art · culture · travel

Throwback Thursday Travel: Kenya, Part 1

Nairobi remains one of my favorite places on Earth. I wrote a while ago about my Kenyan adventures. Here are some few more pictures from that trip that I hadn’t shared before. I’m breaking this into two parts, because one day of my trip involved a trip outside of Nairobi (to my friend’s family farm) and there are pics from the Nairobi National Museum that weren’t shared in this post. Today’s post features pics from the farm. Enjoy!

This particular cow was my friend’s favorite on her family’s farm

img_3027

Just a turkey, minding his (or her) business

img_3029

Adorable piglets and their momma!

img_3030

Because the climate in Nairobi and the surrounding areas is favorable for gardening during most of the year, my friend’s family farm basically produced food year round.

img_3031

Lush views surrounding the farmland

art · life curation

My Art Highlights for 2018

After a fantastic year of enjoying art, I thought it would be good for me to post some of my highlights from the last 12 months.

There really are too many highlights to cram into one post but I’m going to do my best!

I started this year off with viewing the terracotta army statues from China. As you all know, I visited China a few years ago and fell in love, so seeing the statues was like getting a taste of authentic China. I loved it and had a great time viewing the exhibition.

Next, nothing could top seeing Kenyan art while in Kenya! I wrote a post about Tom Mboya as well as some other Kenyan artists that I enjoyed. Getting to see art overseas is always a treat, since there is no guarantee that I will see these artists’ works stateside.

Paintings by Tom Mboya

I viewed Portuguese contemporary art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and was reminded of my goal to visit Portugal within the next 2 years. Just so you all know, I’ll be resuming my Portuguese language lessons in the upcoming year. I mean it: I’m going to speak Portuguese so that I can enjoy my trip and get around a little better than the average tourist.

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Archives of American Art, I viewed the exquisite and timeless work of Edmonia Lewis. I’m still impressed by her masterful handling of marble and her amazing ability when it comes to depicting her subjects with dignity and full of emotion. I was so impressed with her work that I recently did a comparison of her work with a similarly themed piece, because I simply can’t get tired of discussing Lewis’s work!

IMG_3570

The Death of Cleopatra by Edmonia Lewis

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Amy Sherald’s work at the National Portrait Gallery. Her portrait of Michelle Obama is a beautiful and unique interpretation of the former First Lady’s beauty, quiet resilience and charm. Seeing the painting in person impressed me far more than I expected, especially since Sherald’s signature technique forgoes capturing the rich tones of the subjects’ natural complexion and paints skin tone in greyscale, forcing art appreciators to focus on the expressions, posing, and attire depicted. I’m going to view some more of her work and maybe I’ll do an analysis of her style.

I also took a trip to Philadelphia and enjoyed the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There was so much art that I had to make a Part 1 and Part 2 to capture all of what I saw with my visit. I was delighted to see a Jean Leon Gerome painting that I’d never seen before.

img_5715

Night Flight by Howardena Pindell

I ended my year with the Howardena Pindell exhibition, that I loved so much that I had to visit it multiple times. Pindell is a living treasure, and I am thrilled that I got to see such a comprehensive retrospective of her work.

Those are my art highlights for 2018. I’m looking forward to bringing you all more art and more adventures in 2019!

 

 

 

travel

2019 Travel Plans: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Well, as 2018 winds down, I can comfortably say that I’m done traveling for the year. I don’t anticipate going anywhere new until next calendar year, but boy, what a fun year this has been!

map

From my trip to Kenya, to road trips to Philadelphia and North and South Carolinas, to my cruise last month, I’ve been a busy girl. And 2019 shows no signs of me slowing down!

I’m finalizing a few details on a late winter trip to San Juan, as well as a late spring/early summer trip to Paris. I was toying around with the notion of attending a very pricey and exclusive class next spring, but I’d rather spend my money on transformative or “bucket list” travel. The class can wait!

Next falls looks like it may include another family cruise and, if not, I’ll be in London for a few days to attend an event I’ve been eyeing. I’m also looking into some additional travel to the Pacific Rim: I haven’t decided on a country yet, but I feel like this region is calling me, so we’ll see where my hankering takes me.

I have to finish reviewing my cruise travel for you all, but once that’s done, I’ll be laser-focused on my 2019 plans. I’m so excited!!!

I hope you all are having a relaxing Monday and an easy transition into this post-Thanksgiving work week. Take care, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

 

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!

 

IMG_3228

art · international

More Kenyan Artists to Check Out

As an aspiring art professional, I always have an eye out for unique art wherever I go. I am a sucker for the classics, but I get a thrill out of finding contemporary artists that appeal to my personal tastes.

