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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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Kenyan band takes Afro-pop music worldwide
June 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ilya Gridneff*

In this photo taken Wednesday, April 6, 2016, members of the Kenyan music group Sauti Sol, from left to right, Bien-Aime Baraza, Savara Mudigi, and Willis Austin Chimano, perform at an event in Nairobi, Kenya. Not many musicians can boast they’ve made President Barack Obama get up and groove to their tunes but Kenyan band Sauti Sol did just that with their mix of Afro-pop, soul and R&B, which has won a number of international awards. (Ben Curtis/Associated Press)

In this photo taken Wednesday, April 6, 2016, members of the Kenyan music group Sauti Sol, from left to right, Bien-Aime Baraza, Savara Mudigi, and Willis Austin Chimano, perform at an event in Nairobi, Kenya. Not many musicians can boast they’ve made President Barack Obama get up and groove to their tunes but Kenyan band Sauti Sol did just that with their mix of Afro-pop, soul and R&B, which has won a number of international awards. (Ben Curtis/Associated Press)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Not many musicians can boast they’ve made U.S. President Barack Obama get up and groove to their tunes. But Kenya’s Afro-pop band, Sauti Sol, did just that.

Obama, whose father hails from a village in western Kenya, put his heritage on full display at a state dinner in Kenya last July when he boogied down to the traditional Lipala dance that the band revived with their hit song “Sura Yako.”

“Singing and dancing with the world’s most powerful man was incredible,” said Bien-Aime Baraza, a vocalist for the four-man band. “He really was feeling us. It was wonderful for Kenya.”

A savvy mix of catchy tunes, appealing looks and social media promotion has brought success to Sauti Sol, Swahili for voices in the sun. The band has worked to make traditional East African music cool again, said Rand Pearson, who runs Nairobi’s hip monthly, UP Magazine.

“I first remember seeing Sauti Sol in a dingy Nairobi club 10 years ago. My first impression was that finally there it was, a modern pop version of Kenyan music,” he said, crediting the band’s growth internationally to “visionary management, styling and its ever-evolving musical talent.”

Sauti Sol’s have won a number of international awards including the All African Music Awards Best African Group in 2015 and MTV’s Best African Act.

Pop music is big in Africa, where there are more than 200 million in the 15-to-24 year age group. It is also big business. The entertainment and media industries of Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya together will grow to be worth $24 billion in 2018, according to a 2014 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The band recently toured Kenya and performed in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique.

In November last year Sauti Sol launched their latest album “Live and Die in Afrika” free on their website, the first Kenyan album to be released online. The demand was so high that the site crashed and soon it was offered on the website of Safaricom, East Africa’s biggest mobile-phone operator with more than 25 million subscribers.

“This is testament to the fact that an increasing number of users in this market are using high speed data connectivity to access a whole new world of entertainment,” said Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom,

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta booked the band for his inauguration in 2013. “He definitely likes our music. We’ve even played at his last private birthday party,” said Savara Mudigi, drummer, vocalist and producer for the band.

The band, whose members grew up in modest conditions in Nairobi, are now gaining fame across the continent. Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama invited Sauti Sol to play at the West African country’s national holiday in March.

Social media is one of the main driving forces propelling Sauti Sol to African and worldwide audiences, according to band manager Marek Fuchs.

“Cheaper handsets and data plans have allowed the fans to be continuously in touch with the group and we strive to give them a dynamic and interactive story to follow every day,” he said.

Sauti Sol has a dedicated social media team who, along with the band members themselves, run campaigns on Twitter and Facebook, competitions on Instagram, instrument tutorials, Q&As and behind-the-scenes snippets on Snapchat and YouTube.

“We also have to adjust our strategy to fit the local context, language and time zones. It is a balancing act between posting for our traditional Kenyan base, our pan-African and worldwide fan base in different time zones,” he said.

Willis Austin Chimano, a vocalist, said this strategy is new for Africa.

“You’ve got to get with the times. More and more Africans are online, on their phones, using social media and that’s where we are,” he said.

Despite their international successes Sauti Sol remain with their feet firmly on Kenyan soil. The band members say their latest album is an ode to loving and loathing the good and bad of Kenya and the continent.

 

*Source AP/Washington Post

 

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The rising stars of a $31 billion industry
May 24, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Nosmot Gbadamosi*

160513163452-fashion-cities-africa-8-exlarge-169African fashion has always been known for its daring use of color, from acid oranges to luminous blues. When Michelle Obama wore a top by Nigerian designer Maki Oh during her Africa tour in 2013, it was assumed the world’s eyes were finally on the continent as a serious contender for fashion’s emerging markets.

