Tag Archives: T.I.A!

Africa Reading Challenge 2012

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I like the “2012” at the end. Gives it a rather auspicious feel. Like the World Cup or something.  Well, if you’re a book lover like myself, you’ll agree that this is sort of an event.

First though, let’s get a confession out of the way: I have never really done a reading challenge before, besides the Orange January/July (which requires you to read one book by a previous Orange prize winner). I’m really hoping the ARC won’t fall victim to my commitment issues.

That said, I’m really excited about this! The guidelines for the ARC are over on kinnareads’ blog, but I’ll just re-state them here for your ease:

You have to read at least 5 books – about Africa, obviously; preferably written by African authors.

The genre is up to you: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, children’s books…

Reviews are not necessary, but if you have a blog, they’d be welcome! And if you’re from the APWIC group, feel free to briefly review or update me/us on your reads over on that page!

I have tweaked some of the rules for myself. I will do one book from each region of Africa. I decided to do this because I realize that I tend to favour the West Africans over others. This way, I can finally pick up some North African writers – suggestions, please?

Also, I have chosen younger authors, because as much as I adore Achebe, wa Thiong’o and the other heavyweights, I’d like to see what the young’uns are bringing.

Without further ado, my picks:

East Africa – One day I will write about this place by Binyavanga Wainaina

West Africa – Open City by Teju Cole

Southern Africa – Coconut by Kopano Matlwa

Central Africa – African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou

North Africa – ?? [suggestions, s’il vous plait?]

That’s it from me for now.  Good luck with your picks and looking forward to great discussions and recommendations around Africa’s literature!

This Is Proudly African

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In the space of two days, thousands of Africans have risen up and made their voices heard. In Dakar, Senegal, crowds successfully protested against President Wade’s proposal to amend the constitution to create a monarchy.

In the tiny kingdom of Swaziland, a “fundraising” concert which was supposed to be given by Jadakiss for the royal family was boycotted. Not surprising given the fact that pretty much all the revenue in Swaziland goes to supporting the king’s outrageous lifestyle.

Buoyed by this impressive show of solidarity, I embarked on a Googling frenzy. Here’s links to a couple of inspiring stories I found:

In Malawi, an ambitious project is underway to turn the country’s oldest ship into a floating clinic. This is going to save a lot of lives and wages for the 25% population who live along Lake Malawi and currently have to make a 16-hour trip to get to the nearest hospital. They are giving the clinic the unfortunate name Chauncy Maples, but that’s nitpicking.

The Sierra Leone Refugee AllStars are a group of musicians who came together during their years living in a refugee camp in Guinea. Out of two old guitars, a microphone and a shared love of music, their powerful sound was born. They’ve done world tours, put out two albums and appeared on Oprah. They also feature on a cover of the Rolling Stone classic Gimme Shelter as part of the Playing for Change campaign and World Refugee Day. Tragedy to triumph, non?

What else is showing

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When you are all finished beating the evening traffic into Garden City, queuing for ages to get a half-price ticket (naye, is it just me or is the Cineplex ticket booth increasingly incompetent? Really all they have to do is take your money and hand you a slip of paper!), squeezing past the millions of other di Caprio fans and sitting down to the ridiculously intense knock-your-socks-off crazy-sick 2 hour mind orgasm that is Inception (but fuck that ending. Me I’ve refused) ….

….when you’re done with that, please get another ticket (it’s half-price, don’t be cheap) to see The Silent Army. You probably won’t thank me after — I have no high praise for it myself. It is another case of African movie, white protagonist and doesn’t manage to let go of the usual stereotypes. Modelled closely on our own LRA war, it is set in a fictitious African country in which a rebel group is leading an insurgency, it follows a Dutch cook who goes looking for his son’s best friend Abu – a young African boy who has been abducted by the rebels.

It highlights the evil brainwashing involved in child abduction and induction into rebel (or any other) armies, the hypocrisy of Western-funded African conflicts and all those other lovely things that go with war on the continent.

I’m asking you to see this film because you will enjoy Abby Mukiibi’s turn as General Obeke, the depraved rebel leader; Sam Okello’s brief but evocative role as Abu’s wheelchair-bound father and of course Abu’s (Andrew Kintu) performance as a war-hardened child soldier.

