Free Mind Sessions | Nyacomba Githu & Lindsay Obath

An invitation to free your mind


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Free Mind Sessions [EP.66]

[00:00:00] Nyacomba Githu: What would I want as I step into a space like free mind sessions? What is a free mind space? We say it allows for important conversation, how we be able to foster that kind of environment.

[00:00:11] [Ident]: [Afrika Design Ident]

[00:00:14] Adrian Jankowiak: Well, ladies, thank you so much for joining me. And it's really good to have you on here. We've been meaning to do this for quite some time. So I'd love to take some time for you to introduce yourself. Say hi.

[00:00:26] One of you though. Ok, we'll do it in order... Nyacomba, why don't you tell us about yourself?

[00:00:33] Nyacomba Githu: Okay. Thank you, Adrian. By the way, this is amazing. I feel like I'm with the colors of free minds and Nairobi design week. At some point, this was what you guys are incorporating. So thank you for having us. My name is Nyacomba Githu. Some people might know me as Jonas but yeah, Nyacomba is just fine.

[00:00:53] I am an artist. I've actually become comfortable saying I'm an artist, a creative and by profession, I'm actually a fashion designer and yeah, I like all things, textile, fabrics, but I also love dealing with humans. Currently the founder of Free Mind Sessions. So that's what we're going to dive in today.

[00:01:12] But I hope we'll also be able to talk about, perhaps even like what's happening in free minds, but also even what's happening in our individual lives that make us very excited because fashion is one of that. So people may not know that. But yeah, we'll get into it today.

[00:01:28] Adrian Jankowiak: Great. Thank you. And Lindsay, Thank you.

[00:01:31] How about you?

[00:01:32] Lindsay Obath: Well, you already said my name, but I'll say it again. I'm uh, Lindsay Obath, who is currently struggling with a cold, but trying to do my best. And I would say I am a lover of gathering because in all the work that I do work being a traditional and visual artist as well as a curator of safe spaces for important conversation.

[00:01:58] Which is where free minds came from, to be honest. Any chance I can get to have a deep, weird, quirky, silly conversation. I'm going to plug myself in there. So yeah, that's me.

[00:02:13] Adrian Jankowiak: Perfect. Great. And how did you two get to know each other then? And how did that go into founding Free Mind Sessions?

[00:02:21] Nyacomba Githu: Oh, wow. I call it the ultimate love story. Lindsay, do you want to start? Because I feel like Lindsay tells this better than I do.

[00:02:30] Lindsay Obath: Actually, no, you tell it better than I do, but I'll take the prompt and go with it. Right? So strangely enough, I do have a bit of an interesting background. Just after I left high school, I started working for a fashion agency at the time, based in Nairobi.

[00:02:47] It was called Trans Africa. And what used to happen is I used to produce fashion shows for that company, and during one Samantha Bridal show at Sarit Center, I was running around backstage trying to get people together, and one of my designers did not have a model. However, out of all the designers, Nyacomba was actually working for one fashion house at the time.

[00:03:14] And that's where we met, so I ended up having to wear another designers dress and it was a wedding gown. I'd never been on a runway in my life and they forced me to that dress. Okay, they didn't force me but I had not other option because the job needs to get done and I stumbled and tripped along the whole runway, and I remember, you know how people give me like that pity clap, like, Oh, you're doing so well, keep going.

[00:03:41] Yeah.

[00:03:42] That was my experience, and Nyacomba was number one mascot for that because it was embarrassing. And then, of course, you realize that we have a lot of mutual friends, and she had heard about me previously through other friends. It was very interesting that we met there. Now how we got to do free minds together.

[00:04:00] I'll let Nyacomba take that up now.

