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Visionary on a Mission – Saki Mafundikwa

By August 7, 2014May 29th, 2016Balance, Creativity, Giving Back, Healthy Living

For the last two years in early July, you’d find me joining committed fellow change makers, in the vibrant west coast city of Portland, for the annual World Domination Summit, the brainchild of world traveler and confirmed non-conformist Chris Guillebeau.

This year I chose not to go, feeling some sadness at missing the energy and camaraderie the weekend brings. My excitement was ignited, when rather synchronistically, an invitation arrived to speak with one of this year’s keynote speakers, Saki Mafundikwa. A chance to have a personal conversation with him about his WDS talk, his life and his passion. Make that his Visionary Life Mission.

Who Says You Can’t Go Home Again?

Saki Mafundikwa 2There are people who believe you can’t go home again. Saki Mafundikwa isn’t one of them.

Born in Zimbabwe, he exhibited an extraordinary talent for drawing from an early age, yet his options appeared limited, as the idea of “design” was unknown.

Forced to flee to Zimbabwe in the late 1970s at the height of the civil war, he found asylum in neighbouring Botswana. He lived there for a year as a refuge, aware that he may never be able to go home again.

His drawing talents and high academic achievements landed him an undergraduate scholarship to study at Indiana University, choosing the double major of telecommunications and fine arts. Two professors in the design department recognized his unusual talent and rich design heritage and invited him to study graphic design, a direction he willingly embraced.

Less Is More

Yale, with its Swiss sensibilities and its “less is more” modernist approach beckoned, and Saki received a full scholarship, earning his MFA. New York was his next stop and the unfolding media boom made this the right place at the right time for his career to flourish.

His varied experiences included stints at Random House plus time at Cooper Union teaching Experimental Typography. Saki’s renewed discovery and love of native African languages and its script, led him to collaborate on the team developing the Fodor’s website. Life was very good indeed.

The Visionary Goes Home

After 12 years in New York, Mafundikwa intuitively knew it was time to finally go home again. At the end of 1997, leaving a very comfortable life in the U.S., he packed up his family and went back to Zimbabwe to open ZIVA, the Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts.

Why “Vigital”? It’s a word of his own creation, visual arts taught with digital tools. Embodying the motto “evolve or die,” he believed the digital age was a way for his country to catch up with the world and jump-start an African renewal. Interestingly, ZIVA in his native Shona language means “knowledge.”

His former CEO at Random House generously offered to help, sending a 20-foot container filled with books and old computers back to Zimbabwe to support his new school.

No Accidents in Life

During our conversation, I quickly knew that we speak the same language. The language of belief in something higher than coincidences or accidents. A belief and trust that we are being led synchronistically where we are meant to go.

In an impassioned voice, he told me he’s always followed his inner instinct, staying open to unseen frequencies that make him aware of something grander than himself. When I told him that I see his journey as a spiritual quest, he agreed. This path is something he was born to live.

The Turning Point

So what was the turning point that had him finally choose to return home after 20 years away? He told me that somewhere within the depths of his being, he always knew he would go back home. Not just return, but be someone who contributed solutions to the country’s continuing problems.

While reflecting further on his journey, he admitted that had he not left home to discover himself, he would never have become a graphic designer, or discovered the African alphabets which have become so integral to his work.

And he would never have written his anecdotal and entertaining book Afrikan Alphabets, which combines his fascination with technology and interest in the rich cultural and artistic history of the native African languages.

Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts

ZIVA is small. It currently has 12 staff members and 18 new students each year, its maxiSaki Mafundikwamum student base always 36.
At first the parents of black youth, remained skeptical about their children embarking on a design career. His ratio of white to black students, 95 per cent white to 5 per cent black.

That’s evolved over the years and completely reversed. For many students, it’s the first time they’ve ever sat side by side with someone of a different race. And the talent ZIVA is turning out is gaining recognition, particularly in South Africa, who frequently offers praise for his outstanding graduates.

