Remembering “Chui,” a Lexington leader and entrepreneur

Remembering “Chui,” a Lexington leader and entrepreneur


Remembering “Chui,” a Lexington leader and entrepreneur



Cubaka Nehemia Mutayongwa, known to most as “Chui,” drowned in a tragic kayaking accident at Cave Run Lake on July 4, 2020 — and no one loved America more than this young man.

Chui moved to Lexington from the Congo in 2012 with his parents and his six brothers. He graduated from Tates Creek High School where he was honored as Homecoming king, and attended Transylvania University, where he played collegiate soccer before leaving to pursue a future of community engagement.

At only 22 years old, Chui worked with North Limestone CDC where he was invaluable to The Night Markets and the forthcoming Julietta Market. He was involved with Aramark Food Service at the University of Kentucky, where he advocated for workers’ rights and wages.

“I would describe him as someone who believed that anything was possible — he had this way about him that made any ambition, no matter how big, seem like just a simple thing,” says Kris Nonn, Executive Director of NoLi CDC. “He had a joy and kindness in his eyes, and was always on the move, always working on something, toward something more.”

With a passion for business and the desire to elevate his community, Chui launched his own business venture, The Soda Pop Shop, selling old and new specialty sodas like Frostie’s Cherry Limeade, vintage Grapette, and Grapefruit Kiss.

“He was an exceptional young man that’s for sure. Only 22 years old, but he did a lot in such a short time with us,” says Mamadou “Sav” Savane, the owner of Sav’s Grill.

When Sav’s Grill closed its location on S. Limestone, Chui approached Sav about running Sav’s Chill across the street until the lease was up this fall. Chui’s dream was to begin selling his soda at Sav’s Chill and eventually transform the location into his Soda Pop Shop later this year.

Sav says, “I am so heartbroken, I don’t know what to do with this shocking loss. In his short life he left a huge impact. I can honestly say that Lexington has lost a young leader who had a bright future in front of him.”

Photo by Raaziq K. El-Amin

The Soda Pop Shop reopened inside Sav’s Chill on the corner of S. Limestone and E. Maxwell in late July. Chui’s family wants to continue the business to keep his vision alive. Chui’s brother, MC Sedrick Mapipo, told friends on Facebook, “He is no longer with us but his legacy will live forever.” In the next few weeks, t-shirts in honor of Chui will be sold as part of an ongoing fundraiser to support Chui’s Soda Pop Shop and Rafiki Center, and to keep Chui’s legacy alive. 

The Soda Pop Shop is located at 289 S. Limestone.



The Loss of a Leader 

Associate Professor of English at Transylvania University
Lexington resident and educator

At the end of a semester, I wanted to give my students a small gift, a memory from our time together. I photographed each of them individually before taking a group photo of all of them. —Transy professor, Kremena Todorova

He told me he wanted to be the President of the Congo one day and I knew the world was already a better place.

Because I was Cubaka Nehemia Mutayongwa’s academic advisor at Transylvania University, I got to talk with him about classes he might take, about what he wanted to major in, and about who he wanted to become. 

I took this picture of Cubaka in December 2017, at the end of a class about women, power, and privilege. At the end of a semester during which we collectively built a safe space for discussion, learning, and growth, I wanted to give my students a small gift, a memory from our time together. I photographed each of them individually before taking a group photo of all of them.

Cubaka’s life ended too soon. But I believe he touched enough of us that we can carry on his dream of making the world more just, more generous, and more peaceful.

Rest in peace, Cubaka.



This article also appears on page 16 of the August 2020 print edition of Ace Weekly.

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