Who/What do we Celebrate in Africa in 2021 ?

Although 2021 has globally been a tough year, there are still events that lend to celebration. As we turn the page of 2021 and delve into 2022, it is good to note that in 2021, a lot of “firsts” have taken place on the African continent. Below are a few of the events that brought joy. There are many more, of course, but I selected 11. Enjoy, and add in the comments other celebratory events that have marked the continent this year.

  1. Hulda Swai_1
    Professor Hulda Swai

    Tanzanian professor Hulda Swai wins the 2020 prize of the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Continental Awards for Scientific Excellence in February [Professor Hulda Swai of Tanzania Wins Distinguished Science Award: ‘Women are as good as men’]. This is a highly prestigious scientific award in Africa.

  2. In May, a Malian woman gives birth to 9 babies (from natural conception). This marks the first single birth and survival of nonuplets in the world. Halima Cisse, a Malian woman, has given birth to nonuplets, 5 girls and 4 boys, in a hospital in Morocco [World Record: Malian Woman gives Birth to Nine Babies].
  3. Herero_chained
    Chained Herero men

    Germany agrees to pay Namibia €1.1bn over historical Herero-Nama genocide in May of this year. This is historic, late, and probably not enough compared to the loss in human lives… yet it is important! The money will be paid over 30 years in aid programs…  (probably a way to siphon money back to Germany, while appearing to be giving something), and pales in comparison to the billions worth of Namibian diamonds and cobalt mine that will profit German companies in fine print [Germany in Namibia: the First Genocide of the 20th Century].

  4. Laurent Gbagbo
    Laurent Gbagbo

    In June, after 10 years of imprisonment, and over 20 years of persecution, Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of Cote d’Ivoire finally lands home amidst celebrations from his supporters in the country and abroad [Laurent Gbagbo is Back in Cote d’Ivoire]. Although there have been subsequent disappointing actions on his part, it is nonetheless a victory over the International Court of Justice, and all the persecution Blé Goude (How long shall they kill our prophets…?), him, and countless others have gone through, and remains a major cause for celebration, as it shows that, for a just cause, perseverance and determination always bear fruits.

  5. In June, Petra Diamonds pays Tanzanians for its abuse [Petra Diamonds pays £4.3m to Tanzanians ‘abused’ by its contractors]; this is significant as it shows that it is not impossible to demand reparations from these giant companies that pollute our lands and abuse us. It sets a precedent.
  6. Tokyo2020
    Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo (Olympics.com)

    Late July marks the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after one year of postponement, and Africa wins new victories. Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui offers the African continent its first medal of the games, by winning gold in the 400m freestyle swimming; Hugues Zango of Burkina Faso gives his country its first ever medal at the Olympics by winning the bronze medal in the men’s triple jump; while Eliud Kipchoge successfully defends his Olympic title at the marathon becoming the 3rd person in the history of the games to win successive marathons [African Wins at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics].

  7. In October, Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah is awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature, making him the fifth African to win the illustrious prize [Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah awarded Nobel Prize of Literature]. As you can see, the African literary scene is flourishing.
  8. Somalia_The Gravedigger Wife
    “The Gravedigger’s Wife” by Khadar Ahmed

    A Somali love story, the Gravediggers’ Wife is this year’s FESPACO winner [Somali Love Story, The Gravedigger’s Wife, is this year’s FESPACO winner]. The FESPACO, which is one of Africa’s biggest film festival, took place this year after the pandemic and lockdowns, and an 8-months delay because of security reasons [FESPACO 2021: One of Africa’s Biggest Film Festival is back!].

  9. 100 years after René Maran, an African wins the prestigious French Prix Goncourt. The award was given to Senegalese writer Mohamed Mbougar Sarr. This is the first time that a Sub-saharan African person wins the prize, and the third time for a Black person in the almost 120-years history of the title [100 years after René Maran, An African wins the Prestigious Prix Goncourt], even though people of African descent make up so much of the French population over the past century.
  10. Benin_Fon statue symbolizing Behanzin Man shark
    Benin Fon statue symbolizing Behanzin man shark (Musee du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac)

    In November, France returns some artifacts of the kingdom of Dahomey to the present-day country of Benin; these were looted when the French burnt down the capital of King Behanzin at Abomey over 120 years ago [France returns 26 Artifacts from Behanzin’s Era to Benin]. Similarly, the Benin Bronze cockerel held at the University of Cambridge from the famed Benin Kingdom [Benin City: the Majestic City the British burnt to the ground] has been returned to Nigeria. This is still little, as they should all be returned to their rightful owners; it should not even be up to negotiation.

