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I Like Ancient People

Oldest Jewelry Discovered In African Cave At least 75,000 years old, the find suggests that early humans had a complex sense of symbolism.
posted by mcgraw on Apr 16, 2004 - 8 comments

Saved by Islam.

Rwandans turn toward Islam. A NY Times story (reg. req.) describes how Islam has become the fastest-growing religion in Rwanda, partly because people are disgusted with the priests and nuns who helped with the killing ten years ago, partly because Muslims saved many people at that time.
Muslim leaders credit the gains to their ability during the 1994 massacres to shield most Muslims, and many other Rwandans, from certain death. "The Muslims handled themselves well in '94, and I wanted to be like them," said Alex Rutiririza, explaining why he converted to Islam last year.
Food for thought for those who think of Islam as a "religion of violence."
posted by languagehat on Apr 7, 2004 - 29 comments

Ghosts of Rwanda

Ghosts of Rwanda
10 years later, FRONTLINE delivers one of the most powerful episodes in their excellent series of reports. Also covered in The Economist last week, and a couple years ago in The Atlantic in a sublime article: "Bystanders to Genocide". When you first heard about the tragedy did you wish you could have done something, if you had only known more?
posted by specialk420 on Apr 1, 2004 - 40 comments

The Ivory Coast is falling down

The peace process in the Ivory Coast has collapsed (again). I haven't seen it reported yet but have it first hand from an official stationed there that the UN is evacuating all personnel. The evacuations in 2002 were limited compared to this. How could the Ivory Coast have come to this point? What does this mean for the rest of the region? sigh
posted by Grod on Mar 29, 2004 - 3 comments

Thank God for the camera, for the testimony of the light itself, which no mere man can contradict

The Kodak vs. the King. Images of the the Belgian Congo (aka the Congo Free State) from it's heyday under the personal rule of the very evil King Leopold. The contrast between the photographs used by Leopolds apologists and those used by his enemies (lead by the remorseless E.D. Morel) is probably unsurprising but interesting as evidence of perhaps the first propaganda war to be dominated by photography. Also, the first genocidal atrocity to be, very partially, documented photographically.
The kodak has been a sore calamity to us. The most powerful enemy that has confronted us, indeed.... Every Yankee missionary and every interrupted trader sent home and got one; and now -- oh, well, the pictures get sneaked around everywhere, in spite of all we can do to ferret them out and suppress them.
Mark Twain, King Leopold's Soliloquy

(most links go to the excellent boondocksnet site which takes as its starting point Mark Twain and his anti-imperialist campaigns and branches out most impressively from there)
posted by thatwhichfalls on Mar 20, 2004 - 6 comments

The Mass Graves of the Betrayed

African AIDS Drug Plan Faces Collapse. The World Health Organization's Three by Five programme seeks to supply 3 million Africans with anti-HIV drugs by 2005. But it's in danger, due to lack of cash... and opposition from special interests who seem to be exerting influence over the U.S. government. According to Stephen Lewis, U.N. Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, 'If Three by Five fails, as it surely will without the dollars, then there are no excuses left, no rationalisations to hide behind. There will only be the mass graves of the betrayed.'
posted by stonerose on Mar 17, 2004 - 20 comments

Neither rags nor riches.

Neither rags nor riches. Quite a good human interest story from yesterday's Guardian about what happens to clothes after they go in the recycling bin or off to the charity shop.
posted by biffa on Feb 26, 2004 - 7 comments

When the sun sets, we start to worry...

Michael, aged 25, was abducted by Lord's Resistance Army rebels in northern Uganda. His captors beat him on the head with rifle-butts when he was no longer able to carry their loot and left him for dead. Government soldiers found him a week later. "Termites had started eating me alive," he recalls. Michael's is one of many personal testimonies published in When the sun sets, we start to worry..., a book launched Thursday by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in conjunction with its Integrated Regional Information Networks. Using personal accounts and powerful black-and-white photographs, When the sun sets, we start to worry... aims to draw attention to the plight of more than a million Ugandan men, women and children whose present existence encompasses a degree of misery and horror seldom seen elsewhere.
posted by mookieproof on Jan 29, 2004 - 2 comments

As the wind blows, we see the anus of a chicken.

