Best wishes from Lomé La Belle

Lomé la belle - Market and Cathedral

Coconut trees, fruit stands and bags of gari parade before my eyes. The wind whips my face. The Salsa is playing from the car radio. Earlier this year I rediscovered Lomé La Belle and a bit of Togo. Car, motorcycle cab, dugout and walking; dear family, old friends and new encounters. Here are some places not to be missed if you visit Lomé!

The market

To understand an African city, there is nothing like a trip to the market! At a time when the neighboring country is thinking of destroying the largest market in Africa, I hurriedly went to wander among the stalls of a thousand colors and scents, guided by my wise aunts. A short stop at the Lomé Cathedral, a classic must-see of a visit, then I get lost among the spices, dried fish, flours, wax and other loincloths, chargers, buckets, shoes,… We haggle, we compare, we give up, we buy, we get angry, we laugh, we complain about the cost of living, we find compromises. Tomorrow I’ll go to another corner, to see the ‘venues de France’ and go visit the Malians, they sell good radios and my auntie needs a new one!

Asrafobawu, a brand ‘made in Togo’ that celebrates African know-how

A few days late, I miss the man known as Elom 20ce, prolific Togolese artist. Music, documentaries, fashion, the projects follow one another and are intertwined for the pan-African rapper.

Unfortunately, he was abroad while I was in Lomé. Thanks to his recommendations, I had the pleasure of discovering his brand Asrafobawu in different stores in Lomé.

Elom 20ce, creator of the Togolese brand Asrafobawu
Elom 20ce, creator of the Togolese brand Asrafobawu

A tribute to the know-how of the country and the continent, shirts, dresses, boubous and hooded jackets embrace contemporary fashion while celebrating tradition and originality. KENTÉ, BOGOLAN, TYE&DYE, INDIGO, PATCHWORK, EMBROIDERIES… all these textiles are brought up to date and the choice is difficult as the models and colors are all beautiful.

All these treasures are ours’ as Elom 20ce says, and as a guardian of traditions he knows how to value them: exploring materials, knowing the history of techniques, keeping them alive, working with craftsmen and thus encouraging the made in Togo, this is one of the many exciting missions of Elom 20ce, a precious knowledge broker!

The Kpomega, guardians of the sanctuary in some traditional cults in southern Togo. Dressed here by Asrafobawu
The Kpomega are the guardians of the sanctuary in some traditional cults in southern Togo. Dressed here by Asrafobawu for the video Egungun by Elom 20ce

Discover the complete Lonlon catalog, including all Asafrobawu collections here.

Asrafobawu clothes can be found at Ikonik Glam and at Tcha Tcha cafe in Lome.

The Palace of Lomé, art and culture center and green lung of the city

Le Palais de Lomé

Taking advantage of the morning breeze, I get up and walk through the streets of Nyékonakpoé and Kodjoviakopé down to the sea. There, in front of the beach, the Palais de Lomé imposes itself to me. Majestic, imperious, draped in white, surrounded by its abundant park. Since 2019, this vestige of Togo’s colonial and political history has recovered its beauty to welcome art and culture and open its doors to the general public. A magnificent park extends over several hectares. The diversity of the vegetation, the wind blowing in the palm trees, the chirping of the numerous birds greet me. The hundred-year-old trees, like old folks, look at me as I walk by. The pools at the entrance soothe me. I approach and admire the carefully renovated building, especially its woodwork. Then, intimidated, I climb the stairs, excited to discover the exhibitions presented by this new institution.

I continue the tour and discover 10 contemporary artists from Lomé thanks to an untitled exhibition that combines a wide range of mediums: painting, collages, sculptures, drawings… Finally, upstairs, a journey through time awaits me with the exhibition Lomé, portraits of a city.

  • Togo Yeye - Exposition Les Racines de l'imaginaire, Palais de Lomé 2022
  • Richard Late Lawson Body, artiste togolais

Before resuming my walk, I take in the postcard view of the infinite ocean and take one last look around the huge park. Next stop, an oasis in the heart of the neighborhood: heading up to Tcha Tcha.

Discover the 3 exhibitions inaugurated in 2022 at the Palais de Lomé by reading our article here.

