Nia was born in the tropical city of Luanda, Angola, during the civil war. She has lived in Portugal and Wales, and shares her stories of identity and slow living on her super popular Instagram account she.is.awake. We chat with Nia about creating meaning through her relationship to consumption, while she styles our Davis Slip in her home of Cardiff.
Can you tell us about your childhood?
I have many memories of Angola: the beach that was near my house, the afternoons at my grandmother's house, the cousins, uncles, friends, smells and unforgettable flavours. The little time that I lived in my native land has always helped me maintain my humility in every step I take and to dream higher, respecting everyone around me.
I was born in 1994 during the civil war. Successive decades of military conflict in Angola have caused not only substantial losses in physical capital (we’ve lost equipment, infrastructure, housing) and human capital but have also impacted the lives of most Angolans.
My grandfather died very young because he stepped on a landmine on his way between Luanda and Malanje my uncle, who was just a child at the time watched the whole thing and he couldn’t find peace and overcome this trauma. After 35 years of a life of addictions, he passed away with cancer.
My grandmother had to take care of six children by herself with serious difficulties with accessing health and education. My sisters and I are the first generation to finish higher education (I have a bachelor degree in Urban Planning and currently studying a Master in Project Management).
You talk in your posts about changing your relationship to food. Why do you feel that is something important to share with women?
As soon as I lost some weight the people around me wanted to know more about my diet and routine. The more weight I lost, the more people became interested in changing their eating habits, so I thought I should create a meeting place to share my healthy lifestyle with everyone.
Someone once said that beauty is the preoccupation of all of humanity, but we have turned this into something damaging. The focus on weight and beauty has a negative impact on women’s self-image when they are constantly concerned with their bodies.
When it comes to losing weight and staying healthy the fastest solution will rarely be sustainable. I believe it is important to share that it is possible to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight with good eating habits without buying into drastic methods.
If the solution was just to keep your mouth shut and not eat as much, as many people believe, most people would be lean. But there are other factors that influence the process. One of these factors is your emotions, a real time bomb when it comes to controlling food.
How does this link with ethical and sustainable fashion?
I want to live a life that challenges the culture of speed, excess and quantity over quality.
With the weight loss and the change in my diet, I felt the need to slow down and live in a balanced rhythm that is good for my body and good for my mind (health), good for relationships, societies and communities (personal development; social and local), and for the planet (environment, sustainability).
It is a question of allocating better quality time for ourselves, for our family and our friends – but also widening the scope to include the wellbeing of others – through solidarity, humanitarian and social action. I think this approach fosters the logic of sustainable development. We must live at the right pace for personal, social, community and environmental well-being and development.
What drew you to The Fabric Social?
I believe that my grandfather would greatly value your social objective to help those in conflict and post-conflict, as he saw his life turned upside down by the civil war.
I also believe that fighting poverty and its deep roots is a terribly complex problem with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. What is clear is that any solution to poverty requires ongoing income generation, and The Fabric Social is creating this ongoing support through its opportunities for women.
Stefanie is Editor of The Fabric Social Journal. The Fabric Social works with conflict-affected women in Myanmar and Northeast India to create clothes that look good and do great. Shop the styles, donate or get involved.