Dark Sugars Cocoa House


Not just for chocolate lovers, Dark Sugars is a nice spot on the famous stretch of road, know as Brick Lane, East London.

When I saw how Dark Sugars do their hot chocolate on Twitter, I made a point to go out of my way and visit them. I was keen to see if this could rival my usual Starbucks hot chocolate. To be honest, with the infectious spread of gentrification spreading through London’s urban dwellings, I’m all for independent businesses stirring up the coffee shop industry. I went down to Dark Sugars with another willing chocolate-loving accomplice :-), for the hot chocolate but was side tracked by the chocolates and ‘choctails’ (chocolate cocktails)! 

This was a prime example of always being ready when you’re a blogger as you never know who you will meet on your little adventures.

After taking my own tour, buying chocolate and having some cocktails, we bumped into  Paul aka ‘The Chocolate Man’, who gave us a little history of Dark Sugars – a true (African) chocolate story.

Using cocoa beans sourced from Ghana, Dark Sugars is the perfect place to chill over some quality hot chocolate or turn up the vibes with a delicious range of chocolate treats and cocktails. There are 2 locations both on Brick Lane, Dark Sugars Chocolate Shop opened in 2013 with the Cocoa House opening 2 years later.

For tasty chocolates, cocktails and indulgent hot drinks Dark Sugars is the place!

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Women Warriors: Why Yaa Asantewaa needs to be remembered in Women’s History Month


Women History Month would not be complete without mentioning this Ghanaian heroine. When Queen Mother of Ejusi, Yaa Asantwaa fought against British colonisers she did it in boldness and not fear, with pride and not an inferiority complex. In 1900, a time without ‘womens movements’ and social media, Yaa Asantewaa was determined to fight for her people, for the Asante kingdom (of modern day Ghana) to keep what was rightfully theirs and stop the British from stealing the Golden Stool. Described as embodying the soul of the Asante people, the golden stool is very sacred.

History documents that the War of the Golden Stool aka the Yaa Asantewaa War took place on 28th March 1900. It was the last war between modern day Ghana and her British colonial oppressors. The British were asserting their control and were determined to capture the Asante kingdom along with all it’s riches. The Asante people had fiercely fought the British in previous wars to maintain their sovereignty (as they should have) but the British were persistent in their oppression.

Yaa-Asantewaa
Queen Mother Yaa Asentewaa – Ready for battle

 

Photo: source unknown via Google

The Treaty of Formena (1874) paralysed the Asante Kingdom economically. Historical accounts state the British took advantage of and insinuated internal fights among the Asante people. Multiple successions of the Asantehene (King of Asante) weakened the throne, but in 1888 Kwaku Dua III ascended and later became known as ‘Prempeh I’. By 1891 Prempeh I was able to unite the Asante kingdom, something which the British feared as they were wanted to expand their control before the French and Germans encroached on their plans.

Through various means the British weakened the Asante Kingdom, in 1896 they demanded the Asantehene, Prempe I to pay them in large amounts of Gold as stipulated in the Treaty of Formena. Prempe I could not pay and was exiled by the British from his own kingdom with his family and other important royal members, to Sierra Leone and later to the Seychelles.

The British were not done, they wanted to strip the Asante kingdom of any dignity and demanded the Golden Stool. Before being exiled the chiefs hid the golden, but in 1899 British governor Fredrick Hodgson went to Kumasi to get it but failed. After this latest attempt, in a kingdom that was unravelling from various assaults by the British intent on stealing all the wealth of the Asante kingdom, the remaining despondent chiefs met to decide what to do. It was during that sombre meeting where the famous words of Yaa Asantewaa were spoken and why she has to be remembered in history as one of the greatest heroines of all time

“Now I see that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king…in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see their king to be taken away without firing a shot. No European could have dared speak to chiefs of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”

Yaa Asentewaa became the leader and mobilising her troops, fought in what was the last war against British colonialism; the war ended in 1901.

Did Yaa Asentewaa’s army win the war?

No. But she stood and fought, in a time when there were no women liberation movements etc. Yaa Asentewaa didn’t just let things happen to her she boldly fought for the freedom of her people in their own land. After defeat she too was also exiled to the Seychelles, where she died in 1921.

