For Your Daily Dose of MbA

Microblog on Facebook so follow today :)


"Culture is the heritage of us all. some may be more interested than others in the treasures of the past, but no one can fail to take a pride in his country's participation in the story of mankind, as represented in carvings, sculpture, music, paintings and the other arts. And there is a personal commitment to this, for no man can really say he is alone: we are all joined through our identity, with the cultures which are part of the mainstream of life"
- Simon Kapwepwe, Zambian Independence Freedom Fighter

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud" - Maya Angelou

"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinion drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - Steve Jobs

Sunday, 22 August 2010

TIA: This Is Africa :)

As many an African has said, including Leonardo di Caprio in Blood Diamond, "TIA - This is Africa". When foreigners are faced with this reality, panic usually ensues, but us Africans merely shrug our shoulders and find a way to improvise. So here I am making do with my current resources and commencing a new feature on my blog - the mobile post :)!

I was originally going to start this post series with pictures I plan to take as I reacquaint myself with the motherland. But it seems that fate would have me use the most ubiquitous technology on the continent to keep my blog alive while my
computer internet access is on indefinite hiatus!

I apologise in advance for the lack of depth that I usually try to incorporate in my posts through hyperlinks, background info and videos. I will try to be creative, informative and entertaining in other ways :). This will probably lead to more nonsense than usual he he he...

For the moment I am lamenting the lack of the bracket that I use to do my sticking out my tongue smileys and wondering how I am going to continue posting while typing and editing on a small Blackberry keyboard and screen!!

Monday, 16 August 2010

A Hidden Summer Gem: Scott Pilgrim

If you are looking for an off-beat graphic novel adaptation to entertain you I highly recommend Scott Pilgrim vs The World.

This quirky action movie has got teen angst, twenties malaise, baggage in the form of a motley crew of evil exes from diverse backgrounds, ranging from vegans to Japanese twins, and whose stereotypes are exploited in a lighthearted, fun, way, a plethora of zinger one-liners and jam packed with action coupled with amazing, innovative cinematography that marries refreshingly different CGI that doesn't overwhelm the film.  So cute, loved it, awesome possum :)!  Watched Kick Ass on DVD right after seeing that at the movies and was disappointed. Scott Pilgrim balances the cool with the cute and cutting-edge effortlessly, while even though Kick Ass had its moments with daddy-daughter combo Big Daddy and potty-mouthed 11 year-old Hit Girl, it tried too hard on all counts.

I'm also really liking Chris Evans' movie choices of late.  After doing the blockbuster thing with the Fantastic Four he's been picking a lot of smaller films. Really enjoyed his character in The Losers (another quirky graphic novel adaptation) earlier this year and also liked his transformation in the indie Loss of A Teardrop Diamond, an adaptation of a Tennessee Williams Screenplay I was happy to become acquainted with because I do enjoy me some TW.  

Being A True Afropolitan

Thought I would not get to post till I arrived home and got used to the high that comes from the motherland's loving embrace as the heat envelopes you as the plane door opens and the love from family cleanses your soul and revitalises your spirit...And the food coma that I can't wait to indulge over the coming weeks from home cooked food that only Mummy can make just right ;}.  However, here I am at Dubai International Airport taking advantage of the free internet to make this 9 hour layover bareable!

I am a very loyal person in general.  Although I adapt well to change, I can be very reluctant to let it occur, I like the comfort in routine where I can in my constantly evolving life.  Since 1992 I have flown on average 4-6 times a year with British Airways back and forth from the West to home, mainly because they are the most convenient.  However, in recent times they have wobbled, but as I am a frequent flyer they have rewarded me.  But their price for the ticket home was preposterous, and South African Airways weren't much better. .  I am flying for $1000 less with Emirates so the inconvenience of flying 5/1/2 hours to far East and then 2 hours too far South to then go back up 2 hours again with an SAA flight, making a journey of a total of 14 hours layover and 26 hours flying worth it.  The good thing is my in-flight routine is transplantable so I am able to preserve the continuity of routine n that regard.

Emirates are lovely and they are showing Africa the love too.  They are launching a new flight to Dakar next month and are offering free hotel stays for the first travellers.  They also have a lot of African stories in their magazine about interesting things going on on the continent and here in the airport I saw for the first time learn to speak Amharic, Yoruba and Zulu CDs!  Their in-flight entertainment is unparalleled with so many options from all over the world.  The air hostesses aren't forced to wear heels, they can wear flats to work the almost 16 hour flight or trousers if they wish to and their flight staff are a Benetton ad. They are really a first class organisation.  Will do a separate post on them when I get my hands on the magazine again when I take my next flight in a coupla hours so I can convert my pleasurable reading into a post :).

If this post doesn't make any sense forgive me I'm jet lagged due to the new and awkward timing of my flights. If it does, ignore the former statement ;}

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Thoughts On The Hybrid Nature Of The African/ Afropolitan Inspired By Music

The world in general is becoming more and more hybrid in a myriad of ways.  Some of us are accepting these blurrings, fragmentations and fluidity kicking and screaming.  But any true Afropolitan is so used to their identity being in constant flux that the instability and unpredictability of their own world as well as the world we live in is oddly comforting.  I have been meaning to start posting about this for a while.  It seems only fitting that this be my last proper post before I journey back to the motherland.  I have gotten used to this constant moving to and fro from the continent to the West.  If I am not on a plane within 3 months I feel weird, due to having gone to boarding school since 11.  This is proving to be rather expensive as I now have to finance these trips he he he ;}

I was moved by Nneka's video, Africans, this week as the lyrics really spoke to me.