While in Kenya, I visited the Nairobi National Museum but I couldn’t take pictures in the photo gallery, as those pieces were for sale. However, I found myself “oohing” and “aahing” too much to just look at the paintings and walk away. So I jotted down the names of the artists and decided to look them up when I got home. I’m glad that I did, because now I can share these talented creators with you all!

12

A photo from The Next Gen Exhibition featuring Kenyan artists (photo from Artleeyo)

As it turns out, the many of the pieces featured in the Nairobi National Museum were done by local graffiti artists. The main three artists featured in the gallery – Kaymist4, Thufu B, and Msale – have formed a street art group named the Bomb Squad Crew. Their art is featured on the website BSQArt.com.

Work by Kaymist4

I had problems viewing the pages of the website, but I’m not sure if that is because the website has portion under construction or because I’m located outside of Kenya. In any case, you may have more success in navigating the website. I’m still researching the best way to purchase some of their pieces.

Work by Msale

 

Two more artists that were featured were Ssali Yusuf  (who is actually Ugandan, not Kenyan) and Remy Musindi.  Both artists skillfully use color, though Musindi’s color choices tend to be more subdued, while Yusuf’s are more saturated and crisp.

Piece by Remy Musindi

The trend I noticed in the artwork that I saw was vivid rendering of the female form. A focus on portraying the beautiful faces of African women is a common theme in Kenyan art. As an art lover that prefers portraiture over landscape and abstract paintings, I can appreciate the theme.

If you are interested in buying art online, I highly recommend that you use a reputable third party to handle the transaction, even if the purchase is relatively inexpensive. Galleries like ArtspaceSaatchi Art and UGallery specialize in connecting artists with collectors, and they can work out details like shipping and proper framing. You can find more more online galleries through this link.

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.

ibis-2 - Edited (1)

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.

ibis-2 - Edited

Room photo as available on the Accor Hotels website

IMG_3010

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.

? ibis Styles Nairobi Westlands ?

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

IMG_3211

 

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.

IMG_2996

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.

IMG_2995

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

IMG_3124

Decor inside of the museum

The bird exhibit

IMG_3181

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.

 

food · international

Review: Carnivore Restaurant

While in Nairobi, I made the pilgrimage to Carnivore restaurant. This meat lovers haven is similar to the Brazilian churrascaria, with endless rounds of barbecued meats. While I’ve never eaten at a churrascaria, I couldn’t leave Nairobi without trying the local fare.

Screenshot 2018-02-25 at 11.39.28 AM - Edited

Yes, I ordinarily adhere to a vegetarian/pescatarian diet. I was a bit nervous about eating meat after going so long without it. However, the meat served at Carnivore is all local animals that have not been fed the toxic ingredients often provided to animals sold commercial in the US.

I tried the following meats, which were barbecued and sliced at my table:

  • Ostrich
  • Crocodile
  • Lamb
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Turkey

My camera was dying while I was out, so I didn’t get as many pictures as I wanted. In any case, here are a few photos from my Carnivore adventure:

IMG_3206

Grill as seen when first entering the restaurant.

IMG_3200

Place setting and fresh maize (corn) as an appetizer. Maize isn’t as sweet as what’s usually offered in American restaurants. I prefer this more savory varietal.

IMG_3201

Soup prior to enjoying our meal. I meant to ask what kind of soup this was, but I forgot to inquire before the entrees were served.

IMG_3202

Lamb and beef. I haven’t had either meat in many years: it was tender and savory, just like I remember LOL

IMG_3205

One of my favorite desserts, the blondie. It was delicious!

I enjoyed my Carnivore experience immensely! While I wouldn’t make it a habit (I don’t know if my body could handle so much meat on a frequent basis), I’m glad that I tried it during my Nairobi visit.

Have any of you visited Carnivore? Let me know all about your experience in the comments below!

life curation · words of wisdom

Words of Wisdom: Prof. Wangari Maathai

Since I’m still buzzing from my trip to Nairobi, I figured I would share some words of wisdom from the esteemed Kenyan educator and activist, Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Wangari Maathai.

You may remember seeing Prof. Maathai’s name and photo in my “Night at the Embassy” post. This remarkable woman founded the Green Belt Movement, which focuses on women’s rights, conservation and environmentalism. She authored several books and her ideas continue to inspire conservation efforts down to this day.

One of the main streets in Nairobi is named in her honor (I wish I had taken a photo of the street sign!) and her impact is still felt in this region. Here, I’ll share some of Prof. Maathai’s quotes that inspire me. Enjoy!

 

curvesalamode

(photo from Curves a la Mode)

quotlr

(photo from Quotlr)

loveourgirls

(photo from Love Our Girls)

gloriakendiborona

(photo from Gloria Kendi Borona)