Now, a new exhibition and book explore fashion and street style in four major African cities – Johannesburg, Casablanca, Lagos and Nairobi.
“I wanted to capture a sense of the breadth and scope of the African fashion Renaissance through the prism of these four cities,” says the book’s editor, Hannah Azieb Pool.
“Lagos, with its love of glamor, is turning into a real fashion powerhouse, Joburg has that edge that makes London look sleepy, Nairobi is super creative and Casablanca’s scene is small but distinctive.”
Fashion Cities Africa, which the book is named after, will be the first major exhibition of contemporary African fashion to be showcased in the U.K.
Sub-saharan Africa’s apparel and footwear market is reportedly worth $31 billion according to data byEuromonitor. Labels such as Nigeria’s Maki Oh – recently worn by Beyonce, Jewel By Lisa and Ikiré Jones are establishing themselves as international brands beyond the continent.
Kenya-based designers like Adele Dejak, Anthony Muli and Ami Doshi “are re-framing what it means to be an ‘African’ designer”, explains Pool. “They constantly make beautiful jewelry and accessories that challenge the notion that Africa ‘doesn’t do luxury'”, she adds.
160518130534-fashion-cities-africa-23-exlarge-169How do Africa’s trendsetters compete with the runways of Milan, New York and Paris? Annual events such as Lagos Fashion Week, launched in 2011, provide opportunities for burgeoning talents to present their work to larger markets says Adebayo Oke-Lawal.
He is the designer behind Orange Culture, an androgynous Lagos based street wear brand. Oke-Lawal’s self-funded debut at Lagos Fashion Week led to his nomination as one of 30 designers for the LVMH prize in 2014.
“Africa is making huge strides in being able to provide a sustainable offering to the fashion industry”, says Oke-Lawal. “People are more willing to support upcoming brands and designers — the Bank of Industry and NEPC for example. Manufacturing has also rapidly improved”, he adds, “textile factories are popping up.”
In South Africa, Tanzanian-born Anisa Mpungwe is behind womenswear label Loin Cloth & Ashes. She became the first black woman to win the Elle New Talent Award in 2008. “My views, conflicts and triumphs affect how I conceptualize my clothes. I am modern, liberal and outspoken in one hand but will still kneel when greeting my elders, a custom I never want to rub off. I see Loin Cloth & Ashes story in the same light,” says Mpugwe.

Unapologetic attitude

160513170529-fashion-cities-africa-11-exlarge-169Mpugwe believes the continent is “not afraid of patterns and colors, that’s the one thing that we do in our sleep, so we use it to be louder amongst our foreign friends”.
Describing Johannesburg’s street style, she says being politically aware about race and sexuality is key: “There is an unapologetic attitude and sense of pride in identity, whether condoned or not”.
For those thinking of getting clothes made in Africa, Pool has collated useful advice within the book on navigating its sprawling markets.
“Avoid Senegalese tailors in Abidjan. Things are rushed, and not well finished”, according to Nairobi writer Binyavanga Wainaina, “Lagos tailors are the best when you need simple [things] done well and fast – even in front of you. Carry photos and clear drawings of what you need”.
*CNN.‘Fashion Cities Africa’ by Hannah Azieb Pool (Intellect Press) is out now and the exhibition atBrighton Museum & Art Gallery in the U.K. runs through January 2017.
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P-Square crisis: Peter Okoye unveils new stage name, management
March 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

 

Peter Okoye

Peter Okoye

Confirming the breakup between Africa’s pop duo, P-Square, one-half of the talented entertainers, Peter Okoye of P-square has officially unveiled his new stage name as MrP and contact details of his new management.

Peter who now preferred to be called MrP, made the revelation about his change of name and management on his official Twitter account on Monday .

Recall that Peter recently performed in Dubai with the new stage name, Mr P.

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From Motivational Speaker to Author, Oliver Asaah hits the music circuit
March 9, 2016 | 0 Comments

-Debut Album launch set for March 26, 2016 in Bowie,MD

By Ajong Mbapndah L

12742656_10209051099663136_5689792197075527808_nBuilding on his motivational speaking and book writing prowess, Oliver Asaah is taking his creative genius a notch higher with the imminent launch of his debut album titled “Life is Not a Given.” Music has always been part of me says Oliver as he talks passionately about preparations for his album launch on March 2016 in Bowie,MD, books and post album projects

Mr. Oliver Asaah, we understand you are launching your maiden album later in March; can you introduce the album and its contents for us?

