Feed me something Beautiful

I’m kind of a foodie. That’s not to say that I’m an amazing chef (cuz I’m not), but I definitely relish a good food excursion. In the same way that I’m all about natural beauty, I’m all about natural food.

Being of Indian descent, a lot of people ask me if I can make Roti and of course if I like spicy food. People also get confused about whether I would make traditional Indian food (from India) as opposed to West Indian food. People here in Canada are not too familiar with Trinidadian food verses the more common Jamaican food.

There’s so much history underlying traditional foods. Its obvious on one level, but invisible if your eyes are not open to it. In the West Indies for example so many of our traditional dishes are rich in carbohydrates. Energy giving foods for a people who used to work the fields. We also favour highly spiced foods. I think this is because the produce and meats we historically had access to were lower quality than what’s available today. Therefore we spiced the hell out of it to transform meagre bits into something delicious.

For myself, the type of food that I seek and most love is fusion cooking. I love the unexpected flavours you get from mixing cultures. For example my boyfriend discovered last year that barbecue sauce goes really well with garam masala. At the Kariwak in Tobago they make a cafe frappe that’s a lot like the Greek frappe except it has coconut milk. I’ve found Indonesian food to be a tongue twisting combination of Thai and Chinese flavours (blows the mind). I’ve had spiced venison at an Indian fusion restaurant in New York that was to die for. All in all, in the same way that I love Colourful people, I love Colourful food.

Despite my ethnic indicators however, I’m a dismal failure at Roti and even curry. I’ve tried a million times to make something that even vaguely resembles my mum’s magical cooking, but sadly, her talents have not quietly passed into my own hands. Instead epicurious is my recipe companion and I continually troll various foodie blogs and books to learn new tricks and tastes from fellow colourful foodies around the world.

Food is a playful kind of creativity. We eat everyday and cook things everyday – we may as well make something beautiful. For me, food is beautiful when it is carefully prepared, when its ingredients are harvested ethically and when it is made without too many additives that I can’t pronounce.

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Christiane McGahan

This is the eighth post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via TumblrTwitter or Facebook
This week we tried something a little different. We posted a request for Colourful declarations on our Facebook page asking ‘What makes you Colourful?’. Below is a quote from Christiane McGahan.
Colourful for me is, that moment when you finally realize that other people look at you and just have no clue which category to put you in… you don’t fit the black/white/asian/hispanic categories they’re accustomed to, it confuses them and for a select few, it can even scare them…
But for those of us in this special category all our own, it is a source of amusement and yes, power, to realize that no matter what others think they ‘know’, the human race is in fact, just one race – the boundaries are simply in our minds.

To share your own Colourful declarations, go to our Facebook page and reply to the top post. We’ll highlight your responses on the blog.

A Paris hair diary

The other day as I was standing in line to buy a crepe, a woman crossing the street couldn’t keep her eyes off me. When she got closer, her eyes lit up, and gave me a nod of approval as she walked by. It wasn’t a creepy stare. I could guess what it was about, and she confirmed it as she crossed the street, turned around and started walking towards me. She was not a food inspector, nor a figment of my imagination screaming loudly: this better be your last crepe, you’re training for your second half-marathon and you don’t need the sugar.

It was my hair. She walked up to me and said: your locks are beautiful, where do you get them done?

When most Europeans see my hair, the ones that have the courage to say anything usually start with: How do you wash it? Can you take it off? Are you a Rastafarian? Is your family from Jamaica? All that because I wear my hair in locks. The decision to start locking my hair had nothing to do with religion, lifestyle or wanting to make a statement about black beauty. I was just simply tired of chemical relaxers, braids, short haircuts,  pressing with hot combs, and was never going to get a weave (hair extension) or a wig.

I just wanted to see how my hair would behave if i left it natural. I love my hair. No breakage from chemicals, healthy, strong, grows faster that it ever did while it was permed or dying during my jheri curls summer. Yes, I had jheri curls many, many, years ago. Oh the things we do to black hair!

