On 6 February this year, the Queen marked 70 years on the British throne – a feat which will be celebrated with a four-day Jubilee weekend at the beginning of June.
The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee will see several events take place from the 2 – 5 of June, including the annual Trooping the Colour parade, a pageant, and a concert with performances from musicians like Ed Sheeran.
From becoming the longest-reigning monarch in British history, to her first trip on the London Underground, and details from her wedding to Prince Philip, here are some things you might not know about Queen Elizabeth II.
1. The Queen is the longest-reigning monarch
On 9 September 2015, the Queen became the longest-reigning monarch in British history, surpassing the reign of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.
In a speech given on the historic day during an engagement in the Scottish Borders, the Queen said: “Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones, my own is no exception, but I thank you all and the many others at home and overseas for your touching messages of great kindness.”
2. Her Majesty has made over 150 Commonwealth visits
Within the Commonwealth alone, the Queen has made more than 150 visits during her reign.
3. Visited more than 100 countries
The Queen has visited more than 100 countries as monarch, including Canada 22 times, more than any other country in the world, and France 13 times, more than any other country in Europe.
4. First solo appearance was in 1942
The Queen’s first solo public engagement (as Princess Elizabeth) was on 21 April 1942, her 16th birthday, when she inspected the Grenadier Guards at Windsor Castle.
5. Carried out thousands of engagements
The Queen has carried out more than 21,000 engagements over the course of her reign.
6. Has given thousands of Royal Assents
The Queen has given Royal Assent to approximately 4,000 Acts of Parliament.
7. Hosted over 100 state visits
The Queen has hosted 112 incoming state visits to the United Kingdom, including Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (1954), Emperor Hirohito of Japan (1971), President Lech Walesa of Poland (1991) and President Barack Obama of the US (2011).
8. Her Majesty is patron of over 500 organisations
The Queen is currently patron of more than 500 organisations, including more than 70 education and training organisations; over 60 sports and recreational organisation; over 30 faith organisations; and over 40 arts and cultural organisations.
9. Has sent over 1 million cards
The Queen has sent over 300,000 congratulatory cards to people celebrating their 100th birthdays, and over 900,000 messages to couples marking their Diamond (60th) Wedding Anniversaries.
10. The Queen’s face has been on coins of 35 countries
At least 35 countries have issued coinage with the image of the Queen.
11. Has held multiple ranks and appointments in Armed Services
The Queen has held over 50 ranks and appointments in the British and Commonwealth Armed Services during her lifetime.
12. Holds title of “Defender of the Faith”
The Queen holds the title “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England”.
These titles date back to the reign of King Henry VIII, who was initially granted the title Defender of the Faith in 1521, by Pope Leo X.
13. The Queen is religious
The Queen is a committed Christian and churchgoer and has often spoken of her faith in her speeches and broadcasts. “For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life,” she said in her 2014 Christmas Broadcast.
“A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing.
“Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”
14. Has sat for over 200 portraits
The Queen has sat for over 200 official portraits during her reign, the first was in 1933 when she was seven-years old and was a portrait painted by Anglo-Hungarian artist Philip Alexius de Laszlo.
15. Holds the Royal Collection in trust
The Royal Collection, held in trust by the Queen for her successors and the nation, is estimated to have over a million individual pieces, including over 8,000 paintings, 160,000 watercolours, prints and drawings, 200,000 photographs, 300,000 items of decorative art and 200,000 books and manuscripts.
16. Hosted more than 1.5 million people at garden parties
More than 180 garden parties have been held at Buckingham Palace since 1952 and over 1.5 million people have attended a Garden Party during the Queen’s reign.
17. The Queen has seen 14 US presidents throughout her reign
There have been 14 presidents of the United States during the Queen’s reign, and, with the exception of President Lyndon B Johnson (1963-9), she has met each one.
18. Has been served by 14 UK prime ministers
The Queen has been served by 14 prime ministers of the United Kingdom during her reign – her first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill.
19. Her Majesty has owned more than 30 corgis and dorgis
The Queen has owned more than 30 corgis and dorgis during her reign, most of which have been descended from her first corgi, Susan, who was gifted to her on her 18th birthday in 1944.
20. She first travelled on the Underground in 1939
The Queen travelled on the London Underground for the first time in May 1939 with her governess Marion Crawford and her sister Princess Margaret.
Since then, she has opened the new section of the Victoria Line (1969); opened the Piccadilly Line extension to Heathrow Airport (1977); visited Baker Street Station to mark the 150th anniversary of the London Underground (2013); and visited the Crossrail construction site at Bond Street Station (2016).
