Introducing Esimbi!

By Rose Miyonga

If you’re a regular here, you’ll know how much we both love t-shirts, and the powerful use of the slogan! Rose Miyonga chatted with Congolese fashion designer Tina Lobondi to talk about the story behind her Esimbi T Shirts.


1. When and where did ESIMBI begin? 

We organised the launch of ESIMBI in October 2015 at the venue Mallett in London Mayfair. I wanted to present the apprenticeship program but also introduce our partnership with local charities and schools to create awareness on the current educational  situation in Congo.

The event, which had a theme of Celebrating the future generation of Congo, was a great success with over 150 people in attendance, celebrities, high-net worth individuals and corporate businesses. Live DJ, Fashion show, Canapes, drinks and gifts from our sponsors were the delights of the evening.

2. What is your mission? 

ESIMBI is an initiative to promote the arts, fashion and culture of Congolese origin as well as promote education, apprenticeships and work for individuals of Congolese descent in both the UK and Congo, Kinshasa. 

3. Who or what inspires you? 

I am inspired by a few people and historical figures such as Kimpa Vita and Patrice Lumumba, the youth and being surrounded by strong women with incredible stories. They motivate me to do better in anything I undertake by creating opportunities for the youth.

4. Where does the name ESIMBI come from? 

ESIMBI means “it works” in Lingala, a language spoken in Congo.

I chose this name because I believe that this program has to work. It will benefit the whole nation to improve our education system.

5. Why are fashion and the arts important to you? 

Fashion and arts have always been my way of communicating my creativity. I used to write short stories, draw garments and take part in a lot of activities such as dancing. I grew up in a village where there was not much to do so I had to keep myself busy and learning new things was essential to me.

T&K in Garden 8006. What  projects are on the horizon? 

ESIMBI will be hosting in partnership with the university ISAM and Congo Fashion Institute, a conference about the different roles in the fashion industry on 17th October to an audience of over 200 students and individuals who have signed up for attendance.

We will then host our first Arts and Cultural day aimed to benefit, street children, orphans, local schools and young adults. We want to bring them together and provide a safe place where they can be free to be children. We will have an art competition, also taking place in Kinshasa led by Congolese artist Eddy Kamuanga and a panel of other mentors and judges to choose 5 winners amongst the children. 

We are fundraising at present to make sure we can purchase all the supplies in order to make this event successful.

Our annual fundraising event will take place on 24th November in London, UK.

7. What is your long-term vision for EMBISI? Where do you see it in 10 years? 

In 10 years, I hope ESIMBI would have made an impact in the education system in Kinshasa.  And our apprenticeship program will be a major force in creating new entrepreneurs and employment within the country. We would have empower the youth to believe in themselves and work hard to make things happen.

We will be running our programs and workshops in an office in Kinshasa and Education would finally be free of charge for young children and their families. This will create a stronger community.

The vision the rest of the world have for Congo would have changed to something positive.

8. How can we get involved?

It is important for us to spread the word and I am forever grateful to ThandieKay for the opportunity to do so with their readers.

You can be involved by purchasing the ESIMBI Tshirts. All profits will be used to assist with the school fees of children attending our partner schools, such as Malaika school for girls in Kalebuka and ONG Naomi, who brings education to children who are hospitalised.

Donations and your support are very important to our projects because we want all our workshops and activities to be complimentary to the children and their family. 

The first Tshirt is on sale here.

Follow ESIMBI on Twitter

Follow Tina on Twitter and Instagram



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