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That's a lot of decaying plant matter

Word association time: I say "peat", you say… "Scotland", right? Not necessarily! Peat is found around the world, including in many African countries. Earlier this year, scientists trekked through a Congo swamp, braving gorillas, elephants, crocodiles, and more. Their reward? Discovery of a peat bog the size of England. The team estimates that the bog covers between 100,000 and 200,000 square kilometers (40,000 to 80,000 sq miles), with the peat-layer reaching up to 7m (23ft) beneath the ground.
posted by Lexica on Jul 11, 2014 - 28 comments

If Amy Winehouse was Ghanaian ... and flanked by a bike gang

Ghanaian R&B singer Y'akoto bemoans her lack of Perfect Timing - and the same bikers support Ghanaian/Brookylnese rapper Blitz the Ambassador reminiscing about his Ghanaian childhood in Make You No Forget (via).
posted by ChuraChura on Jul 10, 2014 - 20 comments

Beautiful East African Brides

Welcome, this blog is dedicated to all the beautiful brides hailing from the East of Africa. Enjoy! [more inside]
posted by jaguar on Jul 9, 2014 - 20 comments

Nature's Perfect Killing Machine Can Be Killed With Soap

Ebola is nightmare fuel: a biological doomsday device conspiring with our bodies to murder us in uniquely gruesome fashion. It’s also killed fewer than 2,000 people. How has a virus with such a modest body count so fiercely captured the darkest corners of our imagination? - Leigh Cowart for Haziltt.
posted by The Whelk on Jul 8, 2014 - 53 comments

Where it went wrong for African teams at the World Cup

As the last of the African teams exits at the Round of 16, filmmaker and columnist Farai Sevenzo looks at the state of African football, bedevilled by the perennial problems of poor organisation, tactical indiscipline and rows over money. [BBC]
posted by marienbad on Jul 2, 2014 - 10 comments

The Sahrawis never had a country

Photojournalist Micah Albert and I made the 1,000-mile journey from the Algerian capital, Algiers, to Rabouni to see if we could find evidence of this purported hotbed of extremism in the Polisario-controlled camps. After months of investigation, including two weeks spent in the camps last September, we didn’t uncover a wellspring of terrorists in the desert. Instead, we found a SADR government desperate to maintain its claim over the shores of the Western Sahara and whatever resources might lie there — like the rich fisheries and the mines that provide most of the world’s phosphate. We found a population, inclusive of the Polisario army, that the U.S. government is indirectly, and perhaps unknowingly, spending millions of dollars each year to feed through a multimillion-dollar aid package provided by the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Food for Peace.
For Foreign Policy David Conrad reports about the forty year struggle for independence in the Western Sahara and the impact the War on Terror, not to mention the threatened discovery of oil have had on the Sahrawi and their struggle.
posted by MartinWisse on Jul 1, 2014 - 6 comments

I Love Lions. Don't You?

Explorer Shivani Bhalla Helps People and Lions Coexist (and in turn helps those people as well) It's articles like this that make me smile. If only there were more arrangements like this for other endangered animals as well.
posted by moonphases on Jun 20, 2014 - 3 comments

“Before I came to America, I didn’t know I was black.”

To be gay, Christian and black in Harlem West African asylum seekers face a new kind of discrimination in the US
posted by infini on Jun 7, 2014 - 7 comments

.

"Elephants are obviously amazing, or rather, they are obvious receptacles for our amazement, because they seem to be a lot like us. They live about as long as we do. They understand it when we point at things, which our nearest living evolutionary relative, the chimpanzee, doesn’t really. They can unlock locks with their trunks. They recognize themselves in mirrors. They are socially sophisticated. They stay with the same herds for life, or the cows do, anyway. They mourn their dead. They like getting drunk. When an elephant keels over, its friends sometimes break their tusks trying to get it to stand up again. They bury their dead. They bear grudges against people who’ve hurt them, and sometimes go on revenge campaigns. They cry. So why would you want to put a bullet in one?" ... Journalist Wells Tower accompanied one of Botswana's final elephant hunts. This article contains graphic content of an elephant hunt which some may find disturbing.
posted by zarq on Jun 5, 2014 - 36 comments

With reference to the recently leaked NYT memo

How Naspers CEO Koos Bekker beat the New York Times at its own game by Michael Moritz [more inside]
posted by infini on May 26, 2014 - 12 comments

I feel that picture you love lives in you.

