Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Mchele: Rice Bag Purse

I have come to the conclusion that yes, I am naturally a hoarder. Apparently that is a bad thing, so a means of consoling myself I simply define it as "seeing endless possibilities, where others do not"....okay yes my work space is beyond crowed, but you learn to work within organized mess! You can't force inspiration, so until it hits you you'll just have to learn to see the beauty in your pile of junk. This idea finally came to me after wondering what to do with a couple of rice bags that I could not bring myself to throw away, they just look so fly! So before this beautifully designed bag could find its way to a landfill I snatched it up and got to work. It's a good size, light weight and has just the right amount of "where'd you get that?". 

Rice Bag Purse
13.3" x 11.5"
Material:100% Hemp
Inner lining:100% Cotton

Inner lining & inside pocket

Take some time out of your day to imagine, and you'll see endless possibilities too.

Smiles :)

Tuly Maimouna

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

R&S: Genie Locs: The Story of A Queens Crown

I have had my locs - which I call my crown- for roughly eleven (11) years now I used to dye my crown different colours, do wild hair styles, shave some off, reattach em you name it and over the past decade I have had some crazy conversation that often leave me wondering (and praying) for the fate of the human race.

"You know when the rapture comes you won't ascend to heaven with those things on your head..."
"We have to look like respectable and professional black women, that style doesn't say that"
"Oh my gosh I could never get locs it is such a huge commitment!"
"You're just rocking em for fashion...rent-a-dread"
"You are so exotic"

I would like to say that never have I invited these conversations, and they happen in everyday life, on the bus, street, work, parties you name it...and sadly I end up walking right into them. Outright undeserved criticism, perverse notions of my assumed 'otherness' and other peoples insecurities...I promise you these conversations got tired a long time ago, but at last as with many things in life you win some and you inevitably lose some. It happens. I can assure you that no one can ever tell me I don't look hella sexy! My crown asserts my presence in a room without me even having to say a thing, I enter and leave rooms feeling like a queen in my own right, and I can not be dethroned unless I lay my crown to rest. 

So how does all of this = a recycle and save project? Well, I cut my locs shoulder length about a year ago, and started missing the length I used to have. I tried adding braids multiple times, mistake. It was so heavy my neck hurt...plus my head looked so big! Not cute. Anyway,  I met up with a friend of mine who I had not seen in a while she had these beautiful long locs, and I was shocked cause the last time I saw her she didn't have em. she simply told me "Girl, its just yarn!"

Yarn is a simple way to add length to existing locs, or can be added to non-loc'd hair as a substitute for the synthetic hair bought at the hair store. I remember when I started loc'ing I hated it, they just looked nerdy to me poking out all over the place. So for anyone looking to avoid the awkward stage of locs this is the perfect style! Most importantly its a pocket friendly lengthening en devour! It took about three days on and off to complete (with some help of course), looks %100 like my kinky hair, its light weight and super fly. By recycling some black yarn I had lying around the house from various projects and some free time, I got to work and the final outcome was sexier than I could have imagined.


Genie Locs - half up, half down

Genie Locs - Up do

1. Yarn Needle
2. Worsted Yarn (that matches your hair colour)
3. Scissors
Where do I get em?: If you don't have any of these materials you can most def find them at any store similar to Wal-Mart

1. Insert and pull the yarn though the eye of the needle
2. Pull through eye of needle until desired additional length of loc
3. Use scissors to cut yarn
4. Thread through the tip of loc (with about 1 cm from the tip to work with) until both ends of the yarn starnd are even
5. Use scissors to cut yarn again (to remove the needle)
(You should now have the yarn threaded through your loc and have two pieces of yarn on opposite sides of it)
6. Fold one of the two pieces in half and hold (this is where you decided the thickness to match your loc)
7. Use the opposite (unfolded) yarn to begin braiding (making sure to keep the other piece folded)
8. Braid part way down, then start to twist all the way to the bottom
9. Tie in a knot & cut

Thats it! Now you have another use for yarn!

