Archive for July, 2007


Off to Paris with my wife for one week.
So no blogging till then.
Meanwhile for things French enjoy this vintage clip where the Paris DJ, Cut Killer, mixes Edith Piaf and KRS-One from Mathieu Kassovitz’s early 1990s film ‘La Haine‘ (the French answer to ‘Do the Right Thing’).
When I am back I hope to say something about the new Darfur film ‘The Devil came on Horseback‘ and the revisionism around Tintin.

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The art of Delphine Diallo, French-Senegalese, based in New York City. Her influences include the Malian photographer Malick Sidibe, Zak Smith and Margaret Kilgallen.

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Kalakuta Republic

‘Fela Kuti was idolised as a rebel and martyr in Nigeria – yet in the west, we know him only for his Afrobeat music and his 27 wives,’ writes Alex Hannaford in the UK Guardian.
Thanks to Suren Pillay for alerting me to the article.

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Public opinion surveys are big business in Africa and the New York Times has joined the fray. Today the paper published the results of a public opinion survey — ‘a snapshot’ — of 10 sub-Saharan African countries. The poll conducted under the supervision of the private Princeton Survey Research Association International was sponsored by the newspaper in conjunction with the Pew Global Attitudes Project. Full results and coverage, including interactive graphs, as well as technical details on how the poll was conducted, can be found on the paper’s website.
Critics of the one-size-fits-all nature of public opinion surveys (they often ask the same set of questions in societies with divergent politics or histories) will be quick to pick up that some of the questions are meaningless so as to result in an unlimited amount of responses (the usual: ‘How satisfied are you with the way democracy is working in your country?’), while others are quite informative.
For example, in South Africa, at least 62 percent of those surveyed said they’d be willing to take an AIDS test, while a further 20% said they’d taken a test already.
This in a country whose President and health minister has presided over an AIDS policy that the UN’s most senior official on AIDS in Africa, described as ‘…obtuse, dilatory and negligent’ (the President initially questioned a link between HIV and AIDS and claimed AIDS treatment drugs were toxic) and where six and eight hundred people a day die of AIDS,

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The New York Times‘ Sunday Busines Times has published a report by one if its reporters Ron Nixon on an initiative to increase internet connectivity in Rwanda.
In 2003 the Rwandan government signed a contract with a US company Terracom to ‘lace Rwanda with fiber optic cables, connecting schools, government institutions and homes with low-cost, high-speed Internet service.’
Four years later, however, ‘… most of the benefits hailed by him and his company have failed to materialize,’ according to government officials.
The article deals with why this is still the case. According to Nixon the main reason for this state of affairs is because it is ’emblematic of what can happen when good intentions [presumably on the part of Terracom and its owner] run into the technical, political and business realities of Africa.’
However, if you read the rest of the article, it tells a more complex story, including that the company promised more than it could deliver, was not always forthcoming about its changing motives [that the cellphone industry was more lucrative, for example] and that it also treated the Rwandan government with contempt some of the time [it secretly tried to trade its shares in the national telecommunications company, Rwanda Telecom].

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The New York Times published a short feature in its Sunday “The City” section on Little Senegal, the area on Frederick Douglas Boulevard between 116th Street and 125th in Harlem. According to the reporter Nana Kankam ‘… in the five-year period ending in 2005, the number of African-born immigrants living in central Harlem increased by two-thirds, to about 6,500, nearly a sixth of them from French-speaking Senegal.’
The photographs (above) of Beatrice De Gea illustrate the piece.

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The irrepressible South African scholar, activist and poet, Dennis Brutus was recently featured on New York’s Democracy Now! news show.
The occasion was the United States Social Forum in Atlanta, and the always frank Brutus had a lot to say about political developments in South Africa. Here’s the relevant segment from the transcript (the interview was conducted by the show’s co-hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez:

Gonzalez: In your mention of Africa, we, in the headlines, mentioned that Bishop Desmond Tutu raised some particularly sharp criticisms of the ANC in recent days. Your reaction to that?
Brutus: Oh, I’m delighted, because it’s also what I’m saying, and I think we’re allies. We’re old friends, of course, as well. But the time is growing in South Africa where people, having achieved some degree of democracy, the post-apartheid era, we’re saying the people who made the promises are not delivering on those promises. And so, we’re into a new phase, and, I agree entirely with Desmond Tutu, we have to move forward and we ought to demand: either you deliver or you’re going to have to change.
Goodman: His quote exactly: “I’m really very surprised by the remarkable patience of people. [It’s hard] to explain why they don’t say to hell with Tutu, [Nelson] Mandela and the rest and go on the rampage.”
Brutus: Yes, indeed. And I think that time will come. But you must remember we had all those terrible years between 1948 and up to the end of the ’80s, ’90s, when people endured incredible oppression of the apartheid system, a system under which I went to prison and, of course, many others. But there is this insistence on trying to discover the humane values, not to despair, not to resort to violence, if you can avoid it, and achieve a kind of social justice by persuasion, by organization, mobilizing. And I think [the US Social Forum in] Atlanta, for me, is a wonderful example of this process at work.

