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.
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.
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]
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
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.
"Ariane Kambu Mbenza grew up with her uncle in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When she was seven years old, he asked her to be in charge of preparing food. Sure, Uncle. No problem. She had grown up watching her mother cook and played kitchen plenty of times. "In Africa, you know how to cook automatically." Now a mother herself, Ariane showed me how to make what in Congo would be called, " Riz aux legumes avec poisson grillé avec la sauce tomate à l'ail." Text Via followed by Congolese mini Waffles as seen in the photo in the linked newspaper.
The history of people finding Australia goes a little something like this: Aboriginal Australians separated from a migration out of Africa into Asia about 70,000 years, and Australian archaeological sites have proof of humans going back 50,000 years. Jump ahead to 1606, when there were two European voyages that made landfall and charted portions of Australia. First was Willem Janszoon's voyage in late February or early March of that year, and then Luís Vaz de Torres came a few months later. Abel Jansen Tasman was the first European to come across Tasmania, and between 1642 and 1646, his crew charted the Australian coast, more or less (Google auto-translation, original page). Then of course, there was James Cook's 1770 voyage. With all these dates in mind, how did five copper coins from an African sultanate that collapsed in the early 1500s (Google books) end up on an uninhabited island in the Northern Territory of present-day Australia? [more inside]
Lindsey Stirling in Kenya..
"In the past inequality in South Africa was largely defined along race lines. It has become increasingly defined by inequality within population groups as the gap between rich and poor within each group has increased substantially." Is this what's led the BBC to report a growing sense of insecurity among poor (chiefly Afrikaans-speaking) whites? Or are they just blatantly misreading the statistics? [more inside]
Many of you are perhaps familiar with the berimbau, a musical bow with a calabash resonator, best known as an instrument for accompanying the Brazilian dance/martial art known as capoeira. But the roots of the instrument lie, as you might guess, in Africa. Still, it's not often we get a chance to hear the original African version of the instrument being played. This video, though, in which one Chris Haambwiila of Zambia conjures up an intricate, bewitching groove, is one that will be of interest to those who enjoy elemental and unadulterated human rhythmic expression. And the two little boys getting down to the sound will win your heart, for sure.
They wash dishes in restaurants, clean toilets and look after elderly incontinent people in the West. That makes the majority of the 30 million who have emigrated from Africa. Some are much luckier, they work in subaltern management positions in corporate America or in public institution in Europe. Few are real stars, successful with high pay and social status. Regardless of their current fate, they all share one thing in common: most of them want to return to Africa. The recent medias’ drumbeat about “Africa is Rising” is making them restless and hopeful because most of them have quite a petty life in the West. They are constantly harassed by the state police, crushed by daily racism from their neighbors and strangers, economically and politically isolated, and with very little hope for a near-future improvement. Unfortunately their dream to return home is painfully held back by deep fears and unanswered questions. Here are the top 10 fears of the African diaspora about Africa, and also the top 10 questions most of them are confronted with.
Black Gynaecologist (2008), 'I love the white middle class ...' (2008), Say! if you speak English... (2008).
The works and life of Anton Kannemeyer.
The works and life of Anton Kannemeyer.
An effortless melding of Malian and western styles topped off by the gorgeously smoky voice of Fatoumata Diawara. The infectiously brisk tempo, chiming guitar artistry and tight, rapid fire harmonies of Shirati Jazz. The warmly grounded choral expression of South Africa's Black Umfolosi. The delicate, calmly unfolding wellspring of melody (starting off with a classic Morricone spaghetti-western quote!) of kora master Toumani Diabate. The loping, balafon-driven groove over which the majestic, declamatory voice of Oumou Sangare soars. The classic, Cuban-inspired rhumba (but with the distinctively African feel and sound) of Orchestra Baobab... all these modern treasures of African music and much, much more from Africa and beyond at the World Circuit Soundcloud page. Enjoy the ride!
The last King of Rwanda, Kigeli V Ndahindurwa, lives on public assistance in low-income housing, at a dead end between US Route 66 and State Route 655 in Oakton, Virginia. 'He ruled Rwanda for just nine months in the 1960's before fleeing a revolt and has spent the last half century in exile, powerless to stop the violence that ripped through his country. He is 76 years old now, his tottering seven-foot-two-inch frame stooped by age and the vagaries of fate.'
In temperate climates, "fairy rings" appear in grassy meadows and lawns, and these are caused by fungi, with some rings expanding for hundreds of years. But in the western part of Southern Africa, there are a different sort of "fairy circles," barren circles that are surrounded by long-lived perennial grasses. The Himba people, an ethnic group in northern Namibia, attribute them to original ancestor, Mukuru, or consider them "footprints of the gods," and scientists have been stumped for decades. Professor Norbert Jürgens, from the University of Hamburg, might have finally solved the riddle: a species of termites that are most active at night and don't build big, noticeable nests, have engineered the ecosystem by eating the roots of grasses that grow within the circle, keeping the soil moist for long periods of time. The discussion continues, as some scientists who have studied the phenomena aren't so sure about the theory.
