The 5 Cool Girls series was inspired by my intrigue into the successes of entrepreneurial young women who boldly commit to creating and empowering others to do the same. One of my favourite blogs ever, Culpavinum (instagram link here) is another medium that achieves this same feat, through Momo and Aisha's unapologetic expression of themselves. Their blog ranks as highly as it does not only owing to their cosmopolitan style, but also for their written work, labelled Casual Critiques, which consists of intellectual outlooks on fashion and life as young transcontinentals.
Originally starting with a larger group of their friends from school, Culpavinum was borne out of comments on their eclectic styles, their interests in photography and creative undertakings. But with age, Culpavinum has evolved into a platform of a particular creative expression - in terms of style, writing and photography - which defies geographical barriers in bringing their cross-continental homes together.
Aisha and Momo claim their blog has shown them the many possibilities friendship can offer; it helped them evolve from the 11-year-old boarding school girls, who simply shared dreams, ideas, hopes and more, into Culpavinum, who now actively pursue all these things. They have used their platform to represent people who break out against traditional ideas of what you can be interested in. With their transcontinental series, they go even further to represent people who are living between two worlds, their blog acting as a fluid bridge or connection point between [their] cultures.
For Aisha, the transcontinental way of life was inherited from birth. Her mother is Kenyan and Father English, but the first place she lived was Botswana. She was brought up very aware of both British and Kenyan cultures, with regular visits to both countries, but speaking the Setwana better than she spoke either English or Swahili. From Botswana she moved to Zambia, where she went to an American international school, before finally settling in the UK. During her time in boarding and Uni, Aisha spent her long holidays first in Rawanda, then in DC and now in Ethiopia.
Momo’s transcontinental upbringing consists of living between Lagos and London, and being educated in both places. Thanks to the vivid cultures of the countries they have lived in and visited, the pair are constantly being exposed to new things and meeting new people with completely different outlooks/ways of life which inspires them, fueling their creativity.
As someone who can relate to the constant shuttling between home countries, their transcontinental series caught my attention. I was interested in how they maneuvered certain aspects of life and if things changed from one country to another. Although they appreciate that particular cultures tick in their own particular way, they stay true to themselves no matter the location. Considering the way different societies police different behavior, being able to be 100% comfortable in who you are in whichever society is particularly inspiring.
Given that their inspiring and enlightening words throughout this interview were intended to be shared on this platform, we did not fail dedicate a few questions to the topic of feminism. Firstly, I asked if they would describe themselves as feminists:
Yes we both would, we definitely see how the term has garnered a lot of press for not being nuanced enough or representing to the true meaning which is purely gender equality. I guess if we were being more technical we would say we identify as intersectional feminists but the terminology is over-stressed. What’s more important are your values and attitudes towards issues on gender equality, some of the most independent women-supporting females in my life wouldn’t want to identify as feminists, which is a shame but also doesn’t take away from the fact they truly are at heart.
Upon this affirmation Aisha and Momo then responded to this interesting fact I shared: "When women work, they invest 90 percent of their income back into their families, compared with 35 percent for men"
The statistic argues that women are considered to be vital for countries to develop, and is intended to empower and promote women within developing economies. As young women who live in countries that are on both ends of the development spectrum, Aisha and Momo were critical of this statement. Maintaining resistance against the subtlest forms of exploitation they responded saying:
Such an interesting topic because this idea of women being an “untapped resource” is so exploited by companies who lure women out of the traditional female roles of subjugation, only for them to be subjugated once more under different constraints in a factory or sweatshop conditions.
We do definitely think women are already playing a vital role in both the countries we live in, they could definitely play more of a role in the more prolific economic industries, but we’ve never grown up with any doubt women are an integral component of the economy.
Other such criticisms on the complexities of our society, which restricts our freedom, can be found on their blog. Arguing against The Fear of Fashion, Aisha and Momo insist that style is an “opportunity to express yourself daily”, an opportunity that shouldn’t be disregarded simply because you’re not a ‘fashionista’. Given the rising trend in ‘Feminist’ apparel, and the surrounding debates, I used this queue to ask their thoughts on fashion being used to express concern with social issues, specifically feminism.
I think there’s a risk of it being disengous and it being brands latching onto a buzzword or a hot topic at the time, like feminism was hot but then equally as soon as it garners bad press I don’t see the same brands who use the buzzword to then support it.
