Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt: A Luta Continua - #Jan 25 (Day 6-7)

Mohamed El Baradei moves to become the face of the opposition, calling for a "mega protest" today. Al Jazeera reports from yesterday indicate his Tahrir speech went "meh," and apart from the fact that protesters, first, want Mubarak gone rather than the revolution represented and that representative possibly co-opted by Mubarak (and the U.S), NYT's Mona El-Naggar (below) looks at ElBaradei other problem (going back to his return to Egypt in Feb. 2010 - blogged here) - his legitimacy as opposition. And why a lot more Egyptians aren't feeling the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency...



... which is precisely his problem: he is former head of the IAEA and his claim to fame isn't domestic but stems from his opposition to the Iraq war on grounds that Saddam had zero weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps that's why NYT's Lede spotted this video making the rounds, perhaps in an effort to try to remind people who he is and what he did.


AliaMalek/Twitpic

As Egyptians show Americans they are being shot with tear gas canisters "made in the USA", Reiham Salam over at National Review makes an intellectual case for two Americas - the people and its government:
... I came across the following observation: @CineversityTV: Egyptian protester says American gov’t gives our dictators tear gas and guns, but American friends gave us proxies #jan25....In the contemporary United States, the entire population does not feel as though the national security apparatus speaks for them. This was always true, of course. But now the dissenting minority can actually exercise “soft power” of its own, through the deployment of philanthropic resources, knowledge capital, etc. Americans aren’t just embedded in diaspora-based “brain circulation” networks. They are embedded in free software “brain circulation” networks, the WikiLeaks movement, social enterprise networks, increasingly cosmopolitan evangelical religious networks, and many other networks that are based on shared affinities, ideologies, etc., and not on shared ethnolinguistic background or nationalist loyalties.

So when idiots on the Internet tell me that America is to blame for Hosni Mubarak, I have to ask, which America and which Americans? The America that Egyptian authorities are blaming for sponsoring and protecting a handful of young Egyptian democracy activists who may well be at the center of the disturbance? U.S. think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute that publish books like Reuel Marc Gerecht’s The Islamic Paradox that make the explicit case that (a) democratization in the Arab Middle East will lead to anti-U.S. and anti-Israel governments and that (b) this is nevertheless a crucial first step to more decent, humane societies in the region that the United States government should support?
Or is the slow-moving machinery of diplomacy, which, to preserve a diplomatic triumph of 1979 and fearing the political and security consequences of rapid change, hasn’t been able to respond as nimbly and quickly as civil society? Indeed, it’s the very fact that government is so slow-moving, consensus-oriented, and resistant to change that I think it is so important that we reduce its carbon footprint, mindshare, and power.
Which America? The America that sells the tear gas and turns a blind eye to dictators they need in curbing the Islamists or the America that gave the world facebook and twitter? The truth is one enables the other and vise versa. Anyway, here is Johnathan Wright, former Cairo bureau chief for Reuters, on Mubarak's appointments:
My interpretation of Mubarak's appointments starts from the basis that Mubarak is a stubborn autocrat who cannot give up power willingly. On Friday night, when he dismissed his government, his only concern was to stay in power for another day, another two days, perhaps to the end of the week. He was not thinking about presidential elections in September or the presidential aspirations of his son Gamal, perhaps even of his own 'legacy'. He was thinking that the longer he could cling on, the greater chance he would have of regrouping his forces to fight another day and maybe restoring some credibility. The greatest danger he faced in the last two days was that those around him, especially the army, would tell him he had to go, in order to save the country -- in just the same way that the Tunisian generals and government seem to have told Ben Ali he must leave. His quick fix was to lock Suleiman and Shafik, a former air force commander and Mubarak associate, into the centre of power. They at least have shown their loyalty by accepting the appointments, though one can only guess at the deliberations now underway between the rest of the military leadership. If he survives this week, then he can think again about his long-term plans. Whether this emergency survival plan will work depends, as in Tunisia, on the determination of the people in the street and on the power dynamics within the army command.
The Arabist and the Guardian's Ian Black concur. Meanwhile, Israel, going by this Al Jazeera report today wants Mubarak to stay; the Jerusalem's Post editorial however indicates Israel won't mind Suleiman--i.e. another Mubarak--at the helm:
The mass protest on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and other Egyptian cities is not an articulate political movement that has clear ideas about what it wants to achieve, other than the ousting of Mubarak. In fact, besides the Muslim Brotherhood or political parties taken over by it, there is not a single significant organized political movement in Egypt that can muster a large enough constituency to present a coherent alternative to the present regime. Progress that would allow the Egyptian people to live a better life, with basic human rights, freedoms and greater economic opportunities, can most likely only be achieved via a transition from Mubarak to someone like Suleiman, who can maintain order while fostering gradual change. It certainly won’t be achieved under yet another radical Islamic regime. An orderly transition would be better not just for Israel, but for the Egyptian people as well.
Meanwhile rumors yesterday about the army being ordered to fire on protesters led to some speculation by Scott Lucas over at EA on the trigger happy Ministry of Interior being railed in and explains, to some extent, the deployment of, yet held in-check, military hardware in form of fighter jets over the crowds at Tahrir yesterday:
Two very different rumours that we are watching....1. The Army has been ordered to fire on protesters tonight. 2. Minister of Interior Habib el Adly, as well as key ruling party figure and tycoon Ahmed Ezz, have been arrested. El Adly exited the Ministry of Interior amidst live fire this morning. We're watching the situation carefully, but here is one interpretation. The story about el Adly was broken by the US Government's channel Al Hurra. That is the first occasion during this crisis that Al Hurra has been out front with news, and no other outlet is carrying this. There were stories yesterday of a serious split between the civilian leadership in the Government and the military over whether to use live fire. And today it is notable that some have said el Adly was the Minister preparing the order to shoot. So one interpretation is that someone high up in the US Government, which has been calling on Cairo to avoid violence, or someone in the Egyptian system close to Washington put out the story that el Adly had been detained. The signal would be that the Obama Administration does not want, in any circumstances, the bloodshed of protesters. This is just speculation, of course, but it is as reliable at this point as the "news" which is circulating.

