I recently spent an evening dining and conversing with Radcliffe, my sister Leslie’s partner, and some friends, in Brooklyn. I was in the U.S. for a few weeks visiting family and renewing my Kenyan visa. Radcliffe, a painter, sculptor, and installation artist, was working on a series of paintings on sheet music, which he transported in an old Count Basie record cover. Brilliant. He told me that these pieces would be part of an upcoming exhibit in Europe. The work centered around a series of photographs of West and Central African sculptures. The sculptures were placed within surreal worlds, rich in color and texture. After a dinner of grilled fava beans, salmon, and ramps, I sat and watched Radcliffe work on the paintings. Later that evening, we went for drinks at a local lounge in Bed-Stuy, and then to the Eye Spy party in Williamsburg, whose theme was music influenced by the Native Tongues movement. It had been several years since I lived in Brooklyn and the changes throughout the borough were apparent – from the Barclay’s Center to the new residents who’ve moved into my old neighborhoods of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights. Folks who have lived in Brooklyn for years will be the first to tell you – it’s not what it used to be. And I think that’s true…but somehow in my evening with Radcliffe, my sister, and our friends, I was reminded that home is where the heart is, and a piece of my heart still lives in Brooklyn.
Who are the black yogis? This is a question that’s been on my mind for a long time. Several years ago I maintained a subscription to Yoga Journal and was consistently disappointed by the magazines failure to represent people of color in its pages. It was a harsh irony that the publication didn’t do more to connect its content with the creators of the practice let alone other people of color. It was clear that Yoga Journal pandered to the same clientele that frequented the studios. I was disappointed when I considered the magazines failure to use its platform to represent a more diverse body of practitioners.
Having moved to Kenya several months ago, I rediscovered Bikram Yoga Nairobi. Upon returning, I was delighted to observe a diverse group of practitioners and teachers at the studio. Kenyans were definitely in the expected mix of European and American expats during classes. Within my first couple of weeks I met Kent, a Trinidadian teacher who had a fantastic story. Apparently Kent, who had a small frame, weighed over 200 lbs. a few years ago. Then he discovered Bikram Yoga and turned his life around. Side Note: for a long time I resisted Bikram Yoga as a regular practice. There was something about the flashiness and blatant capitalism that the founder Bikram Choudhuroy seemed to embody; what appeared to be a purely physical practice; and an uncertainty about the safety of the instruction. That being said, historically I’m not one to proselytize about the benefits of Bikram yoga BUT having revisited the practice in recent months the personal benefits have been notable. Back to Kent: during his classes I really appreciated Kent’s presence of mind and motivational style. I also liked that he was a black yoga teacher teaching a class filled with Kenyans. This was the moment that Yoga Journal had missed. I talked with Kent about the two of us doing a photo shoot to represent The Black Yogis. This is a moment I’ve been waiting for for a long time. In the future I’ll do a post on some of the amazing Kenyan yoga teachers that have emerged in recent years, many of them coming through Africa Yoga Project. But for now I start at home. Thank you Kent for being that lamp post (to use a Bikram idiom) and safari njema wherever your travels take you.
photos by Elísabet Cárdenas
@ Bikram Yoga Nairobi, Lavington Green
What happens when a Hawaiian born Chinese/African-American photographer, a Somali/Norwegian stylist and a French raised Sudanese/Somali producer meet at Sauti za Busara in Zanzibar? The definition of an Afropolitan experience was put into action; Stone Town inspired the creative globetrotting trio with its Swahili culture of the Indian ocean, African/World music and the idea of a visionary global African diaspora. All these elements create a memorable fashion story that planted Swahili roots in the hearts of the collaborators.
Two weeks ago, my good friend and stylist Liban visited me in Nairobi and scooped me up to Zanzibar to Sauti Za Busara. I arrived into the mayhem and beauty of the magical festival on the Swahili coast. Keeping up with the festival schedule, which had performances from 4pm – 2am from Thursday to Sunday was a bit of a challenge but we did our best. We were joined by the photographer Nicky Woo, who helped document our adventure. In addition to an amazing lineup of musicians, such as Culture Musical Club (Zanzibar), Tcheka (Cape Verde), The Brother Moves on (South Africa), Sarabi (Kenya) and many more, the three of us bonded and had a spontaneous artistic collaboration after an afternoon at Darajani Market, culminating in a photo shoot for a fashion story. I think the pictures tell the narrative best so I’ll let them speak for themselves. Enjoy!
Address: Sauti Za Busara, PO Box 3635, Zanzibar, Tanzania firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +255 24 223 2423 or +255 773 822 294. Website: http://www.busaramusic.org/