Have you heard Noura Mint Seymali? She's a singer from Mauritania, and neither she nor her band pull any punches. Just fire up "Eguetmar", the first track on her album Tzenni, and dig that gritty, undulating electric guitar: Mauritanian through and through, but reminiscent of the blues and/or psychedelic stylings of the 60s, in just the right way. Then there's the beats: drumming so funky and syncopated, but in such a languidly relaxed way, that it harkens back to the way Ziggy Modeliste worked his drum magic with New Orleans funk legends the Meters. And, of course, Noura's voice: a bold, soaring and self-assured force of nature: stunning. Not to mention her masterful playing of the ardine, a 9-string Mauritanian harp providing delicate, spindly showers of notes that shimmer like droplets on a spider web. Please enjoy: Tzenni.
Extracts of Mohamedou Ould Slahi's Guantanamo diary are read by Stephen Fry, Colin Firth and others as part of the Guardian's Guantanamo Diary series. Previously on Metafilter. [more inside]
The Walk Free Foundation has released its latest report on the contemporary slave trade, the Global Slavery Index (interactive map). As summarized by Al Jazeera, over 29 million people are in some form of involuntary servitude, ranging from kidnapped fishermen to women forced into prostitution to child brides. The countries with the largest populations of enslaved people include Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan, India, and Nepal. Back in 2012, J. J. Gould wrote on the difficulties in confronting slavery in today's society: In the West, and particularly in the United States, slavery has long settled in the public imagination as being categorically a thing of the past.... It can mean having a harder time recognizing slavery when it's right in front of us.
Although officially abolished in 1981, slavery still exists in Mauritania. CNN Special Report includes a twenty-two minute video and offers a look inside a country where an estimated 10 - 20% are still enslaved.
Some pictures from the world's largest ship graveyard at Nouadhibou in Mauritania (click 'here', then 'nouadhibou' in the Jan Smith link), or investigate it in Google Maps. Geographical Magazine has an explanation of how the graveyard came about.
Ancient books inherited in private family libraries could change our knowledge of late mediaeval arab culture, but most are hidden in private libraries. Gripping article about the unknown treasures that may be lurking in Mauritanian family libraries, considering the little that has already been found, resistance to cataloguing and problematic future if the region continues to be destabilised. How the manuscripts are famous in the muslim world.More on the open libraries and archive efforts. Some years back on bbc i saw an explorer track down some ancient ethiopian christian manuscripts to an ethiopian monastery, only to be shown some burnt remains from a fire a few months back. What treasures must lurk in this continent, and with digital cameras, how easy to document them without damage or intruding on their owners! Being christians, there are pictures and some history.
"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]