«…l’esclave qui n’est pas capable d’assumer sa révolte ne mérite pas que l’on s’apitoie sur son sort.Cet esclave répondra seul de son malheur s’il se fait des illusions sur la condescendance suspecte d’un maître qui prétend l’affranchir.Seule la lutte libère … » [… the slave who is not capable of assuming his rebellion does not deserve that we feel sorry for himself. This slave will respond only to his misfortune if he is deluding himself about the suspect condescension of a master who claims to free him. Only struggle liberates …] Discours de Sankara à l’ONU le 4 octobre 1984 (texte intégral)
In view of recent events in Mozambique between Renamo and Frelimo, and the possibility of war again in that country which has suffered so many years of civil war, I thought of ‘Ancien Combattant’ by the Congolese singer Casimir Zoba also known as Zao. This song used to be sung across Africa when we were children. It is a clear hymn against war. As the song says, when the war is global, everybody dies, … when there is war, there is no pity, … the bomb, the atomic bomb, does not choose, it kills everybody… why war… war is not good. Like he says at the end, plant seeds of peace,let us be friends, let us hold our hands, friendship is more important than war. We can all greet people from across the globe in their own language to foster peace: “… if you see German – Guten tag, if you see Spanish – Buenos dias, … if you see Chinese – Hi ho, … if you see Senegalese – Nangadef, … if you Zairois – Mboté Na Yo, etc…” is what Zao says. What particularly characterizes the song, is the humor and the provocative nature of the message. This is a clear ‘NO’ to war in any shape or form. So let us all sing ‘Ancient Combattant’ and refuse war in any country of this world. We need peace, not war!
15 October 1987 was the day Africa lost one of his greatest sons: Thomas Sankara. Words cannot express the loss we’ve felt, and the loss Africa and the world suffered on that day. I would like to share with you some of Thomas Sankara’s famous declarations.
« Une jeunesse mobilisée est dangereuse, une jeunesse mobilisée est une puissance qui effraye même les bombes atomiques. Il y en a qui possède les bombes atomiques et qui ont des problèmes avec d’autres peuples qui, eux, ne possèdent pas la bombe atomique, mais pourquoi ils n’osent pas l’utiliser ? Parce qu’ils savent très bien, parce qu’ils savent très bien, que dans ces peuples que osent les attaquer, ils trouvent une jeunesse mobilisée, une jeunesse à mourir.» [A youth mobilized is dangerous, a youth mobilized is a power which scares even atomic bombs. There are those who own atomic bombs, and who have problems with other nations who do not own the atomic bomb, but why don’t they dare using it? Because they know very well, that in these people who they want to attack, they find a mobilized youth, a youth ready to die.] 14 mai 1983s’adressant aux jeunes de Bobo Dioulasso
« Nos ancêtres en Afrique avaient engagé une certaine forme de développement. Nous ne voulons pas qu’on assassine ces grands savants africains. » [Our ancestors in Africa were actively committed to a certain form of development. We do not want these great African wisemen to be assassinated.] 2 octobre 1984 à Harlem
«Il faut que l’école nouvelle et l’enseignement nouveau concourent à la naissance de patriotes et non d’apatrides.Mettre un enfant à l’école doit cesser d’être perçu comme un simple placement comptable, si tant est vrai que la transformation continue des sociétés qui incombe aux générations successives comporte des éléments quantifiables et non quantifiables. »[We need the new school and the new teaching concur with the birth of patriots and not stateless people. Putting a child in school should stop being conceived as a simple accounting investment, if indeed the ongoing transformation of societies which fall on successive generations has quantifiable elements and non-quantifiable.] 17 octobre 1986Appel de Gaouasur la qualité de l’enseignement.
