Dispatches from Africa Utopia: It’s Complicated

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"Africa is all too often written off as an intractable "problem" for the world to solve. I hope this festival will reveal just some of what Africa has to offer the rest of the world: the energy of our youth and their desire to engage with the world; the transformative potential of culture and, perhaps most potently, the power of community to bind people together."

 – Africa Utopia Co-curator, Baaba Maal

Indeed the festival's main question was, in what ways can the continent lead the way in thinking about culture, community, sustainability and ethical wealth creation? In short, what can the rest of the world learn from Africa?

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3 Tried and Tested Productivity Tools

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I'm on a real productive streak at the moment and several things come to mind as possible factors:

  1. It's finally summer in the UK. At least for this week. That means I'm getting more sun (and necessary vitamin D) and finding more excuses to go outside. As somebody who works from home, I find it very easy to spend all days indoors without realising it!
  2. My changing diet. I've been pretty much primal for several months now but after finally reading Mark Sisson's The Primal Blueprint, I was inspired to go 21 days straight with no grains and no sugar (I'll be sharing why and how it's been next week).
  3. Exercise. Something that I stopped doing regularly a few months ago (because of travel, life and if I'm really honest, not being bothered enough to prioritise it). But as I make diet changes, I am also making other lifestyle changes and that involves a whole lot more moving (I'll be sharing more about that soon too).

All in all, I'm feeling good and that usually translates to getting more, quality, satisfying stuff done. I constantly have several things on my plate, what with running a business, managing staff and client projects, keeping up with chores, working on Afri-love and trying to have a life. 

I don't want to say I couldn't do all this without my trusty tools (I don't want to give up total hope on human potential) BUT, right now, the following productivity tools are a godsend:

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Dispatches from WOW 2012: On fashion and being who we want to be

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It's easy to be distracted from the fact that fashion is about creative expression the joy of dressing up. The industry – as represented in glossy magazines and billboards – often intimidates rather than liberates women to be adventurous and have fun with their appearance. 

Fashion for all

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Black people and nature: missing out and connecting

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At one point in my primary school years, I belonged to the Intrepid Explorer's Club. Over the weekends we would go on hikes, climb mountains and essentially take advantage of the fact that we lived in a country where a variety of beautiful natural spaces were so accessible to us. 

Now, I went to a pretty international school, in Kenya, with people originating from over 40 countries across the world. And as far as I can recall, there were only 2 black members of the Intrepid Explorer's Club. 

Despite having nature literally on our doorsteps, I observe that a lot of Kenyans (and I think this is true for a lot of the continent, please correct me if I'm wrong), have no interest in exploring, enjoying and otherwise engaging in it. Tourism is a major contributor to Kenya's GDP and there are several national parks and reserves and yet, several people who have never visited even one. And I'm talking about people who do have the means to do so.

This is an observation I've made about the black populations in the other countries that I've lived in: the US and the UK. There's much that people are missing. From appreciating how insignificant we really are, to getting to understand how our decisions affect the world around us. Being amazed by the diversity of beautiful flora, fauna and landscapes and rekindling that childlike sense of wonder and curiosity we once had. Then there are the benefits to wellbeing: disconnecting, exhaling, exercise, sun. 

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OutDoor Afro

It's great to discover sites like OutDoor Afro, "where black people and nature meet". Founder Rue Mapp grew up between the city and woodlands, developing an appreciation of nature which, she observed, was consistently rare in the African American community. OutDoor Afro is a space where people of colour who share outdoor interests can connect.

The site includes a community where members can have discussions, share photos, videos, and events, as well as create specific interest groups. OutDoor Afro takes advantage of other social media spaces (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr) to inspire, inform and give like-minded people an opportunity to interact.

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Back to nature

Living in a city and being busy is an easy excuse to not make an effort to get out there more. I'll be the first to admit my guilt. Yet, I live in walking distance of three parks and the Trans Pennine Trail is literally around the corner. I'm committing to making that effort this year, as one of the 30 ways in which I intend to live more creatively (being outdoors in nature really helps me think clearly and get inspired). Londoners can check out nearby Wilderness Wood for a taste of what nature has to offer (I work with the Wood in my Asilia capacity and have had the opportunity to spend a bit of time there. It's a great place).

Why do such few black people get outdoors?

That's another post altogether. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks Brandon for the introduction to OutDoor Afro (Everybody, check out designer and musician, Brandon Reevey's world)!

