Lake Nokoué is a rather large lake (20 km/~12.5 mi wide, 11 km/~6.8 mi long) in the southern part of the West African nation of Benin. In the northern portion of the lake, there is what looks like a large flooded town (Google maps). This is Ganvié, which was established in the 16th or 17th century as a means to escape the Fon people, who were at that time were involved in the slave trade. Because the Dan-homey or Dahomey religion forbade the Fon warriors from entering water, the lagoon was a safe territory. Ganvié has a population of around 20,000 people, largely living in stilt houses, making it likely to be the largest lake village in Africa. For a view of the village, Kuriositas has collected a number of great photos of "the Venice of Africa."
The folks at the Duke Lemur Center are helpfully offering you the opportunity to figure out: what kind of lemur are you? [more inside]
Journey dot Africa. Fancy three hours of primo African music with Idris Elba as your guide? BBC Radio 2 and the iPlayer has you covered. [more inside]
South African artist and activist Gabrielle Le Roux is in San Francisco for the first time to show the "Proudly African & Transgender" portrait and story series she co-created with trans* activists from Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Burundi, Uganda and Kenya in 2008, together with a selection of portraits from the "Proudly Trans* in Turkey" collaboration with eighteen trans* activists from across Turkey. The portraits and stories will show at the SF LGBT Center at the invitation of the Queer Cultural Center and SFSU Sociology Dept. Galería de La Raza will be showing the 18 part video installation of the Proudly Trans* in Turkey exhibition, through which trans* activists from across Turkey explore the issues they want to discuss on film. [more inside]
A New Wave of Black Filmmaking: Experimental and Black Speculative Indie Films "A brief survey of the contemporary Black independent film scene yields a long and ever-growing list of experimental and Black speculative (including horror, Afrofuturism, sci-fi, fantasy, fan fiction) short cinema, film trailers, music videos and other projects. (/The Atlanta Black Star) [more inside]
My Africa Is Lagos: WeCyclers. The Floating School. Avante Garde Fashion Photography. Dakar: Le Journal Rappe. Malika Surf Camp. Sunu Street Project. Diaspora: Sonic Diaspora. Os Kuduristas. Technologie Democracy. (via)
Kichwateli (Kenya, 2011; 07:46), The Day They Came (Nigeria, 2013; 03:59), The Tale of How (South Africa, 2006; 04:28; previously), Alive in Joburg (South Africa, 2006; 06:22; previously), Umkhungo (South Africa, 2010; 30:34; trailer alt. link), Evolve (Egypt, 2014; 24:17), Mwansa the Great (Zambia, 2011; 23:11; two trailers as alt. links), and Pumzi (Kenya, 2009; 21:51): eight short works of SF/fantasy via The Skiffy and Fanty Show.
A genet in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in South Africa has been photographed by camera traps for several weeks running, riding around on the backs of cape buffalo and rhinoceros . Researchers agree: this is weird! (via.) [more inside]
Close Your Heart
A long-form article from Slate about the Central African Republic’s sectarian civil war.
A long-form article from Slate about the Central African Republic’s sectarian civil war.
"... now, my sight and my world and my life have all returned." Vision: Healing the Blind in Ethiopia [vimeo, 10m] [more inside]
How an investment by one of America's largest hedge funds helped Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's brutal longtime dictator, maintain his grip on power when he was on the verge of losing it in 2008
According to the Daptone Gold compilation liner notes (auto-playing music, click on "Biography"to read the notes), written by Pitchfork contributor Douglas Wolk, "the world capital of soul" has moved from the US ("between Memphis and Detroit, with occasional stopovers in New Orleans, Cincinnati and elsewhere") in the 1960, to Lagos in the 1970s, then it went into hiding, finally reappearing in Brooklyn, with Daptone Records. Let's go back - why Lagos in the 1970s? [more inside]
Kenya's Okwiri Oduor has won the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story, "My Father's Head." Many stories by other winners and nominees are available online. [more inside]
Food is life. It unites us all. Here at Global Voices, we love food, so we bring you eight yummy food blogs from Sub-Saharan Africa.
"Micronations" have been founded for many reasons -- to pursue libertarian ideals, or progressive ones, or fetishes, or simply to make fun of the whole idea. It is not often, however, that a micronation is founded entirely in order to make a seven-year-old American girl a princess. [more inside]
On Sunday, July 13th 2014, Africa's Nobel Laureates in Literature balanced the eternal dance of life and death. On that day, Nigerian poet Wole Soyinka celebrated his 80th birthday with Presidents and paeans, even as South African author Nadine Gordimer passed away that night at age 90. Each, in their own way with words, took on the challenge of race and colour.
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.
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).
Welcome, this blog is dedicated to all the beautiful brides hailing from the East of Africa. Enjoy! [more inside]
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.
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]
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.
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.
To be gay, Christian and black in Harlem West African asylum seekers face a new kind of discrimination in the US
"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.
How Naspers CEO Koos Bekker beat the New York Times at its own game by Michael Moritz [more inside]
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.
“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]
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.
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.
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.
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]
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]
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. --
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]
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
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]
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)
"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]
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.
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]
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.
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?
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]