Ever wondered what would happen if all those people playing Farmville and Mafia Wars were trying to save the world instead? Enter Urgent Evoke, "a ten week crash course in changing the world," designed by Jane McGonigal (who previously designed World without Oil) for the World Bank Institute. Players take on tasks like the UN Millennium Development Goals. Wanna play? [more inside]
"The conventional wisdom that Africa is not reducing poverty is wrong." [PDF, 339.97 KB] [more inside]
Waka Waka Hey Hey - tracing a tune's spread across the world.
Luna Commons is a database of sixteen free digital image collections built using Luna Imaging's Insight software. And there's a lot of cool stuff, well over a hundred thousand images all available for download in good resolution. Here are some of the collections featured: Pratt Institute Fashion Plate Collection, The Farber Gravestones Collection, Maps of Africa, Cornell Political Americana Collection and the The Estate Collection of art by HIV+ artists. The advanced search allows you to search across all collection, for example seeing everything across all collections about animals or New York or your birthyear. Whatever you look for, it's gonna bring up a boatload of interesting images.
So what is an enterprising cocaine cartel to do when tight airport and border security threaten to cause one to miss out on a massive boom in european cocaine use? Well, for starters one sets up shop on Africa's west coast where the police often aren't paid for months and the 4 cars of some country's police force can mostly sit idle due to a lack of gas money. Oh, and in Guinea Bissau - no coast guard! In addition to bringing even more corruption and violence to Africa, the status of being the transhipment point of about 3/4 of all cocaine heading to Europe brings a Miami-style economic stimulus. And as colombian cartels are generally more concerned with getting cocaine out of Colombia at a profit than getting it all the way to its destination, we're probably only a few years away from a senegalese Scarface.
African land reform, plot by plot, may be the foundation for solving so much else – from famine to poverty to genocide.
Morocco by Motorbike. The perfect escape for a lazy weekend day. Just watch out for ancient tombs. [more inside]
More than 15 years again Robert Kaplan wrote in his occasionally prescient essay, "Though Islam is spreading in West Africa, it is being hobbled by syncretization with animism: this makes new converts less apt to become anti-Western extremists...." Glossing over the omission that Islam has been in West Africa for centuries, the recent exploding underpants incident has cemented the idea that a form of violent religious extremism has found root in West Africa, leaving many to wonder why and how. Some argue it's the inevitable result of dangerous demographics.
Cabinda is an exclave of Angola with extensive oil fields and a troubled history. Left out of the negotiations that granted Angola independence from the Portuguese, separatist movements in Cabinda have a history nearly as long as that of modern Angola itself. These movements are in the news again, thanks to an attack on the Togolese national football team ahead of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations that has other clubs calling their players back, Cabinda losing the right to host matches, and South Africa reassuring the world that security there will be adequate ahead of this summer's World Cup.
John Storm Roberts, 1936-2009. A magnificent scholar and record producer, and the author of great classics including The Latin Tinge and Black Music of Two Worlds,, and the founder of Original Music, John Storm Roberts passed away at the age of 73 back on Nov. 29. Few figures have had such a profoundly intertwined influence on both musical scholarship and popular musical culture. [more inside]
All you need is love - from 156 countries, all at the same time. Join in the chorus; each video leads to a 5-cent donation from Starbucks to the RED Global Fund for AIDS in Africa.