  11. Congolese Rumba has been recognized as a UNESCO Intangible World Heritage. Congratulations to both Congos, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for working together. We do hope that this is just the first step in a collaboration that will extend to other domains including economic success and beyond [Congolese Rumba Wins UNESCO Protected Status].

Now, there are a lot more such as David Diop winning the International Booker prize for his book “At Night All Blood is Black” which focuses on Tirailleurs Senegalais; or the Senegalese influencer Khaby Lame being ranked number 2 on Tik Tok for his wordless humor which transcends language barriers and cultures (he is the fastest growing Tik Tok influencer with 120 million followers); or even Madagascar’s secretary of police, Serge Gelle, swimming for about 12 hours to reach shore after his helicopter crashed in the Indian Ocean off the northeast coast of the country. When rescued, Gelle said “My turn to die has not yet come, thank God.” So let us all be grateful for this year, and for the people and events who have brought joy to our lives, and let us move forward to a new year. 

Who/What did we say Goodbye to in Africa in 2021?

2021 was no doubt a tough year the world over, with a continued global pandemic, stressed economies, and much more. What a year! Africa said goodbye to quite a few people, events, and more. Below are a selection of 10 events of 2021. I am sure that I have left quite a few out…

  1. John Magufuli_2
    President John Magufuli of Tanzania

    In March, President John Magufuli of Tanzania changed dimensions. It was heartbreaking to see someone who had done so much for his country go away so suddenly. Nicknamed the “bulldozer” he had a reputation to be incorruptible [So Long to President John Magufuli of Tanzania: The Bulldozer], and under his leadership Tanzania saw growth and development. Magufuli was focused on Tanzania’s economic success and sought to implement ambitious projects that would lift more of his people out of poverty. Under his reign, he expanded free education, and rural electrificationTanzania was one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, thanks to his hard work [President John Magufuli in His Own Words].

  2. SA_Goodwill Zwelithini
    King Goodwill Zwelithini (Source: sahistory.org.za)

    In March, King Goodwill Zwelithini of the Zulu people of South Africa passed away. He had been king of the Zulu for over 50 years, since 1968 when he had succeeded his father, King Cyprian Bhekuzulu. Over these 50 years, he saw his country change from the apartheid regime to the Rainbow nation. At the time of his passing, the King’s Great Wife, Queen Mantfombi Dlamini was appointed as interim leader of the Zulu Nation under the title of queen regent from March 2021 to April 2021, when she passed away suddenly. King Goodwill Zwelithini was succeeded by his son King Misuzulu Zulu.

  3. In June, the very popular Nigerian pastor T.B. Joshua departed from this planet. He was a legendary charismatic pastor who was visited by presidents, and people from around the world; it is said that his church was Nigeria’s biggest tourist attraction.
  4. Kenneth Kaunda
    Kenneth Kaunda

    In June also, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, first president of Zambia joined his ancestors. At 97 years old, he was one of Africa’s last surviving liberation leaders. To a generation of Africans, he epitomized the Africa struggle for independence. Affectionately known as Mzee, Kaunda worked tirelessly towards the freedom of the whole of Southern Africa from white rule; he supported the fight of other countries against repressive, racist regimes in South Africa, Malawi, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Southern Rhodesia (Why the name: Zimbabwe?). It took several years, but his support never faltered.