21. Made her first radio broadcast in 1940
The Queen made her first radio broadcast in 1940 when, aged 14, she recorded a message of support for young people affected by the war in Europe, particularly those being evacuated from their homes, on the BBC’s Children’s Hour.
“I can truthfully say to you all that we children at home are full of cheerfulness and courage,” she said.
“We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our own share of the danger and sadness of war.”
22. Joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1945
The Queen joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (the women’s branch of the British Army during the Second World War) in 1945, becoming the first female member of the Royal Family to join the armed services as a full-time, active member.
As a Subaltern, she learned to drive and maintain vehicles.
23. First official overseas visit was in 1947
The Queen’s official overseas visit was in 1947 as Princess Elizabeth, when she toured South Africa, Southern Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe) and the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland (Botswana) with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
The Queen celebrated her 21st birthday in South Africa, which was marked by a speech broadcast across the Commonwealth.
In the speech the Princess pledged nothing less than her life’s work to her subjects, saying: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.”
24. Her first military appointment was in 1942
The Queen’s first military appointment was as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards.
The appointment was made in February 1942 following the death of her great uncle and Godfather, The Duke of Connaught.
25. First overseas Christmas broadcast
In 1953 she made the first Christmas broadcast from overseas, broadcasting live from New Zealand.
In the broadcast, the Queen spoke of how welcomed she felt: “I have travelled some thousands of miles through many changing scenes and climates on my voyage here.
“Despite all that, however, I find myself today completely and most happily at home.”
26. First used the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1954
The Royal Yacht Britannia was first used by the Queen when she embarked with the Duke of Edinburgh on 1 May 1954 at Tobruk, Libya, for the final stage of their Commonwealth Tour, returning to the Pool of London.
The last time the Queen was on board Britannia for an official visit was on 9 August 1997 for a visit to the Isle of Arran.
27. Sent her first email in 1976
On 26 March1976, the Queen sent her first email during a visit to the Royal Radar Establishment, Malvern, now known as the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment.
The email was sent to the US Secretary of Defence to formally open the UK/US collaboration on a military programming language.
28. The first British monarch to visit China
In 1986 the Queen became the first British Monarch to visit China.
29. The first British monarch to address US Congress
The Queen was the first British Monarch to address the United States House of Congress, on 16 May 1991.
30. Launched Buckingham Palace’s first website in 1997
In 1997 the Queen launched Buckingham Palace’s first official website, in 2014 she sent her first tweet and in 2019 published her first Instagram post.
31. Witnessed Swan Upping in 2009
In 2009 the Queen witnessed Swan Upping for the first time.
This annual event on the River Thames includes the weighing and measuring of the swans and checks are made on their health and well-being.
Since the 12th Century, the Monarch has retained the right to claim ownership of all unmarked mute swans found in a particular section of the River Thames.
32. Introduced Elizabeth Cross in 2009
The Queen introduced the Elizabeth Cross in 2009. It was the first medal to which she had put her name.
The award was instituted to give special recognition to the families of those who have died on military operations or as a result of terrorism since 1948.
On announcing the Cross, she said: “This seems to me a right and proper way of showing our enduring debt to those who are killed while actively protecting what is most dear to us all.”
33. Made first state visit to Ireland in 2011
The Queen made a State Visit to Ireland in 2011, the first time a reigning British Monarch has visited the country since its separation from the United Kingdom.
She began the speech that she gave at the State Banquet in Irish, saying: “A Uachtarain agus a chairde” (President and friends).
34. She was recognised with honorary Bafta in 2013
In 2013 the Queen became the first Monarch to be presented with an Honorary Bafta award in recognition of a lifetime’s support of British film and television.
35. The Queen and Prince Philip celebrated 70 years of marriage in 2017
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their Platinum Wedding Anniversary in 2017, the first time a reigning monarch had done so.
36. 670 boats took part in Diamond Jubilee
To mark the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant was held on 3 June 2012.
670 boats took part in the parade on the Tideway of the River Thames, making it the largest ever parade of boats, surpassing the previous world record of 327 vessels set in Bremerhaven, Germany, in 2011.
37. The Queen’s longest overseas tour lasted five months
The longest overseas tour that the Queen has undertaken began in Bermuda in November 1953 and ended in Gibraltar in May 1954.
She was away for 168 days and visited 13 different countries.
38. The Queen has visited 14 countries in one trip
The greatest number of countries that the Queen has visited in one trip is 14.
This was during her 1966 trip to the Caribbean.
