Designed by Asheville-based artist and Outdoor Afro volunteer leader, Leandra Taylor, the Kili Mapp Kili DoubleNest Print Hammock was inspired by Outdoor Afro’s Mt. Kilimanjaro Expedition in 2018.
This year marks Leandra Taylor’s fifth year as an Outdoor Afro volunteer leader. She recaps her time with the organization and the trip that inspired this hammock design.
I attended my first training in 2017 and it was just one of those life-changing experiences, walking into a room of 80 people that are all passionate about the outdoors was something I’ll never forget. I knew that’s where I should be.
Through joining Outdoor Afro, I have found support in both my outdoor adventures and in affirming my identity as an artist. Outdoor Afro leaders have been the biggest contributors and encouragers to my creative process. They push me to put my art out there and to share it with the world. Art has always been my creative outlet and nature has always been my favorite muse. When I was younger, I loved to draw flowers and pollinators because of their vibrant colors and patterns. While I’ve always been creative, I haven’t always identified as an “artist,” but as someone who enjoyed drawing and sketching. During a conversation at our leadership training in 2018 was the first time that I said, “I am an artist” out loud; saying it made it real for me. After that training, I wanted to create a space to share my art and see my growth as an artist, thus my website was born.
I wanted this Kili Mapp Kili print to celebrate our trip to the Motherland of Africa and our ascent up the mountain. This design tells the story of our journey up the mountain and the connectedness we experienced both with nature and each other. Throughout the design, I included elements that reflect our climb, including the snake which pays homage to the Kilimanjaro song that carried us up the mountain, and the topographic design as a nod to Outdoor Afro Founder and CEO, Rue Mapp.
The design process started with a vision board including pictures and visuals that resonated with the trip. There were things that spoke to me immediately about the colors and the vibrancy and things that I believe speak to the joy and the connectedness of when we were there. Yellow to me represents joy – and, more specifically, Black joy. Yellow is one of the colors that I am convinced was created to compliment melanated skin. I felt really drawn to this yellow; it makes me think of the sun. I realized later when I was home and looking at my Kilimanjaro flag (the flag that our team held at the top of Uhuru Peak) that it is the same yellow featured in this hammock. It truly represents teamwork.
A large part of the design was inspired by what we witnessed in the landscape. I chose to incorporate the topography of Mt. Kilimanjaro, focusing on Uhuru Peak, Africa’s highest peak with an elevation of 19,341 feet. I wanted to incorporate the three volcanoes and capture the sun because that was our guiding star throughout the trip. The royal blue lines represent the side adventures that are happening on the mountain – everyone’s own story – but in a great way we’re all connected through Kilimanjaro.
The design also encapsulates the biodiversity within the flora and fauna of the region. The flower design originated from an actual flower I picked up in the market, a vibrant magenta with three large petals. The elephant head appeared while playing with the topography of Uhuru Peak, which is one of the major megafauna of the region.
My favorite element in the design is the snake, which pays homage to the Kilimanjaro song that we sang up the mountain. In the lyrics, it says, “like a snake, you wrap around me.” To me, that verse speaks to the community that we had on the mountain. I knew that every person on that trip cared about us from the day that we got there to the day that we left and we’re still in contact today. I think this snake speaks to the longevity of some of those connections that we made.
When people sit in this design, I want them to feel warmth, love, and happiness. I hope that they are intrigued and notice the little elements and ask questions to understand what this trip was really about. The decision to climb the tallest freestanding mountain in the world in Tanzania, Africa, was intentional. I hope that that shines through in this design. For me, this hammock will be symbolic of our days above the clouds and the unforgettable adventure.
About Outdoor Afro:
Founded by Rue Mapp in 2009, Outdoor Afro has grown to 100+ volunteer leaders in 56 cities guiding 1,000+ events each year and reconnecting over 47,000 Black people to nature through activities like hiking, biking, camping, fishing, birding, gardening, skiing, and more.
This story is just one example of how Outdoor Afro lives its mission, focusing on inspiring and reconnecting Black people to nature by providing trips, events, and activities for all ages and experience levels ranging from hikes to multi-day kayaking adventures.
Follow Outdoor Afro on social media and check out the Outdoor Afro website to learn more.