Category Archives: Digital Participation
From All Our Names to some of the short stories in The Thing Around Your Neck, our class discussions have not only revolved around experiences in the African continent but also experiences in the diaspora. Afrikan Boy is a perfect example of the interesting culture of Africans overseas. With his good humor, the U.K.-born Nigerian rapper does not shy away from his roots and mixes them with the grime scene he grew up with in England, lending to the genre of “Afro-grime.” Afrikan Boy is able to present themes ranging from battling immigration officers to just being plain Y.A.M. (Young, Ambitious, and Motivated) in a surprisingly catchy way, and if anyone’s looking for some new music, I’d suggest checking him out.
If the importance of yams in Nigeria wasn’t stressed enough in Things Fall Apart…
And here, he samples the legendary Fela Kuti in “Hit Em Up.”
He just released an album as well. It’s on Spotify! (Favorite tracks: Take You There, Border Business, Mr Kunta Kinte, M.I.A)
I read The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu. This novel takes place in DC in the 1970s where an Ethiopian immigrant who owns a grocery store in the city. The story centralizes around his relationships with other characters in his neighborhood, both Africans and non-Africans, and how they affect the culture shock that he feels living in the United States and how it feels to be displaced. Belowis the link to my review on amazon.
Scapegoat is a short South African short film.
With humor, it touches on many topics that we have discussed in class.
To start, the white boy is depicted as a stereotypical tourist. Although he comes from good intentions, he is pretty ignorant about Africa. On the bus he tries to videotape everything, a woman tells him to put his seatbelt on but he assumes she’s speaking a different language and continues to stay caught up in getting everything on camera.
Despite the cultural differences of the white guy and the South African, we see their similarities when it comes to their respective relationships with their fathers. Also, the two are both seen as outsiders when they go into the city. This forces them to try to understand one another and work together towards the common goal of finding a goat and getting back to the village.
Jacky Gosee, an Ethiopian artist has been able to successfully incorporate a western influence on Ethiopian music. To better understand, Ethiopia’s main traditional dance is called eskista. It basically consists on shoulder shaking. Ethiopian culture is so traditional and conservative that there is little to no contact between men and women while dancing. But in this video you can see the influence of western as well as other outside influences in various instances.
Although the video shows people in traditional Ethiopian clothing, Gosee dresses in western influenced clothing. With his hat, glasses, and tattoo, he is able to differentiate himself from a common Ethiopian. The dance moves in the video also show the steps of cultural progression taken by Gosee. With an Ethiopian beat, the dancers are able to take on American dances in a battle. By showing both Ethiopian and American dress and dance, the similarities and differences between the two cultures become apparent.
I recently came across this article that reports on a growing protest in Kenya that began as a reaction to the brutal harassment of a woman who was accused of dressing immodestly.
In this class we read a lot about violence, poverty, opportunity, migration, homophobia and racism, but I felt like one thing really missing was an in-depth discussion of the modern feminist movement in Africa and the state of women’s rights. I wanted to know, what happened after Nervous Conditions? This article started to clear some of that history up for me.
Feminism in Africa is an interesting subject because feminism as a whole has a rather racist history and tends to fail to be intersectional and include women of color. Another fault of feminism is that it tends to treat third and first-world gender issues as different. Its expected that, in America, women have made great strides and now are dealing with lesser issues such as catcalling, while in Africa, women barely even have control over their bodies and often suffer great violence because of their gender. However, while things like female genital mutilation is most certainly an issue, it cannot be the single story of Africa’s gender issues. Africa is a large and diverse place, and this article is just one example of the raw social energy of Africa that can be harnessed in really positive, progressive ways.
I personally think we should definitely continue to track this movement and see if we can’t make it worldwide. The policing of women’s modesty through their clothing is a huge problem that is ingrained in so many cultures, including America’s.
So say it with me – “My Dress My Choice!”