« Il n’y a pas de révolution sociale véritable que lorsque la femme est libérée. Que jamais mes yeux ne voient une société où la moitié du peuple est maintenue dans le silence. J’entends le vacarme de ce silence des femmes, je pressens le grondement de leur bourrasque, je sens la furie de leur révolte. J’attends et espère l’irruption féconde de la révolution dont elles traduiront la force et la rigoureuse justesse sorties de leurs entrailles d’opprimées. » [There are no true social revolution until the woman is liberated. May my eyes never see a society where half of the people is maintained under silence. I hear the racket of this silence of women, I suspect the roar of their storm, I feel the fury of their revolt. I wait and hope for the fertile irruption of the revolution for which they will translate the force and rigorous righteousness coming from their oppressed bowels.] 8 mars 1987, Ouagadougou
«La Révolution démocratique et populaire a besoin d’un peuple de convaincus et non d’un peuple de vaincus, d’un peuple de convaincus et non d’un peuple de soumis qui subissent leur destin. » [The people’s democratic revolution needs a people that is confident and not defeated, a people of conviction and not a subjected people who suffer their fate.] 4 août 1987
«Je parle au nom des femmes du monde entier, qui souffrent d’un système d’exploitation imposé par les mâles.Pour ce qui nous concerne, nous sommes prêts à accueillir toutes les suggestions du monde entier, nous permettant de parvenir à l’épanouissement total de la femme burkinabè. En retour, nous donnons en partage à tous les pays, l’expérience positive que nous entreprenons avec des femmes désormais présentes à tous les échelons de l’appareil de l’État et de la vie sociale au Burkina Faso. Des femmes qui luttent et proclament avec nous, que l’esclave qui n’est pas capable d’assumer sa révolte ne mérite pas que l’on s’apitoie sur son sort.Cet esclave répondra seul de son malheur s’il se fait des illusions sur la condescendance suspecte d’un maître qui prétend l’affranchir.Seule la lutte libère et nous en appelons à toutes nos sœurs de toutes les races pour qu’elles montent à l’assaut pour la conquête de leurs droits. » [I speak on behalf of women from around the world, who suffer from an exploitation system imposed by the males. As far as we are concerned, we are ready to welcome all the suggestions from around the world, which will enable us to achieve the full development of the Burkinabe woman. In return, we will share with all the countries, the positive experience that we start with women now present at all levels of the state and the social life of Burkina Faso. Women who fight and proclaim with us, that the slave who is not capable of assuming his rebellion does not deserve that we feel sorry for himself. This slave will respond only to his misfortune if he is deluding himself about the suspect condescension of a master who claims to free him. Only fighting liberates and we call on all our sisters of all races so that they rise up to conquer their rights.] Discours de Sankara à l’ONU le 4 octobre 1984 (texte intégral)
I saw this very good photojournal article on BBC about Nigeria’s many monarchs. I just loved it, because of its depiction of African culture, and the beauty of their heritage. I had to share. From the Ovie of Umiaghwa Abraka kingdom in the Delta State, to the Pere of Isaba kingdom (a kingdom which exists since the 14th century), to the Emir of Zauzau in Kaduna State, this photojournal is rich and depicts the multiple kingdoms and cultures of Nigeria. The author of these, i.e. the photographer is George Osodi, took many years to capture these monarchs in their attire in never before seen images. Enjoy! (Don’t forget to click on the BBC link.)
Today, I would like to talk about the “Y’en a Marre” (“Fed Up“), a Senegalese group which influenced change in the presidential election of 2012 in Senegal, by forcing President Abdoulaye Wade (and his son, Karim Wade) out of office. Y’en a Marre decided to stop complaining and to start acting, to make the changes they wanted implemented. It is a group of Senegalese rappers and journalists, created in January 2011, to protest ineffective government and register youth to vote. They are credited with helping to mobilize Senegal’s youth vote and oust incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade, though the group claims no affiliation with Macky Sall, Senegal’s current president, or with any political party.
The group was founded by rappers Fou Malade (“Crazy Sick Guy“, real name: Malal Talla), Thiat (“Junior“, real name: Cheikh Oumar Cyrille Touré), Kilifeu (both from celebrated rap crew “Keur Gui of Kaolack“) and journalists Sheikh Fadel Barro, Aliou Sane and Denise Sow. The movement was originally started in reaction to Dakar‘s frequent power cuts, but the group quickly concluded that they were “fed up” with an array of problems in Senegalese society. “One day, there was 20 hours of cuts,” said Fadel Barro, whose dimly lit apartment served as the place where the movement took shape. “I said: ‘Guys, everyone knows you. But you’re not doing anything to change the country.’ ”[from NYT interview – see link below]. Those words energized the musicians.
Their goal was to incite Senegalese to vote, to renew the political personnel, to fight against corruption and to promote a sense of civic responsibility. Their most famous quote is: « L’heure n’est plus aux lamentations de salon et aux complaintes fatalistes face aux coupures d’électricité. Nous refusons le rationnement systématique imposé à nos foyers dans l’alimentation en électricité. La coupe est pleine. » [The hour is no longer to ballroom lamentations and fatalistic complaints in the face of power cuts. We refuse the systematic rationing imposed on our homes in the power supply. Our cup is full to the rim.]
