Jewellery by Katra Awad: Artist of Love




I recently came across jewellery designer, global nomad and artist of love, Katra Awad.

Born in California, raised in Europe and the Caribbean and of Egyptian and Hispanic roots, I love her perspective on creativity, in the grander scheme of wellness and love:




During one of my travels someone once said to me, "It is our responsibility in life to pursue our talents to the fullest extent & make every second count.” 

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Buy African: Statement Necklaces



Accessories are this girl's best friend. Drawing them, making them (way back in the day), working with people who design them and of course, wearing them! I love a good pair of dramatic earrings but, when it comes to really making a statement, nothing beats a fabulously bold necklace. These are a few on my wishlist (from top): Pichulik; Nyumbani Design; Mikuti; Pichulik; Dannijo; Christie Brown.


Images via the various online shops linked to above. 



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African American English: Exploring Roots and Changing Perceptions with Typography

Today’s guest post is by Nuri Abdur-Rauf. USA native, Nuri, is interning with us at Asilia while she pursues an MA in Contemporary Typographic Media at the University of the Arts London College of Communication. We’ve been privy to what she’s working on for her final project – getting tidbits and sneak peeks of work in progress over lunch. I personally have learned a whole lot about African American English (AAE) and my own perceptions/preconceptions have been challenged! Here, Nuri shares a little bit of her fascinating topic. Enjoy!



There are about 5,000-7,000 recognized languages in use in the world today. The amount of dialects (versions of languages that are specific to a region or group) can't even be traced because of the vastness in variation that is related to factors like geographic location, education level, ethnicity and social status.  

I've always been fascinated by language and all that it embodies. This is why reading books are some of my first memories, why I couldn't be consoled after I got tripped up while spelling "carriage" in my 4th grade spelling bee and why I proofread for pleasure. I think it's also a big part of why I decided to get my Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Creative Writing and even though I'm working on my Master's right now in Graphic Design and Typography, the research I've decided to concentrate on deals squarely with linguistics and how people remix language to suit them.




What is AAE?

My research centers around African American English (AAE) – also known as Black English, African American Vernacular English and many other monikers – and how it can be represented typographically. African American English is what its name suggests – a dialect of English that is primarily spoken by African Americans. It includes its own set of grammar and pronunciation patterns, a huge vocabulary of words and terms, distinct tone and inflection styles as well as body language. To put it simply, it's a rich and complex way of speaking that reflects its speakers. It developed from our creation as a people nearly 400 years ago, out of the need and desire for those taken from different parts of the continent to find a common linguistic ground to tread on and communicate amongst themselves in the strange land they'd been forcefully brought to. It began as a means of survival and has endured to the present day, morphing and adapting to the changing times, still with the undertone of survival but also of expression, identity and tradition. 


Code switching

Growing up down south in the states, in Georgia and South Carolina, hearing and speaking AAE was natural to me. It was just as natural to learn that there were times to speak it (around close family and friends and in relaxed settings); times when you should switch to the more mainstream, accepted form of English (I revoke the term Standard English because I don't think such a thing exists, but that's a different blog post) and; times when your speech could fall somewhere in between. This practice is called code switching and is a fluid occurrence that almost every Black American person I know considers to be second nature. The ease of turning it on and off comes from conditioning and is a window into what being Black in America entails. Code switching is necessary because of the unsettled racial inequality that exists in the country. Those who can't successfully code switch may miss out on opportunities. Their voices are often marginalized, their character is often judged unfairly and incorrectly. This complicated relationship that America has with AAE is the basis for my research and I hope to unpack some of the misjudging by presenting this way of speaking visually and in a positive light.




Origins of AAE

There is intense academic debate over the true origins of AAE – whether it is an amalgamation of the many African languages that converged when slavery in the United States began, versus whether AAE is a byproduct of the various English dialects that slaves first heard spoken by the white British, Scottish and Irish indentured servants they labored with. Personally, I think it's all of the above and it's a waste of time to "pick a side." Nevertheless, it's ridiculous to believe that AAE doesn't have ties to the ample amount of languages across the diaspora.

