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My favorite new travel blog…Tewfic El-Sawiy: The Travel Photographer

6 Oct

It’s getting colder and darker and I’m out of breath.

So I turn the computer on at home after a long day teaching the breathtaking film “Water” by Deepa Mehta. (You have to see it, highly recommended) I click on one of my old bookmarks that I’ve long forgotten about and find this gorgeous website from a man who photographs endangered cultures primarily in India, Bali, East Africa, and Bhutan. Part of his work is taking aspiring photographers on photo expeditions- some on the streets of Kolkata, others to Kerala to witness and document Katha’kali dance-dramas. There are also photo galleries- one that caught my eye featured a photograph of African Sufi Siddis. Click here and feel transported…


Black in Latin America

27 Apr

For the past few weeks, I’ve been watching episodes of Black in Latin America on PBS- a documentary series that delves into the history of African-descended people in the following countries- the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, Peru, and Mexico. It’s hosted by Henry Louis Gates, a Harvard professor, well- known for African American Lives,  his documentary about African-American geneology.

The documentaries deal with such heady issues as the African roots of many Latin American cultures and how those roots have been historically denied and suppressed, how most of those cultures categorize race differently than here in the United States, and how people of African descent continue to face disproportionately high rates of poverty, disease, unemployment, and incarceration due to ongoing discrimination.

If you already know a lot about the African contribution to Latin American culture, this documentary only skims the surface. But it does it really, really well and piques the interest to learn more. I’m definitely looking forward to the episodes dealing with the African diaspora in Mexico and Peru as I know very little about them. Check it out!

Bon Voyaj,


When Your Mom is a Style Icon (and your Dad and aunt too)

23 Apr

from left: Mommy, Daddy, and Tantine (auntie)

I love Piper Weiss’ blog ‘My Mom, The Style Icon’ which can be found at

But then again, I love all style and photography pre-1980’s, although I grew up afterwards. So I thought about all of the elements that made my mother a style icon and the cultural context that gave rise to it.

The picture above takes place in 1970’s DR Congo (otherwise known as Zaire, back then.) It was the era of ‘l’authenticite,’ when President Mobutu Sese Seko ordered the citizens of the country to dress in African garb. Of course, young people back then knew there was no such thing as cultural purity, so they re-mixed styles traditional to their cultures with what was en vogue across the Atlantic.

The results? Bell bottoms were all the rage, as were Afros, espadrilles, and of course dashikis. Of course, being that they were in Central Africa, the ‘African’ element is heightened through the wearing of ‘pagnes’ on femailes (brightly colored cloth you wrap around your waist)- but on my mom, the pagne is paired with a clear anti-thesis- an ‘I Love New York’ tee, but any other western-style printed T-Shirt will do.

Necessary elements:
-wax print cloth to make a pagne (or button-down shirt, or how about the cute blouse my aunt is wearing. Gorgeous!) If you are in Harlem, this is easy. But if you are from anywhere else, just take a quick look online. There are plenty of options. And if you are like me, having gone to a country on the continent, bought tons of fabric, and have still done nothing with it, get to work!

AKN Fabrics can be found in NYC or you can order by phone!

-If you have a sewing machine and you know how to sew, this is easy. Measure yourself and do what you do. Unfortunately, I will have to get mine done at a tailor.

-for the T-shirt and pagne look, you can match by choosing one color from your pagne to go with a fun tee like ‘I Love New York’ or ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ but don’t go overboard trying to look too pulled together. It spoils the fun. Or you can not match at all. But make sure to get if fit nice and snug to your body.

And for the ladies, final step is a pair of flip-flops or cute espadrilles. And you’re good to go.


Bon Voyaj,


African print and pagne: cheap or cheap?

30 Jan

African print and pagne: cheap or cheap?.

Right now, I’m putting together a piece on my mom’s Central Africa meets 70’s soul style and ran into the wonderful piece above about the misconception that African printed fabrics can’t be worn formally or in a variety of ways.

So if you’ve been to West or Central Africa (or Harlem, or D.C), rest assured you can put the brightly colored fabrics you purchased to good use!

Tambour d’Afrique Trip Down Memory Lane…

6 Jan

Tonight, I’ve been listening to my dad’s radio station tambour d’afrique (check out my sister’s blog <a that gives uploads of past shows and amazing background info.)

So, it’s leaving me feeling more than nostalgic for 1980’s Zaiko music (or to be more au courant, Democratic Republic of Congo), otherwise known as SOUKOUS- literally a derivative of the French word that means ‘to shake.’

It feels like only yesterday when my sister and I tried out the kwasa kwasa dance to my aunt’s old soukous records when we visited her in Dijon, France Of course the adults held court, eating boiled peanuts and drinking beer while they discussed neighborhood gossip and African politics. This is back in the days when soukous was beginning to get a bit more of an electronic influence from the States and the French Caribbean islands, but was still holding on to its rumba soul before giving way to the earth-shaking sebene* that would close out the song.

One song emblematic of the era was Massu, sung by the literal one-hit singing sensation Jolie Detta. She was discovered by Franco of the Tout Puissant OK Jazz and was chosen to headline this song about a friendship broken over jealousy and vicious gossip; however, the singer left the public eye soon after due to the stress of sudden fame. Or so the story goes.

I love Jolie’s buoyant voice and charismatic connection to her audience in the following video. It transports me far away from the bitter, winter cold outside and into my grandfather’s home in Thysville, Congo back in 1984.

What song has the power to completely transport you? To transcend whatever issue or problem you might be facing? Listen to it as soon as possible!

Peace, Dalia