Achille Mbembe on planetary consciousness

Philsopher and professor Achille Mbembe spoke to Nils Gilman about his visions for society’s future and how we need rights that don’t rely on the nation-state:

Can we rely on infrastructures that have, to some extent, contributed to turning the world into a burning house? Can we rely on them to learn how to inhabit the planet anew, how to share it as equitably as possible? To foster a new consciousness that gives ample space to notions of bio-symbiosis — life in symbiosis with humans and nonhumans?

[…]

Planetary politics should be connected to a politics of life, to a politics of the Earth. That includes all creation: all the people of the world; the creations or works of humanity; the mass of things we have invented; animals, plants, microbes, minerals; and mixed bodies (which is what we all are). In other words, the whole physical universe, all of reality, including (since I’m drawing from the African pre-colonial archive) spiritual and biological energies consistent with the definition of the living world.

The Afrofuturistic fashions of Iriké Jones

Iriké Jones is a fashion and creative brand led by Walé Oyéjidé, Esq and Sam Hubler. Their work exists outside the confines of conventional Western fashions and art and aims to tell stories with every fibre and thread.

We are proud of what we do, because our work genuinely means something to those who see themselves represented in it. In a world with such a rich diversity to the human experience, we find great joy in using our work to present the triumphant stories of people who many of us have previously ignored.

If you’ve seen Coming 2 America, you may have seen some of their work. Nas is a collaborator too. And that scarf that T’Challa (RIP Chadwick) wore in Black Panther? That was Iriké Jones too.

It’s Black AF and I’m here for it all day every day.

Cool stuff I didn't know about chayote

For years, my mum would talk about this green vegetable called chou chou. All I knew was I didn’t want to eat it as a kid. While I still haven’t tried it (I don’t think, at least not knowingly), I knew it was part of my heritage and I recently discovered it on holiday in France… with spiny skin! So I looked it up and finally found out more about this mysterious vegetable.

The facts of chayote

  • It’s technically a fruit.
  • Its more common name is chayote, derived from the Nahuatl word chayohtli. Chou chou is used predominately in Jamaica but also Mauritius and it is also called christophene in the UK and other parts of the Caribbean (I know my Bajan dad calls it that). They call it chuchu in Brazil.
  • It’s part of the gourd family (pumpkins, watermelons, cucumbers, luffa, and some other melons).
  • Sometimes they’re spiny, sometimes they’re smooth.
  • Besides the fruit, the root, stem, seeds and leaves are also edible.
  • The fruit is high in amino acids and vitamin C while both the leaves and fruit have anti-inflammatory properties and can act as a diuretic. The leaves can also make tea that people have used to treat high blood pressure and kidney stones.
  • It’s used in a variety of global dishes in the Americas, Asia, the Caribbean, and parts of Africa and Europe.

My favourite chayote story involved McDonalds and apple pies in Australia:

In Australia, a persistent urban legend is that McDonald’s apple pies were made of chokos (chayotes), not apples. This eventually led McDonald’s to emphasise the fact that real apples are used in their pies. This legend was based on an earlier belief that tinned pears were often disguised chayotes. A possible explanation for the rumor (sic) is that there are a number of recipes in Australia that advise chayotes can be used in part replacement of canned apples to make the fruit go farther in making apple pies. This likely arose because of the economies of “mock” food substitutes during the Depression Era, shortages of canned fruit in the years following World War II, and the fact that apples do not grow in many tropical and subtropical parts of Australia, making them scarce. Chayotes, on the other hand, grow extensively in Australia, with many suburban backyards featuring chayote vines growing along their fence lines and outhouses.

via Wikipedia

Chayote recipes

Here are some recipes I found on the internet. Please check the ingredients for further dietary requirements. Dairy alternatives can be used in place of things like butter, cheese or milk:

LogoArchive.Africa showcases the logos and trademarks of the African continent

The Zambian Airways logo shows a bird of prey in a Z shape in orange, inside a circle, on a brown background

A while back, I found an awesome Instagram account called LogoArchive.Africa. The account displays logos from a variety of African countries and, having followed the other LogoArchive accounts in the past, it was refreshing to see some non-European/American logos for a change. Its creator, ab.des1gn, also runs a Moroccan offshoot called LogoArchive.Morocco which you should check out.

Phaidon's 'African Artists: From 1882 to Now'

Phaidon has published a new book called ‘African Artists: From 1882 to Now‘, covering 140 years of African art through the work of 316 artists from 51 countries. The book aims to showcase art from the whole continent rather than specific countries or regions. That means you get to see North African art alongside West African, East African, and Sub-Saharan art (without the stereotypical homogeny).

Chika Okeke-Agulu wrote the introduction, discussing issues such as the representation of African artists and Africa in the global art world. You can grab a copy from Bookshop (affiliate link) or any good bookshop, online or offline.

