Okayafrica's 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

The year's best streetwear, accessories, books and more from Africa and the Diaspora

Top Left to Right: 'Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara; STREETCHIEF; Modern Pharaoh; Mizizi. Bottom Left to Right: Caven Etomi; Fanm Djanm; Ikire Jones; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'We Should All Be Feminists.'

Throughout the year, we here at Okayafrica have spotlighted hundreds of small business owners and creatives making outstanding strides in fashion, film, art and beyond. With the holiday season upon us, what better time to delve deeper into these entrepreneurs' one-of-a-kind works than now?

See OkayAfrica's 2019 #BuyBlack Black Friday holiday shopping guide here

We've rounded up the best and brightest brands and products guaranteed to eliminate any last-minute shopping crises and elevate one's gift-giving game. The creators behind these picks selection hail from all over; their signature styles as distinct as their home bases, representing cities like Monrovia, Brooklyn, London, Abidjan and Washington D.C. So, it's safe to say that there's something for just about everyone on your holiday gift list. Browse through our entire guide for some overall inspiration or head straight to a particular category by clicking below.



Accessories, Shoes & Beauty

Art & Home Decor


Fairytales For Lost Children –Diriye Osman

In 2014, Somali-born short story writer, essayist, critic and visual artist Diriye Osman became the first African to win a Polari First Book Prize (the UK prize awarded to a British author whose debut book explores the LGBT experience.) Osman’s Fairytales For Lost Children tell the stories of young, gay and lesbian Somalis as they navigate matters of family, identity and the immigrant experience in Kenya, Somalia and South London.


The Pack –Paul Louise-Julie

New York-based French-Caribbean illustrator and author Paul Louise-Julie’s African mythology comic series debuted earlier this year with an issue about a group of ancient Egyptian werewolves. Louise-Julie, who also has an African-inspired futuristic space opera in the works, says he plans to release part three of The Pack’s Egyptian saga soon.


Africa 39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara –Edited by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey

Africa 39 brings together short stories from 39 writers under the age of 40 from sub-Saharan Africa and the Diaspora. The project was launched at the Port Harcourt Book Festival in October 2014. The anthology includes selections by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dinaw Mengestu, Taiye Selasi, Lola Shoneyin and an introduction by Wole Soyinka.


The Groundnut –Duval Timothy, Folayemi Brown and Jacob Fodio Todd

Duval Timothy, Folayemi Brown and Fodio Todd are the longtime friends behind the South London-based food platform and supper club known as The Groundnut. This year, the trio shared over 60 of their favorite contemporary African recipes in a self-titled cookbook.

The Fishermen –Chigozie Obioma

Set in a Nigerian town in the mid 1990’s, The Fishermen centers on a Cain and Abel-esque story of four brothers whose encounter with a volatile local madman leads to a mystic prophecy and a momentous, tragic event. “Awesome in the true sense of the word: crackling with life, freighted with death, vertiginous both in its style and in the elemental power of its story,” Man Booker Prize-winning author Eleanor Catton writes about the book. “Few novels deserve to be called 'mythic,' but Chigozie Obioma's The Fishermen is certainly one of them. A truly magnificent debut."

We Should All Be Feminists –Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chances are you’ve heard the clip of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie advocating feminism on Beyonce’s track "Flawless." But have you heard the entire speech? Well, the award-winning novelist’s personal essay, which was adapted from her celebrated TEDx talk, is now available in a pocket-sized book. Whether you’ve never heard the speech or you’ve watched it more times than you can count, We Should All Be Feminists deserves a place on everyone’s bookshelf. In fact, Sweden recently made headlines after giving a copy of the manifesto to every 16-year-old student in the country.

Boy, Snow, Bird –Helen Oyeyemi

Highly acclaimed by both critics and readers alike, Nigerian-born British author Helen Oyeyemi's Boy, Snow, Bird presents readers with an unexpected twist on the classic fairy tale Snow White. This intricate story of family secrets lives at the tricky intersection of race, beauty and vanity.


The Golden Baobab Tree –Nkiacha Atemnkeng

Encourage your younger loved ones to sharpen their reading skills with this illustrated book written by Cameroonian writer Nkiacha Atemnkeng.


The Big Ceremony –Ozi Okaro

Nigerian writer Ozi Okaro wanted to provide children from her homeland with an engaging introduction to the vivid cultural experience that is a traditional Nigerian wedding. So, she pulled double duty penning and illustrating The Big Ceremony to help readers learn more about the customs of their ancestors and their heritage.

Sahara Rocks! –Arnaud Contreras

Sahara Rocks! is the culmination of French author, filmmaker and photographer Arnaud Contreras’ work documenting the Sahara’s dynamic music scene and its tech-savvy youth while traveling alongside artists such as Tinariwen, Bombino and Tamikrest over the course of 15 years. “I want to portray the modernity of young Tuaregs, Arabs, Songhaï, and Moors who share both good and bad news through their social medias accounts and their cell phones,” writes Contreras. “Today’s Saharan music – rock, blues, guitar – is the soundtrack to their wanderings, their parties, their struggles, and the only visa that can permit their culture to cross frontiers." After launching a crowdfunding campaign in 2014, the photobook officially hit shelves in September.