The album goes under the name Oliver T. Asaah (Minka Systems). Minka Systems is a band in the making. The title of the album is: “Life Is Not A Given”. The album is diversified in music genres and it has eight tracks plus three instrumentals with philosophical ideas and proverbs. The Minka Systems is part of my Triple Plate organization; Wealth Pool Industries. Minka Systems is the music arm, Minka Series is the writing arm and Minka Inspire is the speaking, training and coaching arm. I realized that in life, you never really get satisfaction until you do the things that are your strength and passion. That’s why I went back to my core talents (speaking, writing and music), after doing so many activities in life.

May be a story will drive the message home. I started my public speaking in secondary school as Master of Ceremony and others. In 1996, I was the Douala Chapter general secretary and also the National General Secretary of Seat of Wisdom Ex-students Association (SWESA). The college was celebrating its 30th anniversary that year and I was slotted to deliver a keynote at the symposium. The topic was: “How to meet SWESANS out of college”. A lot of ex-students were not active in SWESA. When I examined the topic, I realized that it could be interpreted in two ways: what can we do to meet SWESANS out of college or what does meeting SWESANS out of college means to us? I decided to choose the former interpretation to bring ideas on how to encourage and attract more SWESANs to participate in the association. If more SWESANs were engaging in the association, it would give more meaning to the latter interpretation.

Anyway, I delivered a landmark speech at that event. When it was time for questions and answers and observations from the big and diversified audience, Mr. Joseph Nkwokro Nojang of blessed of memory was second to take the floor and was in awe of the ideas in the speech. Then a setback came from Miss Gen Dube, the able principal of the college at the time. In her words which I remember like yesterday she stated: “Oliver, that was a great speech, but I am afraid the college students sitting there did not quite get your message; the level was a little too high for them”. I hit my chest and that remark shaped my future speaking engagements. Remember, I had just graduated from law school. After that day, I always size up my audience and that determines my choice of words and expressions in my speaking engagements.

So what genre of music have you worked on for the album and what are the messages you seem to send across?

I worked on several genres in this premier album. This is salsa, soul, makossa, zouk, Hiphop-rap and classic rock. Often people take life for granted and wait for their desires to happen to them; it is a fallacy and a fantasy. Your desires and aspirations must be carved into a dream and then laid out step by step into achievable goals using the SMARTER Goal concept.

Next, you design a strategy or a road map on how to accomplish them. Step out of your comfort zone and take massive action irrespective of all stumbling blocks that may belie your route to success. This is what COMFORT means to me: Come over Merely for Open Rapport Trail. ZONE (Zenith Offsets Needed Effort).

Your dream therefore must be so big you spend your entire life pursuing it. That is the only way not to assume that you have reached the zenith at any point in time and start resting on your laurels. The album therefore is filled with motivational ideas and strategies to advance in life, seek teamwork and that we are complementary to each other.

A few expressions we see in some of the promotional content, Minka systems, what does it mean?

12804793_10209252830106271_8475695087948101274_nMinka Systems is my musical band in the making. It is one of the three arms of the Wealth Pool Industries as mentioned earlier. The March 26 launch event is a red carpet event with lots of celebrities and VIPs coming from about 15 states, Canada and Europe.

And a little more about you, how did Oliver Asaah get into music?

My father, Asaah Fominka, later Nkemamin, had a big compound on top of the hill, in his gigantic fenced compound. He was a farmer rearing goats and sheep. Early in the morning he would make a sound and all the animals would assemble in the yard and he would give them salt before letting them off into the fields to feed. One fateful morning when I was about 6 years old, I was standing at the veranda as he performed the animal salt ritual. I sighted an airplane flying in the sky and imagined that passengers on board were singing a song and enjoying themselves. I instantly composed a song and started singing and dancing to my own composition. As the song reached its climax, I sang and danced all the more. As I nodded back and forth in my excitement, I did not notice a big ram approach. I assume the ram thought I was challenging him to knock horns so it came straight at me and knocked me off balance. I landed on my back among the animals. Dazed and confused, I thought it was my brother Columbus who had pushed me over. But on looking around, Columbus was nowhere in the vicinity. Rather it was my father who stood there having a good laugh.

I learned my lesson; but that didn’t stop me from singing and dancing. I just had to make sure there was no ram around to knock me off. That is to say music has always been in my blood. I took this same spirit to secondary school with competitions in which I excelled and earned multiple nicknames. I am thinking of writing a book on nicknames and their influence on people and society.