[00:04:03] Nyacomba Githu: Yeah, it was interesting because I had known about Lindsay for almost a year and the minute like she's introduced herself and said my name is Lindsay. I was I mean, what? Who else would be the Lindsay? You know, the energy matches the name. The personality, the everything was coming up together. And that was actually in 2013. That was 2013. And then fast forward, I'm sort of like looking for someone. I remember at the time when I was really conceptualizing what free minds is going to be about. You know, I've finished my project in fashion design. I'm thinking I want to create this thing. I used to work with another girl called Soraya who at the time we had created a pilot of what a creative night looks like.

[00:04:47] And that was now a year before now free minds like came into fruition properly. And I was like, yeah, I want to create a team of different people doing either decor, social media, event planning, hosting. And I just kind of be the, you know, you almost look at it in a branch like the other things I'm just in the center of facilitating.

[00:05:08] And somehow I was told about Lindsay being a visual artist in building things. Very good with making stuff with her hands. And I was like, perfect. Let me call her. I remember I was walking down the street, I was like, Hey, my name is Jonas. Do you remember this? You know, let's admit, I really want to talk to you about this concept I'm thinking. And Lindsay actually came in as a head of, I remember in my mind, I was like, she's head of deco.

[00:05:33] Let me tell you, when you look at our first videos, like that was Lizzie. So, 2018 officially is when like now Lindsay was the only one sort of remaining in that space. And I felt that we seemed to keep the momentum between us. And I felt it was necessary to ask her to be my co founder.

[00:05:52] Adrian Jankowiak: Brilliant. Maybe give us some insights into some of the... how you were working out what this thing was going to be and some of the bits maybe where you stumbled and realized, no, that's not it. How did that go into forming what Free Mind Sessions is?

[00:06:08] Nyacomba Githu: Yeah. Cause even the word sessions, I only had Free Mind. The backstory is that I was a fashion student in my third year of University of Nairobi.

[00:06:22] And every year when you do a project, you have to come up with, you know, a name of what you're calling your design. What's the backstory, you know, all these other intricate details about your design, silhouettes, you know, all that stuff. And the word came, actually, freemind for me came from ethereal bohemia, meaning a free spirit, you know.

[00:06:42] Someone who is just not, you know, when you talk about the ether. Almost morphs and changes and is able to sort of adapt and be entwined with different things. And I really felt that it was necessary, especially with clothing, just to feel confident, but almost put on Superhero armor in order to feel like you can actually tackle any sort of challenge that you put yourself in because the key word was most of us have put ourselves in a mental jail because of society and those sort of restrictions.

[00:07:15] And I thought that by creating this clothing line, it gave people some sort of, a way that they would feel once they step out the door, they're able to connect to that person, they're able to make that phone call, they're able to create any sort of scenario that they want. And I think now when it came past the part of like, okay, we've made clothing, we've done our project, I was really racking my brain about how am I going to make this space?

[00:07:41] Honestly, I want to feel like this all the time. And I also want to be able to allow people to feel like this authentically all the time. I remember one of the first things for me was like, what venue is going to be able to host such conversations? Because most of the time it's you know how Nairobi's culture is that guys go have a drink.

[00:08:00] It's more like with your friends and stuff like that. It's very in your comfort zone, but where in Nairobi are people going and actually talking about things that are actually quite necessary and uncomfortable. And so that's the first venue we had was Kengele's and it was so interesting because Kengele's is a sports bar and they are wondering like why are these people having such intricate and intense conversations when we're just trying to have you know how like they have their screens and everything just trying to watch the game like can these people you know but it started to make me realize people were curious about what it is we were doing and I love that.

[00:08:37] As much as we did have the first pilot that was in 9th of February 2017. It was all friends, it was all friends of friends, guys actually were warming up to the concept that this is something we can actually start doing.

[00:08:51] Adrian Jankowiak: And how did those first conversations structure themselves? How did you manage to engage people and how did you know that this was the right kind of thing to keep doing?

[00:09:03] Nyacomba Githu: I remember initially we were thinking about all we want to have a panel and people who are either like experts in these conversations, and then we'll have the audience and the audience is just to hear the panel. And it's almost like when you go in, the mic is being passed around. The second venue we had and became our home was the alchemist. At the backyard. If you're familiar there was a studio called ADA creative studios. And it was run by this guy called Matthew Swallow, or otherwise known as DJ Lasta.

