Africa Oyé this weekend!

Africa-Oye 

To all those residing in the UK, the place to be this weekend is at Liverpool's Africa Oyé festival. The annual celebration of African music and culture kicks off on Saturday. With a line-up of musical acts from the continent and the diaspora, arts, crafts and refreshments, it's sure to be two days of good vibrations and Afri-love. 

And it's free!

SA week: Apartheid Museum

Apartheid-museum

 

 

Johannesburg's Apartheid Museum, is a must-visit if you're ever in town. The visitor is guided through 20th century South Africa in a series of 22 individual exhibition areas – each a different chapters of the apartheid story. 

After my visit a few years ago, I was left with two particular impressions: 

Continue reading “SA week: Apartheid Museum”

SA week: Design Indaba

Design-Indaba   

They've nailed it on the head: "a better world through creativity". Yes, I may be biased but I'm clearly not the only one who believes in the power of creativity to create a better future. Design Indaba, founded in 1995, has been acting upon this belief and demonstrating just how design, and creativity in general, can drive an economic revolution in South Africa. With their annual conference, an acclaimed international design event, they bring together creatives from all sectors – graphic design, advertising, film, music, fashion design, industrial design, architecture, craft, visual art, new media, publishing, broadcasting and performing arts. 

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SA week: Literature

Books 

South African-born Bessie Head spent most of her writing life in exile in Botswana, eventually becoming a citizen. The perpetual outsider (Bessie was born of a wealthy white woman and black servant in a time where interracial relationships were illegal), her works often deal with the different psychological dimensions of identity. Among her novels are A Question of Power, The Collector of Treasures and Maru.  

Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje was the first Secretary-General of the ANC and one of the first black South Africans to have a book published in English. This book was Mhudi, published in 1930, a magnificent piece of historical fiction chronicling the creation of nationhood in the south of Africa.

A member of the Drum boys, whose dictum was "live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse," Can Themba's writing graphically depicts urban life in 1950s South Africa.  He explores conflicts between the modern urban setting and the rural traditional one as well as telling of the effect of Apartheid policy on the aspirations of young, hopeful, educated blacks. Requiem for Sophiatown and The Will to Die are among his works. (Can Themba's Drum days must have inspired Janet Jackson's "Got Til It's Gone" video)

More literary highlights on Lonely Planet

SA week: Fine art

Peter-Sibanda 

Celebrating the start of the World Cup, it's SA week on Afri-love! Because the arts are such a powerful vehicle for instilling pride, inspiring and generally stirring emotion, we will be showcasing a slice of the flourishing creativity coming out of the host nation. Look forward to dedicated posts on fine art, literature, design, activist art and of course: music!

Happy Monday!

Above, Peter Sibanda's almost technicolour portraits of contemporary South Africans appear at once so bright and rosy yet have a surreal quality that hints at the transcient nature of that moment. See more of his work here

Vusi-Khumalo 

Above, the work of Vusi Khumalo who left South Africa in 1986 because of his ANC involvement and went to live in ANC camps in Zambia and Tanzania. It is in Tanzania where he properly started to explore his life-long hobby – art. Khumalo creates collages reconstructing the gritty reality of  life in South African squatter camps. The small images here don't begin to do justice to the texture of the works! Read more here.

Simphiwe Dana and The One Love Philosophy

Simphiwe Dana

I discovered Simphiwe Dana  a couple of years ago when I went to see her in concert in London. Her music, her vibe, really moved me. I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with her, on a cold Liverpool street after her  show, earlier this year and she was incredibly wise and down to earth. With her composure and quiet beauty, one might mistake her for being timid but in her music and in her thoughts, she is truly a warrior! A champion of African pride and universal respect.

“I am a very cultured person … As [African people] we were made to feel inferior and a lot of African people stopped practicing their culture because it was seen as witchcraft or uncivilized. My music is inspired by African people and the love they have for song.”

A true Afri-love spirit, check out Simphiwe waxing about The One Love Philosophy.

“We start by appreciating ourselves, then each other as part of ourselves, then we all truly flower.”

Photos from Simphiwe Dana’s myspace page apart from left bottom (by Lulu Kitololo) and right middle (found on Gorgeous Black Women).

Pilgrimages

Afri-love-Pilgrimages-cities
"We do not know our own continent, yet we continue to benefit from it." 

This penetrating assertion on the Pilgrimages website caught my attention today and it couldn't have been more timely. One of my reasons for creating this blog is to share my ongoing education on the continent I call home. Something somebody once said to me will always remain fresh in my mind. I was pursuing a course in African Studies at the time when a Kenyan lady, in Nairobi, asked me why I would take up such a course of study, being that I am an African. There was so much I wanted to say to her – so many questions in response! How much did she really know about the vast Africa herself? Especially in comparison to her knowledge about other parts of the world – distant parts that she may never even see firsthand. How much did she really know about her own history – and from whose mouth or textbook did she consume that information?