What were some of the challenges you faced in the production of this Album?

Like every new endeavor and industry you get involved, there is a lot to learn especially if you want to leave a mark. Learning the process of music production, finding the money; without a sponsor, it is tough. I am a music junkie and I am talented in multiple music genres so it becomes challenging to decide what genre to settle on. That’s why this premier album is so much diversified leaving my audience and fans to have a feel of the menu I offer and decipher which meal is most appetizing to them per my strengths. Nevertheless, I love salsa and really want to fill the gap left by my friend Pierre Tchana after his passing years ago. I will ex-ray the Lebialem culture and tradition and finally I tackle the business community with a new music application which brings success principles, strategies and motivation to the entrepreneurs in music form. I want all entrepreneurs to dance and feel their dreams, goals and aspirations to manifestation like never before.

We also understand that you are an author; can you tell us something about the books you have written?

Oh yes, writing is a passion and a talent for me. I have been writing since secondary school, but never really published until 2010. I have a great collection of poems not yet published. I coauthored my first book in 2010, with other authors: “The Arts and Science of Success”. It is a compendium of success strategies shared by multiple writers. My contribution in the book was the strategy I used to reprogram my subconscious mind which I decided to share to the benefit of anyone who dares to use it. This was a precursor to my first solo book, “The Broken Bond” published and launched in 2014.

The Broken Bond is an attempt to tame the beast ravishing relationships especially among Africans in the diaspora stemming from my personal experience from a broken relationship. The Broken Bond therefore is a true story. It is making news in readers’ circles and on amazon.com. It is a relationship handbook whether you are unmarried and vying for a relationship,( the dating curve) in the book will guide you; if you divorced and just want to live a single life, the chapter on individualism, Leave the Fetters Behind, Flowers of life and more will help you; if you are married and your marriage is suffering, chapters like letting go, 5 Cs of relationships, the 10 commandments of relationships, Flowers of life and more will help you; if you are married and want to take your marriage to another level, chapters like: what God put together, True thriller stories, Little Drops of Care, and more will help you or if you just want to motivate and inspire your life using a holistic approach, chapters on the subconscious mind, effective communication, and more will help you . If you want to learn about Lebialem marriage culture and more, chapters like: Atayo Syndrome, marriage contract in Nweh, Courting process, Nucleus of family and more will help you. I share some of the principles and strategies I personally use to do the things I do.

Where does Oliver Asaah get his inspiration, to write his books, and now a musical album?

My inspiration started from my parents who are my role models. Interestingly, my father Nkemamin formerly Asaah Fominka and my mother Emerencia Agendia both of blessed memory did not go to school but knew the value of education and their characters exerted tremendous influence on me. I learned a lot from my parents growing up. The most important and memorable lesson from my father was and remains to never be envious, jealous of or belittle other people’s belongings; instead, to emulate and even do better than them.

Oliver Asaah with a copy of the Broken Bond.Copies of the book will be on sale at the album launch

Oliver Asaah with a copy of the Broken Bond.Copies of the book will be on sale at the album launch

Another very vital lesson, he gave me was and is to be accountable and always know that trust in someone or something does not exclude crosschecking to make sure all is well. One day, he handed me some money as part of my tuition when I was in Our Lady Seat of Wisdom. When I tried to shove the money into my pocket, he yelled at me so hard I nearly passed out. I had not counted the money in front of him to confirm the amount.   He advised me to always count money that is given to me right there in front of whoever gave to me to make sure the amount was accurate. I learned hard work, selflessness, and humility from my mother. I then sharpened the foundation I got from my parents with my own reading, listening, attending conferences, hosting events as MC for decades; everywhere I go, I set a goal for myself to bring back at least one new idea to add to my own portfolio.

When I was in Seat of Wisdom College, still in Form one, every day during evening studies, I read the dictionary for the first ten minutes. That exercise, took my vocabulary through the roof. My writing and speaking gave me the nickname: “Bombastic or Verbose”. At one time, I was always selected to give an intention or prayer in church every Sunday. I didn’t know why until a classmate of mine overheard Form five students gossiping my name after church. I was in Form three then. They were praising the way I framed the prayer and Richard, ran to me right away asking me: “Esoh”, (meaning Buddy), “do know why you are chosen to give an intention in church every Sunday?” “No”, I said, “The form five students use that to learn new words and expressions from your writing”, he concluded. We laughed over and sure that encouraged me to do more.

