Week in review, experiments with the work week & the image of the black in Western art


I hope you've all had a fantastic first week of the year!

I always feel like what I make of the first week sets a precedent for the rest of the year. Although I went "back to work" this week, I spent most it reflecting (yes, some more – see our Asilia year in review), planning, writing proposals, preparing contracts and meeting with current and potential collaborators. Generally getting organized and handling business so that I can free up space and time to get down to the good stuff – to actually designing.

One thing that I'm experimenting with, in an effort to create larger chunks of uninterrupted time in which to create, is working on Sundays instead of Fridays. Because other people don't generally work on Sundays, I'm not going to feel like I should be available and ready to respond to emails and calls. With that psychological barrier out of the way, I'll be free to get in my flow, without anticipating any intrusions. Plus, Friday is a great day to have off – the early start to the weekend makes it seem like a long one.

So far, so good.


On the lookout
I came across this series of books this week, via Essence magazine:


Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume I: From the Pharaohs to the Fall of the Roman Empire

Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume II: From the Early Christian Era to the ""Age of Discovery"", Part 1: From the Demonic Threat to the Incarnation of Sainthood and
Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume II: From the Early Christian Era to the ""Age of Discovery"", Part 2: Africans in the Christian Ordinance of the World

I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on these. It will be interesting to see the different contexts and different ways in which black people have been represented in art over the centuries. And, I am intrigued as to whether the examples include art created by blacks themselves.


Afri-love on YouTube
I also set up an Afri-love YouTube channel this week. At the moment, I'm slowly adding videos from the wider YouTube community that I like and think are relevant. Categories so far include art, hair, literature and music. Later in the year, look out for videos created especially for Afri-love – especially for you! Subscribe to the channel to stay up to date.


Last week on the blog
Here is a quick (and brief) recap, in case you missed anything:



Thanks as always for taking the time to read and to share comments, facebook appreciation and tweet love. Remember, you can also get blog updates as well as extra links, ideas, news and info via facebook (afriloveblog) and twitter (@afrilove).

Have a great week everybody, be proud and be inspired!

Lulu x


Image above: Zaki Ibrahim

Book review: Ultra Black Hair Growth II

Ultra Black Hair Growth

An informative and relatively quick read, Ultra Black Hair Growth II: Another 6″ Longer 1 Year from Now by Cathy Howse helps to dispel several myths about black hair. Things that you probably heard while growing up, often from so-called professionals, and may have thus adopted as truth.

For example, that water is the enemy. Given that black hair has a tendency to be very very dry, water is actually what we need more of, being that moisture is water. Instead, people would have us believe that oil is the answer to dryness. I sure do remember the ritual of having my scalp greased when in fact, according to Howse, that’s the last thing we need. Our scalps naturally produce the necessary sebum. Another belief she challenges: that trimming is a solution to growing your hair. Another example of the elusiveness of common sense.

With sections tailored to those with chemically-treated hair, the book provides a good education for all and inspires you to envision that you can have long and healthy hair. For supplementary information, news, testimonials and more, visit Howse’s website.

Four women

Yes, some more excitement around the film For Colored Girls. An intense performance by Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott and Ledisi. I've got it on replay as I wait anxiously for the movie's UK release.

All I can say is that, if you haven't read Ntozake Shange's play (well, choreopoem, as she calls it), For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, it is a definite a must-read.


Week in review


I've decided to start posting a review of the past week's activity on the blog. Last week was quite a busy one, with record hits (for which I thank you all!). With 3 independence days on the continent, it was indeed a celebratory week. Unfortunately, Nigeria's 50th anniversary of independence was marred by the Abuja bomb attacks. Resilience is a great word to describe the colourful nation of Nigeria and here's a fitting article by Bilkisu Labaran, on the depth of meaning carried in that one word, "Naija".

A round-up of posts incase you missed any:

A huge thanks to you for taking the time to read and share comments, facebook appreciation and tweet love. Remember, you can also get updates via facebook, twitter and you can also subscribe to the Afri-love feed.

Feedback is incredibly useful to me so, please drop me a line with any comments, suggestions, ideas etc.

This coming week, look out for:

  • Quote of the week
  • Juicy visual inspiration from Morocco
  • An interview with a pair of entrepreneurs  with big plans for Africa's music industry
  • Reflections on the value of taking the easy way out
  • TGIF! The East African edition of Classic African tunes

And possibly more, we'll see how the week goes…

Have a fantastic week! Be proud and be inspired.