And for what? Whose standards of beauty are we trying to live up to?

As the woman and I talked, it made me smile that she wanted to know who took care of my hair. Here was this black woman who spoke perfect French, living in Paris for over 20 years, asking a recent immigrant where to go to get her locks done. As she walked away, I noticed a group of four black teenage girls eating their crepes in the restaurant. They all had weaves. They were wavy, and straight, blonde, black and some with red highlights. They also stared at my hair, but said nothing.

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Hanna Herbertson

This is the seventh post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via Tumblr,Twitter or Facebook.

Hanna Herbertson of Blackgold Dance Crew

Seeing Hanna dance makes us want to dance. She is everything we love here at the Coloured Collective – sassy, passionate and talented. Born in South Korea, Hanna Herbertson moved to Sweden at an early age, where she grew up on an island in the Baltic sea called Gotland. Today, Hanna has extensive experience teaching dance as well as performing for audiences across the globe.

In September 2009, Hanna founded Blackgold Dance Crew together with choreographers Genius and History. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Hanna talked to us about her style of dance and inspiration:

‘How did you get into Danehall?
Growing up in Sweden I listened a lot to the radio and watched MTV. When I first heard tunes by Chaka Demus and Pliers and Shabba Ranks, I fell in love with dancehall music. The dance came later when Sean Paul buss and I discovered the party dances. I used to order dvd from parties in Jamaica and in NYC to learn, this was before youtube.. Lol!
When I came to NYC to study dance I ventured out from the commercial schools and went out the Brooklyn parties and danced with Jamaican dancers. Then in 2009 I was able to go to Jamaica for the first time. The rest is history 🙂

‘Can you describe what it is about Dancehall that you fell in love with?’
The music, the attitude and the freedom of expression was something that I had never experienced before in other cultures.

Dancer, Hanna Herbertson

‘What kinds of style you integrate with Dancehall?’
In the beginning when I started teaching and choreographing Caribbean style of dance I fused it more. Styles like belly dancing, soca, african, salsa etc. The last 4-5 years I’ve been gravitation more and more towards Jamaican dancehall though. Don’t like to be pigeonholed since I’ve studied many different kinds of dance styles so I have kept the name “Dancehall Fusion” and I still mash up styles when I think it’s appropriate.

‘Tell us about Blackgold Dance Crew and the kind of work that you do.’

In 2009 I started doing shows together with two choreographers/dancers from NYC, Genius and History. We quickly discovered that we had great chemistry as a trio and decided to form a dance crew and teach classes together. We ended up working with experienced dancehall artists like Mr Vegas and Mr Lexx. We have preformed and taught at high schools and collages around the US.

Internationally I’ve been teaching workshops, have created shows and done collaboration projects in countries like Jamaica, Germany, France, Finland and more. One of my current projects is working with Singaporean/Canadian artist Masia One. I’m in Toronto right now with her performing and teaching this week.

‘Finally Hanna, what would you say makes you a Colourful woman?’
Being adopted from South Korea, raised in Sweden and now living in NYC and doing dancehall, I’m living a colorful cultural mash up dream. Raised by a strong single mother who never got to travel much she always supported my endeavors and choice of profession. That has contributed a lot to my drive to learn, experience and enjoy life to the fullest and to live my life like it’s golden.

If you are in Toronto this week you’d be mad not to check out Hanna’s show the details of which are below.

Also to learn more about Hanna and her ongoing work, visit her website  www.HannaHerbertson.com.


Creatively, I live in this strange mental and physical space in which I can’t quite resolve the issue of audience. I have an art exhibition on at the moment in Toronto (more on that here) and coming out of making this show I’m left with questions about myself and my work -about community and art.

Who am I painting for? When I lived in Brooklyn a few years back I asked an artist how it was he knew that his work touched anyone. He said that if he expressed himself honestly that there would surly be people out there somewhere who could identify with his experiences and expressions. There’s something to that. For a person like me though, who lives in the world of Walcott’s Prodigal and who lives without the shelter of religion, racial acceptance or community, who in the world am I painting for?