About the album launch itself, can you share some more details on the event, venue, cost of participation, guest appearances and what participants should expect?

This Premier Album Launch is a red carpet mega event. It is the most important event in my life all things considered. I believe in celebrating life unlike death. Everyone that could come to my funeral should show up at this event. Another story; about thirty years before my father died, he summoned all his son-in-laws to give his burial clothing rites. In Lebialem culture, when your father-in-law dies, you are obliged to give a blanket for his burial. His philosophy was that out of his 25 children, the majority were girls and he did see how useful those many blankets would be on his passing on. They gave the blankets; he summoned his friends, shared most of them among them and kept two for himself. That is a great example of celebrating life as opposed to death. There are so many celebrities and VIPs attending this great event. Beauty pageants, like Miss Africa USA, Miss Guinea North America, Miss Cameroon USA, as well numerous actors, actresses, film makers, artists, designers, entrepreneurs, and people of all works of life and cultures are confirmed attending.

The event takes place on March 26, 2016 at the West Bowie Event Center, 13711 Old Annapolis Road, Bowie, Maryland, 20720, USA. From 6 PM – 8 PM, Red Carpet and champagne time. 8PM – 3 AM, Show time. Free all you can eat buffet and beverages. There will be a cash bar with a professional Bar Tender to Mix and Brew all kinds of drinks like you would find a standard bar. I will perform with dancers and backup singers. Featuring artists are Roxana Tazifor, MC Chido and Jaajo Mbadi. The DJ is I MEDI run by Mr. Amstrong Ikoh Awani. The videographer is Mr. Ako Richie of Cyber Globus all the way from Dallas TX. We plan on Live streaming the event so people can watch it worldwide over the internet. We will make the link available by the event date on the Minka Systems facebook page, e-groups and so on.

The Regular admission fee is $25.00 and VIP will donate at the event. There are other great options like the early bird registration package available on Event Brite link where people can register in advance online and bring their receipts to the event. Here is the link:

What next for Oliver after the music album?

After the launch, Oliver Asaah and the Minka Systems is ready for bookings and tours, We perform at cultural and business conventions, anniversaries, birth days, weddings, graduations, and all kinds of events. We already have four bookings in May and June 2016. We will do events in cities in USA, Canada and Europe in 2016. We are doing concerts in Cameroon in December, 2016 starting in Menji, charity begins at home. We plan on doing East and West Africa tours in 2017. I am already working on the next album, I have 300 songs composed. I am currently working on 6 books and plan to publish one book in 2016. Starting March 26, 2016, the Wealth Pool Industries triple plate is open for business: Speaking, Writing and Music. We need your support because we cannot do this alone.

Good luck with the launch and thanks for granting the interview

The pleasure is mine and I hope you come with your media friends to join us at the event.

 

 

 

 

 

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Opinion piece: Kenya and South Africa in the arts
November 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Ms Zukiswa Wanner*

hqdefaultA fair share of both of South Africa and Kenya’s taxes come from artists. Beyond artists themselves, there are also many people who may not be artists but are employed because of art be they curators, printers, publishers, instrumentalists and even weavers. As part of my research for the presentation, I talked to artists from both countries.

I realized that our problems are similar. In both countries, artists are taxed as full-time employees while unable to access the sort of perks that full-time employees like insurance or loans because they earn in an irregular manner. There is also a lack of appreciation and a constant need for ‘free’ stuff from artists as though artists don’t eat and don’t need a roof over their heads for some animal allegedly called ‘publicity.’

The good news is, despite this, the artists have not been dissuaded from creating. Between Kenya and South Africa, collaborations have, in fact, been happening. The main fields that artists in the two countries have been working together on are in literature, visual arts, music, performing arts, fashion and there seems to be room for working together in film, as I shall explain further. Our two national public relations companies, Brand SA and Brand Kenya have unfortunately not been as aware of it as they should be so that they can amplify the message to art lovers in both Kenya and South Africa from our two different countries.

Kenyan writers have participated in literary festivals in Durban, Franschhoek, and Open Book in Cape Town.  I suspect as Kenyans continue to write, this will continue happening. There is also a reciprocal relationship with Storymoja with South African writers coming through for the last three years through funding from the South African High Commission. Beyond attending literary festivals, Kenyans have participated in pan-African literary initiatives that are of South African origin. One that comes to mind is Short Story Day Africa (SSDA) which was first won by Kenya’s Okwiri Oduor who went on to win the Caine Prize with her winning SSDA story. This year, two Kenyans, Wairimu Muriithi and Florence Onyango are on the long list for SSDA while the judging panel of three includes Billy Kahora of Kwani.