Ghana remained under British rule until March 1957 when she became (as commonly documented) the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence from European rule

Because of her bravery, the Yaa Asantewaa legacy lives on, documented in history books and critically acclaimed fictional novels.  This Women’s History Month let’s remember women who fought for something greater than themselves and even in ‘defeat’ were still Queens.

 

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The African diaspora didn’t realise how much we needed #Wakanda until now


“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage.”

Yes…let it sink in again.

I was in Ghana when Black Panther was released but my brother (a massive Marvel fan who had so many of the comics) booked tickets for when I returned to the UK. I hadn’t been to Ghana in 5 years! I know, shame on me, why wait so long for 30 degrees heat, fresh coconuts, pineapples and REAL fufu (pounded cassava and plantain – not the powdered substitute we have in the UK)?! I never think of London when in Accra, but this time I was a bit distracted while in the Motherland, not completely, just a little. Black Panther was coming out.

BTW I am not a Marvel fan and don’t know much about the ‘Marvel universe’, apart from a bit of X-men. I saw Captain America: Civil War by chance and that was my introduction to T’Challa aka Black Panther. I was eager to see how an unconquered African nation would be visualised. It’s a thought I’ve had many times before; but now it was dancing at the front of my mind in the advent of the Black Panther premiere. The thirst to see African people living, thriving and loving their heritage because they don’t know how NOT to love themselves, was evident globally.

With the multitude of natural resources and food in Africa, but seeing how the continent stands currently, I’ve asked myself many times….

What if there was no trans-Atlantic slave trade?

What if Africa was never colonised?

I’m not saying the state of Africa is solely down to slavery and colonisation. There are internal problems and we know there was a small section of Africans complicit in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which of course is painful to digest (whether they were aware of the real fate of their fellow Africans or not). However, this does doesn’t negate the extensive role of Europeans in slavery. These two periods of history have probably had a heinous irreversible impact on Africa. That’s what I believed for a long time…and then came Black Panther.

I know Wakanda is not real and some say, ‘it’s just a film’. But it’s not ‘just a film’. Many themes trickle throughout Black Panther, but the ‘African elephant’ in the room was the potentially heated discourse between Africans and the diaspora (African-Americans, African Latinos, African-Caribbean people etc.). This African elephant’ in the room has been discussed before in pockets of the community. I’ve had conversations with people about it, but seeing it manifested globally on the big screen forces us to acknowledge that this specific discourse needs to be extended.

For the children of African immigrants growing up in the UK / US / elsewhere, it wasn’t always ‘cool’ to be African until, maybe the last 8-10 years with the rise of Afrobeats. Some of the ‘African jokes’ immigrants / their children were subjected to were from African-Americans and African-Caribbean people. So there has been a long-standing tension and disconnect between us birthed from the psychological effects of slavery and colonisation.

I have never been to see a film twice and I probably never would have admitted it lol! When I did admit it on social media, I was so surprised that a lot of people also PAID MONEY AGAIN to see the film. The excitement of the possibility of what this film can incite among Africans and the diaspora is still palpable…

 Seeing the possibilities of an African nation that hasn’t been physically, financially and mentally brutalised but allowed to maintain and advance its heritage with technical innovation, left me speechless with a big gap-toothed smile on my face! It was too empowering. I felt proud, that this image was being shown to the world and most importantly to those who need to see it most – us!

 

Black panther, Marvel, Wakanda
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 No film is ‘perfect’ and I’ve already and Instagram exchanges with strangers who say the Wakanda ideology is the same as Donald Trump’s right-wing stance and even liking Wakanda to North Korea. Of course I want all nations to have democratically elected governments, but for me Black Panther was about making us proud of our heritage, seeing how valued women are in African society in all their different talents and believing what is possible.

The fact that Wakanda has taken over social media, re-named emojis (see my Insta story above) in its honour and made $700M worldwide and counting, speaks volumes.

