January 29, 2009

African Beauty-Timbuktu

Timbuktu - the L'Artisan fragrance inspired by wusulan, a traditional African incense of spices and woods and something like fresh rain on earth, was the accompaniment to my super cold sunny winter day yesterday. Both energetic and seductive, it reminds me of the scent of stroking cat's fur, crossed with static electricity, crossed with fresh air warmed by the sun. I suspect the very slight hint of mango is the fundamental element to that quality of freshness. The sweetness of mango is restrained by the undertones of deep sandalwood and dry and smokey vetiver. I want to find out what happens in the summer heat with this fragrance. I love it in the cold bracing air of January. A modern/traditional, masculine/feminine scent, it appears to be well beloved, though not by as many as I would expect. However, those few, Luca Turin among them with his radiant 5 star review, are true believers.

I think since we have a new president who is half African, media savvy and quite elegant, with a strikingly stylish family, Americans are taking yet another close look at the African aesthetic. African aesthetics have been an enormous, often uncredited cultural influence here all along, but not since the late sixties black is beautiful movement has so much attention been focused on one particular ethnic group.

Most of the continent of Africa is still a cipher to our Euro-centric culture. There are many types of beauty within it that are not so commonly known in the West. Sometimes forms of unfamiliar beauty take repeated exposure in order to "get" or appreciate them fully. There are still a number of very ancient, still lively African cultures, which practice very traditional and specialized ways of living and forms of self adornment. Recently I became aware of the Kenyan Samburu, a tribe known for their personal adornment and interest in beauty, called "butterflies" by the nearby tribes. They live in the midst of spectacular natural beauty and appreciation of beauty is an important part of their culture. They highlight and emphasize their own facial features with color and intricate bead-work jewelry that includes the hair and face. I wonder what their sense of smell culture is like? I am sure it would expand our parameters to know...
Above photo from site with wildly imaginative treatments of black hair.
More on the Samburu culture.


Amanda said...

Thank you for bringing attention to this.

Lucy said...

Yes, Amanda, attention must be paid!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucy I just wanted to tell you that I enjoy reading your blog. I'm doing some market research on some fragrance bloggers and would love to ask you some questions. Would you please email me at news at mjmpr dot com. Thanks!

Juraj said...

Like this post a lot! ;)