[00:09:36] And he was very kind to be like, Oh, yeah, have the... we don't use much of that place because guys, you know, love to smoke their broccoli and stuff like that. And it just transformed this space. And I mean, kudos to Lindsay and the team we had at the time who really just made that place feel like you're coming to someone's sitting room, and I think over time, we realized that, you know, people are coming.

[00:10:00] They are interested in the event, but they are not having time to also like speak out. So we really had to almost reimagine as now as a customer, not the one creating it. What would I want as I step into a space like free mind sessions? What is a free mind space? We say it allows for important conversation, how we be able to foster that kind of environment. Eventually we scrapped out the whole panel and you know, talking at the audience. It's more of talking with the audience.

[00:10:32] And now if you've come to a session, you've probably had the word catalysts and those are the people who like the word even, you know, catalyzes the conversation, allows for spanners to be thrown into the works, but really just navigating the conversation with the audience because now we are really, really focusing on the audience. 99 percent of the time.

[00:10:54] Adrian Jankowiak: And Lindsay, maybe you can tell us about some of the themes that you're covering within free mind sessions, because there's a lot and also how you act as that catalyst and bringing in those decorations as well.

[00:11:07] Lindsay Obath: Right. Okay. So I'll start with the first half. Which is how we get to choose and decide what it is we talk about. To be honest, we tried to look for a formula because when you look at a lot of forums and conversation hubs and spaces usually have a method to the madness. And we realized when we had first started off, you were just kind of picking and choosing. We didn't really have any structure like we do now, which I guess was fun for like the initial phase of what it's that we do.

[00:11:42] But of course, you know, we can't have two creatives or a bunch of creatives trying to do something and not find some kind of structure 'cause everything will just go crazy. You know, we some kind structure to the ball going. So when things kind of started settling in for us. We kind of had like an audit of the group and just figured out, okay, so what is it exactly that we're doing?

[00:12:06] And we realized even when we tell our story or we try and push for certain conversations to have like it's groups of people coming, we realize we have to center it around four specific pillars. And now, as opposed to just throwing in a topic every day, we have four pillars that guide us, which is our social pillar, where now that includes conversation around everything to do with what's happening in society from a social aspect. So things like failure, mental health you know, highlighting queer communities as well. Things like leadership and looking at elections and all kinds of things like adulting and more nuanced conversation. Then we added another pillar, which was our creative pillar.

[00:12:55] Where we get to speak about the creative industry and what's happening within it. Fun fact about the people that generally come to a free mind session is when you look at our demographic generally, and maybe this is this could be a global trend. It could just be what happens naturally but a lot of creatives don't shy away from having open and honest conversations.

[00:13:20] I think it begs and complements the idea of what a creative person is. You know, you're trying to start conversations, trying to highlight the conversation with the work that you do. So it's only natural that a majority of the guys coming to Freeman Sessions are creative, so I dedicate the whole pillar to I guess the creatives industry and speaking about all different aspects of what it means to be a creative.

[00:13:45] Then we had a third pillar, which is a business. Call it our biashara pillar. And we just talk about money because people. Honestly, don't like talk about money... could be an African thing. The cultural setting when it comes to money, a lot of us growing up were taught to never ask about money.

[00:14:05] Or talk about money in that way. It's more, you know, if you want money, ask for it, but Don't try asking about, like, how, where, when, and why, you know, so we realized creating a whole culture where there's a stigma and a fear around openly talking about money, and we need that, especially considering the fact that our demographic is massively creative and within creative spaces. It's not often there's a structure to what to do with money or how to make your creative endeavor or your projects profitable. So we realized that was a gap that we needed to bridge and then we introduced this alternative pillar called bridging the gap, where we look at a specific industry and we get key people at different levels of this industry, especially when it comes to careers.

