art

A Slice of the Congo in Richmond, VA: Congo Masks Exhibition

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Happy Hump Day, friends! While I haven’t been able to get to the Smithsonian Institute or National Gallery of Art for several months ( it’s been awhile since I’ve been in Washington DC, and then there was a shutdown), I have had a chance to check out local museums. Recently, I went to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to get a dose of African art. I viewed the Congo Masks: Masterpieces from Central Africa exhibition. This collection of masks from the Democratic Republic of the Congo offers Virginians a rare glimpse into the mystical and captivating world of African art, celebration, and ritual.

I am so glad that VMFA is displaying these treasures. I’ll do an in-depth analysis of the exhibition in a future post. In the meantime, here are a few photos from the exhibition. Enjoy!

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I’ll talk to you all tomorrow. Take care, and stay warm!

 

 

food · international

Review: Le Mandigue Restaurant

Happy Friday, friends! Today is a first for me: it’s a West African food review!

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(photo from Le Mandigue website)

I have never been a fan of the West African dishes that I’ve tried. I’ve had egusi, fufu and jollof rice, but I just wasn’t wowed. However, I really wanted to try something different. So I decided to give West African food another try.

I order from Le Mandigue in Philadelphia. As an aspiring vegetarian (that fails frequently!), I wanted to opt for a meatless entrée. So I got the vegetarian fried rice and steamed vegetables. I also got degue, monie callama and kallah, which I didn’t realize at the time were all desserts.

Here are some photos of the meal:

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Fried vegetable rice and steamed vegetables (cabbage, peas, corn, potatoes)

Dege (dessert)

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Closeup of monie callama

I ordered through UberEats and my food arrived quickly.

The fried rice was tasty and substantial. The steamed vegetables were well-seasoned and weren’t overpowering at all.

And the desserts! I How did I not already know about these amazing deserts?! These were the most interesting part of the meal. Dege reminds me of the rice pudding or tapioca pudding available at some Indian restaurants: creamy, sweet with a hint of sourness (probably because it’s made with sour milk). It’s the mix of flavors that make this such a multidimensional dessert. Monie callama is like a liquified jelly, yummy and smooth, with tapioca-like starch suspended within. Just yum!

I wish I could have enjoyed this in the restaurant but alas, I ordered it to my room. However, I will be sure to visit the restaurant in person when I return to Philadelphia. I’m so looking forward to it!

art

Art Auction: Art from Africa, Oceania and the Americas

I hadn’t recently posted about any auctions (partially because I’ve been working on a juicy post all about auctions just for you all!) but I came across this one and I had to share.

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Some of the lots offered at Sotheby’s upcoming auction

Sotheby’s is auctioning off some extraordinary art from Africa, Oceania and the Americas (specifically, ancient Mesoamerica and North America). These lots are not just decorative objects: they are ancient artifacts that bridge the collector to faraway (both in the sense of time and distance) worlds.

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This totem pole from southeast Alaska is estimated to command up to $350,000 at auction

The auction features 90 lots, expected to fetch from $2,000 on the lower end to upwards of $350,000. This wide range of estimated selling prices guarantees that this auction will attract a variety of collectors.

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 A Maori nephrite pendant is estimated to command a price upwards of $50,000

My favorite piece of the auction is the Yoruba Altar Emblem from Nigeria. It isn’t the most expensive piece of this auction, but the colorful detailing, as well as the connection to the orishas, fascinates me.

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Yoruba Altar Emblem for Oko, Nigeria

The event will be held on May 14 at 10:30 AM, at Sotheby’s New York location (1334 York Avenue, New York, NY). All items can be viewed prior to the sale (10 AM to 5 PM Monday – Saturday, 1 PM to 5 PM on Sunday) so that you can experience these artifacts in person.

international · travel

My First Safari!

No trip to Kenya would be complete without a safari. There are many safari options at different price points, but I decided to go to Nairobi National Park, since it was located within the city limits and is easily accessible. Don’t let the fact that the park is within the city deceive you – it is quite large and many African animals can be seen there. The only noticeablly absent animal is the elephant, though pachyderm devotees can check out the elephant orphanage within the park that gives care to orphaned calves.

There isn’t much to say: the animals were majestic, and I can’t put into words how much I enjoyed this experience.  Here are the photos. Enjoy!

 

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international · travel

Review: Ibis Styles Nairobi Westlands Hotel

During my incredible trip to Nairobi, I stayed at the Ibis Styles Hotel in the Westlands neighborhood. The recently remodeled hotel is a member of the Accor Hotels family. It is modern, secure and tastefully appointed. I stayed for a week, so I’m pretty comfortable mentioning the pros and cons of the hotel as I experienced it.