Hollywood? Old. Bollywood? That's soooo 2003. Make room for Nollywood, Nigeria's own film industry which is growing by leaps and bounds every year, and is currently worth about $45 million dollars. About 400 Nollywood films are produced every year many on a budget of around $15000 and are distributed almost entirely by VHS and VCD. The stories are very much simplistic and pulpy (check out 419 Stalk Exchange. Yes, 419 as in the email scam) but are much preferred by local residents and emigre's than the usual arthouse fair one often thinks of when talking about African cinema. Now if you'll excuse me there's a bucket of popcorn and a copy of GSM Connection waiting for me in the living room.
posted by PenDevil on Jan 19, 2004 - 13 comments

Vodou

Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou. 'Vodou is Haiti's mirror. Its arts and rituals reflect the difficult, brilliant history of seven million people, whose ancestors were brought from Africa to the Caribbean in bondage. In 1791 these Africans began the only successful national slave revolt in history. In 1804 they succeeded in creating the world's first Black republic: the only one in this hemisphere where all the citizens were free. Their success inspired admiration, fear and scorn in the wider world. Cut off from Euro-American support, Haitians managed to created their own dynamic "Creole" society-one rooted in Africa but responsive to all that was encountered in their new island home.' History, theology and religious art.
Related :- an essay on the Vodou concept of soul, Voodoos and Obeahs on sacred-texts ('required reading if you want to understand the background of Haitian and Jamaican Vodun, and the profound influence of imperialism, slavery and racism on its development').
posted by plep on Jan 2, 2004 - 10 comments

The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record

The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record. 'This collection is envisioned as a tool and a resource that can be used by teachers, researchers, students, and the general public -- in brief, anyone interested in the experiences of Africans who were enslaved and transported to the Americas and the lives of their descendants in the slave societies of the New World. '
posted by plep on Dec 9, 2003 - 3 comments

Makola Market

Makola Market. 'West Africa's markets are legendary and none more so than the famous Makola market in Ghana's capital, Accra. Run by powerful women traders who sell in the market, Makola is a place where you can buy anything you need - manufactured and imported foods, fresh produce, tools, medicines, shoes, pots and pans etc etc. It's also a place that's good for the soul; its humour and energy will recharge your batteries. If you aren't lucky enough to be in a West African city, you can still imagine you're there. Whether you are in New York, Paris or Sao Paolo, Johannesburg, Nairobi or Cairo, click on the link and join Ofeibea Quist Arcton on a stroll through Makola Market. It will do you good. '
Via allafrica.com's photo pages.
posted by plep on Dec 6, 2003 - 7 comments

Portable and off the grid

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention. (NY Times, reg. req.) Amy Smith teaches MIT students about the politics of delivering technology to poor nations and the nitty-gritty of mechanical engineering and helped start the IDEAS competition; she herself designed (among other things) a screenless hammer mill suited to third-world conditions and using "materials available to a blacksmith in Senegal."
Smith's entire life is like one of her inventions, portable and off the grid. At 41, she has no kids, no car, no retirement plan and no desire for a Ph.D. Her official title: instructor. ''I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing. Why would I spend six years to get a Ph.D. to be in the position I'm in now, but with a title after my name? M.I.T. loves that I'm doing this work. The support is there. So I don't worry.''...
Likewise, the inventors who most inspire her will never strike it rich. ''There are geniuses in Africa, but they're not getting the press,'' she says. She gushes about Mohammed Bah Abba, a Nigerian teacher who came up with the pot-within-a-pot system. With nothing more than a big terra-cotta bowl, a little pot, some sand and water, Abba created a refrigerator -- the rig uses evaporation rather than electricity to keep vegetables cool. Innovations that target the poorest of the poor don't have to be complicated to make a big difference. The best solution is sometimes the most obvious.
A rare optimistic story for these downbeat times.
posted by languagehat on Dec 3, 2003 - 18 comments

