If there is one thing that most home decor outlets can agree on it is the absolute need for a good coffee table book or multiple for that matter. Even more than tying a room together by adding colorful decorative elements into what was once a bare space, coffee table books also act as transportive works taking you from the comfort of your home to places you have yet to see. As the world slowly but surely begins to reopen it won’t be long before we can stop imagining where we want to travel to and actually start traveling there. And what better to introduce you to the beauty of your dream destination than a book that highlights its art, fashion, and culture?
For years, writers, photographers and creatives have produced a number of books dedicated to showcasing the vast and beautiful culture of Africa and the diaspora. The pages within these books explore the joyful and multidimensional nature of the continent that is often left out of the Western narrative that has been upheld for decades. Through these books we not only see breathtakingly beautiful pictures of the continent but we receive important messages that challenge stereotypes, celebrate culture, and tell stories of people and places that often go unheard.
So, until the time comes to finally get off your couch and safely get on a plane to travel, we have put together a list of some of our favorite books to inspire wanderlust to the beautiful continent of Africa. Each book is different in nature showing varying aspects of African culture that will make you want to catch the first flight out to experience these beautiful places first hand.
Marrakech Flair by Marisa Berenson. Image courtesy of Assouline
From the “It Girl” and modern muse of fashion Marisa Berenson, best known for her role in Bob Fosse’s Cabaret, comes the mesmerizing tome Marrakech Flair. Starting her career as a model at the age of 16, the granddaughter of famed designer Elsa Schiaparelli grew to prominence shooting for high fashion magazines such as Vogue before pivoting into a successful acting career. Berenson is a veteran author having produced books such as Dressing Up and Moment in Times, as well as being the subject of Hamish Bowles’ book A Life in Pictures. In Marrakech Flair, we get a look into the rich artistry and architecture of the Moroccan city that drew in visitors the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and Sir Winston Churchill.
Safari Style Africa
Safari Style Africa by Annemarie Meintjes. Image courtesy of Hardie Grant Books
Safari Style Africa explores the many lodges of the safari destinations that the continent is known for. The safari, which is a Swahili word that means “journey”, attracts many into its fierce beauty not only through the nature of African plains but also the architecture of the lodges that abound there. In the photography book by Annemarie Meintjes, the deputy editor of VISI magazine and co-author of South: South African Style in Decor, we are taken on a journey of our own through interior design styles across Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana and more that blend traditional African architectural styles and high-end interior design motifs.
The African Lookbook
The African Lookbook by Catherine E McKinley. Image courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing
Within the pages of The African Lookbook: A Visual History of 100 Years of African Women, we see multidimensional stories of African women void of exoticism and trauma through the medium of photography. From author Catherine E. McKinley, the book houses images that span the period from 1870 to 1970, depicting the fashion and lifestyle of the African woman. Ever-present within the pages are the regality, modernity, and splendor of the women during this time, producing a depiction of African women that is at once unprecedented and historical case, with the beauty that emanates from the pages telling previously untold stories.
I Love to Dress Like I am Coming from Somewhere and I have a Place to Go
I Love to Dress Like I am Coming from Somewhere and I have a Place to Go by Flurina Rothenberger. Image courtesy of Edition Patrick Frey
In another work that shatters the stereotypes of exoticism projected by Western media comes the photobook I Love to Dress Like I am Coming from Somewhere and I have a Place to Go. The images captured by Swiss-born photographer Flurina Rothenberger, who was raised in the Ivory Coast in West Africa, were taken over the course of 10 years to show the authentic and subtle reality the African continent. In an authentic depiction of everyday life, Rothenberger produces a collection of carefully curated images to tell the story of the people of Africa in a way that feels genuine and simultaneously celebratory.
AFROSURF by Mami Wata. Image courtesy of Mami Wata
In AFROSURF we are introduced to an aspect of African culture that is extremely overlooked. In a collection of pictures and words compiled by the team at retail concept Mami Wata, we are given an in-depth look into the style and tradition of African surf culture better known as “Afro surf”. In what is its first book, Mami Wata produces a colorful and exuberant depiction of the African sub-culture. Not only is this book a stunning addition to any coffee table book collection it is also a catalyst for change. The profits from each book sold goes directly to supporting African surf therapy organizations Waves for Change and Surfer Not Street Children. With a collection of 200 pictures and 50 accompanying essays, AFROSURF gives a peak into the world of surf through a new and diverse lens.
Words by Tasha Nicole Smith @tashnicolesmith