Through the school, he’s managed to illuminate graphic arts as a viable career path for talented Zimbabwe youth who possibly would never have found it on their own. Saki himself, had only discovered it by leaving home and going to the U.S. Now they learn design on their home turf, and are encouraged to venture out, discover themselves and their passions as he did, to bring their experiences back home.

Cartoons, Comic Books and Animation

When Saki noticed that many young Zimbabwe children are keenly interested in cartoons and comic books, he envisioned expanding ZIVA’s curriculum. He understood that steering his students in a direction where they created their own way of storytelling, was highly possible through animation. How would he manage to do that?

Synchronistically, at his 2013 Ted talk, someone who admired his work, suggested an introduction to the people at Autodesk, a world leader in animation software. Saki had longed for their Maya software for ZIVA, however, with no funding and money scarce, this had seemed virtually out of the question.

Autodesk to the Rescue

Autodesk to the rescue. They donated not only the much desired Maya software to ZIVA, but full access to all their professional 3-D design software and learning content, as they now do to all middle schools, high schools and higher education institutions in Africa.

This partnership has proven invaluable, allowing ZIVA to build a full-fledged animation department, propelling its students into potentially the same league as millions of professionals who currently use AutoDesk software.

His belief that animation has a universal way of communicating to people, keeps him excited about the possibility that his student’s work will reach farther and wider. He inspires them to craft stories and feature films with their own African characters. Projects that can make waves globally, yet are uniquely African in content.

What’s Your Vision for the Future?

When I asked what his dream or vision for the future of ZIVA is, he laughed, saying “To become a full-fledged university with international recognition.” I laughed with him. Of course. Visionaries on a mission see a bigger picture and manifest on a larger scale.

As a man, Saki wears many hats. He finally recognizes how they interconnect and contribute to each other. Who is Saki Mafundikwa? Graphic Designer, Teacher, Design Thinker, Author, Filmmaker and Organic Farmer. Marry them together and you have Saki the man, and Saki the visionary.

World Domination Summit Experience

With our conversation coming to a close, we circled back to his time at WDS. Still fresh from the experience, he sounded enlivened, still processing the wealth of input he received from the other speakers and the enthusiastic, embracing attendees.

We both laughed again, when he observed that they completely got him and the many facets of who he is in the world. Of course they did. They’re living it too. They’re each in their own way committed to forging uncharted paths the way that Saki Mafundikwa is.

Out in the world living life to the fullest, proudly representing the WDS mantra of Community – Adventure – Service. Saki resonated with them and they resonated with this visionary man and his mission. No accident here. No accident at all.

Photos courtesy of Armosa Studios

Beverley Golden

Beverley Golden is a writer, storyteller, peacenik and health & vitality consultant, who loves testing unconventional ways to shift paradigms in the playing fields of health and wellness, storytelling and creativity as a path to world peace. Her passion is turning the “impossible” into the possible, using her own experiences with a lifetime of health issues, to inspire and support others to live their life to the fullest. You're invited to a Complimentary Health Consultation, starting with the True Health Assessment that offers a customized personalized snapshot of how healthy you are in the areas of lifestyle, heredity and nutrition. Contact me to get started!


  • Really inspiring post! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with this amazing visionary and I enjoyed reading so well written and found it very moving and inspired … thanks for this my friend

    • Thank you for reading and relating to this post about Saki Mafundika, Manoj! He is truly a visionary and was a delight to connect with and see how in sync we were with each other.

  • Enjoyed hearing this story Beverley. I love hearing how people are using their ability to tap into their intuition and inner instincts. It sounds like Saki definitely allowed his thoughts, intuition and instincts to come forth, resulting in his tapping into solutions, innovative ideas and powerful decisions.
    RACHEL LAVERN recently posted…Words Have PowerMy Profile

    • Thanks Rachel! Happy to hear that you enjoyed reading Saki’s story. He certainly is an example of tapping into your intuition and inner voice. What he was called to do and actually took up and did, is very admirable. I love your words for him…innovative ideas and powerful decisions, both describe him perfectly.

