My Zulu Love Letter

Today was World AIDS Day – December 1st. The first day of the last month of the year. The last hoorah! Also the peak of the holiday season and the coldest of winter’s days.

Thanksgiving came and went and exorbitant amounts of food consumed therein have since been digested and excre..

I wore my Zulu Love Letter that my mom gave me many years ago and I’ve done a great job of not losing it as little as it is and for the many times I’ve moved.

All Zulu love letters have a certain language or coding and identifying properties that communicate marital status, family background, clan etc to those in the know and between women in a community who produce them for men whether strangers or familiar suitors.

The AIDS awareness symbol being on this one, may have been specifically speaking to raising awareness, but the colors still carry some meaning. The table below from HERE says something about the colors which tend to have both positive and negative connotations, except white, depending on the communicator. You can decide for yourselves what my letter says/means:

Positive Colour Negative
Marriage, Regeneration Black Sorrow, Despair, Death
Fidelity, Request Blue Ill Feeling,Hostility
Wealth, A Garden,Industry,Fertility Yellow Thirst, Badness, withering away
Contentment, Domestic bliss Green Illness, Discord
High birth or Rank, An Oath, Promise Pink Poverty, Laziness
Physical Love, Strong Emotion Red Anger, Heartache,Impatience
Spiritual love, purity, virginity White ——————

Happy World AIDS Day! Beyond today, know your status and get tested.

p.s. Enjoy this Kwaito December anthem, by the best that ever did it – TKZee. Timeless hit for the festive season and a summertime Christmas!

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*@afropolitaine*

Drain, Gain and Waste – African Brains ::: #graphAfrica

We hear a lot about the waves of phenomenon happening to the African brain. The two biggest ones being the Gain and the Drain.

Brain Gain:

an increase in the number of highly trained, foreign-born professionals entering a country to live and work where greater opportunities are offered 

Brain Drain:

a loss of trained professional personnel to another company, nation, etc., that offers greater opportunity – NOT in Africa’s favor and sometimes turns into Brain Waste

A really good friend/neighbor of mine just passed her boards a few weeks back as an RN. She already had a job offer at one of the prestigious hospitals in Washington DC waiting for her and when she found out we celebrated by going to the Smithsonian folk life festival and having a gloriously therapeutic and relaxing walk almost all the way home from the National Mall. The only thing that needed to happen was for her to get a certain type of visa that would permit her TO work. Fast forward to this weekend and she was denied it. When she told me I asked what her options were and it seems of those available there is not enough time permitted for those things to first be done nor to guarantee her getting the visa. She texted me earlier today that she is leaving next Friday. I had to not respond to it in order to deal.

Later today, I came home and relaxed a bit, watched the sun set and had some quality solo-dolo time. On my way back to mine I stopped at her place to finally face what her text means and I almost cried when she opened the door because she was so cheerful and there were boxes strewn all over. Evidence of her impending departure. There were some other friends there and it turned out to be a really good hangout taking pictures for craigslist and figuring out what we are buying from her. More than anything there are so many opportunities waiting for her in the islands [admittedly more so simply because she’ll be an i-just-got-back] that she couldn’t even have imagined with her own previous plan. I left there having such a good feeling about her future I was almost envious.

I’m home now and I was thinking, what if ALL the BRAIN DRAIN and sometimes consequential waste from Africa was reversed voluntarily by Africans deciding to go back en masse or forcibly through a mass deportation?! The latter alternative is a little harsh I know, but hear me out. We spend so much time planning for opportunities and routines that our limited imaginations are capable of yet there is so much more out there in the world and sometimes life has a way of throwing us into the deep end where we realize we knew how to swim after all. In some of the places where some African’s can’t imagine living because they can choose not to, what is they were forced to go there and make things happen? How many people have the story of coming to America with $20 [or whatever paltry amount] in their back pocket and cleaning toilets and working fast food to make ends meet? If all those people with the skills and life experience they have since gained, what a dramatic impact they would have on the labor market in their respective countries or whatever other they chose? I like to think what a wonderful world it would be.

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*@afropolitaine*

#graphAfrica

 

afrofoto *day 24: Swahili Village

 

Patiently waiting for the food to come with the fruit cocktail drink that matched my outfit that day – random! My bag was yellow and my nails were red -_- …..

 

Woke up on Sunday morning in absolutely no rush for anything. Simply enjoying what the  Italians, according to Eat, Pray, Love, call the sweetness of doing nothing – dolce far niente. Went with a friend who hadn’t been there and we both had a taste for some goat meat. Swahili Village it was!! The game with Italy playing some other European team was on, music was semi-blasting, the sun was shining outside and the air conditioner was blowing quite comfortably inside.

 

I ordered chapati with ndengu (lentils) and a side of mbuzi (goat) nyama (meat) bites. When I used to live in Kenya, one of the neighbors in the compound had a cook [I remember his name was Jogenya] who used to make the bomb chapati and ndengu and all the kids would conveniently go and play at that house when he was cooking them. Mama Sam didn’t have a problem and now that i think of it, Sam could have used the “popularity” now that I realize how much younger than the rest of us were.  It was scrumptious and filling…i couldn’t even finish it and ended up bringing the rest home.

