Art is about being stirred – identifying creatively with an idea and responding to something which is there to engage us. Modupeola Fadugba’s exhibition “Dreams from the Deep End” is a body of work which both captivates visually and completely absorbs from a topical perspective. Currently on display at Gallery 1957 in Accra, we were lucky enough to be there for the opening, which coincided with the 2018 Chale Wote Street Art Festival in Jamestown…Read More
The great migration has finally arrived in Kenya where the Mara River takes centre stage each year for one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles. The Masai Mara boasts the highest concentration of wildlife in Kenya and is a wish list destination for most first-time safari travellers. Yet there are many other regions to explore and some, where unlike the Mara, you’ll barely see another soul during your visit.
Against the backdrop of Mount Kenya, Laikipia is largely comprised of private ranches and conservancies, and offers some of the most exclusive accommodations in the country. Segera Retreat is one of these – a 50,000-acre eco-ranch belonging to Jochen Zeitz, philanthropist, conservationist and founder of Cape Town’s Zeitz MOCAA.
“Retreat” summarizes Segera perfectly. There are seemingly endless plains of honey-coloured grasses still long from this year’s abundant rainy season and accented by whistling thorn acacias. The entrance to the lodge is quite inconspicuous. No immediate sign of the exquisitely-planted tropical gardens, compelling collection of art and artefacts, sumptuous villas and beautifully-appointed spa. Yet this is Kenya’s most sophisticated lodge and they have spared no expense where the finest details are concerned. Guest interaction is measured with precision and private dining throughout the property means they completely avoid the communality which isn’t usually favoured by guests travelling at a certain level. Each villa has its own housekeeper, wildlife guide and assigned waiter, so the same questions need never be asked twice. Even before you’ve stepped through the doors everyone knows your name by heart and extends the welcome one might expect for a friend or guest of many years. There is just the right balance between distance and familiarity. Jens Kozany is a superb General Manager and his approach to hospitality aligns him with the very best in the industry. With an amazing ability to make everything seem completely effortless, nothing is ever too much trouble, there is no such word as “no”.
Location-wise Segera is well-placed for helicopter trips to Mount Kenya, Lake Turkana, the Suguta Valley and Matthews Range and we particularly recommend sequencing it at the end of a trip to unwind and completely self-indulge. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to plan the ultimate Kenyan wildlife and cultural experience.
Sitting in a classroom at the University of Lome, a discussion is underway with one of the tutors about his recent encounter with a “djinn”. He was quick to explain to me that “in Togo you never believe in just one thing. We might be Christian or Muslim but there is always something else.” "Vodun", as it’s known in Togo and Benin, was a theme which would present itself time and again in the coming months in trance ceremonies, festivals, shamans, fetishes and rites of passage.
This is a world where people are connected deeply to the spirits of their ancestors and households very often keep shrines designed to protect these deities. It may be un-centralized but Vodun is still is a full belief system which bears no resemblance to the negative connotations of witchcraft in the west. In Benin it is classified as an official religion and it has its own cosmology, set of healing practises, symbols, rituals, divinities and moral guidelines.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Lome’s Akodessawa Fetish Market with its rows and rows of dead animal skulls, hides and skins piled up on tables. Voodoo priests reside in huts where it is believed that they consult with deities. Using different talismans, herbs and animal parts, they concoct remedies for all manner of ailments. Though certainly a tourist destination – a clever idea launched by Beninese businessmen – it still sets the scene for an omnipresent religious and cultural identity. To unravel anything with greater depth takes time, patience and a very good guide.
