Staying connected to home: bringing your heritage into your space and into your work

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Staying connected to home bringing your heritage into your space and into your work
 

It’s been over 15 years since I left the place that I still consider my home: Kenya. As much as I’ve appreciated my experiences of living in the US (New York) and in the UK (London and Manchester) – and especially all the people I’ve met, who’ve made my life so much richer – Kenya remains my home.

I periodically reflect on this notion of “home”. What is home? For some it’s where they come from and for others, it’s simply where they live, at the present time. For me, the whole idea is something far less tangible.

When I am at home, I feel it. It’s in how my body just seems to naturally relax, feels more vibrant and literally glows. It’s in the ease of interacting with people and being understood (and this is not even to do with language but rather, our shared cultural experiences and values). And of course, the joy and comfort of family, and people who have known you for what seems like forever.

While these aren’t things I can carry with me, each time I return to my London base, there are two particular ways in which I’ve managed to keep home very close:

  1. By decorating my physical space
  2. Through the projects I initiate and choose to work on

 

Bringing home into my space

Staying-Connected-to-Home-African-Decor

[Vibrant colours and bold graphics that remind me of home: a Khanga cloth from Chichia London; ring trays from curio markets in Nairobi; a woven plastic mat from an African market in the UK]

 

Living in London has made a relative minimalist of me – I don’t have much space! What I do insist on is filling my space with colour and texture – things that I associate very strongly with home. While all the objects aren’t necessarily Kenyan (they are however, mostly African), they make me feel at home.

It’s easy to just collect a whole bunch of art, crafts and textiles and then overload a space. This approach may work for some. However, as I only have one room to call my own, I need to ensure that it is a space that delights me visually but, that also enables me to decompress. For me, this involves limiting what I call “visual noise” – i.e. an excess of visual stimulus, without a pattern or strong theme holding it all together.

 

So how do you create a vibrant space without visual noise?

Start with as plain a “canvas” as possible
Mine has plain white walls and ceilings and a stripped wooden floor. My furniture is either painted white or in its “natural” form (whether this is wood/ wood-like, wicker etc.).

Create a handful of focal points
This could be in the form of a couple of colourful textiles to drape over furniture – e.g. as a bedspread, as a curtain for a shelf or over a couch. This works as a way to reduce the visual noise (by covering up things like books, clothing, a shoe rack etc.). A few special pieces of art or statement furniture can also do the trick.

Pepper the space with tiny treasures
Various small knick-knacks can add accents of colour, texture and delight! I like for most of mine to be functional – again because of my limited space and pseudo-minimalism. A little bit of creativity can go a long way – e.g. I love bold jewellery and the way in which I store it can be a display of its own! I do have some objects that are merely decorative – bits and pieces that I’ve come across and fallen in love with, over the years.

Thanks to Marie Kondo and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, I am even more strict with my rule regarding choosing what to keep and buy – I have to love it! I find this a great way to curate a space that truly brings you joy.

 

Staying-Connected-to-Home-African-Textiles-and-Accessories

[I have a thing for stripes! I’ve collected these bracelets and textiles from Kenya, as well as from African markets and generous friends in the UK.]

 

Bringing home into my work

In 2010, I started Afri-love and it has been a great excuse to stay connected with home :). It has involved exploring all kinds of creative expression and connecting with artists, designers, entrepreneurs and other like-minds, who are either at home or in the diaspora like myself. Personal projects, such a writing a blog or making things and sharing them, are such a great way to immerse yourself in an interest and develop your passion. Sometimes, opportunities arise from this that can have a significant positive impact on your professional life.

 

Tropical-Paleo-Prints-Lulu-Kitololo

Lulu-Kitololo-Art-Design-Creativity-and-Noise-T-shirts

[Top: my Tropical Paleo series of prints is inspired by foods found back home (such as tilapia and custard apples). Bottom: designs created in collaboration with Creativity and Noise, for their Afri-CAN line]

 

Early on in my career as a graphic designer, I figured out that I needed to work on projects that meant something to me. Thus, I’ve always been interested in Africa-related projects (some of which I’ve described in more detail). Several of these projects have been a result of somebody reading my blog and getting in touch.

These projects have included creating visual identities, print and digital materials for: continental health campaigns, homeware brands, film festivals, theatre companies, women’s organisations and charities and more (see some of last year’s highlights here).

Every project process begins with a research phase where I truly get to understand the client’s objectives and aspirations. Then we look at inspirational visual references. When it comes to these Africa-specific projects, that process often involves looking at: physical spaces (e.g. landscapes and the built environment); cultural activities (e.g. festivals and rituals); nature and; arts and crafts. This is often one of my favourite parts of a project, because I get to transport myself to these places (which, while they aren’t always specifically Kenyan, still resonate strongly), and then find creative ways of interpreting, reimagining, aggregating and transforming this data into original work.

 

Staying-Connected-to-Home-Africa-in-My-Art-and-Design

[Left: cards inspired by plants that were ubiquitous growing up. Right: a progress shot from the mural I created for the cross-cultural Home Affairs installation, last year]

 

Where the heart is

As much as Kenya is home, I’ve experienced a similar feeling of belonging in many places throughout my travels. In Tanzania (where my mother comes from); in the Caribbean; and even in New York and London! Sometimes it is the climate and landscapes that conjure up that feeling. Many times it’s to do with objects and spaces that create a familiar experience (for example).

However, as much as these physical things are such important cues – the most satisfying way to feel at home has always been down to people, and the magic we create when we are together.

 

What does home mean to you and how do you bring home into where you are and what you do?

