Spring Style Ideas


Are you having trouble coming up with style combinations? Try these looks. Depending upon the weather, you may or may not need to add a jacket or more layers to keep warm.

Shila Iris for African Essence

Need something to read?


The Warm Embrace of Mud Cloth…

Soon, the seasons will change to a warmer climate which may prevent us from wearing our beautiful mud cloths. Although created in a place where the weather is typically warm, it can be difficult to indulge in the beauty of this Malian textile once the sun starts blazing. So, you may want to start taking your heavier pieces out for their final spins. In many states, you should be able to get through the Spring wearing bogolanfini and if so, go for it! Here are some of my favorite styles…

The artistry and aesthetic sophistication of African textiles and dress has been admired and appreciated by foreign observers since the time of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Navigators would travel to Zaire, Mali, the Kuba Kingdom, Kasai region, and the Kongo from overseas, returning home with cherished prizes of embroidered cloths and mud-dyed fabrics. Fast forward to 2014, what is the importance of these cloths today?

At the risk of greatly oversimplifying the extremely elaborate symbolism in African textiles, we have come to accept them as “ethnic” prints, sold to the masses strictly for profit. However, to the trained eye, a print is not good enough. I myself desire raffia cloths from Zaire. I dream of owning just a piece of a royal Ashanti kente cloth. I would travel far to acquire an aso oke, the ceremonial cloth of the Yoruba or any of the wax-printed cloths that adorned my ancestors. However, my most beloved choice of fabric is the bogolanfini, mud-dyed cloth of Mali; which translates from the Bamana as “mud cloth.”

I like the look of bogolanfini. I like its stiffness. I like how it compliments my tinted skin and I like its warm embrace. Mud cloth was originally decorated by women in the Bamana-speaking region of Mali, using a unique process that utilized dyes made from mud and leaves to produce light designs outlined with a dark background. In its local context, it remains to be a crucial garment worn to mark important lifecycle stages including birth, marriage, and death.

Today, numerous Malian’s as well as the Fulani and Dogon, have taken up the craft to produce simplified versions for tourists and the international market. But let us not forget, the genuine beauty and history of these fabrics. I am not an anthropologists or African art enthusiast looking to profit from this cultural artifact. I am simply a person who is aware of the greatness of my ancestors. I feel their royalty in everything that I do. I am empowered through them!

Read more about the bogolanfini, mud-dyed cloth of Mali…

The Kush Queen, 2/5/2014

I think I’m in love with a woman… wait, maybe several of them!


Yes, I love the ladies! These sisters know how to bring the fire! Check em’ out.

DYNASTY, this lyrical beast, IS MY MAIN CHICK RIGHT NOW!

“Listen to the MC when he spittin’/ if he represent the elements, he’s furthering the mission.”



Not only is she super cute, but her lyrics are amazing. Definitely deep and dope! CLiCk here to hear. FORGIVE, Live at FUNKFEST, MAGNIFICENT, EPIC. WEBSITE


SA-ROC, the rap genius, IS MY SIDE CHICK! She is intoxicating and most definitely untouchable. However, she is my “go to” and I would actually choose her over my main! How can I say no? Have you seen her? What’s so great about her is that her lyrics are not surface. You have to dig deeper and deeper and deeper. So be prepared to experience truth.

“My grind metaphysical/spiritual/hustler/I’m a wild seed like Octavia/Butler/they study my demeanor/ trynna get my lotus poles/drop a cool 16 with my poets prose/Like I’m Nikki/definitely not Minaj/Giovanni!”

Sa Roc




AKUA NARU, rapper and poet, IS MY AROUND THE WAY CHICK! I will travel far to see her because her presence is water to my flowers and food for my soul. She is refreshingly sophisticated and mature. Above that, I admire her career because she has been successful with promoting her music around the world. I also love to hear her smooth voice. I think I need her. Smile.

Akua Naru

Akua Naru



THE LES NUBIANS ARE the sultry WOMEN I LIKE TO WATCH. They are gorgeous, melodic, confident, and super eccentric in such a great way. I’m loyal to them- always. Oh my! Check out the way their bodies move! Pure hotness! They will forever have a place near my heart. Peace and love to them.

