#FashionFindsWednesday: Ulyana Sergeenko built her antique and vintage empire

From graduating in the Faculty of Philology to becoming Russia’s big deal in the fashion industry.

Ulyana Sergeenko is a Russian-based fashion designer, who has worked with many celebrities, including Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian and Natalia Vodianova.

The Ulyana Sergeenko brand was launched in Moscow in April 2011 with a first collection designed for autumn-winter 2011/12.

Her debut collection featured clingy knit tops, quilted skirts, floor-sweeping greatcoats, and enough sable to swaddle the Russian army.

Today, the designer has the Moscow-based company that has ready-to-wear women clothing, bags, jewellery and headpieces.

Sergeenko has always love fashion.

With all the love she is receiving, Sergeenko has built a fashion empire that consists of a a collection of antique and vintage clothes and accessories, ranging from the rare ancient jewellery to Soviet school uniform.

The designer frequently visits flea-markets and vintage boutiques as her way of inventing new styles, whereas all her fabrics and trimmings are bought in France, Italy and Japan.

Sergeenko collaborates with highly-skilled ateliers from Russia, along with numerous craftsmen from former Soviets republics. She did that to help them preserve their precious knowledge in the process.

In her 2018 collection called Haute Couture Spring Summer, she designed gowns with long bell-shaped skirts and puffed sleeves with vivid colours. She said that her collection was inspired by the 40s and 50s styles codes.






#TravelTuesday: Walking tours to take on South Africa

South Africa in her most natural state is filled with picturesque habitat that beckons one to spend as much time as possible outdoors. For this reason, walking tours are a hit in the major cities like Durban, Cape Town and Joburg. Try these out:

Beset Durban –  is a monthly walk founded by four friends namely Jonas Barausse, Mark Bellingan, Cameron Finnie and Dane Forman. The walk is free and takes place every four to six weeks, the aim of it is to explore the city.

Maboneng Precinct Tour –  The precinct has become a hotspot for travellers who want to experience Johannesburg at grassroots level and to find hidden treasures within the city, as well as a popular hangout spot for locals. The two-hour walk covers art, gallery visits and Kwa Mai-Mai Traditional Healers Market.


Cape Town Free Walking Tours – Those who want to explore Cape Town should try these. The organisation offers five walks daily – for free! They showcase Cape Town’s most iconic spots and are 90 minutes long. The Taste of Cape Town, Jewellery and Diamond tour, Bokaap and Historical Tour are some of the offerings.


Walking safaris in Marakele National Park – This a 2- 3 hour walk in the wild through the Kruger National Park. The guides lead the group of tourists for wildlife sitings without disturbing them.

Table Mountains Walks – This is believed to be one of the most breathtaking views in the world. Tourists gets to explore the natural beauty of the mountains and learn more about pieces of history while walking. 



Cape Town Food Tours – Tour for foodies guided on the old town centre, including a visit to the oldest restored townhouse in South Africa. The experience includes indigenous tea-tasting with rusks and of course, wine-tasting. During the Foodies on Foot walking tour, travellers get to sample the flavours of Stellenbosch, from a variety of sweet and savoury handcrafted products to a sit-down lunch.

Source: IOL


Through the eyes of African Chef

Exploring food’s soft power with chef and author Nompumelelo Mqwebu

Nompumelelo Mqwebu is an enterprising chef who has travelled the world to hone her skills. Yet her roots remain firmly planted in her homeland of Africa. She has recently released her debut cookbook, Through the Eyes of an African Chef.

Chef Mwqwebu runs Africa Meets Europe Cuisine, a skills-training and hospitality service provider, as well as the Mzansi International Culinary Festival. Before this, Nompumelelo spent 10 years training and mastering her cooking skills around South Africa and the world, including at culinary schools and kitchens in New York, London, Paris, Bremen and Shannary. She has sat on various judging panels, including judging the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Having trained at the prestigious Ballymalloe Cookery School in Ireland, Chef Mqwebu has mastered the art of making yoghurts, butters, preserves and countless more recipes and methodologies that are included in her book. We chatted to Nompumelelo about food as a powerful ingredient in human and foreign relations.

In your years of travels as a chef, have you experienced the “soft power”of food?

Yes, food transmits with it a cultural identity. When people taste your food, they appreciate and embrace your identity and culture. This bonds well in business as well as in social circles. Offering your food means opening your world. Hospitality is incomplete without food. As part of etiquette, people are catered for when they visit. There’s a certain level of respect people afford you, when you display information of who you are.

A chapter in your book is titled “Ukuhamba Kuzala Induna (My Food Travels)”- if you had the opportunity to travel to any of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), where would you go and why?

