Tag Archives: Caribbean

12 items you will find in an old school Afropolitan Living Room

It’s the end of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend and for many, undoubtedly a time of numerous visits to extended family. And if you are lucky enough, you might just have that one old school relative whose household is literally frozen in time circa 1980’s / early 1990’s. So in honour of these folk and for the sake of taking a trip down memory lane, here are some of things you might find in an ‘old school’ Afropolitan living room (I think everyone will be able to relate) but especially if a) you were were born / raised in the 1980’s and b) West African or Caribbean heritage.

1. The display cabinet filled with ridiculous amount of ornaments– I remember my dad having a collection from his various travels including mini porcelain figurines of random things like animals.

2. The net curtain– We like our privacy and they also look pretty.

Net curtains: This standard in an Afropolitan home.

Net curtains: This standard in an Afropolitan home.

3. The faux brick wallpaper- This was the pinnacle of interior design amongst London based Nigerians in the 1980’s I kid you not. My dad was a trendsetter but also painter / decorator and was one of the first in his friendship circle to rock this. Shortly afterwards a number of his friends began to follow suit.

Brick wallpaper: Love it or hate it this was very popular back in the day.

Brick wallpaper: Love it or hate it this was very popular back in the day.

4. The mini bar– A strictly ‘no go’ area for children because of all the pretty crystal, but I have fond memories of my parents entertaining their guests ‘behind the bar’.

5. The pot plants or fake flowers There is always some sort of foliage (real or fake) usually with a slight tropical twist in the living room.

The pot plant: this is standard in an Afropolitan home.

The pot plant: this is standard in an Afropolitan home.

6. The beaded curtains– This is one of the abiding memories I had of visiting my best friend’s house (she is of Caribbean descent) and the authentic brown beaded curtains in the hallway (a touch of ‘back home’.)

Old school: Brown beaded curtains

Old school: Brown beaded curtains.

7. Religious iconography– If you grew up in a culturally ‘Christian’ household there will almost certainly be some item conveying this. We had the image of a ‘White’ Jesus, the serenity prayer carved in wood and the rosary hanging near the front door.

8. African wood carvings-beautiful (sometimes not actually-a few could be downright scary), hand-crafted, mahogany carvings and statutes like this one were everywhere in our living room.

African wood carvings: courtesy of Positive Arts

African wood carvings: courtesy of Positive Arts.

9. A sound system with the gigantic speakers – ( i.e. A record player or  CD/cassette player combo)- A true Afropolitan would have at least one of these in their music selection. A) Country music: Jim Reeves for Christmas B) Motown classics: Stevie, Four Tops, Jackson Five, Marvin Gaye C) Reggae: Bob Marley/ Dennis Brown D) Original Afrobeat: Fela / King Sunny Ade / Ebenezer Obey /Dr  Orlando Owoh E) Soul: Luther Vandross/ Barry White / Alexander O’Neal F) Pop: Bobby Brown / Madonna (yes Marge think ‘Into the Groove’ ) UK: Aswad / Soul to Soul.

Christmas:  A serious Afropolitan household will be playing this during the festive season.

Christmas: A serious Afropolitan household will be playing this during the festive season.

10. Mirrors- Growing up we had mirrors in EVERY room except the kitchen.

11. Family photos- whether they be on the wall, on the mantle piece or in photos albums, there is always a family photo collection containing, but not limited to; the dreadful standard school photo (with mum always quibbling about the price but paying it anyway ); the cheesy pose I.e. Your parents looking into the distance, hand on hips or leg hitched on a raised platform or better still donning the trends of the day – think Shoulder pads, Jherri Curls and Afros.

Old school: Me in the late 80's

Old school: Me in the late 80’s.

12. The ‘pregnant’ TV– the bigger the better (those born after 1997 won’t understand the struggle).

Pregnant: The old school TV

Pregnant: The old school TV.

What do you remember from your childhood? Is there anything I have missed?

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Happy New Year! Plans for 2015- Coming soon!

***HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE*** 

May 2015 be your year to aspire to greatness and the fulfilment of your heart’s desires!