View from Palais de Lomé

Palais de Lomé Public entrance : avenue Sarakawa, Lome Hours : saturday and sunday 10am – 5pm

Tcha Tcha, an oasis in the heart of the city

Tcha Tcha Terrace in Lome

Arty café, boutique and guesthouse, Tcha Tcha is an artistic villa full of charm. House of de 60s tastefully furnished, the place is welcoming and the garden is neat, ideal for a break in the heart of the city. Without a doubt a real lover of Lomé initiated this place! The team is friendly, the terrace pleasant as well as the proposed readings inspiring. The succulent menu highlights local ingredients and the store offers a refined choice of handicrafts, mottled objects and Togolese brands: Kari Kari, Asrafobawu, etc. Sheltered from public view, the guest room is elegantly arranged and I would almost give myself up to a nap in this haven of peace… but other parts of Lomé await to be explored!

Tcha Tcha Café Kodjoviakopé  neighbordhood – Lome Hours: tuesday-saturday 9am-6pm

Handicraft, Creative Lome

Togo is famous for its wood and its weavings… workshops, small stores, craft centers. So many materials and know-how that surround us since childhood and that I like to re-explore at each trip. For this afternoon, it is Estelle who accompanies me. Between Paris and Lomé, the designer initiated Kente Project at the crossroads between sculpture, design and fashion, reinterpreting the customs in collaboration with local craftsmen. We enter her favorite stores, meet artisans and thanks to her I enter the Tayé Tayé workshop, temple of wood with which she collaborates closely.

From this escapade, I come back with a few favorite items, a timid glimpse of the richness of an African country that was not yet represented in the Africa Blooming collection. You can find them here.

  • Set de 3 bols en bois - Africa Blooming Shop
  • Bol en bois d'ébène et sa cuillère
  • Éventail tressé du Ghana - Africa Blooming
  • Éventail Bolga rose
  • Bourse tressée du Ghana

The Togolese coast

On the way back to Benin, I stop in places close to my heart… I am overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscapes, the generosity of nature, the simple life in the village and the kindness of those who make this visit so special. I will be back soon.

Aneho, 2022

Exploring Togolese contemporary art | 3 exhibitions at the Palais de Lomé

Togo Yeye - Roots of imagination exhibit, 2022

In Lomé, a new art space has opened its doors to the delight of the inhabitants of the Togolese capital, the curious and art lovers. None other than the massive Palais de Lomé has become a center of art and culture after a colossal renovation initiated in 2014 and completed in 2019. Beyond a museum, the Palais de Lomé wishes to be a reference in the national cultural environment and an ambassador of Togo’s richness on an African and international scale. Highlighting artists from to Togo, Africa and african diasporas, welcoming young and adults, organizing school activities, collaborating with civil society groups, raising awareness about the environment and ecology… The ambitious project starts beautifully. After two inaugural exhibitions, one focusing on kings, the other presenting artists from West Africa (Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Ghana), 3 exhibitions opened this year at the Palace, celebrating the city of Lomé, its youth and its creative talents.

Togo Yeye – The Future is now

Togo Yeye - Togolese creative collective
Togo Yeye – Roots of imagination exhibition, Palais de Lomé 2022

Hairstyles of yesteryear, fashion of today, the photographic exhibition ‘Roots of the imagination’ explodes with colors and joy. Commissioned by the Palais de Lomé to the Togolese artist collective Togo Yeye, the series focuses on the link between hairstyle and identity. And well beyond the remarkable aesthetic work, it is a brilliant Togolese youth, inspired, confident that we find here. The staging, the shades, textures, attitudes … Colors are warm, faces are radiant. Traditional hairdressing techniques and ancestral dyeing techniques are honored. But also the modernity, the cool, the singularity of contemporary designs and the insolence of beauty.The creative artists Malaika Ismaella and Delali Ayivi, in collaboration with the hairdresser Bataka Bamana aka Patron Aimé, offer us treats for the eyes.

Roots of the Imagination’ is the portrait of a proud and free generation, a celebration of a multiple identity. The exhibition invites us to imagine joyful, plural, fertile and possible futures. A must-see!

Contemporary Togolese artists

In the other wing of the first floor, we meet 10 contemporary Togolese artists. Painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, multiple mediums are the ways of expression of this generation of artists flourishing in the capital: Abla Sika Akpaloo, Serge Anoumou, Ruben Assamagan, Kwami Da Costa, Jerry Doe Orlando, Clément Ayikoué Gbegno, Richard Late Lawson-Body, Pierre Segoh, Kodjovi Tessi et Thierry Tomety, a nice way to discover contemporary art in Togo.