Brazil- from what I have learnt over the years about Brazil being the largest country in South America and the most diverse, it fascinates me. I would love to try their local dishes and explore the influences of their neighbouring countries, such as Venezuela and Peru. I am interested in gauging if the food I have eaten outside Brazil, which is said to be authentic Brazilian, measures up to the cooking in Brazil. Dig into their indigenous and ingredients and cooking methods to feed me into their cultural identity.

Each of the BRIC countries have a signature drink or dish – what would South Africa’s be?

South Africa is not a one-nation one-dish type of country. We have indigenous ingredients from our diverse cultures that make up this South African nation, reflected by our 11 official languages. From samp with marrow, to dovhi la mukusule, tsama melon, springbok meat with maize meal rice, ting and many more!

What do you think other nations can learn from South Africa food techniques, from growing and harvesting to preparation and preservation?

The art of preserving meat called mukoki (biltong), which has been with us for decades. It has been transformed to the rest of the world, but much of its important history if from the Khoisan hunters, VhaVenda and other South Africa peoples and has been lost along the way. Another example is umqombothi (traditional Zulu beer) – the fermentation is an age-old formula using sorghum that has entered world trends, but which has been part of our daily lives for centuries. Even looking at the “new”nose-to-tail talk – it has always been here, the relationship between Africans and animals. The skin is used rather than thrown away. The skin is used rather than thrown away. The animal is eaten from the premium cuts to tripe. Horns, hooves, tail hair – everything has its use. Food waste is something of a new phenomenon by reviving our methods of old. 

What can be done to ensure South African effectively uses food for national branding purposes?

We must take up our food identity with the national pride it deserves. We need to listen to our visitors. They do not come to our country to taste their food; they are here for our food. They need us to genuinely welcome them by opening our culinary journey in earnest, sharing who we are that reflective of our roots and our food culture. We are a diverse nation, and that should be reflected fully in our cuisine. Embrace the cultures previously left in our culinary history.

What advice would you give South African chefs who are cooking beyond the borders of our country?

Keep it real. Show pride in your roots and our identity, which is brimming with diverse cultures that are yet to explored. Remember to know where you’re going- it’s important to know your history. 




The voice of the Youth: The Future Team

The Future Team is an international community that serves as a meeting place for young people from all around the world. Future Team was an initiative by the participants of the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students of different educational and cultural backgrounds. The ideal was suggested by the young Joshua Fraser Dixon from Canada at the Festival.

The Future Team has created a platform both online and through events, where young people can discuss important topics, both global and local problems, initiating surveys for like-minded people and inspiration. The online platforms include pages and interactions on social media and also online blog systems where one can cover topics ranging from business, arts and culture, politics, education, HIV, sport and many more.

These platforms allow the young to express values and discuss these important issues.

Other initiatives by the Future Team include events, including the Web Conference in France earlier this year, the Keel Boat Program (Y2K) in Antigua and also the highlight being the Youth Economic Forum at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia, this May.

At the forum, the young participants were given the opportunity to discuss economic and political key issues including those that were discussed within the framework of the main SPIEF business program with international and Russian business leaders, including international experts and scientists. The coming events this year include the Tavrida National Youth Forum in Russia in July and the World Youth and Students Travel Conference in Scotland in September.

The Future Team gives a voice to young people around the world, the platform keeps growing and gaining more weight. To find out more visit their website at www.futureteam.world

(Ntsikelelo Kuse)

#TravelTuesday : Claim To Fame

Brazil is home to the biggest carnival in the world, and the Rio Carnival sees over 2-million people per day on the city’s streets. www.festivalsherpa.com

Russia is home to the world’s longest rail journey – the Trans-Siberian. It starts in Moscow and ends in Vladivostok, with the train crossing several time zones. In addition to the endless birch forests of Siberia, the scenery includes the Ural Mountains and Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world. Distance 5,753 miles while duration is in six days. www.telegraph.co.uk/travel

India has the largest postal network in the world with over 155, 015 post offices. A single post office on average serves a population of 7,175 people. The country is also home to the world’s only floating post office, which has been operating in Dal Lake, Srinagar since August 2011. www.india.com 

China is where toilet paper was invented, with simple but much-needed product’s origins dating back to the pre-1300s, when it was exclusively for the emperor’s use. www.factretriever.com

South Africa is home to the world’s largest bird (ostrich), largest mammal (bull elephant), smallest mammal (dwarf shrew), largest reptile (leatherback sea turtle : 1,500 pounds), largest earthworm (African giant earthworm), fastest animal (cheetah ), tallest animal (giraffe) and the largest fish (whale shark). https://everything-everywhere.com 



Brazil establishes National Pact against LGBT violence

More than one lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) person is murdered every day in Brazil because of their sexuality or gender identity. This is believed to be the highest LGBT homicide rate in the world.