"La Prise de la Pierre Sacrée", or "Epe Ekpe", is the annual festival in Glidji whereby the colour of a sacred stone tells the fortune of the coming year. The stone is retrieved from a sacred forest by a high priest who interprets its colour. White represents abundance, black is destruction and famine, red is for war, blue is abundance. This was my first experience watching performers enter a deep trance and it was an explosion of gesticulation, singing, drumming, and of course the spell-binding trance where dancers fling their heads back, eyes roll to the back of their heads, movements become wilder and more animated to the crescendo of drums…
Each year on 10th January the Ouidah Festival takes place in Benin – this is the largest, most accessible, and some might say “staged” of Benin’s Vodun events, but it is certainly a good place to start. Ouidah is really the voodoo capital of Benin and hosts many different ceremonies throughout the year. It is also extremely important for its role in the slave trade. The foreboding “Door of No Return” is a monumental arched gateway which signifies the last place hundreds and thousands of people would have seen before being forced onto boats slavery boats – many of those bound for Brazil.
There’s the amazingly colourful, vibrant Geledé festival, dedicated to Mother Earth or Iyà Nlà as she is known locally and is characterized by the beautifully-crafted masks worn by dancers accompanied by singers and drummers. The festival is an ode to Yoruba heritage and includes the symbolic use of animal figures such as birds and serpents.
The traditional Zangbeto ceremony wards off evil spirits and is led by a secret society of mask wearers who cannot reveal their identity. This was one of the most intriguing aspects for me – the secrecy, sacred traditions passed down through birth right, that as a tourist you are exposed to just a fraction of the depth of this belief system. These destinations are not for the faint-hearted, they demand resilience and patience, but from a cultural, musical, and religious standpoint, I’m hard-pressed to think of anywhere more fascinating.
Contact us at email@example.com to plan your journey to West Africa.
Once a thriving safari destination, Zimbabwe’s political instability and dire economy under Mugabe’s rule didn’t exactly do any great wonders for its appeal. However, over the last few years it has started to emerge once again, most significantly in 2016 when Mugabe reopened Victoria Falls International Airport. Although tourists already flocked in droves to see the falls from the more impressive Zimbabwean side, this really helped put it back on the map. The international press were hot on the heels of the country’s latest upscale tourism developments including the openings of Wilderness’s Little Rukomechi in Mana Pools and Matetsi Lodge near Victoria Falls. Fast forward a couple of years and Singita Pamushana is due to reopen this month following extensive renovations and the addition of two new two-bedroom suites. Another of our favourite safari brands, Great Plains Conservation, are soon to open Mpala Jena Camp and Mpala Jena Suite on a private concession within the Zambezi National Park. They are also launching a 6-night exploration safari experience in Mana Pools National Park.
So what other reasons should you visit Zimbabwe? This is a country emerging from the ashes in many respects. It has always been a jewel in Africa’s crown but was stifled under a hugely oppressive regime and economic disaster. At long last there is the opportunity to reinvent itself and we’re excited to see what that entails. Galleries such as First Floor Gallery Harare have helped set the scene for independent international contemporary art and we’re certain this will continue to expand and thrive. Already the country's great talent is showcased at world-renowned art fairs such as the Venice Biennale. Zimbabwe Fashion week takes place annually at the end of August, there’s a lively food scene, music, crafts… but most of all Zimbabwe is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful countries on the continent with some of the best guiding.
In the northwest part of the country, Hwange National Park is renowned for its elephant population, substantial concentrations of game and for being the largest national park in the country. The mighty Victoria Falls are widely considered to be best seen from the Zimbabwean side due to the greater number of viewing points. Lake Kariba is spectacular and one of the largest artificial lakes in the world. From here the Zambezi continues east through the lower Zambezi valley with Mana Pools National Park to the south - one of Africa’s most exquisite parks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Zimbabwe combines perfectly with Botswana and/or Zambia for those with extra time to spare. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to plan something beyond your wildest dreams.
Cultural sensitivity is a subject close to our hearts and one which fuelled much discussion during our recent visit to the Omo Valley. Is there ever an acceptable time to take photographs of people without asking? What is the best way to try and achieve some sort of meaningful interaction? How can we set the right tone and avoid photo-money exchanges and/or the begging culture which helps no one much in the long run?Read More
True to its name, which translated from Shangaan means “place of miracles”, Singita’s accomplishments are almost implausibly outstanding across the board.Read More
There is something very special about landing in Livingstone – a town in southwestern Zambia on the border with Zimbabwe and gateway to the great Zambezi River and Victoria Falls. It immediately feels like a journey back in time where something spectacular is about to unfold.