1.The more times you fold the yarn in half, the thicker the loc will be. (to match the size of my individual locs I folded the piece in half twice)
2. You can choose to burn the end to make sure it doesn't unravel, but it doesn't look too good, or real...I tried -_-
3. If you run out of yarn to braid/twist with DON'T WORRY just cut some more and continue
4. Braiding and twisting give slightly different looks. Twisting looking more loc like and braiding less loc like (not visible from far, but more so up close)

 Who says you can't look cute just cause you're broke?
Smiles :)
Tuly Maimouna

Have any questions? Something not clear? Just ask!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

What happened to all the book worms?

material: 100% worsted
Stitch: Single crochet
....the book monsters ate em all! Growing up I was never really too big on books, mostly because up until I was in grade three I had trouble reading. The weird thing is that I always used to read with my mom before going to sleep as a child, but for some reason when in school the ability somehow escaped me...so I used to attend after school reading classes with my homeroom teacher. Since then I have developed a healthy appreciation for reading, I have come to the conclusion that it stems from past inability! My appreciation has manifested its self in different ways throughout the years, and reading has developed beyond an action or pass time to a deeply personalized experience.

I first started reading novels by black authors when I was in high school. It first started off with black erotica, anything from Eric Jerome Dickey to Mary, B Morrison was a must read, which is probably attributed to underlying teen sexual frustration haha! But more importantly while reading I started to realize that it was hard for me to imagine black characters in novels, and to this day it honestly still proves to be a challenge for me. I thought "oh gosh, has my mind been white washed?" This was really a troubling thought for me, so I started to look for books that distinctly addressed historical events pertaining to the black diaspora. Books like, Roots By Alex Haley, The Book of Negros By Lawrence Hill and so on. While this proved to be helpful, I hated the idea of black populations not being represented beyond traumatic events of displacement, and mostly I did not relate to these stories because my experience of 'blackness' is fragmented between being a racial minority and being of East African decent.

While searching for 'new' types of stories, to my surprise (not really) the only ones I could find in school/public libraries & book stores were stories about slavery,  war/political/civil unrest, travel guides or half-assed romanticized Eurocentric novels about African countries. Never stories of the Africa (I am using this term loosely) I have known, lived and understood. I also started to wonder why novels by African authors outside of those themes are so inaccessible. A lot of novels available on African countries tend to speak to non-African understandings of those countries experiences, so stories of love, families and everyday life outside of trauma, poverty and despotism seldom matter or exist in the conscience of the reader, or more frequently, the idea that these themes can not exist seperately. In the search for new literature my eyes were forced open to ideas and questions that extend beyond the books themselves.

I only recently started to think critically about the novels I had been forced to read throughout primary and secondary school. What obligation or responsibility does a white author have to represent bodies of colour? Should schools be forced to teach black diasporic history beyond slavery? What implications/ repercussions does ignoring contemporary African history have on the black diaspora? How has the absence/under representation of bodies of colour in government school curriculum, and mainstream media affected how and where people of colour place themselves within these exclusive and selective outlets, and how does this effect the way we navigate ourselves through everyday life? While all these questions require larger discussions and subsequently greater actions, my first step is to change the limitations my socialized imagination by inserting characters of colour into contemporary western stories that I read to challenge normalized ideas of white bodies as a neutral or default characters, and secondly to continue reading novels by various African authors past and present.

Books by various African authors

My favourite novels by African authors:
1. Ambiguous Adventure - Cheikh Hamidou Kane (Senegal)
2. Tsotsi - Athol Fugard (South Africa)
3. Tales Told by the Son of Kenya - Aggrey Chepkwony Sambay (Kenya) 
4. Going Down River Road - Meja Mwangi (Kenya)
5. A Grain of Wheat - Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Kenya)
6. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
7. On To Kilimanjaro - Brain Gardner (this book is an exception because is not by an African author, but it gives you a very clear definition between self representation, and othering )

If you're a book worm like me, don't let the book monsters take away the ability to exercise your imagination by keeping truly reflective stories out of reach. Go out and look for a good book.

Smiles :)

Tuly Maimouna

P.S. If you are interested look up Roots (Alex Haley) vs.The African (Harold Coulter)...a really interesting back story to our friend Kunta Kente and the so called "timeless American Saga"

Friday, 12 April 2013


size: 18'
material: 100% worsted
stitch: single crochet
I decided to make a dolli of myself...why? It has always been a challenge to find a black doll that I can look at and see myself. Just cause a doll has black skin does not mean it can stand to represent the complexities and variations found within black populations. So this dolli is my big "Eff you". If how I look is not marketable or profitable, I'll do it myself simply because I can.

Smiles :)

Tuly Maimouna

Friday, 5 April 2013


beaded earrings
materials: bamboo
size: o/s
My newest creation on my oldest model, isn't she's wonderful?

Smiles :)

Tuly Maimouna

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Artducation: Vulvas?