It’s not possible to erase the impact of slavery but I hope the discourse between Africa and her diaspora finally mobilises us to create an Africa that is sustainably great. When I say I want ‘a Wakanda’, I’m not talking about flying spaceships or a single party right-wing government, but an Africa (yes, I mean across the continent and not just in one country) with good healthcare, a diversified transport system, advanced technology, where every child has the opportunity to go to school. I’m talking about the promises of a ‘better life’ that pushed parents out and lured them to the West in the first place. Is that too much of a fantasy?

For this to come to fruition Africa and her diaspora must decide to work together. I think we can…but we can’t ‘watch this space’, we must create and be active within ‘this space’. Wakanda (albeit fictional) is an embodiment of what can be achieved when we work together. I loved the fact the main cast represents the continent and the diaspora (Lupita – Kenya, Danai – Zimbabwe, Leticia Wright – UK/Guyana, Winston Duke – Trinidad & Tobago, Daniel Kaluuya UK/Uganda, Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan – USA).

Within the much lived up to hype, we can’t forget about the director Ryan Coogler, his interview about connecting with Africa was the most moving one I’ve heard so far out of all the snippets I’ve watched. Growing up in the diaspora with admittedly a colonised mentality at times, makes me feel like I’ve missed out on some of the richness of African heritage. But like many, Black Panther made me feel proud and tempted my faith in something that I didn’t think was possible in its entirety. #WakandaForEver.

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Cover photo credit: Marvel’s Black Panther film

 

Eat of Eden – the Caribbean vegan eatery


Should I be embarrassed to say I hadn’t heard of Veganuary until I saw the advertisement on the London Underground (subway) at the end of December 2017? Well I’ve admitted it now and just glad that I came across this social movement. It’s opened my eyes to so many things about food, health and animal welfare.

I ate relatively healthy, but after my mum’s cancer diagnosis (she is in the clear now, praise God), my family decided to walk with her on a healthier lifestyle journey. I follow a few vegans on Instagram but didn’t think it was something I could do myself. I only have one vegan friend and it (going vegan) seemed to be something other people did. After watching the Netflix documentary ‘What the Health?’ (I know, I’m probably late to the party on this one too!), I had all the fuel I needed to try veganism.

I signed up to Veganuary and received all the helpful daily emails and recipes. I can’t say it’s been easy, I probably should have gone vegetarian first, but I thought it’s only for a month so I’m just going to do it! I had to be organised and think about what my vegan meals would be for each week, so it did feel like a bit more effort than before.

I was keen to find good vegan food places that were not high street chains, for the days I just couldn’t be bothered to make something myself. On my quest, I came across a new Caribbean vegan eatery in South London. I don’t know why I was a bit apprehensive before my first vegan takeaway, but I was. Anyway, I walked into the intimate Eat of Eden setting and went through the menu with the waiter.

Eat of eden
Eat of Eden in Brixton Village

I ordered a platter because I wanted to try a bit of everything; that way if I didn’t like something I would find out then rather than later. I can honestly say I enjoyed everything, but if I had to pick two things I would definitely recommend the pumpkin curry and seaweed fritters – they were just yum!

I know a lot of people associate Caribbean food with heat / pepper / spice, however, the food was savoury but still had the signature Caribbean flavours. The spice level is fine for any palate and there were people from a range of ethnicities there. I make that point because sometimes I feel ‘people’ think Caribbean (or African) food is just for black people. I want to dispel that myth as I think food is food and for everyone. We don’t think Chinese food is just for Chinese people – If you live in the Western world I’m sure you’ve had a Chinese takeaway more than once! While I’m happy to see more independent Caribbean and African food establishments become a permanent feature on the UK food scene, I also want to see people from other ethnicities embracing Caribbean and African food because it’s amazing!

Eat of eden 2
Eat of Eden box 1 – Chickpea and pumpkin curry, callaloo, ackee, ‘macaroni’ pie, red African rice and quinoa (underneath)

Eat of Eden is a small spot with al fresco dining (only 5 tables inside), which isn’t ideal during winter but after tasting the food I understand why it’s popular. The staff were helpful, the service was timely and now I’ve found this little gem I’ll be going back and taking some friends with me to! If you are in South London and feel like trying some wholesome Caribbean plant-based food, Eat of Eden is your spot.

 

Eat of eden 1
Eat of Eden box 2 – plantain, seaweed fritters and lentil stew.