An hour or so upstream from Victoria Falls, the last part of the journey down a dirt track road, and we reach Royal Chundu – a remote, privately-owned property made up of two lodges – River Lodge and Island Lodge. The latter is the more exclusive of the two with four very private suites on Katombora Island, accessed by boat and overlooking a scenic waterway of the Zambezi River. Benefitting from more spacious open plan suites, Island Lodge has the higher price point, which in our view is well worth it for the sheer privacy. Best of all is to take over all four suites for a family or group of friends and feel like you’re staying on your own private island complete with dedicated staff. Either way, the setting of both lodges is spectacular. At River Lodge you have front-facing views of the Zambezi River, a vibrantly-coloured lounge and dining area, and attractive swimming pool with deck and sun loungers. The ten suites are smaller than those at Island Lodge, and without the freestanding bath tubs on the sun decks, but with equally pretty views. As dusk draws in, with indescribably beautiful dusky purple skies and the sounds of hippo in the distance, the real magic starts to illuminate.
Where they really score at Royal Chundu is with a team of some of the most delightful people you could wish to meet. We were greeted every day by the warmest of smiles amongst staff who went above and beyond to ensure we were happy. Particularly impressive is Lodge Manager, Aggie Maseko Banda, who has what can only be described as a completely natural flair for hospitality. The sort of person who knows instinctively when to be around without being intrusive or overbearing. This is a fine art and actually quite rare on the safari circuit which is designed to have you programmed to set schedules (something we try wherever possible to avoid).
We particularly loved our canoeing experience which began at the Katombora rapids and continued through the channels of the Zambezi past endless jackalberry and baobab trees. The island lunch they set up for us at the end of the trip was spectacular and a definite highlight of the trip. Not to mention the exhilarating 30-minute helicopter ride over Victoria Falls and down into Batoka Gorge (well worth doing this and not the shorter, 15-minute version).
For more on how to plan the optimum experience of Victoria Falls, the great Zambezi River, and wider travel throughout Zambia, contact us at email@example.com
Everybody loves Christmas, right? The universally-accepted time of year to delve head first into the party spirit, overeat, overdrink, overspend, and generally wade in frivolity for the best part of a week. This December was the first I’ve been in London for a while. And despite being unwillingly ploughed into the spirit of Christmas advertising as far back as September, and the first lights appearing in all their prematurity by first week of November, I’ll admit to having loved the joviality of London’s festive buzz, taking my niece to Santa’s Grotto, gift-wrapping, drinking hot chocolate, pottering around the West End beneath an awning of sparkly decorations, shops full of things you really don’t need but contemplate buying anyway. It’s just fun. Fun and decadent, frivolous and indulgent, extravagant and a little bit gluttonous. In London that is...Read More
Much has changed in the last 15 years, since my days living in Togo eating yam chips with chilli sauce on the roadside, or a large plate of pâte (a sort of cake made of cornmeal with a similar consistency to fufu) with meat or fish stew. The emergence of contemporary culture has unfolded since then, including a home-grown culinary scene, which showcases the spice-infused, colourful flavours of the continent.
Gone are the days when restaurateurs look to Europe and Asia alone for culinary inspiration. We are seeing a shift as some of the most innovative restaurants in Accra, Lagos, Dakar, Kigali and Nairobi, look inward to homespun, traditional recipes and locally sourced ingredients. Current trends deflect from the somewhat incongruous French or Japanese eateries which used to have the monopoly on dining for the well-heeled. Cities are spinning out their own contemporary take on West African flavours and rolling it out to the rest of the world.
