By Nafeesah Allen
On May 25 1963, representatives from countries in Africa gathered in Ethiopia to forge an alliance based on liberty and freedom.
They celebrated May 25th to mark the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which would later become the African Union. Then, Southern Africa was still mired in colonisation and apartheid, but the gathered leaders felt their co-operation would improve quality of life across Africa and throughout the Diaspora.
Fifty-eight years of progress prove that they were right. To celebrate the day, there’s no better way to showcase the beauty of the continent than to take a photographic journey through its landscape.
These seven coffee table books let you hold a beloved piece of Africa in the palm of your hands.
The African Game
Andrew Dosunmu was born in Nigeria and started his career as a design assistant for Yves Saint Laurent. He evolved into film and photography, transferring his eye for high fashion onto the cultures of modern Africa.
His breath-taking images of Africa’s purest pastime, football (or soccer for us Americans), brings home the notion that this sport is no more European than it is African. After all, a great many of the world’s most popular athletes hail from the continent.
The African Game showcases over 200 photos from countries like Cameroon, Egypt, and Togo, where the ambitions of young players meet an undying pride for national and local teams. Together, the collection shows how deeply embedded the sport is in the design of daily life.
Born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Moira Forjaz embodied the racial complexities of the apartheid regime. Her paternal grandparents were from Riga (then Russia, now Latvia) and her maternal ones were from Ireland.
This book captures her photos and memories of Mozambique, a country she frequently visited from Johannesburg, where she moved in the 1960s. There, she became acquainted with white anti-apartheid activists, like Ruth First, who went into exile in Mozambique and established a life among anti-colonial artists and thought-leaders.
Her photo journey throughout Mozambique tracks an extremely tense time in southern African history, when violence was high and multi-racial societies were taboo.
Only released in 2015, Forjaz’ black and white images return us to this by-gone era, when citizenships were in constant flux, demographics were shifting, unity was brazen, and borders were selectively porous.
The African Lookbook: A Visual History of 100 Years of African Women
Every one of these 240 pages is a testament to the excellence, endurance, and elegance of African women — past, present, and future.
The collection took over 30 years to amass and its display as a singular text was meant to decouple the powerlessness of black female bodies as objects of sexuality or servitude. This book offers a century’s worth of images that say much more about the biases of the photographer than the reality of the African female subject.
Yet, the creative and artistic corrections of the contemporary contributors like Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat and Oslo-based sociologist and artist Frida Orupabo display the hopeful spirit of pan-Africanism, the founding principle of Africa Day.
A Long Way Home: Migrant Worker Worlds 1800-2014
A Long Way Home takes readers through some of South Africa’s most hidden spaces: its mines, its hostels, and its never-ending story of migration.
Seen as one of Africa’s most prosperous countries, South Africa is a beacon for job seekers from around the world. Moreover, it’s main cities — Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town — are also sites of internal migration, making the workforce diverse and transient. This text is lightweight though its subject is dense.
Alongside intimate photos, 18 chapters offer a window into migration workers’ journeys, many of which have never truly ended.
I Love to Dress Like I Am Coming from Somewhere
I Love to Dress Like I am Coming From Somewhere and I Have Some Place To Go is an ode to the aesthetic of quotidian life. Swiss photographer Flurina Rothenberger defies stereotypes through a camera lens.
Raised in Cote d’Ivoire until she was 13, Rothenberger shows an appreciation for the daily dignity of people thriving in West African cities. The title itself is an unwritten rule in many urban landscapes, where being on the cutting edge of dress is to be at the forefront of society.
Appearances are not just about what you have, but how you carry yourself in the face of adversity. This book is not a look into the ego of attire, but into the quiet nobility of decorum.
“This is one of the main go-to books of any designer that I know in any adornment/garment/accessory related genre. One of the most stunning books depicting the human act of everyday art – the very process of dressing the body. A classic,” wrote Tenerah Idia about this title.
Idia is the founder and creative director of Idia’Dega, an ethical and ecological accessories and apparel brand based in Kenya. As her glowing review indicates, not only are the photos in this book absolutely stunning, but they also educate readers about the crafts(wo)manship of beadwork and jewellery-making across the region.
Swahili Chic: The Feng Shui of Africa
Swahili Chic: The Feng Shui of Africa takes a look at the interior design approach and the architectural markers of homes, hotels, and lodges along Kenya’s east coast.
Blending Indian, Middle Eastern, and African tastes, the cultures of Africa’s Indian Ocean communities show an appreciation for the coastal climate and a beckoning breeze.
This book will ensure you book your next vacation wherever the monsoon winds take you and that you’ll use those crosswinds as inspiration to design your own calming oasis wherever home might find you. – House Beautiful