It made me think of how colonisation has made all us Africans hybrids, straddling Western influence and African tradition and culture, trying to marry and recognise, accept and adopt the two to forge ahead into the future.  It made me think of how Zimbabwe is suffering from the constant scapegoating instead of moving forward.  It is time to stop blaming, to stop crying over spilt milk because its already been spilt - there is nothing more to do but to mop up the mess and learn how to not topple the bowl again.  Nneka's afropolitan nature due to race, culture, music and style got me on thinking more about how music and musicans reflect how we are redefining ourselves and communicating who we are as Africans in our diversity and similarity.

Ayo first came to mind as like Nneka, she is also half Nigerian and half German, as well as having released a video for Life is Real earlier that seems to have inspired the Africans video aesthetic.

I love how the lyrics encourage people to be real because life is real.  Take what people say with a grain of salt and ultimately do what you want to do and be who you want to be unabashedly and pridefully.  As Mr. Darcy said "Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride -- where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation".  Yes he may be a fiction character of Jane Austen's making, but he does have a point.  Vanity is what leads people to be the people they think they should be using whatever means, regardless of the damage that ensues as a result.  Pride, when checked is what allows people to stand firm, to care about who they are and to be vanguards.  But there is a proviso as I have said with engaging this emotion, you really do need to temper it with humility.  We have seen how our own African pride has gotten us into all sorts of messes about the continent, like with tribal and ethnic wars for example.

I also got introduced to a lovely Zimbabwean artist through MIghTy African called Tinashe.  He expresses what it is like to become the chameleon that many of us end up being as we traverse the globe and are constantly moving through different scenery and cultures on his Facebook Page and again on his blog. I really do not like the terms oreo at black folk, coconut at brown folk, and twinkie and banana at east asians when they are not fitting into some stereotypical representation of self.  The joy of human life is in our variety.

This video plays his two singles Saved and Zambezi.  You can check out his website too for more info.

Identity is on the brain as I begin my sojourn back home for an indeterminate period of time.  I am excited to remember what it is like to be physically part of a family and to nourish my soul in the motherlands soothing balm of sunshine.  At the same time I am journeying with trepidation as I think about how I am going to represent myself, something I always struggle with wherever I am, but what troubles me most about the way it is at home is that feeling of belonging but not belonging at the same time and how to reconcile that. Questions and thoughts a of womanhood, Africaness, adulthood and presentation are on constant loop in my head right now and I have two long haul flights to continue to ruminate, dissect, and torture myself :(

6-0 Baby: Now That's The Stuff Chelsea!

Ah, my beloved Chelsea is back to their winning ways :)! Was wounded after BBM gloated about the Man U Community Shield win and told me that my team is old and they need to get rid of the dead weight.  Old legs don't create a 6-0 scoreline - that's all I have to say about that.  Sure it was against the newly promoted West Brom but it is still hard to score 6-0 at the Premiership level.  I am over the moon :)!

Congrats to Drogba, his hat trick shows he is recovering from surgery just fine.  I will not comment on Malouda's hair.  Why is he following in Drogba's footsteps with uselessness albeit it with cornrows...I just have to focus on the two goals he scored...

If you missed the wonderfulness, or if you want to relive it here are the highlights:

chel vs wba ht
Uploaded by TotalFootball2010. - Basketball, baseball, pro wrestling and more sports videos.

2nd Half
Uploaded by TotalFootball2010. - Discover the latest sports and extreme videos.


Thursday, 12 August 2010

Affordable African Fashion

Today, it seems, two of my fellow Afropolitan sisters had fashion on the brain. Ms Afropolitan has just launched her Boutique, a tribute to the African Woman's decade 2010-20.  The Art is particularly cheap, £30 for a painting is a real bargain.  And you get a 10% discount for purchasing items through her site and the profits go to Forward UK, an effort by the African Diaspora to safeguard female human rights.  The prices are comparable with high street shops in the UK, are really cute and are a great way to support African designers.

Afri-love also discovered cute African Print hair clips made by Wasijiru.  You can find more affordable accessories to hold back afro hair by Wasijiru here and they ship to America and a decent number of European countries.

African style does not have to leave you when you leave the motherland - you can take it with you and help others while you're at it :).

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Shaka Zulu: A Trendy Hang Out With A Conscience

Shaka Zulu Lounge, Restaurant and Club recently had its launch party in Camden, London.  I know this because while satisfying my pop culture celebrity gossip fix, I saw pictures of Amy Winehouse stumbling out of the place, which made me curious and a just a little bit skeptical. Ok a lot skeptical.  I mean, calling your place Shaka Zulu is rather bold and potentially foolhardy. But upon researching the venture, this actually looks like a very classy affair and decadently appropriate for a place named after one of the greatest chiefs in African history.  Reminded me of the Double Club, inspired by Congolese culture and made possible with the help of Nigerian Bank Guaranty Trust, which I had the pleasure of going to when it was in London from 2008-9.  When I went there for a friend's birthday party, the food tasted like home and they actually played proper lingala and decale music (also referred to as rhumba). And they had all those creepily metrosexual Congolese guys giving their stamp of approval all ridiculously coiffed, clad in pink and white suits, too tight t-shirts and malanga mpamvus drinking and dancing the night away. The Double Club felt like a club at home, Xenon, that in its hayday was the place to go party when I was a teenager.  Plastic chairs outside, a very cosy dancefloor, a very warm atmosphere with too small a bar to serve all the customers.  Part of the proceeds of this art project went to crisis victims in the DRC through the City of Joy/ Unicef project.

Shaka Zulu takes this one step further, being a permanent fixture at the hip, boho, Stables Market location rather than the kinda scary, back lot, warehouse location of the temporary Double Club. The brainchild of Roger Payne, this venture seeks not only to celebrate Zulu and South African culture, it seeks to respect it as well.  Here is a video of Payne seeking King Goodwill Zwelethini's approval and support for the venture and its charitable intentions.