Have you seen that episode of How I Met you Mother where Lily realizes that the ideal audience for her art was cats and dogs? So she exhibited her work in Vet offices? It was hilarious and silly but oddly applicable.

My desolate musing aside, feedback on my work has been good. There are certain pieces that resound with people on a level that is perhaps common to us all. In that sense maybe with time I, like my work, will grow to a place that is transparent and accessible to all walks of life. I have already grown to be a remarkable in-between-er. Maybe my work will appeal, as this blog does, to all of the other people like myself – caught in between. Or maybe we are all the same animal, responding to the infinite articulations of life as different people. In this sense, audience isn’t an issue. Art is for all of us, so I just won’t worry about it.

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Manoush Zomorodi

This is the sixth post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via Tumblr,Twitter or Facebook.

Manoush Zomorodi is a freelance reporter, moderator, and media consultant. Her multimedia ebook CAMERA READY: How to Present Your Best Self and Ideas On Air or Online is the definitive manual for anyone appearing on camera.

Manoush is piloting a new public radio show about how innovation is changing New York. She contributes to the BBC’s Talking Movies show and hosts conferences on digital technology (including social media, online publishing, and start-ups). She also conducts private media training/strategy sessions and moderates videos for corporations and non-profits.

She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, NY1 reporter and anchor Josh Robin, and their two kids. Manoush was born and bred in NYC and is half Swiss and half Persian.

Oh, and the name? It’s pronounced mah-NOOSH zom-or-ROAD-ee.

Manoush talked to us about her motivations and inspirations:

‘What makes you a colourful woman?
My excessive potty mouth? No, I guess I’m colorful (or colourful- I also speak British) because I just can’t help myself from jumping into a conversation and asking lots of questions. I’m nosy and that’s always been very helpful as a journalist and makes people remember me, for better or worse. I remember a game we once played in the BBC’s Washington bureau where each person had to be labelled with one word. The word they come up with for me was “zesty.” Like a good salad dressing.

‘Who are some of your colourful inspirations?’
Right now, I would have to say Elmo. My 2 year-old is in love and I have developed a real fondness for Elmo’s combination of kindness and sass. Plus, red is a power color that really pops on camera!

‘What are some of your projects right now?’
Sheesh, too many. Besides having a multimedia enhanced ebook coming out on Tuesday, we are running a Kickstarter campaign to get the ebook’s “Quality Video for Everyone” message out. I’m a first time author and finding the whole process very exhilarating and emotional. I’m also piloting a public radio show about how innovation is affecting the NYC economy. Plus, I do my regular media training. Oh, and I have 2 kids and I’ve been dealing with the New York public school system and Kindergarten placement. That’s a full-time job in itself!

‘What message would you like to share with our readers today?’
Just do the best you can. If you are a mom, don’t kill yourself but also, don’t put everything off “until the kids are older” because things are moving too fast in media and the digital world to jump back in whenever you want. And not everyone is going to LOVE you. After being a news ‘wunderkind’ in my twenties, it’s hard to get used to that. But I’ll always have Elmo.

The Ominous Hijab

I’m in Turkey for 7 weeks.

Among many new cultural experiences, I’ve been curious to witness first-hand the role in society of the ominous hijab.  I’ll be spending time in the capital Ankara, in Istanbul the largest city, and throughout the countryside and smaller villages, as we journey south to the Aegean coast.

There is no official religion here, although 96% of the population is Muslim, it’s a secular state.  Compared to most of their Arab neighbours to the east, they’re more like Islam-Lite.

