Coffee table books have become part of a culture of home, something we use for decoration more than to read, but with more time spent indoors, (remember outside?) I have developed a habit of not simply oogling the pictures of a coffee table book, but properly delving into them as well. I have a few, as you do, and will continue to collect them. Books like these are mini history and informative guides in our home. And for me, have become one of the rituals around late evening shenanigans which involves a glass of something fine, silk loungewear, a robe of some sort and music in the background. I told you, I am indulgent indoors.


I met Elizabeth Holmes on twitter and later IRL in London when she came over for Fashion Week. I was enamoured by her commentary on fashion, it did not simply skim the surface, she sinks into the minutiae that reveals history. Her book HRH: So Many Thoughts On Royal Style is true to her informative and captivating style. The book is equal parts a fantastic tome, an encyclopaedic resource and a deep dive on the psychology of dressing up, the reasons behind they way women in the royal family wear what they wear, and the implied message behind every look, every hair flick and every stiletto. It is a master in fashion speak, the pictures are incredible but it’s the history and Elizabeth’s knack for going further than the thread and needle into what makes the seamless image, that speaks volumes. It is a history lesson in fashion through the ages. I’ll admit, whilst I am not a royalist, I enjoy observing the cacophonous pomp and pageantry once a while, and the obvious feathers being ruffled by the presence of Meghan Markle in the Royal family, by British media (it is a trip to watch them loose it at her audacity to be herself. I love it,). There are few people who actually pique my interest in the royal family, Elizabeth Holmes is one of them. There is an attention to detail here that informs our thought on dressing up and how we choose what we choose; the wider message at play. This is not just a rock up and roll scenario, levels of thought have gone into it and it plays a defining role in the legacies. I say all this to say, go buy the book because it’s a fabulous read. And a great one to gift and for your coffee table. So one for you, one for me sort of thing.


Need I say more? But I will, this is an exploration of the beauty of being Black. A celebration of ourselves the way we see us and the way ought to be seen by the wider world. This is a history through the ages, a definitive and unapologetic history of us; our hair styles, fashion sense, culture and the way we are. Black people, have gotten used to being defined by adjectives and preconceived notions, used to curtailing ourselves for fear of coming across as the real version of… well us. Our stories are told by other people who haven’t the foggiest about us, our cultures and traditions, ways of life and our roots. This is a celebration of Blackness and the essence of our beauty, something the beauty industry at large has failed until recently, read the FENTY effect, to acknowledge and cater to, despite Black woman being chief spenders in the industry according to a Neilsen report. Not that I need a Neilsen report to tell me that I am a contributor to the industry, my skincare and make up cabinet tell me so and for companies who simply refuse to toe this line leave dollars on the table for small brands and businesses to collect and I for one am glad that these brands are stepping up to the place to take all our monies; they deserve it. In 2020 and beyond, they deserve all of it. The dialogue in mainstream brands is still not shockingly and predominantly white and we as power spenders, who prop the industry are still made to feel like an inconvenience, looking from the outside in. This book allows us not only to own our narrative but to proclaim the pride we feel in the many beautiful things about us as Black people and to tell the world that we as we are, wholly as we are, are beautiful. Nothing less.


Continuing on with the celebration of Black women in industry and the many stories and achievements we hardly hear about. From Beverley Johnson to Tyra Banks, to Alex Wek, fashion still remains problematic on representation, no matter how many steps have been taken in that direction, how many black squares on instagram was posted by brands and a public declaration to do better, action often speaks much louder than empty platitudes. I am here for anything that reaffirms the greatness of Black people, especially Black women because we are most often underserved yet overly contributory. Seeing Black models on the runways, in campaigns etc, remains an anomaly in the industry at large, yet our culture is often exploited without credit, filtered within an inch of its life, white washed and packaged to make it more palatable whilst stripping out the essence of it or the stories about it. This book leaves us with no doubt that Black women are fashion powerhouses a fact that should never be forgotten or for that matter, questioned.


When the history of the world is rewritten, I hope the stories are more accurate and told by the people whose lives were altered by it. The Benin Republic (pronounced Bene; at least that’s how I grew pronouncing) was once upon a time, a super power of West Africa, whose history, like most places, during the slave trade was interrupted by colonisation from the west. Life and Afterlife in Benin captures life, death, quite literally, and the pivotal moments in between of the Benin people. It is rare that African photography go past the west’s more recent (read late to the table, VERY LATE) discoveries of Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita, whose works have become even more celebrated posthumously. We don’t hear any stories, little to none if that, of other photographers from the continent, whose work depicted much of life as they knew it. With the works of nine photographers, Life and Afterlife in Benin captures the culture, pre and post colonial traditions, within the kingdom, from voodoo worship to high priestesses of the god of thunder, and Mami-wata worshippers, prostitutes and pimps, and the dead-bodies being interred. In the 60s and 70s, photography in the republic took on a more celestial role, particularly in death, as people believed a picture captured the soul of the dead within it. Voo-doo remains the main religion in Benin today, whilst catholicism co-exists along side, theirs is a belief in the connectivity of the spirit world which dominates much of societal practises, still.


One of my favourite travel books this year, it inspires a sense of discovery whilst enriching the bucket list. The pictures are beautiful the snippets are intriguing, it explores the world whilst encouraging us to go even further in our discoveries. It is the instagram grid come to life in prose and definitely something to add to your coffee table collection and to indulge in that evening tradition of ours.