The menus for the bar, braai, and seafood and oyster bar source mainly from South Africa but the Zulu ubuntu spirit is alive and well too with inspiration from Namibia, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Mocambique. Dining comes with an optional £1 charge that goes towards the £1 million Shaka Zulu plans to raise to support Education Africa.  They also plan to have a shop that will sell African goods, including those created by King Zwelethini's initiative for job creation, Bayede!. The shop will also stock food and wine from South Africa.

There is a fine line between paying homage to a culture through inspiration and offending without meaning to.  This seems like a healthy respect and celebration of South African culture that is available to not only the celebrities but also the general public.  Unlike with fashion, it seems that concept restaurants are a more inclusive (and perhaps less pretentious) way to go for people to celebrate African culture and support development if they choose to.  A more democratic approach to living life to its fullest with a conscience every now and again.  I will definitely make the effort to check it out  the next time I am in London.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Not A Happy Puppy Blues :(

I do not believe in hating, but if ever there was anything to dislike with a passion it is Manchester United.  Man U sycophants are even worse.  Not since the days of Cantona have I cared for that team, especially seeing as most of the fans love the team because they love to win, not because they believe in the team at all.  My best friend BBM is a classic example of this type of nonsensical support. Bleh!

My love for Chelsea is pure. Since 1996 I had a feeling when Ruud Gullit came on board that this team would build itself into something phenomenal, pledged my allegiance and Chelsea came through.  I will bleed blue forever!  And I love that it has a solid African contingent with my favs Essien and Kalou and even though Drogba rubs me the wrong way, he is good at what he does so we support him too.

However, I am annoyed by the Community Shield result. Yes eventually champions have to lose but, man! to frikking Man U at the start of the season?! Kalou as usual was clutch , at least putting Chelsea on the scoreboard albeit late in the game.  Drogba has admitted to carrying around a groin problem for 6 years that he has only just fixed and now has to get match fit learning to play without the injury!  Plus he is getting over the crazy World Cup arm incident too.  Glad that Essien is wetting his football feet again. 

Chelsea need to shape up and start the season well.  

Monday, 9 August 2010

Dress To Express: Proudly African Accessories

I have a serious addiction to earrings.  Some women need to put on some sort of makeup to be able to get out of the house.  Some need to comb their hair.  For me, I need to put on my jewelry.  My watch, my rings and earrings and I am good to go or I feel naked.  And the moment I get home I have to take them off because I feel like I need to shed the weight of the world outside.  Shakalala-ed hair can be concealed under a hat or a bandana and quite frankly I love sleep too much so only give enough room for showering and dressing.  Extra fiddling on a daily basis is too much for me.  When I was a kid I would sleep with my braids tied so when I woke up for school in the morning all I had to do was brush the top.  I know, I should be ashamed.  I am not. It was cold at boarding school, I don't function well under 25 degrees Celcuis. And my mother was not around he he he ;}...

I however, do believe you should dress to express.  And for me, the best way to keep in touch with my African-ness is through jewelry, particularly earrings.  As LOLZ said recently when we were donning African outfits for my graduation that sometimes we Afropolitans can rock the African too much. Chitenge bag, necklace, earrings can be overkill, I admit.  But I like to rock my earrings, if nothing else, especially seeing as for some reason people back home tend to shun these items, thinking they are are only for tourists at the market and would rather adorn themselves with (better) Western accessories.  That is evidence of colonisation of the mind I think.  If beads and wood were good enough for my ancestors, they are good enough for me.  If we do not support our local artisans and our culture in turn, who will?!  My OLDEST FRIEND commented that my earring style exposes my chongololo-ness (meaning centi/milipede and also refers to kids who go abroad to boarding school).  Perhaps my need to connect with my African-ness has something to do with it.  So I make a concerted effort to make sure that my earring diversity includes solid African representation as it grows. 

I also like the fact that I can get beautiful earrings for a $1-2 and necklaces for $5-6 after bargaining and I get compliments on them, with people believing they are worth so much more. And lovely friends who have gotten me accessories from Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa as far as I know. This is in keeping with my dress code:

Fashion is in the now and ephemeral but style is priceless and eternal.

I have also found a way to get pretty cheap $5-6 earrings from Tar-jay, many of which look like they were made at home. They could have been, although they most probably were made in India or China.I was able to get shell earrings for £1 from Primani that look like they are from home.  I recently bought a pair of yellow shell earrings from Santa Barbara and saw the same green shell earrings I put together myself from Dubai ready-made in the shop! (The shells had a eye added to them already so only needed earring hooks which are very easy to add so I really didn't do much).    Shell earrings are an easy way to get the "exotic" natural "ethnic" look from afar, grrr to those words grrrr, which also leads people to believe that they are from home (apart from the fact that I come from a completely landlocked country is besides the point :}). And I think this is the main deterrent for people who are susceptible to inquiries and observations using "words that should be banned" when they dress a certain way.  This is why for the longest time I could not wear animal print anything -  too much for me to try and wear normally without the stigma of the "tribal" and/ or the skanky.  Now I can do a splash with my leather snake skin flats and a coupla earrings with leopard and zebra-stripes.  I am proud of my transcendence of the stereotype in an acceptable fashion he he he...

OXFORD SHIRT came up with this awesome way of creating easy access/ viewing of your collection for quick selection and matching with outfit purposes.  A great use for the excess cloth pieces from African outfits that every African woman possesses and never knows what to do with because they are too small or too big to do anything practical with.  However, you DO NOT put your expensive/family heirloom/ sentimental/ if-it-were-stolen-you'd-have-a-coronary jewelry on display. Nothing up on my wall was more than $10 so even though I am greatly attached to all my jewelry, I can get over the loss as I have many a time when I have lost an earring while out and about (why is it that you only ever lose ONE?!). This is when you go to Claire's and get a pack of those plastic earring backs to curb the problem.  And you stop living in London because coats and the wind repeatedly collude to dislodge earrings.

