The Year That Gave

Nwando Ebeledike wearing a green dress with feather sleeves and squatting in front of a mountain by the water in Montenegro


In the first minute of the year 2023, I was tapping my champagne glass to the champagne glasses of some of the people I love the most in the world. I went to sleep with a smile on my face and glee in my heart.


I spent the first week in Malaga, Spain with my person, cut out from the internet and everyone that lives in it. We cycled up a hill, read books aloud to each other, took photos of one another and laughed a lot.

I started a new job as an analyst, in addition to the other works of my hands. It was and continues to be an experience in the discipline of showing up to something consistently, regardless of the many waves of living.


I truly believed I was going to die from what was the worst sickness of my entire life. It hurt all over, breathing, being, living. I shudder at the thought.

My now husband, moved and moved and then moved his proposal plans because I thought I was going to die and if there was ever a perfect moment for a proposal, maybe that was not it.

He did find the perfect moment on the perfect day, and asked me to do life with and by him. I said yes because, he is and has always been my anchor. I’m now moored.


We got traditionally married, surrounded by our favorite people and I learnt even more, what showing up for the people we choose looks like. My husband also turned a new age and we celebrated together and then with others.


A loved friend threw us the most delightful wedding party and our hearts were full. 

This month reminded me that everything in the world is connected one way or another, that a war happening can influence the works of our hands in tangible ways, as it should.

It also reminded me that building a brand is a 24/7 effort that takes so much and does not always give back, but we show up anyway, because what if?


There was a lot of sun, which made me happy. I shot my first commercial shoot of the year which caused nostalgia for photography. 

The lover & I got the city of London involved in our love by committing to each other in the court of Law. It was an intimate day of softness and family.


We spent a lot of time with chosen family. Sleeping on the balcony, dancing, laughing, cooking, eating, twirling, observing, talking, group excercising, storytelling. 

In London and Marrakech.


Was the month of barbie and everything was pink. 

I continued to try my best at NALÈ. Building our own community has become urgent for me because I want to create a brand that is a fond part of people’s lives and celebrations. This is a desire I carry with me.


Came with loss, life, chosen family, given family, support, for me and others - giving and received, slowness, long talks, tears, laughter, growth, self searching, more loss, celebration of others, hosting, planning, building, breaking, support, and then it was quiet.

Nwando Ebeledike's side self portrait


Another devastating war in another part of the world forced on long suffering people. This made me very sad.

Family, funeral, shoots and more shoots, work, busy days spilled in into the other, into the other, music, long hugs, fear, showing up, the first wedding I’d been to in over 5 years, lots and lots of dancing, white wedding planning, wedding dress try ons, long talks of the future.


I turned a new age. The lover & I went away for 10 days - first to Croatia and then to Montenegro. We were in awe of the the beauty of the world. Life slowed down for us, we ate delicious food; lots of it, we laughed, walked, talked, had late mornings and long nights. It was my perfect month of the year. 


We went to Portugal to see the church, the reception and taste the food for our white wedding day. It took our breath away in unison.

A free person I had never met passed away in a town I lived in long ago and this made me cry. I found it heartbreaking to die in the middle of fighting so fiercely for freedom.

Lots and lots and lots of family time that was never enough because I do love them so.

In Summary,

This is a year that gave and then gave some more to me. It was also a year that took.

I won, lost, cried and laughed; some months in equal measure. I doubted things and the motivation behind them. I loved and I received love. I am older and wiser than I was a year ago. 

Truly thankful for existence and the way the rawness of sitting inside of it feels. I am alive and it is a glorious thing.

Thank you to the year that gave me a lot and taught me more.

The Why of Things

For as long as memory has allowed, I’ve had big ideas and daily life has been taking steps towards the transfer of these ideas from brain to world. A birthing.

Sometimes there is an apparent reason for what is being birthed and other times there is a pull in the direction of the thing, that goes beyond vocabulary.

I met up with a cared for friend today and we talked about the varied sometimes parralel worlds we show up to daily in the act of creation. He asked me a simple question about a world I was describing. Why?

It led me down the path of realisation that sometimes we look too closely at the worlds we are building, accepting their sure existence, without necessarily questioning or understanding the why.

So, this is an open letter to self, pondering publicly on the why this world is important to me to create.

Building is audacious, lonely and more often than not, frightening. Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. By this definition, I have been insane for as long as memory allows. So have so many other dreamers that keep showing up to the building of things that take time and peace of mind in equal measures; pressed down, shaken together and running over; with the unwavering belief that the next day, week, month, year or even decade is the one that gives back.

In a fast modern world where ideas on their own have no footing, and must be paired with execution, distribution and promotion to make a whisper that could one day turn to a roar, it is the belief in self, the uplifting of peers and holding up of one another that makes the dream of tomorrow remotely possible.

This is my undiluted why.

Swaptime is a building a world of people that are building other worlds. An aggregator of dreamers who show up relentlessly to the itch that is their dream and the minuscule possibility that it could one day be brought forth to life. A world where pain points are shared and understood in unison, where there is an extension of self in the giving of skills acquired through the act of building, but also the receiving of extensions of others. An uplifting.


Masking As a Way of Life

Definition - Masking is where a person acts in ways others might consider “normal” in order to be accepted by them. 

Definition - Masking has evolved and is now defined as concealing one’s emotion by portraying another emotion

I am interested in observing people that mask, photographing them and talking to them to understand their why and how they have successfully done so without suspicion. I guess this is in a bid to understand what reality has forced them into hiding - what society has enforced that because if there is one thing society loves, it is uniformity. In looking for the definition of masking, I came across a number of examples formed with various words but they all had the same meaning behind them. A difference in being. In my own words, to mask is to wear a face that is not yours.

People mask for all sorts of reasons - men mask because that’s just what men are meant to do to appear ‘strong’ all the time - they only ever wear their firm manly face - the never shifting out of control face, while the I’m-not-so-strong- today face is concealed lest they be considered weak.

Women mask in an attempt to find the right level of being - to not be too much but also to not be too little - why are you so sad? Smile! - why are you so all over the place - be still - why are you so loud? Who will marry you? - so women mask - one face a day in search of the perfectly acceptable by society face - the ‘this-is-just-alright’ face.

I have been curious about masking as a lifestyle and I am currently working on a series for ‘Masking’ with all sorts of interesting people from different backgrounds and it has been a blessing to behold. 

Today I realised that masking on it’s own is not sufficient. If a stranger wears a mask and comes into your home, he is still a stranger and that instills fear. For masking to be a successful outcome - one has to perfect the art of Blending. How well can you fit in even when you stand out?


My favourite definition of blending - “is the technique of gently intermingling two or more values to create a gradual transition or to soften lines”.

Here are some questions I have with regards to Masking

  • Where do you keep yourself when you are playing the role of someone else?
  • If you have several you’s then who is the authentic you?
  • How long do you have to shift yourself before “they” decide not to show up again?
  • How is it possible to hide in plain sight?
  • When you mask so much that you change who you are so successfully, can true joy be found in that new identity or will you always look for you? 

  • Before I look at others, I prefer to start with myself so I made several self portraits of figurative masking.

    Welcome to my masking series

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