Chapati and ndengu have origins in South Asia – India to be specific. There is a large diaspora Indian community not just in Kenya but throughout East and Southern Africa! Thanks to the British and their expansionist colonial movements decades/a century ago. They are heavily involved in businesses and commerce and although they stand out as other, a good number of them have assimilated pretty decently. It’s quite common to see Indians speaking Swahili in different parts of the country. There were a lot of them when I attended Hillcrest Prep School, I had them for neighbors and best friends while there for 3 years. *Sigh*
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*@afropolitaine*

 

afrofoto *day 23: Bukom!

BUKOM!!!

Tucked away in the heart of the heart of DC that is Adam’s Morgan you will find Bukom Cafe! It is a landmark of the city and going there is part of experiencing chill/alive/cultural/musical DC. It isn’t the monuments nor is it the white house, it isn’t the museums nor is it the interesting government buildings. It’s it’s own experience and satisfies so many feelings you may or may not actively be in pursuit of when you go out. One thing that is for SURE (put $$$ on it) is that it will always be a right decision to go there. I also heard it was featured in landmarks of DC somewhere. The food is amazing and although, when busy, it might take a little while, the live reggae band interesting mix of patrons of all races, ages, religions etc will keep you going AND the food is always #FRESH. The worst that has happened to me is the food took a little longer than i’d like, but I was in great company and had walked in there FAMISHED.
I had seen people order this on previous visits and was determined to have it one day so it finally happened. It’s a whole grilled Tilapia garnished with spices and veggies :p
(after)
The address is 
2442 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
You should definitely check it out!! It’s Ghanaian and Nigerian owned (a married couple who are always there <3)
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*@afropolitaine*

afrofoto *day 21: green with envy

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I had a phase where I was OB-SESSED-uh with recycled glass beads. My darling @naijadiva was going to Nigeria and that was all I wanted. I looked up pictures and sent them to her. She brought me 3 or 4 different colors and I went to Beadazzled on Connecticut and got some leather rope and clasps. I wish i’d gotten more creative and added some brass beads and really put some slamming stuff together. Now that i’ve said it….

Yup yup yup!!
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*afropolitaine* 

afrofoto *day 19

I thought the thing featured today was a cushion cover when I first saw it lying around looking forlorn and abandoned at my aunt’s house a few years back. My grandmother had brought waaay too many gifts for all the unexpected guests and therefore consequential and habitual gifting. I was so excited about the way it would look on my bed since all my covers are white. It would be a semi-nautical, pseudo pop of color, clean lines and several other word pairings i’ve heard and remembered from interior decor mags and shows. But alas!

I even went looking for cushions that would fit in it, only to one day, upon closer inspection, realize that there was no pocket/slip to put the cushion into. It might have been a place mat or even just a ready-to-be-put-on-the-wall piece, but I decided to put it on my wall [<–if you can call it that] at work.

(from the same batch my Gogo brought, i have this in my room and have had it in my rooms since boarding school…might end up w it in my …)

Yes i does maintain, at least try to be deliberate about it, the afropolitaine vibes wherever i go! It’s not loud and occasionally i’ll squint my eyes and watch the waves on it 🙂

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*afropolitaine*

afrofoto *day 18

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Yes! i know you’ve been waiting with baited breath for this update!! Well here it is right here. The 2 bracelets I have on are made of a combination of recycled glass and/or [[wax]] clay I think and they are dyed in different patterns and colors as well. The size of each individual bead is about a peny wide. My darling of a friend Kofi (@NakPhilly) who i’ve known ever since middle school in Abidjan brought them FINALLY after he’d gone to Ghana for the umpteenth time and he kept somehow “forgetting” <_< …It wasn’t until i threatened him with real life unfriending that my one bracelet showed up! 🙂 …Machiavelli did say it’s better to be feared than to be loved – what he forgot to add was that it would get you the beads you want your friends to bring back for you from Ghana 🙂

The second one i got when I went to visit him in Philly for Memorial Day weekend. Can you imagine it was lying around on the table?! After how long it took for me to get the one he has them just lying haphazardly around his place. Trust me to pick it up and put it on…..and then later show it to him and let him know that it’s mine 🙂 – a go getter I am!

(you can ask me about that scar on my arm too – interesting story i tell you)

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*afropolitaine*

afrofoto: what’s more belated than belated?

afrofoto *day 15:

I really had a lot going on in this here outfit! I guess you/I can focus on the necklace – a gold necklace from Egypt a veeeeery loooong time ago that one of my mom’s friends gave to be on my 15th or 16th birthday. It’s got the head of Nefertiti as the pendant 🙂

I mentioned in the previous post that I went to Jazz in the Garden with a group of my good friends and this is then on the patchc of ground we managed to get situated on – the garden was packed. Hardly a patch of grass was free. It was a great time though, as is always the case in good company. Nigerians, Eritreans and Cameroonians in the picture and I know some of them from Abidjan where we grew up together.