Through recordings, rallies and a network of regional affiliates, called “the spirit of Y’en a Marre“, the group advocates for youth to embrace a new type of thinking and living termed “The New Type of Senegalese” or NTS. In late 2011, the collective released a compilation titled “Y’en A Marre“, from which the single “Faux! Pas Forcé” (“Don’t force it”) emerged as a rallying cry for youth frustrated with President Wade and his son and presumed successor. They followed with a single, “Doggali” (“Let’s finish”), which advocated for cleansing the country of Wade and son.
From April to August 2011, the group and their members campaigned door to door to register young Senegalese to vote at the Presidential election of 2012, and they claimed more than 300,000voters registered. During 2011, they organized manifestations, called “foires aux problèmes” (“problem fairs”), and sit-ins in Dakar’s Obelisk Square. On 15 February 2012, these manifestations were prohibited by Wade’s government, leading to 3 members of Y’en a Marre’s arrest on the 16th. This did not stop the group which continued manifesting until the election of Macky Sall as President. Today, even though Macky Sall has been elected president, Y’en a Marre remains active, hosting meetings, and shows, urging the new government to implement all the promised reforms.
So we can all choose to be the change we want to see, stop complaining, and start acting like Y’en a Marre. If there is anything wrong bothering you in your community, it is possible to work at it, to act upon it, and change it the way you want it to be. Our countries all need it, our continent needs it. Read the article the New York Times did on Y’en a Marre, as well as the UNRIC, and the article on NPR. So let’s us be “fed up” like the Y’en a Marre, and let us act and be the change we want to see.
THE birds wanted a king. Men have a king, so have animals, and why shouldn’t they? All had assembled.
“The Ostrich, because he is the largest,” one called out.
“No, he can’t fly.”
“Eagle, on account of his strength.”
“Not he, he is too ugly.”
“Vulture, because he can fly the highest.”
“No, Vulture is too dirty, his odor is terrible.”
“Peacock, he is so beautiful.”
“His feet are too ugly, and also his voice.”
“Owl, because he can see well.”
“Not Owl, he is ashamed of the light.”
And so they got no further. Then one shouted aloud, “He who can fly the highest will be king.” “Yes, yes,” they all screamed, and at a given Signal they all ascended straight up into the sky.
Vulture flew for three whole days without stopping, straight toward the sun. Then he cried aloud, “I am the highest, I am king.”
“T-sie, t-sie, t-sie,” he heard above him. There Tink-tinkje was flying. He had held fast to one of the great wing feathers of Vulture, and had never been felt, he was so light. “T-sie, t-sie, t-sie, I am the highest, I am king,” piped Tink-tinkje.
Vulture flew for another day still ascending. “I am highest, I am king.”
“T-sie, t-sie, t-sie, I am the highest, I am king,” Tink-tinkje mocked. There he was again, having crept out from under the wing of Vulture.
Vulture flew on the fifth day straight up in the air. “I am the highest, I am king,” he called.
“T-sie, t-sie, t-sie,” piped the little fellow above him. “I am the highest, I am king.”
Vulture was tired and now flew direct to earth. The other birds were mad through and through. Tink-tinkje must die because he had taken advantage of Vulture’s feathers and there hidden himself. All flew after him and he had to take refuge in a mouse hole. But how were they to get him out? Some one must stand guard to seize him the moment he put out his head.
“Owl must keep guard; he has the largest eyes; he can see well,” they exclaimed.
Owl went and took up his position before the hole. The sun was warm and soon Owl became sleepy and presently he was fast asleep.
Tink-tinkje peeped, saw that Owl was asleep, and z-zip away he went. Shortly afterwards the other birds came to see if Tink-tinkje were still in the hole. “T-sie, t-sie,” they heard in a tree; and there the little vagabond was sitting.
White-crow, perfectly disgusted, turned around and exclaimed, “Now I won’t say a single word more.”
And from that day to this Whitecrow has never spoken. Even though you strike him, he makes no sound, he utters no cry.
