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Gambia to Host Drama Fest-Gambia 2019
September 13, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Drama Fest 2019

Drama Fest 2019

Gambia is expected to host maiden edition of Drama Fest-Gambia 2019 on 25-26 October, 2019 at Ebunjan Theatre in Kanifing.

Organised by Stage and Screen Entertainment Africa is a premium Entertainment Art network that seeks to nurture, promote, develop and engage the vision of creative and performing art in Africa.

This was revealed during a press conference which attracts writers, playwrights, directors, actors at West Africa Insurance Institute on 7th September, 2019.

Milton Kamanda, coordinator of Stage and Screen Entertainment Africa The Gambia explained that the event will showcase an array of cultural diversity through drama, music, dance poetry and arts exhibition which will feature creative and literary work done by renowned playwrights and directors from the Gambia.

According to him, this year the festival will show case home grown talents from the different facets of art.

He added that: “Our goal is to use Art Edutainment as a means of sustainable livelihood for upcoming and established artist, artiste thereby showcasing the work of creativity, craft and art to the world”

Miss Monica Davies, Chairperson Drama Fest-Gambia said they want to empower the next generation of art through leadership training.

She pointed out that Drama Fest want to promote arts entrepreneurship in Africa, through training, mentorship and networking platforms, to appreciate and celebrate the diversity of African arts.

“Recognizing distinguished accomplished personalities in the arts fraternity in the Gambia and Africa at large. Promote arts as a positive tool for social and economic transformation in Africa. To use creative and performing arts to address the ills in our communities. Giving preferences to promote and support local talents. Engage relevant stakeholders in the arts industry within the region with the implementation of policies that benefits its people,” Davies a prominent actress in Gambia said.

She noted that the event will be in a form of trade fares, concerts and art exhibition as one of the medium to showcase African arts to the world, by encouraging government to create state funds to support arts in school and tertiary levels.

 

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Rachid Taha leaves us Je Suis Africain
August 21, 2019 | 0 Comments
Rachid TAHA, Paris, 2004

Rachid TAHA, Paris, 2004

A posthumous record? “Nothing to declare!” as Rachid would have said, leaning on the bar counter, with messy hair, bright eyes, and a raspy voice. He’s there, you can’t miss him. He may be laid to rest in Algeria, but he hasn’t left us. He knew that those who are allegedly missing are well and alive: “Do you really know the others?” the master of rock-Chaâbi once asked, quoting the greats Johnny Cash, Oum Kalthoum, and Andy Warhol in a prophetic song titled Andy Walhoo. He wrote this arabic-punk-electro piece with guitars, balafon, and mouth harp before succumbing to a heart attack on September 12, 2018. “I was there with you last night, you told me to come. Every week you tell me, I’m waiting for you in my slum, there’s a Picasso exhibition, go see him. What a bastard, he had a nice mirror, I saw Jean Cocteau kissing Jean Marais,” he sings, ending with a big laugh. So nobody is gone, they live on in us.

With boundless energy, Taha wrote eleven songs together with Toma Feterman for his eleventh solo album, diving deep into his roots as usual. First, Algerian Chaâbi, so subtle, yet so complex. Then rock, which took the world by storm during the postwar period, and punk, its offshoot, in the style of The Clash. Finally, electronica, the musical revolution of the late twentieth century, as hypnotic as the Gnawas guembris or Sufi trance sounds. Rachid was influenced by all of it.

Youyous, flutes, women’s choirs, metal riffs: the French-Algerian, however weakened by the paralyzing effects of Chiari malformation, which he suffered from, created whirlpools, deluges, torrents. He invited us to dance with Andy Walhoo, and also with Like a Dervish, his “first song in English, I know I’m cheating, my English is not so rich.” His plays on words were irresistible: English, backich, dervish, merlich… The troublemaker of the “alternative Koran” also used to speak francarabe, a mix of French and Arabic, which he used to both celebrate and mock the Jewish masters (Lili Boniche, Reinette l’Oranaise, Line Monty…), humming their oriental boleros, such as Chérie je t’aimechérie je t’adore and Bambino.

That’s why his new record, which he had been working on for two years before he was buried in the Sidi Benziane cemetery, had to be in mandoline-embellished French. One of the songs is called Minouche: “Minouche ma minouche, pourquoi tu te fâches, ne prends pas la mouche, ma jolie peau de vache… Minouche, donne-moi ta bouche” (Minouche, my little Minouche, why are you upset, don’t get into a huff, my pretty vixen… Minouche, let me kiss you). A popular dance tune for sure, with words sculpted by Jean Fauque, who worked closely with Bashung and Erwan Séguillon.

The rough voice and wild blend of styles don’t give an accurate description of this son of immigrants (born near Oran, Algeria, he was raised in eastern France and later settled down in Lyon). Rachid the rebel built bridges, “introducing beautiful people to the world” by singing Charles Trenet’s Douce France with his first band, Carte de séjour (French for “resident permit”), in 1986 to mock French integration while the Marche des Beurs (March of the French Arabs) was being broken up and François Mitterrand was celebrating the creation of SOS-Racisme (a movement of anti-racist NGOs founded in France in 1984). In 1998, he created a transgenerational hit with the album Diwân, which included a cover of Ya Rayah, the anthem of Algerian immigrants composed by the Chaâbi idol Dahmane El-Harrachi (1925-1980).

Throughout these years of experience—which also marked the rise of Oranian Rai music, which Rachid sang the traditional way, following in the footsteps of the great Cheikha Rimitti—he worked with Steve Hillage, whom he met in 1984. The former Gong guitarist was a lover of looped electronic rhythms, and starting in 1997, he infused his energy into the creation of Voilà, voilà, an anti–Front National, anti-xenophobic song that Rachid would never stop singing.

And ever since this sensory overload, Rachid continued to speak to us, and jostle us, in Arabic, French, Franglish, and even Spanish, through the limpid voice of the young Flèche Love (Amina Cadelli, born in Geneva of an Algerian mother), whom he discovered on YouTube after finally being introduced to the digital tablet. This extraordinary tattooed and esoteric artist accompanied him on Wahdi, a song with Gnawa rhythms, to which he added a Mexican trumpet, evoking Ennio Morricone.

The album was produced and co-written by Toma Feterman, a gifted multi-instrumentalist and founder of La Caravane Passe, a band that mixes rap, gypsy jazz, Balkan fanfare, alternative rock, and electro.

Toma and Rachid hung out at the same bars and clubs in the north of Paris (Bellevilloise, Cabaret Sauvage), following their friend Remy Kolpa Kopoul of Radio Nova (a French radio station created in 1981, which played non-mainstream and underground artists of various musical genres), whose death in 2015 left Rachid feeling orphaned.

Toma then asked him to sing Baba, a song that he had just written for Canis Carmina, his band’s next album. Over the course of one night, the two friends recorded a dozen tracks. “I used the recordings from this first session,” Toma said, “without needing to make him sing again, because there was nothing to change.” They improvised, and it was the beginning of a frenetic, productive adventure, of nights partying at Toma’s or Rachid’s, or spent in the studio. Hours of creation and surprises shared with his son Lyes, his friend Toufik, his mandolin player Hakim Hamadouche, and his former keyboard player Yves Fredj Aouizerate, who was also his last manager.

It was a club, a family, a community, a trip. The adventure even passed through studios in Bamako, because Rachid is African, having been born in Algeria, bordering Mali, the Mandingo musical empire. Je suis africain(I am African), the song that gives its name to the album, is an homage to the sounds of this great continent, that weaves together soukouss guitars, an Arab-Andalusian orchestra, Middle Eastern violins, balafon, and talking drums. “I am African, from Paris to Bamako, from New York to Congo”—the magnificent joker is having fun, playing with elegance. He takes the accent of a “fantastical” Africa and quotes Marley and Malcom X, Kateb Yacine, Franz Fanon, Patrice Lumumba, Angela Davis—all of them “African.”

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Africa: Shortlist Announced for €20.000 Henrike Grohs Art Award
February 27, 2018 | 0 Comments

The winner will be announced on 6 March and awarded on 13 March in Abidjan

Em’kal Eyongakpa (Cameroon)

Em’kal Eyongakpa (Cameroon)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, February 26, 2018/ — Em’kal Eyongakpa (Cameroon), Georgina Maxim (Zimbabwe) and Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand (Togo) have been shortlisted for the first Henrike Grohs Art Award, conceived by the Goethe-Institut (https://goo.gl/nKYUpW) and the Grohs family. The winner will be announced on 6 March and awarded on 13 March in Abidjan.

