Friday, 2 October 2015

Kweendom: Purple Wigs and Tings

 I like crowns, flowers, glitter, sparkles, bubbles, crochet cat ears and purple hair. In my kweendom these things would be essential. That is all.

Smiles :)
Tuly Maimouna

Friday, 18 September 2015

Buck Naked: Muses, Truths and Art

Buck Naked Dress
%100 Cotton
Vitenge from Morogoro, Tanzania
Wax print from Nigeria
[Image description: A brown skinned person is standing up with their arms at their sides. The person is wearing a lose fitting orange, yellow and white knee-length dress with circular designs. They have on a wrist full of colourful beaded bracelets and big earrings. They also have a green and purple headwrap on their head and a coy unimpressed smiles. In the background is an orange wall with an assortment of feathered head pieces.]

I just finished reading the book Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Whenever I read books by black female authors it takes me a really long time to get through, because I see myself. The words I read represent and speak to parts of me, some which I have confronted and others I haven't. I feel naked and exposed. Despite how captivating the book is, far too often I find myself putting it down, dwelling on passages that struck me then revisiting the book days or even weeks later.

In the forward by Toni Morrison she talks about the mystery surrounding the creative process erected by artists. She says that muses represented as a voice, an invisible guiding hand or a grey area are safeguards...inventions to avoid answering the question "Where do you get your ideas from?" for fear that if we know the intimate details of our process that it would fade away. I sat and thought for a long time about what this might mean for me. Where do I get inspiration from and what is behind the ambiguity of it all? 

I saw this diagram that fed into my question of inspiration that got me thinking. Living in a afroblack, queer, gender kaleidoscope body (that can be read as female/a woman) that exists in a society that is violently patriarchal, racist and classist (among many other fucked up realities) that furthermore tells us we should be meek, docile or humble in the face of those realities is a hot mess! When I make art that says "I am" or represents what is "Mine" it is recognizing my own power. It's a radical and deeply political act. To be self-centered, selfish, having excessive interest in myself as suggested by absolute narcissism is to reject the ways that we are told to act in the face of gross realities. So absolute narcissism, where all the art I make has always been about my experiences in this world and my interpretation of those experiences? Nah, in the words of Audre Lorde caring for myself is self-preservation. Crippling self doubt about my existence and survival in this world, yeah. 

I made this dress two weeks ago, the day before going back to school. School has been an endless journey for me and a heavy schedule weighs me down, so I started getting anxious and freaking out. To give myself space to breathe and meditate I got into it with my sewing machine and this T-Shit Dress tutorial by Ovoke. I also really hate wearing clothes, especially under wear. So, I decided to make this lose fitting dress that gives me all the comfort and coziness I need to confront the tasks ahead. Anxiety and a nudy booty acted as a muse for my creative process.

Art intersects with the many layers of our identities. Indulge in and confront yourself. Create and express your truths. 

"First off she cut her hair. That was one thing she didn't want to have to think about anymore. Then she tackled the problem of trying to decide how she wanted to live and what was valuable to her. When am I happy and when am I sad and what is the difference? What do I need to know to stay alive? What is true in the world? Her mind traveled crooked streets and aimless goat paths, arriving sometimes at profundity, other times at the revelations of a three-year-old." - Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison (1977)


Smiles :)
Tuly Maimouna

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Tumblr Faces: Upcycled Chokers

Tumblr Faces
Upcycled Choker

Tumblr Faces
Upcycled Necklace

Tumblr Faces
Upcycled Choker

Tumblr Faces
Upcycled Choker
What is a tumblr face? Half face with pouting lips that aim to create a dreamy allure. When I googled chokers online, most of what came up was pics of white-skinned people [resenting as women that capture half their faces while pouting their lips and wearing 90's tattoo chokers. Meh. My luscious, full, afro-black lips (wearing crayola crayon DIY lipstick) are accompanied by these upcycled chokers I've been working on. These chokers are made from the pieces of old necklaces and have been repurposed into new designs! Here's my tumblr face to add to the choker archives!

