Africa... The Culture, fashion, art, wildlife and wonderful people, we fell in love with it a long time ago
We meet people on almost a daily basis who all say they have been changed by Africa. Some unseen energy or aura that keeps drawing them back, time and time again. It’s in the happiness of even the poorest people. The diversity of culture across countries and tribes. The vast wild places with their unique and fragile animals. We’ve felt it... you should too!
7 years ago. The beginnings of Continent Clothing, I was staying in The Gambia on a meeting tailors and sample making visit. The trip was brilliant. I had successfully met and began working with 5 different tailors for my first collection. Bought countless beautiful fabrics with amazing colours and geometrics. But the trip was long, 6 months in the same place working and working... the dust, the heat, some people, everything was dwindling in its charm. I needed to be reminded of why I started this, why I loved Africa. Me and a few of my friends (John, Adama, Yaya) decided it was time for a getaway, African style.
A quiet road, a ribbon of tarmac further and further into the bush, continuing even further into the Savannah. Along this road the city became a distant memory. I could feel the annoyances of the city wash away with the sandy savannah wind. Several hours of driving though wild stereotypically African scenery on an abandoned road we arrived at our destination, Janjanburegh. A very small, old, colonial village situated on an island in The Gambia river. Straw roofed houses lined the river bank and massive elephant trees dotted the traditional street. All the while the river slowly and silently meandered along. Beautiful.
In the spirit of recuperating, we decided to go even more off the beaten track and drive into the bush along a silken sand and jagged, rocked track. Monkey's were playfully running through the branches of the trees following us. We drive deeper and deeper and come across two half built empty huts sitting in a plot of beautiful land with the river at the far end. Lying there was Seikou, a local builder having a leisurely afternoon snooze in one of the huts. A quick laugh and then chat led to Seikou agreeing for us to stay here tonight. We handed him 50 Dalassi and off he went.
Relaxation was our aim, so we started a nice little fire as close to the river as possible. After an hour of tranquility we hear the faint rumble of an engine and the unmistakable noise of tyres bumping up and down on the pot hole laden road. We thought this strange considering the road led to nowhere and how far from civilisation we had strayed. It turned out to be Seikou, this time with two other guys, a bucket of drinks, a large bowl of Domada (African Peanut Soup) and two mattresses all crammed in the back of one of the rickety looking local taxis. The display of generosity and friendliness was obviously too good to refuse, let alone a mattress instead of a concrete slate in the half built huts. Thus we began a great night of gluttony and conversation by the warmth of the fire.
Conversations about each other and our differing cultures continued throughout the night. We were swapping between our music softly playing in the background. Trading stories of the British cold damp and gloomy weather with stories of intense heat and dusty sandstorms of the yearly Harmattan winds. After hours of non stop laughing we were abruptly interrupted by a huge roar and splash coming from what sounded like a few metres away in the river. Shaken and confused we asked the locals what the noise could have been... a little too calmly (not surprised at all) they said hippos. My only thought... “Only in Africa”.
The next day, I was full of joy, a mini baptism of friendship, wildlife and generosity. A year later and to this day I still remind myself of this story every time I feel down. This story, and many other similar ones, is why I love Africa. The mix of the wild places, people’s kindness when they have apparent nothing and the diversity from the cities, countries and tribes across the Continent.
For those of you who have been to Africa, send us in snaps or chat about why you love it. We will share away any great pics on our social media. Those who haven’t stepped foot on African soil, we encourage you to do so, and couldn’t recommend it more. There is poverty and hunger... there is political uncertainty as our news exclusively reports... but beneath there is SO much more.