We now have some mouth-watering cookbooks to choose from including Lope Ariyo’s “Hibiscus”, “The Groundnut Cookbook” by Duval Timothy, Jacob Fodio Todd and Folayemi Brown, “Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen” by Zoe Adjonyoh, who also runs a street food restaurant in London’s Brixton. There are supper clubs, market stalls, street food joints… Most recently, Ikoyi opened in St James Market offering a contemporary take on Nigerian cuisine with dishes such as jollof rice & smoked bone marrow, buttermilk plantain, and garden egg with wild spinach efo. Ever the leader in restaurant trends, New York City has plenty to write home about, notably in Harlem which landed on the rest of the world's map when Ethiopian chef, Marcus Samuelsson, opened the inimitably cool Red Rooster. Ponty Bistro, with branches in both Harlem and Gramercy, serves up tasty fusion French- Senegalese cuisine; while casual, neighbourhood joint, La Savane, takes a range of African influences from Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Mali & Guinea, thanks to the different people manning the kitchen.
Adjonyoh writes “I believe we are on the cusp of an African food revolution… For too long Africans have kept this incredible food a greedy secret”. She may have a point!
Zoe Adjonyoh’s Recipe for Jollof Fried Chicken:
2 tablespoons Jollof dry spice mix **
½ teaspoon crushed sea salt
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
00ml–1 litre vegetable oil, for deep-frying
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed sea salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Mix the jollof dry spice mix, sea salt and black pepper with the rapeseed oil in a large bowl. Add the chicken strips and buttermilk and turn to coat them all over. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 1–2 hours, preferably overnight.
Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer (the safest option) or heavy-based, deep saucepan filled to just under half the depth of the pan to 180–190°C (350–375°F) or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds. Meanwhile, put the cornflour in a separate bowl with the seasoning and nutmeg and mix well. Dip each chicken strip into the seasoned cornflour to coat evenly – try to do 4 or 5 pieces in quick succession, as you need to drop them into the hot oil straight away.
Fry the chicken, in batches, for no more than 3–4 minutes to keep them succulent and juicy yet cooked through, and golden and crispy but not burnt. Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper, keeping the cooked chicken hot while you fry the rest.
Jollof dry spice mix**
Makes about 190g
25g ground ginger
25g garlic powder
20g dried chilli flakes
35g dried thyme
25g ground cinnamon
15g ground nutmeg
15g ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cooking salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper scant
1 teaspoon dried ground prawn/shrimp or crayfish powder (optional)
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place and use within a few months.
Everyone is talking about it. Art critics and enthusiasts, visitors to Cape Town, taxi drivers… At the airport I was stopped by a local Capetonian, who recognising my gift bag from their pop up shop, enthused that he’d now visited four times in total since the opening in September. It’s been hailed as “Africa’s Tate Modern”, a “museum for social change” and the continent’s “most important museum opening in a century”. Never more fitting is the saying “your reputation precedes you” given the volume of press coverage on the opening of Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (Zeitz MOCAA).
The museum has sparked its fair share of controversy, from who founded it, to where it’s located, the artists it represents, the comparison to Western art institutions, and the name itself after founder Jochen Zeitz – former CEO of Puma. But isn’t that the point? To create a focus, a subject for debate, something which shifts perceptions and generates interest from the outside world.
We loved it. In fact, we’d visit Cape Town again in a heartbeat just to spend longer exploring the converted 1920s grain silo designed by Thomas Heatherwick and now the largest collection of contemporary African art. The building’s redesign is a masterpiece of epic proportions. Once used to store maize, its existing concrete tubes were converted into spaces to display art. There are five floors of gallery spaces and a cavernous atrium which allows a flood of light through the building.
The art is electrifying. All the more so given where in the world we are. Spaces are filled with some of the great artists of today’s Africa, including Cyrus Kabiru, El Anatsui, Ghada Amer, Jeremiah Quarshie, Kudzanai Chiurai, Mohau Modisakeng, Zanele Muholi, Ndijeka Akunyili Crosby and Nandipha Mntambo, to name a few. Wangechi Mutu’s film is particularly compelling as well as the animated film by William Kentridge set in the exploited industrial and mining landscapes around Johannesburg. For us, it is a monumental celebration of contemporary African art. It stands tall, both physically and in the magnitude of its achievement as one of the greatest museums, not just in Africa but the world.
