Allyn Gaestel is a writer who lives in Lagos, Nigeria.
Publications include The New Yorker, The New York Times, Guernica, Dust, The Berlin Quarterly, Very Vary Veri of the Harvard School of Design, YNaija, The Atavist, The Common, Nataal, The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, National Geographic, The Washington Post, NPR, Foreign Policy Association, CNN, Reuters, France 24, The Christian Science Monitor, Intense Art Magazine, Moon Man Magazine, etc.
She also makes art photographs and has exhibited internationally including at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Liepzig, Germany, Kunstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt, Germany, the Bauhaus Museum in Weimar, Germany, Espaco Saracura in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Haverford College in Philadelphia, and The Treehouse in Lagos, Nigeria.
Born in Los Angeles, Allyn first lived in Djenné, Mali in 2007. She won honors from Haverford College for her Political Science thesis based on personal research in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She also minored in French, studied Philosophy extensively and studied photography at Haverford and the University of Pennsylvania. As a student she was editor for the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship’s magazine Issues. She underwent trainings in solidarity not charity with the Common Ground Collective in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and attended the School of the Americas Watch vigil in Georgia.
She started her career as a United Nations Correspondent in New York, then lived in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, where she was a special correspondent for the LA Times, a stringer for Reuters and CNN, a regular contributor to the Atlantic, and also freelanced for other outlets.
She has also worked in The Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mauritania, Togo, China, India, Nepal, France, Mexico, The US, The Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. Her reportage focused on human dignity, inequality, complex social issues, health and spirituality. She has listened to countless wise Vodou Houngans, Catholic Bishops, Sufi Imams, Ayurvedic monks, Hindu scholars, Celestial prophets and Indigenous healers.
In 2015 she was named one of the top journalists working on women’s health in the world by Women Deliver and a top journalist on aid and development by Humanosphere. She reported and field produced documentary and conceptual art videos for Al Jazeera, the Guardian, and Metrozones Institute for critical urban research, and an award-winning short for the New York Times. She has earned grants and fellowships from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, The International Reporting Project, The International Women’s Media Foundation, the Fund for Investigative Journalism, The Carter Center, The Kaiser Family Foundation, the United Nations Foundation, the National Press Foundation, The Fuller Project for International Reporting, The Institute of Current World Affairs, The Heinrich Boll Foundation and the William Penn Foundation.
She had a lengthy, intentional transition out of journalism after encountering the profound limitations, racism and inherent violence embedded in the frameworks of the field. She wrote and spoke on this awakening throughout the process. She now writes conceptual essays and fiction.
Her essays have been awarded the Stack Magazine awards for best original non-fiction and shortlisted for a One World Media Award.
She is also a private writing coach and editor and is available to advise on writing, narrative, editing, as well as freelancing, producing and reportage. Email email@example.com to set up a consult.
She is a juror for residencies at Playa and fellowships from the Carter Center Mental Health reporting project and an advisor for young journalists through the Pulitzer Center. She started an equity scholarship at Playa after her residency there. She ran an informal artist residency/intentional community in Lagos from 2016 to 2020 before handing ownership over to Nigerian artists. She engages regularly and enthusiastically with students in schools and universities. She gives public lectures, visits classrooms, facilitates workshops and engages in small group discussions and one on one mentoring with lots of love–some relationships continue for years. She’s been invited to numerous global conferences and forums including the Skoll forum at Oxford, the International Family Planning Conference at the African Union, The International AIDS Conference in Vienna, and many others.
She has curated and collaborated with numerous artists to hone and elevate their practice and develop textual articulations and voice. She facilitated an exhibition of Haitian artists at Culture Fix gallery in the Lower East Side, NYC. She wrote the catalogue text for Modupeola Fadugba’s installation which won the Grand Prize at the Dak’art Biennale. She curated an exhibition of women artists at the Ford Foundation in Lagos, among many other projects.
She is also a Yoga Alliance RYT 200 certified yoga teacher, and has done advanced studies in Ashtanga with David Garrigues, in Vinyasa with John and Diana Vitarelli, and in Kundalini with Hari Kaur and Siri Rishi. She teaches online–follow instagram.com/ananta_anand_alxumdu for pop up schedule or email to get onto the whatsapp group.
She is certified as a domestic violence counselor, and is a DONA certified doula and has worked in harm reduction public health programs in Philadelphia, New York and Dakar. She started a women’s drop-in night at Prevention Point Philadelphia in 2009, that continues to this day. A student she taught how to turn on a computer in a technology course she initiated in Mali in 2008 is now getting a masters in computer science.
She has learned Latin, French, Haitian Creole, Wolof, Hindi and a bit of Spanish, though some of these languages are dormant now.
In 2020 she is launching ANANTA, a line of luminous objects co-created with Nigerian artisans, which centers wealth transfer, respect for excellence and spreading luminosity.
She is moving to Mallorca and is at work on her first book. Her favorite bio she’s read was that of Nujoom Al-Ghanem, a poet and filmmaker who has exhibited twice at the Venice Biennale and started her career spending ten years as a journalist. It said simply: she is active in her community and now writes poetry full time.
Visual and textual explorations are here: instagram.com/ananta_anand_alxumdu/