These are your Creative Slavs in Africa: from Ukrainian wife of Swazi king’s chef du protocole to Polish pilot in Russian Emperor’s air force

As our news screens beam out feeds about Miss South Africa Rolene Strauss taking the Miss World 2014 crown, we’d like to draw your attention to some Slav Africans gracing the podiums both in London and internationally. Plus a Russian Empire-born pioneering photographer of Central African peoples.

Representing the African island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe at this year’s Miss World pageant was Djeissica Barbosa, daughter of a Ukrainian mother and São Tomean father.

Djeissica Barbosa in Angola's capital Luanda in 2014 (Photo from Ms Barbosa's Facebook page)
Djeissica Barbosa in Angola’s capital Luanda in 2014 (Photo from Ms Barbosa’s Facebook page)

 Djeissica Barbosa, filha de mãe ucraniana e de pai santomense, é o que se pode dizer uma mulata linda, esbelta, formosa e  tão doce como o mel:   olhos nos quais parece ressaltar o brilho das alvas e cintilantes estepes ucranianas

Some 4,000 km southeast of the Portuguese-speaking islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, internal designer Olena Dlamini of Ukraine has been calling Swaziland’s capital Mbabane her home for quite some time now. It was in 1987 — 48 years after the red Karelian stone statue of Lenin was displayed at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and 26 years before it was toppled during last year’s Euromaidan protests — that Olena met her future husband Felizwe Dlamini, then student of international law at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. By then, the larger-than-life-size statue — made of the same material as the communist leader’s mausoleum in Moscow — had been in the university’s main campus vicinity for some 40 years already.

After a stint at the Embassy of Swaziland in South Korea, Mr Dlamini was accompanied by his Ukrainian wife back to Swaziland in the year 2000.  This is  when he became responsible for the agenda of King Mswati III. As of March 2007, Olena Dlamini ran an internal design company Ramashka (‘Camomile’ in Russian).

Some 150 southwest of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and 34 years before the 1917 Bolshevik revolution,  Kazimierz Zagórski is born to the Polish  noble Clan of Ostoja. Legend holds that Zhytomyr, the birthplace of this pioneering photographer of Central African peoples and customs, was around for 997 years when the famous Welsh journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley established what is now DRC’s capital Kinshasa and named it Léopoldville in honor of King Leopold II of Belgium.

Gallicizing his name to Casimir Zagourski, former Imperial Russian Air Force serviceman — and later a Lieutenant Colonel in the Polish army’s fight with the Bolsheviks — arrives in Leopoldville in December 1924 to soon become a leading photographer in the Belgian colony.

Casimir Zagourski in his studio in Kinshasa, 1925 (Source: Kosubaawate.blogspot.com)
Casimir Zagourski in his studio in Kinshasa, 1925 (Source: Kosubaawate.blogspot.com)

The local agent for Agfa film products, Zagourski produced a series of post-card images of Leopoldville in the 1920s and was invited to cover the visit of King Albert and Queen Elisabeth to the colony in 1928.

Back to Ukraine by way of Ghana, designer Beatrice Arthur — born in Odessa, when this major port city was part of Soviet Ukraine; with Russian, Polish, German and Ghanaian roots — is behind the label named B’ExotiQ.

Odesa-born designer Beatrice Arthur of Ghana
Odesa-born designer Beatrice Arthur of Ghana

After acquiring a BA in Spanish Literature, Linguistics and Sociology at the University of Ghana in 2000, Bee Arthur shocked the African Fashion scene by participating and winning the Kora Fashion Award at Sun City [northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa] in 2001. Bee was one of the designers that in 2006 were called upon by USAID to support a project that aimed to take young girls off the streets of Northern Ghana by involving them in sustainable income projects

The wife of former UN secretary general Kofi Annan owns her creations.

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