Last night I finally got my hands on a copy of the South African film Tsotsi, directed by Gavin Hood. I think Professor Green-Simms mentioned this film in class during our discussion of the makeup of South Africa, and I was excited because I had wanted to see it for a while but never got around to it. Well, I finally did, and I was not disappointed.
In sum, the movie centers on Tsotsi, a poor man fromthe slums of Johannesburg, who earns his living stealing from the rich along with his gang of thieves. However, things get crazy when he decides to shoot a rich woman from the suburbs, stealing her car… and her baby in the back seat.
I won’t spoil the ending just in case anyone wants to watch it, but there were many interesting parts I’d like to share that related to our class discussions. First of all, the cinematography was amazing, and Hood showed South Africa in all kinds of lights. From the brown, muskiness of the slums to the blue and white of the shopping malls, the film showed South Africa as it is, a land where the rich and poor live side to side. One shot in particular showed Tsotsi standing on top of a hill of brown grass overlooking the city’s towering skyscrapers during sunset, which was a pretty cool contrast. This chaotic mix of Johannesburg reminded me of Welcome to Our Hillbrow.
Additionally, like in the film Yesterday, the country’s struggle with AIDS has a presence in the film. Signs reading “We are all affected by HIV and AIDS” repeatedly appearedin scenes of the city. At one point, the movie showed a flashback of Tsotsi’s father forbidding him from touching his dying mother, and I feel that AIDS and people’s misunderstanding of it was a subtle message within Tsotsi.
Anyways, the plot was quite interesting and heartfelt. Not only does it show the dark undersides of the poor in Johannesburg but also the human side and background of Tsotsi the thief. The film shows his reasons behind his actions, the strength of the friendships he forms, the beauty of motherhood, and ultimately gives a voice to a man who in the scope of international media would have simply been a desperate South African who stole a car and a baby. Anyone with an interest in cinema should definitely check out this movie (it won an Academy Award in 2006 for Best Foreign Language Film!).
Link to the official movie website: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/district9/
District 9 (2009) is a film directed by Neill Blomkamp who is South African and also co-wrote the script. I found that this film was inspired by events that happened during the apartheid era in South Africa:
How people were forced to leave their homes, evicted from the place that was the foundation of their entire lives was terrible. A main theme that I saw in this film was xenophobia through speciesism (which I discovered is an actual term and not something I coined while watching this even though I thought I did for a solid two minutes before deciding to Google it) similar to racism. The aliens were being called prawns which was described in the film as a derogatory term meaning “bottom feeder, one who scavenges the leftovers”. After twenty years, there was public pressure for the removal of the aliens who had simply lost leadership and wanted to return home with no way of doing so.
For the design of the aliens, I would have to say that their features can be mostly characterized as those of an anthropod. Their eyes are what stood out to me for a lot of the emotion that they evoked was told through the eyes which exhibited anthropomorphism besides walking on two legs and not four or eighteen.
What I loved the most about this film is how it took on the form of a documentary. One particularly style that was incorporated was cinéma vérité, which means truthful cinema. The camera-person is an observer, filming whatever is happening before him or her which sometimes includes interaction with those in front of the camera. This gave rawness to District 9. And even still when there was not a physical camera-person there, the hand-held camera or shaky camera cinematographic technique was used, and I felt right like I was in the very setting being shown.
This film created a lot of controversy among Nigerians for how they were depicted as criminals and cannibals. In the film, the Nigerians in D-9 ran various scams: selling cat food to the alien for exorbitant prices, interspecies prostitution, and dealing in alien weaponry. I find this interesting not only for specifically choosing Nigerians to be the group of people living in the compound area near the aliens which was considered a slum, but also given that Nigeria is known for the scam involving spam emails asking for money and bank information as stated in this article discussing affect of this film in Nigeria: http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Movies/09/21/nigeria.film.outcry/#cnnSTCText
Digital Participation – Film Review: La petite vendeuse de soleil (The little girl who sold the sun) (1999)
La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil (The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun) (1999) is directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty, a Senegalese filmmaker. The protagonist is a young disabled girl named Sili Laam who uses crutches to walk and begs in the city streets for money to help out her family. She decides to enter the occupation of selling newspapers which has been dominated by young males. In one scene, with her face superimposed on the printing of newspapers, Sili exclaims that what boys can do, girls can do too. I admire Sili’s self-determination and her character reminds me a little of Tambu from Nervous Conditions. Sili makes her way through the bustling city with confidence and stands her ground when looked at with suspicion for making a large amount of money or defending the newspaper she sells, Soleil, as her friend, Babou Seck, argues that Sud is better.