Em’kal Eyongakpa is an intermedia artist who approaches the experienced, the unknown, as well as collective histories through a ritual use of repetition and transformation. His recent ideas draw from indigenous knowledge systems and aesthetics, ethnobotany, applied mycology as well as technology.

Georgina Maxim’s work combines weaving, stitch work and the utilisation of found textiles creating objects that evade definition. The dresses are deconstructed, and at times reconstructed to find new ways of giving tribute to and reflection upon the person that owned the original garment.

In Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand’s sculptural and performance work, he plays with borders and mixes memories, materials and cultural references. Building on traditional Mina culture, his gaze on contemporary society is unique, sometimes ironic and often moving.

The Henrike Grohs Art Award is a biennial prize dedicated to artists who are living and working in Africa and practicing in the field of visual arts. It recognises the lifetime achievements of the former Head of the Goethe-Institut in Abidjan, Henrike Grohs, who was killed on 13 March 2016 in a terrorist attack in Grand-Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire.

The prize “aims at strengthening artists and encouraging them in their quest for a world of togetherness and dialogue”, said jury members Koyo Kouoh (Artistic Director, RAW Material Company, Dakar), Laurence Bonvin (artist and representative of the Grohs family, Berlin), Raphael Chikukwa (Chief Curator, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare) and Simon Njami (Curator, Paris).

More about the shortlisted artists

Em’kal Eyongakpa
Video portrait:

 https://youtu.be/xkagubNL6ZA 

Em’kal Eyongakpa (born 1981 in Mamfe, Cameroon) is an intermedia artist who approaches the experienced, the unknown, as well as collective histories through a ritual use of repetition and transformation. His recent ideas increasingly draw from indigenous knowledge systems and aesthetics, ethnobotany, applied mycology as well as technology in his explorations of the personal and the universal. Eyongakpa is also known for self-organised community research projects and autonomous art hubs like KHaL!SHRINE in Yaoundé (2007-2012) and the recently launched sound art and music platform ɛfúkúyú. He holds degrees in Plant biology and Ecology from the University of Yaoundé and was a resident at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.

Eyongakpa’s work has recently been exhibited at the Jakarta Biennale (2017), the 13th Sharjah Biennial (2017), La Biennale de Montreal (2016), the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo (2016), the 9th and 10th Bamako Encounters (2011, 2015), the 10th Biennale de l’art africain contemporain, Dak’art (2012) and at several international art spaces and museums around the world.

More information: https://goo.gl/aT7aWZ  

Georgina Maxim 
Video portrait: https://youtu.be/2sTfNETFLM4 

Georgina Maxim (Zimbabwe) - Photo by Cynthia Matonhodze

Georgina Maxim (Zimbabwe) – Photo by Cynthia Matonhodze

Georgina Maxim was born 1980 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Maxim is known for both working as artist and curator with over a decade of arts management and curatorial practice. Maxim together with two other artists (Misheck Masamvu and Gareth Nyandoro) co-founded Village Unhu in 2012, an artist collective space that has been providing studio spaces, exhibitions, workshops and residency programs for artists – young and professional.

Georgina Maxim’s work combines weaving, stitch work and the utilisation of found textiles creating objects that evade definition. The dresses are deconstructed, and at times reconstructed to find new ways of giving tribute to and reflection upon the person that owned the original garment. Maxim describes it as ‘the memory of’. Currently, Maxim studies African Verbal and Visual Arts – Languages, Curation and Arts at the University of Bayreuth in Germany.

Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand 
Video portrait: https://youtu.be/lZCcRSab2hA

Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand – a student at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris – shares his life and work between Lomé and Paris. Both his sculptural and performance work emanate from the personal experiences of the artist. He plays with borders and mixes memories, materials and cultural references. Building on traditional Mina culture, his gaze on contemporary society is unique, sometimes ironic and often moving. He is a recipient of the Dauphine Prize for Contemporary Art, the Young Talent Revelation Prize for Plastic Arts ADAGP as well as the Aurige Finance and the Amis des Beaux-Arts et Juvenars-IESA Prize. His work will be displayed at Du Salon Du Dessin in Paris (23-25 March, 2018), as part of a group exhibition at Anne de Villepoix Gallery during the first half of 2018 and in a solo show at Vincent Sator Gallery in April and May 2019.

About the Henrike Grohs Art Award

“The Henrike Grohs Art Award is a biennial award dedicated to artists living and working in Africa. Yet the message sent goes far beyond the continent. It is a universal address, a call for reflection and action”, said the jury members Koyo Kouoh (Artistic Director, RAW Material Company, Dakar), Laurence Bonvin (artist and representative of the Grohs family, Berlin), Raphael Chikukwa (Chief Curator, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare) and Simon Njami (Curator, Paris).

The prize recognises the lifetime achievements of the former Head of the Goethe-Institut in Abidjan, Henrike Grohs, who was killed on 13 March 2016 in a terrorist attack in Grand-Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire. The award intends to continue her special commitment to support artists in Africa and make a contribution towards international dialogue.

The award will be awarded biennially to an artist or an arts collective practicing in the field of visual arts. Artistic quality is the most important criteria for the award. Collaborative partnership, imparting knowledge to other artists and social engagement are decisive elements for recognition.

Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand (Togo) - Photo by Peter Houston

Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand (Togo) – Photo by Peter Houston

Henrike Grohs Art Award: Mission Statement

“On 13 March 2016 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Henrike Grohs was killed by the blindest hatred as she was spending time with friends at the beach. Two months before, a young photographer, Leila Alaoui, 32, was shot in Burkina Faso by the ‘same people’. Many more, too many more, have fallen simply because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time; simply because a handful of fundamentalists started a war of terror. We are facing troublesome times and it is our duty to refuse to surrender to fatalism. All those deaths must be transformed into something stronger than death, into something bigger than ourselves. Henrike was working for a better world. A world where, ‘a proud heart can survive a general failure because such failure does not prick its pride.’” (Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart).

The Henrike Grohs Art Award is established as an answer to all those who think that we cannot live together in a world where sharing would be the main aim. Where borders would have no meaning and where humanity would be the only matter to fight for – that is humanity as a whole, as something that cannot be destroyed and that remains untouched. The message is clear: we shall not surrender. We shall, as Henrike did, stand for what we believe in, without any compromise.

The award is dedicated to artists practicing in Africa. Yet the message that is sent is a universal address, a call for reflection and action. Art is probably the one field where no translation is needed. It is that universal language which transforms the ‘chaotic world of sensations’ that we all share, into forms of representations and relations. The Henrike Grohs Art Award aims at strengthening artists and encouraging them in their quest for a world of togetherness and dialogue. Art knows neither borders nor religion. It is the very expression of that flame that keeps us going, from North to South and East to West. It is the best expression of our unbreakable faith in our humanity.”

The Jury members:
Koyo Kouoh, Laurence Bonvin, Raphael Chikukwa and Simon Njami


Henrike Grohs Art Award: video statements about the prize

Johannes Ebert (Secretary General of the Goethe-Institut, Munich): https://youtu.be/uAmVNxggLek
Koyo Kouoh (Jury member; Artistic Director, RAW Material Company, Dakar): https://youtu.be/lXnerwvJea4 
Laurence Bonvin (Jury member; artist, representative of the Grohs family, Berlin): https://youtu.be/HHrUN1-UqsA
Raphael Chikukwa (Jury member; Chief Curator, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare): https://youtu.be/pIzNF5waGGQ 
Simon Njami (Jury member; Curator, Paris): https://youtu.be/wPWqYf0ETsQ 

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Juliet Mbonu Targets Human Trafficking In Latest Movie
November 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Governments, institutions, and parents in Africa and other developing countries, all have a role to play in fighting human trafficking says Juliet Mbonu

Governments, institutions, and parents in Africa and other developing countries, all have a role to play in fighting human trafficking says Juliet Mbonu

The fight against human trafficking will get a serious boast when “Break Out”, a movie produced by Juliet Mbonu   premieres on Nov 17 at Bowie Performance Arts Center, in MD, USA.With a cast from Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Gambia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Togo, Liberia, and  Sierra Leone, the movie paints a gory picture of human trafficking especially with young women who are lured from developing countries into prostitution.Shot in several locations across Nigeria and the USA,the movie sends a strong message of deterrence to young women who may become unwitting victims of human trafficking ,says Juliet Mbonu.

