MATRIARCH MANTRAS: Natacha Umutoni

Sometimes we set out to accomplish goals that we think are for our own fulfilment and through that pursuit, we end up being used as a vessel for something greater than us. When Natacha conceived of Acacia Book Café, it was merely an idea to elevate Artists and Craftsmen and women with a space that gave their work a platform for exposure and economic empowerment. Fast forward years later, Acacia is a staple in the community– a safe house for creatives to meet, create and build together.  On a sunny morning in June, accompanied by heartfelt ballets from R&B Queens like Deborah Cox, Natacha and I vibed on dancing through life by one’s own choreography, embracing our truest version of self and understanding that the “process” is about experience rather than acquisition.

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It is my belief that every season comes with a lesson and it’s our job to listen and address them in order to advance to the next phase of our journey. The conversations we engage are a good place to start. What are you frequently bringing to conversations this season?

Authenticity- trying to be as true to myself as possible. Not letting the outside dictate the inside. Unlearning and learning through that process. I want authenticity to overflow into everything and everyone I engage with. I’m focused on that and I pray that it shows and that it’s contagious.

I read your article that asked if women could have it all and it left me wondering who defines what a woman “having it all” looks like?

That blog post was actually inspired by my friend. We were talking about how easily people fall into mediocrity and not fulfil their potential and how one of the biggest drivers of this is marriage. It really got me thinking- can I actually have it all? Can I get married and continue to do whatever it is I want without restraint? I came to the realisation that you can have it all, but not at the same time. You can fulfil your potential; you can be whoever you want to be but it has to be according to your own terms, not the world’s. It also has to be in accordance to what is possible for your reality.

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What are your thoughts about the “grind hard” culture that has been so deeply imbedded into the frame work of achieving success?

I think it’s because we feel we are in competition. Imagine if we were not in competition. You get to be, I get to be, I get to work and be happy with what I’m doing—fail and mend again until I do it right. I feel like that’s healthier than anything. Acacia serves as a living example of the idea that you can co-exist and collaborate with people. Pushing each other—and finding a way that we can work together.”

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My experience with collaboration in any facet has been that our inability to trust people’s intentions continues to get in the way of meaningful work. What is your approach to building trust in yourself and others?

Looking to people who do the work from within helps us learn how to create from within. Not only do we learn about trust through the process but we understand that we don’t have to do things one certain way.

The work you do through Acacia reminds me of the importance of constantly looking inward as a vehicle of conviction about the things we pursue for ourselves and our communities. How do we come up with solutions that serve people the way they need to be rather than the way we think is best?

Taking time to know yourself and being true to that, to know what really makes your heart beat. If you get to know what it is that you really want, you will do whatever you need to do to make it happen. It’s different from when you do something based on exterior pressures.

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On unlearning that our value is not determined by the work we do.

We give definitions so much value. It’s very hard to detach from that thinking. Instead of asking “what did you do today”, why not ask, “what did you learn today?”. Simple change in our language can shift the way we shape our value systems.

In recent times, the saying “Trust the process” has become a popular slogan that is used frequently as though a magical wand that makes everything okay, but I wonder if we take enough time to really understand what it means in practice. What is your take on trusting the “process” ?

There is so much life that goes into the experience. Often times that gets lost on us because we put so much emphasis on success rather than the process that got us there.

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People say that the hardest part about pursuing a dream is starting, but I find that it’s the follow through that challenges the spirit. What lessons have you learned through your Acacia journey?

That you don’t have to do it alone, which was very hard for me as an only child. I was so accustomed to doing things on my own and being very self-sufficient so I didn’t know how to rely on people but to make this[Acacia] happen, I had to learn to. I was constantly reminded of ‎Paulo Coelho’s saying that when we decide to pursue something, the universe conspires to make it happen for us.” The moment I decided to start the Acacia journey, doors just started opening up, till this day, I get help from people exactly when I need it. Trusting the process and not waiting for perfection are key to realising our dreams. One thing that pushes me is taking note when something doesn’t work the way I expect it to. What lessons am I being taught and how can I make sure to learn for my next experience? Even if Acacia were to close tomorrow, I have a bag of lessons that I will always carry with me. I will never be the same again and that makes it worth the while.

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