Mallence Bart Williams is a real globetrotter. The German-Sierra-Leonean author, filmmaker and fashion designer has lived in Paris, Singapore and the UK. Since 2011 she is head of the creative collective FOLORUNSHO with which she is redefying the term charity.
Mallence Bart Williams was only trying on a new jacket. She is designing her own clothing and the dressmaker on the route to Lion Base near Freetown/Sierra understood her ideas right away. Her father was born in the poor West African country, she was raised in cologne and after the ten year long civil war she was finally able to travel to her fathers county in 2008.
While she was approaching a bridge, she started to hear a babble of voices and the first thing she saw was a heap of trash and cardboard boxes. Around 20 boys choose the bridge as their home. Curiously she started asking around if someone knows the boys and what they were about. She got her answers really quick: these boys belonged to the notorious Lion Gang Crew, consisting of a bunch of petty criminals who were born into real poverty. Everyone was telling her not to approach them. But Mallence decided to do it anyway, maybe even because they said not to "their warning made me extra curious", she said.
Quickly she became friends with "6 Pack", the leader of the gang, which helped her gain respect among the other boys. They started telling her their stories, where they came from and how they ended up on the streets and Mallence says, “that this was the moment she felt responsible for them”.
At this time she was already working with the American sneaker brand K1X and after some thoughts she came up with an idea: why not design a sneaker with the boys ? She used her contacts to artists in New York and Berlin (Maximilian Magnus, Barron Claiborne and Mambu Bayo) and founded the creative collective FOLORUNSHO, which means “born under the eyes of God”. The designers support the criminals in the process of refining the sneakers with a batik print. This easy idea was made very difficult by the simple fact that one needs boiling water to create the batik effect which is a rarity in Sierra Leone. The lack of constant electricity was also a huge challenge and they often had to work with candles. But in the end the project was a success far beyond Africa.
The sneakers were only available through concept stores like “Colette” in Paris or Berlin´s “Soto” store and the proceedings went directly to the FOLORUNSHO project. With the funds the boys were able to go to school or make an apprenticeship. Mallence calls this the “the way from impossible to I'm possible). And of course the project didn´t end with the sneakers - the newest collaboration with the jeans label LEE features 50 shirts that the boys decorated with traditional African patterns. Besides that there were art exhibitions in Berlin, New York, Miami and Paris.
In January 2015 Mallence was part of the TEDX conference in Berlin. During her talk she strongly criticized the continuous destabilization of the African markets and the exploitation of the recourses. Fund raising campaigns with a clear marketing purpose showcasing a poor and helpless continent only reinforce this image and aren't helping anyone.
Which is why the motto of FOLORUNSHO is "It's not about charity, it's all about sharing". Mallence is not looking for donations she wants to share. The donations can be money but they can also be knowledge. "I don't want to give the boys money, I want to help them live a self-determined life". And that is exactly why Guya loves Mallence work “I deeply admire the courage and what Mallance has created. Just like the earthbeat foundation Mallence isn´t only giving funds but is looking to create better living and working conditions - Mallence for the boys in Sierra Leone and the earthbeat foundation for miners in Uganda.