Your latest movie Break Out is set to premiere on Nov 17, what is the movie about?

Juliet Mbonu: The movie is about Human Trafficking on the international stage, particularly as it affects women in many developing countries, who are lured into prostitution in developed countries

What message do you seek to send to the public with the movie?

Juliet Mbonu:  The movie conveys the many complicated and horrific aspects of being lured into prostitution, outside one’s home country, and delivers a powerful message to deter young women from being victims of human & sex trafficking

Where was the movie shot and how long did it take you get it to this level?

Juliet Mbonu: The movie was shot in multiple locations in Nigeria/Africa and the United States.  It took about one year to complete the research, shooting, and editing of the movie.  Technical crews were flown from the US to Nigeria to capture authentic rarely seen footages in Nigeria.  High-end technology was used in the US to capture the latest cinematography.

 

https://youtu.be/S7jaf1S60EM

 

As you Break Out gets set for its big release, could you introduce the cast for us?

Juliet Mbonu:  Certainly, the most exciting aspect of the movie is that the cast was recruited from the US and at least ten different African countries, in order to capture the diversity of international sex & human trafficking. The cast countries of origin include: Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Gambia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Togo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and others..

In Break Out ,Juliet Mbonu delivers a powerful message to deter young women from being victims of human & sex trafficking

In Break Out ,Juliet Mbonu delivers a powerful message to deter young women from being victims of human & sex trafficking

What are some of the challenges that you faced in the production of Break Out?

Juliet Mbonu. The Budget: Raising money for such a huge project was a big challenge, however, where there is a will, there is a way.  My faith in God propelled the movie from a dream to a reality. 2.  Moving a technical production team around the world from the US to Nigeria, and back to the US, represented serious logistical challenges, but it turned out to be a great and exotic adventure.

Any plans for distribution especially in Africa with its huge market and the relevance of the movie’s theme?

Juliet Mbonu: Absolutely, there are Theater Premieres coming up in DC (November 17th), then NY, LA, and other US Cities, after which the Movie moves to South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, and others

With regards the issue of child trafficking, how serious is this in Africa and what more could be done to get it under control?

Juliet Mbonu: Governments, institutions, and parents in Africa and other developing countries, all have a role to play.  Parents must be restrained in their expectations from their children, and in becoming tacit enablers for child sexual trafficking.  Even though we’ve seen reports of very poor people who give tacit approval to their daughters traveling abroad, with unclear perceptions of various employment opportunities; however a cursory look should alert people to dangers lurking in the horizon.  Finally, young women should be extremely careful in their personal expectations…… there is no glamorous life waiting out there, for people who have not paid their dues in education, training, and other tutelage.

To those who do not know Juliet Mbonu, Producer of Break Out, who is she and how did she find herself in the movie industry?

Juliet Mbonu:  Great question, I actually started out as a computer major in college, I then veered out into the Health Sciences & Nursing Informatics, ultimately getting a doctorate in Nursing Practice.  I was consulting in the area of Healthcare Informatics before diverting my passion and zeal to Movie Productions.  I have a great passion for women and children’s issues.  I also run “Arise” a non-profit that focuses on women and girls issues.

What is your take on the African Movie Industry as it stands today?

Juliet:  Africa has unbelievable talent in the Arts.  The quality is gradually catching up with universal standards.  Those of us who have recent roots in Africa, and are out here in the West, have a duty to move the industry to a world-class level

Break Out premieres on Nov 17 at Bowie Performance Arts Center, in MD, USA

Break Out premieres on Nov 17 at Bowie Performance Arts Center, in MD, USA

What next for you after Break Out, any other projects movie related or otherwise that Juliet Mbonu will be working on?

Juliet Mbonu: Absolutely, my Talk-Show, “Let’s Talk It Out with Juliet Mbonu” will debut in first quarter of 2018. Our Production Company (RFP) is also developing other relevant stories for a world-wide audience.

We end with more information on the movie premiere, venue, cost, and any special guests that people may run into, what will the premiere of Break Out reserve for its audience?

Juliet Mbonu: The DC area (DMV) Premiere, coming up on November 17th, 2017 at 7pm, will be at the full-size Theater “Bowie Performance Arts Center” just outside DC.  The program starts at 7pm, a robust pre-show entertainment, featuring popular artists, and various entertainments.  A guest list of dignitaries and the public are expected.

Tickets for the premiere of Break Out are available at the following link:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/breakout-movie-premiere-tickets-38464495341?aff=es2#tickets

 

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Africa: Opio – the Ugandan Writing Jokes for Trevor Noah and the Daily Show
April 3, 2017 | 0 Comments

Joseph Opio

Joseph Opio

Joseph Opio has always been serious about comedy. So serious, in fact, that he walked away from a promising newspaper job in Kampala, borrowed a large sum of money, and went to America to try and make people laugh.

Some people end up in comedy the way a drunkard stumbles into a previously unknown tavern on his way home. Others linger in comedy, waiting for an opportunity to move on to acting or a proper job. For Opio, comedy was the journey and the destination.

We meet in a small busy restaurant in mid-town Manhattan after a live recording of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Opio’s fortunes are closely hitched to the South Africa-born comedian’s wagon but he has laced his bootstraps himself.

The making of Opio

He had been one of the best A-Level students in Uganda and, after reading a law degree Opio had landed a job with a major audit firm in Kampala. But the life of stuffy suits did not sound appealing and he had been drawn to comedy in his early teens when he watched Bernie Mac and ‘The Original Kings of Comedy’.

He had dabbled in sports journalism at the New Vision newspaper in Kampala where he landed a sub-editing job at 17 while still a student, but the newspaper world, away from the sports pages, was full of grim news stories.

“Instead of complaining I decided to vent using comedy,” says Opio. The result was a comedy show, LOL Uganda, on Urban TV, a small station in Kampala, which Opio wrote, edited, directed, produced and presented.

Although only in his 20s and despite the show being only mildly popular on a small, start-up station, Opio quickly became, he says, the highest-paid television presenter in the country.

But it was not enough.

“Most people want to be the biggest fish in the small pond,” he says, “and the problem with [many] Ugandans is thinking small.”

His first big break

Opio’s first break came during a visit to South Africa to attend a reception for the Late Night Show comedy. He met the right people and made such an impression with his jokes during the chitchat that he was invited back to work on the South African comedy circuit. Within a month of moving to South Africa he had become the first foreigner to win the Nando’s Showdown, a stand-up comedy face-off in Johannesburg.

Opio was tempted to lay down roots and try to make a comedy career in Johannesburg but he learnt that the SA show he had written some jokes for on his earlier visit had been nominated for an international Emmy and its host, Trevor Noah, had moved to America to try his luck on a bigger stage.

Coming to America

Never short of confidence, Opio returned to Uganda, worked on a screenplay, looked for money and applied for a visa to America. Soon after, armed with a fistful of borrowed dollars and a suitcase of dreams, Opio landed in New York.

 In November 2014, Opio met Noah at the Comedy Cellar in New York, a popular venue for comedians trying to get into the business. Opio had had to cajole and beg a bouncer to let him in, and then cajoled some more to get a chance at the microphone.

They had never met but Noah had heard about Opio in the SA comedy circuit and they hit it off immediately, chatting from 8pm to 3am.

A few months later, Noah was handed The Daily Show, replacing Jon Stewart. Although Noah had, by that time, spent six years playing the stand-up circuit in America, it was a gamble by Comedy Central to put a foreign comedian with a distinctive accent (and who speaks six languages) in one of the most coveted late-night TV seats.

To add to the complexity, Noah decided to give the show a more global appeal, embracing diversity and bringing in writers who knew about American issues, but also about the world. Opio was hired as one of the writers.

What it is means for Opio

His impact was almost immediate, lampooning Donald Trump, then a long shot in the Republican primaries, as potentially America’s first African president in the mould of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin – but it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

Nightly ratings dropped as American audiences struggled to come to terms with the exotic humour and accents on the show. Fortuitously, Trump would become the gift that kept on giving and as he gained momentum in the presidential race, so did the show in the nightly ratings.

 In October 2016, just before the US election, The Daily Show was both the highest-rated and most-watched ad-supported late-night talk show among millennial men (both 18-34 and 18-24), the group Comedy Central most aggressively targets, according to The Hollywood Reporter, an entertainment website.
Joseph Opio left, and Trevor Noah at a game of football in New York.

Joseph Opio left, and Trevor Noah at a game of football in New York.