The Forces Of The Next 30 Years - SF author and Mefi's Own Charles Stross talks to students at Olin College about sci-fi, fiction, speculation, the limits of computation, thermodynamics, Moore's Law, the history of travel, employment, automation, free trade, demographics, the developing world, privacy, and climate change in trying to answer the question What Does The World Of 2043 Look Like? (Youtube 56:43)
"Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, acclaimed in part for his groundbreaking 1958 novel "Things Fall Apart," has died, his British publisher, Penguin Books, said Friday." Set in precolonial Nigeria, Things Fall Apart portrays the story of a farmer, Okonkwo, who struggles to preserve his customs despite pressure from British colonizers. The story resonated in post-independent Africa, and the character became a household name in the continent. [more inside]
'Feminism' has often been seen as a Western concept, but African women are increasingly redefining it to suit their own purposes. This, in turn, is influencing the rest of the world.
The blog US Slave collects long-form articles on every aspect of the history of slavery, primarily focussing on African slaves in the USA and their descendents. Among the content there is this biography of Ota Benga, the Congolese Pygmy man who was put on display in the monkey house at the Bronx Zoo, and several posts about Sarah "Saartjie" Baartman, the so-called Hottentot Venus. [more inside]
The stereotypes about Africa/Africans are too many to list here. They’re mostly negative, myopic depictions that focus on war, famine, abject poverty, disease, and corruption. In other oversimplifications, Africans are written up as model immigrants, overachieving geniuses, or displaced chiefs moonlighting as gas station attendants. Outside of these caricatures, many Africans are going to work and school, voting in their local elections, and spending way too much time on Facebook. And they’re over the ignorance that has collectively miscast them. In response, a swelling movement of young Africans are launching concerted efforts to wrest the image of Africa from entities and interests that don’t promote a balanced understanding of the continent.
A Trail of Bullet Casings Leads From Africa’s Wars Back to Iran. Iran’s Cartridges & Their Quiet Distribution to Brutal Regimes and Many Wars. [more inside]
a herd of elephants cross a stream ... audacity of the mandrills ... panthers play with their reflection in a mirror ... a passing group of gorillas ... 52 red river hogs eat fruit ... a leopard falls in love with the camera trap ... a sitatunga frightens some ibises while crossing a stream ... two elephants fighting ... chimpanzees attack a mirror ... a slithering Gaboon Viper ... a family of elephants on the trail ... 15 animals at the same place, close to camp
A documentary film about Norman Borlaug, the Iowa farm boy who saved over a billion people from starvation. (1:06:47) Americans have little knowledge of one of their greatest sons. Why do schoolchildren in China, India, Mexico, and Pakistan know the name and work of Nobel Peace Prize winner [His speech] Norman Borlaug while so few of his countrymen have never heard of him? How did a dirt-poor farm boy from rural Iowa grow up to save a billion people worldwide from starvation and malnutrition and become the father of the Green Revolution? What were the inherited traits and environmental factors that shaped his astonishing journey and led to successes that surprised even him? What can we learn from his life and views that might help the human race survive the next critical century? [more inside]
The Guinea Worm, which causes Guinea Worm disease (or Dracunculiasis) is on track to be the first parasitic disease eliminated. And with only a water filter. [more inside]
In 2010, journalist David Axe spent a month in the Congo reporting on the Lord's Resistance Army. When he returned, he wrote a book titled "Army of God: Joseph Kony's War in Central Africa", illustrated by Tim Hamilton and edited by Matt Bors. The book first appeared online, but the paperback rights were acquired by publisher Public Affairs, with plans to publish an expanded edition in 2013. The deal included an advance, which was wired to Hamilton's account. That's where the U.S. Treasury department comes in. Specifically, The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). [more inside]
Born in Africa to French wildlife photographer parents, Tippi Degré had a most unusual childhood. (Possibly NSFW)
Can non-Europeans think? So the question remains why not the dignity of "philosophy" and whence the anthropological curiosity of "ethnophilosophy"?
"To the world of today the men of medieval Christendom already seem remote and unfamiliar. Their names and deeds are recorded in our history-books, their monuments still adorn our cities, but our kinship with them is a thing unreal, which costs an effort of imagination. How much more must this apply to the great Islamic civilization, that stood over against medieval Europe, menacing its existence and yet linked to it by a hundred ties that even war and fear could not sever. Its monuments too abide, for those who may have the fortunate to visit them, but its men and manners are to most of us utterly unknown, or dimly conceived in the romantic image of the Arabian Nights. Even for the specialist it is difficult to reconstruct their lives and see them as they were. Histories and biographies there are in quantity, but the historians for all their picturesque details, seldom show the ability to select the essential and to give their figures that touch of the intimate which makes them live again for the reader. It is in this faculty that Ibn Battuta excels." Thus begins the book, "Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354" published by Routledge and Kegan Paul. Step into the world of "the first tourist" who made his mark as the world's greatest traveler before the age of steam. [more inside]
What Susan Rice Has Meant for U.S. Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa Right now, Africa is changing with extraordinary speed and in surprising ways, but American policy there remains stale and stuck in the past: unambitious, underinvested and conceptually outdated.