Les Nubians

Les Nubians- a bit blurry, but one of my favorite pics


Bonus! Check out Ms. Lauryn Hill. I really believe that we need to stop judging this sister here. I’ve noticed that people have been so quick to dog her out! Damn,  chill already! She just got out. Let her find her voice again. It can be hard to put up with the bullshit that comes with success. Let’s allow her to breathe. 

Thank you for stopping by! Remember to keep an open heart and an open mind. Have fun.

Reading: LET YOUR MOTTO BE RESISTANCE by Deborah Willis

Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits

Shila Iris aka Kush

The Hooded Dress


I have this growing obsession with hooded dresses. Oddly, I do not own any… yet!

The book I’m reading:


Oh my! This book is magnificent! Look at that dance move! Dare you to try it! Smile.

Thanks for visiting African Essence.

Kush Queendom

Got time to browse?  http://www.afropunk.com/     www.zmalfashion.com

My Love for Seydou Keita




Seydou Keita is the self-taught photographer who sparked my interest in portrait, fashion, and family photography; as well as photojournalism and macro/micro face picture-taking. He is best known for his works of art captured between 1940 and 1960, exhibited in hundreds of gallery’s nationwide. That is a great accomplishment for any photographer. He is also known for his books:

  1. Seydou Keita
  2. You Look Beautiful Like That
  3. Photographs, Bamako, Mali 1948-1963

I don’t want to go on a rant about how much I love him, but I will say that Seydou’s work continues to take my breath away. I am always discovering new elements in his photography that I may have missed the first time around. I often mention his name in conversations when I am asked about how I nurture my eccentricities. I honor the greatness in other people. Seydou’s work has challenged and inspired me to share my gifts with the world.

There are many people who are capable of taking exceptional photos but, if you are looking for a teacher, examining his work may help you to understand what photography is really about. With him, it was more than just a picture, it was history, culture, fashion, and reality.

Here are some of my favorite pictures that you can find on the internet. However, there are so many great photos in his books, so if you have a library card, check them out!

In Janet Jackson‘s video, Got Til It’s Gone featuring Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell, the images reminded me of Seydou’s work. Let me know what you think.

Other photographers whose work I appreciate.

Looking for reasons to become a photographer? Examining Seydou Keita’s work- you just may want to try it out!

I am Kush.

Related articles



The Up Close and Personal Diaries


Kush Queendom Diaries

Welcome. I want to introduce to you my new series of articles and interviews titled: Up Close and Personal. They feature yours truly, but the goal is to speak with other women and men that I find to be significant. I will link them in the menu bar to replace the “Stories” tab. This is the first. Check it out. It’s just about me! Testing the waters to find harmony. Smile.