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Book Review: Homegoing


When I read the feature about Homegoing in Stylist magazine last year, I tore out the page as a reminder to get the book. I misplaced the page and months past… During a random clear out, the page floated down from my top shelf and in an act of spontaneity I went straight online and bought it! I think it was a sign, that the page came floating down from above lol.

I can’t believe this is Yaa Gyasi’s first book, the intricate research underpinning this novel is evident and impressive. Starting in 1700s Ghana, Homegoing travels the lives and lineage of two sisters (Effia and Esi) engulfed in the horrific mire of slavery, civil rights and freedom. This isn’t just another ‘slavery book’; Gyasi honestly depicts the role Africans played in the slave trade without diluting the brutality inflicted by Europeans.

homegoing, books, African, african diaspora
I read most of this booking overlooking the Atlantic ocean. The very stretch of ocean African slaves where transported across…

Part of me wanted to read this book because it was set in Ghana, where my family is from. In 2004 I went to Cape Coast castle in Ghana which was one of the main slave ports of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Even then I could feel the heaviness of the lead-filled air in the dungeons. The tour continued, and we were taken to the church which sat on top of the dungeons. I was speechless as I walked in…a church sitting on top of the chained slaves ‘living’ in their own excrement.

I was intrigued to see how the lives of these two sisters would unfold. The story flows onto dissect the complexities of amalgamated families; the love and damage they inflict upon each other. At one point both sisters ‘lived’ in Cape Coast castle in starkly opposite conditions. Inevitably there is a mixed-raced character, the son of Effia and James (a British slave trader stationed at Cape Coast Castle) – Quey. Trying to deal with his own conflicts, Quey takes his destiny into his own hands and convolutes the family tree even further.

 

homehoing wtmk 2
It was hot out there, so got a fresh coconut to get me through the next instalment…

Across the three hundred years the novel covers, psychological and emotional knots of slavery, the raging wars between the Asante, Fante tribes and British colonisers, then flows into the realities of black life in America. From slavery on the hot plantations of Alabama, to the jazz clubs and crack epidemics of New York. The beginning of the end occurs in swanky art galleries and elitist halls of higher education. Homegoing makes history palpable in the present and is a prime example of they saying [paraphrased] we do not know were we are going unless we know where we are from. 

Despite the sombre backdrop of slavery, this book took me on a rollercoaster of emotions. From the subtle expressions of love in the ugliest circumstances that made me smile to the vivid descriptions of brutality that made my stomach churn. Homegoing is a profound read that can capture anyone of any background, among the various themes throughout the novel is a tale of family. Intricately and intelligently written by first time author Yaa Gyasi, born in Ghana and raised in Alabama, USA. Homegoing is a must read and is available on Amazon.

The family is like the forest; if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position
Akan proverb

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Book Review: Black Privilege


There was a lot of hype around this book by ‘Charlamagne tha god’ (yes, this is the stage name he – Lenard McKelvey – gave himself back in the day. That’s the way he spells it too!). Co-host of the hit New York based, radio show The Breakfast Club, which I occasionally listen to, it’s fair to say Charlamagne is an acquired taste. From his own admission, a lot of people don’t like him, but those who listen to him do so because of his brutal honesty. Not to say that he doesn’t make stupid, ignorant comments sometimes, but he is brutally honest in his opinions which I respect to an extent.

Whether you don’t care about him, like him, love him, dislike him, hate him, want to punch him in the face – I don’t think anyone can deny that Charlamagne can evoke emotion on even the simplest of topics! It’s this personality that probably helped drive his debut book –

Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It

black literature, black brivilige, books
Reading for 2018…The privilege is ours for the taking.

I couldn’t envisage reading a book by Charlamagne because sometimes I just can’t take him seriously. I couldn’t see myself engrossed in Charlamagne’s words on a page. Watching him interview music artists was enough to be honest, I didn’t think I could get much value from his book.  It wasn’t until people who were not ‘fans’ of him per se, said I should read it. They were the last people I would expect to read a book by Charlemagne! So, going to a podcast festival in London, where Charlemagne and co-host Andrew shultz’s podcast, The Brilliant Idiots were the headline act was a good opportunity to get the book and see what all the hype was about (it’s a New York Times bestseller).