39. Her Majesty presented the football World Cup Trophy in 1966
In 1966 the Queen presented England men’s football captain Bobby Moore with the World Cup Trophy.
The World Cup Final attracted the largest ever British television audience with 32.3 million viewers.
40. The Queen first flew in Concorde in 1977
In September 1966 the Queen visited the British Aircraft Corporation’s facilities in Filton, Bristol, and inspected the progress of the Concorde project.
She first flew in Concorde in 1977 and went on to use it for several overseas tours before it was retired in 2003.
41. She opened the Sydney Opera House
In 1973 the Queen opened the Sydney Opera House.
42. A fashion award was created in the Queen’s name in 2018
Following her 90th birthday celebrations in 2016, it was agreed that an award would be created in her name to recognise emerging British fashion talent.
The inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for Design was presented to Richard Quinn during London Fashion Week 2018.
The Queen sat in the front row of Quinn’s show next to Dame Anna Wintour before presenting the award.
43. She has met four Popes
The Queen has met four Popes on official visits during her reign: Pope John XXIII (1961), Pope John Paul II (1980, 1982 and 2000), Pope Benedict XVI (2010) and Pope Francis I (2014).
44. The Queen and Philip were married in 1947
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were married on 20 November 1947 in Westminster Abbey.
The then Princess Elizabeth, carried a bouquet of flowers which included a sprig of myrtle taken from a bush grown from the original myrtle in Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet.
Her wedding ring was made from a nugget of Welsh gold, which came from the Clogau St David’s mine near Dolgellau and the official wedding cake was made by McVitie and Price Ltd, using ingredients given as a wedding gift by Australian Girl Guides.
45. The monarch wore two crowns on her Coronation Day
The Queen wore two crowns on her Coronation Day: St Edward’s Crown (which was used for the crowning ceremony) and the Imperial State Crown, which was worn for the return procession and subsequent balcony appearances at Buckingham Palace.
On the journey to Westminster Abbey, The Queen wore the State Diadem: a circlet of diamonds, which she has gone on to wear for the journey to and from the State Opening of Parliament.
46. More than 2,000 journalists were on the Coronation route in 1953
There were more than 2,000 journalists and 500 photographers from 92 nations on the Coronation route in 1953.
The Coronation Service was broadcast live on the BBC, enabling millions of people to see their Monarch crowned for the first time.
47. Many royal tours took place on the Royal Yacht Britannia
Prior to its de-commissioning in 1997, many of the Queen’s official tours were undertaken on the Royal Yacht Britannia.
She was launched on 16 April, 1953 and was commissioned for service in January 1954. During her time in service, Britannia travelled more than a million miles on Royal and official duties, transporting the Queen to over 700 Royal visits.
48. She has only missed one Christmas broadcast
The Queen has made a Christmas Broadcast to the Commonwealth every year of her reign except 1969, when a repeat of the film Royal Family was shown and a written message from the Queen issued.
49. She congratulated the Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969
The Queen sent a message of congratulations to Apollo 11 astronauts for the first moon landing on 21 July 1969. The message was micro-filmed and deposited on the moon in a metal container. “You are here.”
50. She sent a message to Tim Peake who joined the International Space Station in 2016
In 2016 the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh sent a message to British astronaut Tim Peake as he joined the International Space Station.
He responded with a video message from space saying, “Thank you again for your well wishes, ma’am. I hope I can bring the country together to celebrate Britain in space and our great tradition of scientific exploration. And before I sign off, I’m not sure that this has ever been said in space before, so I’ll be the first: God save The Queen.”
51. The Queen made a radio broadcast on the evening of her Coronation
On the evening of the Coronation, the Queen made a radio broadcast in which she stated: “Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust”.
52. The Queen has received jaguars and sloths as gifts
During her reign, the Queen has received many gifts including a variety of live animals.
The more unusual animals were placed in the care of zoos, among them jaguars and sloths from Brazil, an elephant from Cameroon and two black beavers from Canada.
53. The Trooping the Colour parade has been cancelled just once
There has been a Trooping the Colour Parade every year of the Queen’s reign, apart from 1955, which was cancelled due to a railway strike.
In 2020 and 2021 a smaller ceremony took place at Windsor Castle due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
54. Windsor Castle is now the Queen’s main residence
Windsor Castle, currently the Queen’s main residence, is the oldest and largest occupied palace in the world.
55. She was born in 1926
The Queen was born at 2.40am on 21 April 1926 at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London, and was the first child of The Duke and Duchess of York, who later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
56. She received her first pony from King George V
The Queen’s first pony was given to her by her grandfather, King George V.