What is your real name? My name is Shila, but I have some aliases. It’s fun to use different names when writing, performing, or painting. Oh yes, those are some of the things that I do. Ok, so let’s talk about what you do. Honestly, I have a lot of talents and have not yet settled into one. I think as a society, or generation, we are a bit beyond the days where we worked 30 years and retired from the same company. The stability of this lifestyle can be comforting, but I am not that. I need rapid change. However, I need to maintain a steady cash flow to survive. Been shifting a lot lately to secure this level of my life. I live in America. Although I think the concept of money is full of shit, I still gotta pay bills. So how are you maintaining financially? It’s a combination of things. I have a gig and then I do freelance performance art, business writing, graphic designing, I’ve sold paintings. I wish to do better with selling my talents. My entrepreneurial side helps. Do you have children? No. How old are you? 29. Are you going to have children? What! Not sure. I really love my nieces and nephews and find comfort in them when I need to satisfy that instinct. However, I may in another life. What is your average day like? It is not a 9 to 5 type of day. It changes. I have worked very late into the night and very early. This way is better for me. My day is not all about work. I have time for reflection, exercise, connecting with people, some eating, spending time with nature like staring into the sky, walking by Lake Erie, smelling the flowers. It all matters. Hmm. Is this balance a challenge? Yes. I am learning that everything has to be in moderation. Too much or too little doesn’t work. Balance the scales to reduce stress. Have fun, but not before you give it your all. That’s nice. Is this actually working for you? Yes, but it does not exist in the element of perfection. I’m working it out. How are you maintaining your health? Herbs and holistic methods work best for me. I’ve eliminated bread as much as possible because of my sensitivity to gluten. Not much dairy, definitely not milk. Sweets on occasion, if at all. Today I wanted a Krispy Kreme donut, but I resisted. I like broccoli, brussel sprouts, green beans, potatoes, romaine salads with a vinaigrette. I cook veggies in as much garlic and capers as I can stand without becoming offensive to others… the smell! I eat corn chips with hummus weekly. If I am over a friends, I will eat a chip, but I stopped buying them. A few months ago I was adjusting to having gained 10 lbs. I was telling everyone. They were probably cursing me out in their minds because I was going on and on. I should have kept quiet. I was just surprised that one morning I got up and was much heavier than I’d ever been. I couldn’t fit my pants. I was irritated. People actually noticed that I had gained weight! Now recently, I lost 15 lbs without even being aware that I was losing weight. This happened in a month. It teaches me that I should not speak of the unimportant. I should just try to balance it all out. Make it count in a different way. My weight is not a problem. Just eat to live. No complaints. If I gain a little weight tone it up. If I lose it, do the same. I also love wine both dark and light. I am careful with the alcohol. It’s full of calories. But I like it too. Smile. That’s cool! Have you been published? Well, yes I have worked with a local magazine for a few years- articles, photos and photo manipulation, poetry, and this blog is a publication. I want to go farther with this, though. I want to do some serious editorial publishing. I want to conquer the challenges of reading. and get people to read what I write. I want to delve into the element of persuasion with the pen. What is your style of music? Oh my, it’s so much. Right now I am listening to N.E.R.D. and Kelis. In my music library you can find Badu, L. Hill, Sade, Sweetback, Gregory Isaacs, The Jackson 5, Common, Telepopmusik, The Roots, De La Soul, Tribe, Tupac, early Alicia Keys music, Esthero, Lucy Pearl, Aerosmith, Bjork and Portishead, Me’Shell Ndegeocello, Amy Winehouse, Anita Baker, The Art of Noise, Asa, Nneka, Ambrose Akinmusire, Bilal, Maxwell, D’Angelo, Alanis Morisette, SWV, Brandy, Xscape, Janet Jackson, TLC, 702, 112, Donell Jones, Carl Thomas, Tweet, Enigma, Madonna, Etana, Eurythmics, Eric Roberson, Gaelle, Carlos Santana, Goodie Mob, Fisk University Jubilee Singers, Floetry, Watts Prophets, The Verve, Black Starr, Skye aka Morcheeba, Miles Davis, Musiq… and the list goes so far and wide. Lots of people have good things to say lyrically. You get excited about music? Most definitely. I love to hear a lot of the old and some new like LiAnn La Havas, Esperanza Spalding, Quadron, Janelle Monae… shit! I hesitate when talking about new music. I really have to search my brain when trying to think of newer artists that resonate. The world is evolving and there are still those out there with major talent. You have an interesting style. What inspires your dress code? It’s all me. I don’t mimic anyone or anything. When I’ve tried to be sexy or cute, it didn’t work out spiritually and it attracts an attention that I do not need. So I keep it queen-like. I’m Shila. That’s all. But, there are some artists out there whose styles I like. Les Nubians. Whoa! Beautiful. Erykah can do no wrong when it comes to dress! Nneka has this rugged look that I adore. Solange is OK because she isn’t mainstream with her dress code. I definitely dig her hair. Jill Scott has a nice look. Boy does she wear that smile! That’s pretty much it. I don’t model myself after anyone, though, especially not entertainers. Why did you name your blog African Essence? I was trying to represent what’s inside of me- the style, the story, the real deal. I feel close to my ancestors. I do not want to ever repress my true roots. I feel it in my soul. I love the culture within. I project it. I actually am at the point where I want to change the name. I’ve evolved into something else. That’s coming. I’ve noticed that you read a lot. Yes. Honestly, it has been so hard to maintain a regular reading schedule, but sometimes I have to just stop, put it all down and read…  and I don’t want to read online or using an eReader. I need the book to be in my hand. I want to feel the spine, the pages.Yes! Even with magazines and newspapers, CD inserts! I like the smell. I like the physical. Any favorites? For some reason Lerone Bennett Jr’s Before the Mayflower is a book that I cherish. I have 4 editions of it. My favorite mag is WaxPoetics. Whatchu know about it!? I discovered this magazine in ATL at a record store in Little Five Points. Been in love ever since. I read mostly non-fiction African-American Lit/Black Studies. I also read a lot of books based in Buddhist philosophies, art and science rituals, things like that. What is the up close series about? I tend to open up like a flower when I am around the right people. They love that I am not afraid to tell the truth. I love that they appreciate a good story and listen so well. I say some interesting things. I am more interested in the things that others have to say, so here I am. As an aspiring writer, it is important that I take this challenge- get people to open up just like me! It’s so much better when we tell the truth… with humility. Tell us something interesting, Shila. About you. Oh wow! I suppose this is the point of it all! Ok, so you really want to know? Here it is! I do not believe in religion or marriage as practiced in doctrine. I believe in a higher connection with the Creator, Universe, and with people! It gets better than what’s on paper and in a book. Don’t hate me! Smile. Peace.