Nigeria/France: The Revolution will be Embedded



I'm Gonna Dance - Ayo. Album: Billie-Eve. Universal, 2011.

H/T: Last Plane 2 Lagos

Sudan: Smell the Jasmine - # Jan 30 (Day 1 - 2)



In spite of the #Jan 30 twitter hash tag, students protests, police clampdowns and getting its "first martyr", over at SSRC' Making Sense of Sudan Khalid Mubarak gives 5 reasons why its highly unlikely yesterday's uprising in Khartoum will go the way of Tunisia or Egypt:
1- Uprisings happen as a result of suppression. The democratic transformation brought about by the Western brokered CPA has removed this factor. The group with the ability to revolt, the SPLM/A is an ally of Bashir and his NCP. Pagan Amum, the most provocative and anti-northern SPLM secretary general told a press conference in Khartoum last December that ”having a steady government in the north and south will contribute positively to ensure security and development.” He argued against change of government in the north.
2- Uprisings happen against docile leaders who ingratiate themselves to the West and put its interests above national dignity. Bashir was never groomed by the West which (as the Palestine Papers show) gives itself the right to choose leaders and depose others, even if they win elections! more
Muhammad Osman, over at Sudan Tribune, adds a 6th:
...The international community, which brokered the 2005 peace deal between north and south Sudan, will likely be loath to support a change of regime in Khartoum that could lead the final phases of that agreement to unravel. North and south Sudan are yet to thrash out a host of post-referendum arrangements, including oil revenues, currency, debts, borders and the status of the hotly contested border region of Abyei. Similarly, the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in south Sudan will definitely be disinclined to support an uprising that could see the process of its transformation to an independent state be disrupted by a falling partner in the north.

Cabo Verde: Some Democratic Experiments...



... still chugging along. Parliamentary elections in Cabo Verde scheduled for next month heats up. Cabo Verde blog, Os Momentos, called the debates --aired btw the 14th and 18th of this month and organized by 2 of the island's broadcasters-- historic.