According to the organisation Grupo Gay de Bahia which monitors LGBT hate crimes, there were a shocking 387 murders in 2017, an increase of 30% compared to 2016. In addition, in the city of Rio, nine people from the LGBT community have already lost their lives in the last five months.

While the country has a very high crime rate, the group says these murders were directly linked to homophobia or transphobia.

The Ministry of Human Rights in Brazil has recently established a National Pact against LGBT-POV (violence against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, and transvestites). The Pact aims to fight violence against LGBT members and prioritise respect for human dignity and diversity.

The president of the National Association of Transsexuals and Transsexuals (ANTRA), Keila Simpson said one of the key obstacles remaining is the question of budget, highlighted both by civil society and members of state.

“We cannot implement public policies in Brazil if we do not see a budget for it,” Simpson added.

Source: riotimesonline.com

India explores greener alternatives for cremation

A team of environmental engineers in Delhi, India have found a way to adapt the age-old tradition of cremation in today’s needs to protect the environment.

Their Mokshda green cremation system is said to reduce fuelwood consumption by over 60% by increasing airflow and heat intensity during the cremation process.

Anshul Garg, head of the Moksha organisation said:“It works on two principles of science. We have increased the combustion efficiency by providing proper air that is through the chimney hood so that there is a natural draft of air so when more oxygen is coming in the combustion efficiency increases and increases the heat energy. In this, the cremation process is over in two hours,”

The cremation system has been around for 15 years, it is only now that mourners are considering it, following green energy advertising as the future to stop climate change.

Dr Ravi Singh, sociologist of funerary rituals, said: “One of the most important and central ways to think about cremation is to begin to think about the dead person himself or herself participating in the ritual as a sacrifice.” 

“Wood generally is very significant. The fire is an aesthetic that is seen with a certain degree of grace. I think that this [the reluctance to adopt alternative ways of cremating] is part of a certain kind of orthopraxy that you do what you have been doing, and this is very difficult to shed in case of death rituals universally,” he explains.

Source: Al Jazeera

#LocalFindsWednesday: Gert-Johan Coetzee thinks ahead of the threads

South African fashion designer, Gert-Johan Coetzee has always been a fashion-lover. By the age of 6,  he was already taking sewing classes and dressing his pencils up in tissue paper.

GJC launched his label at 23 when he showed at SA Fashion Week in 2010. He is known for his red carpet hits, dressing the likes of Bonang Matheba, Minnie Dlamini-Jones, Pabi Moloi, Tamara Dey, Lira, Liezel van der Westhuizen, Cindy Nell and Terry Pheto.

During his second year at North West School of Design (2004), Gert won the High Fashion Award at the annual Vukani Awards ceremony.

His first commercial venture was as partner in the Diamond Face Couture label with businesswoman Uyanda Mbuli which launched in 2006. In that same year he won the SA’s Most Promising Young Designer award.

Gert is committed to developing the local fashion industry and decided to launch the GJC fashion bursary programme that includes personal mentorships and internships at his studio.

In April this year during SA Fashion Week, he showcased the golden 50th anniversary of the iconic Big Mac® burger with Big Mac® Fashion line.

Coetzee was chosen to mentor contestants, who will be competing to create clothes with different themes at a certain period, for a fashion TV series called Project Runway.


Source: safashionweek.co.za

Moving from health challenges to collaborations

[In association with BRICS Journal and the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences]

Access to affordable healthcare is a priority for all the BRICS countries. Dr Aquina Thulare looks at how BRICS is faring and how further collaboration would benefit everyone involved.

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Good health is an indispensable prerequisite for poverty reduction, sustained economic growth and socio-economic development.

Placing  health within a globalised, market-based capitalist system results in a dialectical interplay between social classes and the exact nature of whichever social force is best able to set the agenda differs from country to country. These conditions explain why differential exposure and vulnerabilities have an impact on health and wellness and how these have distinctive consequences on populations. These are the “causes of the causes” of common health challenges.

BRICS is home to 42% of the world’s population and contributes 29.5% to global GDP. Notwithstanding the general economic prosperity and improvements in demographic and epidemiological profile since 1990, profound socio-economic inequalities and public health challenges persist within BRICS countries. Over the years, the different BRICS countries have followed diverse evolutionary trajectories in improving the performance of their health systems.

Health has been placed on the BRICS agenda through the social justice, sustainable development and quality of life dimensions as a key area of development and co-operation. Moreover, BRICS ministers of health are mandated to pursue the agenda of ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being of populations in their countries by reaffirming public health financing as an essential element for socio-economic development.

They have committed to:

  • Ending epidemics of communicable diseases;
  • Prevention and relevant treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs);
  • Prevention and treatement of substance abuse;
  • Decreasing the number of injuries and deaths from road traffic accidents; and
  • Achieving universal health coverage (UHC) and high-quality healthcare systems.

