Caine Prize For African Writing

This year marks the 20th anniversary for Africa’s most prestigious English-language literary award, the Caine Prize for African Writing. Conceived in 2000 by family and friends of the late Sir Michael Caine, founder of the Booker Prize for Fiction, the organisation is a force to be reckoned with, overseen by a line-up of powerhouses, including Wole Soyinka, Ben Okri OBE, John Coetzee, and founding Publishing Director of The Indigo Press, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey OBE.  

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Mali: Music in the Face of Adversity

Mali has a unique and deeply imbedded musical tradition dating back hundreds of years. Bordered by Algeria, Mauritania, Niger, Burkino Faso, Guinea and Senegal, it is a vast, landlocked country, parched and arid, extremely poor, and difficult to navigate as a traveller. Yet aesthetically Mali is spectacular: dramatic cliffscapes, huge skies, the thread of the River Niger which weaves through the country, an unmistakable Sudano-Sahelian architectural style, the most celebrated example being the Great Mosque of Djenne. Perhaps what stands Mali apart most, however, is a distinct and delicately preserved cultural identity…

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Swahili: Connecting Africa Through Language

“Asiyefunzwa na mamaye hufunzwa na ulimwengu” (If you’re not taught something by your mother the world will teach you)

 I’ve always loved the sound of Kiswahili. It’s a melodious language, full of depth, and has some beautiful words and turns of phrase. Though seemingly comparatively straight forward for English speakers, it’s also a complex language to speak with fluency, as I discovered first hand after several years of study. Whilst routine communication is clear enough to get to grips with, the language is rich in texture and challenging to master perfectly if your ambition is to speak Kiswahili “sanifu” i.e “proper” Swahili…

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Marisa Lassman
2019 - A Year of Art From The Continent

Contemporary art throughout Africa continues to flourish and 2019 is looking more exciting than ever. Thursday 14th February sees the start of The Harlem Fine Arts Show (HFAS) - the largest travelling African Diasporic art show in the United States. Investec Cape Town Art Fair kicks off this coming Friday and showcases the most important galleries from across the continent, including Goodman Gallery, Addis Fine Art, WHATIFTHEWORLD, Omenka Gallery, First Floor Gallery Harare... We are particularly intrigued by This Is Not a White Cube in Angola’s capital city, Luanda, which promotes local artists and is working hard to be present at this year’s international fairs…

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Why Uganda Still Has A Place In Our Hearts

Over the last couple of years Rwanda has been at the receiving end of some deservedly excellent press. Leading the way, was Wilderness’s Bisate Lodge, on the “hot list” of every glossy travel publication and reviewed by the world’s most renowned journalists. Magashi Camp, also by Wilderness, is soon to open in the north-eastern corner of Akagera National Park, overlooking Lake Rwanyakazinga. One & Only followed suit with Nyungwe House – a tree plantation setting suited to rainforest walks and chimpanzee trekking in the south-western part of the country. One&Only Gorilla’s Nest will follow shortly in the foothills of the Virunga mountain range. And, for those seeking the absolute crème de la crème of luxury safari experiences, August 2019 will see the openings of Singita’s Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House

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Something About Samburu

Driving north up the Thika highway from Nairobi and that familiar feeling of excitement settles. I must have driven this route hundreds of times but leaving the dual carriageway for the scenic single lane up to Mount Kenya and beyond is a journey I’ll never tire of. Mangoes in Sagana, the ever-chaotic town of Karatina, young guys on the roadside selling sacks of miraa… Climbing higher and higher in altitude the temperatures become colder. Past Lewa Conservancy, down, down, down towards the dusty, desert heat of Isiolo, the land of Boranas, Turkanas, Samburus, Rendilles, closer to the wilds of northern Kenya. A few hours north of here and the edgy city life of Nairobi is but a distant memory.

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Modupeola Fadugba & the Harlem Honeys & Bears: Dreams from the Deep End

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…

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Segera Retreat: A Review

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.

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Traditions & Ceremonies of Togo & Benin

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.

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Zimbabwe: A Star Rises Again

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.

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Responsible Cultural Tourism on the Omo River

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?

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Singita's 25 Years of Excellence

True to its name, which translated from Shangaan means “place of miracles”, Singita’s accomplishments are almost implausibly outstanding across the board. Let’s talk conservation – a word perhaps almost as overused as “luxury” but for which Singita deserves accolades. The drive for positive change is fundamental to the Singita brand and the breadth of their work is extraordinary.

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Lasting Impressions of a Zambian Hideaway: Royal Chundu

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.

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Heri ya Krismasi (Merry Christmas!)

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.

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The Beginnings of Africa's Culinary Explosion

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. 

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Zeitz MOCAA: Our New Favourite Reason To Visit Cape Town

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”.

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Encounter With An Unexpected Community

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.

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Marisa Lassman
Damaraland's Jewel

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.

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10 Minutes With Vieux Farka Toure

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.

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A Tale of Two Cities: Lagos & Accra

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.

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