Week in review



Rafiya CD Amazing



I hope you've all had a fantastic week. Mine's been hectic and it's great to exhale a little, take stock and get revved up for the week ahead. It was busy on the blog too with multi-media inspiration! The week ended on a high note with a taste of the continuing influence of Fela Kuti's spirit.

Here's a round-up in case you missed anything:

 A huge thanks to you for taking the time to read and share comments, facebook appreciation and tweet love. Remember, you can also get updates via facebook, twitter and by subscribing to the Afri-love feed.

Feedback is incredibly useful to me so, please drop me a line with any comments, suggestions, ideas etc.

This coming week, look out for:

  • Quote of the week
  • Moving beyond defiance through design and investigating design for good
  • An interview with an incredibly funky and Afri-fabulous London-based designer
  • Inspiration from a handful of my role models 
  • TGIF! a look at African music's new classics
  • A celebration for Zambia's Independence Day 

Have a fantastic week! Be proud and be inspired.


Images above: 2nd from top – Fela-inspired art (see Fela post for details); 3rd from top – songstress Rafiya's CD, Amazing; graphic defiance from Chaz Maviyane-Davies (see post for details); bottom – jewelry from Rachel Stewart.

TGIF! It’s a Felaxtravaganza!


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 Lifeis 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).

Visual art


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 roadOriginal Sufferhead/ITTShuffering 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 compilations, such as Black President and tributes, such as Red Hot and Riot


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 afrobeat (images above, on the left: Freedom no go die by The Souljazz Orchestra; on the right: Security by Antibalas).


… And then there's the award winning Broadway play, Fela! (see the site for more images).



I read a great article earlier this week by activist Micah White on Adbusters. He suggests: 

"[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!]

Equatorial Guinea Independence Day with Las Hijas Del Sol


Equatorial Guinea celebrates independence today.

Africa's most prosperous country has inspired several writers in the West who have used the country (or created a fictional one with a striking resemblance) as a setting for their novels. Most famously, Frederick Forsyth (The Dogs of War), Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson (The Illuminatus! Trilogy) and Robin Cook (Chromosome 6).

Interesting fact: Equatorial Guinea was the only Spanish colony in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Below is a video by Equatoguinean (that's right) group, Las Hijas del Sol, courtesy of YouTuber rdemeij. It's great to see the mix of cultures expressed in the combination of dancing, language and dress. 

Continue reading “Equatorial Guinea Independence Day with Las Hijas Del Sol”

Five of my all-time favourite African novels (well, six)


Ever since I took a world literature class in university, and loved pretty much every book we read that term, I've been reading more world than 'conventional'/'mainstream'/out-of-this-world? literature. Yes, sometimes these terms get out of control. To be clearer, I've dedicated most of my reading effort towards reading literature from the so-called developing world and particularly, from Africa and its diaspora. It's been especially enriching for me for a few reasons: providing me with the vibrance I remember from home, while I live abroad (i.e. it's comforting); learning about places and cultures that I might not otherwise have been exposed to (I find literature an invaluable source for learning about history – even though the specific story may be fictional or representative); it makes me feel more at home in the world by weaving an intricate tapestry of diversity. 

So, preamble out of the way, below are five of my favourite African novels. This is not an exhaustive list!

Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera
This book is like a little gem: delicate, diminutive in length yet so generous in expression. Yvonne Vera became my hero after my first reading. A true craftswoman, there are no 'spare' sentences in the book – each one is perfectly put together and poetic. Simultaneously the story of a woman's self-discovery and a nation's self-discovery, it crescendos to a striking powerful end. One of my favourite lines: "How does a woman claim a piece of time and make it glitter?" Context is everything so, check the book out.

Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo
Ama Ata Aidoo is one witty woman. Apparent in the books and stories I've read of hers, as well as plays I've watched. Our Sister Killjoy was my first. Unique in integrating poetry and prose, she chronicles the experience of a young Ghanaian woman who goes abroad to study. It's an experience that more and more of us out of the continent can resonate with. The sassy protagonist voices all those questions and observations that you've probably had yourself. 