Camille Lepage, a 26 year old photojournalist who dedicated her burgeoning career to reporting what the media seemed to ignore, was killed Tuesday while on assignment documenting the conflict in Central African Republic. As well as some amazing photography from her most recent work in CAR, Lepage worked in South Sudan on stories about young men drawn into the war, birth in a refugee camp, and less formal photography on instagram.
posted by ChuraChura on May 19, 2014 - 21 comments

The acacia tree treatment

“If someone goes out on a limb and tries something different, and the book doesn’t sell, you know who to blame: the guy who didn’t put the acacia tree on the cover.” [more inside]
posted by Herr Zebrurka on May 14, 2014 - 67 comments

You are going to hell. I'm a priest, you know?

Blues, April Fools, white noise, Robocop, Noah's ark, the Pope, even pizza isn't sacred on South Africa's first satirical puppet news show, Puppet Nation. Brought to you by the ZA News Network. MYLP.
posted by saysthis on May 9, 2014 - 5 comments

Feathers worth more than diamonds

For forty years around the turn of the 20th century, ostrich plumes were the height of fashion, and a major industry: at its peak, ostrich feathers were, ounce-for-ounce, nearly as valuable as diamonds, so much so that £20,000 of feathers went down with the Titanic. The market for feathers was, in large part, run by Jews: Sephardi Jews exported feathers, Jews in London and New York traded them, and Eastern European Jews left Russia and Lithuania in the thousands to farm feathers, flocking to Oudtshoorn "The Jerusalem of Africa." In 1914, the boom ended, leaving many destitute and leading to anti-semitic backlashes. A brief but entertaining history of the feather trade can be read in this PDF excerpt. Some of the beautiful "Feather Palaces" of Oudtshoorn still survive, as does a small Jewish community and some vintage fashion.
posted by blahblahblah on Apr 8, 2014 - 10 comments

Terrabyte Incognita

Africa Might Not Look Like You Think It Does
There is no such thing as an objective map. This was true of cave paintings, Roman tapestries, and colonialists' charts of Africa. It is also true of Google Maps.

posted by infini on Apr 2, 2014 - 58 comments

Ebola spreads to new territory

There's been an ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. With 122 cases so far, this is the worst outbreak since 2007's 264-case outbreak. The worst outbreak was 2000-2001's 425 cases. What makes this one different is the way it has spread so widely. [more inside]
posted by Sleeper on Apr 1, 2014 - 51 comments

The burden of survival

Rwanda: 20 years later
posted by infini on Mar 30, 2014 - 13 comments

"Let me be even more clear: The Internet already exists in Africa!"

Why flying 'Internet drones' over Africa is a dumb, libertarian fantasy
posted by infini on Mar 10, 2014 - 48 comments

O Woman's Day

Talking gender to Africa
International donors have sought to improve the social, political and economic position of women in Africa through an approach known as “gender”. This donor-driven strategy is failing. The jargon of gender programmes is ambiguous and easily misunderstood. It fosters inaction and lip service on the part of patriarchal African governments and civil servants. Gender has become the preserve of the educated elite. The voices of African women have been lost.
[more inside]
posted by infini on Mar 8, 2014 - 6 comments

Stone Towns of the Swahili Coast

The Swahili Coast and its culture in the medieval period (roughly the tenth to fifteenth centuries) is relatively little studied, compared with other cultures of its size and influence, though it represents a key node in the development of global trade before the European Age of Discovery. Its history is known in broad strokes, but less is known about how the medieval Swahili lived and how they incorporated influences—from religion to architecture—from across the Indian Ocean world. Fleisher and his codirector, Stephanie Wynne-Jones of the University of York, looked for a site that would allow them to examine such questions in detail. “We had an inkling Songo Mnara would be that site,” he says, “but it has completely exceeded our expectations. --
posted by MartinWisse on Mar 5, 2014 - 9 comments

Al Jazeera tracks the violence and the unfolding humanitarian tragedy

Mapping Central African Republic's bloodshed
posted by infini on Feb 21, 2014 - 1 comment

