AM Reads: The Cost of Living

It should have come as no surprise to me that an essay by Arundhati Roy would be emotionally wrenching. Over the years, her prose has captivated me. Hands down, she is one of my favourite writers. Somehow though, I never got around to reading any of her essays. This past week I finally acquainted myself with  some of her non-fiction work vis à vis The Cost of Living and I was left even more enamored with this pen wielding warrior. The Cost of Living is a report on environmental justice in India. Specifically, the essay examines the  history of dams/dam building in India, casting light on the environmental and social costs of the aforementioned. Roy employs extensive research to show how severely the industry hurts both the ethnic communities who are disproportionately made to bear its burden and the environment ravaged in the name of progress. The book provokes questions around whether democracy serves the economically and socially disenfranchised in India (quite often members of darker skinned castes) or if it serves those who are already at an economic and social advantage. It also highlights how connected economics is to politics and furthermore, how institutions such as the World Bank operate in alliance with the financial, political and social elite in the so-called Third World. These are just a few of the topics that Roy’s essay addresses. I believe that what makes it a powerful book is the collision of fact and emotion. This balance  has the effect of illuminating the ugly reality that is dam building, making clear that the activity is a dangerously intrusive one instead of one that is innocuous or beneficial. Roy’s impassioned examination reminded me of how important it is to be socially informed and active both domestically and globally. 


Borrowed from Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru was a protegé of Mahatma Gandhi and a leader in India's independence movement. The staunch nationalist then became India's first Prime Minister. As with any politician, one can argue for and against his policies and philosophies. Regardless, he will continue to be remembered as an architect of the Indian nation state and its breaking away from the yoke of British colonialism...And he may also be rembered for his crisp style. Pandit Nehru was sometimes seen in an achkan or sherwani, traditional Indian jackets that bore a stand~up (Mandarin) collar. Eventually, a similar jacket was designed and named after him. 

Some time ago, I became a convert of this look, chopping off my shirts' folded down collars to give them a more 'Eastern' effect. Not precisely in the Nehru mode but close enough. Buying them for a few dollars makes this hacking frequent. Here, one is belted and paired with baggy shorts. 

Earrings: Handmade by a jeweller in Atlanta


Fruity Friends: 10 reasons to eat Pawpaws & Cashews

As a child, I loved fruits, namely, tropical fruits. My parents didn't have to convince me to eat these yummy offerings of Nature. My cousins, friends and I were always climbing one fruit tree or another...invariably emptying buckets and bowls filled with mangoes, pomeracs, pommecytheres (not sure of the non Trini names for those) and other tropical fare. However pawpaws (papayas) and cashews didn't exactly elicit the same zeal from me. Sure I liked cashew nuts (the roasted inner part of the seeds) but the tawry fruit had too weird of a taste for me....actually, it didn't have enough of a taste, just a strange tongue tying effect. Pawpaw didn't vie much better in the taste department. Yes, there was sweetness but next to mangoes and soursops, known for their milky decadence, pawpaws seemed like they were half-a$$ing it. 
Now that I'm an adult though, I've learned to put aside my non-enthusiasm towards these old frienemies for the benefits they offer. Below, I've listed 10 reasons why they're worth a bite.

1)Helps to preserve cardiovascular  health.
2)Promotes colon health.
3)Conteracts inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. 
4)Aides digestive health.
5)Strengthens the immune system.

1)Source of good dietary fat, which reduces bad cholestorol.
2)Strengthens muscles, bones and teeth.
3)Low in sugar (uncommon for a tropical fruit).
4)Contains simply absorbed protein so good
for person recovering from surgery.
5)Promotes a strong immune system.

Village Dispatch: Trinidad & Tobago with Tanya

AM: What inspired you to create Designer Island? 
Also, tell us a bit about Designer Island.
Tanya:Designer Island started simply as a blog to share my own research on what my 
creative peers felt the “Caribbean Aesthetic” was. That was in 2010-2011. It was a 
personal search for motivation and inspiration as a design practitioner in the Caribbean. 
At that time, I had reached a point in my career where I was starting to ask myself a lot of 
questions about authenticity, about what it means to be from the Caribbean and a 
Caribbean designer. While it started as a search for answers for myself it eventually 
evolved and expanded to become the website it is now thanks to several collaborative 
 It continues to grow as a brand and creative community. It facilitates conversations 
about Design and creativity. These are not areas that are talked about often. Most of the      
conversations are very narrowly focused and the respect levels for certain fields vary 
greatly. I really wanted to dig into the way different creative people think and how 
they work and collaborate with each other.

           I love talking to a fashion designer one day, a beautifully creative chef another, a 
           product designer, a graphic designer, an architect, a jeweler and listening to a 
           photographer describe how he or she sees the world. There is so much we can learn
           from each other and so much we can create through collaboration. Overall it’s really an 
           effort to raise creative thinking and awareness of the vast amount of talent we have 
           throughout the region and the potential to harness this to affect the way Carib-  
           bean design is viewed on a global scale.