It has more non-white viewers and its overall viewership has become younger and more diverse, as it spreads out across platforms and geographical boundaries.

As the show rises, so have Opio’s fortunes; he paid off the loan within weeks of being hired and he describes living in Manhattan, where he rents an apartment, as “mind-blowing”.

We find a tiny table in the crowded restaurant and Opio orders a cappuccino. I order a draught beer. It is a popular pit stop for the workers on the show including Noah (he doesn’t show this evening) and Opio points out some of his fellow writers.

“Everyone at work has an Emmy,” he says, looking around the dimly-lit bar.

“Except the new guys.” It can only be a matter of time.

New developments and the future

Opio and his fellow writers on The Daily Show have been nominated for the 68th annual Writer’s Guild of America awards next month in the comedy category. Just joining the Guild is an achievement in itself, Opio says, pointing out that it has 300 members while the National Football League has 3,000 players.

“There is a higher statistical chance of joining the NFL than the Writer’s Guild.”

It is a long way from Kampala to Manhattan but Opio’s journey might still have some miles in it, from the east coast to Hollywood, with dreams of writing movies, screenplays and sitcoms. It is a journey with many stops and a constant loop of challenging oneself.

“That’s how you know that you are growing – when you look back at things you did a few months ago and you are embarrassed.”

Does he not worry about failing? About the career he turned his back to?

“If I can go and perform at the same club as Chris Rock and I am not laughed out of the place then I’ll take my chances,” he says. “If you are rejected at Barcelona you can always go back to Mamelodi Sundowns,” he adds in a football reference to the Spanish side and a smaller club in South Africa.

“My family has always been proud of me,” he adds suddenly, with introspection. “Being good in school helped, that’s probably why I have no self-doubt – it is something I’ve never had.”

He speaks a lot, and quickly, his mouth a wrestling arena between an American and a thick Ugandan accent. I ask if the Ugandan accent makes it easier for him to write jokes rather than perform them in stand-up comedy clubs.

“There are only two things Uganda has given me,” he says bursting out with laughter, “a bad accent and trouble at immigration…”

“Seriously though,” he adds, “As a Ugandan you have to fly just to get what an American gets by just walking. You already have an accent, so you have to make sense when you speak.”

I pick up the tab and we walk out into the crisp autumn night. We shake hands and I watch Opio as he walks towards the bright lights of mid-town Manhattan. It is not Fifth Avenue and there is no walking cane by his side but you can hear it in his accent when he talks; Joseph Opio is a Ugandan in New York. He’s hungry, ambitious and funny as hell.

Quick notes

Joseph Opio is a Ugandan now based in New York. He is the former host of the political satire talk show LOL Uganda since 2014.

Opio and his fellow writers on The Daily Show have been nominated for the 68th annual Writer’s Guild of America awards in February in the comedy category.

In November 2014, Opio met Noah at the Comedy Cellar in New York, a popular venue for comedians trying to get into the business.

Opio’s first break came during a visit to South Africa to attend a reception for the Late Night Show comedy.

*Monitor/Allafrica

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Star studded Kgalagadi Soul to tour SADC for workshops and performances
March 20, 2017 | 0 Comments

Kgalagadi Soul is a collaboration of three top artists – Mumba Yachi of Zambia, Sereetsi from Botswana and Austebza a South African. The trio has acquired a wealth of experience wowing their fans all over the world on big and small stages. Kgalagadi Soul will present a rich repertoire drawn from the trio’s individual projects using one international band comprising musicians from Congo (Nseka Bienvenu – guitar), South Africa (Bokang Kupa – keyboards), Zimbabwe (Leroy Nyoni – drums) as well as the USA (Terry Lewis – saxophone) that makes the tour a strong collaborative affair.

Music Workshops

Kgalagadi Soul will be doing workshops during the tour in cities they will be performing at to share their knowledge with young and aspiring musicians. The one-day workshops will be structured in this way:

Sereetsi whose 83 page four string folk guitar instructional book/CD has been approved by Botswana Education Ministry to be taught in schools, will be leading the workshops. He will be teaching the technique of playing a modern guitar on four strings. A tradition originally used by herdboys on a self-made tin guitar.

Mumba Yachi will be sharing his experiences in the international music business scene.

Austebza will also share her experiences as a performer, a session musician and a bandleader as a woman in the tough music industry.

The artists

MUMBA YACHI is a folk musician born in Mokambo, a border town with the DRC Congo. He developed interest in music at a tender age while listening to his mother singing in a church choir and his father playing his various records of African musicians

Mumba Yachi seriously involved with music after spending just one day at the university. He quit university to follow his music call. He has been active on the music scene since 2009 and has released four albums – I am Lenshina (1st May 2015), Mongu Rice (2013), Mokambo (2012) and Inspire Me (2010).

Mumba Yachi has won several awards in the Zambian music scene
including Best Traditional Album for his Mokambo album and Best Live Recording Album for I am Lenshina album. He has become a household name in Zambia and is considered the leading voice in traditional/folk music of his generation. He is also a UN Ambassador for Gender Equality.

He has already collaborated and shared the stage with a number of well known artists such as Femi Kuti, Mokoomba, Hugh Masekela, Joss Stone, Mama Sibongile Khumalo and Hope Masike. He recently shared the stage with Sereetsi and the Natives and Jonathan Butler in Gaborone.

SEREETSI has just won four awards out five nominations at the BOMU Awards 2016. He is considered a pioneer on the cultural landscape in Botswana. His 83 page guitar instructional book/CD on the local folk guitar tradition entitled The Solo Four String Guitar of Botswana is a groundbreaking first. He continues to present workshops on the folk guitar tradition in Botswana and internationally. His book has been assessed and approved for use in schools by Botswana’s education ministry.

Only over a year after the release of his debut album, Four String Confessions, the act has already shared stages with established names like Jonathan Butler, Oliver Mtukudzi, Caiphus Semenya, Jaziel Brothers, Letta Mbulu and McCoy Mrubata. Sereetsi is the first Botswana act to embark on a month-long tour of South African (2016).

Sereetsi has also played Chicago, USA, Planeta World Music Festival in Gothenburg, Sweden, the Mahika Mahikeng Jazz festival for two years in succession, Kgalagadi Jazz Festival and the Cultural Calabash Fest in Durban, South Africa. This is in addition to a busy festival and corporate gig schedule in Botswana. Among festivals Sereetsi & the Natives has played in Botswana are the Maun International Arts Festival, The Hamptons International Jazz Festival, Son of the Soil and the President’s Concert.

Born in Krugersdorp and bred between Boons and Mafikeng, AUSTEBZA is a vibrant, energetic, incredible musician. She started her music career after her parents couldn’t afford to pay her university fees, but she has always been involved in music throughout her middle and high school. She then went to join the music department at the Mmabana Cultural Centre in Mafikeng, where she learned how to play the acoustic guitar.

Austebza has just landed the musical directorship of Feather Awards 2016. She has also worked with various artists such as HHP, Gang of Instrumentals, Maxhoba., Wanda Baloyi, Swazi Dlamini, KB Motsilenyane. While working with these top musicians, Austebza managed to travel Nigeria, Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, USA, Germany, Namibia, Jamaica.

 

Her debut album, Make a Difference has been well received. She is constantly performing with her band around South Africa.

The Kgalagadi Soul Tour 2017 is supported by an ANT Funding Grant from Pro Helvetia Johannesburg financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Confirmed Shows

30 March – Pretoria – African Chef – Performance

31 March – Pretoria – Bentley’s Country Lodge

04 April – Gaborone – Maitisong Festival – Workshops and performance

05 April – Pretoria – Solomon Mahlangu Arts Centre

13 April – Kuruman – Kgalagadi Jazz Festival – Workshops

15 April – Kuruman – Kgalagadi Jazz Festival – Performance

02 May – Johannesburg – Wits School of Arts – Workshops

03 May – Pretoria – Tshwane School of Music – Workshops

17 May – Durban – UKZN Jazz Centre – Performance & workshops

More shows to be confirmed.

For Kgalagadi Soul Bookings and Media enquiries:

BakTu Musik
C: +27 83 750 5764
E: tumi@baktumusik.co.za
F: 086 692 0360
T: @BakTu_Musik
W: www.baktumusik.co.za

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The plucky African film industry defying the odds
February 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

By *

Thousands of miles from the glamour and riches of the Western film industry, determined filmmakers in Malawi are winning hearts and acclaim as they Make Mollywood.

