Black History Month is a time to feed your mind, and there are so many great resources to enable you to digest as much as you want! My first recommendation is one close to home for me; two books about the struggle for agency and self determination in Nigeria. My next recommendation is something that connects all of us at The Online Studio – the fact that we’re based in London. London is an amazing, diverse city but it is important to also engage with the lesser known, not-so-great history it has – such as the part played in the Transatlantic slave trade.
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Published in 1958, this is a global multi award winning 'must-read' classic African novel about British colonialism in Nigeria, and how it impacted traditional African culture and the diaspora today.
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Another critically acclaimed novel, this gripping book looks at Nigeria in the 1960s, set against the backdrop of the Biafran War, and attempts to establish the independence of Nigeria, through the lens of five interlinked people.
- City Of London: Slave Trade Money Trail Tour
Not much is widely known about the specific role of London in the Transatlantic slave trade which transported between 10 – 12 million Africans into slavery across the Atlantic Ocean. This insightful walking tour follows the hidden story of one of Britain’s first slave traders, London’s Plantation Economy Triangle and The UK’s Eastern Invasion, and the lasting effects of it in London today.
Feeding our bodies is just as important as feeding our minds! We can adopt a healthy mindset through the use of affirmative mantras as a tool to foster healing and to focus more on the positives. Growth also comes by way of expanding our knowledge to explore the different layers of our society. So with that being said, here are my recommendations;
- Transcendent Kingdom
Transcendent Kingdom is the turbulent story of a young woman trying to pursue a career in neuroscience whilst battling the grief of a brother lost to addiction and a mother trapped in depression. A true view into the African immigrant experience and the uncertainties of a mother-daughter relationship.
- The Sounds of Black Britain
A UK podcast that explores the legacy of Black British music to articulate the experiences of Black Britons and the influence it’s had thus far. I find this podcast to be a perceptive account of the culture and is heartwarmingly nostalgic.
- Positive Affirmations
Affirmation cards by Kevin Morosky - The first series draws influence from his British-Caribbean background and the second series concentrates on creativity.
When it comes to ‘Body’ in the Black History sphere, for me two things spring to mind. Food and Fashion!! Both colourful and bold, for a long time fashion has been a way for the black diaspora to connect to our heritage and showcase where we are from. Food is also at the core of Nigerian identity and a big part of our culture. Our connection to food contrasts with Western consumerism, instead almost every part of an item is eaten and utilised (e.g wrapped in banana leaves) and there is a profound connection between Nigerian culinary practices and the natural environment on which they depend. Food is more than just something you eat, for us it is also a way of togetherness, showing love and a connection to your culture.
This is a great Nigerian restaurant to try if you haven’t already. Jollof rice, plantain, beans and Nigerian salad are some easy staple dishes to try! Or if you are super nice to me – dishes for me to make for you to try!
- Africa Fashion Week London 2022
The African and black diaspora is very varied in terms of fashion. Living in London we are lucky to see this day to day from the various people we meet from differing backgrounds. Africa Fashion Week London aims to showcase and embrace the best of this, and is the largest annual African Fashion Catwalk In Europe.
Our stories exist through many things, one of them being the rich textiles symbolic of so much more than just a statement piece – there’s a sartorial regalness that traditional West African attire demands. It also exists in our movement – a self-expression of liberation, joy and unification deeply inspired by captivating tribal melodies and beauty routines passed down from mother to daughter. My recommendations on the ‘Body’ exhibit just that;
- Kente - The cloth that speaks
Kente is a fabric native to the Akan tribe in Ghana and a representation of pride across the African diaspora. However, it’s more than just a material that’s worn, each piece of cloth is intricately woven to convey a significant message and is symbolic through its patterns and colours. Adinkra symbols often adorn garments to communicate deep truths. If you fancy rocking up in Kente to one of your events or just to wear on a casual day, you can purchase fabric to sew into a style of your own from places such as Brixton market or buy ready made looks and even swimwear. Wait…..it doesn’t stop there! You can also get Kente inspired designs on other items like phone cases and socks!
- The Powers of Unrefined Shea Butter
Raw shea butter is a golden-hued balm that has become my hair & skin lifeline. The deep history of shea butter spans centuries and the processing is an ancient practice passed down. Not only is it used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes but also culinary. You can get raw shea butter from local African markets across London. My recommendation would be Kumasi Market in Peckham.
- Bust Some Moves to Afrobeats
Looking for a fun fitness routine? Try dancing to Afrobeats with Afrifitness.
Within black history there is unfortunately a lot of struggle, persecution and discrimation that we have endured as a race and people. Despite this, or rather – to spite this – for us, feeding your soul is just as key as feeding your mind and body! From cultural parties, to celebrations of racial unity - read on for my top recommendations of how we as people celebrate our existence and culture, and have utilised struggle, to grow and turn this into celebration.
Ówàmbè is a Yoruba word which translates to "it is there" , and it is a party, Nigerian style. A celebration of life, an Ówàmbè usually marks a milestone – a baby naming, wedding, 50th birthday, or even a funeral. Even though the word is Yoruba, Ówàmbè is something embraced by all Nigerians, and a big part of the Nigerian diaspora culture.
- Notting Hill Carnival
Brief history lesson – Notting Hill Carnival started in 1966 after high racial tensions in London after the post-war rise of people from the West Indies, and Notting Hill race riots. Following this, community activists such as Claudia Jones and Rhaune Laslett sought to show solidarity and strength within the growing Caribbean communities, but also to soothe the ongoing tensions and promote cultural unity and celebrate the new diversity! Thus, Carnival was born. If you haven’t already been, I recommend you go next year! And if you are not a fan of the hustle and bustle of large crowds I recommend going as soon as it starts in the morning to watch the Mas Bands parades start, listen to the steelpans, and of course grab some delicious Caribbean food – and be home by 4pm!
Visual and performing arts have the ability to elevate our spirits both for the observer and the participant. That’s why when it comes to igniting the soul my recommendations put a spotlight on the new wave that had Tik Tok-ers doing the “pouncing cat”, Zekethe and jumping onto the Dakiwe challenge.
Ampiano is a style of music that’s fast becoming popular. Originating from South Africa, this feel good sound is a fusion of electronic dance or house music mixed with African melodies, quirky ad-libs and hypnotising instrumentals. Check out DJ duo TXC and their latest EP – now tell me you’re not tempted to cut some shapes?
- Sadlers Wells
Well seasoned initiative at Sadlers Wells represents some of the most exciting work from Black choreographers, dancers, and Artists of Colour.
- Sweet Bread
Let’s not act like sweet treats don’t do something to the soul now! Check out Uncle John’s Bakery for that good good African sweet bread.
Thank you to Emi and Linda for their recommendations. We’ll definitely be taking Emi up on her offer to make us some Nigerian dishes! Hopefully this has given you some food for thought on how you can boost your mind, body and soul this Black History Month.