Life in Timbuktu:
how the ancient city of gold is slowly turning to dust
(a long-form article from the Guardian with an accompanying photo gallery
Bonfire of the Humanities.
"Nobody goes to Timbuktu, right? Patrick Symmes did, to discover what happened when jihadi rebels set out to burn one of the world’s finest collections
of ancient manuscripts
. Bouncing around by truck, boat, and boots, he got an intimate look at West Africa’s most mythic locale." [Via] [more inside]
When the car exploded, the same two words occurred to him, and to the ticket taker, and to every other person who saw or heard the blast, which could be heard on the other side of Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city: Boko Haram. That neither they, nor practically anyone else in Nigeria, knew what Boko Haram was exactly or why it would want to bomb a bus station was beside the point.
Officially, according to the Nigerian government, Boko Haram is a terrorist group. It began life as a separatist movement led by a northern Nigerian Muslim preacher, Mohammed Yusuf, who decried the country’s misrule. “Boko Haram” is a combination of the Hausa language and Arabic, understood to mean that Western, or un-Islamic, learning is forbidden. In 2009, after Yusuf was killed [BBC, The Guardian]—executed, it’s all but certain, by Nigerian police—his followers vowed revenge. [more inside]
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.
Syria Options Go From Bad To Worse
As reports have surfaced of possible use of sarin gas in the Syrian civil war, calls by long-time proponents of U.S. intervention on behalf of the anti-Assad rebels have grown to a fever pitch. These same voices, both at home and abroad, have evoked the administration’s previously stated “red line” on use of chemical weapons. But even assuming that reports of WMD usage in Syria turn out to be true, the Obama Administration’s position may be far more nuanced than previously thought. [more inside]
Jihad in the Sahara.
It is no suprrise that Mali is the latest Muslim country to experience western Intervention
. This has resulted in escalation
The north of Mali is as alien to the average soldier from southern Mali as the Alaskan tundra is to a citizen of Massachusetts or Manchester. This is the land where the local Tuareg or Arab in his souped-up turbo 4x4 is king
. A map
of the various conflicts. In October a der Spiegel journalist spent 2 weeks
in the north of the country and in November CS Monitor asked Will Mali be Africa's Afghanistan?
Militants versus musicians in Mali.
Extremist groups controlling Northern Mali [previously
] have been cracking down
on musicians. "Western" music has been banned, but so has Mali's age-old griot tradition
. [more inside]
We've discussed developments in the breakaway Azawad region in Northern Mali here before
. The two factions which composed the Azawad government, the nationalist MNLA
and the Islamist Ansar Dine broke their alliance
, with Ansar Dine now controlling all of the major settlements within the recently declared Awazad.
Their treatment of the ancient Muslim shrines of Timbuktu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
, has not been kind.
If this reminds you of another recent act of destruction against our shared cultural heritage, well, you're not alone. [more inside]
Meet Azawad, Africa’s Newest Country Azawad
is an area about the size of Texas located in the northern half of Mali. On April 6 2012 National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), after they were able to force Mali forces out of the territory they now claim as an independent state. Whether they can remain an independent country is a question that time will tell. Also whether they will be a secular Berber, pro-Western nation or an Islamist Emirate
is another question that has many
watching the area. [more inside]
"The man in the saffron robe accompanying Catherine to her starting point is a witch doctor who's modernized. Under his robe he's got a jazz trumpet. He's going to blow a magic cadenza or two to bless her on her way"
...one of the ancient burial chambers of the Tellen Pygmies; although some of the skeletons she notes are more recent than that, the sort of place for a failed freestyle climber, perhaps."Catherine Destivelle's gravity-defying freeclimb of Mali's Bandyagara (SLYT)
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]
Out of Africa.
As award-winning Globe and Mail Africa correspondent Stephanie Nolen
bids farewell to a place she's come to love, she reflects on how it has changed, and how it changed her. [more inside]
A brief history of chocolate slavery:
That Chocolate is an oligopoly
might surprise a few people. Chocolate's Bittersweet Economy
(pdf) shows that seven years after the industry had agreed to abolish child labour, little progress has been made. Cross-border Migration of Working Children
has still been left out of Harkin-Engel Cocoa Protocol Process.
Reflects on the politics of cocoa and chocolate.
With Halloween approaching you might consider a Fair Trade
approach to Trick or Treat. (If Chocolate slavery doesn't make you throw up a little maybe this will.
#1 African Music Website
. Africa Hit offers an extensive and varied selection of great music videos from West Africa. [more inside]
Africa. Some women drumming
. Some women dancing
. [courtesy of the YouTubes]
Judy's tour diary (pdf, somewhat long)
isn't your standard travelogue. The author is Judy Porter
, a professor of sociology from Bryn Mawr Collge. Her expertise in the fields of AIDS and poverty are apparent as she paints a vivid picture of life in West Africa, and the health and social conditions that come with it. She also set up a web page
that has links to a number of photo slide shows and hand shot video footage. West Africa
has been extensively discussed previously.
an bluesman and Ry Cooder collaborator Ali Farka Touré
at age 66 (or maybe 67). Through his music, and especially his collaborative projects with Western musicians, Touré convincingly made the case that the rhythms and melodies of the Delta blues came straight from Mali and neighboring countries.
the first African
sponsored World Social Forum
has just come to an end...
The failure of biotech.
"In June 1996, the University of California, Davis, began an unprecedented effort to help the West African nation of Mali, using the promising and controversial new tool of agricultural biotechnology... Eight years later, no help whatsoever has arrived... In the hopes that inspired the effort - and the missteps that stifled it - lies a drama larger than the sum of its parts, one that shows both the promise and pitfalls of the largest technological leap in American agriculture since the tractor: biotechnology." The start of a five-part series in the Sacramento Bee
: long, but well worth it. (Via MonkeyFilter
culture of the Dogon
tribe of Mali... they may
have had advanced astronomical knowledge
long before their European counterparts. Particularly, their tribe has had a long mystical association with Sirius
, leading some to speculate that their ideas had phenomenal
roots. Regardless of the mystery, the tribe is also well known for it's amazing masks
and intricate art
A history of Malian pop music.
Confused by the interlocking names and associations of the stars of West African music? This lively account by Lisa Denenmark should help (and a follow-up is promised). Via the indispensible Afropop Worldwide
Eight hundred years ago,
the Empire of Mali
was the West African equivalent of Byzantium (succeeding Ghana
's Rome), and its legendary
founder was Sundiata
"I think that first world environmental groups
(who oppose development of genetically modified crops) should put on the hat and shoes of farmers in Mali who are faced by repeated crop failure." -- Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, lead author of the U.N. Development Programme's annual Human Development Report. (Here's another report
on the same issue which includes a great deal of background information about the problems which still need to be solved, and why genetic modification of food crops is an essential part of the solution.)