Africa: ICT4D Can't Reduce Poverty?


Boston Review has up this heated debate titled "Can Technology Solve Global Poverty?" about whether or not the use of ICT4D in the developing world can reduce poverty, especially in Africa. Arguing for tech: MIT and OLPC's Nicholas Negroponte. Arguing the limits of technology: author Kentaro Toyama. Respondents: MIT's Rachel Glennerster and José Gómez-Márquez. Actually, you could say it's just Negroponte versus everyone else.

Kentaro's myth of scaling when it comes to ICT4D - here.

North Africa: Smell the Jasmine - The Al Jazeera Vindication

Gil Scot-Heron famous quote that The Revolution will not be Televised still holds true, according to
Al Jazeera's company rep, who admits n this piece from Wired:
Qatar-based cable news network Al Jazeera is not available on United States cable systems — except in local markets in Vermont, Ohio and Washington, D.C. But that hasn’t stopped the major American news outlets from relying on the international news network for critical reportage on the growing unrest in Egypt.Al Jazeera has more journalists on the ground, in-country, than any American news organization.“Al Jazeera Arabic and English have seven teams in Cairo plus multiple reporters in Alexandria, Suez and Ismailia,” a company spokesperson said. “The revolution is not being televised, it’s being streamed,” the rep added. In order to make the news available worldwide, Al Jazeera has decided to make its content available for “other news sources to use through their Creative Commons website,” the company said. That means news outlets are free to use the organization’s reports and live footage, without getting permission, so long as the borrowers give credit.
Jeff Jarvis fumes:
Cable companies: Add Al Jazeera English NOW! It is downright un-American to still refuse to carry it. Vital, world-changing news is occurring in the Middle East and no one–not the xenophobic or celebrity-obsessed or cut-to-the-bone American media–can bring the perspective, insight, and on-the-scene reporting Al Jazeera English can.
Naomi Klien concurs and adds:
If Egyptians can demand freedom from dictatorship surely Americans can demand Al Jazeera from their cable providers. When Egypt cuts off Al Jazeera it’s censorship. When U.S. cable providers refuse to show it in the first place it’s “just business.”
From Julia Dahl's 2008 profile of the station in Guernica:
Compared to American news channels, AJE is remarkably staid. With bureaus on four continents, and reporters based in places such as the Cote d’Ivoire, Caracas, and Gaza, AJE’s news format tends to feature long-form, on-the-ground reporting, often by area natives. Aesthetically, the channel looks nothing like the sensory assault of Fox News or MSNBC, with

