Having fallen down the rabbit hole of British colonial cinema history, I thought to share some of the wonderful discoveries with you.
The Calvert Journal's Special Report: Red Africa: When international socialism met the developing world [more inside]
Secretary birds can be found striding through the grasslands of sub-Saharan Africa. They cut a striking and unmistakeable profile, with light grey bodies, black wing tips and shorts, a red mask, and a crest of black quills. The latter, according to one dubious-sounding hypothesis, look like the quill pens that secretaries once tucked behind their ears—hence the bird's name. A more plausible alternative is that “secretary” is a bastardization of the Arabic “saqr-et-tair” for “hunter bird.” [more inside]
Robbie Judkins visits Tanzania to witness first hand the attempt to save a quarter of a century of musical history from oblivion. Listen to an exclusive mix of tracks newly digitized by the Tanzania Heritage Project
Sleepy gorillas make their nests in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. You can visit these gorillas by going on a virtual gorilla trek in Democratic Republic of Congo!
Cleopatra Kambugu was outed as a trans woman following the passage of extremely punitive anti-gay bills in Uganda. She, her boyfriend, and her family are the subject of a series of short documentaries about life in East Africa for openly LGBTQI individuals. "I was born here - a land with beautiful mountains and deep dark forest - a country blessed with diversity in ethnicity, gender, flora and fauna. Yet in all this richness, as a people and as a nation, we still struggle to recognize and appreciate this diversity." links and videos contain some disturbing transphobic and homophobic rhetoric and violence. [more inside]
As you read this story you will recognise that the economic system that continues to keep black people very, very poor in this country has been broken for so long, and the private sector has been so strong for so long, that we have a vast imbalance that has been allowed to flourish unchecked. We the people have not been demanding when it comes to scrutiny of corporate conduct. [...] This story – this one you will read about Coca-Cola - is part of a rich canon. It exists because of First and Gqabi and Nxumalo and Jaffer and countless others.via [more inside]
Nigerian AfroSFF writer Wole Talabi shares links to his favourite 10 short stories of 2015 with a short intro.
"A revolutionary story of guitars, motorcycles, cell phones – and the music of a new generation” is how director Christopher Kirkley describes his West African re-imagining of Purple Rain. Set in the Saharan city of Agadez in Niger, Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai (Akounak for short) is a visually sumptuous and musically thrilling movie that works splendidly with or without the Purple Rain mythos. But riffing on Prince’s tale locates Purple Rain’s universal heartbeat
As the main supplier of fashion prints to nearly half a continent, the textile company has continued to dominate that fashion scene there for almost 170 years. How’d that happen? Rooted in European colonialism and a testament to African ingenuity, creativity, and cultural pride; it’s a surprising story…
On Friday, South African university students achieved a historic victory; after a week's protest they ensured there would be no fee increases at universities in 2016. This has been led by women. [more inside]
"Every society struggles to care for people with mental illness. In parts of West Africa, where psychiatry is virtually unknown, the chain is often a last resort for desperate families who cannot control a loved one in the grip of psychosis. Religious retreats, known as prayer camps, set up makeshift psychiatric wards, usually with prayer as the only intervention." NYTimes. Links contain upsetting images and video. [more inside]
This is Professor Wangari Maathai. The first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The first Kenyan woman to earn a doctoral degree. An icon of Kenya’s democratic movement who repeatedly put not just her mind but also her body on the line in order to secure a better future for Kenyans and their natural environment. But Maathai’s standing in Kenya is definitely ambiguous. She is beloved by feminists and environmentalists, and tolerated by everyone else... Women are expected to look backwards on guidance on what it means to be “good” – where “good” is primarily defined by men – but not too good because that makes women less interesting to men. This was not Wangari Maathai.
Aby Ngana Diop was a practitioner of taasu (alternately spelled "tassou"), a form of performance poetry practiced by female griots in Senegal. In the 90s, she was "a sought-after performer at the weddings and funerals of the rich and powerful" (according to a tangentially related article from The Verge). In 1994, she released her only widely distributed album, Liital, which fuses traditional taasu with the more modern mbalax, a popular style of Senegalese dance music. It's worth it for the title track alone. [more inside]
Baobab Trees I was not aware that baobab trees grew anyplace but Africa, so it blew my mind to find out that they also live in India and Australia. They were likly introduced by Africans in both cases.
