"Being African is absolutely the most beautiful thing to me." - Amy Sall
"Being African is absolutely the most beautiful thing to me." - Amy Sall
Look at the children of the land leaving in droves, leaving their own land with bleeding wounds on their bodies and shock on their faces and blood in their hearts and hunger in their stomachs and grief in their footsteps. Leaving their mothers and fathers and children behind, leaving their umbilical cords underneath the soil, leaving the bones of their ancestors in the earth, leaving everything that makes them who and what they are, leaving because it is no longer possible to stay. They will never be the same again because you cannot be the same once you leave behind who and what you are, you just cannot be the same.
— NoViolet Bulawayo, "We Need New Names".
Hopefully this is the beginning of many more great things to come for Lupita Nyong’o.
In Photos: “Signares” by Fabrice Monteiro.
As European traders and explorers began to ascend on Africa’s west coast around the 15th and 16th century, as these men where forbidden from bringing their families and wives from their home countries, they began to intermingle and intermarry with African women in the Senegambia region. As a result of these relations, many of these women began to orchestrate business dealings to their benefits “using these partnerships to bolster their socioeconomic standing and personal trading enterprises”. One signare in the 1770s from St Louis, Senegal, is noted to have been a property owner and dealer as she bought and sold property in Saint-Domingue, while “five other signares in Gorée signed a petition against a poorly run French company that had been awarded an exclusive contract with the island”.
Although these relations were not at first recognized by colonial and European authorities, it later became acceptable for Europeans living in Senegal to marry and have their descendants profit from these unions through heritage rights. Most of these women were considered to be of a high class and often married “middle-class executives or French and English aristocrats”. Naturally, a new sense of fashion was born as the women combined their own traditional styles with European attire at the time.
All Africa, All the time.
MORNING SONG: OUM TARAGALTE - SOUL OF MOROCCO.
A great song (of which I have zero understanding of, sadly) recently sent to me by a follower on twitter.
All Africa, All the time.
DYNAMIC AFRICANS: Senegal with Amy Sall.
Amy Sall is not a hired travel photographer, nor is she a photojournalist on assignment. Yet, her images of her recent trip to Senegal are far more moving, far more real, far richer and possess more authenticity than any embedded journalist could ever attempt to capture. The difference between Amy Sall and other photo amateurs or professionals? Her attachment to Senegal is personal. She’s a first-generation American, born and bred, but culturally, Senegal has never been far away. Additionally, she’s unburdened with the need or pressure to tell a specific kind of story. The narrative was a story to be told along the way, along her path of self-discovery.
For these reasons, and more, I fell in love with her posts on instagram as she visually documented her emotional visit to a place that isn’t quite home, but isn’t a foreign country as well. Through the story she creates with her images, Amy’s photo-documentation illustrates the need for Africans to tell their own stories through any and whatever medium is at their disposal.
Here’s my interview with Amy Sall as we discussed the emotional journey of her multicultural upbringing:
In about five sentences or less, briefly tell us a little about yourself. Who is Amy Sall? How would you introduce and define yourself to those who don’t know you?
I am a 23-year old, first generation Senegalese-American, born and bred in New York City, trying to navigate my life with my best foot forward, while staying true to my values. I think in all aspects of my life, there’s the inherent nexus of integrity, selflessness, and grit. What I do and who I am are intrinsically linked. Currently, I’m a Masters Candidate in Human Rights at Columbia University, focusing on children’s rights and youth issues in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the past, I’ve worked within a few sectors of fashion where I’ve had experience at Vogue, written for Lurve Magazine, and worked for Rick Owens to name a few.
You’re first generation Senegalese-American, born and raised in the US. What was your experience growing up being a part of two very distinct cultures?
It was interesting, but not easy, growing up between two cultures. It’s not the easiest experience to sift through because it’s quite layered and muddled with all sorts of intricacies. I can say that there were times where my “Africaness” and my “Americaness” had points of contention. I was born only a year after my parents came to the states, so I grew up in a very culturally Senegalese home. Everything in our home was inherently Senegalese, from the food, to the music, to how daily life was constructed.
However, once I stepped outside my home, I was confronted, daily, with the fact that even though I am, in the literal sense of the word, African-American, I did not fit in with the African-American kids. They saw me as other. They saw me as African. They saw me as a dark African. So, it was difficult to reconcile that tension between two cultures as a child. My being rejected by my classmates (and when you are a child, the approval of your peers means everything) led to the resentment and disavowal of my culture and dark skin.
My childhood in that regard was tricky, and it unfortunately caused some damage during my transition into adolescence. There eventually came a point when I just didn’t care about what people thought, and my parents had a heavy had in getting me to that point. Straddling the line between two cultures became easier, and eventually something I thought less about. The biggest relief was ridding the shame I felt toward my “Africanness” as a child. Being African is absolutely the most beautiful thing to me.