Best known as an Indonesian handicraft, batik is a distinctive technique for textiles that has been used for millennia and can be found as far away as Egypt, Ghana, China and India. An integral part of daily life in Java, batik has spread around the world as a wellknown artform as well as clothing. From its hippy heyday to the smart couture outfits of the Singapore Girl, batik is still daily wear for many and the equivalent of black tie in the ASEAN. [more inside]
Ahead of the global climate talks, nine photographers from the photo agency NOOR photographed climate stories from around the world. Their goal: to document some of the causes and consequences, from deforestation to changing sea levels, as well as the people whose lives and jobs are part of that carbon culture. Warming threatens lifestyle of Russian herders | Refugees flee drought, war in East Africa | Greenland’s shrinking ice hurts natives [more inside]
Forty years ago, just after the Biafran War, Nigeria was home to a cultural boom that paralleled its skyrocketing oil revenues. These heady days not only produced afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, but also, in the genre of music called highlife, created a star known as the Ultimate Dr. Sir Warrior (born Christogonus Ezebuiro Obinna) a member of the nebulous Oriental Brothers International Band. Listen to the music of Dr. Sir Warrior and the Oriental Brothers International Band. [more inside]
In 2010, Obama will have a miserable year, NATO may lose in Afghanistan, the UK gets a regime change, China needs to chill, India's factories will overtake its farms, Europe risks becoming an irrelevant museum, the stimulus will need an exit strategy, the G20 will see a challenge from the "G2", African football will unite Korea, conflict over natural resources will grow, Sarkozy will be unloved and unrivalled, the kids will come together to solve the world's problems (because their elders are unable), technology will grow ever more ubiquitous, we'll all charge our phones via USB, MBAs will be uncool, the Space Shuttle will be put to rest, and Somalia will be the worst country in the world. And so the Tens begin.
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
The documentary A Walk to Beautiful, follows five women in Ethiopia suffering from fistula, isolated from their villages and some from their families, seeking treatment at one of the few charity clinics. It can be viewed online at the PBS NOVA site. Dr. Catherine Hamlin, who runs the hospital in Addis Ababa, is interviewed here. There's also been a couple of recent articles on fistula: one from Nicholas Kristof who's been one of the most prominent voices on this issue, a piece by Kate Harding, and an older piece where Abby Frucht describes living with fistula in a developed country with a supportive family. For those inclined to donate, links to charities can be found in the Kristof op-ed. Other Metafilter posts on fistula: 1, 2
The Maskatorium: hundreds of masks collected from around the world over the past 20 years.
The James Koetting Ghana Field Recordings has 142 reels of Ghanaian music, almost all of which have more than one track, collected by ethnomusicologist James Koetting. There is a glossary of musical terms should you want to know a bit more about Ghanaian music and Koetting's notebooks should you want to know a whole lot more. All the music is wonderful but here are a few that stood out to me. Here are two tracks featuring postal workers whistling over a rhythm beat with scissors and stampers. Flute and drum ensemble. Brass band blues. And finally, twenty teenage girls singing over some nice rhythms. [requires RealPlayer]
The Home Office, the UK government department responsible for immigration control, has initiated a program to test the DNA from of potential asylum seekers in an attempt to confirm their true nationalities. The initial program is a six-month pilot limited to claimants arriving from the Horn of Africa. The program, currently using forensic samples provided on a voluntary basis, could potentially expand to other nationalities if successful. The Home Office spokeswoman said ancestral DNA testing would not be used alone but would be combined with language analysis, investigative interviewing techniques and other recognized forensic disciplines, but many are decrying the "deeply flawed" program, from refugee support groups to scientists in the genetic forensics fields (via). [more inside]
Albinos often face mistrust and discrimination, perhaps because they tend to be portrayed as evil in popular culture. But in Tanzania and Burundi, weird delusions that albinos have magical powers mean that they are actually being hunted down, murdered and dismembered to harvest their supposedly magical body parts. One group of albino kids are trying to spread some sense by forming their own "magic" sports team.
Inside Somalia. Mike Thomson of the BBC makes a rare visit to the refugee camps in one of the most dangerous places on earth.
The Big Africa Cycle. Peter Gostelow is cycling from Dorset, England to Cape Town to raise funds for The Against Malaria Foundation. And it's not his first big adventure. [more inside]
The Circumcision v. HIV debate rages on. [previously and previously-er and previously-er still] The debate has been rekindled due to new findings. It is expected to be one of the main topics during the CDC's National HIV Prevention Conference this week, as the CDC is considering endorsing routine circumcision. The American Academy of Pediatrics is also considering revising their circumcision policy, thus making it covered under Medicaid. Naturally, there is a lot of criticism of the evidence. In related news, it appears that there is a modicum of the so-called 'Birthers' who believe Obama's citizenship can be proven by his penis.