AM: What are the most fulfilling aspects of having a career in the creative field?
Tanya: Every day I wake up, I’m doing what I believe I’m best at and meant to do. I 
assume a person who’s always wanted to work in medicine and gets to be a doctor is as 
happy as I am being a designer. I get to discover and play in many different fields. Every 
new project with a new client is a new creative challenge. Whether it’s a simple design 
job, branding projects, or being the creative consultant on a project, it’s an opportunity to 
really get into my client’s world and visually translate it in a way that’s going to resonate 
with people.

AM:What are the things you find most inspiring about Trinidadian culture?
           Tanya: The absolute vastness, richness and multilayered cultures are inspiration.
           I think our mixing but simultaneous pride in our individual cultures is as special as it is fragile. Not everywhere can exist as we do with such relative harmony.

          Yes, we are far from perfect and we have our issues and ignorance to battle with, 
          but the reality is in some places wars are fought over similar differences. We’re 
          also a Caribbean melting pot. It’s fantastic living and working with people through-
         out the region right in our own backyard. There’s so much creative value in that. 

AM: There is a notion that Trinidad & Tobago’s most developed art is Carnival.
         Do you agree or disagree with this view? Feel free to elaborate.
         Tanya:It’s definitely the most popular. I stopped doing the whole Monday, Tuesday 
          pretty mas thing some years ago because I didn’t like the costumes or enjoy  the 
          experience anymore. There were many things about Carnival I no longer
          liked. But what happened when I stopped partaking in Carnival in one way is 
          that I started really seeing and experiencing the rest of it, the stick fitting, the 
          Camboule, the Paramin Blue Devils, King and Queen Costume shows… all these  elements of Carnival I had forgotten or never noticed in some cases.
           We have so much creative talent and potential in Trinidad and Tobago 
     within Carnival that is not really nurtured and a lot of those parts are the things 
        that give our Carnival the most identity and will sustain our   brand in the future. In addition to that, there are the many art forms outside of  the Carnival season that 
are filled with creative potential. I think we are barely scratching the surface of this development.

AM: How would you describe your approach to style? 
         (From what you wear to how your home looks.)
            Tanya:When it comes to what I wear, my need is comfort and simplicity. I don’t like 
            anything too fussy or loud. I like quiet details, whether it’s perfect tailoring, an 
            interesting cut or knit. With home however, it’s all textures, colour, indoor plants,
            books and a curated collection of furniture, art and vintage things. I think for me, 
            home is a sanctuary of inspiration and it’s where my husband and I are most self-
            expressive. My husband is a sculptor and designer and we’re both artistic old-souls
           who love antiques and things made by hand that leave a craftsman’s touch. Our home 
           reflects that very much.
           My style is relative to my environment and need. On the one hand, it’s crisp and black 
           and white; on the other, it’s rough on the edges, filled with texture, personality and 
          heart. I’m contemporary and vintage, artist and designer. 
                It’s conflicting but very, very me. 

AM: Speaking of your style, I adore your haircut Tanya!  How long have you worn your
         hair short and what motivated you to do so?
Tanya: Haha! I think I've been wearing it this low for about 3 years now. In secondary school I switched from natural to straightened hair a few times, braiding between, then at the 
 end of my teenage years and through my twenties I grew dreadlocks. I loved my locks 
but eventually I needed another change as life changed and this change was more drastic than the rest. I cut it all off. It felt freeing. It may or may not stay this way so don’t hold me to anything. I'm starting to become very comfortable with change.

AM: And when you need a change of pace, 
   (away from the demands of career) what do you do?
Tanya: That’s a toss up between a quiet beach day with a friend or 
taking myself to lunch with a book at Chaud Café. I’m a really big fan of leisurely, quiet 
eating. Sometimes though, I really just want to and need to recharge at my parents’ home. 
Both my parents are retired and my siblings and several cousins have always lived on the 
same street in SantaCruz. There is nothing and no one that recharges me like family, husband included. It’s how I get back to center.

Check out for a glimpse of Tanya's work and that of fellow Caribbean creatives.
 *Tanya is wearing a top by one of her favourite Trinidadian designers, Aisling Camp


Wrap It Up

Many a bad hair day for a black woman has been averted thanks to head ties. I can certainly vouch for that. Whether it's because of an overdue wash day or my kinks rebelliously asserting their autonomy, pieces of fabric have invariably come to my rescue. Admittedly, cotton isn't the best option in terms of materials  that are gentle on my curls but I so like its proletarian simplicity. That isn't to say that I don't enjoy dressing things up a bit with my do-wraps. Granted, I may not get all regal with an elaborate gélé but it's fun to play around with more pretty ways to styling head-wraps even if that just means using some waxed fabric, an Ethiopian scarf, a Tanzanian  kanga or  a beloved batik. The textile options abound as greatly as the ways you tie them. 


Khaki Suit

These days I've been resorting to my idea of a uniform. That means plenty monochromatic outfits and sneakers or some other comfy shoes. Comfort is a primary objective. I will probably return to my beloved prints and maybe even wear some heels again soon. For right now though, I'm enjoying the pared down life.

Trench: Thrifted
Pants: Thrifted
Bag: Dooney & Burke, Thrifted
Jewelery: All over the place