Showing posts with label Identity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Identity. Show all posts

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Unmistakable Voice!

"I knew I wanted to sing before people the rest of my life"

There is nothing I respect most like Identity.  Having an identity in other words being original I regard it as important, something one can take pride on. Identity defines; gives a clear understanding of what one is all about. We identify ourselves by culture mostly on how we carry ourselves in a non pretentious way.  It is about being yourself regardless to who accepts or reject you.  Standing firm in what one believe is right or if I may quote, it is about "having a collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known:"

In this case,  I am talking about identity in music which in my own opinion, I feel it has come to be something of the past.  It is quite hard to identify originality in music and far more even the voices of singers.
Every era comes with good artists, but hey, gone are the days of signature era's where musician had their distinguished style of music and vocals.  One could with no doubt identify the group or singers, in almost any music.  Since the 1990's, I noticed that music and voices became very similar hard to identify the artist/band.  It almost seems like the originality in terms of creating is the thing of the past. The industry almost gets away with versions more than composing originals.   In rare occasions I used to confuse Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, but these sisters of mine are just  cool!  But the Jazz genre on the other hand still managed to keep its identity and I love it!!!
  Lately I have been reminiscing in the old time Jazz music.  This music really inspires and gives me a good vibe as I go about my business in the house.

One of my favorite  Jazz singers is  Ella Fitzgerald also know as "The First Lady of Song".  Born April 25th 1917 in Newport News Virginia USA.  Her childhood rather rough and very difficult after loosing both her parents and sibling at a very young age of 15.  
The young Ella 'a fighter' at just 17 decided  her mourning period was over and it was time to move on with life.   She attend the amateur nights at the historical  Apollo Theater as a dancer but was unsuccessful.  The loud booing of audiences each night after her dancing attempts did not deter her mind to change her life.  She than decided to go for singing instead.  Her choice of song was her mothers favourite tune  that she new so well "Judy" by Hoagy Carmichael backed by a band and rest was history.  The Star was born, not sure who had the last laugh then????   I could just see jaws dropping, tears rolling just like what happened to our very own Britain's Got Talent  Susan Boyle who like the late Ella, had the last laugh!!!!  

Ella the disputable singer, performed with other remarkable stars such as Sarah Vaughan, Billy Holiday, Luis Armstrong 'a toxic combination', Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra and the list is endless.  It is actually very hard to believe that Ella was a shy person off stage and away from people she knew well as she was described.

....... and here is The Unmistakable Voice Of Ella Fitzgerald

Ella and Sarah Vaughan

With Billy Holiday and friends

I first heard her through the gramophone!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Africa Adorned!

Wow! How exotic!

When we are clothed in a certain way, we have high expectations.  That is to be accepted or treated in a manner that we desire and our clothing has the power to achieve that  before we  speak.   

So I re-visit my library for some inspiration. I love going back to history books that I have collected over the years and  search for a spark of ideas.  I found "Africa Adorned" by Angela Fisher.  It is such a useful book for  any artist to have in their library collection. Well it motivates me a lot.  Not only for inspiration but gives one a wealth of positive insight of what Africa is all about.  From Northern Africa all the way down to South.  It is fantastic!

The author wrote about her fascination with Africa during her first visit to Southern Africa in early 70's. Of course, she did not stop there but travelled to my country Tanzania- in East Africa- where she encountered the famous African tribe- the Maasai warriors. 
Her curiosity made her travel deeper into the heart of Africa all the way to up North; she claimed it was like stepping into a complete different planet. Mhh!   She encountered more diverse tribes, life styles and culture with distinguished and striking customs (in terms of) outstanding tribal costumes, remarkable hair forms, body paintings, and all sorts of decorations that she had never seen before.

"I began to discover that all these exotic fashion - in jewellery, body art, even clothing - were not merely adopted for beauty.  Each Item was of individual significance and proffered a wealth of information about the wear"

Yes! In general we are what we wear and  body language has become a media of expression in its own right.  We call it 'The Language of Clothes' as in a book by: Alison Lurie.

We often identify or send messages by what and how we wear; this is exactly what Angela Fisher encountered so evidently and powerfully may I say, in Africa. 

In my earlier post about Khanga, a native Swahili garment in Tanzania, I referred this as being the cloth that speaks a culture of silence. 

 The language of dress is an automatic one since history of mankind.  Before the so called 'Fashion' or civilisations, people were geographically identified through communication of their traditional costumes, hair styles, body adornment and  body painting.

I have selected other stunning,breathtaking and extremely stylish images from Africa taken by photographer Ken Hanmann and what have I got to say about these images.



Love, Security & Family

Sheer Elegance, Style & Pride

Youth, Beauty,& Pride

oozing with style & poise


Innocence & Purity


Pride & Identity

.........and then there is of course what we call the 'High End Fashion Adorned'! 
Christian Dior, Fall 1999, photos by Annie Leibovitz

Fashion throughout the decades has demonstrated to be an influential force in the establishment and expression of both cultural and personal identity.

Africa Adorned: Angela Fisher
Photos courtesy of :  Ken Hanmann 

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Khanga - The Wonder Fabric

The word Khanga is a Swahili word for guinea fowl, which are common in Tanzania. Originally Khanga were designed and printed in two colours.  According to my research, Khanga did not have borders then the two borders were introduced on the shorter sides.  The face of Khanga then evolved as time went by before reaching this present stage.

Growing up with Khanga, without being told, I understood that there is more to this magnificent piece than meets the eye.  Khanga is a way of life in East Africa but mostly in Tanzania.  The cloth  speaks a culture of silence.  The government and institutions use Khanga in all sorts of campaigns, be it political, educational , health or  romance.  These campaigns are usually in forms of images and illustrations; messages are portrayed in writings and in proverbs.

Here I am talking about the Khanga to London's AILTV in 2006.

Of all Tanzania's traditional fabrics, Khanga is the most versatile.  Its uses range from  wraps, shawls, skirts, loin cloths, baby diapers, bed spreads, wall hangings, aprons, not to forget the main Swahili use which is medium of communication.  Indeed Khanga is a wonder fabric, it represents art and beauty ; it is a Swahili custom and is almost mythical.


Tanzania is  on the East coast of Africa and borders the Indian Ocean on the east side, with the Zanzibar Islands as part of her east region.  The inhabitants of this coastal area are known as Waswahili.
Khanga was invented on the East coast of Tanzania, then known as Tanganyika in the early 1800's. The idea  came from  handkerchiefs that were brought  by Portuguese traders sailing on the East African coast stopping in Dar-es-Salaam and then Zazibar harbours. At that time Zanzibar was the dominant port in the region.  Portuguese traders brought handkerchiefs as part of their merchandise.  These handkerchiefs, also known as Leso, were very colourful.  The local women bought them, sewed them together to form Khanga.  Prior to Khanga, women wore black cotton cloth almost the same measurements as the Khanga.  Called Kaniki, this cloth was used as a form of attire.

Stylish Swahili Women in Khanga Wear (1800s)

A strong and everlasting history of Khanga, its prestige and value, is known almost world wide. The word has even been adapted in Brazil where Khangas are essentially beach wear. Khanga has indeed given East Africans a  strong identity and pride.  
As a Swahili woman myself, I am proud to highlight or just scrape the surface of this subject.  (To be continued)