  • Diane Topkis says:

    What an inspiring story. Thanks for sharing, Beverley. And lucky you for being able to spend time with him. He’s already come a long way to reach his vision. Sounds like he’s not stopping until he reaches his bigger goals. I sure hope he does. I’ll be checking out his TED Talk.
    Diane Topkis recently posted…Clear the Clutter. Find Your Passion.My Profile

    • Thanks so much Diane. I found Saki’s story very inspiring as well and felt grateful to have been asked to write a piece to share with others. He has come a long way towards realizing his vision and I know his passion is fuelling him to carry it to fruition. Hope you enjoy his TED Talk is you do get to watch it.

  • Wonderful article Beverley! In fact, it spurred me to look Saki up and I was delighted to find his TED Talk. He really is an articulate and inspiring man. Thank you for sharing his story.
    Marquita Herald recently posted…Reflections on Self-Worth vs. Self-EsteemMy Profile

    • So happy you were inspired to find Saki and his TED Talk, Marquita. Yes, he is very passionate and has a way to sharing this passion when he speaks and with what he does in his life. Thanks for being so receptive to his story!

  • Suzie Cheel says:

    I have always wanted to go the WDS- one day. I love this interview and the story, thanks for sharing. What a vision what an inspiration and I love this : As a man, Saki wears many hats. He finally recognizes how they interconnect and contribute to each other. That sings to my heart Thank you xxoo
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…Joyful June: It’s Time to Play, Be Bold and Be in The FlowMy Profile

    • You’d love WDS Suzie! Hope you do get to go one day to experience the fabulous creative joy and energy. I felt really grateful to have been asked to interview Saki and to share his story. It is always amazing to me as well, how some people, when a passion and drive presents itself, they have not choice but to follow it. Yes, his example is quite an inspiration for us all, of how seemingly unrelated things do interconnect. Happy this spoke to you and made your heart sing. xoxo

  • Terrific story and a beautiful illustration of how many pieces go in to making up the whole. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that everyone has a story — and it is generally an astonishing one. What amazes me is is how few people really “get” how how astonishing they really are.

    • Wonderful observation, Jackie. Yes, many experiences and many pieces go into making up each of our astonishing stories. It is amazing indeed how few people own their incredible stories, not realizing they are robbing the world of their greatness. Saki is such an inspiring example of following your vision and bringing it into being.

  • Millen says:

    Such a beautiful and inspiring tribute to this incredible man! Your writing reflects so much love and admiration, Beverley. I haven’t heard about Saki before but I will certainly check out his TED talk… Thank you for sharing his life journey here!

    • Thanks for this lovely response to this piece about Saki and about him himself. I was quite surprised at how much resonance we had with each other and yet our paths crossed by chance. Or so it appeared. I am looking forward to chatting with him again sometime soon and sharing more of his path since we first talked. Thanks MIllen for your interest and your curiosity too!

  • Joyce Hansen says:

    I’ve not heard of the WDS before, Beverley. Sounds very interesting and I will be checking into it. Thank you, for posting this story. We often miss the important stories in life while being feed all the tragic ones via the media. How different the world would be if we all followed our passions and our inner guidance. This is a wonderful story to start my day with.
    Joyce Hansen recently posted…Is social media ruining your brain?My Profile

    • Happy to hear this story really inspired you, Joyce and that you resonated with how powerful an example of possibility it is. I agree with you that our world would be so much richer if more people followed their inner guidance and passions and were able to bring them to fruition the way Saki has. And definitely check out WDS. It is happening in late August this year. Wonderful event. Hope the rest of your day was lovely too!