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 
This woman is my inspiration! Down to the fact that we share a guilty pleasure – Essence magazine. Her spunk and confidence is evident in her writing and, even though this particular novel is a tale weaved around the historical events of decades ago, her writing is fresh, signaling indeed a new wave of African writers, after the Ayi Kwei Armahs and Ngugi Wa Thiong'os paved the way. 

Waiting for an Angel by Helon Habila
I bought this book on a whim at a book fair years ago. Habila himself was selling them and although I hadn't at the time heard anything about him or his work, I thought I'd give it a try. Again, a relatively slim novel with amazing punch! I read through it in one weekend it was so captivating. Several stories collide in the final event, revealing their interconnectedness all along. His second novel, Measuring Time, has a really different pace which initially threw me but, after all is said and done, it is just as masterful and satisfying.

I was debating between the two aforementioned fathers of African literature for the fifth book but I couldn't quite decide so… this is now the post about six of my all-time favourite novels 🙂

Matigari by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o
A representative tale of the fight for freedom from colonialism in Africa. The story is told in a very interesting way combining prose and poetry as well a lot of questioning and repetition, common in African oral traditions. The king of satire, Ngugi makes you laugh, wince and shake your head, in recognition of characters and institutions that even today, over 20 years after the book was written, ring true.

The Beautyful Ones are not yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah
Another freshly post-colonial tale, Armah's novel exposes the dirt and decay that mars the promise of independence. The protagonist, the seemingly only upright man in Ghana, is increasingly frustrated by the filth and tempted to succumb to it. The novel follows his internal battle, while vividly illustrating the pervasiveness of the decay of place and person.

I know some of you already recommended your favourites on the facebook page and on twitter – I would love to hear more. Happy reading!

Quote of the week

Prof Wole Soyinka

This post was was written by Georgina Combes, who left the UK a few months ago to live and work in Cape Town, South Africa. Check out her blog here.

Quote of the week has to go to Nigerian Poet and Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka, pictured above. He is in Cape Town for The Book Fair and was at The Book Lounge last night talking about his memoir You Must Set Forth at Dawn.

Squeezed in at the back and trying my best to hear above the noise of traffic from the open doorway, I did catch his comment on the use of media and technology to fight dictatorships, which I liked. He said:

"Who can deny the power of technology in the liberation of man."

Although he defiantly followed this up by saying he’s not on Facebook – he’s stopping at email! 

Image by Georgina Combes

Algeria Independence day

El Kantara

Algeria celebrates their independence today. 

This North African country is home to the first African-born winner of the Literature Nobel Prize, Albert Camus. Perhaps most famous for his novel, The Stranger, Camus is also regarded as a key philosopher of the 20th century. Philosopher and founder of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida was also born in Algeria. Martinique philosopher and psychiatrist, Frantz Fanon, spent a great part of his life in Algeria and his work there constitutes a great part of his famous revolutionary book, The Wretched of the Earth.

Algerian art

Along with a centuries old tradition of arts and crafts, there is a significant contemporary art scene which is well documented. Read this insightful article on Algeria's Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Algiers (MAMA) and how it is facilitating new relationships between "culture and memory, public space and sense space, urbanity and citizenship."


Images above:
Top – Barrage d'El Kantara à Biskra by Astonar.
Middle – Art work by  Ammar Bouras, Samta Benyahia and Mohammed Khadda

Madagascar Independence Day


It's the golden anniversary of Madagascar's independence from France however, given the ongoing political crisis, celebrations may be bittersweet. Nevertheless, in the Afri-love spirit of reflection and optimism, we're celebrating with a taste of things Malagasy. 

Continue reading “Madagascar Independence Day”

SA week: Literature


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.


“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