My mother is from Tanzania where it is customary for women to give each other kangas (also known as lessos) as gifts, especially at events such as weddings, send-offs, births etc.
Over the years, my mother has amassed quite a number! Last year while visiting her, I took the opportunity to raid some of her collection, taking photos for inspiration’s sake.
Kangas come in one piece consisting of two matching panels. You may have seen women along the Swahili coast using one panel as a sarong and the other to cover their head and/or shoulders. I often benefit from this when my mother splits her kangas with me. Here’s one I recently received:
Kangas traditionally feature a saying. The one above is fantastic: “We are in love, give us a chance”.
Mama's collection also includes some kitenge (wax print) pieces …
Mixed in with mum’s kangas, are textiles from other parts of the world such as this Indonesian beauty. Given the history of African wax print, it’s no wonder that this piece fits in pretty well.
I’m really excited about The Kanga Book. Find out more about it here.
I love the colour, pattern and personality in these prints from Jamilla Okubo’s series, ‘We The People of the Diaspora – Black Culture Exploration’. African-American/Kenyan native Jamilla is an Integrated Fashion Design student and a self-declared painter, textile artist, designer and graphic artist.
Regarding her prints, her site reads:
"The prints, fun as they may be, acknowledge a deeper struggle which is rooted in black culture. She acknowledges the history, but similar to an upbeat song about heartbreak decides to shine a different light on the situation by claiming the story back for herself.”
I’m really impressed by Jamilla’s entrepreneurialism. Her prints are on sale online and she’s already received some great press mentions and interviews for her work. In my own experience, the hustling I did before graduation (including spending most of my holidays interning) definitely made a difference when I entered the so-called real world.
In the past few weeks, the question of what constitutes as 'African' has come up in different contexts.
As I prepared my African fiction and non-fiction reading lists, I had to reflect on how I was selecting the books. In the end, I defined African fiction as such because of the heritage of the author and thus their perspective and experience, whether or not the subject of the book had anything to do with Africa. On the other hand, African non-fiction picks had everything to do with the subject matter.
I attended a couple of conferences in April: the African Creative Industries Investment Summit (ACIIS) and London Business School's Africa Day. Both were great opportunities to meet some truly inspiring people and listen to some exciting insights and ideas (and as much as I've been a skeptic of networking – I must say that that was actually the highlight of these 2 events. In fact, these experiences changed my whole perspective on the matter but, more about that here).
What did of course come up was this question of the African aesthetic. What makes something African?
The last batch of my top picks for this year's Women of the World Festival at London's Southbank Centre covers events to do with culture, activism and social issues and debates. I don't know about you but, between this list; the business, entrepreneurship and career development one I shared last week and; the music, poetry and spoken word events, it's going to be tough deciding what to actually attend! It's the kind of tough decision that's a joy to make. To those planning to attend the Festival, I hope you have a wonderful time and perhaps I'll bump into you. To everybody else, I look forward to reporting back.
Alice Walker WHAT: A world exclusive premiere of ‘Alice Walker: Beauty In Truth’, a feature documentary film by Pratibha Parmar, about the life and art of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of ‘The Color Purple’. The 6:30pm screening will be followed by a conversation with Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar. The 9.30pm screening is introduced by Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar. WHEN: Sunday, 6:30pm and 9:30pm
What's new in African Feminisms WHAT: Looking at what is fresh in African feminist thought and action. African women are gaining force in music, writing and film, offering powerful and subversive views on gender, power and the future. WHEN: Sunday, 1:30pm – 3:00pm
I first heard of Bombolulu when I went to visit my Uncle Duncan who was at the time working as an artisan there. Since 1969, Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Centre in Mombasa has been working with men and women artisans with special abilities to overcome their physical limitations and empower them economically and socially.
As well as supporting staff in becoming fully integrated members of their communities, the initiative has provided benefits such as a clinic, nursery school, social hall, sports and more. Bombolulu includes housing units for artisans, artisan workshops and a Cultural Centre which comprises of different traditional homesteads of the diverse tribes of Kenya.
The workshops produce a range of jewelry, textile, wood and leather products. Every year, thousands of different designs are produced and many years of successful exporting have established the workshops as a reliable supplier and the project is a member of the WFTO (World Fair Trade Organization) and it is the trading partner of PEOPLink/OpenEntry (USA).
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.
Every August, Edinburgh, Scotland is taken over by 100s (maybe 1000s) of arts and cultural events courtesy of various festivals. These include the Edinburgh International Festival and more famously, the incredibly diverse Edinburgh Festival Fringe – claiming to be "the largest, and greatest, arts festival in the world". There's just one week of this year's programme left but I thought I'd round up some of the Africa-related events to whet your appetite for the possibilities next year.
During this blog's first year, I endeavored to celebrate the independence days of African countries through creating a dedicated post (you can browse them via this link). Continuing on from the July round-up, and from the general celebratory nature of this week, here are highlights from the August celebrations.
It's not often that I hear about Western Sahara or come across Saharawi people or culture. And then, twice in one week, I come across things that I'd like to share about this little known territory in the west of our continent.
Every October, a festival takes places in the UNESCO World Heritage Site and oasis town, Ghadames. The festival celebrates Tuareg culture and traditions, bringing people together for food, drink, dance and song.