As the West African Ebola epidemic stretches into its 10th month: researchers have identified the likely cause of the initial outbreak: a young boy playing with bats in a village in Guinea. The NY Times considers how the opportunity to contain the epidemic was missed and the effects of Ebola on West African economies. Vanity Fair takes a look at the failure to contain the disease within Guinea, Frontline goes to "Ground Zero" in Guinea, and searches for a missing Ebola patient. Meanwhile, West Africans welcomed Christmas (previously) and the New Year. Africa Stop Ebola!
Grass Roots: The Enduring Art of the Lowcountry Basket (video 27:21). Sweetgrass Baskets: "This basket-making tradition came to South Carolina in the 17th century by way of West African slaves who were brought to America to work on plantations." The Sweetgrass Basket Tradition: "Sweetgrass basketmaking has been part of the Charleston and Mt. Pleasant communities for more than 300 years." Sweetgrass Baskets: A History (pdf): "Coiled basketry, one of the oldest African crafts in America, appeared in South Carolina during the late 17th century." The South Carolina Lowcountry. Sweetgrass (Muhlenbergia filipes). [more inside]
Oil and conflict in Nigeria's Niger Delta region: Between the barrel and the trigger. In the most recent issue of The Extractive Industries and Society, Cyril Obi examines the "resource curse" explanation for the “failure” of African states: poverty, corruption and violent conflict. [more inside]
Firestone operates one of the largest rubber plants in the world in Liberia. Firestone Liberia received a lot of positive press in the past few months after "stopping Ebola in its tracks" on its plantation in the country. But 22 years ago, Firestone Liberia played a different role in shaping Liberia's trajectory.
The (Golden) Wheel spider is a huntsman spider native to the Namib Desert of Southern Africa. Like most other huntsman spiders, Wheel spiders don't spin webs, but build burrows in the sand that are reinforced by their silk, in an attempt to hide from their primary predators, the parasitic Pompilid or Spider Wasp. Enter the gymnastic abilities (and source of the name) for the Wheel spider, where the spider will curl up and roll down slope up to 1 meter per second to escape. But Wheel spider isn't the only huntsman to utilize a unique method to flee down hill. There's also the Moroccan flic-flac spider, named for the flic-flac motion of some gymnastic maneuvers (German video; turn on captions and translation for some assistance; description in English). The movement of this spider have inspired some robot designs (more information). And there are other "wheeling" insects, because it's faster to roll than run downhill. If the documentary footage of the Golden Wheel spider is all too serious, here are some clips of the Wheel spider set to music: let the good times roll, and this spider rollin' they hatin'.
At this point I believe it might be better to dump the container of smartphones into the ocean than to dump them onto the Ebola emergency response. The leader of UNICEF's innovation unit explains why Amazon's offer to donate unsold Fire phones to West Africa will likely cause more harm than good.
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]