Tuly Maimouna

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Rum & Soca: Crochet Ass-Out Bikini

Rum & Soca
Crochet Ass-out Biniki
100% Cotton

I love Soca. Something about soca caresses my soul. I can only describe this soul connection through feeling; my skin crawls with delight, a toothy grin slowly creeps across my face, my hands find them selves up in the air, I taste mango-pineapple-sugarcane sweetness, and my hips start swaying. Finally my eyes close and I am transported to dreams of warmth, sunshine, cool breezes, sun kissed brown skin, sweaty bodies, bright colours, rolling waistlines...pure sweetness of the most intimate kind. The baselines, uptempo rhythms, and carefree lyrics free my spirit in a way that no other kind of music ever has. In my many imagined fantasies, I've always believed that I was a soca kween in my past life, and if I had a life soundtrack 90% of it would be made up of soca...but in all my soca fantasies never have imaged where this spirit freeing sweetness originated from.  In my imagined fantasies I have created an entirely fictitious and self-centered representation of soca music. After reflecting on this feeling/fantasy, I started to feel wrong about enjoying and consuming something for so many years without having a basic understanding of its origins. Why? Because far too often African, Caribbean and Black realities and genius are appropriated for the entertainment or gaze of others. To realize how I have participating in the process of erasing the origins of soca music by creating a romanticized self serving understanding of it did not sit well with me. So I looked up the history of soca!

In her 1997 essay titled The Politics of Labeling Popular Musics in the Caribbean, author Jocelyne Guilbault gives a brief history of soca music. Trinidadian musician Ras (Lord) Shory, born Garfield Blackman, originally coined the term Sokah. For roughly 10 before coining the composed sound of Sokah, the musician had been mixing Calypso with Kadans (Caribbean creole uptempo music polarized by Hatian sax player Webert Sicot) and various east Indian sounds/instruments. Ras Shorty invented Sokah as a rebirth of Calypso which he claimed "was dying a natural death" with he rise of reggae music, but he also believed that through fusing east Indian and African music he could end racialism between the two largest ethnic groups in Trinidad and encourage young Trinidadians to consume the sounds of their home (Guilbault, 1997).

As explained by Ras Shorty, the term "Sokah" is a combination of syllables: The 'so' comes from calypso. The 'Kah' is to show the East Indian rhythm, the syllable represents the first letter of the Indian alphabet (Guilbault, 1997). It is also said that Sokah means the 'soul of calypso'. 
Over time as the instruments used in the composition and rhythms of Sokah changed (attributed to a lack of positive response to east Indian instruments), so did the name of the sound. More contemporarily spelt 'Soca' the "so' is said to represent the fusion of soul music and 'ca' Calypso. The change in instrumentation and spelling removed the original contributions of east Indian sounds intended by Ras Shorty (Guilbault, 1997). From 1978 onward Soca has transformed to include sampling of zouk, american music, and afro-beats to name a few and it still maintains original inspiration through was Rash Shorty says is the east Indian drum-sets that "punch out the bass line on the drum set" (Guilbault, 1997). Despite the shifts in the sound, Ras Shortys really did revive calypso in a lasting way that speaks to the spirit. Soca is sound found throughout Caribbean islands, there are diasporic collaborations between continental African and Caribbean soca artists, soca is institutionalized to include soca morach competitions and is a key element in bringing sweet sounds and inspiration to carnivals internationally!

Every year I have played mas in Toronto Caribana I have wanted to wear a thong bikini and be ass out, but every time something came up; I was either too self conscious about my cellulite-stretch marked booty, they ran out of thongs, they were never delivered, or they weren't an option. So while sipping on some rum & mango juice and listening to soca I made this crochet ass-out bikini to externalize my desire to be ass-out, and externalize the most deeply felt to love for this genre of music that has always brought me so much joy and given me renewed confidence to be/feel myself. For me the most important part of externalizing that joy was also prioritizing internalizing the meaning of the art of soca and learning about its origins! Check one of my 2015 soca jams below!

Sugar Rush
Barbados Crop Over 2015

 Works Cited: 
Guilbault, Jocelyne. 1997. The Politics of Labeling Popular Musics in the Caribbean.found at:

Smiles :)
Tuly Maimouna

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

HISABATI: Crochet Bodycon Dress

Crochet Bodycon Dress
Front View
Crochet Bodycon Dress
Back View

A few years ago I was feeling disillusioned about the direction my life was taking, so I decided to do something brand new. I started studying carpentry. The opportunity presented its self at a time when I was searching for anything that would renew my sense of self fulfillment. I needed to be outside of my comfort zone, networks, and base of knowledge to challenge myself and explore new possibilities. Among many things that come with starting something brand new, lurking in background was mounting apprehension about entering a male dominated field of artistry I had never had any exposure to...but more pressingly was my terrible fright at the level of math that would be demanded of me. I have never been good at math. Maybe it is from a lack of interest or that it just is not my strong suit, but in all of my schooling years I avoided it when I could and never excelled at the subject. Mostly, I was terrified that math would be an inevitable downfall in my pursuit of self fulfillment.