Africa: African Music - From American Indie Labels to Cellphone Anthropology


Larry Rohter writes in NYT that everywhere you turn these days, it seems that the indie rock world is exploring African sounds and gives a few shoutouts:
The heads of the indie labels that have placed their modest bets on African music also point to the conditions that make this boomlet different from those in the past. It’s a cliché, but globalization and the Internet really have transformed what was once distant into something as close as a click, and that is true in both directions. All a new fan of the music has to do, in fact, is visit the site of Awesome Tapes from Africa, which offers free MP3 downloads, or of labels like Analog Africa, Sublime Frequencies, Soundway and Honest Jon’s, which offer reissue collections with titles like “Angola Soundtrack: The Unique Sound of Luanda (1968-1976)” or “The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970s Nigeria.” And performers like Bassekou Kouyate now tour the United States, performing at festivals like Bonnaroo and CMJ, or in the case of Janka Nabay from Sierra Leone, even coming here to live. “There are all kinds of listeners in the world, and many of them have access to all kinds of music,” Mr. Poneman said. “Let’s face it, the way the world worked when ‘Graceland’ came out is a lot different now. I believe in the ‘Field of Dreams’ axiom: If you build it, they will come.”
But vinyl and crate-digging are now so...er... "old?" Music anthropologists have taken the digging into the virtual. The blog Sahel Sounds is pioneering a new kind of reissue - music swapped from cellphone sim cards around villages in the Sahara. Brought to our attention last year by Ndesanjo Mancha, Sahel blog recently posted its volume 2 of Music from Saharan Cellphones compilation. Excerpts from some write ups on volume 1: From the Guardian:
However eclectic your music collection, it would still need to go some way to match the sheer range of tracks shared by villagers swapping songs via Bluetooth and Sim card in the Sahara. Bollywood classics, Algerian Rai, Kuduro, French ballads – this is just a sample grab of the kind of sounds doing the rounds there, many of which can be found on Music from Saharan Cellphones, a mixtape put together by Portland-based blogger Christopher Kirkley. "The cellphone is such a fixture of west Africa. Everyone has a phone even in villages lacking reception," explained Kirkley, who collected MP3 memory cards in the Tuareg city of Kidal in northern Mali. "They're not just phones, they're all purpose media devices. In the west we maintain a repository of data on hard drives, in Sahel, the cellphone does the same thing." Kirkley originally travelled to Mali to make field recordings, but soon took to trading tunes with the locals: "I'd carry my netbook while walking down the promenade in the evening and offer to trade songs, filling excess space on the cards with albums on my own hard drive – Townes Van Zandt, John Vanderslice, Elliott Smith …" Despite claims on some blogs, his collection came from trading alone and not collecting discarded memory cards. "It's a funny notion," he laughs. "The idea of discarded unused memory cards laying around in west Africa."
Pitchfork had assumed Kirkley was harvesting discarded cellphone memory cards, but still makes an interesting connection between scarcity and mode of collecting:
People crave scarcity in music because there is abundance. If it can be considered a problem, musical abundance is a good problem to have. But when such a massive amount of music from the entire history of recorded sound is just a few clicks away, accessible to anyone who knows a few simple web-surfing tricks, the idea that something, somewhere, is hard to find, or limited, or has been lost and then recovered, or only exists in a physical space, is, for some, exciting. Music geeks have always craved obscurity, obviously-- that part of it is nothing new. And obscurity implies rarity. But I think there's more to it now than just finding sounds that others haven't heard. People also want the sounds to seem limited in some way. The illusion that they are physically difficult to get, which is what the Saharan Cellphones comp implies, is part of the appeal. The spread of information is so seamless that we welcome speed bumps. And the presence of a physical object somewhere along the way provides a bottleneck, which adds to the perceived value.
Like artificial scarcity  in art markets, I'm assuming somehow the far flung nature of the Sahara coupled with village folk re-purposing their cellphones as music storage and a mode of distribution makes the music harvested in this way, not the the music per se, that more special and now valuable to a collector. Funny how collecting works.   

North Africa: Smell the Jasmine - Aftermath of Color Revolutions

Apart from concerns that if these North African revolutions go bad, Europe will be flooded with immigrants, RT looks at why Europeans are all "meh" over these popular uprisings or so called color revolutions--Georgia had Rose; Ukraine had Orange; in the 70s Portugal had Carnations etc--taking place in North Africa. After the dust settles promises go unkempt and the problems only worsen:



IMF's almost prophetic Outlook for North Africa and the Middle East from 2010 discusses the economic problems facing these countries (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Western Sahara, Sudan, Tunisia) and at the root of these uprisings + what they need to do to solve manage them.




Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt: A luta Continua - #Jan 25 (Day 4)

Carlos Latuff/Twitpic

Below AP has Egyptian opposition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei, from his house detention telling the U.S and everyone else, "stay f*%k away; Egyptians have got this."


Niger: Postcolonial Optimism, Music and '60s Photography

"Couples dancing". Niamey, c. 1970/ Philippe Koujina/ Gaia Catalogue

In a prior blog post discussing the influence of Malick Sidebe's photography on music videos, we also touched on the point that the youthful, glamorous, postcolonial optimism in those photographs from the 1960s by the likes of Seydou Keita and Sidebe were rooted in the dance clubs and the American music wafting through them, a combination of excuse and social solvent for the boys and girls to get closer to one another and have those moments captured on film.