Feminism as a fashion trend is very superficial and overplayed, it’s definitely a hype jump on the bandwagon thing and brands will rarely choose a hugely outspoken controversial figure it has to be like a diluted and commercial version of feminism sometimes. That is the nature of fashion, trends, things go out of season and I feel that’s the same with themes like feminism in fashion. Unless I see a running commitment to the ideals of feminism or whatever they’re promoting in the brand I don’t buy it.
However, accepting that fashion is such a hugely influential aspect of culture, Culpavinum do believe it could be a super effective medium to express interest in social issues... it doesn’t hurt to have [fashion] use feminism in a positive light and make men and women feel like it’s an integral part of everyday life.
Fortunately, the industry is so vast that there will be genuine individuals and groups who look to use feminism and other social movements and issues, in creative media, in a positive light. We simply need to find them and promote their craft like no other. I found this genuine expression reading Culpavinum’s Casual Critique on Fashion and Diversity.
Since then I have been keenly keeping up with their blog, patiently anticipating each new update on the transcontinental series, but there was one aspect that I just couldn’t wait to know. Thank goodness for my impatience because when I asked them how being a woman has affected their life as a transcontinental they responded saying it wasn’t something that had particularly occurred to them but agreed that in moving around and travelling as a woman, you experience life in a completely different way (Momo).
I think every woman’s experience is unique, even every transcontinental woman, but I’ve (Aisha) definitely have found going between places for work is a lot more difficult if you’re a woman. The barriers, glass ceilings, and at times legal restrictions women face make it a more difficult element. Also, you see the nature of the work women are expected to do if they go abroad is extremely gender specific. It’s acceptable for a woman in lower income families for example to leave if she’s doing childcare, or cleaning, work associated with female characteristics like love and home-making, and there’s a much greater burden on women for remittances to be sent to family and extended family members than men.
From a personal perspective seeing how my mum married someone outside her nationality and has travelled outside her country ever since, the element of constantly being a foreigner wherever she is is much more acute than it is with my dad, a white man, because a male white expat somehow is less foreign than a black Kenyan woman. Especially in the corporate work world.
Alternatively, I think it was easier to make friends as a girl in new schools than it was for my brother, purely because girls do mature faster (queue the arguments) but it meant I was quicker to adapt to the new country moves than he was. In international schools this was constantly the case, the girls would be the first to assimilate into the new school culture particularly in primary school years.
Besides their above responses, Culpavinum shared with me words on a few more topics, ranging from what inspires them to their opinion on wearing bras. Just a few questions that I've wanted to ask over the course of my interest over the course of my following them.
Who inspires you?
Maya Angelou, her principles on forgiveness, learning, loving and living such a rich life are so beautiful and inspiring to me. I love watching her interviews reading her books and poetry. I would have loved to have been able to met her, someone who emanantes that kind of genuine love and joy is someone I think everyone should aspire to be. So much so that she continues to inspire me even after she’s left our world.
A film director called Alejandro Jodorowsky, I find his work so moving, imaginative and boldly different it inspires me creatively to not be shy or etc
A friend Temi Mwale who I think is a stellar example of making a difference in the sphere you’re in, her work addressing youth violence is amazing and despite the constant deaths in her community she continues to be someone positive and beautiful
Can you please tell us about your Women's Party?
It’s definitely something we want to make a lot bigger, we just invited our friends told them to bring friends because we wanted to celebrate women’s day. We love female energy and feel like we’re surrounded by such an inspirational, bold ,wonderful group of girls and wanted them to meet each other [and just] hang out. We had games and drinks to get to know one another it was a lot of fun!
How do you feel about...
Barely ever do lool
sheer tops? (bandeau, bra or birthday suit?)
if it’s dark and I think I can get away with it yeah
men wearing 'girls' clothing?
do ya thing, don’t get how a man wearing a skirt makes people so deeply unsettled, if it isn’t harming anyone else or done in a disrespectful manner there shouldn’t be an issue.
Even though there are so many more things I could have asked, this rather condensed interview proved to be incredibly enlightening. In some places, they offered new perspectives, which have broadened my scope of knowledge and thinking, and in others a comforting voice of agreement. In both cases there was a lot to learn, so thank you to Aisha and Momo from myself and my readers.
Bless you all xx