BRICS would also focus on social determinants of health (SDHs) while also introducing UHC strategies that are appropriate for each country’s context. The concept of “health as a human right” and “health in all policies” pervades much of BRICS’ engagement in contributing towards better global health underpinned by several United Nations (UN) frameworks.

Written by: Dr Aquina Thulare
This is an extract of the full article Moving From Health Challenges to Collaborations, found in Issue 3 of BRICS Journal.

Tiger Balm: Not just your grandmother’s trusted pain remedy

Breaking into new markets, developing new products and enhancing packaging has ensured that the Tiger Balm brand keep its loyal following for 100 years while gaining a younger audience.

By Batandwa Malingo

“Some are fantastic ideas but we cannot just run with them because it (Tiger Balm) is medicinal, so we are very careful because we do not want to fail or to make a product which may be poisonous as that may ruin our image and we would not recover.”

Tiger Balm is one of the few items you might find at most households and the owner may turn to be obsessive over their Tiger Balm because of miraculous effect on muscle pain.

The world-renowned ointment dates back to the late 1800’s when Chinese herbalist Aw Chu Kin developed the ointment and sold it at his small medicine shop in Rangoon.

He later died in 1908, leaving the special ointment with a touch of menthol to his sons, Aw Boo Haw which means gentle tiger and Aw Boon Par, which means gentle leopard.

Like the rest of the Tiger Balm users, his sons saw the potential of the product and moved to Singapore where they developed a manufacturing firm and gave the product its name.

Executive Director for Haw Par Corporation, Ah Kuan Han was tasked with developing the Tiger Balm brand since 1991 said the company had to adapt their business model due to the changing business landscape.

“Our products had a strong menthol smell and we needed to change that to appeal to young people. We made scent adjustments. Also, you don’t want look oily or smelly at the office, people are going to ask if you are sick. Our products are now suitable to use in an office environment. Those are some of the adjustments we had to make to appeal to the younger generation,” he said.

Han said the company developed anti-mosquito products and added lavender fragrance to some to attract both males and females. He said they had to be careful with how they develop their products though, so as not to lose consumers and also not to be over-excited and make mistakes in manufacturing.

“We have our product development team internally, students are also very keen on us, they come and talk to us, so we generate new ideas. You must remember however, this is a medicine so you can’t come up with a new product that is far removed from the original product” he said.

Han said some ideas come from consumers who, according to him have bombarded their social media and website with feedback.

“Some consumers have fantastic ideas but we cannot just run with them because it is medicinal, so we are very careful because we do not want to fail or to manufacture a product which may be poisonous as that may ruin our image and we would not recover,” he said.

Tiger Balm is produced from natural ingredients and Han believes that while anyone can mix ingredients, it takes a special team to make a product that has survived for more than 100 years.

“It’s not just about the ingredients we put in, it’s how we blend them. Two people can cook with the same ingredients but the finished product would not taste the same, it’s a skill. You check how much of and when you add the next ingredient. It’s our own technique, we add high quality products and blend them in a very special way that has attracted millions of consumers across the world,” he said.

Tiger Balm products are available in more than 100 countries across the world, but this is not enough for Han as he plans to dominate the whole world with the product.

“We are trying to get into new markets so we are always looking for distributors in countries where we do not have presence. For example in South Africa e do not have a distributor anymore so it is difficult to get our products there,” he said.

Han revealed that some South Africans saw the gap and has since seized the opportunity.
“They travel from South Africa to Asia or to the Middle East and buy our products in bulks to sell them back at home, but we want to have our official distributor there (South Africa).”

Han said the group has formed an alliance with Alkem Labs Limited to market, sell and distribute Tiger Balm products in India.

“We had another distributor in India but we decided to change to Alkem because they are the 5th largest pharmaceutical company in India and the country has more than 1 billion people. We want them to access our products and we believe this company will help us achieve that,” he said.

While Han plans to take the Tiger Balm brand to countries where it is not yet available, the products did not get a warm welcome in some countries in the past due to misconceptions.

“There was a misconception that Tiger Balm contains tiger parts, when we sold the product in the UK people were saying we are terrible, we are killing tigers to make Tiger Balm, we had to deal with that. We would not be able to sell Tiger Balm for that cheap price if we used tiger parts because it would be expensive,” Han said.

Besides misconceptions, the brand has also been marred with fake products using its packaging.
“We are a registered brand in more than 150 countries in the world. There were people who made fake products and claim they are Tiger Balm. Other people used our Tiger Balm packaging on their products, we had to take legal action,” he said.

Han revealed that Haw Par Corporation Limited sells 50 million Tiger Balm ointment jars per year.
The ointment is the company’s flagship product.