A unique urban ecology prompts a new look at globalization. Japanese architect Naohiko Hino visited Guangzhou's 'Africatown' after being inspired by an article in Le Monde Diplomatique* and wrote his view on the unique model of globalization he saw in the heart of China's manufacturing powerhouse. [more inside]
Today is the 30th anniversary of Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawling's coup d'etat catapulting him into the crowded ranks of military dictators in Africa. Yet, Ghana chooses to celebrate this date and Rawlings' speech on this historic occasion has been shared and published, his words hearkened to (albeit) and his global standing only embellished by his [role]* as the African Union's envoy to Somalia. What manner of military dictatorship was this and what changes did the coup accomplish in democratic Ghana, today considered the fastest growing and stable Sub Saharan economy expected to be elevated to middle income status in the near future? [more inside]
When it comes to railways, the British are famous for their colonial legacy of one of the world's most extensive railway networks built across then British India but their lesser known and far grander vision was the Cape to Cairo railway network intended to stretch across the sea of colonial pink on the African continent. Left incomplete due to politics and geography, most of it is still almost as it was built in its day. [more inside]
South African fast food chain Nando's ran an amusing ad featuring Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe enjoying himself with a range of deceased despots, to the tune "Those were the days". The Zimbabwean "government" was not amused.
The ruins of Gede are the remains of a mysterious lost city on the Swahili Coast of Kenya, located deep within the Arabuko Sokoke forest. The mystery of Gede (Gedi) is that it does not appear in any Swahili, Portuguese, or Arab written records and present day research has not yet been able to fully account for what actually happened to the city. The inhabitants were of the Swahili, an ancient trading civilization that emerged along the eastern coasts of Africa ranging from Somalia to Mozambique. Archaeological excavations carried out between 1948 and 1958 have uncovered porcelain from China, an Indian lamp, Venetian beads, Spanish scissors, and other artefacts from all over the world, demonstrating the occupants were engaged in extensive and sophisticated international trade. Questions still remain as to what caused the downfall of Gede, but by the 17th century, the city was completely abandoned to the forest and forgotten until the 1920s. Today, a National Museum, Gede's sister cities from the period are part of the ethnography based archeological work of Dr Chapurukha M. Kusimba of Chicago's Field Museum, whose lifework has thrown light on the precolonial heritage of the Swahili peoples.
Built by the Shona (1100-1500 AD), the empire of Great Zimbabwe, one of Africa’s greatest civilizations like Egypt and Meroe, stood between present-day Zimbabwe, eastern Botswana and south-east Mozambique. The empire’s highly developed architecture overwhelmed discoverers. And much in the same manner as German anthropologist Doctor Frobenius ignorantly mistook the Kingdom of Ife in Nigeria for the lost kingdom of Atlantis in 1911, some Europeans blatantly refused to believe that Great Zimbabwe was built by Africans. Dawson Munjeri, former director of Great Zimbabwe, a World Heritage site, discusses the history of the exceptional Zimbabwe empire. [more inside]
Pain of being a Kenyan Somali Young medical student living in Nairobi talks about being from a minority under suspicion during a time of war. [more inside]
The California—based Oakland Institute released a report earlier this year that documents some of the problems caused by the acquisition of land by foreign firms, including Indian ones, in Ethiopia and other African countries. Putting this global trend of ‘land grab’ under the spotlight, the report highlights the social and environmental costs of this phenomenon that have been largely overlooked by the media. Outlook interviewed Anuradha Mittal, the India—born—and—educated founder and executive president of Oakland Institute, to find out why she thinks India ought to share part of the blame of causing “depravation and destitution” in Ethiopia. text via Outlook [more inside]
Can the human head itself function as a percussion instrument? Why, yes! Yes it can!