This July 2010 episode of Aljazeera Witness previews Photo Souvenir, a film by Paul Cohen and Martijn van Haalen, which looks back at a rock n roll '60s Niger through the photographs of Philippe Koudjina - a popular photographer in the 60s, who opened a studio in Niamey in '72 but has since fallen on hard times. It's worth the price of admission if only for the scene in the film where those, who in their youth had embodied postcolonial optimism and were the subject of those photos, sit around a studio table in a daze of nostalgia listening to the music of the 60s and to a lady describe with fondness how the boys--Koudjina especially--were all over her.

For readers of Stephen Sprague's work on Yoruba photography or West African studio photography in general and have wondered why only Sidebe and less than a handful of African '50s and '60s studio photographers are celebrated in the West, the filmmakers also tracked down Andre Magnin, the art promoter who found Sidebe, in a bid to explain the vagaries of the art market, especially the need to limit the field thus creating rarity where there is none.

Tunisia/Cote d'Ivoire/ Egypt: The Power of State-Run Television

Doubt the power of the state-run or controlled broadcaster, well think again:

Egypt:

Daily Dish readers on the ground in Egypt have had a lot to say about Egypt's state-run television's ostrich head-in-the-sand maneuver since the protests began:
Egyptian (government controlled) TV and Media have totally ignored the events even though the picture that you included yesterday here is in Tahrir Square which is less than 2 miles away from the state television building. A headline in Al-Ahram (the state's most prominent newspaper) is about the riots, clashes and huge protests in Lebanon!!!! Translation: "Protests and Wide Unrest in Lebanon".
Al-Masry Al-Youm (Egyptian Today), an independent newspaper, was all over it... and another Dish reader updates - here:
On the media front, Mahmoud Saad (a famous talk show host and journalist) refused to go on the air for the talk show that he co-host on the State TV protesting the state TV coverage. He is said to be on "Open Vacation". He denied the rumor of his resignation and said that he's on contract with the state TV so he can't resign or be fired. Mona ElShazly (the famous host of "El-Ashera Massaen" (The 10 PM) talk show on the privately owned TV channel "DreamTV") opened her show with a long talk about press freedom where she raised questions about the coverage of the state TV and the government media outlets. She said that she doesn't know if this will be the last show this week or just the last show. During the interview later in the show, one of her guests, for the first ever on TV in Egypt (as far as I can remember), someone was calling on the Egyptian president to not nominate himself again. Another called on him to name a VP.
Cote d'Ivoire:

The same holds for Cote d'Ivoire where Aljazeera's Yvonne Ndege once reported in the early days of the deadlock that because Gbagbo controls the television, outside Abidjan most don't even know what's going on.  France 24's Cyril Vanier concurs and reiterates the power of the medium:
“There are basically three levers of power here in Ivory Coast: the economy, the army and the TV,” explained Vanier. “The Ouattara camp has not managed to get a firm grasp of the economy and the army is still loyal to Gbagbo. So Ouattara and his government are trying to take control of the TV because at present they have no means of broadcasting their message. The TV station is definitely one of the country’s seats of power and it’s an important symbol.”
However, in Tunisia:

Nawaat's Sami Ben Ghabia on Riz Khan discusses Tunisia's state-run television and what he refers to as the turning point in the Tunisian revolution:
And another thing I will love to add is that the state-run television station on the day of Sunday, the 9th, they started talking about the Tunisians who have been killed and that was the turning point. Next Monday people went into the street.

Friday




Everyone saw the trailer for this last year, but longer clips from the Bollywood film, Endhiran/Robot, a special effects alchemy of Terminator meets Robocop meets Anaconda meets I-Robot spoofs plus the kitchen sink thrown in for laughs, has hit the web. It's about a scientist (Rajnikanth) who creates a robot, which... awww... who cares. Just watch what ought to take the 2011 academy award for visual effects creativity.



H/T: i09

Uganda: Gay Crimes Punishable by Death, Cont'd

In the bludgeoning of gay rights activist, David Kato, the police are still sticking to their theft storyline:



In a Uganda where no one wants to talk about homosexuality, Gay Ugandan sees the tide turning.