See this film because you will probably walk out feeling quite proud of these 3 Ugandan actors.

now ‘ear dis! (and a post with a lot of apostrophes)

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These Nigerians might be losing their World Cup games, but they are bringing it on the music front. In the car this morning, I listened to a J. Martins (or Jay Martins – it’s spelled differently on some sites) song – Iyanya. It reminded me somewhat of Bracket’s Yori Yori, but that’s okay because I love that song and two of them is definitely not a bad thing!

There’s D’Banj’s song Igwe (released in 2008, but we’re only hearing now) a fast-paced big-up to his Nigerian fans – if my understanding of pidgin is any good. I am liking this one too, very reminiscent of something from Femi Kuti.

Nneka’s latest album Concrete Jungle, her first US release. You might not know Nneka in other parts of Africa unless you watch TRACE or VOX Africa every once in a while. She’s a young Nigerian-German who sings in Igbo and English. My favorites off this one are Kangpe (“God no go give you anyting you no go fit deal wit”!) and Heartbeat.

The legendary Nigerian-Britsh Sade (OBE, apparently) has Soldier of Love out; after making us wait 10 years since Lovers’ Rock. I have yet to give the whole album a good listen, but so far, Babyfather does not disappoint!

And now for some humble-pie-eating: I dissed Distant Relatives before I’d really listened to it. My take being, “what do millionaire rap star Nas and a successful spawn of Bob Marley know about the suffering of Africans?! Pssh”. But that album has substance, most of the songs are driven and conscious with some ridiculous beats 🙂 Listen to Tribes at War, Africa Must Wake Up(both featuring K’Naan), Strong Will Continue and Patience*.

The chorus is in Bambara, the English translation is:

“Patience is worth everything/ Patience is good/ If you love someone, patience is worth everything”

An ‘African’ World Cup?

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Kuti, Masekela at WC Opening

I left the office early Friday afternoon and got home just in time for the opening ceremony. While it wasn’t as spectacular as the South Korea show of 2002, it was something. I loved the line-up of African musicians like Hugh Masekela, TKZee and Femi Kuti (although Yahoo! wrongly reported it was Femi’s late father Fela who performed…wtf) and the focus on South African dancing, emphasising that this is an ‘African World Cup’ in the words of Zuma.

The kick-off game got interesting in the second half, with South African Tshabalala getting one in in the 53rd minute! I was elated, until Mexico equalised towards the end and I knew it was going to be a draw. Still, not a bad start for Africa.

Nigeria‘s Super Eagles put up a stunning defence against Argentina, coached by eccentric legend Maradona (very interesting his facial expressions during the match!) and conceded only 1 goal to these footie greats. I will be watching Enyeama more closely – he is the most impressive African goalie so far.

Algeria has been the most disappointing thus far; featuring some catastrophic goalkeeping from Chaouchi who let the ball bounce off his chest and into the net just 12 minutes to the game’s end – putting Slovenia ahead of Algeria in the group.

Ghana offers the greatest hope so far, beating Serbia 1-0 thanks to Assamoah Gyan’s beautiful penalty kick which sent the goalie the wrong way; and also thanks to the fact that the Serbs were one man down after Lukovic was sent off.

The performance of Cameroon against Japan  (today, 5pm) and Cote d’Ivoire against Portugal (tomorrow, 5pm) remains to be seen. Thus far overall, we haven’t done too badly for ourselves, methinks 🙂 It’s been a footie weekend of surprises, so who knows? Allons, Lions! Allons, les Elephants!!

Personal highlights:

  • The very first goal of the FIFA 2010 coming from an African team;
  • The buzz of 60,000 vuvuzelas when that goal was scored;
  • Enyeama’s goalkeeping;
  • England keeper Green’s colossal screw-up allowing USA a draw;
  • Successfully convincing some of my non-football-loving friends to sit down and watch a match 🙂

AYOBA!!!

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While we here were celebrating Heroes Day, our friends in South Africa were blowing those obnoxiously loud horns in the streets of Jozi in honour of Vuvuzela Day. With just hours to go before the kick-off match between SA and Mexico, I can only imagine the excitement over there.

