Books

Lee Litumbe’s Coffee Table Book Collection Immerses Her in African Creativity | Architectural Digest

What makes a purchase “worth it”? The answer is different for everybody, so we’re asking some of the coolest, most shopping-savvy people we know—from small-business owners to designers, artists, and actorsto tell us the story behind one of their most prized possessions.

Lee’s books are curated with intention and care, focusing on African culture, creativity, and inspiration.

Who?

When travel influencer, photographer, and cultural curator Lee Litumbe launched her travel blog Spirited Pursuit in 2014, she was coming out of a quarter-life crisis. Lee was working a job she hated, always comparing herself to others her age, and struggling to find herself when she officially launched Spirited Pursuit while on a trip to Costa Rica. “I was trying to decide what niche to focus on, and I was between travel and interior design,” she says. “I decided to go with travel, but I truly love both!”

Where?

Lee was born in Cameroon and moved to America when she was nine years old. In 2017 she decided to relocate to West Africa, settling on Dakar, Senegal, as her new home. The decision to move was a leap of faith for Lee; she quit her job and laid the groundwork to build her business and brand and to support herself as a creative entrepreneur. Her dream of breaking out of society’s expectations inspired the name of her blog.

What and when?

Lee has been collecting coffee table books for about three years and currently has over 20. “I’m very intentional about the curation of them,” she explains. “I’ve spent a lot of time and money on them, and they’re all centered around different African artists in a way that is aspirational. I love being surrounded by African creativity.”

The collection started around fall 2019 when Lee was accquiring more coffee table books throughout the course of the pandemic. “Since I was at home with nothing else to do, I started looking for more,” she adds. “I want to have my own space, and I want the things around me to be a reflection of who I am.”

Why?

Photography has long been an important part of Lee’s life both personally and professionally, and she draws much inspiration from various African photographers. Many of her coffee table books feature works by photographers across the continent. “I love books about different African photographers and the way that they captured different African cities right around the time when most of them were about to gain their independence,” she explains. “Malick Sidibé, Seydou Keïta, and Sory Sanlé all really inspire me.” The books speak to the history and culture of different cities and countries, and the aesthetics and creativity of the artists’ work makes each page a new, special experience for Lee.

“When there was no internet, there were several creatives in Africa creating in this way that is still relevant in the present day,” Lee says.

The fact that the photographers and artists had no internet and relied on pure ingenuity also appeals to her. “For me, a lot of the reason why I picked up a camera was that I was inspired by the internet and seeing what other people would create,” she says. “I always find it so cool that, in a time when there was no internet, there were several creatives in Africa creating in this way that is still relevant in the present day.”

On the top of Lee’s wish list is Crafts of the Kingdom: Culture and Creativity in Saudi Arabiawhich she saw in the Architectural Digest cover story about Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz’s art-filled home. “That was probably one of my favorite covers ever,” she says. “I loved the way that Swizz Beatz spoke about his living room. And the way that he collects is an ethos that I carry as well—where you feel like you’re living in a place that’s interesting, but relaxed enough where you can actually live in it.”

Lee’s favorite place to shop for home decor and vintage photographs is in markets around the world. “I love to feel like I’m bringing places into my space. If I have a dinner party, or have people over, I love when people say, ‘Oh, where’d you get that? I’ve never seen that before,’” she says. “I love having a story to tell about the things that I acquire.”

Crafts of the Kingdom: Culture and Creativity in Saudi Arabia

Mali Twist – Malik Sidibé

Seydou Keita: Photographs, Bamako, Mali 1948 1963 (1st Ed)

African Style: down to the details

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