In Photos: Stunning Portraits of Zanzibaris Donning the Classic Kofia

An intimate look at the brimless hat that makes Zanzibari men and boys look effortlessly hip and cool in photos.

OkayAfrica caught up with award-winning documentary photographer, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, of bi-annual journal Mfon: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora, who recently worked on projects in Zanzibar, Tanzania. While taking the beautiful enclave of a city in, Barrayn was captivated by the kofia—a brimless hat you'll often see worn by boys and men all along the Swahili coast—and had to capture them portrait style.

"Even though I don't consider myself a fashionista, I'm Muslim and I've always been tuned into how modesty and fashion play out in Islam and also how it varies from community to community. Also, I travel a lot so I always pay attention what the local or regional Islamic fashions are in that area or country," Barrayn says, explaining what drew her to photograph portraits featuring the kofia.

"I've spent a lot of time in West Africa working on photo projects so, I've gotten used to the knit cotton kufis. It's the one that was made popular by the independence activist, Amílcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau back in the 60s. I've also seen a lot of the varied styles of kufis in Nigeria. But when I was on Unguja Island in Zanzibar, I really fell in love with the colors and the way the men would fold or shape their kofia. I loved that the kofia was worn with the kanzus (the long flowing robes) to sportswear, jeans and other casual dress. It just fit and was so decidedly Zanzibari."

She continues:

"It's really interesting because all over the Swahili coast, the kofia is worn, and that is because that region was once part of the Omani empire until the Zanzibari Revolution of 1964. In fact, in Oman, you can still see the colorful Swahili influence in the clothing and headgear, like the kofia, for instance."

Barrayn also notes how much the kofia was a touch of style that made a whole look much more elegant and can pull an entire look together. With her photo essay below, she hopes to tell a fashion story about Muslim men that showcases an elegance in their style through this particular headdress. "I also want to show one of the many variations of culture-based style in the Islamic world," she adds.

Take a look at these stunning portraits featuring the kofia below.

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Top 10 African Menswear Bloggers You Need To Follow On Instagram

These stylish African men teach us a thing or two on their beautifully curated Instagram pages—check out who they are here.

African style bloggers have gained large followings lately—but the internet has continued to see stylish African men doing their thing online and taking the blogging world by storm.

These men are taking risks, transforming industry stereotypes and probably influencing your celebrity crushes closet (Oh heyyy, Kofi Siriboe!).

Below you’ll find clean looks, trendy patterns and mix of street style and traditional influences. Ladies sit back and enjoy the view. Fellas, take notes.

In no particular order, meet our favorite African men’s style bloggers of 2017 below.

1. Denola Grey

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Denola Grey is a men’s fashion blogger, model and media personality from Nigeria. His style and passion to be comfortable in what you wear and how you wear it is impeccable. The layout of his blogs clean, white and tasteful theme gives you a little hint of his unforgettable style. Visit his website to follow his journey.

2. Noble Igwe

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Noble Igwe is a Nigerian blogger and founder of 360nobs Group, an online magazine focused on news, entertainment, fashion and lifestyle. His mogul ventures have named him as one of Nigeria’s well-known creative entrepreneurs. Igwe’s successful brand is one to stay woke with; make sure to visit his website to keep up with this creative powerhouse.

3. Lourens Gebhardt

Lourens Gebhardt is a Namibian blogger on tumblr and menswear influencer that describes himself as the epitome of everything vintage. Lourens illustrates grown man sexy with his sophisticated, clean cut, dapper, vintage suits on regular basis – no seriously this man is never dressed down! Follow this dandy man’s blog on Tumblr to get daily inspiration.

4. Laduma Ngxokolo

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Laduma Ngxokolo is a textile and knitwear designer and blogger from Port Elizabeth, South Africa. His passion for knitwear bred from the yearning to celebrate traditional Xhosa beadwork for men. He has a true desire to spread his love for his South African culture through clothing and to express his experiences he has learned through his travels in his designs. Check out how Laduma uses a piece of home to exude his Xhosa heritage to others by visiting his website.

5. Mohcine Aoki Harris

Mohcine Aoki Harris is a Moroccan blogger, model and photographer. Mochine’s street style with a bit of everyday chic is the perfect demonstration a young men transitioning to a grown man. He has a clear grasp of when, where and how to convey a certain look. Follow his blog here.

6. Franklin Saiyalel

Franklin Saiyalel is a male fashion blogger from Kenya. He uses his blog to advice his viewers on trends and an outlet to share thoughts and ideas on his passion with brand experiences, fashion and footwear. His style, vision, and helpful tips for his followers speak volumes about his influence to others. Make sure to stay tuned for all his adventures by following his site here.

7. Allen A. Coleman

Allen Coleman is a Ghanaian menswear blogger and street style/product photographer. He uses his blog to celebrate different forms of street style and his minimalist sense of style. In the bio of Allen’s website he says, “ is simply a doorway into the journey of man who is infatuated with the beauty of his world.” Do yourself a favor and check out his beauty of art through his lenses and the way he sees himself in that world.

8. Trevor Stuurman

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Trevor Stuurman is a South African blogger, multimedia visual artist and a DAMN good dresser. He has an flawless eye for dressing well with his sharp Afrocentric sets, hats and constant culture appreciation. Did I mention his camera skills are breathtaking? Check Trevor's blog out on Tumblr for more.

9. Steven Onoja

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Steven Onoja is a Nigerian blogger that provides men with an urban perspective and effortless style to look up to. He collaborates with a number of international and iconic brands such as Nike, Levis and many others. For daily motivation, visit his website to see this smooth, crisp, creative and oh so fly individual climb to the top as one of Africa’s best.

10. Igee Okafor

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Igee Okafor uses is lifestyle blog to learn and create conversation about the growth and culture for menswear. He uses is travel experiences from Paris, Spain, Virginia and his Nigerian culture to navigate is fashion sense. With his witty smile, vibrant colors, and effortlessly fresh approach he is sure to add to the list as one of the best to follow—check out his blog here.


Out of Africa: Afro-Guyanese Fashionista Janelle Grimmond Showcases Pieces Inspired By the Continent

Seasoned fashion editor, Janelle Tomeko Grimmond walks us through some of her favorite African-inspired looks of the season through an intimate photo diary.

DIASPORA—From bright beads to bold prints and beautiful colors, African fashion continues to inspire the world. No one knows this better than seasoned fashion editor, Janelle Tomeko Grimmond. The Guyanese-born, New York-bred editor has spent the last decade working for major brands in fashion and media as diverse as Ralph Lauren, Vibe Magazine and Nylon.

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