N.B. This only works in America, where they are allergic to building with brick and use something called dry wall that is soft enough to be able to push pins into in a haphazard manner to form a pretty earring wall.  Which is great until you live in LA and feel frikking earthquake tremors every month that shake you awake in the middle of the night until you get used to them and start sleeping through them and only then notice in the daytime. Which means you are now set up to die either by the flimsiness of your abode and/ or the fact that can sleep through stuff like that. But at least you get pretty decoration out of functional wall use.

I had to take a picture before taking this down as I sojourn back to the motherland.  So proud he he he...

And here is a picture of the new earrings that didn't make it to the display wall above, but will definitely be up there when I am able to create a new one. I have never seen yellow shells before I am still giddy about this find!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Busy Week For 50th Anniversary Independence Celebrations

Check out Afri-love for posts on Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin and Cote D'Ivoire all turning 50.  It was like the French were like ok, here we go, let's just do it all in one go!

Saw a quote from the Niger President, General Salou Djibo, on BBC's Africa in Pictures that dedicated the festivities to "the struggle against food insecurity by sustainable land management". All I have to say is words are just words until you turn them into action...

Friday, 6 August 2010

The Kids Are All Right - An Education: Life's Permutations In The End Are More Similar Than Different

Absolutely lovely!  Love Annette Benning and Julianne Moore, great to see them still around coz you know how Hollywood has a penchant for discarding women once they are past a certain age...Great insight into sexuality, lesbian partnerships, growing up, missing the boat and only realising it when it's too late, and just the whole crazy-love-hate-why is this so hard-what would I do without you-sad-happiness of family life. If you are looking for a dose of reality during your summer, and live somewhere you can actually catch this on a movie screen, I highly recommend.

Yaya, the runner-up from America's Next Top Model, features.  She wears her hair big and afro proud and also wears a lovely African print wrap skirt in the movie. There is an interesting convo about where she got her Ethiopian necklace and her origins.  A convo I have had many times before with Westerners where you feel you have no control of how you are perceived because if you do not tread carefully and navigate the waters just right, random things will be latched onto leading the other person to decide you are this and will not listen to anything else you say to clarify.

There was also a NatGeo documentary with a white man asking some angry Africans for his knife back in the jungle .  Hmmmmm....

North Africa And Women's Issues

This is not how I wanted to be able to showcase the North of the continent but today two articles came up on my homepage, which is set to BBC News Africa, to make sure I'm kept up to date while on foreign soil.  Unfortunately, two stories came up that are not happy stories, but at least one of them comes with a silver lining.

I'll start with the worst one, don't want to end the post badly ;).  19 Sudanese men were flogged for cross-dressing and breaking Sharia law.  They were too womanly, leading people to think that they were gay.  Right now I am very mad at people who make irrational conclusions about sexuality and gayness from the most random of evidence.  The average gay person does not going around dressing like a woman.  Most gay men I know are nothing like me, I have never thought that any of them are trying to be womanly or like me.  Even the ones who act effeminate don't seem womanly to me either.  These men weren't even given the chance to defend themselves either.  They could have been a drag troupe or dressing up for a fancy dress party or a play.  We will never know.  However these sentiments are not just Muslim, even Southern Sudan and other devoutly Christian areas of Africa do not tolerate what are considered overt and blatant gay actions.

The second is an encouraging development from a terrible situation.  An Eygptian woman came forward on television to speak up about her rape by policemen.  This is a very big step, albeit having to be made with her completely covered from head -to-toe in black so as not be identified.  I cannot for the life of me find the YouTube video that people have been able to watch of her appearance :(. Instead, here is a video of Eygptian women debating with a man over the way rape is treated in their country.  The issue they are talking about is very serious and polarised views clash, but I must also warn you of other clashes.  Your eyes may not be able to reconcile the rather suspect blond wig adorning one of the ladies' heads so as to hide her hair in place of a hijab.

The good news is that there is debate going on about the injustices that are being sanctioned by religion and that women are trying to take control of their lives and their bodies.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Leadership, Shopping And Recycled Wonders

Obama's Forum got me thinking about youth leaders and how it is important for not only Africa's young to start taking the helm, but for all the youth around the world to start thinking about what they can be doing to better their families, communities, countries, continents and ultimately the planet.  Even though our world has always been interconnected through shipping routes, the slave trade, and spices, never before have people been able to connect so easily and in a plethora of ways both physically and virtually.

This reminded me of Kimmie Week's initiative, Youth Action International, YAI.  He was not at the conference, I think they are trying to give other people who may not have the fame that Week's has a chance in the limelight.  Week's started his leadership journey very young.  At 17 he was already writing reports exposing the injustices of child soldiers!  And now his efforts not only help his home country Liberia, but also now extend to Sierra Leone and Uganda, other places on the continent where child soldiers have been deployed.

He moved to the US when the government set out to assassinate him, after his efforts to expose the wrongs in his country.  He took advantage of the opportunity to set up an international network and now has people volunteering from all over America through YAI Chapters based at universities.  He demands commitment from the people he allows to travel with him.  Every year 3 interns get to travel around Africa with him.  They have to have served an YAI chapter for at least year and they have to raise their own funds.  People who move with him are another level of "wanting to help out" - they are seriously dedicated.  Here is a video on their latest project:

You can find out how to get involved with YAI here.

Here is a video that, even though is not his full speech, really gives a good idea of the kind of person Kimmie is and why he is in demand as a public speaker, and also an inkling into who he is as a person and his passion for humanity:

This speech was for Humanity Uniting Brilliance, HUB, an organisation that provides a social enterprise platform to help those in need take ownership of their destiny through entrepreneurial endeavors, while learning from brilliant leaders around the world.  I took a look at The Global Marketplace, where the goods produced by the people they empower can be bought, and of course naturally gravitated to their African collection.  Unlike in my post about fair trade, ethical fashion, these products are available to a wider group of people looking to buy products that not only make them feel good, but also help the environment and people around the world trying to alleviate the poverty in their lives.  You can buy a bracelet for $8 all the way to a "Village in a Box" (hmmmmm as my sister would say) for $535.  The Box is intended to be used to get your family and friends to be as excited about HUB as you are by selling the items and using them to create events and things.

