Not just a necessary stop along the way to Kenya’s deservedly popular safari and beach holiday destinations, Nairobi is an exciting, thoroughly cosmopolitan city in its own right – and one that increasingly deserves notice.
There is truly great beauty to be discovered in Kenya’s capital. Known as the Green City in the Sun, there are indeed many parks and green spaces within the city centre and its outskirts where one can take advantage of the climate. Nairobi has increasingly become a hub of creativity in areas of visual arts, design and fashion that should not be overlooked. We’ve recently seen several of the city’s creative leaders receiving international accolades.
While a visit to the Maasai market is a must for high-quality local handicrafts, fabrics, home wares and accessories, travellers can step it up to purchase (or just browse) true luxury items from contemporary and emerging Kenyan designers and artists. Nairobi is having its moment, and is so much above and beyond what many visitors would ever anticipate.
We recommend getting your hands on a copy of the fashion book by The Nest Collective, Not African Enough, which features some of Kenya’s top creative talents and explores African fashion from within. Since its founding in 2012, The Nest Collective has produced critically acclaimed work in the disciplines of film, music, fashion and literature, and has become a notable cultural force developing a new narrative around Nairobi and the African continent as a whole. The Nest Collective also founded HEVA—Africa’s first creative business fund of its kind—to strengthen the livelihoods of East Africa’s creative entrepreneurs.
To get a sense of what’s happening in African fashion right now, visit Diana’s Opoti’s Designing Africa Collective shop in the tony Village Market shopping centre. You’ll find an expertly curated collection of clothing and accessories from top designers hailing from throughout the continent. While the Village Market is well known for housing the Maasai market on each Friday, its permanent shops are not to be overlooked. The beautifully designed and landscaped outdoor shopping centre boasts the signature shop of Adele Dejak, a pioneer creator of handmade accessories made from natural, local materials. Splurge on the cool Nairobi girls’ ‘IT’ bag in cowhide from the designers’ Grace Collection.
Selected for the 2019 International Fashion Showcase of emerging international designers, Ami Doshi Shah creates truly stunning and unique hand-crafted jewellery. Her I AM I adornments are made using locally sourced materials, including copper, rope, brass, wood, leather and semi-precious stones. Make an appointment to shop at the studio, and a limited selection is available online through online retailer Ichyulu.
Katungulu Mwendwa’s dreamy designs are at once fiercely modern and anchored in simplicity. Her clothing line is infinitely wearable in any settling, anywhere in the world, while being firmly rooted in Africa. We love how Katungulu’s pieces are expertly cut and detailed, so the overall effect is amazingly flattering while looking effortless and breezy. Mwendwa’s creations are also available online at www.ichyulu.com and other retailers.
A favourite for locals and visitors alike, Lisa Christoffersen’s home gallery features a revolving tribal art collection from all over Africa, along with unique home furnishings for sale, and her own line of original pashmina designs with a distinctly African touch. An interior designer based in Nairobi and originally from Tanzania, Lisa has also published a safari guide, “Bushfriendly Tips for Girls (Boys Too!!!)”.
In the leafy suburb of Lavington, along James Gichuru Road, Circle Arts Gallery is a must for visual arts enthusiasts. Equally compelling for connoisseurs and collectors of East African contemporary art as well as those simply looking to browse, the Gallery shows visitors a different and unexpected side of Nairobi – one which is clearly growing and contributing to the city’s status as a hub for creative life and a vibrant arts scene.
A little further afield, but very much worth a detour, is the GoDown Arts Centre, just 5 minutes from the CBD at the edge of the Industrial Area. Established in 2003, in a space that was formerly a car repair warehouse, the centre has contributed significantly to the growth, recognition and visibility of local artist by fostering and facilitating collaborations and encounters between artists from different disciplines and different parts of the world. A massive expansion is planned over the next several years, including a multi-disciplinary, thoroughly modern development with cafes, gallery space, artist studios, and inviting public spaces. We recommend getting down to the centre while it is still in its original, grittier form.
While Kenya is best known for its unparalleled safaris and natural wonders, Nairobi is a city destination worth a deeper look into its entrepreneurial heart and cosmopolitan soul. There is always something new to discover here, alongside long-standing favourites, creating a dynamic juxtaposition of old and new, traditional and contemporary.
A few notables, for keeping up with Nairobi life and style:
Check out the Nairobi-based brother-sister duo, Too Many Siblings
Enjoy a dose of Matatu culture, a distinctly Nairobi phenomenon that inspires serious love/hate among the city’s denizens
Explore the tasty delights of the city’s booming culinary scene
To work some of these special stops into your Nairobi sightseeing, be sure to talk to your Micato Safari Specialist.