In visual arts, Kenyan artists such as Michael Soi and Magdalene Odundo have previously done workshops or residencies in South Africa.  I recall a conversation with Ms. Odundo, who incidentally helped me shape the main character in my last novel London Cape Town Joburg, where she informed me that she had done some workshops in Durban and had also visited spaces like the Walters Gallery in Franschhoek.  South African artists have also been guests of Kenya and I am selfish enough to hope that one of my compatriots wins the residency that Kuona Trust is currently advertising for fellow Africans.

This year alone, Kenyan music fans have danced to South African musicians Simphiwe Dana, Jonathan Butler (yes. Contrary to what an opposition newspaper stated last week, he is not American but is in fact South African) and most recently Mi Casa. Prior to this, at least half the participants of Muthoni DQ’s Blankets & Wine have been South African participants.

South Africa has also been lucky to have Eric Wainaina as one of the headline acts for Africa Day celebrations previously. But, as one of the participants at the Dialogue mentioned, there is room for more collaboration in this particular field. Beyond once-off performances by artists in our respective countries, our musicians can have the type of musical collaborations that have been happening between South African and Nigerian musicians. The same participant also suggested that artists could also stay beyond their event dates and do workshops at the two Kenyan universities that offer music – Daystar and Kenyatta universities.

Last year, I was honoured to see Mshai Mwangola perform at a literary festival in South Africa. This was despite the fact that I have known Mshai in Kenya for a while and had never seen her perform. As we share some similar stories as Africans, one hopes we can see more Kenyan stories performed on South African stages and vice-versa, particularly now that the Kenyan National Theatre is available to artists again. Currently there is an initiative called LongStoryShort in South Africa where writers from all over the continent have written short stories that are performed by South African artists monthly to a non-paying public.

The performers have included Renate Stuurman, Hlubi Mboya and Lindiwe Mashikiza, among others. Curated by Yewande Omotoso and Kgauhelo Dube, this initiative has made literature accessible to an audience that may otherwise not know of all the writers included. While LongStoryShort currently doesn’t have any Kenyan writers, hopefully, they will have some next year.

In fashion, South Africa’s clothing chain store Mr Price, in partnership with Elle Magazine’s Rising Star Design Search engage home-grown talent to produce for their shops. If this chain is going to work for Kenya’s fashion industry, perhaps they can suggest that the owners of the local franchise to do the same with local designers. It does not do the Kenyan fashion industry any favours.

As mentioned before, there is room for work to be done in the world of film. Although Kenyan filmmakers have participated in South Africa’s Durban International Film Festival and the movie Nairobi Half Life won an award, more can be done. As I understand it, Kenya Film Commission (KFC) and South Africa’s National Film and Video Foundation signed an agreement to work together at the Cannes Film Festival over a year ago.

Unfortunately this is the sort of deal that many of my filmmaker friends in Kenya and South Africa do not seem to know anything about. I wonder whether there is any way that an initiative like this one could be publicized so that more filmmakers get to know about it.

.*Author is a South African journalist and novelist.This presentation was given during the Dialogue session that Brand SA hosted in Nairobi. The Dialogue was held under theme, Towards Agenda 2063: The Ties that Bind Us.

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Ailing Artist Lisa T receives Support from Cameroon Musicians In USA
November 1, 2015 | 1 Comments

Docta Washiwara on scene at the Lisa T solidarity concert Docta Washiwara on scene at the Lisa T solidarity concert[/caption] The Cameroon Musicians Association of USA (CAMUSA), threw its support behind ailing Makossa star Lisa T with a solidarity concert on October 30th that raised $2,250:00. Based on the current exchange rate, the sum of  cfa 1,314,178  was wired to Liza T whose deteriorating health had become a cause for concern. Backed by a live band, Nelly Luv, Adèle Clarice, Annie Vadivas, Sister Comfort, B-1, Alexis, Amisa Assima, Ngando Black le Bukan, Paco, Tof Gone, Fifi Ribana, Aristide, Aloys, Yenikah, Kobo, Pregnon, and Docta Washiwara were amongst the musicians who took turns to thrill the public with scintillating music at the Maison Africaine Lounge. “CAMUSA thought it wise to express solidarity with an accomplished artist like Lisa T in her challenging moments,” said Docta Washiwara the President of the group.  Docta Washiwara described the evening as a success and in a bid to ensure transparency, the contributions were tallied in full view.   [caption id="attachment_22035" align="alignright" width="300"]Talented singer Adele Clarice was part of the event Talented singer Adele Clarice was part of the event.[/caption] Asked why CAMUSA was organizing such an evening even when Samuel Eto’o is said to have volunteered to foot the medical bills of Liza T, Docta Washiwara said beyond the medical bills, Liza T needs support with feeding, lodging and other sundry expenses to help her get back in shape. The CAMUSA President also announced that the group was working on a common a project to release an album as its contribution in the fight against Boko Haram. In a facebook post two days after the event, Washiwara confirmed that the amount collected was effectively wired to Lisa T. Supporting CAMUSA in the solidarity event were PJM Productions whose promoter Marechal Tiano was the MC, and the Maison Africaine Lounge .        ]]>