[00:14:55] So, for example, we had one of our sessions within this pillar had lawyers who own their law firms, and then it had lecturers, it had university students, and then it had people who are well wishers and were looking to get into the legal industry, as well as people who are now also working and I've just finished their law degree and put them all in one room and we asked them why is the industry set up the way it is and what can we do to address certain things that need growth that need development.

[00:15:28] So it became like an incubator for auditing an industry as a whole and getting people at different levels to come together. It doesn't happen. All that happens is people get on their devices and they complain and they tweet and then it becomes, you know, an internet wall every so often.

[00:15:45] So that's pretty much how we get to figuring out what it is and how we decide on our topics. Now, the second part of your question. I have completely forgotten.

[00:15:58] Adrian Jankowiak: Yep. I'm not surprised. I was asking about how you catalyze right? And especially now you've talked about creatives and a large part of people who come are creatives, but also not necessarily.

[00:16:10] And sometimes people tend to be shy. So what are some examples of how you're unlocking and catalyzing, especially when people are maybe being shy in a group? What's some of that secret sauce?

[00:16:23] Lindsay Obath: Right. So the average Kenyan does not enjoy public speaking at all. I'm pretty sure even with Nairobi Design Week when it comes to making presentations, we've come across some creatives that just shrink at the thought of like speaking publicly. But it's not just a creative thing.

[00:16:39] It's a Kenyan thing, which is a shame. So when we started we actually had an open forum setting. And what needs to happen is three or four people who would, you know, they kind of like the attention. They're like everyone listening to their opinions and whatnot. They'd end up stealing the show and the average Kenyan will be very happy to sit back and just watch the show happening with these four people going back and forth.

[00:17:04] And you realize it takes away from the experience of what it is that we actually want to achieve. So what we decided to do was just split people up and have it become a group focused experience where we break people off into smaller groups, and we give guys icebreakers and important talking points to just keep the conversation going because you realize once people feel safe.

[00:17:28] That's something that we value a lot. How people feel when they come to our session. Then that's when they'll open up. That's when the conversations get juicy and having the different catalysts there, which are our quote unquote experts or people who have insights and an interesting perspective on what it is that we're talking about now just plot them in those groups so that they can keep the conversation going.

[00:17:54] It becomes safe. It becomes cozy. And it also allows us to reach that objective where the important conversation is being had by everyone.

[00:18:02] Adrian Jankowiak: What are some of those topics that either proved challenging or actually unlocked more than you could even hope for? That you weren't so sure about it even, but you found that actually it was a real success.

[00:18:14] Lindsay Obath: Mmmmmmmmm.

[00:18:16] Nyacomba Githu: That is so interesting.

[00:18:18] Lindsay Obath: We, I think that we have different...

[00:18:20] Adrian Jankowiak: I'll hear both of them then, who's going first?

[00:18:22] Nyacomba Githu: Yeah, that's so funny. I'm actually like, we could have different opinions on this, I think, based on what we expected. So I think when I think about, especially the first year, we were very shy of putting like the word like sex on a poster. We felt like it was going to be like, people will feel like what is going on.

[00:18:43] But turns out it was like what people want to talk about. Of course, people want to talk about sex. And I think that that one really surprised me because at the time I was feeling like this feels really taking a leap of faith.

[00:18:54] Another one that really surprised me was when we had our failure. I was just honestly surprised about how people were just open to speaking about it. First of all, I thought nobody will show up. Let's even just begin there. You see a poster like that. You're like, huh?

[00:19:10] And I think then the other one must have been... how to adult, or we call it the adulting session. That one just blew us off the park. I just sometimes look back and I'm like, what was that all about? I mean, we were in Kesh Kesh. If you remember, Kesh Kesh was this really small cafe and we had people spilling onto the outside and just very, very, very much engaged in that conversation.

[00:19:35] Those are my top three, the sex, the failure and how to adult.