The Shetland pony was called Peggy.
57. She does not have a passport or driving licence
As British passports and driving licences are issued in the Queen’s name, she is not required to have either, a privilege held by her alone.
58. Her Majesty speaks fluent French
The Queen speaks fluent French and has often used the language during audiences and State Visits.
59. She launched the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy initiative in 2015
Almost 70 forest conservation projects across the Commonwealth have joined the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy initiative since its launch in 2015, representing more than 100 million trees preserved for future generations as part of the fight against deforestation.
60. Winston Churchill’s first monarch in parliament was Queen Victoria
Sir Winston Churchill, her first prime minister, became a Member of Parliament during the reign of the Queen’s great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria.
61. The Queen was a Girl Guide
The Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) became a Girl Guide In 1937 aged 11, learning how to pitch tents, cook on campfires and administer first aid.
At 16, she joined the Sea Rangers: a separate unit of the Girl Guides created for those with a strong naval interest. She was made a was made a Sea Ranger Commodore in 1945.
62. She rode the same horse for 18 Trooping the Colour parades
In 1969 the Queen was given a black mare, named Burmese, by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The former Service horse was ridden by the Queen for Trooping the Colour for 18 consecutive years from 1969 to 1986.
63. She attended her parents’ Coronation
Then 11-year-old Princess Elizabeth, attended her parents’ Coronation at Westminster Abbey in 1937 and wrote about it for the King and Queen in an essay entitled, To Mummy And Papa, In Memory Of Their Coronation. From Lilibet, By Herself. “I thought it all very, very wonderful and I expect the Abbey did, too,” she wrote.
“The arches and beams at the top were covered with a sort of haze of wonder as Papa was crowned, at least I thought so.”
64. The Queen chose her Coronation dress from nine different designs
The Queen’s Coronation dress was designed by British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell.
He submitted nine different designs and the Queen accepted the eighth.
65. The Queen’s Coronation was the first to be broadcast
The Queen’s Coronation ceremony was the first to be broadcast on television, as a result of which people purchased television sets in their millions.
27 million people watched in the UK alone, and television was ushered in as a mainstream medium.
66. The Queen and Princess Margaret joined crowds incognito on Victory in Europe Day
On 8 May 1945, Victory in Europe Day, the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) and her sister Princess Margaret, aged 19 and 14 respectively, joined the crowds in London incognito, Princess Elizabeth with her ATS uniform cap pulled down over her face.
She later said of the day, “I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief.”
67. Her Diamond Jubilee Trust has enabled over 100,000 people to have eye surgery
The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust has enabled over 100,000 people to have sight-saving surgery; treated more than 22 million people with antibiotics to reduce the spread of trachoma; built or upgraded over 81,000 latrines and washing facilities to prevent the spread of infection; screened over 13,000 babies for retinopathy of prematurity; and screened more than 200,000 people for diabetic retinopathy.
68. She has conducted hundreds of investitures
The Queen has conducted over 650 investitures throughout her reign.
69. She has been awarded the George Cross
The Queen has awarded the George Cross – given for “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger” – collectively to just two groups over the course of her reign: officers and families of the Royal Ulster Constabulary for their bravery during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and, most recently, to NHS staff for their work during the coronavirus pandemic.
70. She appeared alongside “James Bond” at the 2012 Olympics
As part of the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, fictional secret agent “James Bond” escorted the Queen from Buckingham Palace to the Olympic Stadium by helicopter before they both appeared to parachute into the event.
Additional reporting by PA
Feature: Zimbabwean designer brings visual language to fashion – The Star Online
by Tafara Mugwara
HARARE, May 23 (Xinhua) — In a world in which conformity is the order of the day, Tarisayi Gweje’s fashion designs are known for standing out from the conventional.
One of her dresses – made from leather and decorated with beads – teleports the admirer to the pre-colonial era.
“My way of producing these gowns, it’s a way of trying to think out loud and show people out there this is what we were, this is how we were going to be like if we hadn’t been colonized before,” Gweje told Xinhua in an interview.
As a visual form of art, fashion can be an outlet to express the mind, she said.
“I have been thinking, what if we were still in that era before colonization? What were we going to be looking like? Were we going to produce fabric or we were going to develop using our natural pods, leather and many other things?” she said.
Gweje is a fashion designer focusing on avant-garde and haute couture in her creations. Her norm-defying fashion is presented in the most unexpected forms.