The most challenging project we undertook in my carpentry class was installing trim and finish detailing in mock houses. Our task was to install crown molding and baseboard
on a series of different angled walls that would ideally fit into each other perfectly at the corners. We were all equally given the exact amount of materials needed to get the job done, and were not allowed to use any more than that. Our rule was always measure twice, and cut once. Hurriedly I rushed through my calculations, adding and subtracting fractions, and got to work. This project nearly drove me out of my mind. No matter how carefully I measured, how precise my cuts were with my mitre saw or how steadily I angled and cut with a copping saw, my angles wouldn't fit and my lengths of molding were either too short or too long. I struggled wasting my limited resources cutting and copping, until I realized my math was all wrong. After deciding to revisit my rushed calculations things just worked. Were they perfect? No, far from it, simply because it was my first time fitting molding. I did however come out with a renewed sense of process that required  patience and practice to get the work that we want to see done.

I love dresses that flatter my figure and show some shoulder in the process. They make me feel super sexy! I was inspired by 90's strappy dresses and bodycon dresses cause they do just that! I was inspired by
 a few different things when thinking about how to get this project started. First was a super easy to follow YoutTube DIY Crochet Halter Top tutorial by Krystal Everdeen, but to get the 90's vibe I was looking for I made a few minor tweaks to her pattern. Instead of having a tie at the back and neck, I crochet a full back and made two straps instead of a halter, similar to my DO EIT crochet tank top. Since I have juicy thighs and a thick booty I had to figure out how to make sure the skirt part hugged my curves perfectly. This is where the math came in. After doing a bit of research, I found that most crochet clothing patterns are not made for curvy or fluffy bodies. Surprising? Not really. No matter how much I looked, the patterns showed no adaptation for varying body shapes, types or sizes bigger than large until I came across these well written instructions by Jodi Hannon Madera on the perfect pencil skirt. The author gives detailed instructions and techniques on how to have perfectly tailored crochet clothes that don't end up a bulky formless mess. It required measurements, multiplication, addition and subtraction, and a calculator which was new because I have never strategically and intentionally used math while crocheting. To my surprise, math and my ability to do it was everything in facilitating this dress being a fab as is it! Fusing these two techniques came together into this final product that I am soooo proud of and excited to wear!

HISABATI means math in Kiswahili. Math like crochet, takes a lot of practice, and patience (and as I have recently learned sometimes even a calculator!). Sometimes along the journey we fail to realized just how integral each stumble and hardship is until we come out with a final product. Still to this day any time I finish a project I say "shit, I made that". It blows my mind every time because I remember how overwhelming, tiresome and hard the process was. I am still not a math expert, but I am coming to accept that its application and practicality is everywhere...even in my crafty little universe!

Hisabati ni mikakati yetu!
A song about math from Ubongo Kids, a kids show created in Tanzania!

Smiles :)
Tuly Maimouna

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Do Eit: Crochet Tank Top

Crochet Tank Top
%100 Wool

My mantra for this year has been Do Eiitt. There are so many things I always tell myself I want to do, but somehow never get around to doing them. Whether it is from doubting my own capabilities and strengths, being held back by fear or being told I can't, sometimes I find myself lacking the confidence to act on the things I decide are of value to me.

It has always been along lived fantasy of mine to have a head of purple hair. When I cut my locs off all I longed for was to have a bald purple head. Wavering in confidence about acting on the idea, I remember speaking with a good friend of mine looking for some consultation on the matter. I found I was discouraged. I was told that "it wouldn't suit my complexion" and when I asked why I was told that "it would look better on someone who was lighter skinned." Hum. For a while I truly believed the misplaced judgment of my friend because they are someone I trust. Despite so desperately longing to have a bald purple head, for months I walked around with the idea that I was too dark to rock it. Too dark...I thought about that for a long time, how could I be too dark to do something? I also wondered, how could I let someone else perspectives, values, and beliefs shape and subdue my own?

