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August in Africa Summer Festival 2015

African art, craft, food, music and culture are fast taking roots in London and beyond. You only have to pop into any event with a slight connotation of African culture during the warmer months of the year to see the different style and designs of Ankara and Kente garments donned by men and women alike. Not that these two fabric types are the only African cloth but these are more easily recognisable due to their vibrancy and the amount of people who wear them. In fact there are so many other African textiles well worth exploring such as Akwete cloth, Ukara (both from the Igbo people of Nigeria), Aso Oke Fabric, Adire (from the Yoruba people of Nigeria), Mudcloth from the Bambara people of parts of Mali, Guinea, Burkino Faso and Senegal, Kitenge and Shweshwe from Kenya and South Africa respectively. Did you know that the earliest surviving African textile discovered dates back to the first Century CE? This was discovered at the Archaeological site of Kissi in Burkino Faso.

African food itself is becoming a staple for many as new restaurants serving different African cuisines continue to pop up in the city. That is all nothing compared to the way Afrobeat (a highbred of Jazz, highlife and funk) with West African origins, have taken hold of England. There’s no way you can go to any night club in central London without at least a handful of Afrobeat songs being played to an appreciative audience.

So it came as no surprise when I walked into the Covent Garden piazza area on Saturday the 1st of August to hundreds and hundreds of people happily floating in and out of the area. Covent Garden was truly alive with vibrant coloured garments, delicious smelling food and upbeat sound of music that is unmistakably Afrobeat. The atmosphere was electrifying to say the least.

Because I did not have the opportunity to dive into a massive plate of Jollof rice and Plantains, I was particularly looking forward to being entertained by the lyrical specialist and poet that is Alim Kamara. This young man has a way of playing with words like no other. I have been fortunate to see him perform live on several occasions and he always delivers. In fact he was the only act of the day I could vouch for based on experience. To my disappointment, I was too late and I missed his performance. Imagine my dismay. However, Fuse ODE who performed just after I got there made up for this disappointment. Fuse ODG has become a household name in the UK with big collaborations with Wyclef and Sean Paul in “Antenna” and “Dangerous love” respectively. One of the things that made Fuse ODG a standout act to me is his thirst to show Africa as a thriving continent with much more to offer than the stereotypical and outright wrong image of the continent. His music or should I say movement does not only have good beat but carries a political message and a message of hope for a new Africa.

The event came to a fitting end with the fantastic and soulful performance of the Nigerian French singer and songwriter, ASA. I mean I could write a whole blog post about this woman’s performance and it wouldn’t be enough. Listening to her serenade the crowd with songs such as “Fire on the mountain”, “Eyo” and many more beautiful ones highlights an influence of great artists such as Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. Her performance left the very diverse crowd from different background wanting more and a great example of how African cultures have impacted this great city of London.

The festival itself was organised by the Africa centre that has a 50 year history with the aim of promoting Africa’s cultural diversity outside the continent. It literally provides a hub for creativity, innovation and business in all matters pertaining to Africa.

In case you are one of the unlucky ones who did not get to see this wonderful event, make sure to check out the pictures below. Leave a comment and question! And if you were there, then feel free to add to the conversation by posting a comment below. Ta

 

 

Dressing up a rainstorm – Brit style

Ok not exactly a rainstorm but I’m sure you know what I mean.

They say the surest way of striking a successful conversation with a Brit is to start with the weather, preferably over a cup of tea. To certain extent, we are a bit obsessed with talking about the weather. Outsiders think we moan when it’s wet, when it’s hot, when it snows or even when the leaves fall. I mean it is true to a certain extent but for the most part, we just like talking about something that everyone can relate to and the weather fits perfectly.

Did you know 2012 was the second wettest year for Britain since records began? 2012 had an average rainfall of 1,330.7mm and only 6.6mm short of the record set in 2000. There you go, bet you did not know that did you? Thought you would appreciate a completely unrelated trivia. You are welcome! #Sideeye.

Anyway back to the issue at hand. Whiles the weather is completely out of our control, what we wear through the seasons is and that is where this post comes in.

Just because the heavenly precipitations aka rain has not yet completely relented does not mean you have to go through your wardrobe to dig out your raincoat or other heavy garment. It is true that the unpredictable weather can be cruel at times when you least expect it but let’s not panic just yet. I recon you can still look the part without wrapping yourself with too many layers.

I have put together a few photos of two looks that I think are versatile and practical for the season. A friend and brother Oliver Kumawu was kind enough to model with me to demonstrate these looks.

Oliver opted for a smart-casual look whiles I went for a more business friendly look.

There are three key ingredients to explore in both looks, which are as follows:

Blazer

You have to have the blazer. The appropriate use of a blazer can easily transform a casual look into smart-casual, and smart-casual into smart. Every man should have at least three blazers in their wardrobes bearing in mind colours that are versatile.

