Vegas and life after

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Time moves so speedily, I almost cannot fathom that I was in Las Vegas 3 weeks ago.

Vegas was laid-back, which is exactly how we wanted it. We saw JLO’s All I Have show at Planet Hollywood, and kicked off our evenings with glasses of fizz in our penthouse.(we stayed at the Aria). I stocked up on all the luscious smelling things at LUSH and luxuriated in relaxing baths in our jacuzzi tub.Other things I savored were afternoons spent by the pool (a can of corona in hand),or sitting and reading in my little nook in my room, overlooking a dynamic view of the Vegas Strip.

Two restaurants were noteworthy this time around. Andrea’s,Steve Wynn’s latest restaurant had the most mouth watering kumamoto oysters and is evocatively designed with a pop art installation of Wynn’s wife, Andrea’s eyes. Herbs and Rye was quite far off the strip but certainly lived up to its best bar in America accolade. The lobster tail with garlic mash was also a great choice on my part.

I’m back to navigating Lagos life and boy does it have its challenges! I have been feeling low-spirited and in a cul-de-sac. When I get the blues I often guilt trip myself by actively expressing  gratitude but that has so far proven futile.

All has not been bleak to be honest. I’ve been more adept at seeking any kind of cultural stimulation, directly or indirectly. For instance, I’ve finally seen the films Moonlight, Julieta(been so long since I watched a film by Almodóvar),Beasts of No Nation and Captain Fantastic, all of which I thoroughly recommend.

Reading wise, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book Dear Ijeawele or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions is the most intelligent and crucial thing I have read recently.  Alain de Botton’s Art as Therapy,although quite different and somewhat controversial (the discourse is weak and ruminates blindly in parts), comes a close second.

An amazing thing that has happened to me, is meeting a really kind,sweet and interesting man. I don’t know what he will mean to me long term, but last Sunday we had a date, which we spent sitting on a bench in a room at an art gallery chatting, oblivious to time slipping by….finally leaving 6 hours later! I’m almost okay with not quite knowing what the future holds and enjoying the moments we spend in each other’s company.

LONDON TOWN

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I really do cherish the quiet moments in which I find myself here again, sharing simple stories about life and realizing that foremost and selfishly I am writing for myself,just to remember.

A fair chunk of last month was sublimely spent in London town, revisiting old haunts and discovering new ones.  I was happy to spend time drinking chocolatey tasting lattes at Monocle Cafe, be it on a late afternoon accompanied by Cohen’s poetry, or early Sunday mornings with one of my best friends. I find the café atmospheric in a really understated way.

Another new discovery was The Koppel Project, which is a hub space that contains Phaidon’s only UK bookshop. I found a book on collecting art that I had trailed the ends of central London in search of to no avail, so I was pretty pleased about that.

Halfway through the month, my family left the harsh cold of my favourite city for Las Vegas!

CHANGES

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pictures taken at Babylonstoren, a Cape Dutch farm in the Western Cape of South Africa

Gosh it has been very many moons since I last found myself here. I just have not had the words to say,which is quite unusual for me. My life has altered in very many ways and for a long time I felt it only right to respect my current metamorphosis and just live in the moment.

What is there to say?

Over the summer I studied at Central Saint Martins and that decision was a pivotal step towards altering my career path. I had always seen myself ending up somewhere like the United Nations, but ever since my mother passed away, I suppose that I realized that I have nothing much to loose.So into the art world I dove. Presently I manage some artists at an international award winning pop-up gallery space and creative agency in Lagos. For the most part I have taught myself through incessant gallery visits, books,documentaries, chatting with gallerists and curators and ultimately shadowing the curation of live acts for West Africa’s first international art festival.I continue to learn everyday.

I miss London so. But more than I miss London, I trust life and God. I  hope to be back permanently in an unknown near future, when I’m wiser, smarter and have taken away whatever is at the cusp of this present time.

I’m surprised by some of the things I am still navigating my way around. Earlier this year I reached the mental space to end an emotional relationship that was detrimental to my well being. It still baffles me how words can bear so little weight,as much as you want to believe they are more than lifeless utterances. Maya Angelou was certainly right when she said ‘when people show you who they are,believe them‘. In addition, I watched a friendship wilt away with a lot of sadness,but also a lot of understanding,that you cannot hold people up to a standard they continue to fail to live up to, despite repeated promises.