I was in Cape Town when SA took  the last World Cup Rugby title, and if that pandemonium (people streaking on rooftops, complete strangers doing silly dances in the streets) is anything to go by, World Cup celebrations this year are going to be huge.

There was some derision when the country used the benevolent wrinkly face of iconic statesman Mandela to win the bid as hosts of this year’s FIFA. There was doubt that the stadia would be built in time; or that the (numerous) muggers and hobos would be cleaned off the streets before foreigners saw the truth.  There was also the xenophobia scares. And there was outrage when FIFA chose a non-African Shakira ripping off an African song whose words she can barely pronounce to sing their official song.

But we’re past all that now. The moment is here.

I’ve got my vuvuzela and K’Naan on repeat and even though Drogba and Essien might not play, I’ll still be watching and yelling and making a fool of myself. Because more than the songs and politics, it’s about the game, the actual tournament. My lovely boss is letting us off early enough to watch the South Africa-Mexico game tomorrow at 5 😀 Woohoo!! Go Msanzi!!!

join the madness!

A Lifetime at the Museum

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Iyoba Idia

This is the face of Iyoba Idia, the queen mother of one of Benin empire’s most powerful kings Oba Esigie who ruled from 1504-1550. It is said that without her political wisdom, Esigie would never have become king and Benin kingdom would not have gained imperial advantage over a great part of the Niger River.

The spirit of Idia so looms over Nigeria’s contemporary culture that replicas of this mask are still worn at annual rededication festivals.

The original four masks of Idia, however, were looted – along with over 3000 other artefacts – when the British ransacked the Benin empire in 1897, subsequently burning the empire to the ground and deposing its Oba [the usual story, really].

Half a century after Nigeria (including the former Benin empire) won its independence, over 600 of these bronze, copper, terracotta and ivory works are languishing at the British National Museum; an ocean away from the only original context that gives them their true meaning.

It is not for lack of trying that this art is still in the possession of Nigeria’s former colonial masters. Volumes have been written, a lot has been said, much clamoring has been done for the repatriation of not just Nigerian, but other African countries’ artworks and for compensation where the art was damaged or lost.

Britain’s response?

The museum’s collections are vested in its trustees in accordance with legislation enacted in 1753 (!), prohibiting them from permanently disposing of any object… the trustees would regard [as a betrayal of their trust] the piecemeal dismemberment  of the collections which recognize no arbitrary boundaries of time or place.

In an interview between the then curator and New African magazine, he expressed the opinion that people should not look at African objects only in Africa and that the Face of Idia is not about Nigerian identity.

I found this yet another laughable example of Britain’s (refusal? failure?) to understand the African cultural context!

Art and statuary like this are condensed records of a society’s history, its ideals and its philosophies. In particular, the fine mastery with which West Africa’s statues and stools were done reveals a level of technological sophistication which the West has only recently begrudgingly conceded. Robin Walker [never to be an African!] writes in his book When We Ruled:

The artefacts were astonishing. They included fine copper chains, profusely elaborate staff ornaments… they demonstrated geometric exactitude and perfection of form.

The heart swells with pride 🙂

An understanding of why these works were created reveals that they were not meant to be viewed in a museum – icons of leadership (like the Face of Idia), for example, were used to identify and glorify leaders. Statues of nubile women with children were placed in shrines as a communication with the spirit world – beseeching or thanking spirits for the blessing of children.

an Olukun sculpture of an Ife king

 

How else do the children of Nigeria today understand the beliefs of their ancestors, not just in the spirit world, but in the importance placed on children, in the noble, dignified characteristics they expected of leaders?

Are current institutions like UNESCO doing anything to help African countries in the struggle for the return of their precious art? Not really. The UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (never to have a brief name!) aims to curb the illegal trafficking of such artefacts – but, conveniently, only those which were taken after 1970. As it stands the Convention cannot deal retrospectively with art looted before 1970.

The British Museum is currently doing a ‘worldwide’ exhibition tour of Ife art. Interestingly, no African museum is included on the tour schedule.