Nana Ocran is a London-based writer and editor who specialises in contemporary African culture. Under her belt is the Time Out Group's series of guides to Lagos and Abuja (Nana was Editor-in-Chief) along with consulting gigs for established publications on West African culture for the Danish Film Institute, Arts Council England and the Institute of International Visual Arts. Furthermore, Nana was nominated for CNN's African Journalist of the Year in 2011.
The last batch of my top picks for this year's Women of the World Festival at London's Southbank Centre covers events to do with culture, activism and social issues and debates. I don't know about you but, between this list; the business, entrepreneurship and career development one I shared last week and; the music, poetry and spoken word events, it's going to be tough deciding what to actually attend! It's the kind of tough decision that's a joy to make. To those planning to attend the Festival, I hope you have a wonderful time and perhaps I'll bump into you. To everybody else, I look forward to reporting back.
WHAT: A world exclusive premiere of ‘Alice Walker: Beauty In Truth’, a feature documentary film by Pratibha Parmar, about the life and art of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of ‘The Color Purple’.
The 6:30pm screening will be followed by a conversation with Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar. The 9.30pm screening is introduced by Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar.
WHEN: Sunday, 6:30pm and 9:30pm
What's new in African Feminisms
WHAT: Looking at what is fresh in African feminist thought and action. African women are gaining force in music, writing and film, offering powerful and subversive views on gender, power and the future.
WHEN: Sunday, 1:30pm – 3:00pm
I am embarassed to say that Afri-love's 3rd anniversary just slipped by me! On June 11th, I was on a train back from London after modelling in the Shape Custom Creations Afrika Milele show (one of the most exciting fashion shows I've experienced – the epitomé of good vibes!). In my exhaustion, I forgot what a great moment it was.
As they say, better late than never. It's quite timely actually because, after 2 months or so of travelling, returning, catching up and getting back to 'normal' routine, I'm finally back in the groove of things. You may have noticed that post frequency is starting to pick up again! It's fitting that we get things going with, first, some thanks – a HUGE THANK YOU for reading and interacting with me, here on the blog, by subscribing and via Twitter and Facebook too – it all makes this labour of love so much more satisfying and; second, a little reflection with a look at the top 5 posts from the past year. In reverse order:
A great story about pursuing your passion, no matter the naysayers!
Regular readers will know just how obsessed I am with Pinterest (see for yourself). Robyn Gordon is somebody you have to follow.
The passionate Amina, aka sheroxlox, is one of the lovliest people I've had the honour to meet in recent years. Find out what drives her.
I've been working with the East Africa-based designer for a little over a year now and I feel so lucky to be collaborating with somebody who creates beautiful things and has such a good spirit too. Today marks the launch of her new website and online shop, created by yours truly and the rest of the Asilia team.
One day I will finally visit Lamu in person (and hopefully before the new port is built as, I worry that it will change the nature of the town). Until then, I will lust over all the beautiful homes I've discovered, thanks to my best friend, the internet. More Lamu finds on the blog.
What posts did you enjoy most over the past 12 months?
For the newbies – check out the top 3 most popular Afri-love posts of all time:
- Interview with Fashion Stylist and Blogger, Nancie Mwai
- Natural Hair Journey: 10 Months after the Big Chop
- 5 Reasons why Ghana will be the next African App Powerhouse – a guest post from Afriapps founder and my Asilia co-conspirator, Andrew Mugoya
The Southbank Centre's Women of the World Festival returns this month to coincide with International Women's Day on Thursday 8th March. Celebrating the formidable strength and inventiveness of women, there is an even more exciting line-up of activities, talks, debates and performances than last year.
The motivation behind the Afri-love interview series is to demonstrate the possibilities that come with pursuing your passion. The interviews acknowledge that the path is challenging and they show how its travellers have persisted through adversity with wonderful results. As with the blog in general, there is a strong creative thread – poets, painters, musicians, designers, artists, writers and people creating change through activism.
Here's a round-up of some popular interviews from a diverse group of inspiring people:
Interview with poet, sports writer and musician, Musa Okwonga.
Interview with singer-songwriter, Amira Kheir.
Interview with artist and photographer, Mutua Matheka.
What was your favourite interview?
If you missed yesterday's best of 2011 installment, "African and Africa-inspired fashion, interior and furniture design," here it is.
Tune in for the rest of week for:
- Thursday – Popular commentary posts (from technology to natural hair, from life lessons to identity)
- Friday – Top music finds of 2011
The final few weeks of the year are jam-packed with reasons to be merry. Here are just a few Africa- and Diaspora-related events in London (UK), Nairobi (Kenya), New York (US), Paris (France and St. John's (Antigua). If you know of any January events that you'd like to share, please contact me by the 23rd of December. Enjoy the last days of 2011!
I haven't yet met Amina Doherty in person but I love this woman! This 27 year old Nigerian feminist activist is inspiring as inspiring gets. Her work and her life is guided by a passion for creativity and an unshakable belief in the powerful agency we each have to make positive changes in our lives, our communities and the world.