A cartographic history of why North, not East or South, is up

How the north ended up on top of the map is an article by Nick Danforth, author/curator of (The/Mid) Afternoon Map blog, detailing how the north-up orientation came to be the default orientation, looking beyond Eurocentrism to Byzantine monks and Majorcan Jews who set the path for modern cartography. If you want more information, you might enjoy the Wikipedia article on the history of cartography, or you can really dig deep with the three-volume text, The History of Cartography, which is available in full from the University of Chicago Press online, split into individual PDFs for each chapter. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Feb 18, 2014 - 28 comments

Eye of the beholder

Nigerian photographer J.D Okhai Ojeikere passed away last weekend, but at the age of 83 he left behind a truly incredible body of work celebrating Nigerian culture. These photos from his Hairstyles series are part of an archive of nearly 1000 pictures showing the intricate hair-dos of African women taken at work, social engagements and in the streets of Lagos. The beautifully composed black and white images draw attention to the sculptural quality of the hair, almost elevating it to an art form in itself. It goes without saying that his work is a unique treasure of historical and anthropological importance.
Via
posted by infini on Feb 13, 2014 - 6 comments

"Jeff and My Videos Spread Slowly (Like Bacteria) and Refuse To Die"

Two Men in a Pizza Place Perform A Great Cover of Toto's "Africa." [more inside]
posted by Joey Michaels on Feb 12, 2014 - 74 comments

Apartheid in South Africa (1957) Documentary

This film produced by the United States Federal Government in 1957 explores South Africa's apartheid policy, focusing on issues such as race relations, political practices, and segregated dwellings. The footage very radically contrasts the bleakness of black life with the privileges enjoyed by most whites as well as including several interviews with black leaders, while also giving the architects of Apartheid a platform to defend themselves and their policies. (34:11)
A fascinating snapshot of the time.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Feb 12, 2014 - 4 comments

Even a permethrin-treated bednet looks exciting next to Brad Pitt

The new TV show "The Samaritans" is a mockumentary inspired by The Office about the perils – and pleasures – of the “NGO world”. Created by a Kenya-based production company, it chronicles the work of Aid for Aid – an NGO that, in the words of its creator, “does nothing.” Over at Warscape, some wry advice for a "development officer of a not-for-profit yearning for a celebrity of your very own" after Downton Abbey's Elizabeth McGovern flubbed her "African adventure," mixing up Dakar with Darfur. “We have to break in our new celebrities slowly,” confides Sarah Wilson, a World Vision representative who is chaperoning McGovern on the trip. “There will be lots of breaks so she doesn’t get overloaded.” (previously) (previouslier) (more previouslier)
posted by spamandkimchi on Feb 10, 2014 - 19 comments

It takes every guy in Wakaliwood to help with Medinah's costume

"I saw the trailer for Captain Alex [previously on mefi], and two weeks later I flew from NYC to Uganda." Redditor Uncle_Benon shares a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at filming an action flick in Wakaliwood, a studio based in the slums of Wakaliga, outside Uganda's capital city. [more inside]
posted by Solon and Thanks on Feb 10, 2014 - 3 comments

The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean

Over the course of nearly 20 centuries, millions of East Africans crossed the Indian Ocean and its several seas and adjoining bodies of water in their journey to distant lands, from Arabia and Iraq to India and Sri Lanka. Called Kaffir, Siddi, Habshi, or Zanji, these men, women and children from Sudan in the north to Mozambique in the south Africanized the Indian Ocean world and helped shape the societies they entered and made their own. Free or enslaved, soldiers, servants, sailors, merchants, mystics, musicians, commanders, nurses, or founders of dynasties, they contributed their cultures, talents, skills and labor to their new world, as millions of their descendants continue to do. Yet, their heroic odyssey remains little known. The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World traces a truly unique and fascinating story of struggles and achievements across a variety of societies, cultures, religions, languages and times.
posted by infini on Feb 6, 2014 - 9 comments

"Images of poverty are the Congo’s most lucrative export"

What if poor people capitalized on their own natural resource, poverty? This is the central question of Renzo Martens' 2008 documentary, Episode III - Enjoy Poverty, the second film in a triptych exploring power relations between photographers and their subjects. [more inside]
posted by Ouisch on Feb 5, 2014 - 13 comments