Just in case you were wondering, yes, indeed, it is the people who dance to Zinli music in Benin who have the coolest, freshest dance moves on the planet. Once you get past the extended a cappella intro, and that delicious slow groove kicks in at the 3:26 minute mark, this video will treat you to some of the most undulating funky moves EVAR. Now, whether you wanna try some of these gyrations yourself, or whether you just dig a nice, slow, cooly percolating West African groove for listening, go here for more from singer Alekpehanhou the "Roi du Zinli Rénové". [more inside]
Welcome to District 9. Director Neill Blomkamp turns his sci-fi short "Alive in Joburg" into a full-length feature film - examining xenophobia in an allegory of Apartheid, set in a slum recalling District 6 of Cape Town in South Africa.
" Under the plan, every citizen, rich or poor, would be entitled to it starting at birth. There would be no poverty test, no conditions and, therefore, no social bureaucracy. And no one would be told what he or she is permitted to do with the money." Promising news from Spiegel Online about a Guaranteed minimum income project in Otjivero, Namibia. (via)
Me Le Se and Dance Medley - live clips of King Sunny Ade and his African Beats in Seattle last month just before being inducted into the AfroPop Hall of Fame. More clips from the show ... [more inside]
WIRED contributing editor Scott Carney interviewed an ocean-going hijacker for his story on the economics of Somali piracy. [more inside]
Trees Never Meet is the thoughtful blog of David, a historian of Africa. Though posting has slowed recently, the archives are fascinating. On fitting in; on killing animals as an ex-vegetarian; on Namibian legal history; on "anti-conquests"; on the types of people who have inhabited Namibia since the conquest; on Namibian politics. David also has a fantastic, well-written dream blog.
The Worst Date Ever is the new book by Jane Bussmann. She starts as a celebrity journalist in LA and ends up breaking a massive story about the political situation in Uganda from a scary bit of Africa. Ms. Bussmann also wrote the first internet sit-com: The Junkies (parts 1, 2, 3) , and had a hand in South Park, Brass Eye and Jam. The wonderful Sally Phillips directed the Edinburgh stage show that became the book and Chris Morris says it's "Genuinely confusing to rapists". [more inside]
"This week -- for the first time ever -- a searchable collection of thousands of rare photographs chronicling Europe’s colonization of East Africa becomes available to anyone with an Internet connection anywhere in the world, thanks to the efforts of staff at Northwestern University Library." (press release)
A preview version of a 20-minute film following Damon Albarn as he and other western musicians (including Franz Ferdinand and Fatboy Slim) travel to Mali, Nigeria and Congo as part of the Africa Express, a sprawling musical collective collaboration between Africans (including Toumani Diabate, Baaba Maal and Tony Allen) Americans and Europeans. The film includes a visit and concert at The Shrine for last year's Felabration. [more inside]
In the wake of the Resident 5 racism flap (previously), and with the final game released, one of it's chief detractors, N'Gai Croal, talks to its producer, Jun Takeuchi (Part 1, Part 2). Meanwhile industry magazine MVC takes a look at Africa as a games market.
Ad hominem attacks, discreditation and the increasingly shrill attempts to gather support against the rapid popularity of Dambisa Moyo's book "Dead Aid" [recently] are raising the question: Has the time come for 'aging western academics and rock stars' to retire gracefully from the scene? [more inside]
The exceptionally informative and well illustrated Galerie Ezakwantu has great pages on African tribal art, culture and history [due to partial nudity many links NSFW]: African Lip Plugs - Lip Plates; African Currency - African Slave Beads; Jewelry; African Scarification; Thrones and Stools; Shields; Combs; Musical Instruments; Fertility Dolls; Weapons; Zulu Basketry; Contemporary Art; Cups; Tribal Currency; Zulu Ricksha attire; Southern Africa Tribal Migrations; South African Kings and Chiefs. Also some interesting pages on anger about Robert Mugabe; the sale of the gallery owner's property; Cape Dutch Homesteads and blueberry recipes. [more inside]
chimurenga is an art and culture journal out of africa. they do internet radio, too. it's called the Pan African Space Station. and it bumps.