Amina holds a BA in Political Science & Women’s Studies from McGill University and an MSc in Gender, Development and Globalization from the London School of Economics. Currently setting up FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund, Amina has a range of experience working with organisations such as human rights funder The Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Directorate of Gender Affairs in Antigua and Barbuda, the Caribbean Policy Development Centre, the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action, Feminist Majority Foundation and Arts & Business.
A daughter of the Diaspora, London-based Amina has lived and studied in Africa. Here's her story, in her own words …
What's your passion?
Over the years I have worked as a researcher, grantmaker, freelance writer, and community activist and in all of those roles, I have made a conscious effort to infuse my love for all forms of creative expression. I am passionate about music, poetry and spoken word, art, fashion and seeing new places. Driving all of these things however, is a love for life and an overwhelming belief that we should seek to live our lives with as much courage, adventure and love as we possibly can. My passion is Life itself.
What inspired you to be an activist in general, and specifically, to work on feminist issues?
For many years I struggled to call myself an “activist” in large part because I felt as though I wasn’t “activist” enough; as though the contributions I was making would never be enough to bring about the kinds of substantive social change that I wanted to see in the world. A world wherein people continue to be discriminated against on the basis of their race, gender, class, sexual preference, socio-economic position and other varying axes of inequality.
However, over the years I have come to understand that what actually makes someone “activist” is a heartfelt and genuine commitment to change. Simply knowing that, as an individual, I have the potential to be powerful in whatever it is that I set my mind to, motivates me. I am driven by the understanding that the smallest acts can bring about the biggest changes … being an activist is simply about taking a stand (or a seat) and refusing to move to the back of the bus.
During this blog's first year, I endeavored to celebrate the independence days of African countries through creating a dedicated post (you can browse them via this link). I'm not doing that this year but, as several of those celebrations take place in July and August, I thought I'd do a round-up of highlights. I hope you enjoy it. Stay tuned for part 2 – August celebrations – next week.
Ghana – 1st July
Something for the pundits and technology geeks, something for the music-lovers and something for the fashionistas:
5 Reasons why Ghana is the next African App Powerhouse
Interview with lyrical genius M3NSA
Interview with Fashion Designer Naana B
"For us Africans, literature must serve a purpose: to expose, embarrass, and fight corruption and authoritarianism. It is understandable why the African artist is utilitarian."
— author and playwright, Ama Ata Aidoo
I've heard African creatives (whether writers, fine artists etc.) protest that they feel they are expected to be political or to somehow have their work address the cause of bettering our continent. That they can't just produce art for art's sake. A lot of ingenious creatives do manage to serve this serious purpose through works that are also very witty, clever and generally entertaining. Ama Ata Aidoo is a great example with stories such as Our Sister Killjoy and The Dilemma of a Ghost.
What are your thoughts on the expectation that African arts should serve a utilitarian purpose? Limiting or essential?
Following yesterday's theme* of activism through the arts, today we're celebrating the phenomenal Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti. Fela would have been 72 today and though he is no longer with us in body, his legacy is firmly with us forever. Musician, activist, rebel – the man has inspired music genres (Afrobeat), politics (through his music, through his persistent attacks on the shortcomings of the Nigerian government and through his own political party, Movement of the People) and a wealth of artistic expression in a multitude of media. Today, we celebrate Fela Anikulapo (the man who carries death in his pouch) Kuti through showcasing just a slice of his creative influence.
This week, Carlos Moore's book, Fela: This Bitch of a Life, is being reissued with cover art by Lemi Ghariokwu, Fela's faithful album artist.
Another great book catalogues an exhibition of art inspired by Fela, held in New York in the early 2000s: Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
(See the book covers at the top of the post).
Fela album art is prolific! I have not seen one dull album cover. Instead they evoke the wonderful madness, expressiveness and dynamism of the artist (Clockwise from top left: He Miss road, Original Sufferhead/ITT, Shuffering and Schmilling/No Agreement and Shakara/London Scene).
Below are some more recent artistic works inspired by the legend:
Painting on the left by Barkley Hendricks, used on the cover of the Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art (image found on Nasher Museum Blogs). Black President poster found with this BBC article. Cupcakes seen on Experimental Etc. – check the site out for a Fela discography.
There are experiments such as the Michael Jackson meets Fela video that you can watch on LYSERGICFUNK (image above also from LYSERGICFUNK).
… And then there's the award winning Broadway play, Fela! (see the site for more images).
"[A] political revolution [is] a change to the leadership of a society that does not impact the social structures, mores or power relations. A social revolution, on the other hand, is one where the political regime is not the focus of struggle because what is at stake is the very way of being, living and experiencing the world."
It seems that Fela was out to create a political revolution but, the wide reach of his music, its universal themes of social justice and the life of the man himself, may just have created a social one!
I leave you this Friday, with the video of one of my personal favourites, "Zombie":
[*And to be fair, the theme of this blog and my life!]