Interview conducted by the spirit of Gil Scott-Heron – haha

Gotta, gotta read. Trying to finish the Questlove book and I am looking forward to reading The Hip Hop Generation by Bakari Kitwana.

16131189       The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture

Finding harmony,



I Write


Just Wanted to Share My Poetry

Just Wanted to Share My Poetry

Note: I tell people to refresh their pages because I am always changing things. However, keep in my mind, I have to protect my writing so the words that are not visible are on purpose! Smile. Copyright law Shila style! Embrace the digital art. Peace and love.

Snippets of my writing. Enjoy.

Shila aka Queen

P.S. We must read! On Friday, November 15 I had the pleasure of experiencing this very beautiful sister at Case Western Reserve University’s Think Tank hosted by the lovely Ms. Rhonda Williams.

Author: Sonia Sanchez


Homegirls and Handgrenades

Why We African Headdress


Often referred to as headwraps or turbans, African and African-like head coverings have become quite the accessory in various dress codes. I believe that it is a beautiful addition to the wardrobe and in my closet, it is my most beloved adornment. I wear headwraps at least twice a week and have been doing so for quite some time. It is part of the many cultures that I celebrate, all indigenous to the continent we know as Africa. I encourage ladies to explore the headwrap, not just as a fashion statement, but as part of African-American identity. Like other headgear such as the niqab, hijab, kufi, kofia, kippah, non la, patka, shpitzel, tam, taqiya, or sombrero it has its purpose and is highly valued by those who wear it.

Why wear a headwrap?

#1 REASON – It’s simply beautiful.

#2 REASON - To represent the African Diaspora: it’s part of the culture we lost during the Middle Passage. We are redefining and regaining our physical identity via attire/garb.

#3 REASON – It’s protective of our crowns.

#4 REASON - In compliance with codes of modesty.

#5 REASON – It represents regality.

#6 REASON – To absorb perspiration when working and keep the hair off the face.

#6 REASON – Social and spiritual significance; articulation of piousness.

#7 REASON – It’s quite stylish.

Most of the time you can determine the use of a headwrap based on the type of fabric used. I listed a few reasons, but I know there is so much information out there surrounding the headwrap. Explore.

Related Materials                                                                                       


The African American Woman’s Headwrap: Unwinding the Symbols

HarvestGirlLove Etsy Store

Jafya Royalworks Etsy Store

Tambo Collection

Purchase African Headdress

Thank you for visiting,

The Kush Queen for African Essence

P.S. I found this video to be very enlightening. It’s always good to know the truth and decide what you want to do with it.