 

Headliners…

The book is an autobiographical concoction of Charlemagne’s early days, convoluted career path and the pearls of wisdom he picked up along the way.

“I want to speak to you about the village that raised me…how the spiritual legacy of the African slaves can still be felt in South Carolina four hundred years later”.

The book is split into 8 principles, including “5: Put the weed in the bag” and “6: Live your truth”. When you live your truth, it can’t be used against you, I think that’s a way of him saying embrace your ‘flaws’… In the book Charlemagne states that he looks like a teenage mutant ninja turtle. “By embracing my egg-shaped dome I’ve taken the ammunition away from people…by laughing at those comments instead of getting uptight, I’ve replaced a perceived weakness with power”.

As he’s a hip hop radio personality, hip hop culture and the music industry features throughout the book, including some of the most controversial interviews he has done including that “Kanye Kardashian” one. Charlemagne’s early years are quite predictable he was a good kid that went bad due to peer pressure, sold some drugs and did some stints in prison.

“So many of the mistakes I made could have been avoided.”

As the book progresses it’s his work ethic and ability to see the glass as half full that kept me engaged. Along with his brutal honesty of course. He talks about being bullied, being a bully, getting beaten up and working for free to get valuable work experience. He appears to be negative in some parts of the book like in principle 3: “F**K your dreams” but I found it a bit refreshing. Not that I don’t have hopes and dreams but I’m also a realist and a firm believer in finding your purpose and not doing something because everyone else is doing it. Not every black person is going to be an athlete, singer, video vixen or rapper and we shouldn’t limit ourselves to that even though the money is good IF it all works out.

“…the dreams you think are yours are actually somebody else’s. You’re only chasing them because you’ve seen them work for others.”

Charlemagne also talks about rising to fame and falling again, sleeping with his girlfriend / now wife’s cousin, the profound impact reading books have had on his life and criticisms of hip hop culture. For someone obsessed with hip hop culture the flaws of hip hop were probably difficult to admit. Sometimes you have to see something you love for what it really is. Various anecdotes are given, explaining how he has been able to push his way onto the screens of many.

“Exploring people and ideas outside your comfort zone is one area where hip-hop has been, unfortunately, very weak”.

The book starts well and gets you hooked, wanes a bit in the middle but has a consistent pace to keep you focussed on getting to the end. For his core audience the book is on point; for those who didn’t think it would offer much (like myself) the book showed someone who didn’t look like they had many prospects (no shade..), though faith, optimism and relentlessly pursuing his passion got to where he wanted to be. As the saying goes, “it takes years to become an overnight success”.

Speaking about the highs and lows of his early days, the virtues and flaws he realised in his parents are what humanised Charlemagne for me. Coming from living in a trailer in rural Moncks Corner, South Carolina, I can’t knock his hustle. Obviously, his story is from a young black hip-hop obsessed male’s perspective, which may put some people off. However, I didn’t expect much else because he is only speaking from his perspective. Some of his ‘pearls of wisdom’ may not necessarily be ground-breaking but described from his perspective introduces them in a new light that many can apply to their own situation – whatever it may be. Even those arguably outside his core audience (like me) who didn’t think would get much out of the book can get something from it – if willing to be open-minded.

As this was a book by an author that I never thought I would read, I was pleasantly surprised and would recommend this book. I’m a realist who admittedly who straddles the border line of pessimism (I’m working on this for 2018!). Reading this gave me the ‘elbow in the ribs’ reminder that the glass can be half full if I want it to be. This is not an endorsement of Charlemagne in general as I said he can say some stupid things at times. However, the book is a good read with the take home message, “embrace the concept that you are privileged [regardless of circumstance]. I believe in the power and privilege of God.”

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12 Christmas gift ideas for the whole family


The “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol is one of the most famous British carols, so I’m listing 12 Christmas gift ideas for the whole family! The reason we give Christmas gifts is to remember those given to baby Jesus by the Wise Men. Despite buying Christmas presents every year, we all need a little inspiration.