  • Reba Linker says:

    Thank you for bringing us this visionary man, Beverley. I particularly loved this: “he told me he’s always followed his inner instinct, staying open to unseen frequencies that make him aware of something grander than himself.” It is so inspiring to hear about others that live their lives following the inner prompts rather than the 5-point plan. I’m with him! xo, Reba
    Reba Linker recently posted…Small is the New BigMy Profile

    • So happy you enjoyed reading about Saki, Reba. I agree with you about this spectacular quote from him. It was so powerful when he said it, as it fully resonated with me and how I hope I am living my life. I agree that it is inspiring to hear about people who do follow their inner instincts and how even against the odds, they find their way to bring them to fruition. I’m with you and him! xo

  • What an amazing visionary, Beverley! Thank for sharing the inspiration 🙂 Great share! Enjoyed reading all about this wonderful man!
    Joan M Harrington recently posted…How To Ensure Your Blog Posts Sell Here Are The Secrets To Great CopyMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Joan! Yes, Saki truly is a man who had a vision and then set out to bring that vision to life. It seems to be inspiring in different ways for all of us. Glad you enjoyed reading about him too! 🙂

  • Teresa says:

    Now there is another reason to add to my list of why I want to move to Portland area – The World Domination Summit. Saki is my kind of inspiration on so many levels. It reminds me of why I created my business and why I name it what I do. I have spent so much time building the coaching aspect of it and not near as much as the realization of the outcome in the non profit arena. I am re-inspired – thank you.
    Teresa recently posted…Past RelationshipMy Profile

    • I can’t tell you how much I love Portland, Teresa. The World Domination Summit is truly a meeting of creatives from all walks of life. The energy of WDS is perfect for Portland too. Saki is one of these people who continues to inspire people, because in spite of all his success away from home, his calling to return and to give back to his native land, is a profound example of following where you are being led. I’m happy it reminded you and reinsured you too, as I know how committed you are to building your business and how much the word “empower” means to you too.

  • Joan Potter says:

    Beverley – what a wonderful thing that you get to participate in the ZIVA mission. Even promoting it through today’s post is a positive way to assist in what sounds like a true miracle. LOVED your line about “a belief in something higher than coincidences or accidents.” Pretty much serves as the base of my own belief system.
    Joan Potter recently posted…Happy Memorial DayMy Profile

    • So happy you enjoyed reading about Saki and ZIVA and his mission, Joan. It is amazing that his calling was so strong that he had no choice, but to follow it. I am with you on what serves the basis of my own belief as well. Yes to “a belief in something higher than coincidences or accidents.” I know this is my truth as well.

  • Beth Niebuhr says:

    What a wonderful opportunity you had to have a real conversation with this unique man. He has achieved so much, making lemonade out of lemons, never losing sight of his vision despite changes in direction.
    Beth Niebuhr recently posted…How to Create RapportMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Beth! Yes, Saki is quite an alchemist and what struck me is how clearly he was able to see and then realize his vision. So many people have had the opportunity to have their lives enriched thanks to his courage to follow his destiny path.

  • Kimberly says:

    WDS is on my bucket list!
    Wonderful article about an inspiring man… what a visionary!
    Kimberly recently posted…Change Your Space, Change Your LifeMy Profile

    • WDS is fabulous, Kimberly, so I hope you have the chance to attend! I’m happy you enjoyed the article about Saki, as he truly is an inspiriting man who has taken his vision and brought it to fruition.

  • Tamuria says:

    What an amazing man and an inspiring post, Beverley.His desire to help others and the response of the universe – providing the tools to achieve that, is truly an inspiration. Recognising that being forced to flee his own country turned out to be a gift that he could pass onto others truly does put him on a spiritual path. Lovely article.
    Tamuria recently posted…HOW TO CREATE AND EDUCATE FOR WORLD OCEANS DAYMy Profile

    • So delighted you enjoyed reading about Saki and his journey, Tami! He was a wonderful person to talk with and I feel grateful I had the opportunity to share him with others. Yes, it is fascinating how the Universe was there for me, and that all the cosmic puzzle pieces were moving into place, even when he might not have known it. Being so highly tuned into his own mission and passion, is very admirable and brave to actually listen to the call and to follow it through to empower and help others.