[00:19:40] Lindsay Obath: Mine are very interesting. I'll categorize them. In terms of numbers, our adulting 1 definitely surprised me because that's been our biggest capacity yet. However, in terms of the people's openness to the conversation, I'd say a couple of years ago during February, which is the month of love, we decided to host several sessions about divorce and separation one on unconventional relationships as well.

[00:20:09] So that was like a whole series over a month. So a session every week for that month. And I was very shocked at people coming with their parents. Especially talk about separation and divorce because it's not often considering living in a society at least then I think now, it's kind of shifting, but I feel like at the time knowing how society looked at separation and divorce was very hush hush. No one really speaks about it, you can know, but it's more gossip.

[00:20:39] But I was very shocked people showed up with their parents for that conversation because then one of the other conversations we had that month was blended families. So, people coming in with, you know, half brothers, talking about how the separation and divorce led to a blended family.

[00:20:56] You know, just talking about the dynamics of that. I think that was really special. So that really shocked me that people are actually in a space to openly discuss these things.

[00:21:06] Adrian Jankowiak: Thank you for that. Really. Yeah. Really cool as well. How you've chosen in particular months to focus on a particular topic. And also, I know you've been doing other things as well beyond the scheduled sessions. Maybe we can touch on some of the other things, the masterclasses you've been doing and some of the other free mind services that you're doing.

[00:21:29] Nyacomba Githu: I love that word because it sounds almost like we're in the service industry. Isn't it? So... the master classes.... Honestly, it's lovely. It shows to testament of like what we are doing because when you reach a place where you're asking yourself, like, how are we going to be able to pivot. Like, how are we going to be able to either scale like whatever? I think the podcast was something, you know, when we started the podcast, of course, we were like, we want to figure out a way to extend these sessions to figure out how to, you know, four hours goes by so quickly.

[00:22:04] I mean, by the time you know, it's we're wrapping up, you know, and I've always been just saying, how can we be able to continue to have these conversations? Like beyond the iceburg. You know, of course the podcast happened, but then of course now with masterclasses, you know, I think our first ever mass class was with creative garage.

[00:22:21] And then now it's three years later, it was now, you know, Hustle Sasa. I mean, it's like full circle because, I mean, we spent a whole year in Alchemist. You know, like, so now to kind of like now be partnering with them. And then it's also cool to see people are interested in wanting to speak about mental health.

[00:22:42] It's not so I wouldn't say it's not taboo, but it's still, I mean, we still have a long way to go, but I like that people are taking time to realize like internally in here in your hearts but we've kept it also very in tune with what people need to understand about that, especially if it's your first time, but I think the cool thing is, realizing we can expand like our sessions are quite intimate, you know, at most 30 to 40 people. And now we have people joining in for almost like class of 300 people.

[00:23:13] And now it just starts to expand on that impact. And it's not just Nairobi. Also, that's another thing. I think the masterclasses have a way to expand us and our community that questions like, Oh, are you only based in Nairobi? When are you going to have a session in Nanyuki or Mombasa, you know, like that's now making us excited that we can actually start to have these conversations in other places.

[00:23:37] So that has been very, very exciting. And the partner Hustle Sasa, you know, if you've used their platform before, they are so keen on wanting guys to hone on their craft, but it's really up to you about showing up for those classes and wanting to push your products properly. So that's been very, very exciting and learning so much about your products as much as you're the one bringing in, you know, as much as people are coming to listen to you.

[00:24:04] I always go back and say, no, I also want to see how much this is interacting in your life post our classes. So that's also exciting.

[00:24:14] Adrian Jankowiak: That's really interesting to hear, actually. Yeah, now following up with some of the people and getting feedback on how it's impacted them. That's really important for sure.

[00:24:24] Nyacomba Githu: And also there's the flip side of sometimes people had an expectation that we are tackling the, you know, textbook versions of what it means to have mental health issues. What it means to be in a space that mental health is now being talked about. And sometimes people think you're a complete expert, which is not the case.