African art related: Ekow Nimako’s Afrofuturistic LEGO® universes, Sophia Tassew’s Khula jewellery brand is dope, Daniel Obaweya is Nigerian Gothic, and The visual art of Uzoma Chidumaga Orji

The cultural taboos of pointing at rainbows

TIL: it’s a no-no to point at a rainbow in many cultures around the world.

Robert Blust has spent the last few years exploring these rainbow-pointing taboos and why they all exist. His first encounter with the belief came in 1980 in Jakarta, when he was a university professor:

[…] One of the teachers, seeing Blust’s gesture, politely informed him that, in Sumatra, pointing to rainbows was considered a no-no. Another chimed in to say the same was true where he came from, in a different part of the archipelago. Both had learned as children that if you broke the taboo, your finger would become bent like a rainbow.

He later found that the forbidden gesture wasn’t specific to south-eastern Asia:

Blust began to cast a wider net. He sent questionnaires to colleagues and missionary stations around the world, inquiring about rainbows and taboos related to them. He would soon amass evidence for the rainbow taboo—in some form or another—in 124 cultures. The prohibition turned up in North America, among the Atsugewi of northern California and the Lakota of the northern plains; in remote parts of Australia and isolated islands in Melanesia; among the Nyabwa of Ivory Coast and the Kaiwá of Brazil. At one time it was present in Europe, too: one of the Grimm brothers noted it in his book on German mythology. The belief was not found in every culture, according to Blust’s search, but it was present globally, across all inhabited regions.

Although the reasons differ, the general idea behind the rainbow-pointing taboo is bad luck. I wonder how many “successful” or otherwise happy people have done it and how it affected them, if at all. And does it count for rainbow drawings (of which there have been loads in the UK during the pandemic)? Cultural anthropology is fascinating.

(via Atlas Obscura)

Tobi Kyeremateng on the joy of Nigerian childhood parties

iNews published an excerpt by Tobi Kyeremateng from the book Black Joy about her love of Nigerian parties as a child. I’ll keep the quote short and brief as you should definitely read the original link and the whole book:

There was a particular pride to be taken in hosting parties, especially “Why not?” parties that didn’t call for any specific occasion to circle its way back around the sun. “People say we Nigerians take parties too seriously – and yes, we do!” D Boss would say, punctuating the air with a nod in agreement with himself. “It’s part of our tradition. Parties are never forgotten.”

My earliest memories of these parties are distinct. The familiar scents of hard liquor and spiced foods carry me towards the kitchen. In the corner of my eye is a blue bucket full of ice moving like Tetris, cradling bobbing bottles of Supermalt and cans of Lilt. As soon as you arrived, the aunties would say, “Oya, go and play with your cousins!” – as if they had been waiting for the moment they could drop their shoulders and just be – and off you went with a group of children who you weren’t sure were your actual cousins or just the children of the elders.

There’s just something about Black parties. That warm buzz of community and togetherness, people enjoying themselves, laughing and drinking, dancing and eating—I’m not nearly as social as I used to be but when it comes to a Black party, I feel right at home.

More from Nigeria: Johnson Eziefula on his art and his relationship with identity and Daniel Obaweya as Nigerian Gothic

The African origins of Yasuke's name

I covered Yasuke, an African samurai in feudal Japan in 2019 (I honestly thought it was in 2020 but I digress). His story was retold by Satoshi Okunishi for a popular* Netflix animated series and Language Log investigated the African etymology of his name via Wikipedia. Apparently, there are a few theories:

  1. He was a member of the Yao people from Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique and his name was a portmanteau of Yao and the common Japanese male suffix -suke.
  2. He was a member of the Dinka people from South Sudan due to his height and skin tone, which was a defining characteristic of the Dinka.
  3. He was Ethiopian, according to this theory that suggests his original name might have been the Amharic Yisake or the Portuguese Isaque, derived from Isaac.

Who knows if any of them are correct. The Dinka theory gives me “all Black people look alike” vibes and his appearance was the only match (Adult Dinka men used to have decorative patterns tattooed on their faces and Yasuke apparently didn’t have any.) Nonetheless, etymology is fascinating and none of it takes away from how awesome Yasuke was.

* – Popular on Rotten Tomatoes (93% as of today), not so popular on IMDb (6.2/10) or MyAnimeList (5.8/10)

The celebratory art of Aurélia Durand

Aurélia Durand is a French illustrator with a penchant for vibrant designs depicting Black people in joyful, proud, and empowered poses.

Her client list is a who’s who of major brands, including:

With so much bleakness in the world at the moment and heightened Black trauma, vivid celebratory images like Aurélia’s are a welcome relief and a reminder that Blackness is multifaceted and joyous.

Maro Itoje presented an exhibition on Black histories missing from the UK curriculum

Speaking at the opening of the exhibition earlier this month, Itoje, who was educated at the private boarding school Harrow, says one of the constants in his schooling was “the lack of Black and African history that I was taught”. Moreover, when African history was on the syllabus, it was “a single story or narrative that was told”. He adds: “That story was often depressing, and quite often a saviour/survivor narrative. I want to try and show a fuller picture.”

Good on you, Maro!

