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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


Shari’s Bon Bon Vie

Post by Kay

“The Bon Bon Vie lifestyle isn’t necessarily about material possessions, but rather self-love, pursuing your dreams, and celebrating your own personal joy. Bon Bon Vie is where fellow shirt addicts fulfill their graphic tee fix while expressing their individuality.”Thandie in bonbonvie.com

I came across Shari Neal‘s brand Bon Bon Vie when I had a ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ moment about her Brown Skin Lady t-shirt on Instagram. I DM’d her immediately and she kindly sent a t-shirt to Thandie in LA.

She’s a kindred spirit and it is our pleasure to introduce her to our readers…


I started Bon Bon Vie back in 2010 when I was working at a job I didn’t love. I needed a creative outlet and I decided to turn my love of graphic t-shirts into a business.




The company name Bon Bon Vie was inspired by a funk song of the same name by T.S. Monk.

The lyrics really spoke to me, he sang about a job that was getting him down and he just wanted the good life. I wanted to make the “good life” my reality and inspire others to do the same. I wanted to build a life for myself I was happy to be living instead of just punching in and out and going through the motions.

That sentiment that rings true for me even now that I am married and have a 2-year-old daughter.

Belizean beginnings

My parents emigrated to the US from Belize, so I very much had the immigrant child experience. belize-country-map-1024My mom expected me to work hard, have impeccable manners, be responsible, get good grades and generally not do anything to embarrass our family, lol.

My older brother is also an artist and just as nerdy as me, so growing up we loved all things art and pop culture.We’d spend hours watching Michael Jackson and Prince videos and countless days exploring the city of Chicago, just riding the train, having photoshoots on the lakefront, walking and going to museums or the library.

I loved knowledge and read whatever books I could, the ones by black women authors really spoke to me. “For Colored Girls…” by Ntozake Shange is one of my all time favorites.




I read “The Coldest Winter Ever” and “No Disrespect” by Sister Souljah more times than I can count. I probably checked out all of the books my local library had by Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez and Asha Bandele.

Sonia Sanchez (top) and books by Asha Bandele.

Sonia Sanchez (top) and books by Asha Bandele.



In the short-term, I would like to keep adding new products and designs. I started out with t-shirts, but I now have mugs, bags and other things customers have expressed interest in. Shari's mugsWhat I’d like to do more of is collaborations with other brands and folks I admire. I have a few things in the works that I hope I can let out into the world very soon.

I just want to keep building and growing and hopefully inspire others in the process.


Shari and her daughter Maya


Follow Shari on Twitter and on Instagram

Totes in love with Shari's Totes

Check out the wonderful array of designs at BonBonVie.com

See more of our favourite slogan t-shirts here and Matriarchy Now slogan t-shirt here.


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