  • I’m curious if you have any update about Saki? Has he been public since his Ted talk? Have you kept in touch with him since your interview? Has his school expanded?
    I don’t think you attended the WDS conference this year- did you miss this summit?

    You are such a fascinating women yourself and you introduce your readers to so many amazing, inspiring thought provoking ideas, my curiosity gets peaked.

    • Thanks to your questions, Roz, I sent Saki an email today and asked how things were unfolding with him and his school. I wanted to let him know that I shared this post again as well, so he might see it in places on social media. This year, WDS is in late August and I am not planning on going, you are correct.

      I very much appreciate that you find me fascinating and that your curiosity is piqued and you find my posts thought provoking too! As that is always my intention, I would say “Mission Accomplished”. 🙂

  • What an inspiring man, and what an inspiring post, Beverley!
    I just love that he had to leave home to find and explore his gifts, and then brought them back home to share. The true hero’s journey!
    Susan Mary Malone recently posted…Do You Remember how to have a Meaningful Conversation?My Profile

    • That’s exactly how his story struck me, Susan. It really is such a modern-day example of the hero’s journey. It was fascinating to talk with him and to hear how, even with all of his success in North America, the calling to go back home, was not something he could ignore. So happy you found him and his story inspiring too!

  • I’m always amazed by the abilities and capabilities of people such as Saki Mafundikwa. He knows that his life has purpose, and he’s fully able to translate that into action, which is impressive. Many creative and intelligent people don’t know what to do with all of their talents, which can lead to being ineffective. I’m blown away by what great things people can accomplish! I wonder, too, is this a gift that certain people have or is it in all of us yet we don’t know how to tap into it? Mr. Mafundikwa is quite inspirational, and I’m happy to have had to read about him.
    Meghan Monaghan recently posted…10 Powerful Quotes to Keep Going When You Doubt YourselfMy Profile

    • It’s a great question to ask, Meghan, as it is very interesting to see how some people can become so clear on their vision and then bring it to fruition. Their passion is so strong that nothing seems to stop them. I also agree that many creative and intelligent people don’t know what to do with all of their talents and often does lead to them not expressing themselves fully in their lives. Saki is very inspirational and I truly believe that we were guided to have this conversation so I could share his inspiration with the world! So happy you enjoyed it too.

  • What an inspiring story! Listening to our inner instinct is so powerful and to me is the key to a fufilled life. Thanks for sharing his story.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…How To Create An Small Business Emergency SavingsMy Profile

    • So happy you found Saki’s story inspiring, Sabrina! Just talking with him was such a joy for me and I’m delighted I got to share him with others. I agree with you that listening to our instinct is very powerful and his example illustrates how this can indeed lead to a very fulfilled life!

  • Saki’s TED talk is amazing, and so is he. Just a wonderful person who makes the world better, and I am so grateful that I read yet another tribute to him. Thank you, Beverley. You make him sound as inspiring and bigger than life that he is. 🙂
    Liz Benoit Cozby recently posted…No Need To Worry, Cupcake (6 Stress Less Strategies)My Profile

    • He is a lovely man, indeed Liz and he was a joy to talk with and to write about. What I find amazing is how he left his comfort zone here in North America and was willing to go home again to empower and offer opportunities to others. Glad you enjoyed his TedTalk and that this piece added to what you already knew and thought about him. He is inspiring and a little bit larger than life for sure.

  • Murali says:

    Wonderful story of man in an era where people leave their countries to greener pastures. Truly inspiring.

    • Thanks so much Murali! I am delighted you got to read Saki’s story and see how he truly is a visionary in a time when many people settle for the easier path in life. So happy you found his story inspiring!

  • Joe Butka says:

    A very inspiring post Beverley, it reinforces the fact that no matter where you started or came from anything can be achieved with drive, determination and focus.
    Joe Butka recently posted…Website vs Social Media. How are you getting the Message Across?My Profile

    • Thanks very much Joe! I agree with you, that Saki is a wonderful example of how taking a focused vision and following it through with both determination and drive, can result in amazing possibilities in our own lives and for the lives of others. Glad you found his story inspiring too!

