Saluting the efforts to showcase another side to Africa

The following is a guest post from Andrew Mugoya of Asilia and Afriapps.

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Recent events in the UK (riots, looting, etc) have inevitably brought back the black vs white debate with some pundits implying that the disturbances were due to racial tensions. The fact that a significant number of the looters were white is being explained by some as 'The whites have become black" with the implication being that white people who act bad are merely under the influence of black culture and black people acting well are imitating white culture.

It is at times like these that we should be grateful for the many efforts to highlight and celebrate the numerous positives of African and black culture. And it is with this in mind that I salute Afri-love and the many other blogs like it. May your work continue to shine a light to a side of Africa that rarely gets the attention it deserves. 

Thank you Lulu. 

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Thanks Andrew! I would like to salute the following blogs and sites that are helping to stretch narrow perceptions when it comes to African and black culture:

Another Africa
Africa is a Country 
African Digital Art 
AfriPOP!
Afroklectic
Afrolicious
Annansi Chronicles
Dunia ni Duara
I am the Nu Black
Kate Bomz
MsAfropolitan
MyWeku
Out and About Africa
Pop'Africana
That African Girl
Timbuktu Chronicles

What other great sites do you know of?

One year doing nothing but working on myself (plus giving away a film!)

Reflection

Happy Monday everybody! I hope you're as charged for this new week as I am. This Saturday, Afri-love celebrates its one year anniversary! I can't believe it's arrived so quickly. I am so happy that I've maintained the momentum for this long – though there have been some busy times where I've posted less than I've wanted. I'm so grateful to all of you who read, take the time to comment, interact via Facebook or Twitter and sign up to the mailing list. 

I came across this poignant quote last night:

Continue reading “One year doing nothing but working on myself (plus giving away a film!)”

Live Unchained interviews me about art and Afri-love

 Afri-love-interview

Live Unchained have published an interview with me, discussing art, vision and life unchained. I'm so honoured to be part of such a wonderful project. Check out their blog for the interview which, also includes a video (excuse the state of my studio! Um, and, um, gosh, my goofy expressions :).

Enjoy.

The selfish African

The-selfish-African

For a large part of my employed life, I worked for a progressive sustainability communications agency. A key belief of the company, and of many successful people all over the world and over centuries, is that you have to have a vision of what success looks like, before you can achieve it.

I worked with different kinds of clients, all of whom were professing some level of commitment to sustainable development. From previously unusual suspects such as multinational corporations, to the more expected non-profit organizations; from national government departments to local authorities and; everything in-between. Perhaps because it was my bread and butter, and something at the front of mind every day, I often started to feel the frustration of hammering the same messages, doubting that they were really getting through. Or whether those that commissioned them in the first place were merely ticking boxes.

Continue reading “The selfish African”

Self-perception first

Self-perception-first

The Afri-love hypothesis puts the self very much at the centre of any possible progress. A friend was recently talking to me about how she wanted to spend her days helping and empowering women but realised that, in order to do that effectively, she would first have to help and empower herself. My first thought was that’s a very brave thing to voice and then, I asked myself, why shouldn’t it be the norm? That level of self-reflection and self-awareness is what this Afri-love idea is all about.

Continue reading “Self-perception first”

The Afri-love hypothesis

Hypothesis

Every Friday, we’ll be posting a piece on the growing Afri-love idea. Here’s the first installment. Happy weekends all! 

I believe that when people look into themselves and accept, love and respect what they find there, they will unlock the abundant energy that creates opportunities for success. In all areas of their lives. When I look inside myself, I know that my passion – the thing that inspires and motivates me most – is Africa. It defines who I am. I embrace and express this appreciation at every opportunity. Doing so has taught me more about myself and made me acknowledge the power of my potential.

Continue reading “The Afri-love hypothesis”

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

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.

About this website

This website is the result of months, even years, of trying to articulate my relationship with my one great passion – Africa. A kind of relationship shared by  many people that I have come across in all corners of the globe. Talented, intelligent, vibrant, joyful people who channel their unique gifts to inspire even greater awareness and enjoyment of the myriad wonders of that beautiful continent.

In contrast to uninterrogated yearnings for all things from outside and a desire to be other than yourself, a narrative that reminds of the beauty and ability that exists right there inside.

Imagine Africans who love who they are, as they are, and so love each other and the environment that nurtures them. Confident and assertive, they are engaged in charting their growth and celebrating success as defined on their own terms.

In contrast to bleak stories on the news and learned (rather than experienced) preconceptions, a narrative that is filled with ingenuity, innovation and ambition. 

Imagine all who are inspirited by Africa – all whose lives and hearts have been touched by the spirit of the continent – sharing their passion through collaboration, in the name of mutual empowerment.

Imagine all starting by looking inside themselves. Self-discovery, self-awareness, self-love and self-respect. And then true learning, understanding, love and respect of the other. Harnessing the power of emotion to influence great positive change.

This website is a place to document a growing idea. One that will be shaped by all who interact with, interrogate and contribute to it. Through commentary, stories, interviews, ideas for action, shared resources, reviews, news, art and much more, Afri-love hopes to become a community of creativity, knowledge, passion and ideas. 

Love is vital to growth and actualization. 

Be proud. Be inspired. Spread love. Blossom.

*The site will officially launch this Friday, 11 June.