[00:24:42] Lindsay Obath: So, definitely, I think what I say has been a great byproduct of our physical sessions has been hosting conversations and holding spaces for people outside of the spaces that we have just curated. Right? Just having our podcast alone created a really good opportunity for people to look at some of the people that we are.

[00:25:05] So things like our podcast for me are a highlight because it really gets to centralize the conversation around how a lot of the topics that we do talk about are now in a human experience, right? So, we're personifying the conversation or personifying what's going on.

[00:25:26] We're personifying the shared experience that we're trying to curate for everyone in the room, but now having it becoming an audio experience and letting people also go through that conversation with the person just as we are. So I'd say that's definitely something that I enjoy about our breakout activities.

[00:25:46] The masterclasses have been great. But I think in a way they can also be a bit limiting because depending on who you're collaborating with, there is a specific goal. Certain collaborations can be quite limiting because there's a shared goal and Freemind is for lack of a better word, almost an all encompassing space.

[00:26:05] So, we end up having to limit our conversations and our spaces to just that when it comes to collaborations. Not necessarily a bad thing. If anything, it allows us to just focus and narrow in on one thing, which is great, to be honest. But, at the same time, I do enjoy a lot of our other extensions that we've created.

[00:26:26] Adrian Jankowiak: Nice. Great. And what's next then for free mind sessions going forward? You've been playing around with different ideas and experimenting and hopefully that will keep going forward. And hopefully we'll keep seeing and experiencing more live sessions. And what else is going forward?

[00:26:45] Nyacomba Githu: I mean, it could be more of the same, but I think we're also trying to figure out, you know, sometimes you almost have to ask yourself, like, are we giving the community so much that they are not sure what to do with it like topic wise or things like that information. So you almost have to sit back and ask yourself, like.

[00:27:05] What do people really want? And sometimes asking that question can be like, you know, sometimes it's either like you have a very good product and people enjoy it. So they continue in that format or we have been continued with the dictator. And I feel like it will always be the hybrid of that.

[00:27:21] Of course, the dream is always to make something tangible. And I've always said this would be great to have some sort of, you know, tangible product that guys are actually enjoying in the comfort, whether it's home or something to travel as a gift, something to continue fostering that stay free-minded philosophy.

[00:27:39] Lindsay Obath: We are getting into spaces where we want to collaborate with different programs and initiatives and plug in to the kind of impact that they're going to create, because a lot of impact happens when a conversation is out there and that's where we want to plug in. How can we curate spaces for those important conversations to happen?

[00:27:58] And, you know, with our masterclasses. We're doing that already and we're looking forward to collaborating and curating more spaces like this and, you know, even just being the go to people to curate those spaces for different organizations, different groups, different collectives different I guess change makers just around because forever when it comes to Free Minds, the conversation is the most important part. It's everything. It's what we do.

[00:28:27] So the future for us looks like hell of a lot more conversation that we'll be facilitating, but hopefully in even a broader and wider reach for sure.

[00:28:40] Adrian Jankowiak: So one question that... you may have heard it before from me. We like to use it as an icebreaker, but seeing as we know each other so well, we've left it till last because we can keep people hanging on for curiosity. What do your names mean? Is there a reason or a meaning behind each of your names?

[00:28:58] Nyacomba Githu: Oh, this is it. I want Lindsey to begin.

[00:29:04] Lindsay Obath: Right. So, Mine is very simple. Mine is very, very simple. So, I am named Lindsay after my godmother. My godmother happened to be one of my mom's closest friend at the time that she gave birth to me, and she liked the name. However, I have three other names. There is Adhiambo. Interestingly Adhiambo is... because I am a Luo woman. Well, not fully, but mostly. So Adhiambo actually means born after sunset and I'm almost certain I was not born after sunset, but there's a certain way people are named in Luo culture. It follows a specific system, but I think cause my eldest sister has Akinyi, which is usually given to the first born, I believe. And then my other sister has a Kikuyu name. So that just messed up everything. And then now I think I was named after my grandmother, just so that I can have a name. And then there's Dawn. Why I'm called Dawn, I do not know. Unless I ask my mother. She's right here. I can ask her, but I won't. I have no idea why I'm called Dawn. But I like the name. It's interesting. If someone really wants to catch me off guard, they'll call me Dawn and I'll be like, who the hell do you think you're talking to?