FaLL LoOk BoOK PaGe 2… wear what you got


This Autumn I am focusing on wearing what is already in my closet. I won’t be purchasing much of anything. I gained some weight and had to let some things go. However, I had enough stretchy clothing to carry me for a while. My motto is no CONSUMERISM. Thank you Lauryn Hill for solidifying my decision! She gets deeper than fashion in her hot new track.

Today’s Look: The Lavender Sweater Dress


  • Stretchy fabric used for head wrapping from JoAnn’s.
  • Lavender dress from Venus. I was quite disappointed when I first bought this dress because I ordered the smallest size they had and it was too big! However, I gained 5 lbs and now I can fit it! It was on sale for $19 last year. I really like it now! Venus has nice dresses for women who have curves. I normally would buy from the sale and clearance sections. This dress has to be hand washed.
  • The black and gray multicolored sweater is from TJMaxx. It was $25 which is more than what I would normally pay, but I needed a sweater. I have worn this for 3 years and I hand wash it as well.
  • The stockings are gray from Target for $4.
  • The shoes are by Aldo. They were expensive because of the leather. It’s called the Fornilli.
  • Sterling silver earrings from a guy who came into the beauty salon selling jewelry! $10. Sterling silver rings from thrift stores, Passport to Peru, and City Buddha.

Final Note: Sweater dresses are one of my favorite items of clothing so when I saw this one for just $19, I jumped on it! They can get pretty pricey, but I’ll stay in the under $30 range. It’s difficult for me to pay over $25 for any article of clothing that is not mud cloth or Kente cloth. I normally buy them at the end of the season for more than 80% off. I’ve gotten them from Dots, H&M, Dillards, and online, all for under $20. This dress is made with viscose and is very thin and a bit see-through. Wearing with stockings is a must. You may even have to wear a slip.

The Kush Queen for African Essence

P.S. Have you been reading? Don’t slip. Queens must read. This is the first fiction book I’ve read in years and I’m liking it. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King.

Doctor Sleep (The Shining, #2)

FaLL LOoK BoOk PaGe 1 … wear what you got


In the Midwest weather used to be simple. We would have cold Winters, warm Springs, hot Summers, and moderate Falls. Times have changed and sometimes the seasons blend. I have no complaints! I actually love the complexities of weather. Everyday is an exploration. I no longer pack away my winter or summer clothes for storage. Everything stays in the closet year round. Sunday I wore shorts and today I had on heavy socks and insulated shoes. That’s how it is these days!

Just go with the flow of the sun. Since, the seasons can no longer dictate the dress code, wear what is befitting of the day. This is a wardrobe check to help you transition into “autumn-like” weather…

Don’t forget to share, comment, and follow African Essence!


  • My natural hair is permanently dyed using Silk Elements Santa Fe Bronze. I normally only dye my crown once every 4-6 months. Recently I decided that I wanted to grow the color out and focus on my original hair color of black. The dye is $4.
  • The shirt is made by a brand called Angie from Dillard’s. It was originally $32 but I bought it for $10.
  • The denim skirt is originally made by Mossimo for Target. I got it brand new from a thrift store for $3.
  • The stockings are from Target..maybe $4?
  • The fringe boots are from Sears/Kmart online. I caught them on sale last season for $10. The quality is fine. No visible wear or tear. They were originally $30. I noticed that these stores offer cheaper items online. What’s the catch? I don’t know! You can get fringe boots from Kohl’s, Nordstrom’sMacy’s, etc. I am not sure if they are the trend this year… but of course on African Essence we don’t follow trends, we set them!
  • Earrings: Icing by Claire’s for $2
  • Left arm bracelets from Glitter 3 for $3. Right arm leather bracelet from City Buddha for $4. The wooden necklace might also be from City Buddha for maybe $3?

