Inspired: Tropical Flora from my East African Travels

Tropical-Flora-East-Africa

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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Plant Something Daily – May Favourites

My #plantsomethingdaily art challenge continues. At this point, as much as there are days where I feel like I just don’t want to do it (usually because I’ve left it very late and all I want to do is sleep), I’m way too committed to listen to the deviant voices in my head. And of course, all of you who’ve been following the journey on Facebook and Instagram keep me accountable so, thank you!

Here are some of my favourites from May.

Image at the top of the post:

The pair above are actually part of a series of 3. I drew and then experimented on the computer.

Plant-Something-Daily-Lulu-Kitololo-May-2

Fruits and vegetables featured a few times.

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Plant Something Daily – April Favourites

A third of the year has already gone by! Doing my #plantsomethingdaily drawings has been an interesting way of tracking the progress of time. Here are a few favourites from April…

Plant-Something-Daily-Art-Lulu-Kitololo-April

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Creative Muses: Plant Life

1-Nature-Creative-Muse-Cacti-Cactus-Succulents

 

The weather in the UK has been refreshingly wonderful for the past few weeks. I've tried to spend as much time outdoors as I can which means, more encounters with one of the greatest sources of inspiration in my book – plants! The colours, the patterns, the sheer diversity –  plant-gazing is surely one of the purest delights. 

 

2-Nature-Creative-Muse-Round-Courgettes-Zucchini-Wild-Country-Organics

 

Fruits and vegetables count as plant life for me. I've found that my paleo journey has exposed me to varieties that I had not come across before! I've been frequenting my local farmers' market where I can buy organic produce at prices that rival those of even conventional veggies in the supermarket. Above, round courgettes (aka zucchini) from Wild Country Organics

 

3-Nature-Creative-Muse-Dahlias-Northern-Flower-Manchester

 

Spotted these Dahlias this past weekend in Manchester, at a charming quirky boutique flower shop called Northern Flower. It was stocked with the most interesting selection of plants, including venus fly traps!

 

4-Nature-Creative-Muse-Horniman-Museum-Gardens-London

 

Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know that the gardens at the Horniman Museum count as one of my favourite places in London. The image above was enhanced with a little help of that wonderful tool, VSCOcam.

 

5-Nature-Creative-Muse-Succulents-Florist-Bethnal-Green-London

 

I find it hard to walk by florists without pausing to take a picture. Especially in summer when their wares are out on the pavement begging for it. This one is in Bethnal Green and unfortunately I didn't note the name …

 

6-Nature-Creative-Muse-Leafy-Skies

 

I do have quite a bit of fun manipulating enhancing photographs on my phone. It has become one of my favourite commute-time activities!

 

7-Nature-Creative-Muse-Horniman-Museum-Gardens-London

 

Horniman again. And there will be more …

 

8-Nature-Creative-Muse-Chilli-Pepper-Plants-Northern-Flower

 

Chilli peppers at the Northern Flower. I was so tempted to purchase a pot or three!

 

9-Nature-Creative-Muse-Horniman-Museum-Gardens-London

 

Horniman …

 

10-Nature-Creative-Muse-Flowers-Tate-Modern-Bankside-London

 

This regal beauty caught my eye as I was walking along the riverbank, not far from the Tate Modern museum.

 

Nature, the universe and mother-love

I came across some quotes by environmentalist, naturalist, traveler, writer, and scientist, John Muir, that I totally resonate with:

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

There is a love of wild Nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love ever showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties.

 

I found them here, where you can read plenty more from his book, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir (which is now on my wishlist!).

 

What about nature inspires you?

 

All photos by Lulu Kitololo. 

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Earth Day Celebration: Nature as Creative Inspiration

Earth Day Squash

 

Nature has always been my number one source of creative inspiration. The diversity abundant in the flora, fauna and landscapes that surround us have been inspiring artists, craftspeople and designers, around the world, for centuries.

In this late Earth Day post (you may have noticed TypePad was down for a few days last week), I wanted to share some photographs I’ve taken – most of them recent, thanks to my new enjoyment of Instagram, and a couple from the archives. 

 

Patterns in nature

Wundanyi Taita Hills Plants Pattern
 

The leaves above were found in my Aunt and Uncle’s garden in Wundanyi, a beautiful town in the Taita Hills. I love stripes in general so these leaves caught my eye. The photo was taken on my phone and I had some fun with VSCOcam to play with colour (the leaves are actually a dull greyish green) and really bring out the pattern.

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Black people and nature: missing out and connecting

Craft-ology-Hells-Gate-Kenya

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. 

Outdoor Afro logo


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.

Christmas-tree-farm-Wilderness-Wood

 

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