The Uganda Skateboard Union

The Uganda Skateboard Union started as an organisation for Ugandans to skate and “have a positive impact on the youth’s development and growth.” Back in 2006, Jackson Mubiru and Shael Swart built the nation’s first skateboard ramp out of bricks and cement. Later, a Canadian filmmaker named Brian Lye worked with them to build a small course beside the ramp and fundraised to create a skateboard park.

The skatepark featured in the music video for Naughty Boy, Kyla & Popcaan’s “Should’ve Been Me” (although the video description says the park was built in 2004).

Stream it below.

The diasporan style of Grace Wales Bonner

A man in a brown jacket, sweater, and trousers.

The New Yorker profiled Grace Wales Bonner, a Black UK designer who draws inspiration from the African diaspora to create beautiful fashion rich in Black history.

The twenty-nine-year-old London-based designer—a slight woman with enormous intellectual and artistic ambitions—draws from the creative and thus political minds of the modern African diaspora, not only to inform her art but to reveal how style has grown out of the diaspora itself, linking together our fragmented worlds in ways that others may not have noticed, but that we have. Equally at home with Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor’s theories about Negritude as she is with the history of Christian Dior—last April, she worked with the fabled house to reinterpret its New Look—Wales Bonner has been sui generis from the start, in part because, unlike many other designers, she doesn’t reference the past to service trend; in her work, she aims to make the broken history of the Black artist and intellectual in African, European, and American culture whole.

For more about Grace Wales Bonner, check out this interview she did with The Gentlewoman.

Daniel Obaweya is Nigerian Gothic

A Nife Omi by Nigerian Gothic (Daniel Obaweya) for Homecoming x Browns. Artwork by Joy Matashi

As crap as Instagram can be for its treatment of Black creatives (particularly fat Black femmes), I enjoy the people who are Black AF on the platform in a multitude of ways.

Daniel Obaweya aka Nigerian Gothic falls into that category with his archiving of Black photography and Black people from the 90s and early 2000s. It’s a period I remember with fondness and trips down memory lane are becoming more therapeutic in this hell year called 2020.

Obaweya spoke to Vincent Desmond for AnOther Magazine about the account and his latest collaboration with Nigeria’s Homecoming festival run by Browns this year.

“Growing up in Lagos, I was introduced to the beach really early and it’s kind of became a second home because I didn’t live far from it and we always walked our dogs there and just went there to chill,” Obaweya says of the basis of the project. “I found that some older African photographers, like Malick Sidibé, have referenced beach culture, and now a lot of newer, younger photogaphers are doing the same.”

You can check out the digital Homecoming festival on Browns’s website and watch one of the panel talks—Homecoming and Browns Present: Can Africa Generate The Re-Birth Of Streetwear?—featuring “The Fifty Dollar Man” Virgil Abloh, Ciesay, and Homecoming organisers Grace Ladoja MBE and Alex Sossah.

(Image credit: A Nife Omi by Nigerian Gothic (Daniel Obaweya) for Homecoming x Browns. Artwork by Joy Matashi)

Tutankhamun's tomb is an industry

tutankhamun

Howard Carter found the tomb of Tutankhamun on 22nd November 1922. I know that date well because it’s my birthday. It’s also the day the ancient pharaoh became a superstar thousands of years after his death.

Alina Cohen wrote about Tutankhamun’s tomb and its legacy as a multimillion dollar industry. It also led to the infamous curse of King Tut:

Carter’s discovery was just the beginning of King Tut mania. Herbert died in 1923, shortly after entering the tomb—most likely from an infected mosquito bite—and a series of people connected with him and Carter suffered mysterious traumas. Rumors of King Tut’s curse circulated.

Since then, his tomb and its contents have toured the globe in numerous exhibitions. But there have been questions of looting from Egypt, centring on a sculpture that had the features of Tutankhamun. The country tried to stop auction house Christie’s from selling it, alleging it had been stolen from the Temple of Karnak in Luxor in 1970. Christie’s disagreed.

According to them, the statue was in the private collection of Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis by the 1960s. Christie’s went ahead with the July auction and sold the disputed object for nearly $6 million. Days later, Egypt sued Christie’s. The ongoing brouhaha typifies the disagreements that still pervade the market for Egyptian antiquities.

