Matriarch Mantras: Makeda Mahadeo

DJ, Vlogger, and Media Personality Makeda is a creative force whose craft knows no bounds, her vision for her life is as solid as her work ethic. Her perspective reminds us that we can be anything we dream if we’re willing to go the miles the process requires. Here, a conversation on being kind to ourselves, learning to know ourselves outside of boxes and embracing the lessons we struggle the most with.

Words & Images: Rita Umuliza

In Partnership with Afriek 

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This Conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Being Jamaican, Rwandan and raised in America too- how have you learned to define yourself? What does identity mean for a person with your cultural influences?

The whole ‘Where are you from” thing is still a struggle for me. I’ve always kind of been in the middle. Being in the states, I grew up with my very very very Jamaican mom, so America wasn’t the apple pie experience for me, more like curry goat-oxtail-Reggae music- all the time in the house so already, I was little bit of an outsider. We moved to Jamaica, and then I was the American, finally years later, I feel like I’m there. But then as I grew up, I start thinking more about how I have another side of identity, so I just started getting more and more curious about Rwanda, and my Rwandan side. The more I read, the more I was interested in Africa. So when I came to Rwandan I realised that I can’t be just one thing- especially when I’m in Rwanda trying to get closer to that side of myself. Been here for 8 years but even till today, there’s so many things about the culture here that I know and appreciate but don’t necessarily feel a part of. So it really is tricky.

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With so many hats in your closet, how do you navigate having to consolidate that in a way that is encompassing of who Makeda is?

I know who I am but I don’t know how to define that. But for right now, I’m a content creator DJ and media personality because I MC and host a lot of events, I’m also working on getting back on TV and in that way, that media side will always be there. Who I am as a person? I don’t know how to answer that because I don’t label that with any word. And also, I don’t want to have to say, that’s who I am. Whatever people think is what they’re going to think. There are things that I live by and that I’m proud of—like being honest, but there are somethings that I don’t like that are a part of me. Sometimes I wish I was more generous or able to keep up with relationships more so I’m aware of them. It’s hard to say who Makeda is.

Did you ever feel imposter syndrome around being enough of one thing?

I sometimes feel I’m not X enough but it’s never made me feel like I can’t rep because I know that I am a Rwandan and I also know that I am Jamaican, so I feel like I can rep whoever when I want and I take comfort in knowing that. For the longest time the culture I knew most was Jamaican but having learned so much about Rwandan and East African culture, it has occupied so much of my mind that when I meet with Jamaicans I feel out of touch. Especially because everyone outside makes identity and identifying with something such a big deal that in situations like that, you can’t just be.

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What’s the theme of this season in your life?

Stepping back, reviewing and then renewing. There have been a lot of things that I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time that I felt like I couldn’t achieve and now since I’ve been taking a hard look, I see that there are things that I can be doing that I have not done as a step to achieving those things. So I’m taking responsibility but also being kinder to myself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea that our dreams and goals have expiration dates and I keep reaching to the conclusion that it’s less about when we accomplish something and more about the intention of why we want to put a certain message out into the world. Do you ever feel that pressure to achieve things in a certain time frame?

We live in an ageist time, where it’s like, if you haven’t done a certain thing before this time, you’ve missed your window and this especially applies to women. And as much as you don’t want to adhere to outside pressure, it always seems to slide into your inner world. I’ve been reading and watching stories about people who found their stride much later in life, which is inspirational but it’s hard to internalize when people put such importance on time and age.

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What is the scope of freelancing teaching you about yourself and your creative process?

I have to take parts of what I learned at an office job because otherwise, it would be really easy to not produce as much as I can because I’m guided by what mood I’m in. I’ve found that if I don’t create anything, the creative juice is harder to come by. I need to make things, weather I like them or not, or weather I share them or keep them in a folder on my computer. But if I don’t do anything, it just creates more of a blockage and creating becomes that much harder. I have to tell myself sometimes, Yo, you are your own boss. Hold yourself accountable the way you would hold someone else accountable.

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What are you unlearning in this time of your life?

One of the things I’ve been trying to do is talk to myself the way I do to my friends and my family. I look at the way I view some of my friends or my husband or my family and how I try and tell them how great they are which reminds me of how much I play myself because I don’t talk to myself like that, I’m so hard on myself. It’s like I’m out here just attacking myself. I recently started listening more to myself and watching the tone and message of what I say to myself. One thing I’ve noticed is when I fail at something, I don’t say to myself, you’re whack… I say, everyone thinks you’re whack and the lesson with that is that most times people are not thinking that— we’re thinking that about ourselves, and we have to break out of that cycle.

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If you find comfort and truth in this Conversation, please share it with your soul family. 

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