(Kenya, 2011; 07:46), The Day They Came
(Nigeria, 2013; 03:59), The Tale of How
(South Africa, 2006; 04:28; previously
), Alive in Joburg
(South Africa, 2006; 06:22; previously
(South Africa, 2010; 30:34; trailer
alt. link), Evolve
(Egypt, 2014; 24:17), Mwansa the Great
(Zambia, 2011; 23:11; two trailers
as alt. links), and Pumzi
(Kenya, 2009; 21:51): eight short works of SF/fantasy via The Skiffy and Fanty Show
According to the Daptone Gold
compilation liner notes
(auto-playing music, click on "Biography"to read the notes), written by Pitchfork contributor Douglas Wolk
, "the world capital of soul" has moved from the US ("between Memphis and Detroit, with occasional stopovers in New Orleans, Cincinnati and elsewhere") in the 1960, to Lagos in the 1970s, then it went into hiding, finally reappearing in Brooklyn, with Daptone Records
. Let's go back - why Lagos in the 1970s? [more inside]
Nigerian photographer J.D Okhai Ojeikere passed away last weekend, but at the age of 83 he left behind a truly incredible body of work celebrating Nigerian culture. These photos from his Hairstyles series are part of an archive of nearly 1000 pictures showing the intricate hair-dos of African women taken at work, social engagements and in the streets of Lagos. The beautifully composed black and white images draw attention to the sculptural quality of the hair, almost elevating it to an art form in itself. It goes without saying that his work is a unique treasure of historical and anthropological importance. Via
The Hausa people of the north of Nigeria like Bollywood films so much that around 20 years ago they started making their own local productions. The films of Kannywood (for Kano, the capital city) feature song and dance - and the incredible music that defines Northern Nigeria: autotuned robotic vocals combined with frenetic drum machine rhythms and intricate, interwoven synths in a hybrid of local styles and Indian influence. Hear a generous sampling of it here
Every so often, ethnic dolls make the news, like this recent piece on
Nigeria's Taofick Okoya who started his own line of Nigerian dolls after giving up his search in frustration. Okoya sells between 6,000 and 9,000 of his "Queens of Africa" and "Naija Princesses" a month, and reckons he has 10-15 percent of a small but fast-growing market
. But the history
of dolls outside
of 'mainstream culture' exemplified by blonde blue eyed Barbie has been rife with prejudice and stereotypes
. As the African middle classes emerge, is this an opportunity that gives rise
to domestic toy industries?
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]
"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]
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]
Seven intense minutes of Fela Kuti and The Africa '70 performing
in a night club in Calabar, a small Nigerian port city, in 1971, filmed by Ginger Baker. Seven years later, in one of their last performances before The Africa '70 disbanded, they performed at the Berlin Jazz Festival: V.I.P. (Vagabonds In Power)
, Power Show
, Pansa Pansa
), Cross Examination of the African Colonial Soldier
You may have never heard of them, but they definitely have your email address. They are the Yahoo-Yahoo Boys; the young Nigerian men who cut wide swaths of cash by preying on the naiveté of moneyed Westerners vis a vis their dreaded 419 emails.
...But if you check your spam folder right now you might notice that it is slightly lighter these days. That's because it's been a tough week for Nigeria’s most infamous internet enthusiasts. Due to the week-long strike action that took place in response to the government’s decision to remove a national fuel subsidy, it has become increasingly difficult for the Yahoos to extract funds from their “clients”.
The Yahoos' disposition towards #OccupyNigeria is also worth paying attention to because 419 culture is essentially a street-level microcosm of the institutional corruption that has plagued Nigeria for the past forty years. And although the Yahoos are often blamed for distorting Nigeria’s image abroad, they've also become part of the cultural fabric.
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."
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.
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.
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
. Some argue it's the inevitable result of dangerous demographics
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]
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]
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]
Microsoft and Linux have been battling for dominance in Africa
for some time now. In South Africa, Linux elicited the help of a former Microsoft executive
, to which Windows countered with a massive free software giveaway
. A more recent front has been in Nigeria, where Mandriva looked set to secure a government contract, until Microsoft allegedly paid $400,000
to have that contract dumped
. Microsoft, for its part, has denied the allegations
Fela: Music is the Weapon
is a documentary film from 1982 featuring a wealth of live concert footage (from his club in Lagos, "The Shrine") as well as interviews with the legendary Nigerian singer, bandleader and social critic. Here's part 1
. [more inside]
From the Bookstalls of a Nigerian Market
. Onitsha Market Literature consists of stories, plays, advice and moral discourses published primarily in the 1960s by local presses in the lively market town of Onitsha
[in then-newly-independent Nigeria
]... In the fresh and vigorous genre of Onitsha Market Literature, the commoner wrote pulp fiction and didactic handbooks for those who perused the bookstalls of Onitsha Market, one of Africa’s largest trading centers.
Examples: How To Write And Reply Letters For Marriage, Engagement Letters, Love Letters And How To Know A Girl To Marry
, Learn To Speak 360 Interesting Proverbs And Know Your True Brother
, Struggle For Money [All full-text links are in pdf format, and some are quite large].