The American connection theory.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

South Africa: Kentridge on Postmodernism



In his 2005 production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" (1791), recast through the bitter legacy of colonialism, artist William Kentridge, above, talks about the opera's original themes of Enlightenment philosophy. Recasting enlightenment as another overwhelming, unquestionable certainty, he argues:
...what is implicit in the opera is the whole question of the authority of Serastro and the certainty of enlightenment...But the history of the last 2000 years shows that the one thing that is completely toxic is the combination of the certainty of being right and the monopoly of power. Whether it's Stalin, Hitler or Pol Pot, each of them have been Sarastros in their own way, knowing what's best for everyone... benevolent figures hiding a monster
Post-mo explained.

Egypt: A Luta Continua - #Jan 25 (Day 3)


Sarah Carr/Flikr

Heart the pic of the commuter stuck on the bridge. This LA Times piece traces back the Tunisian revolution, arguing the Gafsa demonstrations 3 years ago were the "dry run" for the mindset at Sidi Bouzid. But Egypt has had several dry runs.



Writing in almasryalyoum, Sarah Carr on Tunisian inspiration:
The Interior Ministry has made the convenient and farcical claim that the notoriously tarmac-shy Muslim Brotherhood was responsible for the Day of Anger. But then the regime blames the "prohibited group" when a member of the cabinet spills his coffee, because there is political mileage in it. I doubt anyone will buy either this story, or the claim that the demonstrators were political activists led astray by sinister foreign elements. The only foreign element at work yesterday was Tunisia, whose spirit was everywhere. I asked one man however who looked around 60-something, whether the events in Tunisia had influenced his decision to attend the demonstration. “Not really. We were angry long before their revolution happened,” he said.
News of Gamal fleeing can only fuel this... and on the government shutting down blocking domain access to twitter, facebook, (apparently no government can shut down twitter or other social media), shutting down wireless, and even landlines in some areas... they are, indeed, shooting themselves in the foot:
It is this anger that formed the bedrock of yesterday’s protests and will fuel any future uprising--to which the regime will respond by tear gassing, beating, shooting and killing protesters as it did in the early hours of this morning. It (“the information technology government”) may also demand of ISPs that they again block Twitter (which has proved invaluable for spreading information about protests) and block the mobile phone numbers of members of the Front for the Defence of Egyptian Protesters. They can do this, but it will be to the sound of investors rapidly pulling out; the Egyptian stock market reportedly lost nearly $4 billion and counting in the first 15 minutes of trading today.

Somalia/ UK: Smells Like Teen Spirit, Cont'd

BBC's Celeste Hicks talks to young Somalis in London, uncovering how the younger generation got involved in advocacy and raising money to help secure the release of Paul and Rachel Chandler from Somali pirates.

More Somalia-UK diaspora - here & here

Cote d'Ivoire: Bridging the Golf



German foreign journal correspondent, Joerg Brase, takes us behind the scenes of Ouattara's seat of power at the Golf Hotel

Ivorian blogger Theophile Kouamouo flags this Jan 26th piece in the French journal Mediapart by authors Achille Mbembe and Celestin Monga, mediating on the Ivorian standoff, pointing out that all the solutions are bad and going on to cross them off one by one.