  • Kaz says:

    This is an amazing story and very inspiring! Thanks for sharing your experience Beverley 🙂 since I started reading your blogs, I’ve noticed that you put yourself in some amazing summits. I really admire you and I’m very thankful that we have a connection through our blogs. Thank you 🙂
    Kaz recently posted…How to Create A New Habit – This really works for me!My Profile

    • Thanks so much Kaz! I appreciate that you see that I attempt to put myself in the thick of life experiences and see where they lead me. Often, like in this case of connecting with Saki, to places I could not have even imagined. I’m so happy you found his story inspiring and I am also grateful we’ve had the opportunity to connect and share through our blogs! 🙂

  • Hi Beverley 🙂

    Really inspiring post! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with this awesome visionary and so well written 🙂 Enjoyed reading and found it very touching and was inspired…thank you for that my friend 🙂
    Joan Harrington recently posted…How To Create Compelling ContentMy Profile

    • Thanks Joan for your reading and I am happy you sound it inspiring and touching. I agree, Saki’s story is one of being led on his life’s mission and following the call he could have just as easily denied. Many thanks as always for your support and enthusiasm for the stories I share.

  • Deb Nelson says:

    Once again we hear of the power of following your inner instinct Beverley. What a life he’s leading, and what a wonderful interview. Like others who’ve already commented, I also read this one twice. Thought-provoking. Inspirational. Thanks for sharing.
    Deb Nelson recently posted…Is Inconsistent Messaging Turning Clients Away?My Profile

    • Appreciate you truly embodying this piece about Saki and his mission, Deb. It is truly amazing to know that even with all the advantages he had accrued in his own life, he chose to go home again and to offer others who had fewer opportunities, the chance to improve their lives and thrive. Thanks for seeing the inspiration and the power of following your own inner voice and seeing what destiny is coming towards you in unexpected ways.

  • I’ve read this post twice now, Beverley, and still cannot describe how I am feeling – inspired, motivated and positive won’t suffice.

    One thing is clear, that when we truly believe in our dreams, the Universe sends help in different ways to make it real.
    Vatsala Shukla recently posted…Create Your Job Hunt BlueprintMy Profile

    • Thanks for such a wonderful response to this post and Saki’s mission, Vatsala! He truly is a visionary who has been able to manifest his vision into reality. And I agree with you…when we are clear about our dreams and offer them to the Universe, someone the Universe does conspire to support and help us bring them into the world!

  • What a wonderful post! What I really connected with this part “The language of belief in something higher than coincidences or accidents. ” I believe things happen for a reason and I trust my inner voice to guide me.
    Gisele Grenier recently posted…Can You Benefit from Art Journaling?My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing this Gisele! I also believe there are no coincidences or accidents in life and once we understand the power of following our own inner guidance, we are led to amazing opportunities and extraordinary possibilities in life. I see that Saki definitely embodied this fully!

  • As I reread this post I am touched by how beautifully you wrote about him. You honored him by getting his essence, his vision, and his accomplishment. He is an extraordinary man and it seems that so many on the same page to make a difference in the world, need to convene at WDS for their own support.

    • Thanks Roslyn. I think that what people like Saki do is quite extraordinary. In some ways they sacrifice their comfort and security for the good of a larger purpose. He is truly a wonderful visionary and also has the ability to bring his vision to fruition, which is often challenging for many visionaries to do. And yes, WDS is a great meeting of the hearts and minds for like-minded individuals like this!

  • Lily Lau says:

    Beverley… this post was so inspiring, you can’t imagine how much it came to heal me 🙂 Thanks, thanks a lot lady!
    Lily Lau recently posted…23 mind-blowing optical illusions for youMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for your very wonderful and supportive comment, Lily. And I am so delighted that you read it at a time that offered you some needed healing. Your comment is so very appreciated. 🙂