The Zambezi design celebrates my love of Zambia and my optimistic sadness (I suspect I made this term up!) at having to say goodbye.
As with my arrival in Zambia, my husband instigated my having to leave as well! I have described his marriage proposal and my leap from London to the African bush as rather reluctant, to say the very least! How funny that 13 years later I was just us terrified and unwilling to leave again. However, my husband had found his dream career that perfectly aligned with his passions and beliefs. The move to Johannesburg allowed him to work with the extraordinary African Parks.
But I had built a purpose-driven business that I am passionate about. I have an incredible Zambian team who do amazing work... where did this move leave me and the future of Mulberry Mongoose?
An inner belief in the purpose of Mulberry Mongoose and a trust in my hard-working team allied my fears. So, we took the plunge and I put faith in what we had created, my team and my own passion and determination as well as my belief that the only real constant in life should be change. This was the optimistic part!
So, then there is the sadness part! When I moved to Zambia I had no concept of the beauty that was about to come. To live and work side by side with Zambians and to experience their culture is the greatest privilege I have experienced. The warm smiles, the incredible greetings, the humour and quickness to see the funny side of life. The generous, forgiving nature of the Zambians eroded my barriers and shaped me for the better.
Yes, there were hard times, where my English ways jarred with a people who live in the now. I still remember my time as food and beverage manager in a safari camp kitchen. My husband had advised me to give a speech to bring everyone together. Fresh from a recruitment job in London I went big and bold. Addressing the 8 chefs, I talked of the challenging recipes, number of people we could host and accolades I hoped we’d achieve. Yes life was about notches on a score card! After my valiant speech I turned to see if there were any questions. A dazed silence ensued until one of my favourite chefs took pity and asked a question; ‘Katie, can we have some new socks’. I think this moment defined many of my lessons working in Zambia - to keep life grounded, to remember what is real and to take life more lightly.
Having dealt with my emotions at having to say goodbye to Zambia, all that was left to do was express my gratitude to this country through a jewellery design. On the banks of the mighty Zambezi, where my journey to Zambia had began 13 years ago, I sketched the Zambezi collection. Colour to celebrate the beauty of the bird life on that powerful river and the joy of Zambia’s people. I brought in copper, wood and old coins, generating maximum income back into the local crafts peoples’ pocket and creating a design that carried Zambia’s uniqueness. I also wanted the design to flow with colour and power to let the wearer feel the adventure, joy and power of this magical country and this magical river.
I can only thank Zambia for its gifts and express gratitude for the memories. I may live in South Africa but I still run a business in the Zambian bush. I still have countless meetings (thanks Zoom!) with my team and spend every spare moment (much to my family’s boredom) thinking about how to keep growing this awesome business.
As I embrace new challenges in South Africa the sadness fades and the optimism about what is to come remains.
To get your very own piece of the newly launched Zambezi collection, click here.