We'd give money if they had more clocks

"They do not use Western means to tell time. They use the sun. These drugs have to be administered in certain sequences, at certain times during the day. You say, take it at 10 o'clock, they say, what do you mean, 10 o'clock?" They, of course, refers to "Africans" and the above logic from the head of USAID was used an explanation for why it's tough to extend AIDS treatment to Africa. The only problem with this argument is that it's wrong. People with HIV in developing countries are in better compliance with drug regimes than in the US as new research is showing [RealAudio]. As we've seen throughout the epidemic, it's a lot easier to get funding for researchers in lab coats than for actual treatment . . .
posted by donovan on Dec 1, 2003 - 1 comment

Policies that kill?

Starting with this year's State of the Union address, President Bush began a plan to increase aid to Africa, and at the center of that plan is funding to prevent the spread of AIDS and HIV that has reached epidemic proportions on the continent. Critics however, have noted that aid to clinics comes with strings attached. Abstinence is preached first and foremost and condoms are mentioned only as a last resort. This reporter flat out says the policy to curtail the funding and use of condoms in Africa is killing millions.
posted by mathowie on Dec 1, 2003 - 32 comments

But There's No Oil You Say?

But There's No Oil You Say? The humanitarian situation in northern Uganda is worse than in Iraq, or anywhere else in the world, a senior United Nations official has said. It is a moral outrage" that the world is doing so little for the victims of the war, especially children, says UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland. The rebels routinely abduct children to serve as sex slaves and fighters. Thousands of children leave their houses in northern Uganda to sleep rough in the major towns, where they feel more safe from the threat of abduction by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The United Nations [should] play a great role in scaling down the violence The LRA, under shadowy leader Joseph Kony, says it wants to rule Uganda according to the Biblical Ten Commandments. They often mutilate their victims, by cutting off their lips, noses or ears.
posted by turbanhead on Nov 10, 2003 - 15 comments

Ten years of therapy in one night

Ten years of therapy in one night Could a single trip on a piece of African rootbark help a junkie kick the habit? That was the claim in the 1960s, and now iboga is back in the spotlight. But is it a miracle cure? Daniel Pinchbeck decided to give it a go. And life, he says, will never be the same again... Any of you junkies at Metafilter care to give it a try?
posted by Postroad on Nov 7, 2003 - 34 comments

African Hats and Hair

Hats Off! A Salute to African Headwear. 'Many African cultures throughout the continent have long considered the head the center of one's being--a source of individual and collective identity, power, intelligence and ability. Adorning the head as part of everyday attire or as a statement, therefore, is especially significant. '
Related :- African Loxo: photos of hairstyles from the Fifties (in French); mathematical patterns in African American hairstyles.
posted by plep on Oct 30, 2003 - 6 comments

Townships

South African township art, urban art, and recycled craft, some of it inspired by the anti-apartheid struggle or day-to-day survival in the post-apartheid era (and a common 'language' in multi-lingual townships).
posted by plep on Oct 13, 2003 - 2 comments

Extinction

Lions in Africa are getting close to extinction. In fact, all the big alpha predators are in trouble. It may only be a matter of time before all the mega species disappear from the wild.
posted by homunculus on Oct 2, 2003 - 8 comments

Tanzanian Cartoons

Tanzanian Cartoons.
posted by plep on Sep 15, 2003 - 4 comments

Tom Feelings

Tom Feelings, an African-American illustrator, author, and historian, has passed. "I had used the functional form of a narrative without words, it is open to all people, especially those who have difficulty visualizing what Black people describe as racism from the past and its lingering presence in the present."
posted by moonbird on Aug 29, 2003 - 2 comments

Now you see it, now you don't!

