Earlham College sophomore Rutendo Magade has lived a lot of places - Zimbabwe, Brazil, the USA - but it was in Thailand that her frustrations with not seeing women that looked like her being celebrated came to boil.
"From that I was like, 'I just want to do something that puts Black women out there, puts Black women on the spotlight and in settings that are considered beautiful or desirable,' which is not usually the case," she tells WVXU.
Magade made that wish come true in fall 2020, launching the online magazine Munaku. She spent a year working on the project and has already turned out three issues. She plans to publish quarterly. She has contributors from connections she's made around the world.
"The main focus of the magazine is to provide representation for Black women; to have a publication that shows Black women in a wholly positive light," she explains.
It's important also, she says, to show Black women from all parts of the globe. Being from Zimbabwe, she's especially disgusted by stereotypical images of African women as poor or destitute and dirty. "Munaku" translates to "beautiful person" in Shone, a language of Zimbabwe.
She aims to take on tropes of Black women - like that somehow having lighter skin is more desirable than darker skin - and thwart narratives that Black women are some kind of homogeneous group.
"Munaku says 'No, you can be a Black woman and still be your own individual.' There's so much diversity just within this demographic. I think by just reading through people's stories and seeing how they're different, how different people relate to the world, people will just have a better understanding of the lives of Black women. I think the media has really failed us."
She'd like to see Munaku available anywhere people might just happen to pick up a magazine, like on a airplane or in waiting areas.
"The reason is I am trying to have positive images of Black people out there and I am trying to introduce people to a version of Blackness that they rarely get to see," she explains. "So, if were available in public spaces like a plane I feel like that's a place were lots of people can interact with it, see it, leave it, and then the next person will also come and see it. It would be so beautiful if I could one day get it in print."
Magade funds the endeavor with an on-campus job, which she holds down while pursuing a double major in physics and global management. She plans to begin looking for investors when she's ready to take the magazine to print. In the meantime, the online version has a very professional feel with high-quality photography and a sleek, attractive design.
The next issue is expected to publish at the end of February.