Nigeria independence day


Nigeria celebrates independence today. There is much art and cultural produce that I could showcase from that vast and colourful nation but, as a lover of African literature, I've chosen to focus on that. Some of the best novels that I've read are by Nigerian writers and here are a few that I highly recommend:

Continue reading “Nigeria independence day”

Five of my all-time favourite African novels (well, six)


Ever since I took a world literature class in university, and loved pretty much every book we read that term, I've been reading more world than 'conventional'/'mainstream'/out-of-this-world? literature. Yes, sometimes these terms get out of control. To be clearer, I've dedicated most of my reading effort towards reading literature from the so-called developing world and particularly, from Africa and its diaspora. It's been especially enriching for me for a few reasons: providing me with the vibrance I remember from home, while I live abroad (i.e. it's comforting); learning about places and cultures that I might not otherwise have been exposed to (I find literature an invaluable source for learning about history – even though the specific story may be fictional or representative); it makes me feel more at home in the world by weaving an intricate tapestry of diversity. 

So, preamble out of the way, below are five of my favourite African novels. This is not an exhaustive list!

Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera
This book is like a little gem: delicate, diminutive in length yet so generous in expression. Yvonne Vera became my hero after my first reading. A true craftswoman, there are no 'spare' sentences in the book – each one is perfectly put together and poetic. Simultaneously the story of a woman's self-discovery and a nation's self-discovery, it crescendos to a striking powerful end. One of my favourite lines: "How does a woman claim a piece of time and make it glitter?" Context is everything so, check the book out.

Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo
Ama Ata Aidoo is one witty woman. Apparent in the books and stories I've read of hers, as well as plays I've watched. Our Sister Killjoy was my first. Unique in integrating poetry and prose, she chronicles the experience of a young Ghanaian woman who goes abroad to study. It's an experience that more and more of us out of the continent can resonate with. The sassy protagonist voices all those questions and observations that you've probably had yourself. 

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 
This woman is my inspiration! Down to the fact that we share a guilty pleasure – Essence magazine. Her spunk and confidence is evident in her writing and, even though this particular novel is a tale weaved around the historical events of decades ago, her writing is fresh, signaling indeed a new wave of African writers, after the Ayi Kwei Armahs and Ngugi Wa Thiong'os paved the way. 

Waiting for an Angel by Helon Habila
I bought this book on a whim at a book fair years ago. Habila himself was selling them and although I hadn't at the time heard anything about him or his work, I thought I'd give it a try. Again, a relatively slim novel with amazing punch! I read through it in one weekend it was so captivating. Several stories collide in the final event, revealing their interconnectedness all along. His second novel, Measuring Time, has a really different pace which initially threw me but, after all is said and done, it is just as masterful and satisfying.

I was debating between the two aforementioned fathers of African literature for the fifth book but I couldn't quite decide so… this is now the post about six of my all-time favourite novels 🙂

Matigari by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o
A representative tale of the fight for freedom from colonialism in Africa. The story is told in a very interesting way combining prose and poetry as well a lot of questioning and repetition, common in African oral traditions. The king of satire, Ngugi makes you laugh, wince and shake your head, in recognition of characters and institutions that even today, over 20 years after the book was written, ring true.

The Beautyful Ones are not yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah
Another freshly post-colonial tale, Armah's novel exposes the dirt and decay that mars the promise of independence. The protagonist, the seemingly only upright man in Ghana, is increasingly frustrated by the filth and tempted to succumb to it. The novel follows his internal battle, while vividly illustrating the pervasiveness of the decay of place and person.

I know some of you already recommended your favourites on the facebook page and on twitter – I would love to hear more. Happy reading!

Reading list: Beautiful/Ugly

Beautiful-ugly copy 

I just came across this book while posting about the Faustin Linyekula/Studio Kabakos show coming up at London's Southbank Centre. 

Titled Beautiful/Ugly: African and Diaspora Aesthetics, the book is a compilation of essays from acclaimed African figures, including writers, artists, academics whose works in the arenas of fine art, literature, music, popular culture, and more, explore African and African diasporic concepts of beauty and ugliness.

It's on my list!

Somalia Independence Day


The Republic of Somalia was formed 50 years ago today when the former British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland territories united. 

While Somalia is often associated with conflict, piracy and the breakdown of the state, its cultural ambassadors have been busy creating alternative expressions of and insights on the nation.

Continue reading “Somalia Independence Day”

SA week: Literature


South African-born Bessie Head spent most of her writing life in exile in Botswana, eventually becoming a citizen. The perpetual outsider (Bessie was born of a wealthy white woman and black servant in a time where interracial relationships were illegal), her works often deal with the different psychological dimensions of identity. Among her novels are A Question of Power, The Collector of Treasures and Maru.

Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje was the first Secretary-General of the ANC and one of the first black South Africans to have a book published in English. This book was Mhudi, published in 1930, a magnificent piece of historical fiction chronicling the creation of nationhood in the south of Africa.

A member of the Drum boys, whose dictum was “live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse,” Can Themba‘s writing graphically depicts urban life in 1950s South Africa.  He explores conflicts between the modern urban setting and the rural traditional one as well as telling of the effect of Apartheid policy on the aspirations of young, hopeful, educated blacks. Requiem for Sophiatown and The Will to Die are among his works. (Can Themba’s Drum days must have inspired Janet Jackson’s “Got Til It’s Gone” video)

More literary highlights on Lonely Planet.