It is amazing what can be made from recycled paperpata patas, and plastic! Right now the countries in Africa benefitting from this intiative are Mali, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya.  The great thing about this is that it is a worldwide venture too.  You can get items from from all over such, as a wallet made from recycled tire tube from El Salvador if you want!! It just blows my mind what people can do with someone else's rubbish.  Reminds me of the Welcome to Lagos Series. If you haven't taken a gander, you can see the 3 episodes here, here and here.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Obama's Address To The President's Forum With Young African Leaders: " You represent a different vision, a vision of Africa on the move."

President Barack Hussein Obama did not disappoint and gave a rousing speech, (here is the transcript, but I would advise you to watch the video), in keeping with his reputation as a gifted and insightful orator.  He made sure to single out the accomplishments of the audience from a Djiboutian starting off selling ice cream to now running his own accounting practice, a Malawian using her positive HIV status to break barriers, to an Ivorian journalist fighting for the rights of Muslim women (which made me think of North Africa's absence again :( ). He also drew from his father's life, telling of how he was able to take advantage of educational exchange and also how Kenya was in a better position economically that South Korea in the 60s but is now not as developed - a cautionary tale about all of our squandered opportunities.  He capped it off by answering questions from attendees representing Mocambique, Liberia, Mali, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Somalia.  He answered eloquently off-the-cuff about HIV, Zimbabwe, Somalia and the bombings in Uganda, the World Cup, brain drain, and the potential pitfalls and the opportunities for success on the continent.

Can I just say that I loved the woman in the purple's outfit.  One because it's purple, my fav colour.  Two because it was beautiful.  She is one of those that people back home would tell you to watch out for.  He he he.  Also could not find the leader I knew in the audience.  I have eyes and ears everywhere.  I may be useless, but I like to surround myself with those that  bedazzle he he he...

Obama speeches always yield a healthy crop of quotes so I am going to let his words speak for themselves, with other little tidbits interspersed of course:

"Welcome to the White House, and welcome to the United States of America.  And that includes even our friends from Ghana, who beat us in the World Cup. (Laughter.) Where are you? Over there? That's all right.  It was close. We'll see you in 2014. (Laughter.)"

Later the response from a Ghanaian attendee:   A Ghanaian football pundits thoughts before the US-Ghana match:  "This is not war, it is football.  If it were war, then maybe we should be afraid because the might of America is more than us."

"You reflect the extraordinary history and diversity of the continent."

"In fact you represent the Africa that is so often overlooked - the great progress that many Africans have achieved and the unlimited potential that you've got going forward into the 21st Century."

"I don't see Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world."

FYI, in case you didn't know Senegal, Gabon, Nigeria and Madagascar are all celebrating 50 years of Independence. Randomly, Scuttle the Seagull from A Little Mermaid's voice said all of that in my head because he says "In case you didn't know the prince is getting married today" to Ariel in a very silly voice.  Sorry! This is my third post today, overload of seriousness, needed a bit of nonsense he he he...;}

"Africa's future belongs to its young people."

"Yes Youth Can" Kenya's adoption of Obama's "Yes We Can."

A quote from an tweeting attendee "If your actions inspire others to dream more, to learn more, to do more and become more then you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams
This reminded me of how I  have no desire to become another twit on twitter. I'm sure its lovely.  I'm just not wired enough for that kind of deluge of information. So I now rely on MIghTy African to sieve for me so I can keep up-to-date with extra fast breaking news :).  You can read his comments on the Town Hall style meeting here. As my mother always says, "sieve, take what means something to you and discard the rest". Which has led me to coin a new euphemism:

"Sieve: don't be afraid to throw out the husks to keep the rice."

"The future is what you make it.  And so if you keep dreaming and keep working and keep learning and don't give up, then I'm confident that countries and the entire continent and the entire world will be better for it."

"Some old leaders get into old habits, and those habits are hard to break."

"Here is the interesting moment that we are in though - if you look at where the greatest opportunities are, they're actually now in emerging markets.  There are countries in Africa that are growing 7, 8, 9 percent a year.  So if you are an entrepreneur now with an idea you may be able to grow faster and achieve more back home that you could here."

"I've always said the destiny of Africa is going to be determined by Africans.  It's not going to be determined by me.  It is not going to be determined by people outside of the continent.  It's going to be determined by you.  All we can do is make sure our voices are heard and you're able to rise up and take hold of these opportunities.  If you do that, I think that there are going to be a lot of people who - even if they are educated abroad - want to come home to make their mark."

"I am a profound believer in not looking at violence as a solution to problems.  And I think the moral and ethical  power that comes with non-violence when properly mobilised is profound."
When I read this I was like hmmmm torture, rendition, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Iraq...but a little bit later he said:

"And now it is not as if we are perfect.  Obviously we've got all kinds of problems as well.  But what it does mean is that the peaceful transfer of power and the notion that people always have a voice - our trust that democratic process is one that has to be embraced in all your countries as well."

"Oftentimes women are not getting the same voice in African countries, despite the fact that they are carrying more than their fair share of burdens."

"I will say that in Africa in particular, one thing we know is that empowering women is going to be critical to reducing the [HIV] transmission rate. We know that because so often women, not having any control over sexual practices and their own body, end up having extremely high transmission rates."

