The Ladybug is back home in Dakar

Car Rapide

Going back to Dakar felt more like going back home for me. Senegal is my second home and Dakar is my second city (Milan is my third, even if I live here, if you were wondering!!).

Even if I was there a few years before it felt like many things have changed in two years: new buildings, museums, mosques, highways, Dakar is a very fast-pace-moving city and I was really surprised about the big changes in just few years!

It is a very crowded and noisy city but I can’t help loving it so much. I love it for its vibrant atmosphere, the music, the people, the colored car rapides (public buses – see picture above) I love it for being so modern but so traditional at the same time, always open to renovate, to look at the future without forgetting its past. Dakar is a city of art, museums, street art, probably one of the most interesting cities in Western Africa.

We arrived from the Lac Rose, not long after lunch which gave us some time to spend in the city before going home (real home, as I spent the last few days with my Senegalese family). The first thing I asked to see was the Rail station in the city center. Why? Because I madly fell in love with the decadence of this colonial building the last time and I read some time before that it was completely renovated. I was happy to see that the renovation did not change the vibes of this wonderful building (very art deco) that has a beautiful story to tell. I was also happy that my favorite basket crafter and the lovely Malian market were still there though!

We then moved to the second big news in town: the newly inaugurated (just a few weeks before) Mosque of Massalikul Djinaane, one of the biggest mosques in Western Africa. It took 15 years to be completed but I was in complete admiration of the wonderful rich decorations of this mosque, that we visited at the sunset where its colors were sublimated by the golden light. After this amazing visit I couldn’t be happier to finally see my Senegalese family after so long.

Dakar Train Station
Mosque Massalikul Djinaane
Mosque Massalikul Djinaane

Even if the celebrations of being with my Senegalese family lasted until late, I woke up super early in the morning to take the boat to Gorée, an island that really took my heart the last time. I really wanted to go back there and this was maybe the only place in Dakar that did not change in the meantime.

Gorée is a UNESCO Word Heritage Site, because of its symbolic role in the Atlantic slave trade although it is a bit under discussion in the history of the slave trade. On the island there is the House of Slaves (Maison des esclaves), built by an Afro-French Métis family about 1780–1784. The House of Slaves is one of the oldest houses on the island. It is now used as a tourist destination to show the horrors of the slave trade throughout the Atlantic world and its visit will not let you indifferent. I cried as a baby the first time, so did I the second one. The only thing that can make you stop crying is the beauty of the island itself, its breath taking views on the ocean, its lovely super colored houses, the warmth of the people, the many artists who live there, the rhythm of djembe. The memories that I have here are priceless.

Maison des Esclaves – Gorée
Porte de non-retour, Maison des Esclaves, Goréee
Drummers in Gorée

I spent the morning on the island until lunch time, then I took the boat to come back to Dakar and to continue the visit to the new “happenings” in town. Another big news was the newly inaugurated Museum of Black Civilizations, that is conceived with the goal of highlighting “Africa’s contribution to the world’s cultural and scientific patrimony”. No need to say that I was speechless in front of such a representation of the histories and contemporary cultures of Black people everywhere, even outside Africa.

We moved back to the city center to have a long walk in the Medina, the old town, to visit the “Grande Mosque” (only from the outside as visitors are not allowed) and to enjoy the real Dakar, as I call the Medina, a neighborhood full of history but also a new cultural and artistic center of the city, especially for young artists and street artists.

We then moved towards the Corniche to visit (again!) the African Renaissance Monument (Monument de la Renaissance Africaine), a copper statue (the tallest in Africa) located on top of one of the twin hills known as Collines des Mamelles overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and representing a family drawn up towards the sky, the man carrying his child on his biceps and holding his wife by the waist, “an Africa emerging from the bowels of the earth, leaving obscurantism to go towards the light”. In front of this monument stands one of my favorite Mosques in Dakar, the Mosquée de la Divinité. Not as beautiful as the others mentioned before but I have a special affection for it that makes it very beautiful to my eyes!