For decades large companies have made millions during Christmas. As consumers we tend to stick with what we know. This makes it difficult for small businesses to break into the Christmas retail season. So this year, I’m looking to small businesses for some Christmas gift ideas for the whole family.

They say Christmas is really for Children, so let’s start there…

Finding diverse children’s literature has never been easy. But times are starting to change with authors creating diverse stories appreciated by all children.

1. Football crazy Clever Carmel

It’s the World Cup and like all football crazy children Carmel is very excited! But what country should she support?! Carmel is mixed-race and isn’t sure where her loyalties should lie…find out what she decides to do.

Get your copy of Clever Carmel here

 clevercalmel

2. Santana’s World

Colouring and activity books take children along the adventures of Santana and her brother Amari.

santana world

 

3. Hip and Hop

Akala’s hip hop inspired children’s picture book uses rhyme to tell the story of how the main characters overcome difficult situations.

Get your copy of You Can do Anything (Hip and Hop) here
Akala hip and hop

Interiors don’t always jump out as the obvious Christmas gift, but sometimes it’s nice to get someone something for their home.

4. Bespoke Binny

A range of handmade African print gifts, including lampshades, aprons, oven gloves and more essentials to add a touch of Africa to your home.

bespoke binny 2bespoke binny

 @besbokebinny

5. AMWA designs

This interiors company create their own fabrics and print designs using Adinkra symbols. The origins of these symbols, each with a specific meaning, stem from the former great Empire of Mali which span across West Africa. More recently, the symbols are closely associated with the Akan tribes of Ghana. The handmade fabrics are used to make/decorate lighting devices, cushions, throws and men’s accessories.

amwa bow tiesAMWA ties

@amwa_designs

6. Bonita Ivie Prints

Usually an afterthought during the hysteria of Christmas shopping is the wrapping paper! I discovered Bonita Ivie Prints at a Black Ballad event earlier this year. From printed wrapping paper to phone cases, notebooks and other Christmas stocking treats, Bonita Ivie Prints has you covered.

bonitia prints paperbonita - phone case

@bonitaivieprints

 

7. Celisha Books – mug collection

Another great stocking filler is the good old humble mug! Used by anyone who wants a hot drink during this cold festive season and beyond. Celisha Books has added a collection of ‘Superwoman mugs’ to their product line this Christmas.

celisha mugs

@celishabooks

Fashion accessories tend to look the same on the generic high street, but these businesses are adding something unique to the accessories market.

8. D-Jewelsus

I discovered D-Jewelsus at a pop-up market in South London and couldn’t resist this choker. They have other designs and jewellery pieces that can compliment any Christmas outfit.

choker collage water mark

9. Korlekie

A designer weaving her Ghanaian and British heritage into her designs is Korlekie. Having designed outfits for various British celebrities, Korlekie also has a line of hand woven accessories. They have teamed up with watch brand Vitae for these watch gift sets.

korleckie watch plain

@korlekie

 

10. N’Damus London

Another small British business using quality craftsmanship is British accessories brand N’Damus London, producing classic leather goods for women and men. I’m focussing on the guys for this one! From backpacks to cufflinks and belts you’re bound to find something for any men in your life.

ndamus beltndamus bag

@ndamuslondon

Beauty gifts are popular at Christmas and these brands are making their own unique offering to the Christmas market. While there has been an amazing rise in small business hair care companies, I’m going to focus on the skin for the beauty inspiration.

 

11. Akoma

The Akoma “heart” adinkra symbol represents patience, goodwill, faithfulness, endurance and tolerance. When I was looking for natural soap that didn’t dry out my skin I was lucky to come across Akoma skin care. Along with soap bars, they have gift sets of African black soap, lip balm, moisturisers and much more, for men and women.

 akomawatermarkakoma watermark 2

12. Bea Skin Care

I discovered Bea Skin Care at a Black British Bloggers event in October. This skincare range has been featured in Black Beauty and Stylist magazine and I’ve been using their vitamin infused konjac exfoliating facial sponges for my blackheads. They have a range of beauty products that can make for a nice cleansing gift.

bea skin

So there you have it…some Christmas inspiration for the whole family from small British businesses. Merry Christmas!

 

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