Female collaboration in the Kenyan dance industry

In a culture that thrives on drama among females, it’s no wonder little attention goes to collaborations done by women. Renee Karanja is the only person who has danced with me through several life stages: pregnancy (6-9 months) nursing and post nursing and that’s forged a lasting friendship. There’s even a choreography we did together three days before I gave birth to my last born child!

The dance scene in Kenya needs to be united, especially so among women. It’s easy to celebrate men and the mainly male dominated dance crews but when it comes to women, people tend to be more focused on ‘how much of a women they are’ or ‘what’s going on in their personal life’ which takes away from the skills of the female dancer. There needs to be a change in the narrative, and women to reach out to one another and create great works of art.

Renee and I are choreographers and performers, and just like me, Renee’s craft is not limited to dance. As a body builder, she’s gotten a lot of heat for photos she posted on her social media channels showing off her muscles. I don’t care to repeat what was said, but people can be pretty hateful.

A lot has been said about me as well, but I hope that people will deflate their egos long enough to find ways to make meaningful collaborations and place Kenya on the global dance stage now that Sakata Mashariki ended last year.

Here’s a video of our latest project.

If you’re interested in collaborating, contact Jo1 via Instagram.






Let’s talk breastfeeding…


The full picture

We always see photos of women breastfeeding on Instagram or Facebook. The woman is always looking down at her baby smiling or with an intense knowing gaze towards her infant. The woman’s body often looks toned or somewhat presentable even if the woman does not represent the typical “acceptable” body. When we observe family members or people, we know breastfeeding- it always looks easy like that’s what we are ‘supposed’ to do.

I don’t think social media would show a bloody nipple or a video when a mother has run out of milk and the baby is screaming beyond consolation. I don’t think that social media would show the utter exhaustion that a mother feels after nursing compared to before nursing. Yes, it’s natural to breastfeed if a mother chooses to do so, but the demand on the body is rarely discussed nor how to give a nursing mother more emotional and supplemental support during those times.

On being a career mum

As a dancer and fitness person one of the main challenges has been to learn to be patient with myself as I am healing and getting back into shape. Also slowing down and knowing that my first priority is to my children. This may mean taking on more clients and opportunities in order to provide for them or taking on less in order to physically and emotionally be there for them. It’s a tough balancing act that sometimes I hit and other times I miss.

Hard times during nursing and their remedies 

Nursing for me is more difficult than being pregnant. The baby pulls on my strength and energy in a way that goes beyond being pregnant.

I’ve found that diet plays a huge role in my energy and health especially when nursing.

Eating foods packed with calories that are nutritious and full of antioxidants rather than foods with empty calories. Basically any food that’s white is an empty calorie food. Also increasing the amount of moringa and baobab power that I consumed in a day and adding things like spirulina, turmeric, matcha and macca to my diet.  Taking herbs to help nourish the adrenal glands such as rhodiola during the day since the adrenal glands really get worked during and after giving birth. Eating a lot of meals and healthy snacks during the day. Not working out too much. This one is a kicker because we want to get back to our shape but over exercising will cause the milk supply to drop.

Craziest advice ever received

“Let the baby cry. It’s good for the lungs.” Babies can only communicate their needs through crying since they can’t talk. Letting a baby cry just for the sake of crying is ignoring a need that it has.

Lessons I picked up while nursing my three boys

Even if you want to nurse, the main thing is to give your children a healthy mother. Do things that cause you to be healthy in mind, body and spirit. Whether you need to see a therapist, eat your favourite chocolate (dark chocolate preferably) or stop nursing for medical reasons. Do it without guilt or judgment because the main thing is to be a mother and the best one that you can be in that moment. Period.

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My advise to a soon-to-be mum

Eat a lot and don’t apologize for it. Drink lots of water. Keep taking your prenatal vitamin while you are nursing plus fish oils or flax oils as well as the other items I’ve mentioned above.  Practice yoga and get out into the fresh air. If you can, spend an hour away from the baby everyday doing something that nourishes you whether sleeping, reading, walking or whatever.

Men, this one is for you

The best thing that you can do is to be a support. Change the diapers. Offer to take the baby on your own so that the mother can rest and refresh herself. Understand that after having a baby the hormones are all over the place and anxiety is high. Be patient with her when she snaps at you or starts crying for no apparent reason.

Buy her things like nice soaps and comfy pyjamas. Arrange for a date night without the baby and take her to the salon before the date. Ask her if she would like to go out shopping with her girlfriends to buy clothes that fit. It is so frustrating for a woman who’s just had a baby trying to find something to wear and the man says, “But you have so many clothes in the closet.” Yes she has pre-pregnancy clothes, maternity wear and sweatpants.  None of those fit her properly just after having a kid.

Tell her that she is beautiful and learn to view her new body as the body that has given you a child. With all of its marks and scars this woman has given you the most precious gift ever.

Joanne is a dancer, yogi and fitness trainer. If you are interested in being trained by her please reach out to her on Instagram.