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Meet Priya Ramkissoon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Priya Ramkissoon.

Hi Priya, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
I was born and raised in the UK to African and Indian parents. Having such a multicultural background and upbringing, I was very fortunate at a young age to travel and experience various traditions. My wanderlust curiosity only grew further the older I got, and later in my PR and Media career in London, I was offered a job to work on a publication in Mumbai, India.

It was India, where I truly got the opportunity to explore and venture, especially to remote villages. I was able to discover the intricate work of the women and artisan communities and see firsthand their struggle, injustice & lack of support. Witnessing such circumstances, I knew I wanted to create an initiative/organization that focused on unifying artisans as well as building a creative community where people from different races, socio-economic groups, religions, cultures, and ethnicities work side-by-side.

So with the little funds that I had, I tested the pop-up concept in Mauritius in 2012. It was the first-ever pop-up shop in Mauritius. I converted a 100-year-old building into a boutique displaying our artisanal goods and sourcing finds. The response was overwhelming, and from that moment onwards, I knew I was onto a good thing…

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I mirror a lot from my parent’s ideologies and strengths. Learning greatly from their immigrant journey and experiences. They juggled so much to achieve a successful career. My mum, particularly never placed any emphasis on gender, but on diligence and hard work. So I guess I’m the same. To be honest, the real difficulty was to take on the initiative in the first place.

To leave the natural comforts of having a regular paycheque, and the security that comes with it. I’ve had to sacrifice a lot and I’ve missed out on so many friends and family milestones. But in return, I’ve acquired grounding values and experiences that make you unbreakable. When you run your enterprise and are responsible for people’s wages, and their well-being, etc – your priority shifts, you just overcome constraints, failing is not an option.

I’ve experienced so many ups and downs, where I’ve realized more and more that there is no such thing as difficulties or setbacks – it’s all a learning curve… sometimes you have to plummet to great lows to regain your strength. So I guess the difficulty is – is finding that eternal faith and strength when you are at rock bottom.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am the founder and Director of Imiloa Collective, a social creative enterprise that helps build and enrich the skillsets of creatives. Since 2012, we have encouraged diversity and experimentation in the arts, business, and creativity across Southern Africa celebrating their cultural techniques, and traditions, and bringing attention to the social justice faced by their communities.

We empower artisans, women entrepreneurs, and underserved communities by extending their products’ distribution and supporting sustainable income opportunities. Highlighting eco-sensibility and community empowerment as well as ensuring we preserve the importance of cultural assets – fusing traditional cultural and artisanal crafts with contemporary design and sustainability.

We also provide training, upskilling workshops, courses, one-on-one coaching sessions with experts, webinars, and events to help our creatives both economically and socially as well as enhance their self-esteem through empowering and employing them.

What would you say have been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
I have always been reminded through my work of the importance of tenacity. Just seeing those in unprivileged circumstances and how we make a difference – makes me strive further and further. When I’m on the road, I’m sometimes in the most poverty-stricken places. I live the way they do, eat the way they do, and adopt their lifestyle, and it’s certainly eye-opening.

Yet despite their impoverished conditions, their positivity and warmth are admirable. When I am sinking in my ordeal, it’s short-lived, because I reflect on these incredible beings – nothing is comparable in terms of their courage and tenacity.

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Image Credits

Mehryhr Annoar

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