Portrait - Awura Abena Simpe

#CWCMUSE - interview by marina de haan

Embracing the uncomfortable

“When I was younger, I used to live to develop myself. I read books, and listened to podcasts for my own personal development and growth. I now realize that I want to ignite the flame of development in other people. My desire is for people to understand how important growth and development are to live a fulfilled (creative) life.”

Awura Abena Simpe (1988) is a young, ambitious woman. Her courageous decision to leave her job as an attorney, and become a creative entrepreneur inspires many men and women. We meet at La Place (“I worked at La Place when I was 16”), where she orders French fries with mint tea. But she won’t be able to finish her ‘patatjes’ (as we call them in Dutch), because of all the gold she constantly drops during our conversation. Awura: “I would like to create something that lasts, something that sustains, and just isn’t another trend. I want to extend something to women that they can take home in this journey called life.”

Creative Women Collective (CWC) is a story of courage, perseverance and vulnerability. On 1 September 2016 Awura launched the website of CWC, one day after her last day as an intellectual property attorney. The purpose of CWC is to give creative women the knowledge, tools and network, to help them maximize their creative strengths. “CWC has impact on the lives of the women.”

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Photography by Silvia Falcomer

Creating without judgment

Awura used to draw a lot when she was a little girl. Still today, drawing is her passion. “Creativity is freedom, but also letting go. I experienced my most creative moments when I dared to let go. Suddenly, I entered a state of flow, and everything around me disappeared. I was only focused on creating. Creating without judgment. In moments like these I made my best work.” Her drive for creating is the reason she wakes up in the morning. Her eyes sparkle: “In the morning I ask myself: what can I create today? What can I accomplish for our women through CWC?”

I do things because they are challenging
— Awura Abena Simpe

‘Wow, this is it!’

Recently Awura celebrated the first anniversary of CWC with about 75 creative women (including her incredible team). At the end, her team surprised her with a very kind video. Beautiful girlfriends, team members and family members shared why Awura inspires them. Awura let her tears flow, she got out of her seat, turned around to the women, and said: “You are the reason why I do what I do.”

Vulnerability is important to Awura, but also to CWC. It’s that vulnerability that causes women to feel safe. “It is vital. During my third year as an attorney I started reading Brené Brown’s books on this topic. She completely opened my eyes. For the first time I realized I wasn’t vulnerable at all. To be honest, it frightened me. If you want to live your life to the full, you have to be vulnerable. Realizing that caused me to start CWC.”

During the first event of CWC there was a very open atmosphere. She shared her whole story, in all honesty, from the beginning till the end. It was the start of a theme. “When I dare to be vulnerable, other women feel comfortable enough to be the same. Women will feel save, and even share some of the deepest problems they are facing. The way that happened during #CWC1YEAR was quite overwhelming. I thought: wow, this is it, CWC is really making an impact, and we will continue with making an impact!”

Suddenly Awura switches from her native language (Dutch) into English. It seems like she reads a poem, like she performs spoken word. But she is actually quoting the 26th president of the United States of America, Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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Photography by Silvia Falcomer

Storytelling

“People find strength in my story. I therefore can’t keep it to myself. I have to share it.” Awura regularly shares variations of her story at CWC events, and other meetings; she is invited to speak at. As clear as she puts it into words now, that’s how uncomfortable she was the first time putting herself and her story out there. “I’m actually a very private person. I don’t want to be prominent. For a while, I had my own food blog. It was only about food. Sometimes you’d see my arm, but that was about it. It was very safe. But looking back at my life, I realize I do things because they are challenging.”

That’s why she decided to embrace the uncomfortable. “I have experienced that it’s not about me when I share things about myself in the service of CWC. It’s about the strength of the message. When I realized that, it was easier for me to put myself out there – particularly online - and it has become almost a second nature ever since.”

A movement

In 2013 Awura was interviewed by a platform called Young Ghanaian Professionals. She was asked where she would be in ten years. This was her answer: “In ten years, I would like to be an expert in the field of intellectual property. Perhaps in ten years I am working on or doing something completely different, that doesn’t matter and that’s okay. What I find more important is to stay grateful, to continue to learn and continue to grow.”

It’s been four years since that interview. Awura’s life completely changed. But her drive to seek growth and development is still the same. Now she even shares her passion with a large network of creative women. “I believe CWC is more than just a group of women coming together. I believe we are a part of a movement. A movement where we aim towards personal, creative and business growth, and where we embrace our vulnerability.”

This interview is published in Dutch on www.marinadehaan.nl

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