They also touch something that's being a concern about Ouattara. His inability to politically work all the back channels necessary to cut a deal with Gbagbo's military. If Ouattara is unwilling to do so, then that speaks to how he will choose to rule the country when he is installed. If he has been unable to work the back doors to cut a deal, then that speaks to 1. Either he lacks the leadership skills to get it done or 2. Gbagbo has designed the military in such a way that there are no back doors, there are no back channels. So far in insisting on military action by external players, it seems a little bit of both. Google translation - here. Excerpts:
...The first is that in the 2010 elections, Cote d'Ivoire was trapped by the legal and political architecture in which it was hastily equipped to solve the crisis of the past decade. As this architecture is in place, each election most likely to lead to the same impasses. Secondly, it is now difficult or impossible to determine exactly which of the two candidates has won the presidential election conclusively October 31 and November 28. One and one-half have arguments to justify their position and defend their cause. But none has the whole truth. Third, if there must be war, it is primarily a war against civilians, as we have unfortunately learned [from] so many recent experiments... [Gbagbo] seems resigned to the idea of being the first victim. Perhaps he dreams of celebrating his own funeral in the manner of rich men in the days of slavery - in the midst of an outbreak of human sacrifice, if necessary using his parents, clients and captives as pledges and collateral damage. By publicly calling for a war of extirpation conducted by foreign armies in his own country and against some of his compatriots, [Quattarra] would go to the highest office by the window, walking on the corpses of his countrymen and by contracting with external support, he will owe its heavy debt which he will secretly have to pay, in time, through all kinds of capitation, privileges Extra-territorial sovereignty and abandonment.
...Are we therefore condemned to paralysis and inaction? Certainly not. In the case of Cote d'Ivoire, it is unfortunately [...] a bad range of solutions. While it is now impossible to

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Africa: Blackness - "The Machine Hum"



Author Paul La Farge ponders blackness--as a non-color or void of light--in the Winter 2009/10 issue of Cabinet:
That darkness is what I think about when I think of black. I was going to write, the color black, but as every child knows black isn’t a color. Black is a lack, a void of light. When you think about it, it’s surprising that we can see black at all: our eyes are engineered to receive light; in its absence, you’d think we simply wouldn’t see, any more than we taste when our mouths are empty. Black velvet, charcoal black, Ad Reinhart’s black paintings, black-clad Goth kids with black fingernails: how do we see them?
 According to modern neurophysiology, the answer is that photoreceptors in our retinas respond to photons of light, and we see black in those areas of the retina where the photoreceptors are relatively inactive. But what happens when no photoreceptors are working—as happens in a cave? Here we turn to Aristotle, who notes that sight, unlike touch or taste, continues to operate in the absence of anything visible: Even when we are not seeing, it is by sight that we discriminate darkness from light, though not in the same way as we distinguish one colour from another. Further, in a sense even that which sees is coloured; for in each case the sense-organ is capable of receiving the sensible object without its matter. That is why even when the sensible objects are gone the sensings and imaginings continue to exist in the sense-organs. We “see” in total darkness because sight itself has a color, Aristotle suggests, and that color is black: the feedback hum that lets us know the machine is still on. 
More

Egypt: A Luta Continua - #Jan 25 (Day 2)


Heart the pic. Caption it, 'Argh! Egyptian protester-Hulk smash puny Mubarak police.' NYT's Robert Mackay has you covered on day 2. We are all pondering how much Tunisian inspiration #Jan 25 has in the tank; Issandr El Amrani draws one parallel between both uprisings - they are organized, yet leaderless:
This movement, for now, has no leadership. Some opposition personalities participated, but it was mostly organized on Facebook by the campaign in memory of Khaled Said, the young Alexandria killed by police last year. The Muslim Brotherhood did not back it. Mohamed ElBaradei did not back it. The Wafd party did not back it. It appears to be largely a movement of young people inspired by the Tunisian example and the culmination of over six years of activism and rising resentment against the regime, the 30-year reign of Hosni Mubarak and the apparent acceleration of the project to have Gamal Mubarak replace his father in the last six months. It is also, of course, a protest against an increasingly unaccountable and uncontrollable police state, which is why Police Day was chosen (Mubarak must be kicking himself for making it a public holiday last year).

Madagascar: Can You Sketch Journalism, Cont'd



Bastien Dubois' Madagascar - Carnet De Voyage has been nominated for an 2011 Academy Award in the category of animated short. We are filing the approach, postcard styled animation under our series of looks at some advantages drawing/painting your journalism might have over pure photojournalism when it comes to experiencing and depicting the continent. In the interview over at CGTantra, the intro:
...Dubois combined his two passions of travelling and painting and set of to Madagascar... he stayed there for almost a year captured his visions of Madagascar in his sketchbook, especially the Madagascan custom La Famadihana [blogged here], which means turning the dead. Came back to Paris to complete it into an animated travel journal...