"Africa has some of our most loyal friends.  Every survey that's take, when you ask what continent generally has the most positive view about America, it turns out Africa generally has a positive view of America and positive experiences so I think you should be confident even if I'm not President that the American people genuinely want to see Africa succeed."

"South Africa has its problems, but from what everybody could see during the World Cup,  the potential for moving that country forward as a multiracial, African democracy that can succeed on the world stage, that's the model so far at least Zimbabwe has not followed.  And that's where I'd like to see it go."

"I think that this metaphor of the success of the World Cup and the bombing [in Uganda] shows that each of you are going to be confronted with two paths.  There's going to be a path that takes us into a direction of more conflict, more bloodshed, less economic development, continued poverty even as the rest of the world races ahead - or there's a vision in which people come together for the betterment and development of their own country."

"And for all the great promise that's been fulfilled over the last 50 years, I want you to understand - because I think it's important for us to be honest with ourselves - Africa has also missed huge opportunities for too long."

"Your Voices Are Heard On The Global Stage"

Here is a video of some of the attendees' views on the Forum, held at the National Museum of African Art in DC, and what needs to be done in their countries and around Africa to continue to develop and grow. As Hilary said in her speech "your voices are heard on the global stage", referring to the privileged position the Young Leaders have to affect their families, communities, countries and continent and their ability to harness global forces if they so choose, due to their education and drive.  Technically this is a potentially global platform due to the affordances of the Internet he he he. It is nice to see people passionately and intelligently taking up the challenge of change, even though the path they will have to take is likely to be rife with setbacks and resistance.  As Clinton said it is a worthy cause to take up as the benefits outweigh the opportunity costs of the journey.

Hilary Clinton Speaks to the President's Forum of Young African Leaders: "Africa's future is up to Africans"

Hilary Clinton delivered a great speech during the first day of the President's Forum for Young African Leaders. It inspired me to finally start a new blog feature, AMASHIBI, (a-ma-SHI-bvi/ wi), which means words. She described the continent as a place "brimming with potential" and the fact that 60% are under the age of 25 means that there is a really opportunity for us to be leaders.  With poverty and child mortality on the decline, even though it may not seem we are not making progress due to the fact that there is a systematic focus on negativity when reporting on the continent, Africa is set  to fulfill its "promise of becoming a leader."

She said it was time to focus on the "gains" not on the challenges to help inspire people.  She commended the elections in Ghana, Botswana and SA as "models of freeness".  She quoted Obama who had said in Ghana last year that "Africa's future is up to Africans." She then acknowledged that the US needs to view its relationship with the continent differently - it needs to be partners with it, not the benevolent dictator.  She called for expanding trade agreements to be more conducive to bilateral exchange and to encourage intercontinental trade as well.  She also called for full female participation and mentioned the African Women's Entrepreneurship Program that kicked off in DC on the 26th of July and is moving to Kansas City tomorrow. She talked about needing to take climate change seriously too.

She also brought up the need to continue to educate Americans about Africa.  She talked about how when she had made a visit to the continent in the late 90s as First Lady, she realised she needed to be proactive in this regard.  This was confirmed when a reporter asked her "So what's the capital of Africa".  Oh dear! Oh dear dear dear dear...As LOLZ likes to say "Africa is not a country, its a continent." It inspired a lovely T-Shirt I know have that was made for Africa week for my undergrad's African Students Association that had a little Africa filled in solid at the front with the country bit and then large Africa that covered the back with all the boarders outlined and the continent part of the quote.  I decree that this should be an initiative the American government takes up: passing out free t-shirts to the public like the ones we had ;). Although an African American once told me she was led to believe that Africa was a country because the map was presented to her as the outline of the continent with the country borders inside and this was the same way they presented America to her with the state borders so she assumed that that what in actuality were countries were in fact states.  Quite a logical deduction when you think about it.  So the word continent has to be featured on the back in LARGE LETTERS with the outline in order for this initiative to really educate ;}.

She also touched on how we are pioneers in Information Technology.  It always blows my mind how people do not know that we had mobile phones too by the mid-90s and by the year 2000 our adoption was exponential.  My "proudly" Canadian friend told me about an aid worker's joke that plays on the fact that the difference between Manhattan and Northern Ghana is that they can get reception in the remote area in which they were stationed :). Clinton mentioned Ushaidi, meaning testimony in Swahili, an application that was originally pioneered in Kenya using google maps to alert people on their phones as to where violence was occurring during the 2008 elections.  It has now been used in Burundi, South Africa, DRC, Sudan, Namibia, India and Haiti.  She also mentioned Apps-4-Africa, an initiative to foster application development for mobile phones.  Winners are to be announced in September.  She believes that this will lead to being able to implement e-government in African countries.  We know how to use "good ideas [to] leapfrog technologies and borders."

For the amount of times she mentioned Africa holistically, you would think North Africa was represented.  You are talking to Sub-Saharan Africa, not the whole continent.  Let us be clear about that.  Still very annoyed about this.  It irked me even more when she talked about the separate entrepreneurship program aimed at Muslim countries which included Eygpt.  She made it seem like they weren't serious. I would gander they were skeptical because of US sentiment towards Islam. The only low point in what was a very inspiring speech.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

President Obama's Forum With Young African Leaders: 3-5 August

Tomorrow The (US) President's Forum with Young African Leaders kicks off.  115 attendees from 47 Sub-Saharan Africa will be engaged.  Already spotted a problem.  The North and everything South of that divide is being perpetuated.  Why are they not engaging North Africa at the same time?  The whole continent has been connected for millenia.  I know it is to do with the whole Middle East crisis where the majority of Northern African countries have a majority Muslim population and somehow this negates their Africaness!  They had special colonisation tactics for Muslim populations, and this sort of thinking is being perpetuated every time that Sub-Saharan divide is enforced.  Sub-Saharan Africa is not all the same, diversity amongst regions and within countries is very evident and some of that diversity comes from Muslim populations. So systematically singling out North Africa really is quite unfounded when dealing with the continent as a whole. Africa's problems will not be fully solved without cohesive, inclusive and interconnected plans. Alienation is not the answer.