Bollywood Inspired Film Music from Hausa Nigeria

The Hausa people of the north of Nigeria like Bollywood films so much that around 20 years ago they started making their own local productions. The films of Kannywood (for Kano, the capital city) feature song and dance - and the incredible music that defines Northern Nigeria: autotuned robotic vocals combined with frenetic drum machine rhythms and intricate, interwoven synths in a hybrid of local styles and Indian influence. Hear a generous sampling of it here.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Feb 1, 2014 - 16 comments

"It's black, like me.": Black dolls and politics

Every so often, ethnic dolls make the news, like this recent piece on Nigeria's Taofick Okoya who started his own line of Nigerian dolls after giving up his search in frustration. Okoya sells between 6,000 and 9,000 of his "Queens of Africa" and "Naija Princesses" a month, and reckons he has 10-15 percent of a small but fast-growing market. But the history of dolls outside of 'mainstream culture' exemplified by blonde blue eyed Barbie has been rife with prejudice and stereotypes. As the African middle classes emerge, is this an opportunity that gives rise to domestic toy industries?
posted by infini on Jan 29, 2014 - 19 comments

Of all the occupations in the world, why did he trade in our ancestors!

NYTimes: "The paleontologist Richard Leakey has called their removal a “sacrilege.” Kenyan villagers have said their theft led to crop failure and ailing livestock. It is little wonder, then, that the long, slender wooden East African memorial totems known as vigango are creating a spiritual crisis of sorts for American museums." [more inside]
posted by jetlagaddict on Jan 3, 2014 - 20 comments

Born sinner, the opposite of a winner

Why is there Poverty? An Animated History. From WhyPoverty.net. [more inside]
posted by Potomac Avenue on Dec 19, 2013 - 5 comments

Here's yer new engine.

Piratjagt! Discover what patrolling pirate infested waters off the coast of the Horn of Africa is like with the Danish Navy. (6lyt)
posted by allkindsoftime on Dec 10, 2013 - 14 comments

People of Color are not an anachronism

The Tumblr blog People of Color in European Art History, or medievalpoc for short, has a simple mission: to showcase works of art from European history that feature People of Color. All too often, these works go unseen in museums, Art History classes, online galleries, and other venues because of retroactive whitewashing of Medieval Europe, Scandinavia, and Asia. [more inside]
posted by daisyk on Dec 8, 2013 - 107 comments

A different religion

Interview with a Santeria Priestess
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Dec 5, 2013 - 9 comments

More pictures of cats. Big cats.

Strap a camera to a 4 wheel drive remote control car and let it loose among a pride of Botswana lions. Curiosity and cuteness and some pretty amazing pictures ensue. SLYT
posted by mygothlaundry on Dec 2, 2013 - 29 comments

Mvua ya mawe kwa mfalme

Sir Elvis is his stage name, but his real name is Elvis Otieno, and he may be the most successful country musician in Kenya. That's partly because Kenya doesn't have many country musicians. [more inside]
posted by jquinby on Nov 6, 2013 - 13 comments

"Remember – language is the battleground of humanity."

In the Shadows. The healthcare and human rights challenges of the LGBT populations of Malawi -- where homosexuality is outlawed. Via
posted by zarq on Oct 28, 2013 - 1 comment

“Western culture is Islamically forbidden”

When the car exploded, the same two words occurred to him, and to the ticket taker, and to every other person who saw or heard the blast, which could be heard on the other side of Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city: Boko Haram. That neither they, nor practically anyone else in Nigeria, knew what Boko Haram was exactly or why it would want to bomb a bus station was beside the point. Officially, according to the Nigerian government, Boko Haram is a terrorist group. It began life as a separatist movement led by a northern Nigerian Muslim preacher, Mohammed Yusuf, who decried the country’s misrule. “Boko Haram” is a combination of the Hausa language and Arabic, understood to mean that Western, or un-Islamic, learning is forbidden. In 2009, after Yusuf was killed [BBC, The Guardian]—executed, it’s all but certain, by Nigerian police—his followers vowed revenge.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Oct 27, 2013 - 34 comments