A Boeing 727 went missing from Angola on May 25. Some people made immediate, predictable noises about "terrorists", despite the fact that things are a lot less settled in Africa (from a paperwork and regulatory point of view). It was spotted with a new paint job on June 28 in Conakry, the capital of Guinea. But, now it's gone again and nobody knows where it is.
posted by Irontom on Aug 6, 2003 - 8 comments

and the band played on

"The morning started again with a series of four mortar shells exploding with a muffled thump in the ocean behind our hospital..." Reports from Monrovia, Liberia by Dr. Andrew Schechtman, a volunteer with Medecins Sans Frontieres -- graphic but compelling.
posted by serafinapekkala on Jul 31, 2003 - 11 comments

Middle Eastern and N. African Geography Quiz

How well do you know your Middle Eastern and North African geography? In my case, the answer would probably be 'decent, but not great'.
posted by GriffX on Jul 30, 2003 - 39 comments

Idi Amin close to death.

Idi Amin close to death The former big man of Uganda, self-proclaimed Conqueror of the British Empire, scorn of satirists and subject of a 1974 Barbet Schroeder documentary is near death. His overt support of the infamous Entebbe hijacking, intended as his show of strength and global defiance, led (in)directly to his overthrow. (More inside.)
posted by philfromhavelock on Jul 20, 2003 - 24 comments

Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano, or, Gustavus Vassa, the African. 'According to his famous autobiography, written in 1789, Olaudah Equiano (c.1745-1797) was born in what is now Nigeria. Kidnapped and sold into slavery in childhood, he was taken as a slave to the New World. As a slave to a captain in the Royal Navy, and later to a Quaker merchant, he eventually earned the price of his own freedom by careful trading and saving. As a seaman, he travelled the world, from the Mediterranean to the North Pole. Coming to London, he became involved in the movement to abolish the slave trade, an involvement which led to him writing and publishing The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African (1789) a strongly abolitionist autobiography ... '
Of interest :- Ignatius Sancho: African Man of Letters; Quobna Ottabah Cugoano: a Former Slave Speaks Out; American Slave Narratives ('From 1936 to 1938, over 2,300 former slaves from across the American South were interviewed by writers and journalists under the aegis of the Works Progress Administration'); Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938; Excerpts from Slave Narratives.
posted by plep on Jul 17, 2003 - 8 comments

Human Development Report, 2003

Did you know that... Aid fell in the 1990s—by nearly a third on a per capita basis in Sub-Saharan Africa? In Sub Saharan Africa, half the population lives on less than 1$ a day? At current rates Sub-Saharan Africa will not meet the poverty Goal until 2147? If all the food produced worldwide were distributed equally, every person would be able to consume 2,760 calories a day (hunger is defined as consuming fewer than 1,960 calories a day)? These and more facts can be found in the 2003 UN Human Development Report.
posted by stonerose on Jul 8, 2003 - 25 comments

vicarious travel - photography and narratives

Photos by Martin - a gem of a site for vicarious travelers, it features wonderful, charming photos and fascinating stories from a guy who quit his job three years ago to travel the world. He credits global photojournalist Steve McCurry as an influence. I am such a fan of these photo travel narratives, professional and amateur alike - has anyone else discivered some special favorites?
posted by madamjujujive on Jul 8, 2003 - 22 comments

Post-colonial African blues

Getting The Hell Out Of Africa: An excellent article by R.W. Johnson describes the forces now driving out many African whites and quietly despairs. Post-colonial blues are sad and riddled with guilt and lost hopes. How far does collective guilt impinge on the individual? What if there is no guilt at all? What is the white man and woman's place in 21st Century Africa? I wonder whether it isn't still too early to think clearly about the many delicate issues involved. But then an all-black Africa wouldn't be Africa. Would it?
posted by MiguelCardoso on Jun 25, 2003 - 18 comments

Africaserver

Africaserver. Contemporary African art and culture - San art from Botswana, Arms into Art from Mozambique, Dar es Salaam in Delft Blue - a cross-cultural comparison of favourite objects, Marthe Nso Abomo from Cameroon, a Rwanda Genocide Monument, and more.
Related :- Meshu, an artist and political activist from Lesotho who may have been southern Africa's first streaker.
posted by plep on Jun 16, 2003 - 2 comments