However, I am sure that positives will come from this conference. It is definitely important to keep building bridges. To follow what is going on you can watch things live at US State Department's blog, DipNote, as well as read news as it comes in.  Here are some articles of interest that have already been posted on DipNote: youth empowering citizens, investing in female education, and mobile technology and development.

Here is a list of the attendees.

Salt: A Spy Movie Full Of Women's Issues

After Inception, I do not expect to be wowed by what Hollywood is offering, and I haven't.  I'm expecting to be entertained and I was watching Salt.  However, there was something lacking in the movie.  Was excited to see Angelina Jolie in a role originally intended for a dude, in a Mission Impossible-esque fashion.  Kind of like when back in the day Will Smith getting the lead role of in Enemy of the State was a big deal as it was originally written for Tom Cruise and everyone was wondering: Could a black person carry such a film and be believable?  Well as they say art imitates life and vice versa ala Barack Obama becoming the first black president.  Now that we have proved that a black man can do what a white man can do in America, it is only a matter of time before the same is done for women.I love how Hollywood underestimates the audience and our intelligence and always finds ways to perpetuate stupid and discriminatory conventions.   Craziness that this sort of thing still goes on in our world....

The film was good. It has the twists and turns to keep you intrigued, although the beginning is a little slow, but purposefully so, though you only become aware after the fact that it makes sense to be  like that.  The action is great. Enough plausible moves to make the implausible believable.  The script however needed to give us a bit more exposition and the little that was there was disjunctive and/ or inadequate. I was unable to really emotionally attach and really root for Salt.  Instead of thinking about being clever, all the way down to the spy being name being Salt, a wink at the SALT, the acronym for Strategic Arms Limitations Talks between the US and Russian during the Cold War, they should have been thinking about how to beef up the dialogue and story. At least the movie has served a higher purpose - go to school, study International Relations, and you'll be able to spot random stuff like that like my little ones! ;}

Chiwetel Ejiofor, a Naija-Brit actor, also features. LOVE HIM!  I don't think I have ever seen him act badly, even if the film was suspect like, ahem, Four Brothers. He is so talented and his roles are so diverse and intriguing.  Such a chameleon.  He makes me happy.  His role was limited in this installment, but if sequels are on the cards, it is clear that he is going to have more screen time and that is absolutely fine with me he he he.

Speaking of African connections, in the funeral scene how did I know there were Africans? This is the third film this summer, after STC2 and The A-Team, that I have seen that has some sort of African clothing in them with the big head wrap and the hat on the guys head and things and looking very Nigerian to show Africans are about.  Not hard to spot amongst the people who they are sitting with due to the fact that everyone else is wearing black and they are situated right bang centre in the middle of the shot! These guys need to take a lesson from Inception, or forget about us all together. It's ok, we are quite happy to be invisible if you are going to keep making us caricatures of ourselves.

After the movie, had a very intense conversation with my movie buddy for the night, a "proud" Canadian with whom I see eye-to-eye on a lot of things in the world, especially the illusions and the nonsense.  Having read an article about Salt in Entertainment Weekly, I was aware that they had the scene where her husband saves her at the beginning so as not to emasculate him.  The man has bigger problems if he is not able to relinquish power to his significant other when they are the more qualified in the situation.  Perpetuating these archaic beliefs that a woman has to temper herself so that lesser men can feel they are more is nonsense.  Or that even if the guy is all together you still have to.  If men's egos are so fragile then something needs to be done about it.  It is stifling always having to be around 60-80% of yourself for fear of hurting some dudes feelings or making him feel less of a man.  A real man assesses the situation and allows the right actions to take place for a positive outcome. Even if that means letting a woman take the lead. Jeez!

This movie also brought up the issue of women being "men" - as in doing a job as well as a man can.  Emotions are not the devil, they are part of human nature.  Men are forced to bury theirs and most of the time they feel caged and unable to express themselves for fear of being a pansy.  Being in control does not mean acting like a robot - that is what robots are for. It is about being aware of oneself, the good and the bad - and emotion can be both.  To their credit, they did a couple of laudable things to show that women can do spy work and gave it a womans touch.  They didn't thankfully make Salt ugly and unfashionable because those are the only kind of women that are smart and can act like men as they have nothing better to do.  She used feminine items to help herself out in tricky situations. The fact that they show that she has a deep love for her husband and will do anything to save him shows that emotion in a woman can propel her to do amazing things rather than being self destructive or debilitated when men and/ or love are in the mix.

However, after certain things occur in the movie, Salt is not allowed to grieve.  When we are first presented with the situation, it is clear why she cannot.  But in the aftermath, I'm sorry, if she really feels the way we are led to be believe before embarking on her revenge, she would have taken a moment in the bathroom to cry and regroup.  I know a lot of strong women whom many believe never cry, but they find their moments where no one can see to let go.  This sort of twisting of how a woman should act if she is going strong is erroneous and perpetuates the myth that strong women are not women and/ or have no feelings. We always either have to be overly-emotional or completely stone cold.  But is ok for Maximus in Gladiator to take a moment to cry when he finds his family slain and for him to cherish their wooden figures and use his emotion to avenge the emperor.  Because that kind of love and honour and sense of justice is only for men.  Women are just there to bring it about.  DRUGS I TELL YOU DRUGS!!!!

This made me think of my love of Jane Austen, and how I really relate to her characters need to fight to be a woman free to be who she is, love as she pleases and pursue her goals without stereotype.  Most of her heroines were fighting to be able to marry for love, without monetary considerations usurping the choice to marry freely.  Now it seems we are fighting to be able to have a head and a heart.  It seems right now we are being forced to chose between one and the other.  Salt was set up to be a sequel, this is evident from the ending. They have a good enough base to build on. I hope that Angelina Jolie takes the opportunity to use her clout further to really make sure that the script is the shiznit and that Salt has an emotional core that doesn't hinder, but enhances her abilities.