  5. In September, Sultan Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya of the Bamun people of Cameroon perished at the hands of the virus which has paralyzed the planet. He was the 19th reigning monarch of the Bamun Kingdom in the Western province of Cameroon. He had succeeded to his father, the sultan Seidou Njimoluh Njoya in 1992. He has been succeeded by his son Nabil Mbombo Njoya. At 28, Nabil Njoya is now the 20th in the Nchare Yen dynasty of the Bamun people.
  6. In November, F.W. De Klerk, former president of South Africa, and last president of the Apartheid era, passed away. He is known for releasing Nelson Mandela from prison, after 27 years, disassembling the apartheid system, and sharing the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela.
  7. Ethiopia_flag
    Flag of Ethiopia

    Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis started bringing tears to our hearts… Not sure how to explain the Nobel Peace prize given to Ethiopia’s prime minister Ahmed Abiy in 2019, when I see him choosing the war path instead of peace now. He is presiding over a protracted civil war that by many accounts bears the hallmarks of genocide. This leads to skepticism towards these “prizes” handed over by the “international” community. It has been over a year now that Abiy ordered a military offensive in the northern Tigray region with the promise to have it resolved quickly. Thousands are now dead, 2 million people displaced, and much more.

  8. Mozambique_Flag
    Flag of Mozambique

    Loss of peace in Mozambique. Last year, I told you about this amazing oil fields and precious minerals found in Mozambique, and all of sudden the presence of Islamic insurgencies [seriously?… Islamic insurgencies… I think these people probably take us for idiots] starting there right after Total signed one of the biggest contracts ever for over $14 Billions, and the united nations of thieves [seriously check it out, banks for Japan, EU, France, India, US, etc…] descended on the country [Who/What did we say goodbye to in Africa in 2020?].

  9. King Kêfa Sagbadjou Glèlè, monarch of the once-powerful Dahomey kingdom, in the country of Benin, has joined his ancestors. Bear in mind that King Kêfa descended from the Agoli-Agbo line, the one installed (not the rightful bearers of the traditions) by the French after King Behanzin was deported to Martinique and then Algeria.
  10. South Africa_Desmond Tutu_1
    Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Source: The Namibian)

    Just the day after Christmas, we learned that Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner and iconic anti-apartheid fighter was deceased on December 26. As the tributes pour in from around the world, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta said, Tutu had “inspired a generation of African leaders who embraced his non-violent approaches in the liberation struggle.” At 90, Archbishop Tutu had lived a long fruitful life, battle-tested by life under apartheid. The plans include two days of lying in state before an official state funeral on 1 January in Cape Town.

So Long to Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop who Fought Apartheid and Injustices

Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Source: The Namibian)

Yesterday, December 26, 2021, the 1984 Nobel peace prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu passed away in his home in Cape Town, South Africa. As tributes pour in from around the world, all will remember him as an anti-apartheid hero. Contemporary to Nelson Mandela and to many other freedom fighters, he used his pulpit from his church to bring forward the injustices of the apartheid regime to the world. The BBC has an obituary about the life of this great man. Excerpts below are from the BBC.

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… Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born in 1931 in a small gold-mining town [Klerksdorp], in what was then the Transvaal. He first followed in his father’s footsteps as a teacher, but abandoned that career after the passage of the Bantu Education Act in 1953 which introduced racial segregation in schools.

Tutu (r) with fellow staff members of the Pretoria Bantu Normal College in 1961 (Source: BBC)

… He served as bishop of Lesotho from 1976-78, assistant bishop of Johannesburg and rector of a parish in Soweto, before his appointment as bishop of Johannesburg. It was as a dean that he first began to raise his voice against injustice in South Africa and again from 1977 onwards as general secretary of the South African Council of Churches. Already a high-profile figure before the 1976 rebellion in black townships, it was in the months before the Soweto violence that he first became known to white South Africans as a campaigner for reform.

His efforts saw him awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984As head of the Anglican Church in South Africa, he continued to campaign actively against apartheid. In March 1988, he declared: “We refuse to be treated as the doormat for the government to wipe its jackboots on.”

He was never afraid to voice his opinions. In April 1989, when he went to Birmingham in the UK, he criticised what he termed “two-nation” Britain, and said there were too many black people in the country’s prisons. 

Later he angered the Israelis when, during a Christmas pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he compared black South Africans with the Arabs in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. He said he could not understand how people who had suffered as the Jews had, could inflict such suffering on the Palestinians.

Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela just after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison (Source: the Nelson Mandela Foundation)

… In November 1995, Mandela, by then South Africa’s president, asked Tutu to head a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, with the task of gathering evidence of apartheid-era crimes and recommending whether people confessing their involvement should receive amnesty. At the end of the commission’s inquiry, Tutu attacked South Africa’s former white leaders, saying most of them had lied in their testimony. The commission also accused the ANC of committing human rights abuses during its fight against apartheid. Both sides rejected the report.

… A small man, “the Arch”, as he was known, was gregarious and ebullient, emanating a spirit of joy despite his intense sense of mission.

Congolese Rumba Wins UNESCO Protected Status

Rumba_putumayo-african-rumba
Putumayo cover of African Rumba disc (Source: Putumayo)

Two months ago, the 2 Congos, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), filed jointly for the Congolese Rumba to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage (The 2 Congos Seek to have the Rumba Recognized as a World Treasure). I hope that this is a start for both Congos to transcend their differences to rise together more often, and join efforts. Isn’t it Unity nice? Enjoy this article from the BBC.

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One of the most influential genres of African music and dance, Congolese rumba, now has Unesco-protected status.

Congo_Brazzaville_Flag
Flag of the Republic of Congo

It is the culmination of campaigning by two countries – the Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville.

They both occupy what was once the ancient kingdom of Kongo – where the sinuous dance originated according to the two nations’ joint application.

The word “rumba” itself comes from the Kikongo word for navel, “nkumba“.

DRC_flag
Flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Congolese rumba joins other living traditions such as Jamaican reggae music and Singaporean hawker food on Unesco’s “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” list. The UN’s cultural body says bestowing this status helps to “maintain cultural diversity in the face of growing globalisation”.

… Rumba “has been part of our identity, descendants of Africa and all of us, throughout the ages,” said DR Congo’s Culture minister Catherine Kathungu Furaha earlier this year. “We want rumba to be recognised as ours. It is our identity.

When our ancestors who were taken abroad wanted to remember their history, their origin, their memory, they danced the navel dance.”

Papa Wemba1
Papa Wemba

Among the earliest heroes of Congolese rumba were Wendo Kolosoy, Paul Nkamba, Franco and TPOK Jazz, Tabu Ley Rochereau and Dr Nico. As African nations fought for independence from their colonial rulers, The Independence Cha Cha by Le Grand Kallé galvanised many and is seen as the first truly pan-African hit song. … Later that decade saw the arrival of Zaïko Langa Langa and its breakout star Papa Wemba. Among his many protégés was Koffi Olomidé, who remains popular today along with younger stars such as Fally Ipupa.

… There is no doubt that rumba’s influence is felt across the world, and its champions say it is only right that this be recognised by Unesco and benefit the next generation of musicians.

 

Spider and the Magic Calabash

spider-5-coloring-pageOnce upon a time there was a village where famine was raging; the king was very worried because the children were dying and the villagers no longer had enough strength to go and cultivate the land. This was where Kaku Ananze, the spider lived. Despite all his cunning, he too was suffering from hunger. Every day he went into the bush in search of roots or seeds that could feed his family. One day, Kaku Ananze was wandering among the bushes. Exhausted with fatigue, he stopped to rest. So he hears a little voice coming out of a thicket which tells him, “Papa Ananze! Papa Ananze!” A bit scared and very curious to know who is calling him, Kaku Ananze enters amidst the thorns and discovers a calabash placed on the ground.

Calebassier_3_2021
The calabash all dried up… almost ready to be made into a bowl

As he takes a closer look, the kitchen utensil speaks to him in these terms, “Take me out of this thorn bush and take me to your hut. As a reward, I will make your life happy.”

Spider picks up the calabash and takes it home. Once home, he calls his wife and children. He shows them the utensil and tells them his story. While everyone is amazed, Kaku Ananze leans over the calabash and says to it, “Dear friend, I did everything you wanted. It’s up to you to keep your promise. My people and I are starving and have no food; can you help us?” No sooner does he finish these words than the calabash is filled with all kinds of food: fried yams, beignets, plantains, bananas, chicken, sauce,… They all thank their new friend, eat until they are full. Then Kaku Ananze speaks in these terms, « children, listen to me, and you too, wife ! I am going to carefully hide this magic calabash. Do not tell anyone, under any circumstances, because people will be jealous of our luck and could come and steal the calabash from us. » All family members swear to remain silent. For a few days everything goes well. In the evening, Spider takes the calabash from its hiding place, and politely asks for food, and after the family has eaten, he returns the utensil back.

