Archive for May, 2009

By Marlon Burgess


I’ve convinced Marlon Burgess, Cape Town-born musician and graduate student who recently moved to New York City, to occasionally contribute regular blog posts to Africa is a Country (my theory about strength numbers refers). He agreed to write a review of young jazz pianist and bandleader Kyle Shepherd‘s debut album, “Fine Art:



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Blogger Ryan Briggs (he is a PhD student in international relations, with a specialization in international development, at the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC) is working on a project to analyze New York Times coverage of nine African countries from 1981 to 2008. He has published some of his results on his website, like this one:


To learn more about the project, see his blog where you can also also get country comparisons or specific stories (like coverage of Rwanda before and after the 1994 genocide).

You can also download the whole set of 14 images that he created here.

Via Texas is Africa

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

In a video report (above) and print article reporter Delphine Schrank (for The Atlantic) “… visits the empty lakes and scattered elephant bones left behind by the DRC’s ongoing violence.”

You can also watch short interview clips on the website of the International Reporting Project (they paid for the trip).

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

Filmmakers Chris Nizza and Dara Kell have been in South Africa since mid-April on their first production shoot for the feature documentary film ‘Dear Mandela’ (the feature expands on a short film they shot last year).

They post regular production updates about the shoot online.

Like most recently when they quickly uploaded a short video (above) of footage shot when members of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a slum dwellers group in Durban, where there film is set, traveled to the country’s Constitutional Court (equivalent of the US Supreme Court) to go and challenge a local law that would allow the council to forcefully remove them from their homes. We see the activists talk about the proposed law, inside and outside the court, and snippets of the hearing itself.

However, what I like the most of the 4 minute insert, is right at the beginning when Mnikelo Ndabankulu, spokesperson of Abahlali baseMjondolo, talks to the camera about the state’s obligation to its citizens. A natural performer, he knows how to put emphasis where it matters.

Watch for yourself.

That’s a citizen.

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I recently discovered Metropolis TV, a project of the Dutch public television station, VPRO. An online project with 50 correspondents (a mix of film makers and video bloggers) from around the world, it consists of short video inserts (2 to 7 minutes each; all programs have English subtitles) that you can watch on the website.

The programs are organized by theme. These include the most recent episode on “Protesters” (including a student who embarked on a hunger strike in Zambia to get the President to award a scholarship to a friend), and earlier focuses on “World of Soccer” (among others in Ghana, Egypt and Mali) , “Humor” (South Africa, Burkina Faso and Zambia) “It’s a Chinese World” (Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia) and “Being Gay In …” (Uganda, Senegal and Zambia).

You can also search for programs by country.

The programs are slick, well-edited, and the topics cover a wide range. Africa is well represented.

It’s worth a regular visit. You can also sign-up for an email alert to know when new programs are posted.

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“Disciplinary boundaries” are often rigorously policed in the United States. Historians talk to historians. Political scientists to political scientists. And so on. Academics generally write in the jargons of their disciplines or, worse, their “sub-disciplines.” With a plethora of academic journals catering to the increasing specialization, academics now write more and more to smaller groups of readers interested and familiar with their topics. Basically, it is getting harder for historians to talk to media studies scholars to political scientists.

In turn, the pages and columns of popular journals catering to intellectuals (e.g. The New York Review of Books and London Review of Books) are dominated by a small group of recycled writers.

But enough complaining.

That’s why we have the Internet and blogs.

Take the academic Timothy Burke, a history professor at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, whose work has focused mostly on Southern Africa, particularly Zimbabwe. Fellow academics know him better for his book with a long time, Lifebuoy Men, Lux Women: Commodification, Consumption and Cleanliness in Modern Zimbabwe.

For a while now I’ve been a fan of his blog, Easily Distracted, which covers “… Culture, Politics, Academia and Other Shiny Objects.” He has been blogging since 2000 on a no-frills site.

Though he writes about historiography (for the uninitiated, that’s the study of the way we do, or write, history), he tackles a range of topics, including a lot of posts on politics, culture, intellectual culture, television, in accessible language, mixing disciplines and engaging with the popular, with much of it, crucially for my obsessions, related in one way or the other to the continent.

I like this blog. (Blogs I Like, no. 1 is Scarlett Lion.)

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Poet and novelist James Matthews turned 80 today. Here‘s a link to a short note I wrote on the occasion of his 79th birthday.

If you can read Afrikaans, here‘s a link to piece in Cape Town’s “Die Burger” by reporter Heindrich Wyngaardt. [The picture, above, by photographer Michael Hammond accompanied the Wyngaardt story.]

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