Exclus1ves’ Graeme Shackleford recently interviewed Musa ‘Queen’ Njoko, the dynamic TB & HIV activist and consultant, inspirational speaker, gospel singer and entrepreneur. Musa’s third album, Xpressions, was released earlier this year.
1. For our readers who aren’t familiar with you, can you please describe who you are in 20 words?
I’m passionate about life – I love life. I’m the last born in my family and am the mother of one boy.
2. You were one of the first women to publicly disclose your HIV status in South Africa. When were you first diagnosed as HIV positive, and what prompted you to disclose your status?
I was simply trying to find answers for myself. I didn’t even know that there were so many other people living with HIV and already working in this field. I was angry and frustrated.
3. What role has your faith played in your journey, from your diagnosis through to all the many things you have accomplished in both local and international arenas?
Without my faith and hope in Christ, I’d be long dead. My faith has kept even the ‘inner me’ alive and well when I was physically finished. I have been able to survive and come out strong where many do not. I am able to dream without fear. I am able to spread my wings and fly to reach for the stars!
4. Could you please tell us about Musa Njoko Wellness Services? What services do you offer? What has the response been to MNWS?
MNWS is a Health & Wellness Services Company which specializes programs such as HIV and TB. Our theme and message is about hope and passion for life and we focus on ‘inner’ wellbeing. This company was established in 2001 as part of a social responsibility program for Khanya AIDS Interventions (my first company) due to the growing demand of specific services of the ‘social responsibility’ program. Wellness Services was then moved from Khanya and registered in 2007 as an independent entity. MNWS main purpose is the formation of enabling partnerships with the South African corporate citizens and government in a bid to ensure that every country and company’s most valuable asset (Human Resource) is taken care of, particularly during times of crisis, through facilitating and enabling a number of strategic interventions on health, wellness and safety issues.
Our services include:
Inspirational Talks/ Conference Presentations/ Keynote Addresses
Training/ Education & Facilitation
Project Management/ Coordination (Health and wellness)
Campaigns and Programs
The response to MNWS has been phenomenal locally and international.
5. You are known as a gospel singer. When did you first start singing, and what role does music play in your life?
I started singing when I was still very young, but recording professionally happened in 2000. At that time I didn’t quite realize that I was getting into my long-time dream and it’s been really great. I was first signed with an international label but later opened my own, to which I am now signed.
6. Can you tell us about your clothing line, Musa Grace Creations? What lead you to design clothing, and where can people buy Musa Grace items?
The making of clothes started as a hobby really. I like interesting outfits and looking extraordinary. You see, I get bored very easily! I started designing and having things made for me, and people would ask where I bought them. I’d tell them I designed it, and they’d order. I am still surprised that I’m sitting with so many orders from the summer range 2009. I made few items and the response has been amazing.
Also the change of my weight due to my health condition has encouraged me to have clothes made as it works out cheaper. I have struggled with different illnesses and that would mean changing my wardrobe too often and that would be costly, so I make outfits that I can wear whether I am my weight or less without looking like hobo so to speak.
For now you can order via my website, though we hope to place our items in already existing shops.
7. In the liner notes to your new album Xpressions, you mention that you were very ill with TB in 2007. What was that experience like, and how did it change your outlook on life, if at all?
I have suffered from TB at least twice in the last 16 years; in 2007 it was the second time. I was very angry because I am one of those people who do their best to manage their wellbeing. I was freaked out also because I had recently moved back to Durban and it was during the time of MDR and XRD TB outbreak. I was in isolation for a few weeks, and that was heartbreaking even though I had been down that road before.
There’s another spiritual deeper story to this part of the journey which I can’t go into detail in this interview, but from that experience my outlook on life changed even more from my previous face to face with death experience. I try to live my life to the fullest every hour and with more meaning. I understand that it isn’t me living and I am not just living for myself but for everyone that God connected to me globally.
8. What message do you have for the young people of South Africa today?
This is the message I give to my son as he is turning 18 later this year: don’t let your life happen to you – make things happen. Learn from those before you, ask as many questions to understand why things in your family, community and country are the way they are. That way you are to decide how you want your life to be and how you want to influence the world.
9. What message do you have for people living with HIV today?
Learn as much as you can about the virus you are living with. It is not those around you that should know better but you because you are the person living with the condition. Being HIV positive does not mean you are sick and the best is we now know it is a manageable condition. Spread your wings and fly to your destiny!
10. What are you plans for future projects?
In November 2010 I am launching a Thanks Giving Celebration national tour marking the 16 year mileage. This celebration is accompanied with the documentary and my music. I also have my biography in the pipeline! I’ve recently come back from a tour in the Caribbean islands and London. I’m going to be in Cape Town late October for the Lausanne Conference and in Namibia for corporate events. I will also be travelling around KZN province with the Premier’s office as part of the Goodwill Ambassadorship Program.
Thank you very much, Musa Njoko!