What that moment evokes is how easy it is to take for granted the things that are closest to you. And yet, it is those very things that are probably most valuable to you and most necessary for your well-being and growth. Obliviousness of this may indeed be a significant barrier to contentment and progress. This is a theory that I would like to explore: the connection between self-knowledge, self-love and self-improvement, in the context of being African. 

As part of this Afri-love journey, one of the things to look out for on the blog is an investigation of the continent from perspectives other than those we get from our inherited assumptions or manipulated media. In turn, will be celebrating each country on the continent with an insight into the spirit of the nation (and we warmly welcome all insider knowledge and ideas!).

The Pilgrimages project resonates with these aims. Created by The Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists, the project will be celebrating Africa's first World Cup by sending 13 African writers to 13 cities where they will each write a book of non-fiction that will be published worldwide. In true Afri-love spirit, Pilgrimages takes ownership of that powerful piece of education: the travel narrative:

"At a moment in time when the whole continent is more visible to its inhabitants and to the rest of the world than at any other since independence, Pilgrimages will reintroduce Africans to the literary world in the same form that so many outside writers have employed to create a distorted idea of us to the world." (Pilgrimages website)

I'm sure Our Sister Killjoy would be proud. 

Illustration: Pilgrimages participating cities. © Lulu Kitololo

Afro Cup Festival

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 London's calling from the 11th of June to the 11th of July. In celebration of the first World Cup on African soil, Rich Mix will be screening all the games and keeping the party going with 25 days and nights of live music, DJs, art, films and food. The Afro Cup Festival has an incredible line-up and the chapati image on the food page is seriously stirring my taste buds! Sure to be an experience filled with positive Afri-love vibrations.

(Oh yes, and entry is free!)

Defining Afri-love


Defining-Afri-love-img
  
 
This post was originally posted on Lulu's blog, Pandemonium Today, in September 2009

Africa is in my veins … in my thoughts and in my actions. I don’t know how love for a continent is made. How the colours and rhythms from one far-off coast can resonate as loudly on the opposite side. How listening to strangers speaking a language I do not know (understanding is different for it often transcends linguistic boundaries) can bring sudden feelings of homesickness. How the rush of sights, sounds and smells, as I step out of a plane, has my being instantly relax in the knowledge: this is where I belong.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder and it also teaches the heart a lesson about its self: about how it is made; about what dictates its pace; and what it requires for beating.

I used to think I was patriotic, I still do, but I believe what I was feeling deserved a different and more appropriate name. It transcends national borders – it goes back before the Scramble. It rises over the barriers of language for communication takes place on several planes.

Meeting people from around the world and sharing our common affinities for the continent has helped, over years, to formulate for me, a way to articulate that feeling I previously could not quite capture. I choose to name it Afri-love. Simple, says what it does on the tin and allows me to signpost the myriad expressions of that feeling that I observe, live and create. Naming is a powerful process – it allows one to lift up a thing, hold it to the light and study it closely. Naming can be dangerous too: it can limit the form and consistency of a thing. However, in this instance, naming is useful to me as an umbrella under which to formulate ideas and mobilize the kind of action that will expand itself. Afri-love breeding Afri-love.

And naming helps to create community. A community already exists but it is not always self-aware. The extensive take up of the Afropolitan idea/identity is proof that Afri-love exists in abundance. Its informal community of agents spread its beauty and energy across the globe, sharing good news about the continent; enlightening people about its diversity and cultural wealth; and destroying the barrage of misperceptions that exist within the minds of ignorant and “worldly” alike.

Perhaps most important is exchange. Bringing language, culture, art, knowledge, belief and music to meet with the language, culture, art, knowledge, belief and music of other continents. Creating something new, powerful and relevant that heralds all of its constituent parts while casting a wider net of inclusion. Respect, fundamentally, running through it all.

Afri-love is about that respect for what came before (to avoid the use of that contentious term “tradition”), learning and taking forward what is still germane and beneficial to growth; leaving behind what is inappropriate and counter-constructive; drawing knowledge and inspiration from whatever other sources are available in our experience; and using our imagination, creativity and passion to make something new.

Something that reflects our individual histories and journies first. When we zoom out and look at the greater tapestry of which we are a tiny but crucial thread, the collective story emerges. In perhaps the most interesting, eclectic and spontaneous fashion yet.

Undoubtedly, the most conspicuous pattern is the energy that connects every person who feels Afri-love. It’s almost irrelevant where you’re from. That yearning to touch the ground, smell the soil and feel the sun’s embrace. To join the dance, both invisible and real. To love your brodas and sistas despite their weaknesses and bad judgement. To be that village that is concerned with the growth of every child.  The village that hunts and gathers together and celebrates that collective action with a feast.

It may all sound quite utopian. Perhaps, the one truest sign of  the presence of Afri-love is the optimism that we can make our vision a reality: Africa rising to realise its full potential*.

* Borrowing from the stated vision of African-led UK charity Stand Up for Africa.