I like the non-dialogue scenes incorporated into the short film. Some scenes depict everyday life and there is a juxtaposition being the quiet of the town Sili lives in to the busy city with the motor vehicles zooming by. Other scenes feature music, specifically music coming from the boom box carried around by a boy in a wheelchair. My favorite scene would have to be when Sili and other girls are dancing down the road to the music and meet up with other kids who join in the fun. Then when they pay the boy to play more music, Sili puts on sunshades and smiles. This scene shows how happiness can be found in difficult times, that nothing should stop one from enjoying life even for a brief period of time, and music can bring people together.
At the end of the film it says: “this story is a hymn to the courage of street children”. I think this is fitting especially using the term hymn given the music that is played throughout the film. To me, this means that this story exhibits how there is no single story to what the life of a street child entails, how there are obstacles to overcome regardless of some sort of status one may hold over another, and that these kids have all learned how to build their own path without having to be told how to do so.
Wow. Just wow. I’m not one for documentaries, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Square. The Square takes place in the heart of the action in Tahir Square during 2011-2013. The film takes us through the revolutions in Egypt through the eyes of Egyptian youth who are fairly close to our age. The film is shot so we really feel like we are going through the same experiences as the revolutionaries. We are silent companions as we hear each of them defend their beliefs and sacrifice everything in order to make their voices heard. This is a very strong point of the movie. You basically enter the revolutionaries’ lives. There is a very powerful scene when former Hollywood actor, Khalid Abdalla is telling his father via Skype that he does not care what happens to him as long as he is able to protest in the square. The viewer learns that Tahir Square is more than a spot for a revolution. It becomes a community with life and music. Actually, the music is one of the highlights of this film. My personal favorite storyline is the storyline of Ahmed Hassan. He is sort of the de facto main character and we see him age from a passionate (and rather naïve) revolutionary to a hardened and mature one. In this way he is sort of like Isaac in All Our Names, though without the murdering. While this documentary does take you through an emotional roller coaster, it does leave you with a sensation of hope. You see a lot of dark and horrible things, (I do not want to get too specific to keep the shock value) but yet there is also good. You see laughter. You see love. You see sides coming together. You see art. It shows to the viewer that the Egyptian revolution is more than a political revolution; it’s also a cultural one.
Fela Kuti is a Nigerian musician and activist who created Afrobeat music and was arrested and beaten continuously for writing lyrics that questioned the Nigerian government. I went to a documentary screening of Fela Kuti called Finding Fela.
The documentary did a really nice job grasping the life of Kela and his resistance to submit to Nigerian government, using the method of Music. In the documentary, people ask Fela Kuti why his songs are so long, lasting for 30 minutes in average. Fela responds by saying the music of the great composers like Beethoven are long too and it is because they lay down their thought in the music. Fela goes on by saying that it is same for him, that he is composing a music which represents his thoughts. Fela’s respond was interesting to me because it made me think that if he have a lot of ideas and thoughts about a issue, and music is his form of communication, why should it have length restraints? I thought that Kela’s answer was a wise one to a rather foolish question. This response of Kela implies that he is using music as a form of communication both to Nigerian government and to other citizens of Nigeria. The lyrics are often about government’s oppression on its people and the importance of people to fight for their rights.
Here is the link to one of his song called Shuffering and Shmiling.
If you want to know more about it, check out this website http://www.felaproject.net/