I made this crochet tank top because I saw a shirt just like it that I couldn't afford, but being held back my financial restrictions most def wasn't gonna stop me. I told myself "I can make that, so do eit!" It took a while to get it just right, required starting over, many hours and a lot of trust in my crochet abilities and imagination, but finally I came out with a project I am really proud of! And just like my (now) purple bald head, having the confidence to act on what I decide to do is a part of honoring my mantra.

Whether it is because I choose not to shave my armpits, choose to cut off my locs, have purple hair, live a budgeted lifestyle, my choice of clothes or whatever, I decided that I wouldn't allow people to police me, my body or values. Hence Do Eiitt. Sometimes it is scary to act on the things we truly want and believe in for ourselves for a number of reasons: there may be a threat of violence in our lives, we may lose friends or loved ones, fear of the unknown, regret and so on. What I have learned on this journey so far is that working towards fostering trust in ourselves and having people who support us goes a long way in helping us to be who and how we want to be. Be brave, be you!

Breathe. Remember you can do eit!

Smiles :)

Tuly Maimouna

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Top Rankin' Inna Crochet Halter Back

Top Rankin'
Crochet Halter Top
100% Wool

Top Rankin'
Crochet Halter Top
100% Wool

Do you have one of those songs that instantly makes you feel sexy? A song you hear that makes you feel every single thing you have going on and leaves you affirming the very beauty of your existence? 'Uptown Top Ranking' released in 1977 by then teenagers Athela Rose Forrest & Donna Marie Reid is just that song for me. I get immersed in the tune and find myself enveloped in a bout of self love that is almost inexplicable. I dance around my room, smile, sing along, imagine warm sunshine and feel like a boss besh in my own right. So I figured why not pay respect to a song that brings me so much joy? Top Rankin crochet beaded halter top is to celebrate the feeling of sexiness that comes from within that we all deserve!

Uptown Top Ranking - Althea & Donna
"See me pon the road I hear you call out to me
True you see mi inna pants and ting
See mi in a 'alter back
Sey mi gi' you heart attack
Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist

Smiles :)
Tuly Maimouna

Friday, 30 January 2015

R&S: Curtain Hanger Earrings!

Upcycled hanger earrings
I am an avid thrifter, and in my mind there is no more of a magical place than the thrift store. It blows my mind every time to find the little jems that people decide to part with! Everything about it is wonderful, but what leaves me in absolute wonder is the smell of used things. The very distinct smell of the thrift store often leaves me wondering what stories these items have to tell, and what journeys they have been on before finding themselves here. It is a hub of thousands of stories untold; worn out shoes, brand new garments, old books, random trinkets, broken frames...where did they come from and what purpose did they serve to the people who owned them? The joy of thrifting for me comes in finding new purpose for old/used things. This process is called upcycling. The wiki definition of upcycling is: the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value. Despite the fact that going to the thrift store satisfys a unnamed itch than nothing else can, (and at such an affordable price) it also offers the option to find one of a kind materials that can be recycled into something new! 

Random curtain hangers
Recently I found a bag of these random wooden curtain hangers at the thrift store for a grand total of $3.15. I looovveee wood anything, especially jewelry, and finding nice and affordable wooden jewelry where I live isn't easy. So what did I decide to do? As always, recycle and save of course! I decided to upcycle the random wooden curtain hangers into some thrifty and crafty wooden earrings! This super easy R&S project takes about 2 minutes to finish up and requires the following materials:


1. Open the hook attachment of the hanger using the needle nose pliers, attach one of the jump rings, and close attachment of hanger (as shown above)

2. Open fishhook earring attachment with needle nose pliers, attach to jump ring and close fishhook attachment (as above)

That's it! In two easy steps you now have some brand new, fly and one of a kind wooden earrings! I'm not sure where these wooden curtain hangers came from or how they ended up in the thrift store, but for me giving used materials a new story and purpose is a part of the magical process of thrifty crafting!

