Design, Music and Good Vibes at Africa Oyé 2014

I spent a wonderful weekend in Liverpool, at the UK’s largest African musical festival, Africa Oyé. This year wasn’t just about soaking up the good music and good vibes (although there was still plenty of that) as I was helping out at the Creativity and Noise + Merkato stall.



It was great to get out of the big city – I love train journeys, exploring new places and taking a breather from the hecticness of London.



I have enormous respect for entrepreneurs who regularly set up at markets and events. It’s demanding work!



This is Laura Marano, the lady behind Merkato (fairly traded homeware and fashion accessories). You may remember her from a popular Afri-love interview where she talked about her other venture, Green-Safari.



Laura and Lusungu Chikamata of Creativity and Noise. All set up and ready to trade!



It was exciting to launch the new Creativity and Noise t-shirts and tote bags, designed by yours truly and hand screenprinted by Lusungu.



Beautiful wares from Merkato. Most made in the Taita-Taveta district of Kenya, where my Dad is from.



Lusungu representing in his new ‘Beat It’ t-shirt. Look for it on the Creativity and Noise shop.



Knit iPhone cases from Merkato.



It was a visual treat checking out what the other vendors had to offer, such as these guords. Right: a Taita basket from Merkato (and the lady who made it!).



I met some fellow Kenyans, Muigai and Anto, who were selling these beaded bangles that had me feeling all patriotic. Kenya and Tanzania represented – perfect!



A wonderful array of colours at Dry Rain, a stall selling Moroccan wares including these leather slippers.



Our neighbouring stall had a massive collection of baskets and other woven goods including these coasters, bangles …



… and mats/rugs.



A funky zebra-print van belonging to a food stall selling all kinds of African game meat, including my beloved crocodile!



Butterfly fridge magnets made from recycled/upcycled flip-flops. From Merkato.



Of course, there was time for dancing.



Me with the Zambians, all representing with our Creativity and Noise tees.



It almost always rains at some point during the Africa Oyé weekend. This year, it didn’t! Blue skies and sunshine throughout. What a bonus?!



All geared up and ready for day 2 of the festival.



We got to watch Joe Driscoll and Jally Kebba Susso  jamming/warming up early on the Sunday morning. The kora on reggae and hip hop tracks sounds amazing!



As usual, the whole experience was a welcome and wonderful assault on the senses.

One of the things I love about Africa Oyé is that there’s no heavy-handed policing. The police and security presence at this festival is surprisingly minimal – you barely notice them. No gates to walk through where every inch of you is checked, no wall of policemen to intimidate. It just goes to show that if you treat people like human beings, they will act like human beings!

At some point on the Sunday, I found myself feeling a little bit teary. I know this is going to sound corny but, I was overwhelmed by just how beautiful the moment was. All kinds of people – ages, races, abilities; all kinds of random acts of kindness going on; people talking to strangers … real, tangible joy!

See you there next year!


Photos by Lulu Kitololo (and a couple courtesy of Lusungu Chikamata), most of them processed with VSCOcam. View even more photos from the weekend, on Facebook.

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Buy African: Who Said Beige Is Boring?

‘Beige’, as an adjective, often has negative connotations – boring, plain, unimaginative. When we think of African design, we often think of the opposite – a creative kaleidoscope of prints and colours. I thought it would be interesting to find some beautiful design pieces for the home, that prove that beige can indeed delight. It’s all about texture!


From top, left to right: Set of 3 Ghanaian baskets from Swahili African Modern; Zig Zag Gris mud cloth pillow from Proud Mary; Ecru Fleur a Joure crochet pillow from Proud Mary; Mali bull mask from Weylandts; ceramic crockery by Imiso; Senegalese sewing basket trio from Swahili African Modern; Moroccan leather pouf from Beyond Marrakech; Slat stool by Dokter and Misses; Magnet lounge chair by Vogel Design; Beni Ouarain carpet from Beyond Marrakech.


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Buy African: Monochrome Home



As much as I love colour in design, black and white can be really interesting too – especially when texture and pattern come into play. Here, some furniture and home decor pieces, in black and white.

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TGIF! with the London African African Music Festival 2013 (September 13th – 22nd)




The eclectic and critically acclaimed London African Music Festival returns for an 11th instalment, running from September 13th – 22nd, across 11 venues. 

From Congolese soul to Senegalese rap; from Somali poet to Cuban band; afrobeat, jazz, blues and more. Seriously, it's going to be a hectic 10 days!

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Be Part of the Story: Kickstart ‘My Africa Is’


Stories about our continent and our experience are often distorted (if not totally untold) – and it's to be expected when the agents telling the tales are far removed. My Africa Is is a documentary series that aims to show a more complete narrative. Starting this autumn, the crew will embark on a 13 city, 10 country tour of our continent, spending time with young people who want to share the exciting things they're doing to improve their communities. 

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Africa- and Diaspora-related events in the UK this Summer

It's not all about the Olympics this Summer in the UK. There are a multitude of arts, culture and entertainment events going on throughout the country over the next few months, including some exciting Africa- and Diaspora-related ones that you may want to check out.

I'll be updating this post weekly as I discover suitable additions to the list. If you know of any I haven't yet included, please do drop me a line.




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Africa- and Diaspora-related events this February

A short but exciting month, here are just a few Africa- and Diaspora-related events in Canada, Kenya, the UK and the US. What's happening where you are this month?



African American History Month
Across the US
Various events

Zora Neale Hurston

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Interpretations of Africa: Football, Art and Design


You have just a few more days to rush over to the Design Museum for Interpretations of Africa: Football Art and Design.

10 African artists from PUMA.Creative's Creative Africa Network were commissioned to design their national football team's kit. Countries represented include Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa and Togo.

Read more about the exercise and the artists' inspiration over on Design Week. I was particularly amused by the apparent fact that initial designs were toned down due to FIFA regulations that "decorative elements are not allowed to dominate playing equipment."

Exhibition ends 30th November.

Images: Senegal shirt (left) and Namibia shirt, via Design Week (see more here).

TGIF! with Diaspora: A Global Mixtape Movement


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