"I Am Fundi" is a short documentary depicting the education system in Uganda and the measures that the organization, Fundibots, is taking to create change. Victor, a Fundi teacher with a challenging past, is changing the future of Uganda by preparing and instilling excitement for science in young children so that when they grow, they will be confident, supported, and prepared for contemporary practices and technological advances.via
The Queen of Trees is a documentary (52 minutes) on the sycomore fig tree, focusing on the intricate mutualism between a fig tree and its fig wasp. Filmmakers Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble spent two years camped out in the Kenyan bush to capture fascinating scenes of life around the sycomore, including inside the figs.
"When protease inhibitors arrived, one era of the AIDS crisis was over. Many stories of the plague years in America end with this victory. Sometimes a coda is appended to acknowledge that the crisis itself isn’t over, referencing ongoing epidemics in Africa and, less often, in black and brown populations in America. What’s often missing from these analyses is an era that I’ve come to think of as the “footnote years” of AIDS activism: a sliver of about five years, from 1996 to 2001, in which a specific urban, queer-identified American activism played a role in changing the global response to HIV, and sought, less successfully, to use this work as a jumping-off point for a broader quest for justice."
“Before the trip, Nigeria was a dim set of associations in my mind: my parent’s stories of their childhood, highlife cassette tapes, dated images from Google searches, negative news headlines, the taste of rice and stew. Going back gave me vivid experiences to call part of my life, to draw from when I talk about the country, my identity, what kinds of people I come from, and the roots of why I do what I do.”
Today is World Jollof Rice Day. Jollof rice is a traditional West African dish, but not a humble one. Subject of #JollofGate, the outraged social media response to chef Jamie Oliver's patently inauthentic recipe, aficionados debate the merits of special ingredients. Others prefer joining the loud brangling online over Ghanaian vs Nigerian Jollof. Regardless of your beliefs, join the world today in celebrating the tasty goodness of this much loved dish.
The Village Where Men Are Banned (and accompanying photos). Julie Bindel at the Guardian writes about the Kenyan village of Umoja, where for 25 years, since the village was founded by survivors of sexual assault, only women and their children have lived.
An essay somewhat in the spirit of Montaigne that discusses reading and writing, Nigeria and Biafra, bystander reactions to tragedy, an novel I've never read named Half of a Yellow Sun, early Christianity, and more. As is often the case on Crooked Timber, many of the comments are worth reading too.
Catholic Bishops In Kenya Call For A Boycott Of Polio Vaccines Fearing a UN plot to sterilize the populace with vaccines containing estrogen derivatives, Bishop Philip Anyolo and others have been encouraging others not to immunize their children. [more inside]
New Ebola vaccine shows 100% success rate in clinical trial. Today the World Health Organization has announced that the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine had a 100% success rate in preventing onset of the disease if administered within 10 days of exposure (n=4,000). In response to the current outbreak in West Africa that has afflicted over 27,000 and killed over 11,000, this collaborative effort led by the WHO pushed the vaccine through a process that usually takes more than a decade in just 12 months. Official paper from The Lancet here (pdf).
"Who Killed Captain Alex: Uganda's First Action Movie was produced, written, directed, shot, and edited by Nabwana IGG from his home in Wakaliga, Uganda. Made for under $200 - using real blood and a modified car jack for a tripod - the film became a sensation in the slums of Uganda while the trailer went viral in Europe, South America, and the US." [more inside]
It will be Barack Obama’s first visit to the land of his father as American president and a far cry from a 1988 trip when his luggage got lost. Obama will be visiting only Kenya and Ethiopia. Yet each is the base for two Africa-wide trends. In Ethiopia, he will give a speech at the headquarters of the 54-nation African Union, the main body trying to lift the standards of governance among its members. But the White House appears more focused on Kenya, which is Africa’s center of innovation and host to a global “summit” of entrepreneurs.
The Banjo Bands of Malawi is a video clip featuring three different performances of a certain strain of folk music from the small African nation. Totally raw and homemade instruments are employed in the service of urgent, percussive music (some of it a bit reminiscent of bluegrass) topped off by tight harmony vocals. What's not to like?
The history of British slave ownership has been buried: now its scale can be revealed The T71 files have been converted into an online database; a free, publicly available resource.
African sci-fi features all manner of weird and outlandish things, from crime-fighting robots to technological dystopias. But could they be closer to predicting the future than they realise?
The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts presented cleanly (without advertising or excessive layout) for educational use. The main sourcebooks cover ancient, medieval, and modern history. Subsidiary sourcebooks cover African, East Asian, Global, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Lesbian and Gay, Science, and Women's history.
As part of our special focus on innovation in Africa, we have developed a list of 40 remarkable African innovators. Actually, it’s more like 47 but we counted teams as one. Our decision to celebrate these idea creators and solution providers stems from our belief that the true wealth of Africa is not buried under its soil, but in the brains of its best minds. This list is a testament to that belief.