Smiles :)

Tuly Maimouna

Monday, 15 December 2014

R&S: Phunk'd Craftyhoar Fabric Scrap Placemats

Phunk'd placemats + my plant children
I am sure I have said it time and time again that I am a hoarder. The deeper I delve into the depths of crafty creativity, the more the things I hoard become endless an possibility for birthing crafty brainchildren. I have been teaching myself to sew for quite some time now and have been reusing/re-purposing many of my old clothes in an attempt to make new ones. One day while trying to sew myself a jumper following youtube seamstress Meesha TV tutorial on How To Make a Jump Suit Easy at the end of her video she reminds us to 'never throw away your scraps'. Since then I have been hoarding scraps of fabric from all of my sewing projects. 

My MeeshaTV Jumper (from old house clothes)
Now, there comes a brief fleeting moment in every hoarders life when you tell yourself 'this shit is too much'. It is accompanied by an overwhelming sensation of being consumed by things, then followed by the moment of reassurance when we become complacent in our hoarding tenancies and remind ourselves that the purpose of these things will soon be revealed. Needless to say I have a lot of crafty supplies that need storage, so I decided to look up a DIY tutorial on how to make baskets. I found this really simple how to make a fabric basket by TheCraftyGemini that uses cotton clothes line wrapped with fabric to make beautiful baskets of different sizes. With the purpose of my fabric scarps finally revealed, and being far eager to get this project popping I soon found myself annoyed and dejected. For some reason mine just didn't turn out as fly as the ones in the video. They were flat. No matter how hard I tried in all of my frustration I couldn't get them to be basket like. Crafting always has its up and downs and the first rule to remember is that no one is born a master, phunk ups will happen! And sometimes the phunk ups that can be a product of our frustrations, efforts and imagination end up manifesting into new ideas we had never envisioned. In my attempts to make fancy baskets I ended up with these beautiful placements that I so fitting like to call Phunk'd. 

Phunk'd Kanga Placemats
To get this final product I followed CraftyGeminis' tutorial minus a few tweaks; I used twine instead of cotton (because it was what i had) and just sewed in a flat circle until I got the desired size for my placemats. I didn't spend any $$$ on the supplies cause they are what I have lying around, but twine can be bought at the dollar store and you can use any old fabric you wish! Including old shirts, sheets etc.

My girlfriend reminds me all the time that stuff will happen, it is the way that we respond that shapes who we are. In the case of crafting, sometimes it can be really frustrating, time consuming or it just get all kinds of phunk'd up. But when we open our minds to the possibility of creative solutions, we become the masters in manifesting new kinds of magical creations!

Smiles :)
Tuly Maimouna

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Throwback: Craftgression

Yellow Pompom Scarf
double crochet stitch
It's always interesting for me to see how any artists craft progresses the more involved they become. I have been rediscovering some of the old things I had made and forgot to share! I went through a pompom scarf faze a couple of years back and I made this one here for a close friend of mine. This is what I like to call a throwback craftgression (craft progression) this is one of the first few things I had ever made! You've seen where I am, now see where i was!
Smies :)
Tuly Maimouna

Friday, 17 October 2014

Kitenge: Profit Seeking & Cultural Appropriation

Kitenge Earrings
I have been thinking a lot about cultural appropriation lately. Is it possible that even members of a given ethnic or cultural community can participate in the appropriation of their own culture? 

I was in East Africa for a while earlier this year. I went to visit family, go to my cousins wedding and just relish in the happiness of being back home. As a part of that visit I made sure to attain as many crafting supplies as possible, mostly glass beads, vitenge, and jewelry making accessories. I can never find nice and affordable vitenge here in Canada, and all the other crafting materials are so much cheaper there than here. So I merrily went around connecting with other crafters in markets, in my home area, and with Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that support local crafting entrepreneurs to find wholesale prices. With every new product I came across I was ecstatic at the thought of the money I was saving for the quality I was getting. When I got back to Canada and found inspiration enough to get into the crafting groove I started making earrings. If y'all don't know by now, I love big earrings. Hate the heft though. So I thought that these super lightweight and boldy coloured kitenge earrings would be perfect. As I started making and selling them I had this growing feeling of discomfort and constantly thought to myself thought, 'am I selling my own culture for financial profit?' I started feeling like I was participating in the process of rendering cultural artifact to commercial product. I realized that I have absolutely no idea what the history of vitegne are within my countries of origin and instead of trying to learn their meaning I have rendered them nothing more than fashion accessory. For example, remember my post on kangas? Kangas often reflect current events. The sayings written on the bottom are not neutral or without meaning. They can tell stories of political or historical events, reflect religious values, offer advice and knowledge through proverbs, or have encouraging words. They are used during wedding rituals or when someone gives birth to carry babies. In short they have social value and meaning. Of course they are sold and produced for profit, but attached to them is meaning and purpose.