(via The Art Newspaper)

Ekow Nimako's Afrofuturistic LEGO® universes

Ekow Nimako is a Toronto-based artist who makes Afrofuturism sculptures from black LEGO.

Ekow Nimako is a Toronto-based, internationally exhibiting LEGO artist who crafts futuristic and whimsical sculptures from the iconic medium. Rooted in his childhood hobby and intrinsic creativity, Nimako’s formal arts education and background as a lifelong multidisciplinary artist inform his process and signature aesthetic. His fluid building style, coupled with the Afrofuturistic themes of his work, beautifully transcend the geometric medium to embody organic and fantastical silhouettes. 

I haven’t played with LEGO in years so I didn’t know there were so many varied pieces to make these majestic sculptures. It’s truly breathtaking to witness.

(via Colossal)

The lost golden city of Luxor, Egypt

Archaeologists have unearthed a 3,000-year-old city in Luxor, Egypt.

The “lost golden city” dates back to the 18th-dynasty of King Amenhotep III (1391 to 1353 BC). Experts believe the city may have been used by Tutankhamun.

Dr Zahi Hawass, a former antiquities minister who lead the mission, said:

“Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it. […] Within weeks, to the team’s great surprise, formations of mud bricks began to appear in all directions. What they unearthed was the site of a large city in a good condition of preservation, with almost complete walls, and with rooms filled with tools of daily life.”

via The Guardian

Amongst the discoveries were items of jewellery, pottery, scarab beetle amulets and mud bricks “bearing the seals of Amenhotep III”. Let’s hope none of this finds its way into the British Museum as they have enough stolen artefacts as it is.

Sophia Tassew's Khula jewellery brand is dope

Sophia Tassew with 4 models wearing Khula earrings

Last year, I said I wanted to showcase more Black content, particularly creative endeavours and projects that deserve all the spotlights and this is the perfect example of that.

Khula is a jewellery brand by Sophia Tassew, a plus-size content creator from South East London. You may recognise her name from an earlier blog post I wrote about A Quick Ting On—she’ll be releasing a book about her experiences in 2022. In an interview with Bricks Magazine, she called Khula “a sort of homage to my parents who come from Ethiopia and South Africa.”

I’ve always wanted to have my own earring collection or design something. I always thought it would come in the form of a brand collaboration but it didn’t and still hasn’t so I decided to start it myself and learn how to make earrings. Also, as a plus sized girl, growing up, my fashion and style journey was tedious. You were forced to shop for clothes that were meant for people three times your age or the mens section. The only thing I could always rely on were earrings. They’ve been my savouir (sic) many times as well as a small representation of who I am and where I come from. So much growth has happened between then and now and that’s exactly what Khula means in Zulu, grow. 

Sophia runs Khula completely on her own, working very long nights and making her vast collection of earrings by hand, as well as packing and posting the products herself. It’s the epitome of a one-woman team.

I especially love the late 60s/70s vibe from the designs, which she said inspired her alongside her roots from East Africa and South Africa:

Taking inspiration from my heritage and putting that into my brand makes me feel so much closer to my roots in a way that I know how, and a language that I understand which is jewellery. I’m very interested in Black people from different eras and celebrating them and their looks.

If you can, please support Khula and buy something from the store when the next batch drops. And follow both the Khula brand and Sophia on Instagram.

(featured image taken by Chad McLean from Instagram [his website])

Equiano is the world’s first African-Caribbean rum

Equiano rum

I wrote about the very brief history of rum a few months ago and now there’s a new chapter to add to the story.

Equiano blends the flavours of Barbados and Mauritius to create the world’s first African-Caribbean rum. It comes courtesy of global rum ambassador Ian Burrell and Foursquare Distillery’s master distiller and blender Richard Seale.

Equiano Rum is the delicious result of a collaboration between two fabulous distilleries, marrying liquid from Barbados’ Foursquare and Gray’s Distillery of Mauritius. The rum from Foursquare is aged in American white oak, while the liquid from Gray’s is aged in French limousin oak and Cognac casks. It’s then married in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at Foursquare, weighing in at 43% ABV. Two hemispheres meet in one bottle, and it’s rather marvellous.

Grab a bottle of Equiano from Master of Malt and read more about the creators in MoM’s blog post from last February.

And, of course, drink responsibly. And Happy Valentine’s Day!

Alcohol-related: The mint julep and its Black history, the whiskey glass from Blade Runner, and a Star Wars glass stormtrooper decanter.

Sir David Adjaye’s best projects

Sir David Adjaye

Last week, Sir David Adjaye became the first Black architect to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture by RIBA in its 173-year history. This was even more remarkable since less than 2% of registered architects are Black.

To honour the occasion, The Spaces picked 8 of the most iconic projects from his career.

Adjaye has worked tirelessly for the last 27 years, taking on projects that range from monumental public scales to intimate domestic spaces, each with an instantly recognisable aesthetic.

Amongst the chosen projects were The Stephen Lawrence Centre in South London and The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

Check the slideshow on The Spaces website.