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Arts and culture, an alternative to grow African economies
October 28, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Dasmani Laary*

  [caption id="attachment_21929" align="alignleft" width="480"]A woman poses in Brett Bailey's art installation A woman poses in Brett Bailey’s art installation[/caption] Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) governments have been urged to shift their focus from timber, cocoa and minerals exports, and introduce relevant polices and funding into arts and culture to rapidly expand their economies. “Giving meaning to the role of arts and culture manifested in traditional music, dance, clothing and drama can earn countries billions of dollars to spur growth and create jobs,” culture experts meeting in Ghana’s capital, Accra said. The stakeholders from Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Cote d’Ivoire are discussing the status of culture and arts sector in West Africa and the potential for growth and development under the EU-ECOWAS economic partnership agreement. The culture and creative arts industry is said to be the fastest growing sector of the world economy, with estimated growth rate of 7 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product. “This growth is accounted for by rapid techno-economic change in products manufacturing distribution and marketing and the increasing commercialising of intellectual property in the digital world,” director of the Centre for Cultural and African Studies of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Vesta Adu-Gyamfi said. “Member countries ought to strengthen exchanges and co-operation between cultural entrepreneurs and artistes from West Africa and Europe to promote trade between the two regions.” The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) also reports that world trade of creative goods and services recorded $624 billion in 2011, more than doubling between the years 2002 and 2011. The growth in developing country exports of the sectors’ services averaged 12 per cent annually between 2002 and 2011, but analysts say West African governments pay lip service to that area and failed to exploit its economic benefits. “Culture is a powerful tool for poverty eradication, helping to meet the ambitious goal to reduce the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day to 3 per cent of the population by 2030,” UNESCO said in a statement to welcome participants from the West African sub region. “Governments have been paying lip service to the cultural sector, but it is very important they see the cultural sector the same way as they see agriculture, mining industry or crude oil and to come out with relevant policies,” team leader of ACP Cultures Plus Culture Policy project told The Africa Report. “If you are investing in the mines to get value out of it or crude oil or oil ore to get value, you should also similarly invest in the cultural sector to get value, so governments should come up with relevant policies as well as provide funding to grow the sector,” Chris Addy Nayo said. “Our culture is rich, very rich, more than some of these foreign products we tend consume,” he said, but the problem had been about the quality stemming from standardisation and packaging issues. “The same way governments invest in other products in the market, they must also respond to these challenges (faced by culture and arts) to ensure our culture and creative arts are packaged nicely to attract foreign taste and bring in the necessary income,” Nayo said. “Foreign cultures attract us not because they are better than ours but because they pay attention to these things.” ECOWAS members were called upon to support artistes with training and offer them opportunities to collaborate with international partner organisations to help quality, standardisation and packaging. Cultural and creative industries offer countries the opportunity to diversify, expand and strengthen national economies, thereby contributing to the reduction of social inequalities. The experts claimed that with over 1 billion people travelling around the world in 2012, the relationship between tourism and culture provides a unique opportunity to contribute to inclusive economic growth. *Source African Report
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Launch of an International Artists’ Coalition for the General History of Africa
October 6, 2015 | 0 Comments

downloadAn international coalition involving artists in the promotion of the General History of Africa will be launched at UNESCO on 7 October (6 p.m., Room IX). The coalition will help young people use the unique instrument that the History represents in recounting the continent’s past from an African perspective. Participants at the launch will include the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, Cameroon’s Ambassadeur and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Lejeune Mbella Mbella, and Ray Lema, musician and spokesperson for the Coalition of Artists for the General History of Africa. The international coalition aims to mobilize artists from all fields of creativity and have them contribute to the promotion in the media, online and through their social networks, of the work carried out within the framework of the General History of Africa. The members of the coalition will sign a Declaration in which they will undertake to disseminate the teachings of this History among the general public, take part in UNESCO activities concerning the programme and favour cooperation among the fellow artists within the coalition. Launched in 1964, the General History of Africa project was established to disencumber the continent’s narrative from stereotyping linked to slavery and colonialism. Over the years, the project has enjoyed the contribution of some 350 experts from different disciplines: history, linguistics, anthropology, musicology, archaeology and more. Their work has been published in eight volumes to date. *Source APO/UNESCO]]>