Beyond that I started looking at all the different ways that African cultures and artifacts have been appropriated as object for consumption or display. In museums, through micro finance projects in developing countries, curios shops, the north American/European fashion industry...and in all of this continental Africans gain little economically. In buying raw materials cheaply and selling finished products at a higher price am I contributing to sustaining poverty in my own home for personal gain? How am I any different from the multinational corporations who extract raw resources like oil, gold, tanzanite and diamonds then refine them and produce finished products for consumption? Am I excused simply because I have roots there? Oh Capitalism. What are the implications in representing my culture as fashion, is the financial or aesthetic trade off worth it? What do you think?

Smiles :)
Tuly Maimouna

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Kimya: The Power of Silence

In June of last year a friend was very ill and was taken off life support. In the midst of hurriedly attempting to navigate the Ontario medical system through hospital visits, story time, family conversations, and connecting with specialists it seemed there was so much happening around her life at such a fast pace that I was very unsure of what to say or do. Watching her quickly deteriorating health I began to feel powerless in the situation and silence suddenly became my place of refuge, partially forced and partially out of dejection.

In an attempt to remain strong I started forcing faces to cover up my choked back tears and closeted crying from the world. Silence due to stigma, silence due to fear, silence out of respect, silence out of understanding, silence out of sadness, silence out of disbelief. When she died on June 14th 2013 I felt overwhelming despair and guilt for being complacent in my silence. I then began to equate silence with weakness and cowardliness. Silence came to represent images of my failure as a friend and its consequences, the horrific images of her lifeless black female body.

For a long time after her death I shut down and remained quiet. I kept my thoughts to myself, I blocked people out, lost interest and hid my intimate self away out of shame. It was as if I was trapped internally and externally by silence. Wordless-ness came to represent the greater part of the last year for me. I was caught  in deep thought reflecting how it was possible that  a young black woman could die in Canada under such disgusting circumstances. I was disillusioned to start thinking about Ontario health institutions as sites of structural violence against black bodies, in the case of my friend not only did they contribute to limiting her access to specialized care as a living being, but they also affected whether or not she got to die with dignity. It was heavy thinking about the broader political and economic contexts that contributed to her death, and I was pissed the phuck off. Her truth was tangled up in medicalized rationalizations of her death and entirely glazed over the larger health inequities that exist in our society, especially for poor racialized womyn.

It wasn't until March of this year when I was at two day retreat that things started to change. I remember being hyper aware of not wanting to say a word to anyone and feeling intensely awkward inside of myself. Whenever we were asked to speak or even just in causal conversation my heart would race. I would feel my heart pumping in my chest, my eyes would fill with tears and I'd develop this hard dry lump in my throat. On the second day of the retreat we were asked to participate in an activity. We were asked to write a word on a piece of paper based on how we felt and move around the room and explain to others why we had chosen that word. I had chosen silence, but I couldn't speak, I just cried. Openly in the arms of a gentle stranger I finally felt peaceful, like I was able to mourn the loss of my friend and the sadness+anger I felt around the circumstance in which she died. It was like coming out of the closet. I realized that my silence was a way of being compassionate with myself, to slowly try and understand and reflect on everything that happened at my own pace. Silence is the opportunity to be with my thoughts, and be within myself in a way that does not involve verbal communication. In that moment silence and compassion gently became intertwined and I was finally able to step outside of myself and gain a different perspective of death, mourning and loss and the realities of structural violence. The initial fear of exploring death and lifting the veil to reality is something that without silence I would not have been able to experience and learn from. The process of turning death to memory through reflection and crochet opened up a space to think critically about inequity and the intersections of class, race and gender. So to my friend gone too soon in life and death you have given me strength to be courageous and act with compassion. You have helped to redefine what community is and how to keep people in our community especially those whose voices are not prioritized. You have taught me the difference between passive and active silence and have opened up a space within me to be able to reflect on how to work advocate for change critically and with love.