Winston Churchill referred to Uganda as “the pearl of Africa” and it’s not hard to see why. It is an intensely beautiful and vibrant country with some of the most dramatic scenery in the region: rainforests bejewelled with specks of sunlight, teeming with monkeys and exotic birds, the never-ending expanse of Lake Victoria unfolding from the curls of the Ssese Islands and dense forests inhabited by some of the world’s last remaining gorilla families. Most striking however, is the determination and resilience of a people who have truly suffered at the hands of oppressive leadership. One such community are the Ugandan Jews, who have endured their fair share of persecution over the years, their religious devotion tested to the limit under the rule of Idi Amin, when their Synagogues were burnt down, prayer books torn up and they were forbidden to practice Judaism.
The word ‘Abayudaya’ literally means ‘Jews’, but this particular community do not believe themselves to be direct descendants of Israel. In 1913, the Bugandan warrior Semei Kakungulu joined the Malachites (a group which combined Judaism with Christianity), having become disenchanted with the British when they limited his domain to a small plot of land near the town of Mbale, at the base of Mount Elgon. He gradually became more and more engaged with Judaism and in 1919 had himself and his sons circumcised and declared his community Jewish. After his death the community dispersed into two groups - one that believed in Jesus, the other that became devout Jews. The Abayudaya practiced the laws of Judaism in isolation, passing the traditions from generation to generation and maintaining their beliefs through a series of anti-Semitic regimes including that of Idi Amin. Today they live harmoniously side by side with their non-Jewish, Bagisu neighbours, mainly working in subsistence farming. The only distinction is among the men with their colourful, crochet skull caps, known universally as kippot.
We were amazed to discover a vibrant and thriving community full of hustle and bustle as the Sabbath preparations commenced. Women prepared mounds of rice, posho and matoko for the evening meal, swept their houses from top to bottom and scrubbed laundry in bright, plastic buckets full of soapy water, ensuring all their work was complete before sundown. By the time the sun had disappeared behind the horizon, the women were resplendent in boldly patterned traditional African dresses, matching headscarves and shiny gold earrings and the men in perfectly pressed trousers and pristine prayer shawls. The Synagogue service commenced, and the evening continued with storytelling, singing and playing with the children. Despite limited resources, the community has worked hard to keep this relatively inaccessible religion alive, dedicating huge amounts of time to study and prayer. It was clear that the Sabbath is an integral and sacred part of their week and a time spent with family and friends as a profoundly close-knit unit.
For those interested to meet the Abayudaya as part of a wider visit to Uganda please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sorris Sorris is a jewel. Let’s begin on that note. Seemingly in the middle of utterly nowhere, a discreet, carefully-conceived lodge descending a rocky outcrop, with the oyster grey outline of the Brandberg Massif towering in the distance. Distinguished by the unusually verdant thick burst of trees which line its banks, the Ugab River is the only sign of life in this stark, dusty landscape scattered with rocky kopjes. The rest is parched. Sparse, wheat-coloured grass meagrely covers the dry desert beneath. It’s hot. Searing, scorching heat, from which ceiling fans bring little respite. Thankfully we are assured air-conditioning units are en route.
Nine inconspicuous accommodations are almost embedded into the rocks and blend entirely into their natural environment. Unusually for these parts, the style is Scandinavian with lots of pale wood, neutral tones, and contemporary furnishings which break away from traditional safari interiors. It’s simple but idyllic and the beauty speaks for itself with magnificent panoramic views. In the early morning light, hues of apricot and honey sparkle against the shadowy folds of the Brandberg Mountain.
This is a place of integrity – the staff are charming, the quality of food & wine is excellent, it stands apart as a unique and lovingly-conceived lodge in a spectacular setting, with the wonderful opportunity to encounter desert-adapted elephants. Contact us at email@example.com for further information on how to plan time in Namibia.