A new malaria vaccine has been shown effective in large-scale field trials. After decades of disappointment, researchers think they're finally on track to unleash the first practical vaccine against malaria, one of mankind's ancient scourges. In the world's first large field trial of an experimental malaria vaccine, several thousand young children who got three doses had about 55 percent less risk of getting the disease over a year than those who got a control vaccine against rabies or meningitis. [more inside]
35 days, 2822 miles through 9 states at a cost of $252.51 ($7.21 per day). George 'the Cyclist' Christensen spends a good part of each year bicycling through a different country and wild camping in places like Iceland, Turkey, China, the foot of Mt Fuji and around Lake Victoria; And writing about his travels on his blog from libraries and internet cafés. For the past eight years, too, he has also followed the Tour de France after first watching upwards of 70 films [in 12 days] at the Cannes Film Festival.
For the last few decades, discoveries at Blombos Cave near Capetown have been pushing back our timeframe for the earliest known periods of complex human thought. Henshilwood et al have now discovered a 100,000 year old ocher paint factory at the same site.
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba! It's been nearly two decades since that glorious savanna sunrise, and once again The Lion King is at the top of the box office. It's a good chance to revisit what made the original the capstone of the Disney Renaissance, starting with the music. Not the gaudy show tunes or the Elton John ballads, but the soaring, elegiac score by Hans Zimmer which, despite winning an Oscar, never saw a full release outside of an unofficial bootleg. Luckily, it's unabridged and high-quality, allowing one to lay Zimmer's haunting, pulse-pounding, joyful tracks alongside the original video (part 2, 3, 4), revealing the subtle leitmotifs and careful matching of music and action. In addition, South African collaborator Lebo M wove traditional Zulu chorals into the score, providing veiled commentary on scenes like this; his work was later expanded into a full album, the Broadway stage show, and projects closer to his heart. Speaking of expanded works, there were inevitable sequels -- all of which you can experience with The Lion King: Full Circle (download guide), a fan-made, three-hour supercut of the original film and its two follow-ups. Want more? Look... harder... [more inside]
I am sorry that Wangari Maathai, inspiring Nobel Peace Prize winner famous for tree-planting programme, has died.
Reel African is a new video-streaming site showing licensed African productions, films, series and documentaries, including The XYZ Show, the African Spitting Image. Also some MTV. Free to watch, with adverts inserted in the content. Promo trailer. Variety write-up. Via.
There are plenty of fund managers who want to be rock stars. Now, there is a rock star who fancies himself as a fund manager. Bob Geldof, the singer and campaigner for aid to Africa, is seeking to raise $1bn from institutional investors for a private equity venture on the continent. The pitch he is making represents a remarkable shift into African business for a man more often associated with his relentless advocacy for debt relief and aid to Africa. (Text Via FT) Till date he has raised $200m. Some are confused. Others are snarking. The Guardian's interview by an Ethiopian born writer with [more inside]
The Tribes of Darkest Austria - or: if Africans ruled Anthropology. (slyt)
In 2005, Manuel Bravo, 35, walked to a stairwell of the Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Center carrying a bedsheet. He hung himself. The note he left indicated that he had done it so that his son, Antonio Bravo, 13, could remain in the United Kingdom to be educated. The pair were to be deported back to war-torn Angola the next day, where they alleged that they had been victims of abuse by the ruling party. Now, Antonio is 19, training to be an electrician, speaking in Yorkshire dialect, no longer speaks his native Porteguese, and will be deported back to Angola if his humanitarian visa is not extended. "My family, they're English," he said, referring to the Beaumonts (his adoptive family). "Britain, that's my culture." [more inside]
Why Africa is leaving Europe behind: Africans are relishing something of a reversal in roles. The former colonial powers in Europe are wrestling with debt crises, austerity budgets, rising unemployment and social turmoil. By contrast much of sub-Saharan Africa can point to robust growth, better balanced books and rising capital inflows. There is an opportunity in this novel scenario: for Africa to assert itself on the global stage, and for European countries to take advantage of their historic footprint in Africa by stimulating commercial expansion to their south. But it is far from clear either side will grasp it. Recently.