Award-winning director Shemu Joyah at his editing desk. Credit: Lameck Masina.

Award-winning director Shemu Joyah at his editing desk. Credit: Lameck Masina.

As the film awards season heats up in the US and UK, Africa’s talents are once again hugely under-represented. Beyond some best actress nominations for Ethiopian-Irish Ruth Negga, there are few chances for the continent to add to Lupita Nyong’o’s sparkling successes from 2014.

However, away from the glitz and glamour of the red carpet and multi-billion-dollar Western film industry, African filmmakers continue to battle against tough odds to make ground-breaking pieces of work – not least in Malawi.

In this small southern African nation, there are hardly any opportunities for formal training in film production, few cinemas, and scant funding. Yet the film industry has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years as several local directors have taken it upon themselves to learn the necessary skills to tell their stories.

Moreover,the films that have been made in this fledgling ‘Mollywood’ industry have enjoyed wide acclaim.

Last year, for example, actress and director Joyce Chavula’s Lilongwe, an engaging thriller about a young woman haunted by her past, won the Best Southern Africa Movie Award at the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice film festival in Lagos – a first for Malawi. Meanwhile, Flora Suya’s My Mother’s Story, a personal story about the role and plight of women in African society, won a Special Recognition award at the Silicon Valley African Film Festival held in California.

 

These female artists were following in the footsteps of Malawi’s celebrated filmmaker Shemu Joyah, who had scooped another first for Malawi two years previously when his examination of the cultural clash between traditional African values and modernisation in The Last Fishing Boat won the Best Narrative Feature Film prize at the same awards. In 2008, his moving work about sexual abuse and justice in Malawi, Seasons of Life , had won six awards at various international film festivals.

Challenges in close-up

The successes of Malawi’s burgeoning film industry have been built on the back of the determination and sweat of those involved, and directors have often had to bring over trained technicians from neighbouring countries.

They have also required many sacrifices – including financially.

“To make a good film, you really need to have good money at your disposal,” says Joyah. “Here in Malawi to raise money to make a film is a big challenge…In the West…there are some institutions that are there to fund film productions. But unfortunately here in Malawi, we don’t have those institutions.”

Filmmakers like Joyah therefore have often had to fund their own films. This can be a considerable risk, especially given that it is difficult to make any returns on the finished product.

This was not always the case. From the early-1980s to mid-1990s, Malawi witnessed a sprouting of small video viewing shops in township and peri-urban market centres. These provided a highly popular way to watch films at a grassroots level, and by 1996, the country had 13 big cinema companies such as Apollo Cinema, Rainbow Cinema, and Queens Cinema.

However, a worsening economic situation, the proliferation of video rental stores, and later the rise of new technologies and the illegal pirating of films, made these models difficult to maintain.

“All the cinemas closed because people would rather sit in their homes watch films on their computer or even on their phones”, says Joyah. “This denied the filmmaker the ability to make proper revenue that he needs to sustain himself.”

Others, such as academic Mufunanji Magalasi, also point to the influx of foreign films – “whether it is from the British colonial films, moving to Hollywood, the injection of Chinese karate movies and of late the popular Nollywood video films” – as another factor hindering the growth of Malawi’s home-grown industry.

Meanwhile, Suya explains that even the rise of local television networks has not helped provide a viable space for Malawian films.

“I learnt that in some local TV stations, to have the movie screened you have to pay,” says the director. “In other countries it is done differently; you give out the movie and they pay you.”

A producer at a local network confirmed that this is the case, but said the reason is that most Malawian films are still of a poor quality, an observation with which Suya concurs.

“Some of the movies that we give them are not really something that people can sit down and watch for maybe two hours. So if we can improve, I am sure they’ll start loving us and embrace what we do.”

Making Mollywood

However, in the face of these difficulties, Malawi’s struggling directors are continuing to make critically-acclaimed works, and there are some efforts underway to help support the national industry.

For example in 2014, UNESCO launched a five-year project entitled Building a Viable and Sustainable Film industry in Malawi, aimed at creating a strategy for investment and development.

A year into the programme, the UN body explained that it had convened a meeting in which “Key players of the audiovisual industry from public institutions, civil society and cultural operators met to raise the main issues in the sector and elaborate a development plan”.

“Our project for Malawi’s film industry has led to the adoption of a whole new national cultural policy,” it stated.

Meanwhile, Ezaius Mkandawire, Chairperson for the Film Association of Malawi, says that the Malawian government has earmarked some funding  for the arts and, for example, allocated about $7 million to the Integrated Arts Development Fund.  But he emphasises that this is far from sufficient. “The unfortunate part is that the money is for the whole creative sector not only the film industry”, he says, adding that “we are dying for a scenario” in which there is comprehensive funding specifically for films.

Despite the difficulties, risks and relative lack of help though, Malawian filmmakers such as Chavula, Suya and Joyah have made Mollywood one of the most exciting film industries on the continent, attracting the attention of film festivals around Africa and beyond. As one looks across at the billions flowing around film industries in the West, one only wonders what would be possible with a fraction of that investment and support in Malawi.

*African Arguments.Lameck Masina is a Malawian journalist.

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Africa-America Institute Hosts Private Screening of A United Kingdom
February 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

-Kofi Appenteng, AAI CEO Moderates Panel Discussion with Director Amma Asante, Actor David Oyelowo and Ambassador Michelle Gavin at the Paley Center

New York, NY - 2/7/17 - Actor and Producer David Oyelowo, Former U.S. Ambassador Michelle Gavin, Director Amma Asante and AAI CEO and President Kofi Appenteng Discuss A United Kingdom and the stories of Africa's diaspora. - Photo by: Dave Allocca/Starpix -Location: The Paley Center for Media

New York, NY – 2/7/17 – Actor and Producer David Oyelowo, Former U.S. Ambassador Michelle Gavin, Director Amma Asante and AAI CEO and President Kofi Appenteng Discuss A United Kingdom and the stories of Africa’s diaspora. – Photo by: Dave Allocca/Starpix -Location: The Paley Center for Media

In advance of the US premiere of the critically acclaimed film A United Kingdom opening in select theaters February 10th, dignitaries from the African Diplomatic Corps, led by the UN Missions of Botswana, Nigeria and Ghana, along with special guests of the Africa-America Institute engaged in a panel discussion following a private screening at the Paley Center for Media in New York.  The panel featured comments on stories of the diaspora such as this feature about the captivating love story of Seretse and Ruth Khama and the geopolitical context that led to the independence of Botswana.

Gavin, who served as US Ambassador to Botswana during the Obama Administration, highlighted Botswana’s meteoric rise from the bottom to the top of every major development index following the powerful leadership of Seretse Khama, Botswana’s Founding President.
David Oyelowo stars as Khama and was also the Executive Producer of the film.  He spoke of his passion for the project and his commitment to elevating voices of the African Diaspora and the unique nuances achieved by Director Asante.
Rounding out the international panel, Amma offered insightful commentary on the byproduct of colonialism which rendered much of African history, secondary to that of the colonialists.  She recounted the surprise reception of Botswanans who were unfamiliar with the story of A United Kingdom which is based on true events and chronicled in the book Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and his Nation by Susan Williams.
Continuing AAI’s commitment to enlightened engagement between Africa and America, Appenteng capped the discussion sharing a reprint of a 1966 story and speech by Seretse Khama that was published by AAI in the Africa Report.  A copy of the report can be found at The New Republic of Botswana.

Founded in 1953, The Africa-America Institute (AAI) is a premier U.S.-based international organization that promotes enlightened engagement between Africa and America through education, dialogue and special events.  AAI is dedicated to strengthening human capacity of Africans and promoting the continent’s development through higher education and skills training, convening activities, program implementation and management.

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National Museum of African American History and Culture Opens Its Doors
September 24, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Marissa Melton*

The Washington Monument rises behind the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, Sept. 14, 2016.

The Washington Monument rises behind the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, Sept. 14, 2016.

“The timing of this is fascinating,” U.S. President Barack Obama told a group of about 750 guests Friday in the Grand Foyer of the White House, who were gathered to celebrate the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The crowd, many of whom were African American, laughed and applauded at the understatement.

The city of Charlotte, North Carolina, has been rocked by three nights of protests following the police shooting of a black man Tuesday. Also this week, a court in Tulsa County, Oklahoma, charged a white police officer with manslaughter after she fatally shot an unarmed black man last week.

Continuing his remarks, Obama said, “In so many ways, it is the best of times. But in many ways, these are also troubled times. History doesn’t always move in a straight line. And without vigilance, we can go backward as well as forward.”