CONSUMERISM. I went to Forever21 a few months back and was amazed to see that the clothing store had expanded to twice its size. It was ridiculously overwhelming so much that I vowed not to return! It was just entirely too much clothing. It looked like a sweat shop had thrown up in that place! I decided then that I would wear what I have and try not to spend any money on clothes. People think that I buy buy buy, but I have had most of my wardrobe for years. I was the same clothing size for about 10 years. Recently this changed and I had to buy a few items. Before this, my clothes lasted… :) Honestly, I admit that my closet is stretched so I am not going to be doing much shopping until at least Summer 2014. I am saving for some trips/vacations so I will see how this balances out.

Peace and so much love!

The Kush Queen for African Essence

P.S. As much as I am drawn to some decorative clothing, we have to be careful not to become wasteful, penniless consumers. Check out Lauryn Hill’s new song called CONSUMERISM. I love her. If you don’t see the track below refresh the page. :)

Ode to Camouflage aka Army Fat





If I have to love anything about trends this year, it is definitely army fatigue and camouflage attire. Although it has been around for decades, it is one of Autumn’s biggest fashion highlights. When you go to stores such as H&M, Forever21, DEB, Rainbow, Wet Seal, Macy’s, Dillards, Rue 21, Body Central, Urban Outfitters, Target or anywhere, you will see it plastered on every mannequin from pants and leggings to jackets, hats, backpacks, scarves, shoes, and even cell phone accessories, coffee mugs, watches, purses and dog clothes. I’ve always liked the camouflage design. Browsing the web, I saw some ladies who looked really fly in their army fat:

Note: This is sort of a long entry because I wanted to show you that there are so many ways to be creative with army fatigue. So scroll all the way through to get the full experience. If you click on an image, use the arrows to go to the next image and as always please do not be afraid to FOLLOW African Essence using your email address. Look for the follow buttons on the page. I love you too! Peace.

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In order for me to rock the jackets they definitely have to be cut a certain way. I like them cropped, military cut, and I even like the suit jackets. I DO NOT like rhinestones or any funny patches attached. Some of the jackets above have added studs, but I do not like that part of the design. Maybe you do? I actually dig awkward zippers and pockets, but that is it as far as I go.

Men look great with this look. Do you agree? 

Overall, I will continue to buy camouflage attire because it just sits well with me. However, paying super high prices for it is not an option. Often times you can get it at a Thrift Store. Again, I do not like the studs on Army Fat/Camo and I do not like the actual word “ARMY” being on the clothing. However, to each their own.

The Kush Queen for African Essence

Learning How to Wear Skinny Jeans Part 2


Yesterday I shared with you all how I wear my black skinny’s. This is my red pair. Check it out and let me know what you think. Don’t be afraid to like this post if you are a wordpress blogger and subscribe using the follow blog option in the menu to your left. I’d appreciate it! Thanks!

Peace and so much love,

The Kush Queen for African Essence Blog


Learning How to Wear Skinny Jeans Part 1


Ok, skinny’s aren’t my favorite, but somehow I bought 3 pairs for under $10 a piece. They have been sitting in my closet collecting dust, so I thought I’d give them another go… this is DAY 1: The black pair.

Overall, I like them a little. I definitely think you have to know your body type in order to wear them because like everything in life, everything ain’t for everybody. These jeans hug so if you wear them, KNOW your body!!!!!!

*I figured, I might as well not waste them. I think they look OK on me according to my shape. I’ve seen a few ladies who can honestly wear them and look great in them (I’ve only seen a few). I’ve worn this black pair in the past with high heel wedges and other sandals. I will not wear them with flats unless I cuff the bottom of the jean. The flats have to be a clean-looking light weight canvas shoe. None of those Tom’s shoes or baby doll flats. I do not like that look at all! It makes the feet look like boats! LOL. Well anywho… I’ll be back tomorrow with a 2nd look.

Peace and love,

The Kush Queen of African Essence


Embrace Your African Essence


Embrace  Your AEBe creatively righteous in displaying your Goddess beauty. You can be fashionable and righteous in your style of dress.

Peace, Power & Love

I am the Kush Queen (not marijuana, lol).

Reading: Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology by Barbara Smith


5 Star Rating… that means it’s a really good book!