GABON: J-Rio – ALOUK / Traditional weddings

Not just a heartwarming and upbeat jam by singer J-Rio, but also a cool intro to wedding traditions from Gabon. There’s a few different styles of weddings in Gabon, some people have a “civil” wedding, which is similar to Western weddings – bride wearing white, the couple exchanging vows, usually officiated by a judge or Christian priest.

The other main style of wedding is “traditional” or “customary” (like in the above music video) – blue is a much more common wedding colour, but there are lots of beautiful colour combinations and patterns, usually coordinated for the whole family. There’s a great rundown on traditional Gabonese wedding outfits at D&D Clothing.

For a traditional wedding, the ceremony involves the groom and his family gathering up symbolic items for a dowry from a list provided by the bride’s family. The bride will then take a “ticket” of the dowry, place it at her father’s feet and ask for his blessing. Once the ticket is accepted and the blessing is given, the bride is seated on her mother-in-law’s knee and the marriage is official.

The bride usually carries a basket for the ticket, traditional fans to obscure her face, and other wedding symbols (especially in Fang traditional weddings, who are about a quarter of Gabon’s population). There’s also fun traditions like setting up “tolls” between the two families, where members of the other family must throw money to pass. Gabonese blogger Chérine has some beautiful pics from her own wedding at her site Chey Libreville, with an article (in French) about cross-cultural weddings and how to blend different traditions.


Ta Moko are traditional Maori tattoos, worn by both men and women. They have deep cultural and emotional importance, as they let you show your mana and whakapapa (roughly, your prestige and heritage), connect people to their history and identity, and are works of art and beauty. A really good bit of reporting on the revival and reclamation of ta moko:

The History of Aotearoa New Zealand podcast has an really in-depth four-part episode on Ta Moko, starting with “The Maori Quill” – how tattoos were originally chiselled before steel needles were introduced, the cultural significance, and Europeans’ reactions to ta moko. The colonial government forced Maori tattooing to stop, but it never truly died out, and has seen a huge revival in recent years.

Here’s also an excellent short video on the emotional journey and healing that comes from ta moko, focusing on moko kauae – women’s chin tattoos.

As part of the revitalization and reclamation of Maori culture, there are now a lot of high-profile people with ta moko. This includes politicians, like the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, and the co-leaders of the Maori Party, Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Just last month, Oriini Kaipara became the first newsanchor with ta moko to present primetime news:

An unfortunate quirk of history also means that many historical moko have been lost – when early photography first arrived in Aotearoa, the wet plate method of the 1850s rendered the tattoos invisible. A few years ago, a really fascinating exhibit came out where Maori leaders sat for portraits with both modern cameras and historical wet plate ones. The contrast runs deeper than just a tech problem, it makes an excellent metaphor for the erasure and revival of ta moko and Maori culture.

You can see more at the website for Puaki or at My Modern Met’s article “Portraits of People Whose Traditional Māori Tattoos Disappear in Wet Plate Photos“.


It’s been a particularly cold January here in Ottawa, with the last two weeks at -20C, so my skin needs some TLC right now. I picked up a couple a New Zealand-made face creams to give myself a little spa day. Both Lancocrème and By Nature are owned by the same company, and use some very New Zealand export products in their cosmetics – lanolin and manuka honey.

There’s been a lot of advertising spin about manuka honey as a panacea and a cure-all, but really, it’s just honey where bees have been collecting pollen from manuka plants, which gives it an unique taste. It’s not the only honey that’s flavoured by plants’ pollen, and some can be very tasty (I particularly like buckwheat honey), but it’s all just honey in the end. That being said, honey itself is a pretty good moisturizer for skin.

By Nature Mask Duo – A wash-off mask with hyaluronic acid and a texture almost like jello, it had a nice mild floral scent. It was pretty fun but a bit messy. The manuka honey sleep mask didn’t smell of honey, but went on thick and did a really amazing job moisturizing my skin overnight. I was feeling my face all through the day and it was noticeably smoother.

Lanocrème Face Creams – These are all lanolin-based face creams – lanolin being a moisturizing byproduct of wool. These three creams each use an added ingredient – vitamin E, collagen, and more manuka honey. They’re all very thick creams, though I think the honey one is thickest, and they all have mild, floral scents. They do a great job on my winter-dry skin, but they would be too heavy and oily for me in hot weather. I’m going to try taking a pot with me to apply right before going skating on the canal, I’m hoping it’ll form a frostbite barrier!

MOZAMBIQUE: The problem with donating your clothes

A really interesting video from Mozambican Youtuber Yara Mel on the problem with fast fashion, especially with the literal tonnes of donated clothes that are shipped from countries like Canada (specifically!) and the economic and environmental effects on the places they end up – like Mozambique.