On your blog, you mention that you hadn’t been back to Senegal in ten years. What prompted your visit back home? What was the experience like?
What prompted me to go to Senegal was simply realizing that I no longer had the excuse not to go. The last time I was there, I was 13 or 14. The fact that I was approaching the ten-year mark of not being in Senegal was incredibly important and symbolic to me. I decided that I wouldn’t let another year pass without going to Senegal. The possibility of my grandmother’s dying without a chance to see them again started to weigh heavily on me.
Both my grandfathers died when I was younger. One of them I’ve only seen once, the other I’ve seen twice. I regret that I wasn’t able to get to know my grandfathers. The reasons for the 10- year gap vary, but I will attribute them to the unfortunate ills of migration. It wasn’t always easy for my parents to take my siblings and I to Senegal often. Those opportunities did not always present themselves. It’s a sad realization to know that you can’t go home and see your family as often as you would like to, for reasons beyond your control.
So I decided, now that I’m older, nothing was to stop me from going back home and seeing my family. I wanted to get closer to my family, especially with my grandmothers, and develop a real relationship. I wanted to deepen my sense of self and rediscover my roots. It was also important for me to make this trip so that I could see the socio-economic issues of the country with my own eyes, especially as they pertain to children and youth. Much of my graduate research is centered particularly on Senegal, so being on the ground was necessary for the work I’m doing academically, and aim to do professionally.
During your trip back to Senegal you visually documented your stay there by taking and sharing photos on instagram. Was this something you decided before travelling, or was it done on more of a whim?
I definitely knew I wanted many photos to have as keepsakes, but there were many times where I didn’t bring a camera with me because I just wanted to truly feel Senegal and be immersed in it. When I did have my camera, all I was trying to do was simply capture the country in the truest way possible. I did not want to glamorize or romanticize Senegal. It is an incredibly beautiful, rich and vibrant country, with beautiful people, however there are very real problems that I felt were not to be excluded. I wanted to share a holistic view of Senegal, from the colors of Gorée to the talibés begging in the streets.
You’ve been blogging for quite some time now so you’re no stranger to sharing bits and pieces of your life online, something I enjoy doing myself. How important was it for you to share this part of your personal life online? How has the response been?
I like the idea that with the Internet, I can carve a space for myself, curate it however I please, engage in a dialogue, and maybe even teach someone something new. I had no expectations when I posted my photos on social media. I was surprised that they garnered the response that they did. People really took a liking to them. I know absolutely nothing about photography. A country as beautiful as Senegal makes it quite easy to photograph. It made me happy that people were appreciating and enjoying my journey, and were able to take part in it. They were discovering Senegal as I was rediscovering it, so it became this shared experience.
This trip was personal, but it was one that so many can relate to. I am not the only person that has been away from their home country for so long. I am not the only person that hasn’t seen their aunts and uncles in years, or hasn’t hugged their grandmothers in a long time. As personal as this experience was, there were those who were able to connect to it on varying levels. That is what probably surprised me the most, because I didn’t think sharing my trip through these photos could have that effect. I realize that sharing them was much bigger than me, and it was much bigger than a series of Instagram posts. I am really humbled by that. I don’t care about having a large number of followers because I don’t seek validation through that kind of stuff, but I value when someone can take something positive away from what I have shared, whether on the Internet or in real life.
Would you ever consider compiling and publishing your photographs and experience into a photo-book of some sort?
Working on it!
That’s faboulous! Can’t wait ‘til it’s published. Lastly, what are three words you’d use to describe Senegal?
Vibrant, beautiful, home.
Thank you so much, Amy!
All Africa, All the time.
Came across this interview on ‘Honest by’ with Europe-based South African stylist Pholoso Selebogo. Aside from the accompanying eye-catching photoshoot that sees her and model Ezekiel in fabulous prints and colours, she says some key things about the fashion industry and her personal life that resonated with me:
BP: WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE FASHION INDUSTRY TODAY?
PS: It’s too fast…. there are the main collections, resort, pre-fall and so forth, a mother brand having multiple off-shoot brands etc…. did I miss something? I can’t keep up with such a pace, or at least have the time it takes to stop and love something long enough. I am not able to consume all that is available to me. And certainly most people’s pockets, including mine, cannot keep up. Just like any other industry, the fashion industry has to ask itself whether profit comes before fairness, lives and the environment.
BP: I REMEMBER YEARS AGO YOU ONCE TOLD ME MY CASTING FOR MY SHOW WAS TOO WHITE AND YOU THOUGHT IT WAS INSULTING. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE GIRLS ON THE CATWALK TODAY WHEN YOU GO TO FASHION SHOWS?