Musée des Civilisations Noires
Monument de la Renaissance Africaine
Monument de la Renaissance Africaine
Mosquée de la Divinité
Mosquée de la Divinité

We left the last day in Dakar for shopping and believe me, it is the hardest part!

First of all because Dakar is full of amazing markets and you cannot miss many of them, not only for buying food and other stuff but also because some of them are just amazing!

Marché Kermel is worth a visit especially for the building: housed within a kiln-shaped hall built during colonial times, the market has been a gathering spot for traders to sell their wares to European settlers since 1910 and it is a pleasure to spend some time among the typical Senegalese food and drink sellers to discover more about the culinary culture of the city. If you feel at ease, there is a very rudimental “restaurant” on the side where you can eat many different typical dishes at few euros (I did!).

Marché Sanadaga is a cluttered and congested marke, full of boutiques, side streets and stalls offering really everything and very good for wax print fabrics, even if the best for it is definitely Marché HLM in my opinion: full of colourful stacks of wax and bazin you can sip attaya (tea) while negotiating the prices!

Marché Tilène in the Medina is very similar to Sandaga and also very interesting, as well as Colobane, one of the less touristic ones, specialized in second hand clothes (oh yes, even in Dakar!!).

Last but not least, the artisanal market of Soumbédioune is a sort of small village where you can buy anything locally handcrafted (perfect to buy your little gifts) but it is more touristic then you will need to negotiate more here than everywhere else.  

But Dakar has also a very vibrant fashion environment that is absolutely a not-to-miss when in town: Sisters of Afrika, Adama Paris, L’artisane, Sassy Chic, Tongoro are just a few names of amazing Senegalese designers who have their show room in Dakar that I strongly suggest to visit. I got a few dresses from Sisters of Afrika and Adama Paris and I couldn’t be happier.

It was a hard shopping day among markets and designers but we took a break for lunch to head to the Almadies, also known as the surfers’ paradise where we enjoyed a good lunch on the beach at The Secret Spot while admiring the Senegalese surfers on the ocean.

I was then ready (not really) to take a night flight from Dakar that would bring me home in the early morning the next day. Now I will miss Senegal so badly until I can go back again.

What to eat

Thieboudienne: the national dish, prepared with fish, rice, vegetables and tomato sauce cooked in one pot; it is usually served in a big bowl so that everyone can eat from it, it symbolizes the famous Senegalese teranga, their hospitality.

Mafé: possibly my favorite dish in Senegal, is a traditional spicy Senegalese stew made with a tomato-peanut butter sauce.  The stew can be made from beef, lamb, or chicken with variations common throughout West Africa and it is served with rice. I don’t eat meat, unless it’s a mafé!

Yassa: Yassa is a spicy dish prepared with onions and meat or fish. Originally from Senegal, yassa has become popular throughout West Africa. Chicken yassa (known as yassa au poulet), prepared with onions, lemon or mustard, is a specialty from the Casamance region in the south of Senegal. Yassa Poisson (with fish) is my favorite one.

Naglakh: Ngalakh is a delicious Senegalese millet porridge that is traditionally flavored with either baobab cream, peanut butter, or sweet yogurt. It is typically served in large bowls as a dessert. The dish is consumed chilled, and it is recommended to sprinkle it with sugar before eating.

Domoda: Domoda is the national dish of Gambia, but you can easily find it also in Senegal. It is a peanut stew made with or without meat and served over fluffy rice. If meat is used in the dish, it is usually beef, bushmeat, or chicken. If Domoda is made without meat, any available vegetables can be added into the stew, usually pumpkins and sweet potatoes

Bissap/Bouye/Attaya: don’t leave the country if you haven’t tried the best drinks of Senegal! Bissap is a fresh drink made from the hibiscus (called bissap here) while Bouye is made with the baobab fruit. Attaya is the typical sugary Senegalese tea and I can tell you that you will ask for it all the time once you try it once!

Where to eat

Everywhere, especially in the streets or small family restaurants. I have never tasted bad Senegalese food, even if when I eat it at home, prepared by my Senegalese family, I am completely in heaven!