[00:30:19] But it's still a good surprise nonetheless. And then of course Obath is family name, but I will say it's very unique because there's only one Obath family, like, in the world that exists. There's no other family that has our name which I find quite cool because we know everyone that dates back.

[00:30:41] It's not a common name at all. It's just the one, one of one, just that kind. So it's pretty cool.

[00:30:47] Adrian Jankowiak: Dawn comes after sunset, right? So maybe we're narrowing down.

[00:30:51] Lindsay Obath: You know.

[00:30:54] To be honest, I wouldn't be shocked if that was actually you know the case, but I'm not going to give them that much credit because when you've lost that much blood and you're confused and they ask you to sign the birth certificate, anything can happen. Anything can happen.

[00:31:12] Nyacomba Githu: Ah, you know what's so funny? If you search Dawn it comes up as a album. I think there's an album named after you.

[00:31:21] Lindsay Obath: There's a lot. There's a lot.

[00:31:24] Nyacomba Githu: Yeah. Oh, so that's so cool. Okay, so I guess for me it's simple. My name is Nyacomba Githu. Nyacomba, I'm the first born girl. So I was named after my grandmother who was called Abigail Nyacomba.

[00:31:39] Thank God I did not get that name, Abigail. I always say it's so funny, I wouldn't have been called. But Niasomba, the way I was explained to by my dad was two things. In Kikuyu culture, they used to call the... Because at the time when my grandmother was being born, in like, she was born in 1920, and it was the height of you know, white settlers coming into Kenya.

[00:32:02] At this time, everybody's trying to have a code name for these guys who are infiltrating the country. So, the Kikuyus, they would say Chomba. So, in Chomba, if you ever hear someone saying, oh, Chomba, it's because they are light skinned. No, they are calling the white people but anyone who has that name, they were sort of given that because now my grandma, when she was born, apparently she was completely white.

[00:32:23] And guys were looking at her like, are you sure this is, you know, the, of course, I can't for the life of me. It's so sad that I have African names and I cannot speak Kikuyu. But now they will be like Yeah, this is Chomba, and because she's a girl, and in Bantu culture, Nya, Nyacomba. That's how my grandmother got that name, and that's how I ended up getting that name.

[00:32:44] And then Githu is because the Githu household, or the Githu clan is given to every man. Well, yeah, that's probably how they name it. So I'm from the Githu household and that's how I ended up being called Nyacomba Githu. But then other people know me as Jonas. There was a time in my life that I was really in my very intense tomboy phase, but I also really, really enjoyed the Jonas Brothers. I know it sounds so cliche, but there was just a time I was just fascinated by it. And I was like, yeah, I mean, you know, people don't know how to say the name Nyacomba. And now it just became one of those things that I'm just like, I like this band.

[00:33:25] I feel like cool. I feel like I resonate with them, their music. I'm also feeling like, you know, I could be in this boyish phase. So yeah, it's just kind of stuck.

[00:33:35] And then, you know, one of those things where I just find it cute that when people who still call me Jonas, it's like you take me back to like you really met me at that time that I was just also in a self discovery of myself. But now, when I remember the reason I stuck to introducing now myself as Nyacomba is the beginning of Free Minds because I knew I was going to be meeting a whole different, you know, a whole different group of people. So, don't be surprised if you hear someone being like, who is Jonas?

[00:34:05] I'm like, it's the same person. It's definitely the same person. But yeah.

[00:34:13] Adrian Jankowiak: That's cool. Yep. Many people know you by many different names. Have you got other things you'd like to share any story or any question for me or for the audience,

[00:34:23] Lindsay Obath: I have a question for you, Adrian. What is the meaning of your name?

