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Posts tagged africa

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from "2009 Khanga Designs with Methali," found at Zanzibari Reunion :: via ALL MY EYES
Nate:
Nate:
from "Everyone Speaks Text Message," by Tina Rosenberg, The New York TImes, 9 December 2011

“For a long time, technology was the enemy,” says Inée Slaughter, executive director of the New Mexico-based Indigenous Language Institute, which teaches Native Americans and other indigenous peoples how to use digital technologies to keep their languages vital. Heritage languages were being killed off by increasing urbanization, the spread of formal education and the shift to cash crops, which ended the isolation of indigenous communities. Advances in technology seemed to intensify the decline. “Even in 1999 or 2000, people were saying technology killed their language,” Slaughter says. “Community elders worried about it. As television came into homes, English became pervasive 24/7. Mainstream culture infiltrated, and young kids want to be like that. It was a huge, huge problem, and it’s still there. But now we know ways technology can be helpful.”

Nate:
from "The Kawere Boys," by Matthew LaVoie, Voice of America African Music Treasures Blog, 12 November 2008 :: first posted here 12 November 2008
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The Kawere Boys ‘Muma Ben’ (1974) mp3

Most of the songs in the Kawere repertoire seem to be praise songs for patrons who had invited the group to perform. These songs can be thought of as pre-internet age social networking. The singer usually starts by introducing himself, goes on to introduce the object of his praise, as well as the patron’s relatives, friends, and neighbors, before explaining the nature of his relationship to the patron in question. For example, in ‘Muma Ben’, the song starts with an introduction of ‘Muma Ben from Saye Konyango’, then introduces Muma Ben’s family, and ends with praise for the hospitality the singer received when he was invited to Muma Ben’s house. If you were to map out all of the relationships outlined in the Kawere Boys singles in our collection, and if you had a deep understanding of Luo culture, you could get a good idea of the social networks the Kawere Boys relied upon for their livelihood.

Nate:
from ""But Teacher! That’s Not Design!"," by Vera Sacchetti, Change Observer, 8 July 2010 :: via koranteng

It’s interesting to see that although people appreciate their very rich culture, they do not connect its traditions to contemporary knowledge and practices. For example, students in the graphic design course I taught at ENAV asked me to give them lessons in color, insisting they knew nothing about it. This really surprised me. My immediate answer was, “But you should teach me! You’re surrounded by color and use it in such powerful ways in every aspect of daily life. I admire you for it!” Their response was to laugh and say, “But Teacher! That’s not design! We need to use design colors.” From talking to my students and people in the cultural sector, I got the impression that design was this distant, quite artificial, field they had to adapt to. Their main concern is learning software.

from “Vuvuzela Concert,” by Zeit Online, 28 June 2010 :: via Alex Ross via Ted Olsen

Andy:
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"David Mufamadi, Charles St., Brooklyn, Pretoria," by Nic Grobler, Bicycle Portraits - everyday South Africans and their bicycles, 2010 :: via Wired.com Gadget Lab
Nate:
Nate:
from Precious and the Puggies, Chapter Twa, by Alexander McCall Smith, translatit intae Scots by James Robertson and wi bonnie illustrations by Iain McIntosh, 2010 :: via MetaFilter

Whit wid ye dae if ye fund yersel face tae face wi a muckle lion? Staund as still as a stookie? Mak yer feet yer freens and rin? Creep awa quiet-like? Mibbe ye wid jist steek yer een and hope that ye were haein a dream – which is whit Obed did at first when he saw the frichtsome lion starin strecht at him. But when he opened his een again, the lion wis aye there, and whit wis waur, wis stertin tae open its muckle mooth. Precious sooked in her braith. ‘Did ye see his teeth?’ she spiered. Obed noddit his heid. ‘The moonlicht wis gey bricht,’ he said. ‘His teeth were white and as sherp as muckle needles.’

Nate:
a Futility Closet post by Greg Ross, 15 March 2010

Ordered to join a jungle snake cult in his native Togo, Tété-Michel Kpomassie chanced to find a book about Greenland in a local Jesuit library. At the first opportunity he ran away.

Kpomassie’s 1981 autobiography, An African in Greenland, tells of his odyssey through West Africa and Europe seeking a route to the frozen island. He finally arrived in the mid-1960s, a black giant among the Inuit:

As soon as they saw me, all stopped talking. So intense was the silence, you could have heard a gnat in flight. Then they started to smile again, the women with slightly lowered eyes. When I was standing before them on the wharf, they all raised their heads to look me full in the face. Some children clung to their mothers’ coats, and others began to scream with fright or to weep.

Kpomassie happily spent the next two years driving a dogsled and hunting seal in a kayak. After eight years, he had reached the land of his dreams — a country with no trees and no snakes.

from “The danger of a single story,” by Chimamanda Adichie, TED.com, July 2009

Christy:
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from The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney, 2010
Christy:
excerpt Life and taxes
Nate:
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In colonial Nigeria in the last years of the 19th century, a strange quirk of history led the British rulers to draw an arbitrary boundary line along the 7?10? N line of latitude, separating the population into two separate administrative districts.

Below the line, the colonial government raised money by levying taxes on imported alcohol and other goods that came through Southern Protectorate’s sea ports. Above the line, the administrators of the landlocked Northern Protectorate had no sea ports, and instead raised money through direct taxes. In the areas near the border, this took the form of a simple poll tax, where tax officials collected from each citizen the equivalent of between $4 and $20 in today’s dollars.

Could this seemingly minor difference—created over a century ago by a long-defunct colonial administration, and long ago erased by subsequent administrative divisions—possibly still matter today?

