beings.

I follow Tayari's blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts and I'm constantly astonished at how she can produce such a prodigious amount of content on her social media channels and still get work done. I can only conclude that she has sharply-developed time management skills and is extremely efficient at getting down to brass tacks when it's time for work.

She has been at Radcliffe on a writing fellowship since last year and the Harvard Gazette wrote a piece on an event where she shared excerpts of her new novel-in-progress, Dear History. I cannot wait until this new book is completed and published. I know that no matter what it's about, I will get it and I will love it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Swimming: Phelps & Pride

I’ve (inadvertently) had a swimming-themed weekend. For the last few weeks I’ve been reading Micheal Phelps’ memoir No Limits: The Will to Succeed. The book charts his journey to swimming success, starting off from his childhood in Baltimore, Maryland in the US to his astounding feat of winning eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for sports people and kind of regretted that I was not more of an athlete (but that couldn’t be helped – I was useless at virtually every sport I tried in school). The only thing I was sort of okay at was swimming and even that, I didn’t develop with any seriousness. So, it was interesting to read what it takes to become an Olympian and more so a gold medalist. The other sports memoirs and autobiographies, which I’ve read (Dara Torres’ Age is Just a Number and Andre Agassi’s Open) also gave a powerful insight into the demands on the athlete’s body, mind, will and lifestyle.

I think that participating in sports is a very good way to develop discipline, the ability to work hard, and learning to work in a team but yet be an individual (for instance, choosing to swim laps or practice your shots when everyone else is sleeping in). It is also a wonderful way to learn how to handle life’s vicissitudes. Sometimes you will win and other times, you will not. This fact is taken for granted in sports: today’s champion might have been yesterday’s underdog and almost surely will be knocked off their pedestal one day by a younger, faster and stronger challenger.

Anyway, back to the book by Michael Phelps, it was an engaging read. I was not impressed with the writing quality in the first chapter, but it became smoother with each page.

Each chapter is named for each of the events in which he won eight gold medals in Beijing and for a quality that helped him to the top e.g. “Perseverance: The 400 Individual Medley” and “Will: The 100 Fly.” Phelps is detailed in his description of his workout routines (I gasped at how much he swum each week). At 12 years old, a typical set could include 1,200 meters (1 length of an Olympic sized pool is 50m, so going one way and then back is 100m). When he started taking swimming more seriously in his mid-teens, a workout could comprise of 12,000 meters.

The physical preparation is obviously key. A champion has to be willing to go that extra step and do what all the others don’t. So, for instance, if other swimmers rested on Sundays, Phelps trained every blessed day of the week. However, what really differentiates a champion from everyone else is mental toughness: the ability to take loses in one’s stride (yes, learn from them and then put them out of your mind and move on). No Limits showed Phelps to be the type of person who didn’t allow mistakes to consume him, but to put them aside and to focus on the job at hand. This is a trait summed-up by his coach Bob Bowman’s acronym: What’s Important Now (W.I.N).

This mental strength was a strong feature in the 2007 film Pride. Directed by a first-time director Sunu Gonera and starring Terrence Howard and Bernie Mac, Pride tells the story of a college swimming star Jim Ellis (Howard) whose dreams of sporting glory are shattered by racism. Following a disastrous swim meet, when his Caucasian competitors refuse to participate in a race with a Black swimmer, he is ordered out off the pool grounds by the police. He explodes, lashes out at a policeman and is arrested for assaulting a police officer.

Fast forward a few years later and he finds himself, by a series of accidents, the coach of a group of teenagers in one of Philadelphia’s roughest neighbourhoods (the team is later known as PDR, named for the Philadeplhia Department of Recreation, but also suitably standing for Pride, Determination and Resilience). The swimmers, Ellis takes charge of have none of the advantages that Michael Phelps probably did. For many of them, swimming is not a sport that is highly regarded in the African American community (in fact, a common statement made about Black people is that most of us cannot swim).

So, Jim Ellis starts from the basics and gradually builds-up the physical strengths of his team. The bigger task, though, is getting their minds in the right state of discipline, self-respect and fearlessness. Youthful exuberance aside, these teenagers display very little sense of purpose, probably in part as a result of a lack of real-life mentors and role models.

