The first fundraiser event organised by UK-based social enterprise iROCK! UK, Tribes of Africa, brought together 9 designers from the Continent, entertainment from Spirit of Africa dancers and iROCK mentees and 200 guests in the grand hall of the prestigious Grange Tower Bridge Hotel on Saturday 26 May 2012.
With iROCK mentee Charlene Mukuzvazva as the hostess, the show kicked off with entertainment by Spirit of Africa dancers followed by a speech by supporter of iROCK, UK property tycoon Caroline Marsh. Bringing attention to the work of iROCK, Marsh said, “What iROCK does is to bring out the value and the best in young people by giving them opportunities of training, holding their hands and showing them how they can be what they ought to be. There is nothing more powerful than the power of belief.”
It was not only the guests of honour but also mentees who had a chance to speak to the guests about their journeys. Mentee Veronica Maduna said, “’iROCK!’ It feels so good to say that; it took me a while to say that and now I say it every day,” while another mentee Maihji stated, “I hope one day I will be able to pay it forward and do for another woman what iROCK has done for me,” highlighting the ethos of iROCK.
The fashion show kicked off in grandeur with the dazzling creations of Adebayo Jones who celebrated his birthday with the guests, Vienna-based Ayo Van Elmar, whose thought-provoking collection addressed the violence in Northern Nigeria and London-based Tina Lobondi whose glam eveningwear dazzled the guests.
The main course segment of the night began with inspirational poetry by mentees Belinda and Sandra, Team FAB’s Maria and poet Dumi Senda accompanied by mentee Kemi’s flawless singing. Even more inspirational was 2009 CNN Global Hero and founder of Girl Child Network Betty Makoni who reminded the guests “I was a zero before I became a hero.” Speaking of iROCK’s partnership with Girl Child Network, Betty Makoni said, “I know and I am touched by the fact that Viola and the girls are going to Africa to see girls like Betty Makoni who are not known anywhere, who are invisible, to go to a rural area and tell girls that ‘You are a hero, not a zero’. It is bigger than any food aid that is advertised on television” as she dedicated a poem to Ncube and the iROCK mentees
Other designers who showcased the diversity of African fashion were Senegalese Adama Paris with her vibrant print swimwear, Zambian Kutowa Designs’ Lozi Ndaba collection inspired by the traditional style of the Lozi Tribe of West Zambia, Tanzanian Christine Mhando’s Chichia London with light and summery designs, Nkwo with her Afro-bohemian designs, and Anita Quansah London whose handcrafted jewellery was worn by models who strutted down the runway, confident in their own skin.
The finale came in the form of a speech by the evening’s guest of honour Nigerian media mogul Ben Murray-Bruce who had flown in solely to attend the fundraiser. Addressing the potential of Africa plagued by poverty and political problems in passionate speech, Murray-Bruce urged the guests “to go back to Africa and challenge those who you voted into position to lead properly, you challenge them to make a difference to the people who gave them the right to drink that $300 bottle of champagne, you challenge them to be better people.”
The final spotlight fell on founder Viola Ncube who was welcomed to the stage by cheers of “You rock!” Speaking of the ethos of iROCK, Ncube said, “We want our young people to engage with positive role models so we can nurture a new gen of leaders; we need to change the perception of what young black men and women will end up doing in the UK and back in Africa… we must by all means encourage young people to dream it, to dare it and to do it.”
Starting with the guests of honour Ben Murray-Bruce, Betty Makoni and Caroline March, Viola then thanked the creative team, some of the biggest black names of the industry hair stylist Angela Plummer, wardrobe stylist Crystal Deroche, catwalk choreographer Julius Reuben and the lead make up artist Funmi Odegbami of Mink Make Up and George of Fantasia Productions for their work behind the scenes, the designers for their support and creative couple Suby & Sinem for mentoring the team in fashion and PR as well as friends Linda, Tari, Michael Lesly, Mutsa and many other for making iROCK possible. Last but not least Viola asked the audience to be on their feet as she presented the FABulously ROCKing mentees of iROCK
Viola’s final farewell for the night was a promise for an iROCK event in Nigeria in March 2013.
An evening of a fabulous celebration of African culture and fashion, of a much needed entrepreneurial initiative for young men and women of diversity in the UK, and of an inspirational woman came to a spectacular end with the Zulu War Dance performed by the Spirit of Africa dancers to a full house