Fifty years after British colonialism, ten years after military rule, Nigerians are free. Not economically free, not yet, and we see the effect of that lack of economic freedom in the kinds of crimes that are committed. But they are free in important ways. You can live where you want, associate with whom you want. You can sue people in court, gather to practice your religion, under the leadership of whichever holy man or charlatan you prefer, and you can marry and divorce as you please. This is a major thing. This is modernity, and to tell these stories, to give the protagonists of these losses even that little bit of attention, is to honor the fact that they are there, that their life goes on.On his twitter feed, novelist Teju Cole has been taking the French literary tradition of faits divers and adapting it to "bring news of a Nigerian modernity."
Everything went silent, Judi told me, as if she'd been pulled underwater. She read the sentences over and over, trying to comprehend them.Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. [more inside]
The boy Sulaiman Suma had been looking for all these years was her 16-year-old son, Samuel.
Want to know what's going on in African electronic / dance music? The BAZZERK blog will help bring you up to speed. Chock full of fun, fresh stuff. [more inside]
The African Presence in India: A Photo Essay : The questions we pose here are simply these: Who are the African people of India? What is their significance in the annals of history? Precisely what have they done and what are they doing now? These are extremely serious questions that warrant serious and fundamental answers. This series of articles, "The African Presence in India: An Historical Overview," is designed to provide some of those answers.
With East Africa facing its worst drought in 60 years, affecting more than 11 million people, the United Nations has declared a famine in the region for the first time in a generation. Alan Taylor's In Focus quickly brings home the scale of the suffering, with a link to the CNN article listing several ways to donate.
People often think that other drivers are nuts. The Nigerian authorities have taken things a step further, now requiring drivers accused of going the wrong way down a one way street to get psychiatric exams.
Evidence Based, Culturally-relevant African First Aid Guidelines and Training Materials, from researchers at the Belgian Red Cross and Stellenbosch University. [more inside]
Agony and Ivory. "Highly emotional and completely guileless, elephants mourn their dead—and across Africa, they are grieving daily as demand from China’s 'suddenly wealthy' has driven the price of ivory to $700 a pound or more. With tens of thousands of elephants being slaughtered each year for their tusks, raising the specter of an 'extinction vortex,' Alex Shoumatoff travels from Kenya to Seattle to Guangzhou, China, to expose those who are guilty in the massacre—and recognize those who are determined to stop it."
Six westerners make the same journey that thousands of desperate people make every year to Australia, but in reverse. [more inside]
Amin's hunger for publicity was so great, in fact, that in 1974 he became the first dictator in history to agree to be the subject of an independent documentary film. The resulting movie, Barbet Schroeder's General Idi Amin Dada... is a devastating look at despotism in action and a riveting, and strangely entertaining, portrait of Amin. [more inside]
Stunning photographs of the cattle farmers of Sudan | African ceremonies | Faces of Africa | video: African Ceremonies | Thirty years ago American-born Carol Beckwith and Australian Angela Fisher met in Kenya and began a relationship with the African continent that would profoundly alter and shape their lives. Their journeys would take them over 270,000 miles, through remote corners of 40 countries, and to more than 150 African cultures. | About the photographers (opens with sound to the video) [all links slightly nsfw in a NatGeo kind of way] [more inside]
Mo Ibrahim (wikipedia) is a Sudanese-born billionaire with opinions and goals for modern Africa. A recent New Yorker article profiled him. Earning his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and subsequent employment in telecom led him to found Celtel, the wildly successful(LGT PPT file) corporation that brought the mobile telephone revolution to Africa, despite a corporation-wide refusal to participate in the rampant corruption and bribery seemingly required at the time (~9:30 in this interview). He eventually sold Celtel to MTC Kuwait, which allowed him to focus on other pursuits, namely further development and investment within Africa. [more inside]
The first nuclear reactor was in Africa, 2 billion years ago. Two billion years ago, there was enough uranium 235 in a naturally occurring deposit in Africa to fuel a nuclear fission reaction. In 16 separate locations, spontaneously occurring fission reactions went on for some hundreds of thousands of years, cycling multiple times per day. A picture of Fossil Reactor 15. The American Nuclear Society info site.