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for a reception marking the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture at the White House in Washington, Sept. 23, 2016.

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for a reception marking the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture at the White House in Washington, Sept. 23, 2016.

The new museum, first proposed by a group of black Civil War veterans in 1915, officially opens Saturday in a central location on Washington’s National Mall — among war memorials and cultural institutions, with a clear sight line to the U.S. Capitol.

“My hope is that, as people are seeing what’s happened in Tulsa or Charlotte on television, and perhaps are less familiar with not only the history of the African-American experience, but also how recent some of these challenges have been, upon visiting the museum may step back and say, ‘I understand. I sympathize. I empathize. I see why folks might feel angry and I want to be part of the solution, as opposed to resisting change,’ ” the president said.

Weekend of celebration

Obama concluded his remarks to a crowd full of African-American luminaries that included music producer Quincy Jones, basketball star Kobe Bryant and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates: “When I imagine children — white, black, Latino, Native American — wandering through that museum … my hope is that this complicated, difficult, sometimes harrowing but, I believe, ultimately triumphant story, will help us talk to each other … and recognize the common humanity that makes America what it is.”

FILE - A statue of the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute is on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Sept. 14, 2016.

FILE – A statue of the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute is on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Sept. 14, 2016.

Friday’s White House reception — attended by many of the museum’s contributors — was the kickoff event in a weekend of festivities, as the museum opens its doors and throws an outdoor festival as well, to accommodate overflow crowds.

Nicholas Lorenz has been anticipating the opening for a long time.

“I heard about the museum before they broke ground, and we have been following their Facebook page for two or three years,” Lorenz said of himself and his wife, both educators based in Miami, Florida. “We got tickets through the [museum] website the morning they were made available. We got 24 tickets of the 30,000 they made available that day. Apparently, they all sold out within 45 minutes, so we feel lucky!”

The Lorenzes are a mixed-race couple: he is white, and his wife, Liz, is biracial. The distinction is “irrelevant” now, they say, but it would have been illegal in the United States just a few decades ago. To children of today, that part of history may seem unthinkable.

Painful past

Many of the stories in the museum are difficult to think about.

The lowest level of the museum deals with the arrival of Africans in North America — as slaves. Generations of blacks remained in bondage to white farmers for more than two centuries, and the racial divide that system created resonated throughout the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the Black Lives Matter movement that has sprung up in response to conflicts between white police officers and black civilians today.

FILE - A pair of slave shackles are on display in the Slavery and Freedom Gallery in the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture during the press preview on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Sept. 14, 2016.

FILE – A pair of slave shackles are on display in the Slavery and Freedom Gallery in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture during the press preview on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Sept. 14, 2016.

The museum’s founding director, Lonnie Bunch, has been on the job since 2005 and had a part in deciding the museum’s look: dark bronze-colored layers of metal, in contrast to the white Greek Revival structures that dominate the National Mall.

Bunch has said the building should reflect the troubled past the museum describes.

“I wanted a darker building,” he told the New Yorker magazine in April. “There’s always been a dark presence in America that people undervalue, neglect, overlook. I wanted this building to say that.”

The museum’s very location is a reminder of the dark past. While the National Mall, home to more than half of Washington’s Smithsonian museums, is known as “America’s front yard,” it was also once home to slave pens, where human beings of African origin were held like cattle to be bought and sold.

Upward and outward

Due to height limits designed to preserve views of all the monuments, 60 percent of the museum is underground.

Visitors start in the basement, with the ugly history of the slavery era. As they advance to higher floors, the story grows more uplifting, although still fraught with conflict.

FILE - Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks' dress is on display in the concourse galleries at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall Sept. 14, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

FILE – Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks’ dress is on display in the concourse galleries at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall Sept. 14, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

The narrative of upward movement is reflected in the architecture designed by British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye. The building appears to rise from the ground, with exterior panels opening upward and outward toward the blue sky.

Upper levels tell the story of the Civil Rights Movement, when the federal government finally passed laws allowing blacks the same legal rights as whites.

Despite slavery being outlawed in 1864, it took a century for blacks to achieve full legal rights with whites in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Supreme Court decision removing barriers to interracial marriage, the issue that the Lorenzes might have faced, did not happen until 1967.

The top level of the museum, where light pours in and visitors can see a sweeping view of the Mall and the monuments, is a showcase for African-American art.

The Smithsonian Institute has other museums dedicated to American art and African art, but here, the mingled cultures are allowed to shine together.

The museum also features thousands of artifacts from famous African Americans and everyday citizens. There are so many pieces that the museum plans to exhibit them on a rotating basis.

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey, ranked by Forbes magazine as No. 21 of the world’s richest women, is a major donor to the museum, contributing not only $20 million from her charitable foundation, but also a pair of slave shackles from the mid-1800s, donated from her private collection of artifacts.

Ironically, the collection also includes a pair of handcuffs used in the arrest of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, who was arrested outside his own home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2009 by an officer mistakenly assuming Gates was a burglar.

FILE - A statue of pioneer Clara Brown, who was born a slave in Virginia around 1800, is on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Sept. 14, 2016.

FILE – A statue of pioneer Clara Brown, who was born a slave in Virginia around 1800, is on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Sept. 14, 2016.

Other artifacts in the collection include:

  • Several items from a sunken slave ship excavated off the coast of South Africa.
  • An entire slave cabin, originally found on Edisto Island in South Carolina.
  • A hymnal and silk shawl owned by Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who led hundreds of other escaped slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad.
  • The glass-topped casket used to display and bury the body of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American whose racially motivated torture and murder in 1955 touched off the Civil Rights Movement.
  • A dress belonging to Rosa Parks, the woman who started the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the first acts of mass civil disobedience during the civil rights era.
  • A PT-13D Stearman biplane trainer aircraft used by the U.S. Army Air Corps to train the Tuskegee Airmen, the nation’s first black military flying unit.
  • A trumpet played by jazz legend Louis Armstrong.
  • A Cadillac convertible that belonged to rock ‘n’ roll singer Chuck Berry.
  • Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves.
  • A collection of costumes from the Broadway show “The Wiz.”
  • A pair of size 22 tennis shoes owned by basketball star Shaquille O’Neal.

FILE - Chuck Berry's 1973 Cadillac Eldorado is on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Sept. 14, 2016.

FILE – Chuck Berry’s 1973 Cadillac Eldorado is on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Sept. 14, 2016.

While the story the museum tells is often difficult and sometimes painful, Obama and museum founding director Bunch say the story of black Americans is relevant to all Americans.

Museum-goer Lorenz believes that, as well.

He says understanding the black experience is crucial to understanding what the United States is, even if some of the lessons it teaches are painful for whites to consider.

“This is an essential and foundational aspect of our shared culture and history,” he said. “We welcome the opportunity to engage with all of it — the good and the bad. White guilt and white fragility have kept us from knowing our history for too long as it is.”

More importantly, Lorenz says, ignoring history bars the way to progress. “Naming our history and fully facing its implications is the only way forward.”

*VOA

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Igbo Language Gains Currency In USA
September 22, 2016 | 2 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Ngozi Noblin Angel

Ngozi Noblin Angel

As the Community College of Baltimore County(CCBC) in the state of Maryland gets ready to start Igbo classes on October 1,2016, there is progress in getting more Colleges across the USA to introduce Igbo into their curriculum says Noblin Ngozi Angel.

Noblin Ngozi Angel, the reigning Miss Igbo USA 2016-2017, is putting her beauty and brains to work with a mission to get American Colleges add the Igbo language and culture on their curriculum. Expressing satisfaction that her proposal to the CCBC was accepted, Ngozi is doubling her efforts to get more Colleges to follow suit.

This is just the beginning says Noblin Ngozi, who is also a Model, actress, and a medical student. The Igbo language is spoken by millions of people in Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea and with fears from UNESCO that the language might go extinct, Ngozi believes that this must not be allowed to happen.

Ms. Ngozi, a few weeks ago there was word out Igbo classes will be taught at the Baltimore Community College, can you confirm this and what role did you play in the process?

It’s actually Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), It’s different from Baltimore Community College, although I’m working towards establishing the Igbo class in Baltimore Community College. But the two colleges are different colleges. Yes, it’s absolutely true that Igbo class will be taught in this college (Community College of Baltimore County) and other America colleges I’m working towards establishing Igbo language and culture class in America colleges. The role I played is that I’m a 22 years old young lady who’s driving the force of establishing Igbo classes in America colleges. I write and edit my proposals and send it to the world language chairperson of these Colleges after I might have spoken to them on the phone or face to face meeting.