Yes, it could, according to Daniel Berger, a PhD student in politics at NYU. Berger’s paper, Taxes, Institutions and Local Governance: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Colonial Nigeria, finds that the “simple act of having to collect taxes caused governments to be forced to build the capacity which can now provide basic government services.” As a result, governance today is “significantly better” in areas just above the line than in those just below it.

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from the "Shettima Kagu Qur'an," Early Nigerian Qur'anic Manuscripts :: thanks Andrew!
Nate:
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photo by Johanna Brugman and Bonny Sands, from "Classifying 'Clicks' In African Languages To Clear Up 100-year-old Mystery," ScienceDaily, 18 July 2009 :: additional click info from Wikipedia
Nate:
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"Man on Flying Machine" (2008), by Yinka Shonibare, James Cohan Gallery :: via Daily Serving
Nate:
excerpt Into the scrum
Nate:

From his experience as a founder of Global Voices, an aggregator of citizen media from around the world, Mr. Zuckerman says he has learned to value the roots laid down by a community of bloggers.

In Kenya, he said, bloggers were important commentators and reporters in 2007-8 on a disputed election, and people would ask why there were so many bloggers in Kenya.

It turned out, he said, that “Kenya has the second-most bloggers in Africa and that mostly they are not writing about politics; many are writing about rugby.” There was, he said, “a fascinating latent capacity — people who knew how to use the tools, knew how to write well, to tell a story with words and pictures.”

The Russia-Georgia war, he said, offered a contrast.

“Suddenly a bunch of people flocked to blogging tools,” he said. “We had never heard about of lot of those people. A number of people were manufacturing blogs from whole cloth for propaganda purposes. It was hard to know who they were, if they were credible. In Kenya, we knew who they were; we knew their favorite rugby team.”

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"In pictures: West African teddies," photographs and text by Glenna Gordon, BBC News, 20 May 2009
Nate:
Nate:
from "Question 4: Isn't African food too...?," by Fran Osseo-Asare, BetumiBlog, 22 April 2009

There's a profound yet simple proverb about ethnocentrism in many African societies (e.g., the Baganda, Akamba, Kikuyu, Bemba, Haya, Igbo, and Yoruba). Translated, it means "The one who has not traveled widely thinks his/her mother is the best cook."

This proverb often comes to mind when I hear Americans talking about African food, especially Sub-Saharan African food, in a patronizing, superior way, and also lumping a whole continent together in a way they would never dream of doing for other global locations. A missionary in Ghana once sniffed and said to me disparagingly "They eat grass," when referring to the greens cooked in stews. In Pennsylvania we carefully distinguish among varieties of apples (Rome, Gala, Granny Smith, Red or Golden Delicious, Macintosh, Pink Lady, Ginger Gold, Braeburn, Crispin, Cameo, etc., etc.). In Ghana that discrimination applies to greens, of which it's documented that people savor 47 different kinds. Just because our palates haven't been trained to detect the textures, degrees of bitterness, saltiness, etc. doesn't mean that the food is inferior.

Similarly, people often say that Africans eat some kind of starch, but they lump them all together, without detecting the differences among, say, types of yams, rice, plantains, millets, sorghum, corn, sweet potatoes, potatoes, cassava, taro (cocoyams), even wheat, along with very different methods of preparation (fermented, unfermented, pounded, dried, fresh, boiled, fried, roasted, steamed, stirred, etc.).

Nate:
from "Bootylicious," by Morgan Meis, The Smart Set, 16 April 2009 :: via 3quarksdaily
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There is another aspect to our fascination with pirates. It is existential rather than political. It is about civilization and its limits, about our need for a sense of home versus a need to break those boundaries altogether. The sea has always played a big role in that dialectic. The sea is, potentially, an avenue for intercommunication and exchange among men. It is, in short, a vast shipping lane. But it is also an outer boundary. The land stops at the sea. The city stops at the sea. We human beings have conquered this earth, mostly and swiftly, but the sea is still unnatural territory for us, we aren\'t as sure on its surfaces as we are on those harder surfaces more suited to bipeds.

The pirate takes that insecurity and runs with it. Indeed, the word pirate can ultimately be traced back to the ancient Greek word "peira," which means trial, attempt, experiment. To have peira, to posses peira, is to have gone through an experience. If I try something, I get to know it. In fact, it is out of the collecting of peira that a person constructs the greater web of experience (ex-peira) that makes one person, one person, and another, another.

The pirate is, quite literally, taking a chance. In doing so, pirates reenact the basic process that everyone goes through in becoming a person. You start out with very little sense of the world, and you gradually gain experience and put it all together. Pirates are simply less complacent than the rest of us. For reasons specific to historical circumstance and the accident of birth, some people decide to take that ultimate chance and continue to push the boundary of peira, to become a peirate — a pirate. Such figures dive back into the chaos of the sea, the edges of civilization, the end of the world. That such a journey is wrapped in physical danger, violence, moral ambiguity, cruelty, and heroism is only natural. Things are messy at the limits. Sureness dissolves at the boundaries.

Nate:
a Kottke.org post, 17 April 2009

When western music was played to members of the Mafa people from Cameroon who have never been exposed to western music, movies, or art, they were able to recognize the emotions conveyed by the music, even though the Mafa don't associate emotions with their own music.

by Nate Barksdale for Culture Making
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Yesterday Comment Magazine has posted an interview Gideon Strauss conducted with me over email a few weeks back, about my role as a curator for Culture-Making.com and, inevitably, my love of Swahili dictionaries. It’s part of their new “Comforts and Delights” feature; a few times a year I’ll be weighing in there with my thoughts about interesting cultural artifacts.