South African Folk Tales, by James A. Honey, 1910, Baker & Taylor Company
Last week was the second edition of ‘Black Fashion week in Paris’, a fashion show where African stylists and designers, and those of the African diaspora expose their work. The Fashion show was held a few meters from the Chanel and Ritz houses, and was organized by the Senegalese stylist Adama Paris who perpetuated the work done by Alphadi with the FIMA (Festival International de la Mode Africaine). 16 stylists of African descent presented their work, ranging from the maestro himself, Alphadi, to Adama Paris, to the Cameroonian Martial Tapolo, to the Haitian Zacometi (who specializes in men’s fashion only), to the Malian Mariah Bocoum, or to the Malagasy Eric Raisina, etc. This was a golden opportunity to discover new talents, and introduce their styles to the global scene, from Dakar to Antananarivo, and hopefully to shops in Los Angeles, and Paris. It was pure beauty, and I wanted you to check out the RFI diaporama on Black Fashion Week 2013. Don’t forget to check out the website of Black Fashion Week Paris. Enjoy the new era of African stylists who are introducing styles just as hip as Chanel and Dior. Below is a video of the first edition: Black Fashion Week 2012.
I have often wondered what the name, Algiers, for the capital of Algeria meant. I always thought it interesting for a capital, and a country to have the same name: Alger (in French) the capital and Algeria, the country.
For starters Alger (in French) or Algiers (in English) is a name deriving from the Catalan Alguère, which itself comes from Djezaïr, name given by Bologhine ibn Ziri, founder of the Berber Zirid dynasty who built the city in 944 on the ruins of the ancient Roman city Icosium (or the seagull island), Djezaïr Beni Mezghenna. The name, as given by Bologhine ibn Ziri, referred to the four islands which laid off the city’s coast until becoming part of the mainland in 1525. In Arabic, Al-Djaza’ir (الجزائر), “les Îlots” (the Islands), in French “les Iles de Mezghenna” or the islands of Mezghanna(جزاير بني مزغنا Djezaïr Beni Mezghenna). According to Middle Ages Muslim geographers, the term island could also refer to the fertile coast of Algeria stuck between the vast Sahara, and the Mediterranean Sea, appearing as an island of life, Al-Jaza’ir.
Algiers is often nicknamed El-Behdja(البهجة, the joyous), El Mahroussa(the well-kept) or alternatively Alger la Blanche(“Algiers the White”) for the glistening white of its buildings as seen rising up from the sea. Algiers is located on the west side of a bay of the Mediterranean Sea, also known as the Algiers bay. The modern part of the city is built on the level ground by the seashore; while the old part, the ancient city of the deys, the Ottoman rulers, climbs the steep hill behind the modern town and is crowned by the casbah or citadel, 122 metres (400 ft) above the sea. The casbah, which is an ancient neighborhood of Algiers (and a UNESCO World Heritage site), was built on the side of one of the hills that points west of
the Algiers bay; the casbah and the two quays form a triangle. Under Ottoman rule, from 1510 to early 1800s, new neighborhoods arose on the hills overseeing the bay. Algiers and Algeria later fell into French rule in the 1830s, and Algeria became independent on 5 July 1962.
Today, ‘Algiers the White’ is an important vibrant city of almost 4 million inhabitants in North Africa. It is in essence a joyous city with a glistening white essence on the Mediterranean sea. Enjoy this video on Algiers.
I always thought that the Egyptian hieroglyphs or the yet undeciphered Meroitic alphabet were not the only signs of ancient writing in Africa. I also always thought that there were other forms of writing throughout Africa, and not just in the northern part. So I was happy to hear Saki Mafundikwa, the founder of Zimbabwe‘s first graphic design school and new media, talk about his book Afrikan Alphabets: The Story of Writing in Afrika, which is a comprehensive review of African writing systems throughout centuries. Mafundikwa left a very successful career in New York to return to his home country and open this school, so as to inspire the newer generations of African designers to look inward (to their own rich cultures) as opposed to outward (toward Europe) as they have done in the past decades. He sums it up so well in his favorite Ghanaian glyph, Sankofa, which means “return and get it” — or “learn from the past.” It is refreshing to learn about these systems, from simple alphabets to secret symbols, from the Adinkra of Ghana, to Mende, Vai, Nsibidi, Bamum, Somali, and Ethiopian scripts which date back centuries.
It is above all refreshing to realize that Africans have their own way of thinking which can be perceived in their designs, and that ultimately graphic designs date as far back as the ancient Egyptians and can be observed throughout Africa. Take the time to read Saki Mafundikwa in his own words. Enjoy Saki Mafundikwa’s speech at one of the TED conference.