What to buy

Handmade textiles (wax, bazin): the Dakar markets are perfect to buy a lot of typical African textiles such as wax and bazin at very affordable prices compared to Europe. Just pay attention to the different quality of the textiles. Prices are almost standardized so you can negotiate basically if you buy many (as I do!).

Handmade silver Jewelry: Senegalese handcrafters are specialized in silver jewelry that has here incredible shapes inspired by the muslim sacred jewelry tradition and the tuareg one. My favorite rings come from Senegal and have important meanings for me as many of them have religious connotations.

Wooden home decorations: masks, statues, bowls, chairs, stools handmade with wood are typical here, it is the perfect place to grab your favorite one handcrafted locally.

Rugs: rugs are made in Senegal basically for religious purposes to sit for the prayers or just as a base where people can eat from the common plate. They are very cheap but also very well crafted with beautiful colors and patterns, you will love them!

Shea Butter: just the best and the cheapest shea butter can be found in Western Africa! The pure shea butter is a gift of the nature for almost everything so don’t miss that chance!

Handcrafted baskets: Senegal is famous for its amazing colored handcrafted baskets in many different shapes and sizes. I got mine in Tivouane on the way south from Lompoul but they are easy to find everywhere. PS: they will let you bring them on the plane, so don’t hesitate to buy more!

Tam tams: even if you are not a drummer you can still learn and if not, they still represent the beat of Africa’s heart and a wonderful piece of decoration (still looking for mine!)

A very last tip for all the vintage and antiques lovers: in many markets you can easily find very old men bringing old metal scrap and oxidized objects. Please stop and have a look: you cannot imagine the gems that are hiding in these little stalls for few cents if you have a proper look!

Medina, Dakar
Almadies, Dakar
Almadies, Dakar
Sisters of Afrika – Dakar

Click here for Women dresses

The Ladybug and her Sisters of Afrika (SOA)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sisters of Afrika (3)

During my last trip to Senegal I decided to spend the last day to a good shopping session in Dakar: we made some of the most important markets to buy Senegalese wax prints and jewels, African homeware and food!

I also decided to visit one of the most interesting stores in Dakar, Sisters of Afrika. I have been following them for a while on Instagram and I loved their prints and shapes so I decided to buy one at the source, in their atelier in Dakar! I didn’t know that much about the brand but I had the chance to find the lovely Khadija who told me a bit about their story and I found it so amazing that I decided to share it with you.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find Hélène Daba, who founded the brand in 2013 in Dakar, but the way she created Sisters of Afrika with her sisters and the incredible blossoming of colors got me addicted immediately. Their slogan is: Par des Femmes, Pour des Femmes (by Women for Women) and the use of traditional African prints such as Bogolan and Thioup (Tye & Dye) mixed with more modern and local shapes made me fall in love!

The Ladybug Chronicles Sisters of Afrika (2)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sisters of Afrika (4)

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The Ladybug Chronicles Sisters of Afrika (10)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sisters of Afrika (5)

The brand is very international, proof is the number of customers all around the world, but also very respectful of what “made in Africa “ means: traditionally handmade prints, quality of the fabrics, incredible artistry of the local handcrafters. Sisters of Afrika puts together my favorite things: ethical sources and handwork, African tradition and colorful and flattering shapes!

If you want to know more about the brand I am showing here some more pictures of their collections but you can visit their site to know more and see more pieces or to buy your favorite ones:

As for me I was going to buy both dresses I’m pictured in here but in the end I went for the long Thioup green and orange dress and I can’t wait for spring to proudly wear it!

The Ladybug Chronicles Sisters of Afrika (12)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sisters of Afrika (7)

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The Ladybug Chronicles Sisters of Afrika (6)


The Ladybug racconta una storia piena di Africa e di tessuti wax: vi presento Anna Sumisura!

The Ladybug Chronicles Anna Sumisura (1)

Prima delle vacanze di Natale, ho pubblicato un post sui miei canali social in cui vi mostravo una gonna wax molto particolare, frutto di un progetto per cui mi sono appassionata. Il post ha avuto un gran successo e molte di voi mi hanno chiesto informazioni su come averne una. E’ per questo che ho deciso di dedicare un post sul mio blog (in italiano stavolta!) per raccontarvi qualcosa in più sulla mia Dumela (il nome della gonna che, come altre della collezione, porta un nome africano di donna e che significa “essere felici”…già il nome mi ha fatto innamorare!) e su Cristiana Giani, alias Anna Sumisura.