I read some fantastic books towards the end of 2016 . My favorites were  Emma Cline’s The Girls, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime.

So that’s where I am presently. Attempting to immerse myself in work, possibly navigating my personal life better(I hope!) and longing for next month’s visit to London and then Vegas! Until then, here are some pictures from my time in South Africa a couple of weeks ago.

oh! I forgot to say one more thing.

I’m really happy to be writing here again 🙂

 

glasshouses

Edinburgh was scenic. We sauntered up and down hilly pathways and strained our necks to see the bottom of gracefully perilous coves. We had sublime tea at The Balmoral and negronis with lunch,whilst surrounded by fresh flowers at Maison Bleue. At The Old Town Bookshop,my sister bought her favorite volume of William Wordsworth’s poetry, while I went for a penguin edition of Katherine Mansfield’s Something Childish but Very Natural.And then we went to the Royal Botanical Garden.

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For a small fee we trailed around the Centre’s 9 glasshouses,which all depicted a varied species of flora, as well as the temperatures of the climate and regions from which they originate. I imagined that I was in the desert in Nevada and a few minutes later was awakened to the spicy petrichor that is a rainy day in Santiago. It was little short of a miracle.If the glasshouse above were in a book, I would suggest Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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DUBAI

In his book The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton writes about how our experience of a new city is often tainted with the dispositions we bring from our home cities.  This is a trait I have tried to counter. So on this trip, I found a way for my home concerns( work, further travel plans,recovering from an acute respiratory infection), to be in communion with the present. Having done that, I have loved this city very much.

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My story of Dubai is not one that involves towering hotels and floors paved with gold. This is because I generally describe myself as a paper bag princess(the kind of woman who is not above a meal of store bought ramen, accompanied by a flute of veuve cliquot,enjoyed whilst leaning against a countertop:) ).That’s just my vibe.I wanted my Dubai to have a soul and so I went looking for it. Upon arrival at the airport, I stopped by Dubai mall,where I headed to the Gucci boutique to pick up a pair of sunglasses from their new collection. The mall was rather overwhelming in the way it tries to be anything and everything.(While I was pleased to try some coffee from Tim Horton’s for example, I would rather have had that experience in Canada).

I went to my apartment which was just across the street from the mall,just off Sheikh Zayed road. A naturally bright dig with a rooftop pool that over the next few days, my best friend and I would spend hours contentedly swimming in and lounging around.

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In the following days, I spent a fair amount exploring Old Dubai.My first visit was one in which we embraced the hustle and bustle of the strictly regulated Gold Souk in Deira. After much haggling, I left with a simple gold bracelet for 1500 dirhams ( £300) and although not pictured, it was such a fun experience. Our next venture to Old Dubai was to the Al Fahidi neighbourhood,which is traditionally beautiful, due to its twisting alley ways and old buildings made of materials like gypsum,stone and sandalwood. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of its silence at times, except for birds casually chirping.

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We stumbled upon the Coffee museum, which was entirely curious,especially for a fairly new lover of coffee. After a peruse we headed to our actual destination, the XVA Art Hotel, a boutique hotel and art destination which has hosted presentations for fashion houses like Chanel,Fendi and Louis Vuitton and boasts three romantic and tranquil courtyards,one of which moonlight’s as the establishment’s vegetarian cafe.

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I can confirm that the cafe’s mint lemonade is just as described,legendary. Between us we shared a veggie thali and a beetroot rosti with sweet potato chips,accompanied by a carrot hummus dip that was delectable.

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When planning my trip, I had contemplated spending a full day in Abu Dhabi,because it is the emirate with the most rapidly evolving art scene. Both the Louvre and Guggenheim,currently have building projects in the works there.However, I was fairly disappointed that their opening dates have been elusive and subject to change,which meant I could not visit. I did however find something of much character at the XVA,which was the Iranian artist Morteza Zahedi’s Toy Story exhibition. An exhibit in which every piece metaphorically alludes to childhood memories.For me personally,it was reminiscent of Walt Disney’s 1940s film Fantasia,which is the most beautiful blend of dark and eerie animation,accompanied by classical music.For this reason I concluded that the exhibition was the perfect ode to the peter-pan disposition in all of us.

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Le couer est belle, qu’est-ce  que tu penses?