The Music of Group Doueh. Doueh is a guitar genius from the disputed territory of Western Sahara. [more inside]
Binyavanga Wainaina remembers one night in the Kenyan countryside as a young man, an excerpt from his soon to be published memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place. [more inside]
Nigeria's film industry produces 50 films a week. "Nigerian films are as popular abroad as they are at home. Ivorian rebels in the bush stop fighting when a shipment of DVDs arrives from Lagos. Zambian mothers say their children talk with accents learnt from Nigerian television. When the president of Sierra Leone asked Genevieve Nnaji, a Lagosian screen goddess, to join him on the campaign trail he attracted record crowds at rallies. Millions of Africans watch Nigerian films every day, many more than see American fare. And yet Africans have mixed feelings about Nollywood."
Ewart Scott Grogan was a British-born figure of controversial sorts, the kind of fellow who would either end up buried in Westminster Abbey-or hanging from a yard-arm. After he survived as soldier in the Second Matabele War, he went on to be the first European to traverse the distance of the African continent from the South in Cape Town to Cairo in the North to win the hand of his bride-to-be from a skeptical father. He started the trek with the uncle of his bride-to-be in February 1898. Two years later, Grogan returned to London, a lone hero (the uncle turned back part way through). In 2007, MeFite Julian Smith retraced Grogan's path, "in part to dispel [his] own pre-wedding jitters," and wrote a book about Grogan's journey, and his own. [via mefi projects] [more inside]
Sahel Sounds is the blog of ethnomusicologist Christopher Kirkley, a.k.a. MeFi's own iamck. It's about the contemporary music of the Sahel, which is the Southern border of the Sahara, focusing on West Africa. It has long been a region of great musical ferment. The most famous musicians today are Tinariwen (previously), but there's a great deal more out there. Kirkley travels around trading music, Western songs in exchange for Saharan, which he mostly receives off cellphone memory cards. Kirkley has made three compilations, Sahelsounds, the Promo CD and Music from Saharan Cellphones volumes 1 and 2 (the numbers link to downloads). Kirkley has also collected and recorded videos. The Guardian interviewed Kirkley on the subject of cellphones' effect on Saharan music, which he has written about. Mark Richardson of Pitchfork was prompted by one of Kirkley's collections to write about musical scarcity in today's infoglut society. Besides the collections, there are a lot of other songs on the blog, the entire archive is wonderful and worth reading through.
Georgina Cranston travelled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to photograph the women who work deep inside some of the country's disused gold mines. [more inside]
The Africa Portal is an online knowledge resource for policy-related issues on Africa. An undertaking by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Makerere University (MAK), and the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), the Africa Portal offers open access to a suite of features including an online library collection; a resource for opinion and analysis; an experts directory; an international events calendar; and a mobile technology component—all aimed to equip users with research and information on Africa’s current policy issues. [more inside]
Democratic Republic of Congo: Lubumbashi to Kinshasa. We made the decision to tackle this part of Democratic Republic of Congo when we were in Egypt. It would take us about 4 months to drive from Cairo down to the Zambia/DRC border. We immediately started our quest for information. It would soon become clear that very little information was available. We did not know of a single traveler that did this in the last 20 years. We knew of two who tried (both on motorbikes) in recent years. One crashed after a few days and got evacuated. The other got arrested and deported. Both didn't get very far. So we had to be creative and think of other sources of information. If there is one thing you can find anywhere in the world it is Coca-Cola. They should know how to get their goods in the country. We had no response via email, so we called them up. Their answer was pretty short: They do not have a distribution network outside the major cities in Congo. And it proved to be true, Congo is the first country we have visited were Coca-cola is hard to get once you leave the major cities. The moral of the story was: nobody knew anything about the road conditions.