[00:34:27] Adrian Jankowiak: Ah, I wish it was so exciting. Um, i, so I think the reason behind my name is more interesting, or maybe the story behind my name is, is more interesting than the meaning. Because I think Adrian, I mean, I've looked at this before. It comes obviously from like Italian and Greek, Hadrian, or Andrea, I think in Greek.

[00:34:52] I've forgotten the meaning. I think we can give it a quick Google because it's been a while. Jankowiak, I think the owiak at the end, that means somewhere down the line, son of. So son of Jan, which is the least original Polish name. But my surname's not that common, not that uncommon.

[00:35:11] Well, I've been told, my dad one day got home drunk when my mom was pregnant, and he said, if it's a boy, it's gonna be Ignaz. Ignaz, like, Ignacio, yeah, and until I was born, that was my name. There are letters from like my grandmother to my mother, and me with her little Ignaz, after I was born.

[00:35:34] And then something came over them, fortunately, unfortunately. That made them change to Adrian, which was not very common in Poland at that time. Now we laugh that when you hear the name and you look around the playground, you can see lots of heads coming up when someone shouts Adrian, so it's become much more common, but I'm happy with it now.

[00:35:56] Contrary to when I was younger, because now I realize wherever I travel, people pronounce my name differently, whether it's in France or Brazil. So very, very cool. I like it. Yeah, it can do.

[00:36:11] Nyacomba Githu: Wow. That is

[00:36:12] Lindsay Obath: Love it.

[00:36:15] Adrian Jankowiak: Nice.

[00:36:16] Nyacomba Githu: What was I gonna ask? You know, it wasn't even just to ask you. It was just to fun fact because I've realized I forgot to say this at the beginning is that as much as I've worked with Nairobi Design Week, I've worked in Nairobi Design Week as two different people. So it's interesting to note that because I first met you when we did the first Nairobi Design Week together, but I was working in a different company.

[00:36:38] Yeah. And it's so interesting that the evolvement, you know, from being in Village Market, having a stand. You know, Design DXD and then, you know, just the way things have transitioned into, you know, even the fact it was We Design Repeat and then nights Nairobi design, you know, it's also interesting to note that, yeah, I've been in this space like as two different people at some point. And things have really, really evolved. So that's great. That's very amazing to see.

[00:37:13] And there's a possibility and I want to just say that's going to be the Christmas surprise. So stay tuned for that. But as always, We have the last one, the last Thursday of this month. So yeah, stay tuned for our next session.

[00:37:27] Adrian Jankowiak: Great. Thank you. Thank you. All right. Nice. And what do you always say at the end of the sessions?

[00:37:34] Nyacomba Githu: Yeah. So until next time, stay free minded!

[00:37:43] Adrian Jankowiak: Stay free minded. Love it. Thank you. We will catch you soon.

[00:37:47] Lindsay Obath: All right. You're welcome.

[00:37:48] Nyacomba Githu: Thank you so much. Catch you soon.

We engage with the visionaries behind Free Mind Sessions, a safe space for individuals to converge, exchange opinions, and share experiences in the pursuit of enlightenment. Our guests include Nyacomba Githu, the founder, and Lindsay Obath, the co-founder. They walk us through the evolution of their creative journey, culminating in the establishment of these inclusive spaces.

Both creatives, Nyacomba, a fashion illustrator and textile designer, and Lindsay, an artist, aspire to serve as facilitators, providing a platform for Kenyans to connect beyond their immediate circles, breaking free from the confines of family, WhatsApp groups, and the echo chambers of social media.

In essence this podcast episode is an invitation to free your mind! This is the 36st episode under the ‘Shifting Narratives’ program supported by the British Council SSA Arts

Episode Credits

Produced by Nairobi Design

HostAdrian Jankowiak

Producer, Shorts & Artwork: David King'ori

Music: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)