So remember Polar Vortex? I dunno about y'all, but last winter was something fierce and I learned a harsh (and freezing) lesson. So I felt compelled to be thoroughly prepared in case we get glazed over with ice again! I made this fall inspired ruffled green, brown and yellow cowel with different kinds of acrylic blended yarn from this pattern on Crochet N' Crafts. I love it! I used about 5 skeins of yarn for this and it took roughly a day to finish making. The shell stitch is really great cause it gives a bobble/ribbed kind of look when complete and it adds for extra warmth! I love making things that reflect the turn of seasons, to me they are metaphors for the different kinds of transitions we make in life and the preparations we make for coming change; whether they be crocheting a cowel to keep warm or making mental and emotional preparations in silence to inform how we support each other, I am in the process of learning to move forward in ways that make sense to me and speak to my lived experiences as well as the lessons learned alongside the people I have grown with.

Ruffle Infinity Cowel
%100 Acrylic Blend

Kimya Cowel

Kimya Cowel

Many smiles :)
Tuly Maimouna

Monday, 3 March 2014

Tumaini: Dolls for Black Girls

Michelle (left) + Friends
I played with dolls until I was 13 years old, with all the active imagination and thrill necessary to make their world come to life. In my imagined world, my dolls were typical city people facing the troubles of relationships, girlfriends, boyfriends, cheating, and work. I had this Groovy Girl and I named her Michelle, she had light brown skin and big curly brown hair. I loved her dearly and used to 'borrow' my next door neighbors Groovy Girls clothes so she would always be looking fly. Although she had brown skin I remember always wishing that I could have beautiful bouncy curls like hers instead of my ole brillo like hair. I always used to make her swing her brown curls with attitude, wishing I could do the same. I was jealous of her and she soon became my ideal standard of beauty and penetrated my imagination. When making Sims characters, Michelle. When I would draw pictures, Michelle. When writing stories, Michelle. When trying to represent myself, Michelle. When thinking about who was beautiful, Michelle. Rarely did I see girls or women who looked like myself in my imagination.

Michelle was one of two black dolls I owned growing up. The second, her name is Stephanie. I have had her for as long as I can remember, but I have no recollection of ever playing with her. Stephanie is a dark skinned doll with shoulder length black yarn hair that resembles locs, she has a coy and full smile, broad nose, green and brown eyes that look up and to the left, and she wore a kitenge (Kenyan dress) - which has since been lost. She never garnered any interest in my childhood imagination so she remained at the bottom of my closet, then in a cold basement, then in a storage unit. A couple of years ago I finally unearthed Stephanie with surprise from a garbage bag full of toys I had been meaning to give to my younger cousins. Despite being in my adult years I gently dusted her off, warmly gave her a hug and apologized. Suddenly Stephanie seemed so beautiful and worthy of my love. Michelle who had also been in the bag with Stephanie harbored no sentiment, despite how integral she had been in my childhood she looked unfamiliar to me like an imagined person from a distant past. I threw Michelle + her friends into my suit case and delivered them to my cousins in Kenya who received them with delight, but I couldn't ignore the feeling of guilt I had giving them dolls that they likely couldn't see themselves in. 

I think there is something to say about people - particularly children, being able to see themselves in the things that they love. Whether it be TV shows, story books, games, or in my case dolls, I think having access to accurate representations of how we see ourselves is important in developing a sense of who we are. Flaws and all, I never realized how much of a privilege it was to be able to insert and see myself in my own imagination until it actually started to happen.

Tubetops, flowing skirts, bright prints, dreadlocs, pink hair and bare feet make me feel sexy

 I tend to be unimpressed with many things and question everything.

My waist is narrow and my hips are wide.

My booty is big and I have black stretch marks above my hips.

Tuly Maimouna

Friday, 20 December 2013

Fab-you-lize: Kanga Nostalgia Blues

Kanga (kah-ng-ah)
A kanga is a brightly printed rectangle of pure cotton cloth with a boarder around it that has bold and elaborate designs. They originated along the east African coast in about the 19th century by swag savvy womyn who would buy different printed kerchiefs and sew them together to get individual designs. By the early 20th century swahili sayings began to be added to kangas. The ever elusive 'they' speculate that this was started by a famous trader in Mombasa, Kenya who would often print proverbs on kangas, others may tell you that this originated in Zanzibar (off the coast of Tanzania) where aphorisms were first printed on kangas in Arabic and later in the roman alphabet. The different kanga prints and sayings have come to reflect social meanings, changes and political events. A fanciful and creative way of advertising and expression! The great thing about them is they are also multi-purpose! I bought this charming book while visiting in Tanzania called Kangas: 101 Uses. The title is pretty self explanatory, it shows you how to tie a kanga into a head-wrap, skirt, different style dresses, bikini top, bathing suit, underwear, how to use it as a towel, baby carrier, scarf, shawl, rug, hang it on your get my point. But one thing it doesn't cover is how to sew kangas!