Oliver opted for a velvet blazer which he pulls off very well. Velvet itself is a statement fabric that speaks volumes of the owner. Get it wrong and you would be sorry you ever considered it an option at all. But get it right and you‘re the man, literally. Wear one of these on a wet and cold day and you won’t need additional layers as the weave of the fabric is very close together restricting air flow which in turn keeps you warm.

I on the other hand wore the first half of a midnight blue wool blend suit. Because the jacket is contemporary and close cut at the shoulders and waist area, I am able to mix and play around with it with different combinations with relative ease.

Trouser

Oliver wore a burgundy/redish pair of classic chinos whiles I went for a grey with a hint of brown lightly stripped pair of dress trouser.

Shoes

I wore a pair of brown tasselled loafers whiles Oliver went for a pair of blue suede wingtip oxford lace up brogues which complement the colour of his shirt. The fact that his shoes are suede perfectly suits the texture of his velvet blazer.

Oh and the pocket squares gave both looks an extra dimension of suaveness.

So there you have it. Whiles we wait for summer to make a grand entry for 2015, we can still look the part for the remaining few days of the wet and slightly chilled weather.

Photography by Cano

The look

Black velvet blazer – M&S
Coloured Chino – John Lewis
blue suede oxford lace up brogues – M&S

Midnight blue jacket – FCUK
Stripe dress trouser – Zara
Brown Tasselled loafers – Paul Smith

That English cottage life!

Lymington. Ever heard of an English town called Lymington? If you have, I must say that you are better travelled and better informed than I am. If not then you are in good company and bear with me while I put this post together. But before delving into details about Lymington, let me make a little confession by saying that I seldom visit the English countryside. Not that I do not want to but because I was of the mind-set that there are hundreds of countries and cities around the world that i’d rather visit first before exploring places closer to home. I used the past indicative word “was” above as this is no longer the case after my visit to Lymington. Thanks to a friend Oliver who put together an amazing weekend to Lymington for 21 people for his 30th birthday, I can now honestly say my interest in exploring the English countryside has been rekindled.

Sitting in one of the passenger seats of a 4×4 vehicle driven by the birthday boy himself on a Friday afternoon felt like forever in the London traffic. For a minute, I thought to myself it would have been much better to travel by rail rather than snaking through the streets of London already packed with vehicles, who like us, were leaving for the weekend. Soon enough, the temptation to coax myself to sleep (with only 2 hours sleep the previous night) crept into my thoughts but of course this would have been rude to the three other friends I was sharing the vehicle with. As we hit the highway toward Heathrow airport, my mind drifted again and I started counting the European cities I could reach with the amount of time spent driving to Lymington.

Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Prague, Florence, Lisbon, St Pertersburg all came to mind. Ok not St Petersburg but you get the point. My mind was everywhere but Lymington. As vivid imagination of what my next holiday should be like engulf my mind, Oliver interrupted my day dreaming to introduced us to a version of Charades he called Donkey. Not sure if the game itself is actually called donkey or just his way of insulting the loser who will be called donkey. #Sideeye. This lightened up the mood as we drove past beautiful landscape on both sides of the highway.

As laughter and jokes from the game filled the vehicle I got excited and started to look forward to the weekend.

The cottage, Silverland, is located within the New forest national park which means there are plenty of activities to do during our stay. After getting lost for about 15 minutes, we were greeted by the landlord who was waiting outside the property and ushered us in through an opened electronic gate that revealed a beautiful black and white 19th century English country cottage seated on 4 acres of land.

Imagine our delight and excitement. As Londoners, this was a welcomed change to the usual hustle and bustle of the city life. The thatched roof, wooden beams, leaded windows, inglenook fire place all gave the cottage an authentic period look, while the outdoor heated pool, treehouse and massive garden gave the property a modern functional twist. As we walked through the dark wooden front door it then occurred to me that I have never before been in an English cottage. Standing in the hallway, I noticed the spacious living room with cosy sofas to the right and on the left a door leading to the study. To my immediate right was the stairway decorated with African art leading up to the bedrooms, and just ahead was a door which I figured later lead to the kitchen. The kitchen is very spacious with two bay windows leading out into the garden. The interior décor vary from one room to another revealing art and wall hangings from countries around the world. Stepping out into the garden with a sizable swimming pool felt like I was stepping into a completely different world. The deafening quietness of the woods combined with the greenery of the garden and nearby bushes providing a perfect oasis of tranquillity. I could easily get used to this I muttered underneath my breath.

Lymington itself is a Georgian town located between Southampton and Bournemouth known internationally as a sailing resort. It has three marinas with a population of over 15,000 people. This coastal town is truly beautiful with so many outdoor activities to keep any visitor busy. North of Lymington is the ancient woodlands of New forest and to the south is the Solent. The Solent is a body of water that separate the Isle of Wight from the mainland.