For avant-garde pieces, she mostly uses found objects and recycled materials. Her haute-couture dresses are mostly made from natural materials.
Another gown in her collection presents a stunning juxtaposition of Western fashion with African culture.
The work is currently on display at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe under the theme “BreakTheBias”. The exhibition celebrates the achievements of women and female artists.
“My art and my work is a way of expressing myself. It’s a way of expressing how I am thinking, or how I wish things would be like,” Gweje said.
Another display, a black dress decorated with spoons, narrates the situation where people work hard but are hardly rewarded for the work.
“So the spoons were representing the people who are working very hard and earning very little, yet there are so many other people, they are really a few people who are not working but they are earning large amounts of money and they are splashing money out there,” Gweje said.
Beads are a common feature of her traditionally themed costumes. She said they symbolize woman’s chores in a highly gendered society – so time-consuming yet barely noticed and therefore unrewarded.
She said her art also aims at drawing attention to environmental degradation.
“For Avant Guard, I decided to use found objects to clean the environment that I live in and make use of the things that we think are no longer useful. I find it very fascinating that I can make some art pieces or some designs that are acceptable to the world out there with those things that people think are unnecessary,” she said.
Gweje is among a new crop of African stylists taking over international fashion. To date, the artist has graced many international fashion shows.
Traditionally, dressing served as a method of cultural expression by people who occupy present-day Zimbabwe. Colonization forced the adoption of western-style clothing, and until now, Western fashion served as one of the foundations of local fashion.
Presently, local designers including Gweje are redefining African fashion, taking Western fashion and molding it into African styles.
New Teams: Jacquemus and Nike, Vuitton and Kusama, Fendi and Istituto Marangoni – WWD
“For this collaboration with Nike, I wanted to create a collection that reinterprets athletic women’s sportswear in a minimal way. I have always been inspired by vintage ACG pieces and Nike campaigns from the 1990s,” the French designer said in a statement.
Porte Jacquemus said he imagined “a world where outdoor pursuits and court sports co-mingle within a new, integrated aesthetic” for this collaboration, which spans apparel and footwear along with “a variety of hallmark Nike designs with unisex footwear and accessories.” The items will drop on his brand’s e-commerce on June 28 and will be rolled out globally across Nike’s retail network throughout the summer.
“Having this imagery in mind, we designed women’s athleticwear with sensuous details and neutral colors, along with my own interpretation of the Humara — my favorite Nike shoe. It was important for the collection to be accessible, for all bodies, and to be a natural blend of Jacquemus style and Nike performance,” he continued.
No further details on the designs have been revealed but Jarrett Reynolds, vice president of catalyst apparel design at Nike, stated the collaboration had involved “[drawing] from vintage ACG inspiration, the interweaving of Nike Dri-Fit fabric, and [considering] footwear like the Humara, to create a nexus of sport and style that could only be done through the shared lens of Nike x Jacquemus.”
The Nike x Jacquemus collection, described as redefining summer ready-to-wear as “comfortable anywhere, anytime,” comes as Whitney Malkiel, vice president and general manager of Nike Global Women’s, told WWD in an interview on the brand’s 50th anniversary that it would continue to experiment with collaborations as consumers continue to look for comfort and versatility in the post-pandemic world.
“Women are still loving the idea of comfort and versatility. What we’re seeing them do is start to mix it up with something more tailored and structured as they head back into the world and back to work. We’re excited to play into that as we move forward,” she said. — LILY TEMPLETON
The work includes a collection of exclusive bags that feature a reinterpretation of the artist’s obsessive dots across Louis Vuitton signature shapes as well as on new models.
According to the brand, the pieces celebrate Louis Vuitton’s long-standing relationship with the artist, and while it will hit stores worldwide in January 2023, some pieces already debuted as part of artistic director of women’s collections Nicolas Ghesquière’s resort 2023 fashion show last week at the Salk Institute in San Diego.
So far Louis Vuitton has posted two videos on its Instagram revealing the new collection. Each has already garnered 150,000 views.
Chapter one debuted in 2012 and saw Vuitton launch both a ready-to-wear and accessories collection in collaboration with Kusama. It was expressed in a wide range of offerings, including exhibitions, products and series of unique window installations, including a lifelike mannequin modeled after the artist herself. — THOMAS WALLER
Kicking off this week, the initiative will see a number of students of the fashion and art school recovering materials previously used by the luxury house for its window installations to create new artworks.
The students will operate under the creative direction of American visual artist Sarah Coleman, who was recently tapped by Istituto Marangoni as one of its mentors and has already collaborated with Fendi on different projects.