Example: Kanga Head Wrap!
Tusker Bottle Cap Earings!
Example: Kanga Tube Top!
I was strolling around my favorite undisclosed location and came across a store filled with kangas! I have never seen them for sale here in Canada so I got excited, plus they were only $5.99 each! I instantly fell into deep nostalgia, day dreaming of east Africa caressing the kangas with with a huge smile on my face. Right there and then I decided that I needed this little slice of my paradise to feel a little more at home. I bought four double kangas with a spontaneous project in mind. I have been looking for a fly duvet cover for a while, but I never find anything exceptional or tantalizing. I'm sure impatience drives my creativity, cause I can't wait around for someone else to please me, ain't nobody got time for that! So I decided to fab-you-lize and make it myself! In order to get this project popping here is what you will need;

1. Measure your duvet/bed cover (length & width)
MEASURE TWICE CUT ONCE! That is the number one rule. I made my duvet cover for a queen sized bed so the measurements were roughly 76"x 98" I had to use a hand tool tape measure cause the sewing measuring tape was far too short. You will use these measurements to cut your fabric.
Measuring Tape
2. Iron all of your kangas
If you are going to sew, you need to know how to iron! If you don't, you gon learn from this video. This step is critical! Because you will be cutting the fabric you need to make sure that all the wrinkles are gone so the final product doesn't turn out oblong. I like to use starch when ironing kangas because they are pure cotton it helps to keep it from wrinkling longer. 

Iron & Speed Starch
3. Cut your kangas to the required measurements 
I bought four different kangas because my bed is queen sized, so I had to sew all the pieces together. Depending on the size of your bed you might use less.
- Lay the first two kangas over top of your blanket/duvet and make sure that the black lines are matched up evenly. (This is the way you will sew them together & make sure it is the right length and width that you measured!) 
- Cut little notches where you want to make my final cuts. 
- Cut across each piece...with scissors.
By the way: having sharp fabric scissors will make your cuts a lot less jagged.

How to match the lines 
4. Pin & sew your project together, piece by piece
Make sure that you are pinning it with the inside out! That way all of the sewing you do wont be seen. I pinned from the black lines first. They act as a reference point to insure your project doesn't turn out lopsided.
- Pin two kangas together lengthwise & sew 
- Repeat for the remaining two
- You should end up with two huge kangas sewn together at their longest sides
- Match up the black lines again and pin the two huge kangas together lengthwise & sew
- Repeat for the other side
- Pin & sew the top (width wise) side of the kanga together
- You should now have 3 sides sewn together
- For the final side, from each end sew in 1/3 of the way leaving a gap in the middle (this is where you will insert your duvet from)
By the way: When sewing, sewing needles will save you from a mess of confusion and will help your project move a long faster. They help to secure pieces of fabric together, they help you to imagine how your project will look before you actually sew it. I like use them as markers of where I need to sew and to use them to make sure I sew in a straight line.

Sewing Pins

Kanga Throw Pillow & Reversible Duvet Cover!
My bestie gave me some trim she didn't want and I wasn't sure what to do with it, but you know how we crafts hoars do and I took it anyway. Look at me now! I used the scrap pieces from the kangas to make this really cute throw pillow! 

My kanga bed!

This took me quite a while, and a few funk ups to make, so take a break walk away but make sure to come back to it! This is probably one of the most exciting projects I have done yet, I am so pleased with the way it turned out! It makes me so happy I even feel more inclined to make my bed in the morning! Now there are 2 more uses for kangas! The colours are so bright and warm I see no better way to beat the nostalgia and winter blues than to cuddle up to a little piece of east African paradise by fab-you-lizing.

Update 2014: I made a basic 40" x 40" pillow that is great for lying in bed and reading...or doing anything else! It is filled with a 20" x 20" foam square enveloped with cotton stuffing.

Smiles :)
Tuly Maimouna

Any questions, something not clear? Just ask!