Quando ho conosciuto Cristiana mi hanno colpita di lei le mille cose che avevamo in comune: l’Africa e i suoi coloratissimi tessuti wax (che lei definisce libri da indossare sulla pelle…non potrei essere più d’accordo!), la sartoria (progetti sostenibili che puntano sulla qualità e sul rispetto di chi crea quei tessuti), la passione per un lavoro che non è il nostro lavoro primario ma che da sempre ci spinge a coltivare con impegno ciò che ci rende felici (entrambe lavoriamo in altri settori ma non abbiamo mai abbandonato le nostre passioni!).

The Ladybug Chronicles Anna Sumisura (2)

The Ladybug Chronicles Anna Sumisura (5)

Da tutto questo nasce Anna Sumisura: come me, Cristiana è una grande appassionata di tessuti wax e questo amore per l’Africa e suoi colori stampati l’ha spinta a studiarli per imparare a conoscerli e ad acquistarne da tutto il mondo. Tutta questa ricerca e questi tessuti erano lì, ma come farli diventare un progetto? Ecco che Cristiana inizia a disegnare dei bozzetti e capisce che vuole realizzare gonne, crearle grazie all’aiuto di favolose sarte in grado di curare i dettagli e le rifiniture, e chiamarle con un nome femminile africano. Il mercato oggi è saturo di “creatrici” di moda wax ma Cristiana vuole qualcosa in più: la qualità; non solo dei tessuti che sceglie personalmente ma anche del lavoro: tutti i suoi pezzi sono rifiniti e curati con una grande attenzione al dettaglio e basta guardare la sua pagina Instagram per capire subito la differenza!

In tutto questo però non vi ho ancora detto chi è Anna! Anna è la madre di Cristiana, che lei stessa definisce una delle donne più eleganti che abbia mai conosciuto, con una grande passione per i tessuti di qualità con cui era solita farsi confezionare abiti sartoriali. L’omaggio di Cristiana alla madre è un bellissimo ringraziamento per averla introdotta sin da piccola nel magico modo dei tessuti e della sartoria!

The Ladybug Chronicles Anna Sumisura (3)

The Ladybug Chronicles Anna Sumisura (6)

Oggi Anna Sumisura è un brand giovane, sostenibile, di qualità. Ogni modello viene realizzato con il tessuto scelto dalla cliente (disponibile tra quelli selezionati da Cristiana) e con le sue misure; bastano tre semplici misure (vita, fianchi, lunghezza), nessun bisogno di prove! Ogni gonna è un pezzo unico, un oggetto che valorizza ogni fisicità realizzato a mano da sarte italiane con tessuti africani meravigliosi. E’ così che non solo Cristiana ha voluto valorizzare il prezioso lavoro artigianale che è la sartoria ma allo stesso tempo ha voluto liberare le donne dalla prigione della taglia. Niente più 40, 42, 44, 48 o peggio ancora S, M, L solo le misure sono giuste per ognuna di noi!

Come non innamorarmi di una donna e di un progetto del genere?

Il sito internet è quasi pronto, nel frattempo potete contattare Cristiana tramite instagram (@anna_sumisura) e watshappp: 339/8237338.

Quella che vedete in queste foto è la mia Dumela: ho scelto un tessuto con colori caldi e avvolgenti e con un pizzico di viola che rimane uno dei miei colori preferiti. Il disegno mi ha colpito molto perché mi ha subito ricordato un tessuto con una stampa simile ma colori diversi che avevo trovato in Senegal anni fa ma che poi non avevo più acquistato (e me ne ero pentita!). E’ una gonna estremamente pratica ed elegante allo stesso tempo: rifinita con cura, cade perfettamente e accompagna le curve, insomma è perfetta! Per non parlare del tessuto che sembra seta per quanto è morbido!