No, no, no---the other custom of the sea

You know what they say… When in Africa, create a mimed rendition music video of the 1983 smash hit “Africa” by Toto and post it on Youtube? I actually don’t know anyone who says that, but that’s just what the crew of a Subsea 7 contracted OSV did and their video is making the rounds this week on the internets. (slytp via gCaptain) [more inside]
posted by resurrexit on Oct 3, 2013 - 56 comments

Terrorism in Nairobi

"all we could hear was screaming and shooting." At approximately 11am on Saturday, September 21, terrorists - believed to be 10 to 15 in number, entered one of Nairobi's upscale malls and began killing people. Today, as the 4th day of the siege began, it is believed all the remaining hostages have been freed. Currently the death toll stands at 62 and 175 have been wounded. Al Shabab, a terrorist group based in Somalia, took credit for the attacks via their twitter account, before it was again suspended. [more inside]
posted by allkindsoftime on Sep 23, 2013 - 56 comments

The 50mm is exactly what the human eye sees, without any distortion

The Lens Is Standard, the Photos Anything But Jerome Delay has been on a quest for simplicity while covering some of the most important stories in Africa for The Associated Press. For the last year he has relied almost exclusively on one camera, and one lens, a 50-millimeter F1.4.
posted by ColdChef on Sep 19, 2013 - 41 comments

Why is Zambia so poor?

Why is Zambia so poor?
"I’m not going to tell Zambia how to run itself, what it needs to fix and in what order. The explanations I heard, they aren’t the whole puzzle, they aren’t even the biggest pieces. The only thing I’m able to conclude after my trip here is that it’s incredibly difficult for a poor country to go about getting un-poor. Just when you think you’ve got the right narrative, another one comes bursting out of the footnotes. It’s the informality. No, it’s the taxes. No, it’s the mining companies. No, it’s the regulators.

And that’s what makes fixing it so difficult."

This landlocked country in Sub-Saharan Africa isn’t a failed state in the traditional sense: There’s no dictator, no child soldiers. But most of its 14 million people live on less than $1 per day. How did things get this way, and can they ever get better?
posted by Guernsey Halleck on Sep 13, 2013 - 39 comments

The roof is on fire!

At dawn today, the arrivals unit of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport caught fire (pictures!), leading to the total indefinite shutdown of the largest air traffic hub in east Africa. No one knows the cause of the fire, which comes days after a stupidly corrupt businessman's duty-free shops were seized by the government.
posted by kaibutsu on Aug 7, 2013 - 14 comments

bonne écoute

Les disques africains collects, rips, and uploads out-of-print records (and their sleeves!) from the golden age of vinyl in francophone Africa. Don't miss la belle chanteuse Sali Sidibé, psychedelic grooves from Benin, or this incredible 35-minute oral-musical history of Bobo-Dioulasso. New posts appear, as if by some rare magic, every three to four days.
posted by theodolite on Aug 5, 2013 - 15 comments

Rupert Everett, Really Into Dead Victorian Dreamboats

In 2008 the actor Rupert Everett hosted (seemingly from his apartment) a rather strange documentary: The Victorian Sex Explorer ( 2 3 4 5 ), an attempt to follow in the footsteps of famed Explorer, translator, and author Sir Richard Burton and convince us of Sir Burton's passion for sexual experimentation while laying in lots of bathhouses and visiting brothels. [more inside]
posted by The Whelk on Jul 4, 2013 - 52 comments

Running with the jackalopes

Abubakar Suleiman, a 15 year-old Boston student whose hobbies apparently include taking condescending local reporters for a ride. When one of the more august organs of the American press, the Boston Globe (founded 1872), came calling this week at his school in Boston’s suburbs in order to tell his story, he was only too happy to provide them with some quite remarkable copy.via
posted by infini on Jul 4, 2013 - 221 comments

Disclaimer: The opinions on this page are the property of the writers

Can Silicon Valley Save the World?
posted by infini on Jul 1, 2013 - 43 comments

Free Nelson Mandela

The point being, an angry song about a political prisoner in South Africa, held captive for 21 years (at the time of writing), and written and performed by a bunch of chippy former pop stars who appeared hellbent on throwing their success back in the faces of their fans, has no business being this happy, this celebratory, and this powerful.
posted by nickyskye on Jun 27, 2013 - 47 comments

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