Lomé of yesterday, today and tomorrow

Lomé, portraits of a city - Palais de Lomé 2022

Finally, upstairs, the exhibition Lomé, Portraits of a City , commissioned by Hervé Pana, takes us on a journey through time. Urbanism in expansion and mutation… If the pictures of the past awaken nostalgia, the futuristic plans leave us wondering… Faced with these utopias, I remember the precious reflections of Sename Koffi Agbodjinou. Then the memories rush in at the sight of the numerous objects collected from a past Lomé, archives generously shared by the families. Records, Kenté, photos of Nanas Benz and outfits sewn by the best tailors awaken so many memories. Traditional Lomé, commercial Lomé, festive Lomé, combative Lomé, Lomé La Belle in its golden age… This exhibition is that of Loméans, or rather they are the ones who make the exhibition! A dive into space, time and traditions.

Art | Mathka Paris | Exhibition | Nomadic abstraction

Acrylic on canvas, Mathka Paris - 2019

For a few months now the visual artist Mathka Paris has been exhibited in the lobby of the Grand Hotel du Niger, in Niamey. Blue, red, ochres… a bright palette, chosen as a signature, contrasts with this vast hall in which I finally enter to discover the work of the French-Nigerien artist. For this exhibition in the country where she grew up, Mathka Paris presents a series of acrylics on canvas, created between 2015 and 2019.

In between abstraction and surrealism, the artist transcends the Wodaabé culture of which she is the heir, to make us travel between dream and reality. In phantasmagorical settings, Fulani figures are in conversation. Women are omnipresent in the work of Mathka Paris. Singular headdress, make-up, scarification and adornment act as armour. Self-portrait or universal figure, with a contemplative gaze, a nomadic spirit, she remains fascinating and elusive.

Untitled - Mathka - Acrylic on canvas, 2019
Untitled – Mathka Paris – Acrylic on canvas, 2019

And always this zebu. Companion of the people of breeders. This zebu looking at me from the four corners of the room. This emblematic and powerful figure, muse of the artist. From the top of his presence, silent, he watches, he protects, sometimes he hypnotizes. If the woman proudly wears her braids, he wears his horns. Unusual objects float in weightlessness. A cigarette burns insolently here and there. In the background, the horizon, these textures and landforms that bring depth to each painting, like an escape route, vanishing line or line of sight.

In the abstract works, volumes, curves and fine lines like threads intertwine. The golden tones dazzle, changing with the light like shifting dunes.

Beyond the warm colours, a part of darkness and enigma remain. Sharing daydreams, anxieties and fantasies, Mathka Paris takes our imagination beyond the frame. In a contemporary way, Mathka pays tribute to the traditional Fulani Wodaabe culture. If the installation could have presented the works in a better way, thanks to this exhibition, the characters born under other horizons, enriched by physical and inner journeys, return to their land, like shepherds after the transhumance… for the great pleasure of the people of Niamey !

Mathka Paris - Exhibition, Niamey 2022

Mathka Paris Exhibition

Presented by le Grand Hôtel du Niger
Opening : Octobre 29, 2021
Niamey, Niger

Untitled - Mathka Paris, 2017

Visit Mathka Paris’ website here.

Movie | Zinder | Another Look at the Sahel

Zinder film - Aïcha Macky

The Sahel as far as the eye can see. A city, Zinder. Scars, muscles, rage,… and the rage to live too.

Last June, it was in front of a packed house that the premiere of the movie Zinder took place in Niamey.
After several international screenings the Nigerien director Aïcha Macky was back home to present her latest documentary.

Continue reading Movie | Zinder | Another Look at the Sahel

Dance Festival | Dialogues de Corps | Ouagadougou

Dance Festival - Dialogues de Corps 2020 - Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

On December 9, the festival Dialogues de Corps will open its doors for a new edition : Nos Solitudes Partagées (Our Shared Lonliness), at the Choreographic Center La Termitière in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. In these times of uncertainty and restrictions, the festival is adapting and this edition will have a special resonance with the presentation of mainly solos. An ode to all isolated bodies and a message of resilience and hope.

Continue reading Dance Festival | Dialogues de Corps | Ouagadougou