Photographs: Top – Gorge at Hell's Gate, Kenya, by Craft*ology on Flickr. Bottom – Christmas tree farm at Wilderness Wood, by yours truly, Lulu Kitololo

30 ways I’ll be living more creatively this year

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I grow increasingly excited about this year – if I had to pick a word to describe what I'm concentrating on, it would be "creating". Sure that's my line of work anyway but the word is taking on all kinds of meaning in 2012. Not only will I be making ideas happen in the workspace but I also want to spend more time injecting more creativity in my life in general.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about making room for a more creative life over on Technorati. As a creative who has not been living as creatively as I'd like, I shared ideas for how to inject more creativity in your days (whether you are a creative professional or not).

Today I'm sharing 30 (mostly) specific things I'll be doing this year. I choose the number because this year I will be happily turning the big 3-0!

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The Love Letter continues

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As much as this blog has been a love letter to the continent I call home, it’s also been an outlet for me to explore how to better (and better love) myself.

Blogger Brigitte Lyons puts it so well when she says, “if you want to change the world, better yourself first.” That was the thinking behind this whole Afri-love idea. In order for us to inspire, encourage, demand and create the changes we want to see in our continent, we have to first know, be proud of and love who we are and then, act from that position.

Overcoming the madness
Last year was the busiest year I’ve experienced. Getting a business off the ground is no joke and all the learning, administration, establishing of relationships, bidding for projects, servicing clients and actually doing the core work was a lot to handle. On top of all that, I attempted to blog every weekday and pursue other personal projects. At the end of the year I was exhausted and overwhelmed yet hopeful that the Christmas break would give me an opportunity to work on the things that usually get attention last.

I had a wonderful holiday with my family, who I don’t get to see very often. Wonderful but, not productive in the way that I had planned. January rolled around and it wasn’t exactly the fresh start I’d expected. I found this post from Miss Modish and I could relate, almost down to the word, with how she’d felt before she decided she needed to change things up, for her sanity and health.

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Reporting back from A Tropical Christmas

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I anticipated, I wished and then I … thoroughly enjoyed!

Last Saturday, I spent a wonderful day at The Drift Bar in London, celebrating creativity and good company at the Asilia and Afri-love Tropical Christmas celebration. 

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A Tropical Christmas (in London): Saturday 17th December

I haven't celebrated the festive season at home (Kenya) since the year 2000. Instead, I've gathered with similarly displaced friends and enjoyed eclectic celebrations comprising of the best from all our worlds. Pot-luck Christmas dinners where bread sauce and mac n' cheese sit next to bread fruit and mtori; music spanning from across the tropics and; … dancing, always.

Regardless of the cold and sun-starved winter and despite being far from family, these holidays have been fantastic because I've been in such good company. This year, Afri-love and Asilia, the creative agency I co-own, are hosting a Christmas celebration in this same spirit.

A Tropical Christmas

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A celebration of creativity and good company, a Tropical Christmas will be a laidback afternoon to: unload some of the holiday stress; get some last minute Christmas shopping done, away from the hustle and; support quality African and African Diaspora design.

You can expect:

Don't forget to bring some business cards for the "collaboration board" – share your passion and make exciting connections for 2012!

The Details

Date: Saturday 17th December
Time: 12:00 – 8:00pm
Venue: The Drift Bar, Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY

If you're on Facebook, you can RSVP via the event page. There's no need to RSVP though, just come along.

Looking forward to seeing you! 

The world I choose – a Think Act Vote Futures Interview

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Think Act Vote (?!X) is my kind of initiative. Using creativity and culture, the think-tank explores and expresses issues of sustainability, citizenship, politics and essentially, change. Most importantly, they remind us that change is in our own hands. We have agency – to dream and to take action towards making those dreams come true. 

Recently, Think Act Vote asked me to contribute to their Futures Interview series and share my dream of the future. This is it

What's the future you choose? Share it with Think Act Vote here and check out the many inspiring visions.

In our own hands: an interview with Kesha Bruce for the 6×6 Summer Blog Tour

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My exploration of Afri-love has tended to centre around creativity and the creative professions. Mainly because it's what I do and what I love but, also because of a strong belief that creativity is a powerful way of inspiring and creating positive change. I've also been going on and on (and you may be sick of it by now) about how everything starts with the self. Any change we can hope to encourage on a large scale is likely to be futile if we haven't also considered how to implement it for ourselves.

Enter artists and Baang+Burne directors, Kesha Bruce and Charlie Grosso, and their 6×6 project: their answer to the question “what if there were no more art galleries?” For 6 weeks starting in September this year, artists in New York City will take matters into their own hands and put on exhibitions to showcase their work. What an inspiring concept! What amazing potential such an idea could have in an African context, where the necessary infrastructure for a viable career as an artist is even more scarce …

I thought I'd get more wisdom from the source – the wonderful Kesha Bruce.

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