PS: I would not say insulting, or would I..?
Take, for example, your typical high school movie where you have a group of white kids/friends and then the complimentary funny black kid to suss and shoosh the viewer. I felt fashion had the same attitude towards race. The balance is getting better now and I am especially thankful to such platforms as Vogue Black that creates a stage for such discussion. The next step would be to coalesce the ‘usual’ Vogue with the Black version, in order to make that complimentary kid really part of the group. This applies to Asian groups, and all of the diversity within our world.
Don’t get me wrong; I understand that there is more than just the selection of models involved…there is the overall concept, artistic vision and the story that is being told through the specific collection’s presentation. The trick and challenge in life is always finding that balance.
BP: WHAT IS YOUR DREAM?
PS: Not to have to dream anymore… I dream for there not be a difference between my reality and my dreams….I dream that people would put humanity before profit… I dream at least, if not lead by higher ennobled aspirations and true intellect in our decision making as a species, that we are led by objective logic and empathy and not by our emotions filtered through our self-serving animalistic urge and survival instinct fuelled by fear…. I dream that my beautiful South Africa would get out of its dark racist cave and not just gloss over it…. I am forever marked. I dream of returning to Eden, looking fabulous!
I call it Eve because my mom always just to joke about… the Bible, saying that she never heard one account of Eve telling her own story. Men would tell their story over and over for the purpose of control and power. It’s about time we bring that up: we’ve been talking about women’s rights for as long as I can remember. Still I was a child we’ve been taking about the rights of women; since I was eight years old we were talking about the rights of women to vote. I was singing with my mother and her choir about women’s empowerment and to be leader of their own lives. And here we are, in the 21st century, and we are still talking about this.
Ferrari Sheppard of Stop Being Famous interviews Kenyan-born British-Somali award-winning poet Warsan Shire.
Shire talks about the the importance of memory and its connecting factor to human experiences, writing and seeking inspiration in the cinema, the writers and books that inspire her, and discusses her poetic career versus her personal life.
One of my favourite parts of the interview is when she beautifully and boldly declares that “everyone is deserving of love…” as one of the things that she is most sure of in this world.
Multi-award winning Benin songstress Angelique Kidjo is back with a new album titled Eve.
All Africa, All the time.
In Photos: The Mourning “Mothers of Tunisia”
During times of conflict, it is often said that those who suffer most are those not directly involved in the fighting or the initiating of the violence.
Through the recent years of political instability and violence in Tunisia, people from all walks of life have been on the receiving end of insurmountable tragedies. These women photographed by Sophia Baraket represent a part of the population that have been directly affected by the country’s dire straits. From war to the wrecked ships, martyrdom to migration, all the women pictured are strewn together by the similar tragedies they’ve suffered involving their children.
These are the faces of loss, suffering and seemingly neverending pain. These are the mourning “Mothers of Tunisia”.
Central African Republic elects first woman president.
After the country’s first Muslim leader and former interim president stepped down on January 10th after both internal and external pressure over his failure to curb the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), an election was held to determine who the country’s next interim president would be.
With six candidates knocked out in the first round, lawyer, businesswoman and now former mayor of the capital city of Bangui Catherine Samba-Panza went to head-to-head against Desire Kolingbe, the son of a former president Andre Kolingba, winning 75 votes against Kolingba’s 53 in the second round of voting.
In her victory speech, Samba-Penza called on her fellow citizens to ‘put down their arms and stop all the fighting’.
Although a Christian, the BBC reports that President Samba-Penza is seen as ‘politically neutral’ at a time where tensions are high between CAR’s Muslim and Christian population.
Supermodel Iman Abdulmajid’s eponymous make up label IMAN Cosmetics has launched a free app to support its range of products.
Dedicated to helping women of colour find products for their skin tone, this app includes a feature that allows you to take a photograph of your face to find your perfect foundation.
Here, beauty blogger CharisseChristine23 demonstrates how to use the app for this purpose and the results seem pretty awesome.
Last night, Oscar-nominee Lupita Nyong’o beat out Jennifer Lawrence to win the Critics Choice Award for ‘Best Supporting Actress’, leaving the audience ‘in tears' as she dedicated the award to her uncle saying:
"I’d like to dedicate this to my uncle …who always came to watch every single play I was in … and on one of the last performances he saw me in, he said ‘You’re good, but let’s see what Hollywood thinks of you. “He didn’t live to see this day, but I’m sure he’s proud of me.”
I never get bored of people playing around with DaVinci’s, especially when non-Western artists provide their own take on the ever-mysterious painting that is the Mona Lisa.
Here, Egyptian illustrator FaTma WaGdi places herself wearing a hijab in her digital rendition of this 16th century portrait, poking fun at the expressionless original subject.