Story of the Congo

History, Present, and Future of the Congo CBC has created a great multimedia site that tells the story of the Congo. Sad, maddening, but offers a ray of hope.
posted by Coop on Jun 2, 2003 - 5 comments

Live Aid 2003

"Clinton was a good guy, but he did fuck all" or so says Bob Geldof when it comes to Clinton getting aid to Africa. And he's just as critical about the EU as well ("The EU have been pathetic and appalling, and I thought we had dealt with that 20 years ago when the electorate of our countries said never again...") pointing out their tiny contribution to the recent aid shipments to Ethiopia. But what about the Bush government you ask? "You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical -- in a positive sense -- in its approach to Africa since Kennedy."
posted by PenDevil on May 28, 2003 - 19 comments

meanwhile in the congo

"We can only watch the slaughter, say UN troops" in the Congo - where machetes are turned into weapons of mass destruction - the hobbled UN presses for action, and the US and Major US Media outlets take no notice.
posted by specialk420 on May 26, 2003 - 51 comments

Murder, Mayhem & Disco

Murder, Mayhem & Disco Sierra Leone warlord Sam Bockarie - if indeed he is dead - will be remembered for allegedly advocating a particularly horrific tactic of war: the deliberate and widespread practice of hacking off the limbs, lips and ears of his victims. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) - the rebel group of which Mr Bockarie was a general - also received world attention for its systematic rape of women and abduction of thousands of children who were forced to fight. Mr Bockarie who died aged 40 was wanted by the United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal for his alleged part in the atrocities In his time, he was also a disco dancing champion, diamond miner, hairdresser, electrician and waiter.
posted by turbanhead on May 7, 2003 - 1 comment

The Story of Africa

The Story of Africa, courtesy of the BBC World Service.
posted by plep on May 7, 2003 - 8 comments

Slavery in Ghana

Child Slaves in Ghana. Short article and photos, from AllAfrica.com.
Related :- Ghana's trapped slaves. "The girls are my slaves - they are the property of my shrine"
posted by plep on Apr 25, 2003 - 10 comments

The Rain Queen

The Ethnographic Lens: Images from the Realm of a Rain Queen. Between 1936 and 1938 social anthropologists Eileen and Jack Krige undertook intensive fieldwork in the north-eastern regions of South Africa among the Lobedu people whose chief Modjadji was widely acclaimed as a rainmaker.'
'In 1943 their book 'The Realm of a Rain Queen' was published and has remained in print ever since. Some of the photographs taken by the Kriges were used as illustrations in the book but many remained unpublished and little known ...' Via this collection of archaeological and anthropological resources from the South African Museum.
Princess Makobo Modjadji of the Bolobedu has just been crowned as the new Rain Queen, Modjadji VI. A light drizzle greeted the inauguration, which may be a good sign.
The Rain Queen was the inspiration for H. Rider Haggard's 'She Who Must Be Obeyed'.
More on the world of the Rain Queen - including biographical details on the last Rain Queen, and her relationships with politicians such as Nelson Mandela in a changine South Africa - here.
posted by plep on Apr 12, 2003 - 5 comments

African Art

The G.I. Jones Photographic Archive of Southeastern Nigerian Art and Culture. 'This is an archive of digitized photographs depicting the arts and cultures of southeastern Nigeria. The collection includes examples from Ibibio, Igbo, Ijo and Ogoni speaking peoples. All of the photographs were taken in the 1930s by the late G.I. Jones, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge. The majority of the images are from the Igbo speaking regions where Jones conducted most of his research. The materials included here represent only a sample of the complete Jones collection. The photographs are unique for the creative brilliance of the art represented, the quality of the photography itself, and the cultural and historical significance of photographic records from this time period in Nigeria.'
Some related links :-
American Museum Congo Expedition 1909-1915. A truly interesting site, which includes field notes, photographs, watercolours, historical maps, anthropoligical objects, and so forth.
A Clickable Map of the Art of the African Continent, via Africa: The Art of a Continent.
The Woods Collection of African Art, with another clickable map.
Nigerian Stories.
posted by plep on Mar 27, 2003 - 11 comments

