The first fundraiser event organised by UK-based social enterprise iROCK! UK, Tribes of Africa, proved a fashionable affair to remember. Bringing together 9 designers from the Continent, entertainment from Spirit of Africa dancers and iROCK mentees and 200 guests in the grand hall of the prestigious Grange Tower Bridge Hotel on Saturday 26 May 2012, Tribes of Africa celebrated not only the diversity of African fashion and some its finest names but also the work of iROCK in empowering the new generation.

With iROCK mentee Charlene Mukuzvazva as the hostess for the evening, the show kicked off with a spectacular performance by Spirit of Africa dancers followed by a speech by friend and supporter of iROCK, UK property tycoon Caroline Marsh who voiced the opinion of many in the room when she congratulated the founder of iROCK Viola Ncube for an amazing night. Marsh also brought attention to the work of iROCK  with these words, “What iROCK does is to bring out the value and the best in young people by giving them opportunities of training, holding their hands and showing them how they can be what they ought to be. There is nothing more powerful than the power of belief.”

Tribes of Africa compere and iROCK mentee Charlene Mukuzvazva

Next up it was mentee Veronica Maduna who shared her journey with the guests “’iROCK!’ It feels so good to say that; it took me a while to say that and now I say it every day,” and thanked Ncube for being “a mentor, a sister, and a good friend.”

As the guests settled down to enjoy a 4-course meal and African beats provided by DJ Mutsa Mandizha, they were treated to copies of New African Woman and FAB Magazine and ladies to earrings generously sponsored by Saphani Accessories.

Veronica shares her journey

The fashion show kicked off in grandeur with the dazzling creations of Adebayo Jones. Coincidentally, celebrating his birthday with iROCK on the day, Adebayo was greeted on stage with guests singing ‘Happy Birthday.’ Vienna-based Ayo van Elmar, whose thought-provoking collection addressed the violence in Northern Nigeria and London-based Tina Lobondi whose glam evening wear dazzled the guests.

Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo welcomes Adebayo Jones on to the stage

Adebayo Jones

Adebayo Jones

Tina Lobondi

Tina Lobondi

Ayo van Elmar

Ayo van Elmar

The main course segment of the night began with inspirational poetry by mentees Belinda and Sandra, Team FAB’s Maria and poet Dumi Senda  accompanied by mentee Kemi’s flawless singing. Even more inspirational was 2009 CNN Global Hero and founder of Girl Child Network  Betty Makoni who reminded the guests “I was a zero before I became a hero.” Speaking of iROCK’s partnership with Girl Child Network, Betty Makoni said, “I know and I am touched by the fact that Viola and the girls are going to Africa to see girls like Betty Makoni who are not known anywhere, who are invisible, to go to a rural area and tell girls that ‘You are a hero, not a zero’. It is bigger than any food aid that is advertised on television” as she dedicated a poem to Ncube and the iROCK mentees.

Mentee Belinda performing a poem

iROCK mentee Kemi rocking out

Poet Dumi Senda performing a poem

2009 CNN Hero Betty Makoni

Fashion was once again in the spotlight with the vibrant print swimwear by Adama Paris, Lozi Ndaba collection – inspired by the traditional style of the Lozi Tribe of West Zambia – by Kotuwa Designs and the light and summery designs of Chichia London by the Tanzanian designer Christine Mhando.

Adama Paris

Adama Paris

Kutowa Designs

Kutowa Designs

Chichia London

Chichia London

It was another mentee, Maihji who opened the final segment of the show by sharing her journey with the guests. “I hope one day I will be able to pay it forward and do for another woman what iROCK has done for me,” said Maihji once again highlighting the iROCK ethos.

Nkwo

Nkwo

Following the Afro-bohemian pieces of London-based Nigerian designer Nkwo, it was the mentees’s turn to grace the runway in VIP Designs made for real women by Zimbabwean designer Edith Maromo and last but not the least was Anitah Quansah London whose breathtaking handcrafted jewellery was worn by models who strutted down the runway, confident in their own skin.

iROCK mentee Sandra rocks the runway in VIP Designs

iROCK mentee Alice in VIP Designs

Anita Quansah

Anita Quansah

The finale came in the form of a speech by the evening’s guest of honour Nigerian media mogul Ben Murray-Bruce who had flown in solely to attend the fundraiser. Addressing the potential of Africa plagued by poverty and political problems in passionate speech, Murray-Bruce urged the guests “to go back to Africa and challenge those who you voted into position to lead properly, you challenge them to make a difference to the people who gave them the right to drink that $300 bottle of champagne, you challenge them to be better people.”

Ben Murray-Bruce

The final spotlight fell on founder Viola Ncube who was welcomed to the stage by cheers of “You rock!” Speaking of the ethos of iROCK, Ncube said, “We want our young people to engage with positive role models so we can nurture a new gen of leaders; we need to change the perception of what young black men and women will end up doing in the UK and back in Africa… we must by all means encourage young people to dream it, to dare it and to do it.”

Viola Ncube thanking Funmi Odegbami, Crystal Deroche, Angela Plummer and Julius Reuben

Starting with the guests of honour Ben Murray-Bruce, Betty Makoni and Caroline March, Viola then thanked the creative team, some of the biggest black names of the industry hair stylist Angela Plummer, wardrobe stylist Crystal Deroche, catwalk choreographer Julius Reuben and the lead make up artist Funmi Odegbami of Mink Make Up and George of Fantasia Productions for their work behind the scenes, the designers for their support and creative couple Suby & Sinem for mentoring the team in fashion and PR as well as friends Linda, Tari, Michael Lesly, Mutsa and many other for making iROCK possible. Last but not least Viola asked the audience to be on their feet as she presented the FABulously ROCKing mentees of iROCK.

Viola thanking the mentees

Viola’s final farewell for the night was a promise for an iROCK event in Nigeria in March 2013.

An evening of a fabulous celebration of African culture and fashion, of a much needed entrepreneurial initiative for young men and women of diversity in the UK, and of an inspirational woman came to a spectacular end with the Zulu War Dance performed by the Spirit of Africa dancers to a full house.

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