Dame Daphne Sheldrick runs an orphanage in Kenya. For elephants. The orphanage has been the focus of a report on 60 Minutes and a special called "The Elephant Diaries" on BBC1. At the orphanage, elephants are taught skills they will need to know in the wild, including how to play football.
The Merkel brothers are the grandsons of steam car makers and sons of an African art collector, and each have carried forward the love of collecting and an interest in cars from the previous generations. Henry Merkel is a recognized White expert, who continues to share knowledge of his family's productions and his knowledge of White steam cars has been published. Ben Merkel focused on collecting Checkered Cabs, and has has a love for peaceful rural junkyards. The youngest grandson of Walter White is Tom Merkel, and his love for collecting old cars outstrips his brothers by miles (print view). Somewhere in the Cuyama Valley, just outside of Los Padres National Forest land is his "car garden," which is also where the snowman that once adorned Santa Claus Lane now resides. His other love is 91+ year old cabin, which he indicates is "Santa Barbara's oldest cabin!" and a "Folk Art Magic Museum!" on the signs around the property, but which the Forest Service wants to tear down. [more inside]
Sidi or Siddi is a "community of the descendants of African slaves and seamen, the ancestors of the Sidis came to India and Pakistan through sea trade with East Africa and the Persian Gulf around the 12th century." The slave trade between India and Africa predates the more infamous transatlantic slave trade by at least six centuries. They have a rich history which included controlling the only fort never to fall against the efforts of the British, Dutch and the Mughals. They have now, however, fallen into hard times . [more inside]
Motownship, the combination of Cape Town township music, traditional African instruments and motown tunes, is the topic of this Radio 4 documentary. While purists - both of the African music and motown persuasion - may think this is just a gimmick, it is hard not to have a smile on your face when you listen to the tunes on Abavuki's album Africa Got Soul. What is even more amazing is the background of these musicians - kids who grew up in one of the most deprived townships in South Africa, Langa. To check out the band for yourself, see them playing at the legendary Mama Africa club, via youtube (this is not a motown tune from the album).
3D laser scanning offers a fly-through view of the Eighth Wonder of the World. Carved directly into volcanic bedrock, the churches of Lalibela were built during the Zagwe Dynasty (1137-1270). YouTube video of the church and local villagers.
Graffiti Project in Kenya Slums — more than a year after he took the original pictures, French photo artist JR has returned to Kibera, Kenya. He was reunited with the women who had accepted to be part of his WOMEN project at the end of 2007 (previously). 2000 square meters of Kibera slum rooftops have been covered with photos of their eyes and faces. Most of the women will have their own photos on their own rooftop and the material used is water resistant so that the photo itself will protect the fragile houses in the heavy rain season. They are on view from the railway line that passes above them, and will be visible for Google Earth. (via Africa.Visual_Media)
According to Senior Harvard AIDS Prevention Researcher Dr. Edward Green, condoms not only are not helping to prevent the AIDS crisis, but are actually making the problem worse.
"The function of aid is not to make us feel better about ourselves; it is to promote development, and if a well-informed African tells us that we are inadvertently having the opposite effect, we had better take heed".Time to stop aid for Africa? An argument against. [more inside]
"The Beydanes, also known as White Moors, are the ruling caste in Mauritania. They are Arab Berber tribesmen whose ancestors established control in the seventeenth century. The Haratin, also known as Black Moors, are the descendants of black West Africans conquered and enslaved by the Beydanes centuries ago." from the New Yorker story, A Slave in New York, about a former slave who escaped in 1978, came to live in America and now works with the American Anti-Slavery Group. [more inside]