Click, Pop and Whistle

Khoisan languages of southern Africa [NY Times link]
Do some of today's languages still hold a whisper of an ancient ancestral tongue spoken by the first modern humans? [more inside]
posted by Irontom on Mar 24, 2003 - 11 comments

Rail Bands and Super Motels

A history of Malian pop music. Confused by the interlocking names and associations of the stars of West African music? This lively account by Lisa Denenmark should help (and a follow-up is promised). Via the indispensible Afropop Worldwide.
posted by languagehat on Mar 20, 2003 - 20 comments

Coup in the CAR

Meanwhile, over in Africa. While the Central African Republic President was gone, a General came in and seized power. What will happen to the millions wanted for food in the CAR is unknown, but more people may leave the CAR.
posted by RobbieFal on Mar 17, 2003 - 5 comments

Art & Life in Africa.

Art & Life in Africa. A resource on African art and culture. Key Moments in Life is an interesting page which deals with different phases of life. The Peoples Index gives overviews of the different cultures. The snapshots of daily life in Mali and Burkina Faso are also worth a look.
posted by plep on Mar 7, 2003 - 7 comments

Politicizing the AIDS crisis

Bush's pledge to fight AIDS in Africa comes with some strings attached, it turns out. Bush is limiting the funds that clinics which perform abortions can receive. Is it moral to politicize an epidemic?
posted by hipnerd on Feb 17, 2003 - 93 comments

Gifts & Blessings.

Gifts & Blessings. The textile arts of Madagascar.
posted by plep on Feb 7, 2003 - 10 comments

Out of Africa

The Tsavo lions were made famous by the 1996 film The Ghost and the Darkness. The stuffed trophies were donated to the Chicago Field Museum, where you can still see them today, in all their maneless glory. Facinated by stranger-than-fiction stories out of Africa, like the lost tusks of Malima Temboz, the Mountain that Walks.
posted by steef on Jan 16, 2003 - 4 comments

drop condoms, not bombs

An undeclared war on latex is apparently being waged by the Bush administration, which is taking all sorts of steps to avoid condoning their use. This is a patently ridiculous stance to take in the face of a global AIDS epidemic, but this interesting essay also raised my eyebrows:

According to figures in a report on condoms by Population Action International, the average man in Botswana gets less than one condom per year from international donors.

Uhhh...doesn't the idea of condoms as a staple of international relief seem a bit strange? Haven't governments around the world devoted any resources to their own public health? Surely donor-nations can't keep everyon else's penises safely sheathed forever.
posted by subpixel on Jan 10, 2003 - 12 comments

The Lost Boys Come to America

The Lost Boys of the Sudan are a group of nearly 17,000 orphans whose parents were murdered and whose homes were destroyed by a government miltary turned against them. They marched on foot, without food or water, under attack from hungry predators & occasional strafing miltary fire for several years until settling in a squalid refugee camp in Kenya; nearly a decade later, the U.S. began a humanitarian policy of importing them, a few at a time, and resettling the lucky few in cities such as Chicago, Atlanta, and even Fargo, N.D. (NYTimes, reg req'd)
posted by jonson on Jan 3, 2003 - 14 comments

African village attacked by vampires.

African village attacked by vampires. I thought this article was an email hoax until I found it at Yahoo news via AP. Bizarre.
posted by fred_ashmore on Dec 24, 2002 - 24 comments

Africa.

Africa. Whether you think of it as The Heart Of Darkness, the Dark Continent, or as an ecological laboratory, Africa is ultimately home to us all. But Sub-Saharan Africa is in peril of spiraling into chaos: the scourge of AIDS, near-continuous unrest, and a lamentable inability of most African countries to maintain anything like a modern civil society are precursors to what might become a humanitarian catastrophe unlike anything we have ever witnessed. Do we still blame the ghosts of colonialism for this, or is it time for Africans to take the responsibility for their own problems?
posted by mrmanley on Dec 6, 2002 - 35 comments

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