Monday, 2 August 2010

More water and quotes...

Today I was at sea, and after yesterday's metaphor for finding purpose in life, it seemed fitting to be taking a catamaran to visit Catalina Island, off the Southern Californian Coast, for some R and R. The island's topography is a lot like Siavonga, a town by Lake Kariba.  Siavonga never fails to revitalise me, and Catalina Island came close to that kind of regeneration.  I felt the hot sun on my back, my body was warmed, I stretched and reacquainted myself with my functioning body. I even took a a proper, full body dip in the Pacific for the first time :). I have only been able to wade because, contrary to what you may have seen on Baywatch, California beaches are pretty cold and the most I have ever managed is going in to my knees! I'm sorry but 20-25 degrees Celcius is not hot, it's not even warm! You need at least 30 to be able to start going into water without risking turning into, in my case, a brown icicle.  While out on the ferry, looking at the great expanse of water I felt at home. Deep, wide water has a way of calming me.  So being in that "canoe" on the river with no end in sight is not so bad really.  Especially seeing as my fortune cookie after dinner told me to expect a "welcome surprise this week" ;}! So maybe I'm getting close to that waterfall...

Also thought you would appreciate some more quotes I liked from So Long a Letter:

"Man is one: greatness and animal fused together. None of his acts is pure charity.  None is pure bestiality."

"A woman is like a ball; once a ball is thrown no one can predict where it will bounce. You have no control over where it rolls, and even less over who gets it.  Often it is grabbed by an unexpected hand..."

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Transitioning From Young And Eager To Accomplished

I feel like I have been in a perpetual cycle of trying to transistion from the young and eager African I have always been to one that is accomplished, having made enough steps and made enough marks along the way to be able to look back and see a clear path from which to continue journeying on.  I am either walking around in circles or wandering around aimlessly or do not know how to read my own map. God forbid I am running in the same spot and created so much dust I cannot see that I am accomplishing nothing at all! I can see a few marks here and there but cannot connect them to be able to show a way that leads to something truly fruitful and meaningful.  That could just be the high bar I set for myself, propelling me to continue to challenge myself.  Or it could be that I am really quite useless and am still in denial or worse deluded into thinking I am making progress!

I re-read Mariama Ba's African classic, So Long a Letter, this week as I am setting out to concatenate all my various actions through school and work to finally start doing something that makes me happy and contributes to the continent.  Even though the characters are Muslim, West African, married with children, and living through the excitment of independence,  the strength that both Ramatoulaye and Aissatou show when life throws them curve balls is so inspiring.  The fact that they are able to do what it is they love and provide for their families without the help of their husbands is admirable.  The friendship that they have for each other and the advice they are able to give when the other is in crisis is something to aspire to.  Which reminded me of the counsel, help and shoulders to cry on my best friends have offered me, especially in this last year.  I am eternally grateful to have such love in my life, particularly from my African Posse of the female persuasion.   BIMBO just made an important life decision and was weighing the rationality of her thought process in making it.  Her ruminations made me think of a quote that really resonated with what it is that we who love Africa are all trying to do:

We are trying to "appreciate a multitude of civilisations without renoucing our own,  to raise our vision of the world, cultivate our personalities, strengthen our qualities, to make up for our inadequacies, to develop universal moral values in us," to make a better Africa.

However, trying to make that transition from young and eager to accomplished is no easy feat.  Finding people to give us a chance, finding the right organisation and/ or the resources to venture out and do our thing for many of us is proving difficult, especially in these uncertain and turbulent times.  Our youth invites people to find reasons not to give us the responsibility to be innovative, creative and productive in order to grow and thus we are being stifled.  Having some experience can leave us in limbo with too much for some things and not enough for others, causing us to be overlooked, or worse, underestimated. Going for what it is that we want to do and will make us happy versus quelling worrisome parents trepidations and satisfying expectations with regards our life choices is the perpetual quandary of the African child.  With family and friends adding more pepper to the already hot soup, it is hard to find our own ingredients to make our unique life recipes.  Trying to please oneself while fielding off societal expectations is quite tiresome.  There are things that are expected of a young African Woman, some which are great to aspire to, and others that are suffocating and restrictive. Ditto for the African Man. And for men and women in all cultures around the world.

I have decided that so long as you know what kind of life path you want and what you want to accomplish then all you have to do is seek out ways to achieve your goals and not be afraid of not knowing or changing the plan as you go along, despite the naysayers, pessimists and party-poopers.  You need to be flexible and prepared from anything. Piece of cake...ha!

All you need to know is the kind of river you are travelling on, the kind of boat you are captain of, and the direction you are going.  As you navigate the unforseen twists and turns, the rapids and placid waters, the crocodiles and the hippos, you will start to see how it all fits together as you learn to navigate and work out and hopefully eventually foresee these diversions and as people provide safe harbour with resources and advice along the way for you.

Right now I am on a very wide river that is eeriely calm and so wide all I can see is water (which leads me to think I may be stranded in the middle of some ocean) in a very tiny canoe with one paddle.  I think I am headed for a waterfall and I'm about to cascade into a period of exciting rapids. I pray I am not headed for a patch of tricky hyacinth that may trap me in unproductive pursuits indefinitely. I am hoping this happens soon because wandering around aimlessly is not something I do well...I can be aimless while knowing what path I need to take though ha ha ha ;}.

This post is dedicated to R4L, BIMBO, LOLZ, OXFORD SHIRT, COMBINE and MINI MI: Without you, my nervous conditions would paralyse, rather than propel me to excel.  :)