For instance, for the CCBC, I spoke to the World language chairperson, she scheduled a meeting with me, at the meeting, she interviewed me, which afterwards she requested I send her a proposal and the class description, learning objectives and topics that will be covered. I sent everything to her within few days, which she went over, after some weeks I got a call and email congratulating me and breaking the good news that after a very carefully examining my proposal, my interview and the passion for my Igbo community and after reviewing other documents I submitted, which she and the school administration requested of me that the college administration have decided to offer Igbo language and culture class in their college.

What are some of the arguments you used in convincing the College authorities to consider Igbo as a course?

14388934_712531402217903_1090065912_nLike I said earlier, I was interviewed the first day I met the World Language Chairperson of the College. She asked me to tell her everything about the Igbo language and why I have so much passion in establishing such language in their college.

I told her everything she needed to know about the Igbos’. When I was talking about the Igbos,’ I mentioned Nigeria as a country, because there is no way you would talk about the Igbos,’ and never mention Nigeria as a country, I mean when you look at the developing sectors of Nigeria over the years, you will agree with me that the Igbos’ have played a great role in contributing to the development of Nigeria as a country. I told her that foreigners come into Nigeria for different purposes, with entrepreneurship as one of the purposes thereby making Nigeria one of the countries that has so much to offer to the world, making Nigeria a great part of the world, and it will be just right to learn and understand one of the main languages that is used for communication in Nigeria, which is Igbo language.

Not just the language, but the culture. We all know how much culture is of great influence in every sector of our lives. I also went further to let the World language chairperson of the college know that not only will  establishing an Igbo class  be beneficial to the foreigners, but also to Nigerians, especially of Igbo descent who were born and raised in America, who don’t know how to communicate (write, read and speak) Igbo language or know the Igbo culture, I made her realize that there are so many Igbo descents born and raised in Southwestern and North central Nigeria, which is the Yorubaland, who have lost touch with their Igbo culture and language.

These Igbo descents born and raised in the Southwestern and North central Nigeria or in the Diaspora forget their own language and culture adapting that of the Yoruba and that of the white mans,’ and as such the Igbo language and culture is going to an extinct. I made her realize that there are so many Africa-Americans who are married to Nigerians, especially Igbos and some Africa-Americans that have found their ancestry home traced back to the Igbos; so it will be wise if we establish Igbo language and culture class, whereby  Nigeria descent and other ethnic groups will come together and learn the Igbo language, not just the language but the culture because Linguistic isn’t only about the language, but the culture as well and other things that sums up the totality of a certain people, which in this context is the Igbos’ and the Nigerians as a whole. 

Can you situate the significance of the Igbo language for us, many people know that it is spoken by a one part of Nigeria, why should people be curious about learning the language?

14388897_712531695551207_1534530616_ncorrection- Igbo language is spoken by millions of people in Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. Like I mentioned earlier- Igbo people have made a great impact in every sector of the Nigeria. People from different walks of life come to Nigeria for different purposes, so it will be great if Igbo language, which happens to be one of the languages spoken in Nigeria, is taught so people will be able to communicate with Igbo people in Nigeria and other parts of the world where Nigerians are suited. Now let’s talk about Igbo people born and raised in America and Diaspora as a whole- There are Igbo descents who were born and raised in America, who don’t know how to communicate (write, read and speak) in Igbo language. Some of them only know only a little part of the Igbo culture, I made her realize that there are so many Igbo descent born and raised in Southwestern and North central part of Nigeria, which is the Yorubaland, and tend to forget their own language and culture adapting that of the Yoruba people and as such the Igbo language and culture is going to an extinct. I’m a young lady born and raised in Igbo part of Nigeria, and relocating to the US, I realized that I have so much work to do in re-connecting my Igbo brothers and sisters born and raised in America with their culture and their language.

I want to let my brothers and sisters and the rest of the world realize that Igbos’ are not welcomed anywhere around the world even in their own country Nigeria, this is because Igbos’ are not owning their culture and language. I mean let’s think about it, the Igbos’ are not represented well in the Nigeria government, there are not enough Igbo representatives in the senate or any aspect of governmental positions in Nigeria, only little money is being spent on the Igbos’, etc, which led to the raise of Republic of Biafra, which in turn lead to the raise of Nigeria Civil-war, and as such the conflict between the Nigeria Federal government and the Igbo people in Nigeria. I want Igbo people born and raised in America and Diasporas to re-connect with their culture and language thereby nurturing the younger leaders of tomorrow who will take up the creation of peace and unity between the Igbos’ and the Nigeria Federal government thereby bringing peace, unity and a great development to the country Nigeria.

Furthermore, there are so many Africa-Americans that have found their ancestry home traced back to the Igbos; so it will be wise to establish Igbo language and culture class whereby the African-Americans will learn the language and culture of their ancestry home. African-Americans, Americans and other ethnic groups that have spouses from Igbo part of Nigeria will be comfortable with communicating with their in-laws and establish a longer relationship with the culture of their in-laws, which will create a healthy relationship and the passage of Igbo language and culture to their children.

About the course proper, how is it structured, do you have competent staff in place and any idea on the student intake for the course so far?

 The course is held every Fall, Winter, Summer and Spring depending on the college. But in Community College of Baltimore the course will be starting October 1st 2016. And will be held every Winter and Summer starting from next year 2017. But I believe other colleges will be starting Spring 2017 as I’m still on the process of establishing the class with the college administration and their various World language departments.  And yes, I have very competent staff in place for every America College that I’m working towards establishing the Igbo language and culture class. The student will have to register with the different colleges, and again depending on the colleges, a certificate or credit will be awarded after the completion of the course.

For instance, CCBC, which will be starting the Igbo class on October 1st 2016, students, will be given a Continuing Education Certificate after the completion. Also, the students will be part of my organization, which nurtures Young adults and professional for the movement of Igbo language and culture, which re-connects Young adults and Professionals of Igbo descent with their language and culture and strengthens them to establish the Igbo people including their parents to have a stronger relationship and better understanding with the Nigeria government , this will help develop leadership qualities in this Young adults and Professionals thereby preparing them to creating a better Nigeria, will take time, but I believe with the younger leaders like me coming closer with our language, origin/heritage, history and culture Igbo community and Nigeria as a country will be a great nation.

What has been the reaction of the Nigerian Community to this development?

 Not a lot of people know about this. I’m a young lady that doesn’t believe in too much noise, rather in action. So, not every Nigerians knows me or about this development because I’m not shouting it to the world, I’m truly dedicated to serving my community and I’m doing it and it’s becoming a reality, so just that is enough for me.

14384068_712532068884503_2089637852_n The accomplishment of this mission of establishing Igbo class in America colleges, whereby people from walks of life will learn about my culture and language and the Igbo descents re-connects with their origin-the language and culture is all I need. Like I said, not everyone is aware of this, but so many Nigerians and Non-Nigerians that are aware of  this are so excited and proud of me, especially the Igbo people who understands what this means. This means that we are sure that Igbo language will not die off by the year 2025 as predicted by UNESCO. This shows that Igbo language will never go  extinct.

This shows that the Igbo culture which is gradually being devalued because of civilization will be revived. This means that there will be an understanding relationship between the Igbo people and the Nigeria Federal government, which will bring peace and understanding to the country thereby creating a great nation. So because of this and more, Nigerians are very proud of me, and I’m proud of my people as well.

My mother is super proud of me. My uncle who is an Igbo professor in Nigeria is so super excited because I carried on his legacy. He was scared I would forget my Igbo language and culture when I relocate to the US like so many young people like me do, but I never wished to forget my culture and language because that will be denying my identity- And denying my identity will be lying to myself, which is the greatest harm anyone could do to his/herself. My family members and close friends are very excited.

You are also a model, and actress, can you share the career you have had so far with us?

 I’m not only a model and an actress. I’m also a student in the medical field. The model and actress aspect of my life has been great. And my career as a model and actress has been wonderful because in this career I have traveled and met so many people from all walks of life. From my career as an actress, I have featured in America TV shows, such as Investigation Discovery Show, House of Cards, Outrage and so much more, and also I have featured in couple of Africa films. For my Modeling career, (Laughs), growing up as a child I never saw myself as a model because I’m not tall and don’t have that figure or shape of that of a supposed model. So I never had so much interest in modeling as I had in acting. But as I got into acting, so many people including my mother told me that I could be a model. So, when I realized that there’s more to beauty than your physical appearance, I decided to go into the modeling world. And with the recent change in the modeling industry whereby there’s something for every size and shape, I walked into the modeling industry and I must say it’s been amazing. I have worked with so many American and African designers and I’m grateful to God, for his grace upon my life.