During my research, I've come across the possible etymology of some of the words found in AAE's lexicon and their roots in the Wolof language of Senegal and Gambia (see illustrations above). While listening to a recording of a talk held at The British Library in 2010 on the language of hip hop, it was eye-opening to hear moderator MK Asante drop knowledge on these words – considered slang in mainstream America – and how they tie the African American experience to Africa (I could do an entire seperate project on AAE as it relates to hip hop music).

As I continue my research, I hope to uncover more connections. Information like this and the general discussion about this subject will hopefully help foster acceptance and begin to dissuade the isolation that AAE speakers experience by simply trying to communicate.

AAE is beautiful. Just as its speakers are, just as the struggles they triumph over are, just as their ancestral homeland is.




Get involved

Nuri is conducting a survey to gather opinions on AAE. It is open to all, from AAE speakers to those who are learning about it for the first time. Find it by clicking here. The survey is open until the end of August.

To follow along with Nuri's research, visit


All images designed by Nuri Abdur-Rauf



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World-a-Reggae: International Poster Exhibition hosted by Live Unchained



Live Unchained hosted an international reggae poster exhibition at the Embassy of Jamaica in Washington, DC. Featuring the best from over 2,000 entries from 90 countries, you're in for a visual treat.

Here are just a few pieces from last year and this year's exhibition:


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[Inspired] For the Love of Collage


I managed to check out the Ellen Gallagher AxME exhibition at London's Tate Modern gallery before it ended at the start of this month. I left making plans about how I was going to find some time, somewhere, to indulge in one of my favourite creative pastimes – collage. 

Why do I love collage so? It can be so many things at the same time: ornate and gritty, playful and provocative. For me, the process is quite cathartic – it forces me to relinquish control because, the end result is rarely close to what I expected or planned. Plus, I do like to get my hands dirty!

Here are some pieces from some artists whose work I'm enjoying …

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Buy African: President for Life Boxer Shorts


It's a first on Afri-love – underwear! And not just any kind of underwear but a line of premium boxer shorts for the gentlemen who are oft-neglected when it comes to posts on this here blog. Introducing President For Life. The brainchild of Egya Appiah, a Brooklyn-based self-described "corporate lawyer by day and merchant by night". Limited edition, handmade in Ghana by old-school master tailors, with cotton sourced from one of Ghana's oldest and most renowned companies. Sure to create a pleasant surprise with their vibrant colours and prints!

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Inspired: Robert Pruitt’s Women at Studio Museum Harlem


While in New York earlier this month, I made sure to pay a visit to Studio Museum Harlem, an institution dedicated to showing the work of artists of African descent and work inspired and influenced by black culture. So, if Afri-love were a brick-and-mortar space …

Dreams aside (for now), the feature exhibition was Robert Pruitt: Women – a series of larger-than-life conté drawings of black women. As the official description goes: 

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TGIF! with Rapper, Wale

Wale Rapper Music

I caught Wale's new video the other day and I was really feeling the vibe. Less famously known as Olubowale Victor Akintimehin, American-born and raised Wale has won several accolades for his music, including a Grammy for Best Rap Song. Enjoy these tunes and enjoy the weekend!

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Interview with Food Blogger Sanura Weathers


I virtually met Sanura Weathers around a year ago, thanks to the power of social media. We crossed paths through some common interest, most likely glorious food. I only recently discovered that Sanura and I are in the same profession when it comes to our day jobs – graphic design. It's phenomenal that Sanura has managed to create and successfully maintain not one, but two juicy food blogs, on the side: My Life Runs on Food and Kwanzaa Culinarians. What's more, she's also prepared a lot of the wonderful meals that she shares on them! 

My Life Runs on Food has earned Sanura accolades such as PBS's Top Food Blogs of 2012 and a Black Weblog award for Best Food Blog. Her story goes to show that making time to nurture your passion pays! Even if you can't devote your regular working hours to it, there is scope for it to develop into a satisfying side hustle that can change your world (and that of so many others!).

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