Known for manipulating designers’ materials to rethink everyday objects through an ironic filter, Coleman will work closely with students hailing from the courses of fashion design, multimedia art and textile innovation, following them step by step through the processes of conception, development and final execution of their work. Fendi managers will also be involved in the interdisciplinary project via online and in-person meetings.
Developed also thanks to a collaboration with Pardgroup — the Italian company that handles the window change-out operations of Fendi’s European flagships — the final projects will be showcased in the fall in the exhibition space at Fendi’s factory in Bagno a Ripoli, a 25-minute drive from Florence.
In addition to telegraphing Fendi’s commitment to sustainability, the project builds on the brand’s ongoing support of new generations of talent in craftsmanship and luxury.
For instance, last year the brand strengthened its partnership with New York’s Juilliard School to highlight the talent of emerging artists in different disciplines, from dancing to acting. The company gave the Fendi Vanguard Award to four rising stars selected among Juilliard’s final-year students enrolled in the bachelor’s, master’s and advanced diploma programs.
The fashion brand and Coleman have worked together on multiple occasions, ranging from the revamp of Fendi’s Miami store in the Design District and the creation of a limited-edition Peekaboo bag in 2020 to the launch of a summer capsule collection last year. — SANDRA SALIBIAN
BETTER TOGETHER: The OTB and the Zegna Foundations have joined forces to support Cesvi, an Italy-based humanitarian organization that has been providing assistance to Ukrainian families impacted by the conflict.
Targeting pregnant women and mothers with children under five, as well as disabled people and the elderly who couldn’t flee the country, the organization is providing linens, pillows, warmers and hygiene kits.
Thanks to the two foundations, Cesvi said it has already helped around 1,000 families across several sites in the war-torn country, including Odessa, Dnipro, Kramatorsk and Kyiv.
“We have supported Fondazione Cesvi for over 15 years, in Italy and globally, wherever natural disasters, conflicts or health emergencies required a swift and effective intervention to support local people,” said Anna Zegna, president of the Zegna Foundation.
“In addition to sharing the same values of human solidarity and defense of social justice, we share the same operative approach, in that we focus on concrete goals, which we rapidly achieve thanks to knowledge of the areas of intervention and ability to set up support networks that are respectful of the local context and cultures,” she added.
The Zegna Foundation has partnered with Cesvi in the past, for example, for the “From A to Zegna” charity initiative aimed at supporting educational programs globally.
Similarly, the OTB Foundation has had Cesvi on its radar. The organization’s “House of Smile” homeless shelter in Zimbabwe was among the recipients of the 2019 OTB Foundation’s “Brave Actions for a Better World” charity program.
Among the earliest responders to the humanitarian crisis linked to the conflict, the OTB Foundation answered the urgent appeal launched by UNHCR and has provided the country with medicines, first-aid kits and necessities, shuttling back Ukrainian women and children. It also made sure that refugees could take COVID-19 tests and be vaccinated and helped them find accommodation in private houses or residences. Earlier this month, the foundation and the OTB Group said they will be offering long-term employment to Ukrainian refugee, as reported.
“We have no intention to leave those who were not lucky enough to flee their country alone,” said Arianna Alessi, vice president of the OTB Foundation. “This is part of the campaign the foundation has launched to support Ukraine, and it addresses the population target that is closer to our hearts: women and children,” she added.
Cesvi was founded in 1985 in Bergamo, Italy, and now operates in 23 countries through about 100 projects called “Houses of Smiles” in Africa, Latina America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. — MARTINO CARRERA
REVOLVING TO CANNES: Revolve Group has been revealed as the official after-party sponsor of this year’s amfAR gala taking place during the Cannes Film Festival.
The VIP-heavy event will mark the first European event sponsored by both Fwrd and Revolve under the collective RVLV umbrella.
“Showcasing special events and experiences around the world has always been incredibly important to the RVLV Group audience,” said Michael Mente, co-chief executive officer and cofounder of RVLV Group. “This is our first time activating during the International Festival de Cannes, and in the context of such an incredible setting and display of creativity, it is important for us to bring visibility to the change-making amfAR organization.”
Mente will host designers including Peter Dundas and Sami Miro, as well as friends of Revolve and Fwrd, at the gala dinner and after party. The event is set for May 26 in Antibes, France, at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc.