L’ho abbinata con una camicia con fiocco vintage anni 80 viola scuro acquistata da Humana Vintage a Torino e un turbante decorato fatto a mano dalla mia adorata Madame Ilary sui toni del fuxia.

Gli stivali beige (favolosi!) sono di Lola Cruz mentre gli orecchini sono anch’essi fatti a mano dalla favolosa Made in Camper.

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The Ladybug and a dream coming true: Gorée Island, Senegal

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (6)

If I have been dreaming of Africa for more than 20 years, I have been dreaming of visiting Gorée Island for at least 15 years.

It all started when I read an article on the House of Slaves in Gorée, one of the oldest houses on the island where the African slaves were imprisoned and sent to America by boat. It is now a museum showing the horrors of the slave trade throughout the Atlantic world.

If Gorée is a wonderful island with a lovely beach and beautiful colored houses, with an ancient fort and a lot of artists and tourists, the House of Slaves experience is completely dramatic and sad. I decided to start the tour of the island from there and it was so emotional.

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The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (4)

A part of me was happy of finally being there, another one was ashamed and destroyed about the horrors showed and I started crying on the “infamous door”, the door from which the slaves were put on the boats to travel in cruel conditions to America where they were sold as slaves.

The house is dramatically beautiful and tragic at the same time. It took me a while to start the tour of the island by walk after the visit. Today, when I think of that visit I still feel the same feeling of shame and rage, especially if I wonder what has really changed since then.

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I walked during all the afternoon throughout the island, I stopped to talk to a lot of people, to listen to the djembe players, to visit the fort and to stop by the artists communities all around the island. I enjoyed the breathtaking views, I bathed on the beautiful sea, I took a lot of pictures of the colored houses…I really needed all these things to recover from the visit to the House of Slaves.

The boats from Dakar to Gorée and the way back are very frequent and are also a beautiful way to enjoy the Senegalese life: many people living in Dakar work in Gorée and they travel every day. Opposite to what usually happens in Europe they enjoy a good talk with tourists and I personally enjoyed too. It is a way to know each other, in every possible way.

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The Ladybug and the African (Senegalese) Blues

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (15)

It took a while to write this blog post on my trip to Senegal last summer. It is hard for me to write about it because it was a life changing experience and even after 5 months it is still in my head and I feel the African blues every single day of my life. I want to go back and I know that I will but the urge sometimes is unbearable.

It was my first time in Africa: I have been dreaming of it for more than 20 years but I was so scared of my reaction that I postponed this trip forever until I decided that it was something that I had to do, a dream that I wanted to make come true.

I brought with me a notebook because I wanted to write down everything but I was so overwhelmed by all my emotions and feelings that I came back home with a blank notepad. Everything was impacting me beyond words and even now I am unable to express my feelings by words.

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The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (2)

My trip to Dakar in Senegal was a kind of test for my reaction, just for your understanding: I was tempted to stay there for the rest of my life and for the first time in my life I tried to postpone my ticket to go back to Italy. Also when I came back to Italy I suffered a lot: I missed everything from food to people, perfumes and familiar noises, the call for worship, the rhythm of mbalax, the wolof, the laughs, the constant happiness of those days, the kindness of people. I finally understood why they call it the country of “Teranga”, hospitality.

I had the chance to live with a Senegalese family (who is now my second family) in Dakar and I decided to visit the town and its surroundings during my stay. I leave the tour of the country from North to South for my next trip.

Dakar is a town full of life night and day: it is noisy and crowded but irresistible at the same time. It is easy to meet people, to talk to everyone and to enjoy the beaches, the rhythm and the food almost everywhere!  On some days I just wandered in the streets of Dakar without destination using taxis or the famous colored buses: the Medina, the Almadies area, Place de l’Indépendance, the Corniche, the beautiful beach of Yoff, the amazing markets of Sandaga, Kermel, Tilène, the mosques, the Museums and Galleries (my favorite ones were the Galérie Antenna and the IFAN museum).

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I started my tour with a special visit to the African Renaissance monument and the museum where you can also admire a wonderful view of the town, especially if you walk down the hill until the beach.

