Earlier this year, Mallence Bart-Williams spoke at a TEDx conference, a global non-profit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.
In her speech, Mallence eloquently discusses the riches of what she calls the richest country in the world – Sierra Leone. She asks some very pertinent questions and talks about the imbalance given that the western world relies on Africa’s wealth since Africa has the gold reserves, yet their currency has no value in comparison to others. Meanwhile, organizations like Oxfam, UNICEF and the Red Cross insist on spending huge amounts of money to create PR campaigns that paint Africa out to be poor and dying and surviving on the mercy of the West. They give with one hand under the flashing lights of cameras and then take back with the other hand when no one is watching. She quotes Jacques Chirac:
We have to be honest and acknowledge that a big part of the money in our banks comes precisely from the exploitation of the African content. Without Africa France will slide down in the rent of a third world power.
Mallence, who is German born, left her home there to move to Sierra Leone, where her father grew up. Once in the country’s capital, Freetown, she met and befriended a group of twenty young men known as the “Lion Base” crew, named after the slums — frequently described as no more than a gutter — in which they lived. Against all odds, and with the support of Bart-Williams, the crew pulled away from the crime and violence that surrounded them in Lion Base and became a creative collective known as FOLORUNSHO, making artisan textiles and accessories that have caught the eye of designers and brands like German streetwear brand K1x, who teamed up with the collective on a line of sneakers sold at Paris’ Colette.
This is a must see!