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Frederick Chiluba’s Shoes

Chiluba Shoes

The former Zambian President, who was a darling of the West and the Christian right, is in court for defrauding the state while in office.

Details of his extravagant lifestyle include the following, are emerging in court: “Mr. Chiluba owned more than 100 pairs of size 6 shoes, many affixed with his initials in brass.

He is just a little over five feet tall, and each pair has heels close to two inches high.

Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble


Akoya is certainly one of the best Afrobeat Revival Bands around. One of its members, Duke Mseleku is a Thekwini Homeboy and a great sax player following in the footsteps of his late uncle, Bheki Mseleku. What I find great about Duke is that he has never confined himself to any particular style,as a Jazz scholar he mostly played in Reggae bands and now the Afrobeats.

Akoya is also one of the few U.S Afrobeat bands with a direct connection to the Shrine, with their bandleader Kaleta having played in Fela’s band.


Yinka Shonibare in Brooklyn

Yinka Shonibare

Retrospective of his art the Brooklyn Museum through September 20, 2009. Yinka Shonibare MBE (Season 5) has a mid-career retrospective currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum through September 20, 2009.

The exhibition was organized and toured by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia and after the Brooklyn Museum’s presentation it will travel to the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Much of Shonibare’s work is rooted in art historical, historical, and literary references, making it all that more intriguing from a contemporary standpoint.

Shonibare’s work, according to the Museum’s press release, grapples with the relationship of contemporary African identity to European colonialism and explores themes of frivolity and excess. Much of the work in the exhibition deals with the 18th and 19th century, at the height of Victorian splendor—something the artist critiques throughout his work.

Why Shell Agreed to Settle with Nigeria’s Ogoni

Ken Saro Wiwa

Britain’s Channel 4 News–hardly raving anti-globalizers–reports on the rationale behind multinational oil company Shell’s decision to pay a “humanitarian” settlement to Nigerian activists who sued the company for the role in the state murder in 1995 of Ogoni writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and a number of others.

According to the agreement, Shell has agreed to pay $15.5m (£9.6m) in settlement of a legal action in which it was accused of having ­collaborated in the execution of the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other leaders of the Ogoni tribe of southern Nigeria.

The settlement, reached on the eve of the trial in a federal court in New York, was one of the largest payouts agreed by a ­multinational corporation charged with human rights violations.

The scale of the payment was being seen by experts in human rights law as a step towards international businesses being made accountable for their environmental and social actions.

The Culture of Rape in South Africa

Fate of Rape in South Africa

The Guardian has a story on the results of a study by South Africa’s Medical Research Council.

The first few paragraphs:

One in four men in South Africa have admitted to rape and many confess to attacking more than one victim, according to a study that exposes the country’s endemic culture of sexual violence. Three out of four rapists first attacked while still in their teens, the study found.

One in 20 men said they had raped a woman or girl in the last year. South Africa is notorious for having one of the highest levels of rape in the world. Only a fraction are reported, and only a fraction of those lead to a conviction.

The study into rape and HIV, by the country’s Medical Research Council (MRC), asked men to tap their answers into a Palm Pilot device to guarantee anonymity. The method appears to have produced some unusually frank responses.

The ID Book

The ID Book

“Xolile Wiseman is shown at the start of Anti Retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS. He is photographed holding his ID booklet as a point of reference. Patients beginning treatment now, are likely to have contracted HIV during the mid to late 90s’ –The ID photographs, reissued in the post apartheid ID booklets, now serve as a poignant snapshot of the subjects before contracting the virus.

The ID booklet as a symbol, of the marginalization of blacks under apartheid, resonates deeply as many victims of HIV/AIDS find themselves again marginalised, but perhaps more critically from within their own communities. HIV not only attacks the body it targets weaknesses in society. The stigma that still shrouds HIV in South Africa cripples efforts to tackle it. The sense of shame that people feel about the virus prevents them from being tested and telling the results to their friends and families.

At this vital juncture between life and death he is shown to be a shadow of his former self. However, if the ARV treatment is successful, Wiseman may be able to reclaim his identity and lead a full and healthy life.”

Youssou N’Dour

Youssou N’Dour

Senegalese-born N’Dour talks about his career and “I Bring What I Love“, the new documentary film about his music, on Canadian TV program, Studio Q.

(I went to see the film earlier tonight at the Brooklyn Academy of Music: the film is built around N’Dour’s recording of the album, “Egypt,” and the negative reaction to it within Senegal. Some Senegalese could not reconcile N’Dour status as a pop singer with his desire to sing (Senegalese) Sufi Islam devotional music.

Though I was occasionally put off by the National Geographic feel of parts of the film and found it too long at times, I was drawn to the recordings of live music and the recounting of N’Dour’s early musical career (the film includes some grainy TV footage from 80s Senegalese TV, among others), his central role in cultural life in Senegal and N’Dour’s relation to his family (a number of whom work for him).

Kwani on Google Books


The first four issues of Kenyan literary magazine, Kwani!, (the brainchild of writer Binyavanga Wainania, can now be viewed via Google Books.

‘The beginning of Afrikaans’

Beginning of Afrikaans

I’ve now watched “Brother with Perfect Timing“–the 1987 documentary onAbdullah Ibrahim, directed by Chris Austin–several times. (Ibrahim, if you haven’t figured it out by now is one of the most influential jazz musicians of our time.). Everything I see the film, I see something new. Like in this clip which is of a live performance of the tune “Tuan Guru”with his band Ekaya in the mid-1980s at his New York City Club, Sweet Basil (used to be on 88 Seventh Avenue South, above Bleecker Street in Manhattan). Normally I concentrate on the music. This time I also listened closely to what Abdullah is saying. In the clip, the band’s playing is interspered with Abdullah telling the rich (if often violent) history of the Cape, focusing on the life of Tuan Guru, banished from Indonesia to the Cape as a political prisoner by the Dutch and who became a key figure in establishing Islam in South Africa. It’s then that Ibrahim makes a linkage between Tuan Guru and the origins of Afrikaans. It’s worth watching.

* BTW, I only know of one other documentary about Ibrahim by a German production company which revolves a trip he makes to South Africa to see old friends: Abdullah Ibrahim a struggle for love“

The African mind at work

African Mind at Work

In light of my earlier celebratory mood on the appointment of the openly gay Judge Edwin Cameron to South Africa’s Constitutional Court, see this defense of gay rights by one Mfonobong Nsehe (posted by Charles Mudede on Seattle newspaper, The Stranger’s arts blog, The Slog):

“Don´t get too excited. Let me start by stating categorically that I am NOT gay. I am not a big fan of gay folks either. If anything, I try to avoid them the most I can. Once, during a trip to Norway, a homosexual man in his mid-thirties tried to make advances at me. I almost broke his jaw. However, in 2002, when the then-President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo signed the bill that forbade the same-sex marriage of Nigerians, I could not help but ask: What right does the President of the country have to tell his people who not to marry. The president did not give birth to them. And then, the same scenario was repeated in Kenya recently. The Kibaki-led administration announced a ban on same-sex marriages in the country, calling it illegal. The punishment for same-sex marriage in Nigeria is five years behind bars. For some reason, Africans want to be too sacred, and rather than our government solving the most pressing issues that affect Africa today- poverty, Health issues, Corruption, lack of accountability, ethnic clashes, and the sorts, our governments spend their time in parliament deliberating on laws that would make life harder and worse for the common man. In an Africa that is full of so many problems, if a man decides that he will find solace spending the rest of his life in the arms of another man, why disturb him? Why have our Parliamentarians forgotten the Universal rights of human beings to express themselves in whichever way they deem fit?”