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The rooms are small but comfortable. The view isn’t particularly incredible but it’s a major city, so you should expect to see lots of buildings and not a ton of lush greenery. Oh, it was kind of nice to look down from the room and see schoolchildren playing during recess. I could even hear them when the television was turned off: it was fun hearing them laugh.

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Room photo as available on the Accor Hotels website

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Views from my window

The hotel security is top notch, quick and pleasant. Had I chosen to drive, I could have parked there for free all week (that’s a big plus!). The hotel has a restaurant on site that served incredible meals (I chose half board, so breakfast and dinner were included in the price of the room). There was also a small cafe that served quick, tasty snacks and small meals. Sadly, these options weren’t available after 11 PM, so if you want to nibble late at night, you’ll either have to stash goodies in your room or be prepared to go out and grab a bite.

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Utamu is the hotel’s restaurant, and Sky Bar is the Cafe

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Some of the meals I enjoyed during my stay

One of the advantages of this hotel is the excellent insect control: the room did not have – nor did it need – mosquito nets. During the entire stay, I didn’t experience any bug bites. That may have been because I visited during dry season, but my hunch is that the hotel has a stellar repellant setup to make up mosquito nets unnecessary.

Now, as great as this hotel was, there were some drawbacks. For starters, there is NO space for storing clothing. There are no dressers, and very little hanger space in the room. But what it lacks in storage space it makes up for in room under the beds: it was easy to slide my luggage out of sight. There are also no in-room refrigerators, so you’re limited to room-temp snacks (not a big deal, unless you plan on staying for more than a few days). There is also no in-room iron or ironing board, though there is an ironing room on the floor. Every time I went to iron my clothing, no one else was in there, so I’m guessing this setup works for most people.

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Painting in my room

The room shower gets hot enough (yay for that!) but the drainage isn’t so good: water puddled and spilled out of the bathroom no matter how hard I tried to prevent it. That’s a design flaw that I don’t anticipate will be fixed any time soon. However, it was easy to contact room service and get more towels as needed.

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Mirror detailing in the room

Also, despite describing itself as having an exchange counter, the staff seemed uncomfortable and confused about exchanging US dollars for Kenyan shillings. Their rate is MUCH higher than going to the ATM at the mall that I visited (The Hub in the Karen neighborhood). It’s easier and more cost efficient to withdraw from the ATM than to exchange money at the hotel. Not a con, per se, but something I’ll remember during my next visit.

So, would I return to Ibis Style Hotel in Westlands? Yes, absolutely! The pros far outweighed any cons, and I was pleased with my stay overall. The only way I’d consider a different hotel in Nairobi is if I planned to stay longer than ten days: I need a dresser in my room LOL!

international · travel

My Time at Nairobi National Museum

You all know how much I loved my time in Kenya. I wanted to make sure that I took in the local history, arts and culture while I was there because, why travel if you don’t wnat to learn about the place you’ve traveled to?

While in Nairobi, I visited the Nairobi National Museum. This museum DID NOT disappoint! I took photos in every area except the art gallery, in which photography was prohibited. Which is a real shame, since the artwork was wonderful. However, I understand the need to protect the artists from having their work ripped off and duplicated without credit.

Without further ado, here are some of my photos from the Nairobi National Museum:

Photos from the exterior of the museum

The mammal exhibit

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Decor inside of the museum

The bird exhibit

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Drawings from Joy Adamson,

Artifacts from the exhibit describing social customs in Kenya

Artifacts from the political history of Kenya

 

I wish I could have visited this museum again, because one visit simply wasn’t enough. This area is so rich in history, beautiful and culture: Kenya is an incredible experience. I highly recommend anyone visiting the area to go to the Nairobi National Museum. The price of admission is roughly $12USD for nonresident adults and $6USD for nonresident children. It was worth every penny!

art · international

International Art: Tom Mboya, Kenyan Artist

While vacationing in Kenya, I noticed that my hotel (Ibis Styles in Nairobi’s Westlands neighborhood) had beautiful artwork lining the stairwells. Upon closer inspection, I saw that all of the paintings – about 30 in total, displayed in sets of 3 amongst 10 different floors – were done by Tom Mboya.

My curiosity kicked into overdrive and I started researching Mboya. As it so happens, Tom Mboya is a local Kenyan artist (no surprise there) that started out working in the hospitality industry before pursuing his art fulltime. The paintings are stunning and lively; from dynamic depictions of life in Kenya to breathtaking portraits of his countrywomen, these paintings draw you in and hold you captive.

Here are a few of my favorites from the hotel:

 

 

If you’d like to learn more about Mboya, check out his artist profile here.