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Collage by Ta'Ron Joyner

I Would Rather Breathe Than Think Outside the Box

South African artists were already working for little to no pay, but the pandemic has unleashed a flood of exploitative work requests right when we need money the most.

This essay is part of OkayAfrica's SA Reframed series, featuring personal writing from some of South Africa's best young writers edited by Verashni Pillay.

On the radio the other day, I heard a small business owner of a costume design company being interviewed and asked how they have managed to:

a. Reinvent themselves during this period, and

b. Think outside the box while doing so.

Their conversation made me think about how I have not managed to wrap my head around any sort of future, or reinvention outside any kind of box—beyond the one that wraps itself around my immediate reality. When the lockdown was announced, three friends and I withdrew to a remote area where internet access was dubious and, most times, simply not available. I would need to walk a bit of a distance to locate a spot under a tree or up a mountain to be connected for thirty minutes, or so.

Then I would do a basic comb through my emails and respond to work or requests that were already underway pre-lockdown. I only responded to new requests that either afforded me the opportunity to earn an income or those that allowed me to be productive on my own terms.

I was tired, lowkey grateful for the global pause, and no longer interested in the overly productive, overloaded nature of my previous normal. Something about the forced halt made me realise that I was on the edge of everything—myself included. I turned down anything that required me to join the endless online festivals, zoom panel discussions, Instagram takeovers and live readings. I refused all opportunities that needed me to grapple with any sort of forced normalcy. The ones that offered data or airtime or solidarity as compensation or assumed that I had gone pro bono. I needed a moment. I needed the space and time to re-bargain with the point of it all.

The pause was both useful and scary. It brought to the surface fears and revelations about the shortfalls of our industry and how creatives are positioned within the productivity machinery and economy of South Africa, or rather all the ways we fall outside of it.

As Minister of employment and labour Thulas Nxesi mentioned in a briefing two months ago, "On the issue of freelance workers—unfortunately with the current legislation they fall outside. Maybe what we are going to do is that after this we will have to re-look at it in terms of our legislative amendments and start a debate about that." Why are there laws that have gone unchallenged? Who should be challenging them? Why are artists hearing, out loud for the first time, of convenient loopholes that render us outside of an economy that taxes us like everyone else, and consumes us and our work. Yet, in times of crisis, this same economy engages with our art and our productivity and our products, but still deems us on the margin, outside, and non-essential. If we are not assisted financially, how can we be productive, how can we acquire the resources to produce? How can we apply our minds to anything else outside of survival and scrambling to stay afloat.

Pandemics do not mean that artists have gone pro bono

When you approach an artist with the assumption that they have gone pro bono during this time, when you draft an email to request a collaboration, a commission, a participation, a productivity of any kind, please bear in mind that artists are up against an unconcerned and corrupt government that has failed to provide aid and assistance to their sector during this time.

Theatre critic Sara Holdren says "Art is hard and most of it fails—either in small ways or catastrophic ones." In South Africa, the process of making art is hard, sure, but more than that, the conditions and the context in which we make work fails us in catastrophic ways that will require more than a debate and amended legislation. It will need, for starters, a minister who cares about the arts and understands its soul and mechanisms. This pause has brought about more questions and concerns for me than inspiration to reinvent or think outside the box. I have questions about the box itself and why I feel asphyxiated and trapped by its design.

I would rather breathe than think outside of the box

This pandemic has made me question what my career, livelihood and stability have been built on; what has been propping them up all this time, and what has been allowing me to appear valued and valuable in this economy? What does and will the spectrum of value look like in a normal that has been disrupted and now sits in a near distant future that may or may not be near?

Then I find myself vacillating between hope and concern. My hope is that when the pandemic is no longer with us, artists can have a come-to-jesus conversation about what has contributed and exacerbated this attitude and disrespect toward our practice and industry, I hope we can challenge the legislations that we have been dared to challenge, I hope we can be productive in ways that serve us and make sense for our well-being, that we will be paid our worth and that our society will realize that without the artist producing, there will be no art, or music, or films, or books and things that have kept people entertained and creatively nourished during this time.

My concern is that the "free"content artists are currently creating and the free access to art or performances, will not make this realisation possible, and that this kind of access, that was already undervalued and exploited, will be irreversible. The exploitation dialogue is tiring. Being treated as non-essential is tiring and terrifying too, and while most of the world can slowly start going back to work, most artists will probably have to hang tight until 2021, maybe even 2022.

While artists deal with a hoax of an arts and culture department that is dead to us and a minister who tweets more than he does his job, in an ideal world, I wish that artists could afford to indulge uncertainty, and fear, and pause, in ways that allow them to heed the call made by Nicholas Berger in his piece The Forgotten Art of Assembly [Or, Why Theatre Makers Should Stop Making] "We must lean into this pain. We must feel the grief. We must mourn. Mourn the loss of work, the loss of jobs, the loss of money, the loss of life. Mourn the temporary loss of an art form that demands assembly. Lean into the grief. Lean in. Lean in. Lean in. We must remind ourselves that mourning is a human act, not a digital one."

Koleka Putuma is an award-winning poet, playwright and theatre director. Her bestselling debut collection of poems Collective Amnesia is in its 10th print run and her play No Easter Sunday for Queers Sunday for Queers won several awards.

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