With links to additional resources
#1 African Music Website
. Africa Hit offers an extensive and varied selection of great music videos from West Africa. [more inside]
"The really disturbing thing about Lagos’s pickers and venders is that their lives have essentially nothing to do with ours. They scavenge an existence beyond the margins of macroeconomics. They are, in the harsh terms of globalization, superfluous."
, George Packer in Lagos.
- the Wodaabe
of Nigeria are one of the world's few remaining Nomadic peoples, retaining age-old customs and ways
. Physical beauty and charm
are highly prized, qualities much in evidence at the annual Gerewol ceremonies
. After donning elaborate makeup and clothing
, men engage in stylized dance and preening
to win the favor of a desired woman
- often one who is already married. [more inside]
Learn about the powerful, complex Batá drumming and dance tradition
of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Check these 6-to-8 year old Batá drummers
laying down the groove. Then theres the Egungun action
going on over in Ibadan, to the accompaniment of Batá drums
, of course. [more inside]
The Hyena Men, seen a couple of years ago
and now updated
: Pieter Hugo's gallery of photographs
of people with hyenas and baboons as pets in Abuja, Nigeria
. [more inside]
David Oluwale arrived in Britain in 1949, one of many African immigrants. By the close of 1969, he was dead
. Two years later, two police officers were charged with his murder, although they got away almost scot-free despite a massive amount of evidence against them. Although it caused a national scandal at the time, more because of police malpractice than racism, Oluwale's sad story has been forgotten since (apart from a play, written by Jeremy Sandford
, a few years later). However, it deserves to be remembered not just because of a tragic and unnecessary death, but because it was the first recorded death of a British black person as a result of police racism
. A new book, Nationality: Wog, The Hounding of David Oluwale
is helping bring Oluwale's plight back into public consciousness. Via the BBC's Thinking Allowed.
Mary Uduru of Nigeria.
Although we see lots of single-image representations of African poverty (usually in the form of a swollen-bellied child on the brink of starvation) it's rare to find a photo-essay like this one one, which brings us an intimate, informative and non-sensationalist view of the life of the working poor there.
The other religious riots.
While much of the world's press has covered the Muslim cartoon riots, not nearly as much ink has been spilled over the continuing violence in Nigeria. A good analysis of underlying factors here
A Shell report
points to oil as a proximate cause of violence as well. For oil companies, this may not be a bad thing
(If I was more interested in trolling, I'd have framed this as "Christian Leaders Fail to Condemn Religious Violence." The real world's a little more complex).
Blood Flows With Oil in Poor Nigerian Villages
An insightful NYT article on "the desperate struggle of impoverished communities to reap crumbs from the lavish banquet the oil boom has laid in this oil-rich yet grindingly poor corner of the globe"
Ok, so the quotes a little heavy handed but the pic on the 2nd page speaks volumes.
Hollywood? Old. Bollywood? That's soooo 2003. Make room for Nollywood
, Nigeria's own film industry which is growing by leaps and bounds every year, and is currently worth about $45 million dollars
. About 400 Nollywood films are produced every year many on a budget of around $15000 and are distributed almost entirely by VHS and VCD. The stories are very much simplistic
and pulpy (check out 419 Stalk Exchange. Yes, 419 as in the email scam) but are much preferred
by local residents and emigre's than the usual arthouse fair one often thinks of when talking about African cinema. Now if you'll excuse me there's a bucket of popcorn and a copy of GSM Connection
waiting for me in the living room.
The G.I. Jones Photographic Archive of Southeastern Nigerian Art and Culture.
'This is an archive of digitized photographs depicting the arts and cultures of southeastern Nigeria. The collection includes examples from Ibibio, Igbo, Ijo and Ogoni speaking peoples. All of the photographs were taken in the 1930s by the late G.I. Jones, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge. The majority of the images are from the Igbo speaking regions where Jones conducted most of his research. The materials included here represent only a sample of the complete Jones collection. The photographs are unique for the creative brilliance of the art represented, the quality of the photography itself, and the cultural and historical significance of photographic records from this time period in Nigeria.'
Some related links :-
American Museum Congo Expedition 1909-1915.
A truly interesting site, which includes field notes, photographs, watercolours, historical maps, anthropoligical objects, and so forth.
A Clickable Map of the Art of the African Continent
, via Africa: The Art of a Continent.
The Woods Collection of African Art
, with another clickable map.
The power of Western culture
illustrated with the story of Miss World 2001. Agbani Darego
of Nigeria is single-handedly responsible for a radical change in the feminine beauty ideal in her native country: voluptuous women are out, thin girls are in. A stunning illustration of the cultural power of the West, and a good example to think about what it means - for the better and for the worse - to those under its spell.
Meanwhile, back in some secluded spot...Refugees
are fleeing for their lives as a town of 20,000 people is completely demolished-in Nigeria. The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas
) has agreed to take urgent action to eradicate slavery, i.e.children making chocolate.
I could go on and on.
Why does Africa receive such little attention when it's really the bigtop in the circus of world suffering?