In 1975, the New York Blood Center (NYBC) decided to bring 100 chimpanzees to Liberia to conduct research on hepatitis and other human diseases. The research worked: we now have a vaccine for hepatitis B, and the research project ended in 2005. But NYBC left the chimps in Liberia, promising that they could retire there and be cared for until the natural end of their lives. In March 2015, NYBC abruptly ended funding for the chimp sanctuary. The chimps are slowly starving to death, dependent on the charity of unpaid caregivers for food and fresh water. NYBC says they have no legal or moral obligation to help. [more inside]
The Ecotourism Industry Is Saving Tanzania’s Animals and Threatening Its Indigenous People. "With much of the natural world in the Global North already past the point of no return, and with the effects of climate change multiplying yearly, more and more of the Global South is being cordoned off in service of a global patrimony that has little relevance to the lives of the people closest to the land. The collateral social damage of these conservationist policies presents a conundrum, a Sophie's Choice. Whose rights are preeminent—those of nature or those of the people who have always lived closest to it?"
From eagles and robots to wrenches and cruise ships, the artisans of Ghana's Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop ensure decedents will be ushered to the afterlife in meticulously detailed coffins designed to fit the dearly departed's lifestyle, in accordance with Ga-Adangme traditions. [more inside]
This is Suame Magazine. A vast, open-air industrial district in Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city. Here, 200,000 skilled workers manufacture everything from bolts to tanker trucks by hand. A million dollars passes through the factories and workshops here every day, and it’s the place where most of the country’s laborers learn their trades: the heart of Ghana’s informal economy.Photos and Story
Sailors and Daughters reveals the expansive maritime societies of Zanzibar, the east African coast, and beyond. From the 1840s, cameras traced the international migrations of traders, sailors, sons, and daughters through Indian Ocean ports, continuing trade that dates back over five millennia.
Somali Militants Kill 147 at Kenyan University [New York Times]
Somali militants burst into a university in eastern Kenya on Thursday and killed nearly 150 students in the worst terrorist attack since the 1998 bombing of the United States Embassy here, laying bare the nation’s continuing vulnerability after years of battling Islamist extremism. A small group of militants, most likely between four and 10, roved from dorm to dorm, separating Christian from Muslim students and killing the Christians, the authorities said. Students described being awakened before dawn by the sound of gunfire and fleeing for their lives as masked attackers closed in.[more inside]
Incumbent President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan today conceded defeat in last weekend's election, and called President-Elect Muhammadu Buhari to congratulate him. The election has generally appeared to be the fairest in Nigeria's history and mostly free of the bloodshed of Jonathan's 2011 defeat of Buhari; this transition will mark Nigeria's first transfer of power to an opposition party after an election. Buhari's presidency will be his second administration as leader of Nigeria after acting as the head of a military junta from 1983 to 1985. [more inside]
Aurion looks to be a standard and mechanically unremarkable retro action RPG with heavy Japanese design influences. But its design and feel are unmistakably fresh, offering a bold color palette and interesting unit designs. Its fiction is rooted in stories of exploitation and division, and in a desire for harmony.This review of Cameroon's Kiro’o Games latest release is just one of the increasingly visible ways Africa's game developers are beginning to gain traction in their domestic and international markets. Last fall, Lagos hosted the inaugural West African Gaming Expo, bringing together startups, gamers, developers and investors for the first time. Games range from mobile only, extremely local - smash the mosquito or drive your matatu like a maniac - to educational - to full fledged RPG like Kiro'o's Aurion. Women are as much a part of this nascent industry, breaking barriers and encouraging others to join. Watch this space.
The biting cold of a March morning did little to dissuade fans of Amelia Edwards, founder of the Egypt Exploration Society, from turning out in force to watch the unveiling of her blue plaque at 19 Wharton Street in London this week. Edwards joins a small list of women writers including Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Shelley and Agatha Christie, chosen to be celebrated by the scheme as its first female Egyptologist.As one dives deeper into Amelia Edwards' contributions to Egyptology, one begins to wonder*, was it she who was the real Amelia Peabody, so well known to us through the words of Elizabeth Peters? [more inside]
"In July 1960, Jane Goodall boarded a boat, and after a few hours motoring over the warm, deep waters of Lake Tanganyika, she stepped onto the pebbly beach at Gombe. Last summer, almost exactly 54 years later, Jane Goodall was standing on the same beach. The vast lake was still warm, the beach beneath her clear plastic sandals still pebbly. But nearly everything else in sight was different."