 

afrofoto *day 16:

The main feature of this outfit was the purse I was carrying. You’ll see it later in the day…..check the beaded bracelet I wore. I took this picture cuz i was ecstatic about the new matte red nail polish I got from Sephora :)))) (Nails Inc Matte – Gatwick) Loooove it and it looks great with matte red lipstick.
Anywhooo….back to the bracelet – honestly there isn’t anything too special about it because these bracelets are the trademark/easy-to-come-by/ African jewelry at least in my experience here in the US or even in market in different African countries. They come in aaaaallll kinds of patterns and colors and combinations. They’ve made a successful transference from traditional jewelry to contemporary appeal and use. From the hipster to the soul-sister, for yourself or as a gift – it’s hard to go wrong with them.
Wifey had tickets to Beauty and the Beast and the bag I carried I got from the bottom of my aunt’s closet a couple of years ago. It’s made of leather died into 3 different shades. It doesn’t fit much and as i didn’t need much that night – it was my pick 🙂 We all went home afterwards, the next day waaaas…..

afrofoto *day 17:
Nothing much to see here – for some reasons I didn’t take a lot of pictures on this day. Went to a Zimbabwean cookout with my roommate – it was a lot of fun. My barely visible cuff I  got in Ivory Coast from a Mauritanian vendor at  Cocody Marche. There is a very large and merchant based Mauritanian community throughout Ivory Coast. A lot of their jewelry tends to be made of silver or bronze and has designs and patters etched into it. I love the finishing because a lot of it is intentionally made to look rustic of antique-ish. I’ve had that one for almost 10 years now.

That’s all for now…for this post 🙂

afrofoto day 6

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sooo much could  be said about today, but i’ve obviously missed my mark already for this update! Womp wompity womp! I have been exhausted alllll day and came home – did not pass go did not collect 200 – and went straight to bed. A nap that was supposed to be 2 hours turned into 5! You know, at least I do, you were tired when you drool during a nap when you are not even a drooler or snorer.

 

My earrings today I got in Dar-es-Salaam at a craft market/strip near my house in Oyster Bay. The place is called Slipway and they are made of beads as is characteristic of southern and east African jewelry. What identifies these as east African is the silver trinket things hanging off it as that is often incorporated into Maasai and Samburu jewelry – tribes found predominantly in Kenya and Tanzania a bit. In fact, google “Maasai jewelry” or “Samburu jewelry”. I love that there are so many colors in the earrings and no distinct pattern so that makes it easier to wear them with anything. I wouldn’t, however, go so far as to say they are “traditional”  – more of a contemporary [tourist friendly twist] on more complex designs the tribes actually wear.

 

Going back to bed folks, 2 more days to this week! See you with another update soon 🙂

afrofoto day 5

So in my effort to kinda figure out what i’m doing with this “afrofoto” i realized that more than just talking about or pointing out what i wore that was African I would like to talk a little bit more about it’s origins/history etc. With the scarf I wore yesterday it is mostly/traditionally attributable to the Amhara people of Ethiopia as a shawl for women or men although it has become more generally associated with Ethiopia in general whether Amhara, Tigrina or otherwise.  That’s about all on that from me although i know more could obviously be said.

Today was an overwhelmingly stressed out day and I really did not have time to think about this, but i know that i made a pact not only with you all, but with myself. I just got home and i know that above all else i need to update before i get to sleep. We had a very touching kumbaya farewell and retirement reception for one of our VPs and it was a surprisingly emotional event considering how long and legendary his career has made him. More than 30 years in the business of education innovation in developing countries SUCCESSFULLY is a very long time! There was wine served and great bread and cheeses – I had 3 glasses of cabernet…..

Some African drummers and a dance troupe were brought in and boy was I shocked that the drummer was my instructor in the African Drumming class at University of Maryland – in which i was the only Black person. The rest of my peoples – where were you?! (Conversation for another day). Funny thing he and I used to be cool until one night he was feeling however he was feeling and decided to text me one random night (over a year after NO communication just cuz) talking about I should come to his house to “watch a movie as soon as he puts the babies to sleep”. -_- <– not going to get into it. In short, you have to remind people when they disrespect you to respect themselves at the very least. I recorded a video so I could laugh at and with my co-workers later, but can’t post it without their consent.

My co-workers, Mexican-American and French-Algerian, decided to go to a cigar bar which, as much as I’ve been accused of being a “wakadubey”, I’ve never done. More cabernet… I had a #YOLO  moment and struck while the iron was hot 🙂 I smoked a honey flavored skinny cigar – keep it classy you know lol. My first cigar:

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Now onto the topic of the day and the season – the afrofoto:

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These bracelets I wore probably had more specific inbuilt messaging according to the colors and the patterns used, but they have probably been lost to the commercialization and consequential dilution of being so readily available at every corner of every African city market a tourist can be found whether in North, East, South, or West of  the continent. The first one (all blue) and the second i got a looooong time (approximately age 11) in Nairobi, the third in Dar-es-Salaaam and is actually the colors of the Tanzanian flag. One of those obvious touristy buys.  

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Random shadowy mirror picture at Recess coming from the bathroom. Twas my first time going there 🙂 – great time!

 
Hasta manana people ❤