As reigning Miss Igbo America what other activities will you be working on for the rest of your term?

As I mentioned earlier on, I’m the CEO/Founder of an Organization called, “Igbo Amaka Cultural Organization, which has an Igbo institution incorporated into it. I just started this organization, and so far I and my team have been doing an amazing work through the mercy of God in establishing the Igbo culture and language, making sure that Igbo language does not go  extinct as predicated by UNESCO, which predicted in 2012 that Igbo language will be going on an extinct at 2025 if nothing is not done. As the first and current MISS. IGBO AMERICA and as a community leader, I will fight with all my strength to make sure that Igbo language will not go on an exile and that the Igbo culture is revived.

14398044_712531405551236_1055036951_nAlso towards the rest of my term, I’m organizing a medical mission alongside the organization “Igbo Queens & Kings America,”  the  organizers of the Ms. Igbo America pageant I won. We are organizing a medical mission to Nigeria. So, I thought about creating a one week medical mission in one of the Igbo states in Nigeria, which I presented to the Organization (Igbo Queens and Kings America) and they accepted, so right now we are working so hard to get sponsors and funds for the medical mission.

So far, we have picked one Igbo state we will be doing the medical mission, for now we will be doing one Igbo state because of fund and time, however, the medical mission will last for one week. As a Future Medical doctor, I have so much passion in helping to improve the healthcare system in Nigeria, which so many people don’t understand including Peace Corps that Nigeria healthcare system needs so much attention, especially in the rural areas.

When no one wants to stand and speak for my people, I will work hard and speak up for my people. Even after my term as Miss. IGBO AMERICA, with the establishment of my organization I will be recruiting Young adults and Professionals for medical mission to Nigeria, and as a young Igbo lady, we will start with Igbo state. Every year we will organize a medical mission in one Igbo state and then we will take it to the other ethnic groups in Nigeria.

Thanks for talking to PAV

Thanks, for this interview. I appreciate it!

 

 

 

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A United Kingdom: The interracial marriage that made front page news
September 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Tim Masters*

Before she began working on her new film A United Kingdom, Amma Asante had never heard of Seretse Khama.

A United Kingdom stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike

A United Kingdom stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike

Now she’s bringing his story to the big screen and hopes it will illuminate a seemingly forgotten part of British post-war history.

In 1947, Seretse Khama, an African prince training to be a lawyer in London, met and fell in love with Ruth Williams, an English bank clerk.

But their interracial relationship and plans to wed and return to Seretse’s native Bechuanaland (modern Botswana) was greeted by fierce family and political opposition.

“We absolutely admit that none of us knew about this story before it came to us in the form of this project,” says the film’s director Amma Asante.

“Ten years ago financiers were saying we don’t make period projects about unknown people – they wanted Mozarts and Churchills and people that you knew about.

“But that’s been changing over the last few years and film is being allowed to expose stories that people haven’t heard of and audiences are proving that that interests them.”

The project was brought to Asante by David Oyelowo, who plays Seretse in A United Kingdom opposite Rosamund Pike as Ruth.

Introducing the film to the audience at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it had its world premiere, Asante described Seretse and Ruth as “people who held onto life with both hands”.

The film, she added, showed “the fall out that happened when they fell in love”.

Asante expands on the subject when we meet in a Toronto bar the following day.

“Someone described Seretse and Ruth as the Burton and Taylor of their time,” she laughs.

“She was this fashionable creature in these little black suits and he had this trilby hat. They were front page news.”

Based on Susan Williams’ book Colour Bar, A United Kingdom portrays how opposition to Seretse and Ruth’s marriage went much wider than their immediate families.

Amma Asante with David Oyelowo

Amma Asante with David Oyelowo

The South African government – about to introduce apartheid – could not tolerate the idea of an interracial couple ruling a neighbouring country.

It pressured Britain to stop the union by threatening to cut off the supplies of the uranium and gold Britain needed for its nuclear programme and to rebuild its post-war economy.

‘Highly politicised’

Asante, who grew up in south London as the child of Ghanaian immigrants, welcomes the number of other films on this year’s festival circuit – such as The Birth of a Nation and Loving – that examine racial prejudice from a historical perspective.

“We are in highly politicised times,” she says.

“America is just coming out of a period where it had its first black president and it might be about to vote in its first woman president.

“Britain just voted itself out of Europe. Some people said it had nothing to do with xenophobia, some people say it did.

“In these highly politicised times you get polarisation. There is very little in the middle. At that time the job of the film-maker is to reflect society and the conversations that are going on.

“A really tangible way to explore politics is through race.”

It was important to Asante that the African scenes were filmed in Botswana. She used some of the actual locations associated with Seretse and Ruth, such as the house where they first lived.

“We had to put the house back together, literally. It was a derelict shell,” she recalls.

“We recreated the looks of the rooms through old photographs. The hospital in the scene where Ruth gives birth to their baby is the actual hospital where Seretse was born.”

How well is the story known in Botswana?

“Not as well as I thought,” says Asante. “But I’m going to get lashed on Twitter from people saying ‘you didn’t get this right, you didn’t get that right’.

“But, in the way that [Asante’s previous film] Belle is now taught in schools, I hope this will also make a difference too, across Africa.”

_91202706_image1Seretse died in 1980, having been Botswana’s first president since 1966. Ruth, who had been the First Lady of Botswana until her husband’s death, died in 2002.

As our interview comes to an end, Asante reveals that Seretse’s grandson had attended the premiere the previous night.

Furthermore, Seretse’s son, Ian Khama, is now the fourth elected president of Botswana.

“We were in conversation with the president while we were making the film as well as many family members,” says Asante. “They certainly didn’t tell us the kind of film to make.”

She recalls how President Khama arrived in his helicopter while they were filming in a village.

“I remember him looking out of the corner of his eye at Rosamund and David and saying, ‘It’s really weird to see your parents coming back to life’.”

A United Kingdom opens in the UK on 25 November and will open the London Film Festival on 5 October.

*BBC

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Meet Anna Mwalagho, the “Mama Africa” of Washington ,DC
July 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L*

Anna Mwalagho

Anna Mwalagho

Hosting an African or diaspora themed event in Washington, DC, and need someone to create a feel good moment with your audience to set the right tempo? Well, Kenyan born poet,author, and singer Anna Mwalagho may be the person you need.

From the launching of the African House which hosts the African Union in Washington, DC, to a meeting of the African diaspora at the White House, and a forum of the Democratic National Committee, Anna Mwalagho has carved a veritable niche for herself with her brand of poetry.

Her sketches will make you feel good in affirming your African heritage, there will remind you of the amazing leadership role women play in the continent, or jolt your conscience on the very surmountable challenges that the continent faces. Far from just jokes, Anna’s sketches are a blend of education, information, tales of courage, resilience ,African self believe, and entertainment woven into one.

With her growing fame, Anna remains firmly grounded and conscious of her origins. In a recent interview, Anna said it has been a bumpy ride working her way to the top. Whereas she had already built quite a big following and name for herself in Kenya, Anna toiled hard to make the same name when she moved to the USA and her resilience eventually paid off.

Anna Mwalagho on stage with her band

Anna Mwalagho on stage with her band

The cultural shock she went through, and which is identifiable with most other African immigrants is sometimes turned into humorous sketches .In addition to the poetic work, Anna is also into music and plays with her own band. With the band dubbed as Afrofloetry, Anna has shared the scene with African music legends like Hugh Masekela and Oliver Mtukudzi from Zimbabwe.

Notable dignitaries Anna has entertained include, African Union Chair Dlamini Zuma, Noble Prize Winner Wangari Maathi, Actors Forest Whitaker, and Louis Gosset Jr amongst others.

57102Africa could benefit more with stronger support and participation of its diaspora, Anna said. Caught in the political excitement created by Hillary Clinton’s giant strides towards becoming the first female elected President of the USA, Anna Mwalagho said the world must be reminded that African women are all leaders with all they go through to serve as the source of livelihood for their families.

Contacts for bookings: bookanna@gmail.com, Tel:703-899-5549

 

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