AmfAR hosts several annual international galas, always drawing a starry crowd of figures from the fashion, entertainment and art worlds. The Cannes gala has raised more than $245 million to support the nonprofit’s initiatives, which include funding AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment and advocacy. — KRISTEN TAUER
IN-DEPTH: The empire Robert Mugabe built is collapsing like a castle built on sand – New Zimbabwe.com
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- ‘Gucci Grace’ will, however, still live comfortably for the rest of her life even if the businesses that her husband left her collapse, as post-coup law ensures that she has a decent pension
Five years ago, Alpha Omega Dairy was one of Zimbabwe’s fastest-growing dairies, with a range of products that became dominant on supermarket shelves and the streets in the country’s major cities.
Built by former first lady Grace Mugabe on commercial farms grabbed from White Zimbabweans, sometimes violently, Alpha and Omega boasted state-of-the-art milk processing plants and its products were advertised for free by the country’s only television station, ZBC.
A subsidiary of the late president Robert Mugabe’s sprawling agro-business company Gushungo Holdings, at its zenith Alpha Omega produced a variety of yoghurts, ice creams, mineral water, fruit juices and milk.
So rapid was its growth that in 2015 then agriculture minister Joseph Made announced that Alpha Omega had snatched 30 percent of Zimbabwe’s dairy market from established firms, including the state-owned behemoth Dairibord Zimbabwe, just three years after its establishment.
The former first lady once described her operation as the second biggest in southern Africa and claimed that they had installed equipment capable of milking 64 cows at once.
She said the dairy was anchored on a herd of more than 2,000 cows.
It was touted as a model of success for the southern African country’s controversial land reform programme that began at the turn of the millennium.
The company became a serial winner at the country’s annual trade showcase – the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair – where Mugabe would shower accolades on his wife’s dairy like confetti at a wedding.
At the ruling party Zanu PF’s televised rallies, it became routine for cameras to zoom in on ministers happily feasting on Alpha Omega ice creams.
At Robert Mugabe’s communist-style birthday parties held at large venues on February 21 every year, it became a fashion statement for top officials to be seen eating ice cream.
At one of the fetes in his last days, the octogenarian was photographed struggling to swallow a bolus of ice cream.
On the eve of the coup that eventually toppled Mugabe, his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was the vice-president at the time, had to issue an apology for claiming that he fell ill after eating Alpha Omega ice cream during one of the rallies.
Mr Mnangagwa started vomiting amid claimed diarrhoea at a rally in the southern town of Gwanda and was immediately airlifted to South Africa for treatment.
His backers insinuated that it was the Alpha Omega yoghurt that caused his illness and this did not go down well with his boss.
He was subsequently fired for allegedly plotting against his boss, only for him to return as president after a couple of weeks following the November 27, 2017 coup.
That incident could have marked the end of Alpha Omega’s dairy market dominance and the beginning of the demise of a business empire built by one of Africa’s longest-serving presidents as the Mugabes lost power a few weeks later.
A few years after his inglorious exit and subsequent death in Singapore in 2019, the empire that Mugabe built is crumbling like a deck of cards.
President Mnangagwa’s new government turned off the taps for lucrative contracts from state-owned enterprises and all of a sudden Alpha Omega had to face the real market on its own.
Some of its major buyers were the army, parastatals, public hospitals and police, among other state institutions.
When creditors came knocking on its doors, Mugabe’s widow could not keep the business afloat.
She is now leasing part of the company’s dairy estate in the Mazowe area, west of Harare, to a local businessman, but this has not helped to revive Alpha’s fortunes.
A survey in Harare showed that leading retailers last received Alpha Omega products several months ago.
At the sprawling estate in Mazowe, a fleet of broken-down delivery trucks catch any visitor’s eye.
Employees who spoke to Nation.Africa complained that they now go several months without receiving their salaries.
“Things have not been looking good since the death of president Mugabe and after his widow decided to take a back seat in the running of the business,” said a Gushungo Holdings worker, who sought anonymity fearing reprisals.
“At times we go months without getting paid and business is now hard since the owners no longer wield the influence they used to have.”
Auctioneers also regularly put farming equipment and vehicles from Mugabe’s Gushungo Holdings and Gushungo Dairy Farm on sale as the family scales down operations.
The last auction was on February 22, a day after the late ruler’s birthday, which is now a national holiday in Zimbabwe.
Old vehicles and farming equipment such as combine harvesters went under the hammer.
A family member said the auction was part of a plan to scale down business operations by the late dictator’s widow, who has rarely been seen in public since her husband’s death.
The 56 year-old former first lady, who had serious political ambitions at the time of the coup, is said to be spending most of her time in Singapore, and when she is in Zimbabwe, she retreats to her rural home in Zvimba, west of Harare.