Oh and yes, did I mention our trip to the Isle of Wight yet?

Our weekend away included a day trip to the Isle of Wight, which turned out to be one of my personal highlights of the entire trip. Listen, if you ever visit Lymington, I urge you to set aside time to visit this beauty. Better yet, make a trip solely for the Isle of Wight so you can experience what I am talking about. Everything was magical from the ferry cross to the walk along the Western Yar. The Western Yar is one of two yars on the Isle of Wight and the closest to Yarmouth harbour. The yar is so beautiful and tranquil and continue to reveal its treasures in the form of wildlife and natural beauty on each side of the foot tracks as we walked from the Yarmouth Bridge towards freshwater bay. The estuary is approximately 3.8 miles long so put on some comfortable shoes if you intend to walk the entire stretch.

Upon returning from the Isle of Wight, the smell of the barbeque, games in and around the swimming pool, music blaring from a playlist I made the previous night and sounds of happy chatters all underneath the stars of the night, the cottage yet again reveals another facet of its allure.

Needless to say that everyone was tired the following morning as we slowly filed into vehicles parked outside the cottage. It was time to return to busy and fast paced London. The cottage life has somehow come to an end. An end that seem to have come way too early.

Prague: The style capital for architecture in Europe – 2

As promised in a previous post about Prague, I have put together another set of photos of this wonderful city. This city does not need introduction when it comes to architecture. If you are into architecture then you would definitely appreciate the architectural diversity Prague has to offer. Lonely planet wrote “Prague is a living laboratory of 1000 years of European architecture. Fans of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, neoclassical and art nouveau will all find plenty to gawk at. Gothic marvels such as the Charles Bridge and St Vitus Cathedral rival the best in Europe. More eclectic 20th-century styles like cubism, functionalism and even ‘communism’ are represented as well, creating an entrancing labyrinth of contrasting styles that complete a remarkably cohesive whole”.

I would even challenge anyone who isn’t bothered about architecture to visit Prague and not be intrigued and stimulated by this. If and when you visit Prague, here are a few places, buildings and points of interest I would encourage visitors to see: Charles bridge, Old town square, St. Vitus Cathedral, Astronomical clock, Prague castle, Petrin Lookout tower, Dancing house, Prague national theatre, Kampa Island, Church of our lady before Tyn, National Museum, St Nicholas Church, and Powder gate.

I am sure there are many other places to see but these are just the ones from the top of my head.

Before you browse through the pictures, here are a few facts about Prague you might find interesting:

– Prague Castle is the biggest ancient castle in the world.

– Prague’s nick name is the city of a hundred spires.

– The population of Prague is over 1.2 million

– The Vltava River which is Czech republic’s longest river flows through Prague.

– Prague was the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors

Enjoy the photos and please leave a comment or share your experiences from Prague (if you have any) for other readers. thumb_IMG_5263_1024 thumb_IMG_5259_1024   thumb_IMG_5383_1024 thumb_IMG_5429_1024 thumb_IMG_5425_1024 thumb_IMG_5424_1024 thumb_IMG_5422_1024 thumb_IMG_5419_1024 thumb_IMG_5405_1024 thumb_IMG_5404_1024 thumb_IMG_5531_1024 thumb_IMG_5563_1024 thumb_IMG_5556_1024   thumb_IMG_5580_1024 thumb_IMG_5613_1024 thumb_IMG_5603_1024 thumb_IMG_5598_1024 thumb_IMG_5590_1024   thumb_IMG_5635_1024 thumb_IMG_5633_1024   thumb_IMG_5652_1024 thumb_IMG_5657_1024   thumb_IMG_5745_1024 thumb_IMG_5740_1024 thumb_IMG_5774_1024 thumb_IMG_5778_1024   thumb_IMG_5946_1024 thumb_IMG_5945_1024 thumb_IMG_5944_1024 thumb_IMG_5942_1024 thumb_IMG_5941_1024 thumb_IMG_5940_1024 thumb_IMG_5935_1024 thumb_IMG_5934_1024 thumb_IMG_5930_1024 thumb_IMG_5927_1024   Prague by River thumb_IMG_5907_1024 thumb_IMG_5865_1024 thumb_IMG_5905_1024 thumb_IMG_5896_1024 thumb_IMG_5887_1024 thumb_IMG_5884_1024 thumb_IMG_5880_1024 thumb_IMG_5878_1024 thumb_IMG_5869_1024 thumb_IMG_5851_1024 thumb_IMG_5840_1024 thumb_IMG_5833_1024 thumb_IMG_5832_1024 thumb_IMG_5822_1024 thumb_IMG_5821_1024 thumb_IMG_5819_1024 thumb_IMG_5810_1024 thumb_IMG_5804_1024 thumb_IMG_5802_1024 thumb_IMG_5801_1024

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