Beignets
Beignets

But, Kaku Ananze’s wife is very greedy. She hid a few bean fritters in her loincloth as provision for the day. In the afternoon, she goes out of the concession, sits under a mango tree and begins to eat. But her hungry neighbor sees her. The neighbor quietly approaches and starts screaming, “how can you have bean fritters, when everybody is dying of hunger, and that there is no food in the village? Besides, I did not see you pounding the dough or cooking. Who did you steal this from?”

Mrs. Spider is bothered. She immediately gives her remaining beignets to the neighbor, begging her to shut up. This one devours everything then starts making noise again. “Thief! Thief ! Who did you take this from?”  Scared, Mrs. Spider tells her the whole story of the magic calabash found by her husband, and swears to her, that from now on, she will bring her a little food every day if she keeps the secret.

During the night, the neighbor who cannot hold her tongue, tells her husband everything; the husband immediately goes to the king to denounce Kaku Ananze’s selfishness.

The king sends soldiers to search the entire concession of Kaku Ananze, but they do not find anything. The magic calabash has disappeared. And no one ever saw it again.

Adea, kue

The tongue is death.

Contes des Lagunes et des Savanes, Edicef (1975). Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

Proverbe congolais sur la sagesse / Congolese Proverb on Wisdom

Calebassier_3_2021
La calebasse / The calabash

Une calebasse peut être solide : elle ne résistera pas contre un tronc d’arbre (proverbe Ekonda – République Démocratique du Congo (RDC)). – Devant un vieux, un jeune ferait mieux de se taire.

Tree_1A calabash can be strong : it will not survive against a tree trunk (Ekonda proverb – Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)). – In front of an old man, a young man had better be silent.

The Calabash : An Indispensable Fruit/Tree in African Culture

Calebassier_1_2021
The calabash tree (Le calebassier) under the African sun

Have you ever eaten out of a calabash? It seems the food has a particular taste, and that eating out of the calabash adds an extra ‘mmph‘ to the food. In the old days, and even to this day we used homemade utensils such as calabash, especially when eating fufu (yummy)… Well, I recently stumbled upon the tree from which the calabash bowl is made out of, and found the fruits hanging down from the tree. The tree is cultivated not only for its fruits but also for the utensils, and for making amazing musical instruments. I love the idea that everything is used and nothing is thrown out: from the fruit, the meat inside the fruit, and its shell. The calabashes are hollowed-out and dried, and used to cook, carry water, and food. The smaller sized ones are used as bowls to drink palm wine: the white wine made in Africa (Le Vin de Palme: Vin Blanc Made in Africa).

Calebassier_2_2021
The calabash fruit

Calabashes are used in making the West African kora (a harp-lute), xalam/ngoni (a lute) and the goje (a traditional fiddle). They also serve as resonators underneath the balafon (West African marimba). The calabash is also used in making the shekere / shegureh (a Sierra Leonean women’s rattle) and balangi (a Sierra Leonean type of balafon) musical instruments. Sometimes, large calabashes are simply hollowed out, dried, and used as percussion instruments, especially by FulaniSonghaiGur-speaking and Hausa peoples. In Nigeria, the calabash has been used to meet a law requiring the wearing of a helmet on a motorcycle. In South Africa, it is commonly used as a drinking vessel and a vessel for carrying food by all people across the continent. In Ethiopia, children from the Erbore tribe wear hats made from calabashes to protect themselves from the sun.

Calebassier_3_2021
The calabash all dried up… almost ready to be made into a bowl

For the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the Soccer City stadium which hosted the tournament in Johannesburg was made in the shape of a calabash on cooking fire.

South Africa_Soccer City Stadium_2021
FNB Stadium also known as Soccer City Stadium or The Calabash in Johannesburg, South Africa