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I should mention that this teddy is not a part of the exhibit, but was found at the neighbouring gallery of Make Art Cafe, Al Serkal’s Heritage House.

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When I researched the best destination for coffee in Dubai, Espresso Lab was the synonymous choice, both from hearsay and online.Located on the ground floor of the serene Hundred Wellness Center in Dubai,  a haven of shady trees,where sunshine sneakily kisses one’s skin, it was the ideal environment to be schooled on their coffee and the brand’s integrity. We both had an 8 ounce of Costa Rica, which translates as a latte made from Costa Rican coffee beans,which can be stirred for a softer effect on the palate.

Espresso Lab also has a policy of no milk alternatives and sugar,preferring to guide the customer through a genuine coffee experience.It was by far the best coffee I have ever had. We befriended the barista Freddie, who had such delicious tales about his passion for coffee, spanning from his home of Uganda, coffee fields in Ethiopia and currently Dubai. We were reluctant to leave. Such experience felt like inhaling precious air and holding it in…..not quite wanting to let it go.

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And so there is my Dubai. Patches of serenity in the bustling desert. Many fantastic meals on the patio of Cafe Bateel( two of those instances are simultaneously  pictured above). A late night at the standard hangout Reem Al-Bawadi, red wine and good music at Tribeca, a subpar lunch at Tom & Serg.

Speaking of Tom&Serg(pictured below),I found the Shakashuka delicious,although the accompanying bread was rock hard.That would have been forgivable, if the tacos weren’t also inconsistent due to their finicky assemblage and prawns nestled in a sponge of oily batter.In addition,the industrial space felt too contrived,thus failing to deliver the cool ambience I had hoped for.The addressing system in Dubai is quite a challenge, so leaving your part of town in search of good food should come with an honest word-of-mouth.

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All that being said, I have much to be grateful for. I am pondering just that,as I watch the sunset from my balcony and contemplate walking over to Dubai Mall to watch the fountains (which I find beautiful and emotional in equal measure) and pick up a thing or two from a gallery I spotted. I am lucky and I cannot wait to be back in a few months, for the most beautiful wedding.

Une étrangère

Being a certain type of foreigner is an idyllic thing. When I think of my own brand of foreign, I think along the lines of the infamous Sting song, Englishman in New York.A window seat in a pretentiously elusive restaurant. Thinking about  James Baldwin‘s  Giovanni’s Room as one walks down a cobbled road in Le Quartier Latin.Tea over coffee,a peacoat and pointy Italian shoes. Amusingly I still feel very much a foreigner in many places that are home,in part because of the hybrid of cultures I’ve been influenced by. Recently I was thinking about how I only think of certain things in French,rather than English.Also,my accent is lost in translation between a  West African and Central Londoner. I fully embrace these things, as well as the questions about where I am from(as long as it doesn’t hint at a xenophobic persuasion).

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By all means the imagination can be such a vivid gift and when its time to see a new city, it is quite possible to create the kind of experiences that are in essence dream like. Fells Point is a neighbourhood in Baltimore that is characteristically nautical as well as easy on the eyes.When we visited,we chose to try out the most popular eating establishment in the area, Blue Moon Cafe.  From there we got glorious gelato at Pitango(pistachio and espresso were our flavours of choice), covered the many corners of ARHAUS and indulged in a late evening treat at Anthropologie. It was all quite fun and most of all discerning of the realisation that there is only one way to see a city.And that is however you wish.

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Not my place but nevertheless…

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Baltimore is not my place and I say that with almost as much conviction as I know my name.

In her e-mail,my never-met -friend Akadia described the city as broken in parts but she also faithfully added that there are people who work with love to make the city better.

The first thing I noticed about Baltimore was this perplexing marriage between wealth and grit. Neither can escape the other, although they don’t gel well. Too many neighborhoods look like they’ve been hit by something terrible, but such thoughts seem a mirage when less than  a mile away, you find yourself smack bang in the throes of an antipodean lifestyle.

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I sensed that juxtaposition as I rode in the car to Woodberry Kitchen for brunch. Late last night I had googled ‘the best restaurant in Baltimore’ and that’s how I found myself there. The kind of place that honored my 12:33 am request for a non communal table, in their beautifully restored factory space. I had something with crab and although the name eludes me,it was very delicious.

I suppose that there will always be places we seek, not because we are searching for a part of ourselves, but because we want to understand.