Subsequent sales of King Tut antiques have garnered huge prizes in auctions. His likeness warrants big bucks. The deeper implications of this—making money from a person of colour (I won’t get into the debate of racial identity in Ancient Egypt but knock yourself out) after death—isn’t addressed in the article and it probably wasn’t the place to do so. But it’s something that should be analysed overall, especially when we see how quickly the death of a Black person like Breonna Taylor can turn the victim into a meme and a painting before her murderers see the inside of a courtroom (if they do).

The visual art of Uzoma Chidumaga Orji

Uzoma Chidumaga Orji

Uzoma Chidumaga Orji is a visual artist and creative technologist from Nigeria. His work is representative of his heritage and focuses heavily on identity as an Igbo Nigerian.

As a technologist he seeks to design engaging human-centred digital experiences that bring the arts and tech into the same conversation.

As an artist he observes and then creates representations of society and of history; visual metaphors that explain his millennial Igbo Nigerian cultural context and the cultural environment he hopes to one day live in.

The essence of his practice is indeed identity, particularly as pertains to self, culture, and nationality. His work uses his notions of his identity as a point of exit to interrogate who we are, how we have come to be and who we aspire to become.

He also works as a web dev which seems like the perfect bridge between both media.

Check out his website and follow him on Instagram.

From fishin' to fashion: how fish skin is used for leather

Salmon skin

There are certain ethical issues with leather but perhaps this is a better solution.

Steinunn Gunnsteinsdóttir is the sales manager of Atlantic Leather, an Icelandic company that owns the only fish tannery in Europe. They’ve been making leather from the skins of salmon and cod (amongst other types) since 1994 and produce nearly a tonne of leather every month.

If that sounds like a lot, consider the fact this is all done by only 19 employees and the whole process takes nearly four weeks. There are advantages to using fish skin rather than the cow or lamb hide, as Gunnsteinsdóttir explains:

Fish leather’s actually nine times stronger than lamb or cow leather of similar thickness. This is because the fibres in fish skin criss-cross rather than (go) just up and down… it makes it much more durable leather for products that have to be really strong like shoes, belts and bags.

Snake and alligator skin are used for leather before but fish is a new one on me and it helps reduce use of the endangered species. But not for fashion houses Jimmy Choo and Dior who Atlantic Leather supply.

They aren’t the only fish leather makers in the world. Kenya is home to Victorian Foods where perch skin is the main material, fished from the largest desert lake in the world. Of course, it’s important that this practice doesn’t contribute to overfishing which has a dangerous effect on the marine wildlife and food for the populations that need it. But right now, it looks like a great alternative.

Fish Leather Development process at KIRDI Western Region Campus (KWRC), Kenya

(image credit: Ella Gordon)

Yasuke - An African Samurai in Japan

Yasuke - An African Samurai in Japan

I watched The Last Samurai a few years ago and enjoyed it. While the movie was inspired by real life Westerners fighting in Asia and played up to the white saviour trope, it was enjoyable if not cliché. But this story is much more interesting.

Authors Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard recently published a book entitled African Samurai: The True Story of Yasuke, a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan retelling the story of a retainer in feudal Japan who served under a warlord. The legend goes that Yasuke arrived in Japan in the late 16th century, having travelled the world after being kidnapped as a child. Being a black man in Japan caused a stir – many had never seen a man of his complexion. Being a polyglot made him even more mysterious. But his dark skin drew comparisons to Buddha. His presence was courted by Lord Nobunaga, a powerful warlord and Yasuke became one of his samurai. His ability to learn quickly helped him become a powerful figure in Japanese society.

Yasuke’s mythology has transcended centuries and Lockley and Girard’s book isn’t the first of its kind to tell his tale (there’s a book list below you can check out). In African Samurai, Lockley and Girard give an untold story of Yasuke’s life and travels, as well as a new chapter in Japan’s history. Now, yes, this is another story about people of colour written by white guys but it’s still beneficial that the story is being reviewed ecounted.

The good news is there is an upcoming anime about Yasuke and Lakeith Stanfield is set to voice the black samurai (excellent choice). It will be written by Boondocks’ co-director, LeSean Thomas and scored by Flying Lotus.

Update: Here’s are the visuals for the anime’s theme song, composed by Flying Lotus.

Yasuke | Official Teaser | Netflix

Reading list

(Please note the following affiliate links are from Amazon)