Perched high up above the Thames in downtown London every month this past year a different writer has spent four days living in a replica of the Roi des Belges, the boat Marlow travels up the Congo in Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness. Each author would write a short text during their stay "which explores London, rivers, the work of Joseph Conrad, or even all three." They would be visited on the last day by a journalist from The Guardian who recorded them reading their essay, poem or short story. Among the poets, historians and novelists were Adonis, Jeanette Winterson, Teju Cole, Michael Ondaatje and Kamila Shamsie. These recordings, each prefaced by a short interview, are all available on the Guardian website, to stream or download. Below the cut there is a link to each recording, with a short description. [more inside]
A Liberian-American reflects on the experiences of Africans who have moved to the United States, a growing community that accounts for 3 percent of the U.S.'s foreign-born population.
"Claims of institutional racism against black people have dogged the World Bank for decades. The current president has a real opportunity to end the scourge." [more inside]
Snapshot Serengeti A Zooniverse animal-spotting project. Bird-bombs, charismatic megafauna, snuggling buffalo, ghosts of serval cats. Maddeningly addictive citizen science. Even the 'nothing here' landscapes are lovely.
The African King With A Multi-Billion Dollar Empire RBH functions as a communitybased investment company whose primary investment aim is to generate the income required for the funding of sustainable projects. Income generated from RBH’s commercial interests is invested in infrastructural development, as well as in the members of the Nation itself. Over the past decade, more than R4 billion ($475 million) has been spent on roads, utilities, schools, clinics and other public amenities. This has benefited not only the Bafokeng, but other people living in the North West Province of South Africa, the area which the RBN calls home.
DJ Focus couldn't wait to get back to Sierra Leone. AKA Kelvin Doe, this young man makes beautiful, functional and very useful electronic devices out of trash found in his native Sierra Leone. It's not clear whether he or M.I.T. was more impressed after his visit there.
A Norwegian group called Radi-Aid has launched an appeal to ship radiators from Africa to Norway. They have also released a video to highlight the plight of freezing children during Norway's harsh winter. [more inside]
A polemic against NGOs and the destruction of local innovation However, one issue that has received relatively scant attention is the way in which the notion of civil society has been reduced to being synonymous with non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This is one area that can have malign and far-reaching negative impacts, which I’d like to explore here. And here's another view, this time from India.
"Decades ago, the Mbuti typically sold about half the meat they captured; now they sell nearly every carcass, saving only the prized entrails and heads for themselves. The hunt, in essence, has devolved into an all-out commercial endeavor, staged not for subsistence, but to feed growing regional markets. And the impact is clear."
How Things Fell Apart, By Chinua Achebe - 'In an excerpt from his long-awaited memoir, the inventor of the post-colonial African novel in English discusses his origins as a writer and the seeds of revolt against the British Empire.'
I can say that my whole artistic career was probably sparked by this tension between the Christian religion of my parents, which we followed in our home, and the retreating, older religion of my ancestors, which fortunately for me was still active outside my home. I still had access to a number of relatives who had not converted to Christianity and were called heathens by the new converts. When my parents were not watching I would often sneak off in the evenings to visit some of these relatives.[more inside]
Like folk enthusiasts and field recordists John and Alan Lomax did in the US, Englishman Hugh Tracey documented an astonishing amount of traditional music. Tracey's love was the music of central and southern Africa, and his recording work came at a crucial time in the history of the region, when, due to repression from Christian missionaries as well as great social change and migration, traditional music of various kinds was fast disappearing. The hour-long audio documentary Discover and Record: The Field Recordings of Hugh Tracey is an excellent introduction to the man and his work, and is chock full of some absolutely fantastic music. [more inside]
Kenya has another election coming next year, the first under their new constitution, and since the last one in 2007 was followed by violence that left hundreds dead, and hundreds of thousands displaced (many of whom remain so today). [more inside]
This cover of Lady Gaga's "Telephone" (video) is performed by Slovenian vocal/a cappella group Perpetuum Jazzile. [more inside]
Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission changed their rules to require companies to disclose if they use 'tantalum, tin, gold, or tungsten if those minerals are “necessary to the functionality or production of a product”' These are also known as 'conflict minerals.' The Deadly Tin Inside Your Smartphone, Businessweek [more inside]
Who Draws The Borders Of Culture?(NYTimes) Cultural border, as opposed to national borders, are funny things. One country can contain many (Coke vs. Soda. Vs. Pop, previously and previously-er). Cultural borders often appear as food and drink choices, like sweet tea, forms of alcohol, or BBQ sauce. [more inside]