 

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The Afri-love Sundown Sessions: 3 intimate evenings of live music

Afri-love Sundown Sessions

 

I'm excited to share something I've been working on with you. I've curated a series of intimate live music gigs taking place on the last 3 Fridays of this month, in London. 

As the days get shorter, nights get chillier and London settles down and braces itself for the winter – I dream of sunny days, vibrant colours and the soulful energy that I feel, back home.

Black History Month is the perfect occasion to launch the Sundown Sessions – conceived in the Afri-love spirit of celebrating the work of amazing African and diaspora creatives.

 

The artists

Join me and engage with inspired musicians who, will transport us to faraway lands. Featuring resident act Sirena Riley and Tom Donald; Adriano Adewale (Friday 16th), Namvula (Friday 23rd), Muntu Valdo (Friday 30th), with Djs Africathy and Zezi Ifore.

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Owiny Sigoma Band: Afro Grooves and Psychedelic Album Art

Owiny Sigoma Band Album Cover Art Nyanza

Owiny Sigoma Band Album Cover Art Changaa Attack

Owiny Sigoma Band Album Cover Art I Made You You Made Me

 

I discovered Owiny Sigoma Band thanks to Radio 6, while in the studio this week. Hearing Luo piqued my interest and then, upon discovering that the song was called “Deep Kisumu Fish” (listen), I had to look these guys up. 

When I did, I was mesmerised by the fluorescent, psychedelic album cover art. Totally matches the description of the music on Bandcamp: “a collection of gloriously hypnotic Afro grooves symbolic of the true culture clash between the Luo and London”. 

Listen to and purchase the music here.  

Sadly, Charlie, the nyiduonge drummer in the group, recently passed away – RIP

  

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Goodbye Asilia: new business directions

Goodbye-Asilia-–-New-Business-Directions
 
This month marks 5 years of running my business. It's been a hell of a ride – high moments, challenging times and everything in between. All with a great business partner and an amazing team by my side. But now, it's time for a change …
 
A key part of the Asilia ethos has always been about following your heart and doing work you love. We’ve constantly strived to practice what we preach. That’s why we love working with other passionate people and why our self-directed projects are so important to us.
 
Over the past 5 years, these projects have evolved in different ways. Some have been more satisfying and successful than others – Afri-love, Afriapps and Black White Simple being the ones that have most resonated with the wider world.
 
 
Products of change
These projects, along with our experiences working with clients over the years, have taught us important lessons; opened up new opportunities we couldn’t have foreseen and; challenged and expanded our visions, when it comes to the contributions we want to bring to the world.
 
In being true to ourselves, our passions, our new circumstances and environments, we have decided on a new future for our professional paths.

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EVENT: Home Affairs – a Cross-Cultural Installation

NOW Gallery Home Affairs Exhibition London Africa

 

Home-Affairs-sq

 

NOW Gallery will be celebrating London’s diverse creative landscape in a new cross-cultural installation, Home Affairs.

The exhibition is a collaboration between furniture designer Yinka Ilori, fashion designer Christine Mhando of London-based CHiCHiA and creative consultant Arieta Mujay. It features four theatrical, visually compelling conceptual spaces, brought to life with curated film, archival footage and performance. Framed by the language of traditional Nigerian & Swahili parables, the spaces will be filled with thought-provoking furniture, indigenous plants, designed objects, garments and wallpapers inspired by bespoke Khanga textiles. There will also be artwork by The installation will also be artwork by Jason Barka and Berjo Mouanga; a mural by myself, Lulu Kitololo; hand-carved wooden stools and bowls by artist Gary March and; on opening night, spoken word performances by the Bazaar Bohemian, of Project Tribe

Art director/brand consultant Ola Shobowale (aka @imustcreatenow) is also on-board, helping to bring it all together.

Dates: 20th August – 4th September 2015 
Venue: NOW Gallery, The Gateway Pavilions, Peninsula Square, Greenwich Peninsula, London SE10 0SQ  

 

Join us this Thursday evening for the NOW Later opening night

You can expect: 

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Inspired: Tropical Flora from my East African Travels

 

Tropical-Inspiration-Afri-love-1

 

I recently returned from a wonderfully rejuvenating trip home to East Africa. Here’s the story of my trip, told through the tropical flora!

First stop was my hometown of Nairobi. I felt so lucky to wake up each morning to this – such a diverse, colourful collection of foliage. If you’ve been following my #plantsomethingdaily challenge, you know how much inspiration I derive from nature!

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Behind the Scenes with I Used To… Draw

Today I wanted to give you a behind the scenes look, from a shoot that Stacy Moore and I recently had a lot of fun with. Stacy is an educational psychologist and the founder of I used to…. We’re working together on a series of art workshops, I used to… draw, the first of which will take place at my studio, this Sunday 26th of July.

 

You don't have to be an artist to join us. In fact, the sessions are especially for those of us who've put aside that younger creative self. Here's a chance for that self to come out and play again!

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Plant Something Daily – June Favourites

 

Plant-Something-Daily-Art-Lulu-Kitololo-June-2015

Another month of my #plantsomethingdaily challenge has gone by and today, I will cross the halfway mark!

It’s been a great exercise in discipline, stretching my creativity and not getting hung up on trying to achieve perfection. It’s also been quite satisfying – just doodling without much restriction.

Continue reading “Plant Something Daily – June Favourites”

Project Stories: African Women’s Development Fund Logo and Website Revamp

AWDF World of African Women

Every now and again, a project comes along that speaks to my heart, mind and soul (I’m really grateful that, after almost 5 years in business, this is becoming the rule rather than an exception!).

Working with the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) has been one of those projects. It’s merged the things I care about: 

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