Vieux Farka Toure is a Malian blues guitarist of great international acclaim. He is also the son of late Ali Farka Toure, a true master guitarist and one of Mali’s greatest bluesmen. Having initially defied his father’s wishes by becoming a musician, he finally received the long-awaited nod of approval, when they collaborated together on tracks featured on Vieux’s first album.Read More
There is something thoroughly exhilarating about travelling in West Africa. It bares very little resemblance to the well-established safari circuits of East and Southern Africa, but what it lacks in finesse, it makes up for in joie de vivre with some of the best music, art, culture & food on the continent. Lagos & Accra are both dynamic cities pulsating with creative energy and buzz. With young initiatives such as the first Lagos Biennial, Art X Lagos and the Chale Wote street art festival, they are fast cementing their positions as emerging contemporary art capitals of the world. Lagos has its own highly credible Fashion Week with hugely successful labels such as Maki Oh favoured by the likes of Michelle Obama, Lupita Nyong’o, and Beyoncé. Concept store Alara, designed by Sir David Adjaye, has changed the face of high end shopping with its carefully-selected combination of international & African designers. Whilst La Maison in Accra, the brainchild of Nada Moukarzel, has been compared to a Ghanaian version of Milan’s 10 Corso Como.
Gone are the days of looking to Europe for culinary influence. Current trends have seen a return to traditional local ingredients and a modern twist on home-grown recipes. Accra – with Lagos following suit - now has a happening restaurant scene with some very stylish places to eat & drink. They are both entrepreneurial hubs, evolving fast, yet still holding on to their own very distinct identities. A wave of young Ghanaians and Nigerians are now moving back to their familial homelands from NYC and London as there are great opportunities. Yes, these cities are full of contrast, frustrating to manoeuvre, sometimes overwhelming, but you’ll never endure a dull moment.
And lest we forget about music, this really is an absolute highlight for any trip to West Africa. Reggae, rap, hip hop, and Afrobeat are of course popular in Accra and Lagos, with the latter also boasting an amazing jazz scene. Ever-evolving “hiplife” is the dominant musical force in Ghana and fuses highlife with elements of hip hop. I could write an entire thesis on how electrifying and infectious the music of this region is.
We love promoting these dynamic cities, their art, shopping and music scenes, sense of concordance between old and new, traditional & contemporary. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to uncover the buzz of modern day West Africa.
There is an enormous sense of indulgence at being left to one's own devices. All the bells & whistles of a beautiful hotel suite cannot substitute time spent carte blanche. Yet even whilst travelling we are constantly harmonizing with someone else's programme, whether set hours for breakfast, evening turn down, check out time, or an unwanted call from the front desk. It's rare to feel completely in control of our own time & space.Read More
To imagine Mali without music is like trying to picture a world stripped of colour. It signifies a cultural black hole, removal of a heartbeat, destruction of an entire identity. To quote Manny Ansar, director of the Festival in the Desert: “Everything is transmitted in Mali through music, through poetry. We enjoy life through music”.Read More
An interest in contemporary African art has been on the incline for the last 10 years or so but never has it experienced such dynamic momentum as is currently underway. Last year saw the first edition of ART X Lagos, a new art fair designed to greater connect Nigeria to the contemporary art scene both internationally and across Africa. Biennales like those in Casablanca, Marrakech, Dakar, Kampala, and Bamako are gaining more recognition. For the first time ever, Nigeria had its own pavilion at this year's 57th Venice Biennale, represented by Victor Ehikhamenor, Peju Alatise and Qudus Onikeku...Read More
Kenya is a pioneer of the “original” wildlife safari. Popularised throughout the 20th century, with great novels and films depicting an era of romance and high adventure, it remains to this day a destination of great diversity. An impressive cross section of landscapes makes this a compelling country to explore – wild savannah, interminable grassy plains, the snow capped peaks of Mount Kenya, forests suffused with birdsong, huge deserts, ancient Swahili settlements, and vast private ranches. Tourists flock in their droves each year for a sighting of the great wildebeest migration – the 8th named wonder of the world - and there is a seemingly endless and ever-expanding choice of lodges, tented camps, and safari operators. Yet when it comes to the calibre of seriously world class luxury at the very top end, there is relatively, and surprisingly, little to choose from...Read More