“A decision was taken to sell the equipment at the farms because it was no longer being used due to the serious downscaling of operations,” said a Mugabe family member, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The farms are no longer as productive as they used to be.”
When he was still in power, Mugabe was accused of commandeering state institutions to provide services at his multiple farms and this gave the false impression that he was running a thriving farming business.
Signs that the dairy business was in distress started appearing a few months before his death, when in May 2019 he was forced to auction five combine harvesters, five pickup trucks and other farm equipment.
One of Mugabe’s farms on the outskirts of Harare has been invaded by suspected supporters of President Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF party.
The invaders, who are already farming at the property, are accused of decimating Mugabe’s herd of cattle after the government reduced security presence at his farms following the coup.
Another farm located in the Mazowe area has been taken over by artisanal miners.
The invaders, who are supporters of Zanu PF, have even set up a gold milling plant within the Mugabe family’s sprawling farmland.
Mr Mugabe’s daughter Bona and her husband Simbarashe Mutsahuni Chikoore are fighting in the courts to block the government from redistributing part of the vast farm, which was also seized from a White Zimbabwean by the dictator.
The couple accuses the government of unilaterally seizing sections of the property they were allocated in 2017 without considering their investments and farm utilisation.
On the other hand, the government argues that the 1,804 hectares is beyond the stipulated maximum farm size that can be owned by a single family.
In 2019, President Mnangagwa said a land audit had revealed that Grace Mugabe’s widow owned 16 farms and indicated that excess properties would be seized.
Using her moniker, the Zimbabwean ruler said: “I know of one lady, ‘Stop It!’, who has about 16 (farms) yet the law says one family one farm.”
Although the land audit report that revealed that top ruling party officials and government mandarins amassed vast tracts of land during the chaotic land reform programme was handed over to the president in December 2019, no action has been taken against the former first lady or any other owners of multiple farms.
Mugabe’s sympathisers believe the invasion of his farms and the threats to seize them show that President Mnangagwa’s administration is vindictive.
“I have never seen a country that treats the family of its former leader like this. It’s sad,” said Terry Mhungu, a former Zanu PF youth league member.
“Comrade Mugabe empowered us with land and we cannot thank him by dispossessing his widow and children of the same land they took back from our colonisers.”
There is, however, little sympathy from ordinary Zimbabweans for Ms Mugabe, who was nicknamed ‘Gucci Grace’ in her heyday because of her penchant for shopping in the most expensive designer shops in Western capitals.
Her lifestyle in a country where the World Bank says nearly half of the population lives in extreme poverty made her husband extremely unpopular in the tail end of his rule.
Legal quarrels after Mugabe’s death revealed that the former first lady had ordered a $1.3 million diamond ring from a Belgium-based dealer.
She also owned an extensive portfolio of luxury homes overseas, including a $7.6 million home in Hong Kong
At the time of Mugabe’s death, it was rumoured that he had amassed billions of dollars in his 40 years in power but his registered estate shows that he was only worth millions.
The estate registered in a Harare court in December 2019 by his daughter Bona showed that he left behind $10 million held in a local bank, four houses in the capital, 10 cars, a farm, his rural home and an orchard.
Those familiar with the former first family say some of his assets could have been registered under the names of his relatives to evade Western sanctions.
In the last 14 years of his rule, Mugabe was the subject of an asset freeze and travel ban by the United States and the European Union over allegations of human rights violations and electoral fraud.
A total of 15 farms he seized from white Zimbabweans at the height of the country’s land distribution programme and Alpha Omega were some of the business ventures that were not listed on the estate.
‘Gucci Grace’ will, however, still live comfortably for the rest of her life even if the businesses that her husband left her collapse, as post-coup law ensures that she has a decent pension.
As a former first lady, she is entitled to a “Mercedes Benz E300 or one four-wheel drive station wagon or an equivalent or similar class of motor vehicle and one pickup van,” says the law passed in 2020.
The vehicles will be replaced every five years. She also gets an entertainment allowance and two foreign trips annually where she flies business class.
Her workers are allocated a vehicle or vehicles seen fit by the president. She is entitled to two security personnel, a driver, a personal secretary, one aide-de-camp officer, a fully furnished office, a domestic employee, one gardener and one cook.
In 2018, Mugabe complained that he was given only $467,000 in pension, not the $10 million that was widely reported.
He was also given two houses, including a mansion built for him by the Chinese while he was still in power.
The Harare mansion, famously known as Blue Roof, remains the Mugabes’ family home in the capital.
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