Incidentally, Brutus (whose personal credo is: ‘You have to decide which side you are on: there is always a side. Commitment does not exist in an abstraction; it exists in action’) has been the subject of a number of profiles, including the recently-published Haymarket Books collection of his interviews, poems, speeches and essays, Poetry and Protest: A Dennis Brutus Reader.

He was also the subject of a documentary film, I am a Rebel, by the young South African director Vincent Moloi.

The Zimbabwean-born Brutus (photographed here with James Baldwin), was imprisoned on Robben Island for his activism under apartheid in 1963 and fled South Africa upon his release. During his lengthy exile (1966-1990) of which the bulk of it was spent working as an academic in the in the United States, Brutus became a leading campaigner to ban South Africa from international sports events. More recently he has shifted his focus to the negative effects of globalization.

Brutus is 83 years old.

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Angola has oil

Accra has hiplife. Johannesburg has kwaito. Luanda has kuduro.

Kuduro literally translates as ‘stiff bottom’ in Angolan-Portuguese. A percussion-driven hybrid of Zouk, ragga, techno and house, birthed in Luanda and Lisbon in the late 1980s, and with followers and crews all over the Lusophone world (it’s big in Brazil), the genre may still make up for Portuguese-speaking Africa having to stand back to other continental inventions like Afrobeat, mbaqanga, or Rai. And with the viral quality of the internet, a local industry in Luanda that measures pressing 12,000 CDs a success, could go global. Already hipsters in the US mainstream music press are picking up on the genre’s infectious sound.

Os Lambas, featured here doing its single “Comboio II” is one of the upcoming acts of a genre whose pioneers include Buraka Sin Sistema and Helder Rei do Kuduro.

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Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala (debut novel: Beasts of No Nation) is angry about Western attitudes about the continent — like another young African-born artist, the Somali-born hop hop artist K’Naan a few days ago.
In an op-ed published in the Washington Post, Iweala — who was featured in the Bono-edited Vanity Fair “Africa” issue — expands on his frustration, including with ad campaigns to ‘save’ African children and with mainstream Western media: ‘Why do the media frequently refer to African countries as having been “granted independence from their colonial masters,” as opposed to having fought and shed blood for their freedom? Why do Angelina Jolie and Bono receive overwhelming attention for their work in Africa while Nwankwo Kanu or Dikembe Mutombo, Africans both, are hardly ever mentioned? How is it that a former mid-level U.S. diplomat receives more attention for his cowboy antics in Sudan than do the numerous African Union countries that have sent food and troops and spent countless hours trying to negotiate a settlement among all parties in that crisis?’

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Last Friday the Washington Post ran a report by its Johannesburg correspondent Craig Timberg on AIDS in Zimbabwe.
To quote Timberg: ‘It’s not only the prices of bread and eggs that are out of control in Zimbabwe, land of 4,000 percent inflation. For the man inclined to cheat on his wife, these are trying times. Keeping a mistress, visiting a prostitute or even taking a girlfriend out for beers is simply becoming too expensive, men say.
But their strain is Zimbabwe’s gain in its fight against AIDS. Alone among southern African countries, Zimbabwe has shown a significant drop in its HIV rate in recent years. A major reason, researchers say, is the changing sexual habits of men forced to abandon costly multiple relationships.’
What is firstly shocking from Timberg’s ‘analysis’ is the conclusion that there is an upside to the ongoing political and economic crises in Zimbabwe — manifested as terror and hunger for the majority of its population. That is that men (and it is clear, black men) have less time for ‘multiple’ sexual relationships because of the insecurity in Zimbabwe, and as result we are seeing lower rates of HIV infection.
A second, related, implication is that when prosperous, Zimbabwean men are used to having sex with multiple partners, whether with prostitutes or with a mistress or mistresses.
Third, though not in descending order, women. How does this article describe `Zimbabwe’s women’? Young, sassy, individual, black women who `trade sex for money’ until the gravy train, or ‘ATM,’ runs out, and then the man returns to his wife. What sort of picture is that? It’s the African woman as madonna or whore, and nothing else.
More importantly this kind of reporting–that Africans can’t be trusted with control of their own sexuality –is exactly what feeds the politics of AIDS denialism in Southern Africa today.

Dan Moshenberg contributed to this item. The image, ‘Zimbabwe’ is taken from Liz Johnson-Artur’s website.

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