Crochet vulva's

 I have been making these vulva pins for a while and giving them to my friends as gifts, as well as rocking my own. I have been presented with varied reactions from both friends and strangers
"So F***ING COOL!"
"What is that?"
"Why would you make this?"

Why would i make this...? It is not so much the question that bothers me, but the tone in which the question is asked. There is a lot of disgust and hostility, but ultimately interest. I was recently at a symposium where we spoke about how different vulva's can look and how in text books they are presented as uniform; symmetrical labia, hairless, and cut off from the rest of the body. So that night I came home and looked up diagrams of vulva's. I was baffled (not really) when I tried to look for diagrams that show vulva's that belong to bodies colour and...surprise! I found none! Now you might think, well a vulva is a vulva...right? Yes and no. Sure I've got a vulva and you may have one too, but historically bodies have been presented through race (racialization) and through that, differences have been assumed to justify many historical events that books don't often tell you about. Let us take a few steps back and look at the well known hottentot venus exhibition of Saartjie Baartman, a relative of the Khoikhoi ethnic group born in 1789 in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.

In 1735, Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) divided humans into four racially classified subspecies: Homo sapien americancus (Amerindians), europaeus (Europeans), asiaticus (Asians), and afer (Africans) (Hamilton, 2008).  Later, anthropologist Jonathan Marks attributed traits and behaviours to these subspecies, calling the afer “black, impassive, lazy. Hair kinked. Skin Silky. Nose flat. Lips thick. Women with genital flap; breasts large. Crafty, slow, foolish. Anoints himself with grease. Ruled by caprice.” (Hamilton, 2008). Another example of this is the French scientist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) who also based his findings on the taxonomy of Homo sapiens and depicted the afer as “marked by a black complexion, crisped or woolly hair, compressed cranium and a flat nose. The projection of the lower parts of the face, and the thick lips, evidently approximate it to the monkey tribe; the hordes of utter barbarianism.” (Hamilton, 2008). From this established approach to race in academia in the eighteenth century, there is an acknowledgement and acceptance to the validity of the racialization of traits and the hierarchy based off of it. The Hottentot Venus exhibit recreated and brought these ideas throughout Europe, it specifically reinforced and reflected race based on the social hierarchies that existed. The presentation and representation of black bodies in contrast to white ones placed emphasis on differences, and more specifically differences of physical anatomy. The anthropological rhetoric represented the Hottentot as primitive, inferior, secular and uncivilized  and from this made distinct connections between the Hottentot and animals. Labeling black bodies as primitive attributed animal characteristics to them, such as animalistic instincts of reproduction  “…Buffon stated that this animal-like sexual appetite went so far as to lead black women to copulate with apes” (Gilman, 1985). Academic travelers went further as to say that the black woman also show external signs of being primitive, from “Steatopygia a protruding buttocks resulting from the accumulation of fat, and what was then called the “hottentot apron” the elongated labia of the genitalia” (Moudileno, 2009) (see fig.1)

Saarjtie Baartman’s exhibit relied heavily on the discourse created by academic and scientific elites. These assumptions  presented as fact romanticized ideas about non-white populations, and constructed a false identity that according to Gareth Knapman (2008) pushed non-white populations to a status below that of white Europeans. By labelling these populations as animals, an ideology of inferiority became common thought.

fig 1 the external genitalia of the Hottentot Venus, standing upright

200 years later and this is the only image of the vulva of a woman of colour?! So when someone asks me why I made this I tell them that I am serving to represent my own vulva, sexuality and ultimately myself. And of course I'm gonna make a pin and make sure its all up in your face! Additionally I love making people feel uncomfortable...for a good reason though! I believe that when we are the most uncomfortable is when we are in a space to absorb knowledge and have conversations that we might not otherwise have. We must keep in mind that knowledge and academia are never depoliticized spaces and they entirely selective, meaning there is choice in what is included or excluded given the political and economic climate...think of it like the news, there is always another part of the story we don't hear and we have to be critical and ask why. Knowledge as a form of power is inaccessible for a variety of reasons and it has always been used as a tool of inclusion and exclusion....but that's a whole other conversation!  It's actually hilarious to me when it falls on the ground, and someone will be like "oh, you dropped something!" they go to pick it up for me, but immediately hesitate and retreat once they see what it is. I always say "Ooups, I dropped my vulva!" smile and walk away. Sometimes you have to laugh at other peoples expense, so make things that have a personal statement and challenge normative ideas, it makes your craft that much more meaningful.

Tuly Maimouna