It is unrealistic to expect that such a rag-tag bunch would win at their first swim meet and thankfully this film avoids the tendency for any unbelievable Hollywood-type triumph. In fact, you could say that their first experience of competition is downright disastrous with almost all the PDR swimmers coming in last in their races. One of them (Reggie) is unable to accurately gauge when he should turn and hits his head on the pool wall. The swimmers refuse to wear the swimming briefs provided by Coach Ellis and the result is embarrassing for another of the swimmers as his denim shorts, which he insists on swimming in come off mid-swim.

Gradually though, the swimmers start to take the sport more seriously, develop a stronger work ethic and coalesce into a team. They practice harder and get better at taking instruction. Slowly, the medals start trickling in. At the climax of the film, PDR participates in a major regional swim meet in Baltimore (hey, this could be the pool that Michael Phelps trained in). Although they are intimidated by the size of the competition pool (50 meters compared to their 25-yard pool), by this time they’ve started to learn the lesson of facing your fears squarely.

It’s obviously a feel good film, but one which is based on the real life story of Jim Ellis. I think swimmers would enjoy it for, aside from the swimming sequences, the film is replete with beautiful shots of glistening swimming pools.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Google's Marissa Mayer: Passion is a gender-neutralizing force

This interview with Marissa Mayer, Google's VP of Local, Maps and Localization Services, is part of CNN's Leading Women series.

In the early days of Google, she and most of the technical staff routinely worked 100-hour weeks. However, she was motivated to do so, because she felt that the technology that Google was developing was really important. And indeed it has turned out be. Aside from the incomparable search engine, the company has birthed many tools that have changed how we work, find and use information and play today.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sheryl Sandberg Leaves Work at 5:30. Why Can't You?

I seem to post an inordinate number of interviews with Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg. Well, what can I say? She's brilliant, hardworking, has a career that many envy, has gathered some considerable insight along the way and has a simple and yet articulate way of expressing them.

So, without apologies, here is another one. This is an interview on the Inc website, where she talks about, among many things, building your career (Be Ambitious, Start out with Big Dreams), making healthy life choices as a career woman (Marry a man who supports your goals in both words and deeds) and recognising that there is no such thing as work-life balance.

Sheryl Sandberg: Facebook COO

It was the reference to having a life outside of work - Sheryl Sandberg Leaves Work at 5:30. Why Can't You? - that first caught my attention, to be honest. She talks about how she struggled to do it all when she first became a mother - starting her work day early so that her colleagues could see her 5.30am emails and staying-up late, again so they could see her emails sent past their bedtimes. As she became more confident, she was boldly able to pick up her bag and leave the office at 5.30pm.

This is such an important thing for us to remember, as many of us struggle to progress in our careers and build business empires, that we need a healthy amount of rest and relaxation too. And the truth is very few of us enjoy enough recreation.

There are many debates about whether work-life balance actually exists or whether it is another unattainable goal that we have added to our ever increasing To Do list. I read a wonderful article in Fast Company magazine (Balance is Bunk! by Keith H. Hammonds) about how balance exists over time and not in the every day existence. This means that I might not have a perfectly equitable distribution of my hours between work and play, as different life phases will require varying levels of time and commitment for me. So, for instance, as a mother of a new-born, work will probably need to take a back seat for a while, but then as my child grows older and becomes more independent, I can devote more of my hours to work. Similarly, my business might be undergoing a tough period and thus demand more of my time for some months or a year or two. At another point, both children and business might need me less giving me more free time.

This idea of balance over a lifetime, rather than each day, resonated so strongly with me because my work can be very demanding and I am often very busy. If I was going to look at my work-life balance within the conventional paradigm, I would be failing big-time on a daily basis.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Anita Borg Change Agent Awards 2012 nominations now open (Deadline: May 15, 2012‏)

Thousands of women throughout the world are leading technological innovation. They often go unnoticed and unrewarded. The Anita Borg Institute has created a set of awards to honor these distinguished women and those who are working towards the recruitment, retention and advancement of women in technology.

Please review this brief summary of the awards currently open and nominate a deserving team or candidate or forward this information to someone who might be interested.

The Anita Baker Change Agent Awards honor technical women that live and work outside the United States. They are change agents in their community – working to attract and support women in technology in their region. Recipients are recognized for their technical leadership and advocacy work. The award recipients will be honored at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Baltimore, Maryland in October 2012.

I was privileged to receive this award in 2009 and receiving the award and attending the Grace Hopper Celebration were both an awesome experience.

Check the link above for more information and submit your nominations by May 15.