I have to say though, in the short time I’ve already spent here, I’m pretty disappointed to find maybe… 5 women in a hijab.  There were two in niqabs in the grocery store and that got me pretty excited, but for the most part, I’ve been walking around the city and seeing girls in shorts shorter than mine, and couples making out like pimply teenagers in local pubs.  Damn.  No islamic rigidity here.  Actually most of them seem to be terrible muslims, like my boyfriend, who drinks like a fish, doesn’t know when Ramadan is, and hasn’t been inside a mosque since Allah knows when.  I’m hoping he doesn’t go up in flames when he takes me to Hagia Sofia.

Ask him his opinion of the hijab, and he’ll tell you it’s downright stupid. “Nothing in the Qur’an says you have to wear one, and it’s a stupid tradition perpetuated by idiot men who want to keep women docile.”

“Well what about women who choose to wear it freely of their own accord?”

“Well then they’re stupid too. Why would you want to cover yourself like that? It is hot as shit outside.”


My grandmother was Muslim, though she never wore a hijab, and I don’t really remember ever seeing anything too Islam-y in their home. She married a Christian, and I’m sure somewhere, someone probably thinks that means she’ll roast in hell and won’t get to heaven to receive her 40 virgins (wait… so do women get 40 virgins too in Islamic heaven? Talk about short-changed), but mostly all I remember of her, was that she was a sweet but firm woman, and the most wonderful hugger.  Hijab or no, she was respected and valued all the same.

I’ve never had the opportunity to speak with a fundamentalist or a Shi’ite to understand sharia law or why a woman would choose to veil her identity from an ever-growing visual world.

Western women complain about being objectified all the same, and judged for their looks before anything else, yet here in twisted irony we view the obscurity of the Islamic female face as part of that same distress.

I still haven’t gotten down to the bottom of why the hijab is such a thorn in people’s sides, but I’m hoping my remaining time here will lend me some insight.  At the end of the day though, I feel like women should be able to do and wear whatever the fuck they want, but the hijab to me, feels more like a visual statement of religion in your presence — and that, is something I have an entirely different opinion about.

More soon.

Who’s who….? Where?

I recently had the privilege of becoming part of the team at whoswhoinblackcanada.

WWIBC is not-for-profit website geared towards bringing awareness to all the successes that we in the Black community many times never take the time to appreciate.  We are often too self-involved to notice that there are others who have paved the way or set the bar. These are the ones who prove with a little hard work and a lot of dedication dreams do come true. As cliché as that sounds – it’s true.

Which brings me to the trigger to today’s topic– why don’t we support each other more? What happened to the saying “there’s power in numbers”?

As a community, we are so quick to judge and disparage one another and our goals. How many times have we heard: “How is she going to do that, and we all know she has no money?” .It’s like people forget in almost every success story you read, these people literally started with nothing.

So where’s the occasional pat on the back or words of encouragement? Or the interest to ask: ‘How’s it going?’? Is it indeed lack of interest, or a deep-rooted envy that someone is doing something with their life, where some may be held back by fear? Whose fault is it that some choose to sit at home doing nothing, while others choose to do something? It’s not going to come to you – you have to go out and find it. Hell, stick your face in its face until it acknowledges you. But you have to do. That’s all – do.

The problem is that it’s easier to break down than build up. We are more comfortable knowing that someone else failed and is down on our level, than seeing someone succeed and rise to levels we never dreamt of. But here’s the thing; even those who failed have already succeeded because they chose to do something. And the fact of the matter is that trying and failing is better than never trying at all. And true failure isn’t really failure unless you’ve given up.

I think it’s better to congratulate, support, and acknowledge someone’s success. It just may ignite something deep inside and inspire you to get up and get on. You start to think: “Well if she could do it, why can’t I? What am I waiting for? Where do I begin?” Take pride in knowing that someone did something, that someone took the chance. Take pride in knowing that someone just like you followed their dream.

Yep I said it – someone  just like you. Be a part of the domino effect this community needs. Become inspired to inspire others. The negativity continues to break us down. This goes beyond the black community, naturally, but I speak on what I know. The great thing is that the domino effect starts off small and continues to grow.

All you really need to do, is just that – do.