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Ghana's anti-corruption blockbuster film draws crowds
October 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

Investigative reporter Anas Aremeyaw Anas remains incognito by covering his face in public Investigative reporter Anas Aremeyaw Anas remains incognito by covering his face in public[/caption]

It has all the ingredients of a Hollywood blockbuster but the tale of sex, money and corruption that is gripping Ghanaian cinema-goers is a three-hour documentary that purports to expose judicial corruption.

The film has led to arguably one of the biggest scandals in the country’s history and has shaken the foundations of the judiciary. Investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas made it after two years of undercover work in which he gathered 500 hours of raw footage. It appears to show judges and court workers taking bribes from litigants, as well as some demanding sex, to manipulate justice.

Free screenings

Allegations have been made against 34 judges, as well as dozens of other court officials, in evidence that was handed to President John Mahama and Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood. The chief justice launched an investigation into the 22 lower court judges, and is considering what to do about the 12 high court judges. Lawyers for 14 of the accused judges have denied the allegations and the High Court has dismissed their attempt to get the investigation suspended. The other accused judges have yet to comment in public. The film – Ghana in the eyes of God; Epic of Injustice – has been shown in the capital, Accra, and is now being screened for free across the country. [caption id="attachment_21203" align="alignright" width="624"]The screenings have filled auditoriums in the capital and it premieres in Kumasi on Friday The screenings have filled auditoriums in the capital and it premieres in Kumasi on Friday[/caption] Mr Anas has opted for public screenings rather than a television broadcast because media companies have been threatened with legal action if they do show it. But he wants as many people as possible to see the work as he told me he believes “justice is for the people, let them see what justice means in this country”.

Who is Anas Aremeyaw Anas?

  Anas Aremeyaw Anas is something of an enigma, as he is never seen in public without a disguise. His fans call him a modern-day folk hero or the “James Bond of journalism” for his work in exposing alleged corruption and malpractice in Ghana and beyond. In his 15 years of undercover journalism he has among other disguises, posed as a female investor in high heels, sunglasses and lipstick, and a janitor in a brothel. He has also secreted himself inside a fake rock placed at the side of the road with a peep hole for his eyes. In his work he has exposed a human trafficking racket, corruption in the police and malpractice in a food processing plant. He argues that “there is no point in doing journalism, if it does not lead progress in your society”. Before becoming a journalist, Mr Anas worked as a lawyer for two years. Unsurprisingly, the judges featured in the film are not keen for it to be shown, and a case has been filed to restrain cinemas and other venues from allowing their facilities to be used to screen the film. But this has so far been ignored.

Mocking laughter

Justice Paul Uuter Dery has filed a new suit at the Supreme Court seeking to stop the investigations into the judges. He wants the court to declare that the material gathered cannot be used, as Ghana’s constitution guarantees that evidence in a case relating to the removal of a judge should be heard in camera – in other words behind closed doors – and Mr Anas has already shown it in public. The documentary itself is taken from Mr Anas’s hours of secret filming, hence the shaky camera work and poor sound quality. _85629071_apesr9-_vp4mjk22nepfx9qtghtzc_lbe_kkzmzg1hggIt shows various judges talking to litigants, sometimes in a car and sometimes in what appears to be an office or a home setting. Money is seen changing hands and there are also scenes showing people having sex. What cannot be confirmed is whether the people being featured are being bribed or whether they were offered sex in exchange for a favour in court. When I saw it, the audience greeted much of what they saw with shouts of anger and mocking laughter, especially during the sex scenes. There were also long periods of silence as the viewers were digesting the implications of what they were seeing. As screenings of the film are set to continue and Ghanaians eager to see the film, this scandal is not going away. Given that some of the judges are fighting back using the courts, this could also be a long-running saga of courtroom gymnastics. Meanwhile Mr Anas is being feted by some as a national hero, his critics see him as a lawless citizen invading people’s privacy and unfairly tarnishing their reputation. *Source BBC]]>

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