The surroundings of Dakar are also breathtaking: I will write a dedicated post to Gorée Island, which was for me a very special experience but I took the boat a second time to head to Ngor Island from the amazing Ngor beach. As it was August the island was pretty crowded on the beach side but if you walk to the rocky side of the island you will be surprised by the awesomeness of the views and maybe for the first time you will be completely alone.

I also headed by bus (this was a bit more complicated trip!) to the Pink Lake (Lac Retba) where I toured the lake on a pirogue…but unfortunately that day the lake wasn’t as pink as I imagined. Its salt content is very high which gives it its pink color but only in particular weather conditions.

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So if you are not afraid of the African Blues (believe me, it’s the hardest thing) just book a flight to this amazing country and live it fully, breathe the love and buy all the amazing things that you can buy there (wax fabrics, African handmade jewels, colored baskets). Eat the best plates of the Senegalese cuisine (mafé, thieboudienne), the juicy mangoes or drink the bissap, the ginger and the buoy (the fruit of the baobab tree) and enjoy the incredible nature (you can see the most beautiful baobab trees and animals).

It can be a life changing experience especially if you decide to live it like locals: staying in small B&B instead of fancy hotels, going around by bus or shared taxis, walking, talking to people, basically enjoy the real Senegalese life.

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The Ladybug is a White Hunter: finding Africa in Milan

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A few weeks ago I visited a great exhibit at FM Contemporary Art Center in Milan. I didn’t know about this very interesting space until I saw the flier of this event called “The White Hunter. African memories and representations” and I decided to have a look on a Saturday afternoon.

The exhibit started end of March during the Milan Art Week and it presented more than 150 works of contemporary artists (including my favorite African photographers Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibé) as well as pieces from anonymous traditional artists. The main topic is Africa just seen by different eyes and represented in many different ways. Maybe this is the reason why I couldn’t love it more!

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The black building hosting the exhibit and the calm space outside was perfect also for a short outfit shooting!

It was indeed the perfect occasion to wear my Madame Ilary African wax turban that I added to a very simple outfit: old boyfriend jeans from Topshop, frilled white shirt from Alexa Chung Archive Collection for M&S, simple Benetton black trench coat and Nike 4 & Other Stories white sneakers.

I also wore my new folk clutch bought at Archivio Vintage event a couple of days before!

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The Ladybug Goes Malian in Milan: A Night in Beautiful Africa with Rokia Traoré


When I think of Rokia Traoré I remember exactly how I first “met” her: I was in Brussels, Belgium, winter 2004. I went to a Media Center and decided to get some CDs of artists that I didn’t know. I picked up her CD “Wanita” and I listened to it that same night. I was captured by her voice and sound and since that day I haven’t stopped following her.

For those of you who don’t know her, Rokia Traoré is a Malian singer, guitarist and songwriter and she is one of the most representative voices of the African continent. But her music goes over the barriers of a continent or a language. As the daughter of a diplomat, she’s traveled around the world. And her life, just as her music, has been influenced from different cultures and sounds.




You cannot call her an “ethnic” singer: she goes from jazz (her version of Billie Holiday’s “Gloomy Sunday” was to die-for) to blues, from traditional African to rock, mixing tradition with modernity. She sings in English, French (“Zen” is one of my favorite songs by her!), and Bambara, the language of her community.

She arrived in Milan at Carroponte on the 15th of July to present her new album “Beautiful Africa” that will be released at the end of September 2013 and that I can’t wait to put my hands on it! It was my first time seeing her live and I was very excited: I loved her live performance. She managed to mix ballads, with rock and African dance, bass, electric guitar and traditional African instruments in a beautiful, captivating concert where I found myself dancing like a mad woman (recalling my old African dance classes when I studied in France in 2000) and crying for the beautiful words of wisdom that she spoke during the night (“The most beautiful thing in life is diversity”).




For the occasion I wore a piece of Africa too: I wore this beautiful skirt (originally a dress!) from Lalesso, the ethical brand inspired by beautiful Kenyan fabrics and colors (




I paired it with an H&M denim shirt and Topshop flat sandals. I am also wearing vintage golden ’80s earrings and my adored Oxfam canvas bag!