I am very excited about the New Year for a number of reasons one of which includes this blog! There are some wonderful things happening this year at the Thrifty Afropolitan and here is just a little glimpse into the goodies I have in store for you.

Clothes Swap event– Stop press! If you are having a good old new year’s clear out and donating clothes to charity please consider keeping hold of a few choice items for a clothes swapping happening in London in the next few months in conjunction with the Style Closet! Good, quality clothes and shoes will be accepted with no more than five items per person. More information to follow soon.

Say cheese! And bring your top quality items to our event this Spring in 2015 please!

Clothes Swap: Say cheese! And bring your top quality items to our event this Spring in 2015 please.

Meet the Thrifty Afropolitan series…. I will be interviewing a number of inspiring and creative people over the course of the year who are real life thrifty Afropolitans. (Definition of a Thrifty Afropolitan: Roots ‘back home’, raised in ‘the West’ and living in a resourceful and creative way, all whilst making the world a better place in the process. Phew- not much to ask there then!) What are your plans for 2015? Would love to hear from you! x

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Black Chronicles II: Review of new Black history exhibition

I work in one of the trendiest areas in London bursting full of cultural and creative delights- but rarely do I take advantage of this and explore what’s on offer. However, a few weeks ago I decided to visit Black Chronicles II, a new exhibition exploring the presence of Black and Asian people in early 19th and 20th century Britain, by Autograph ABP at Rivington Place, Shoreditch. I am a huge history buff with a keen interest in the Victorian era and the  Black Minority Ethnic (BME) experience so this exhibition was right up my street.

What I really liked about Black Chronicles II was the use of multimedia to depict the various unseen, marginalised histories of people of BME backgrounds in Victorian England.  This included a short film narrated by one of the curators, featuring some of the photographs on display. Similarly, the script from the film was also written high up on the walls creating a multidimensional feel and a sense of literal immersion.

It was particularly refreshing to see the breadth of the ‘Black’ presence (I know ‘Black’ is a potentially problematic term in this context but will use it anyway) extend to the South Asian community- giving the exhibition, yet again, another dimension. Below is one such example; a wonderful portrait of Major Mussa Bhai, of the Salvation Army taken in 1890:

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(C) Getty Images

The exhibition really brought forth the humanity of its subjects with each portrait being ‘allowed’ to tell its own story as far as possible. Often times Black history can be seen through a narrow, selective, colonial lens but I really felt as though I was beginning to witness the true diversity of the Black experience in Victorian England; in fact many of the photographs in the exhibition have been previously unseen by the public.

Another personal favourite were the individual portraits of members from the African Choir. Beautiful faces of all different hues, shapes and features- full of character, etched with unspoken experiences and accompanied with their full names. I can’t tell you how important it was for me to see the members awarded the dignity of having their own names written alongside their portraits- not nameless entities but marked by their own identities. Below is a portrait of one of the choir members, Eleanor Xiniwe.

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There has been a real resurgence in the popularity of Black Victoriana in recent months. Earlier this year the movie Belle was released (which is from a slightly earlier period) and a recent BBC documentary on Sally Bonetta Forbes,  described as the Black godchild of Queen Victoria reflect the growing interest for content that begins to uncover this rich body of history.

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At this point I should declare that I have a vested interest in these exhibitions because my great, great grandmother – Sally Bonetta Forbes often features in them. Beyond her royal connections, she was renowned for her musical talent, intelligence and beauty but unfortunately met an early death due to consumption at the age of 37. And as expected, a small photograph of her and her husband were included in the exhibition.

As an Afropolitan, born in the West but roots firmly in Africa, Black Chronicles II  filled me with a sense of pride that I was partaking in a shared history of those who have gone before me in this same tradition. The exhibition is by no means perfect; there are still some images that wreak of colonialism and make for uncomfortable viewing; this is unfortunately part of the Black British historic experience. However it comes close to to something that begins to reveal the truth of the varied Black presence in Victorian England.

Black Chronicles II is a must see for anyone interested in the diverse, hidden histories of BME communities in the UK.

The exhibition is free and runs until THIS Saturday 29th November.

For more information visit: autograph-abp.co.uk/exhibitions/black-chronicles-ii

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