Algeria: Oscar's Hors la loi



2011 Academy Award Nominations for Foreign Language Film:

1. “Biutiful” Mexico
2. “Dogtooth” Greece
3. “In a Better World” Denmark
4. “Incendies” Canada
5. “Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria

Tumultuous history of Rachid Bouchareb's Hors-la-hoi - here. Critics, Ebert included, are already giving the win to "biutful" out of sheer familiarity. But as Ebert points out:
...  in this category the voters must see all the nominees, and sometimes films win after they've been seen by only that handful.
Plus some conundrums caused by the Academy rules in this category:
“Biutiful” was shot on location in Barcelona with mostly Spanish actors, and is listed as a nominee from Mexico. "Outside the Law" was filmed almost entirely in Paris with a French director and actors, and is listed as from Algeria.

Benin: The Revolution will be Embedded



Les Prince d'Afrique
- Ardiess. Feat. Passi and Ben J. Single. 2010. Dir. Pixel.

Africa: African Cinema and the New Wave

In the lastest issue of Senses of Cinema, Wes Felton clarifies the origins of African cinema to shed light on the pioneering work of Beninois director, Paulin Soumanou Vieyra...
The earliest known film made by an African, was Congolese filmmaker Albert Mongita’s The Cinema Lesson in 1951. The second is Mamadou Touré’s twenty-three minute film from Guinea titled Mouramani, about a man and his dog, produced in 1953. Additionally, in the same year Emmanuel Lubalu released his film Inflated Tires in the Congo. For quite some time most historians falsely believed that a film entitled Africa on the Seine held the honour of being the first film made by an African. Even though this is not so, Africa on the Seine, directed by Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, holds a special place in film history for being one of the first films made by an African, and more importantly, one that actively investigates the then present day situation of African immigrants living in Paris, as well as critiquing the French colonialist establishment.
...and like we've argued in past of the special debt French New Wave owes Jean Rouch's Moi Noir ('58), Felton argues the inclusion of Vieyra's film, Africa on the Seine (1955), in the New Wave cannon:
One of the fascinating things about Africa on the Seine is that it almost provides scenes, shots, and sequences that could or should have been placated within the French New Wave films. Figuratively speaking, Africa on the Seine could almost be seen as made of the ‘cut-off’ footage removed from films of the French New Wave. As if white filmmakers in France at the time cut out any evidence of an African presence and whenever there just so happened to be an African captured within the frame of a shot, they were left on the cutting room floor. It is almost like Vieyra somehow stumbled upon the pieces of film in a New Wave garbage can and brought them back as if to say, “See? We are here!”
Below, Frank Schneider (prod. Jadot Sezirahiga) discuss the origins of African and Arab cinema with Tahar Cheria, founder of the Carthage Cinema Days. It includes a profile of Paulin Vieyra and stills from Africa on the Seine:



Ghana: The Revolution will be Embedded



Asem Beba Dabi - Obrafour. Album: Asem Beba Dabi. Big Ben, 2009.

got to luv the hip hop priest's entourage in this one.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Nigeria: Achebe on Translating "Okonko" Back into the Depths of Igbo


heart Penguin's cover for Achebe's "The Education of a British-Protected Child." The author, on turning 80 back in November, discusses (cue to 13:20) translating "Things Fall Apart" back into Igbo, the language in which it was thought up - here

Liberia: Ellen Johnson on JFK



John F. Kennedy was inaugurated president of the United States 50 years on January 20th. Above, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf reflects on the peace corps, influence, and legacy of JFK.

Africa: THR Animated

The Library of Congress' posted online more of its archives this month. Among them, a 1909 cartoon snippet poking fun at Theodore Roosevelt's visit to the continent. LoC Citation says it's based on newspaper cartoon by Homer Davenport originally published in The Evening mail, New York, March 23, 1909.



More THR footage in Kenya in 1909 - here + the travelogue's influence on Safari films.

Nigeria: CNN Discovers Guangzhou


... pointing out its where to easily get your fill of egusi soup in China. Speaking of egusi stew, Timbuktu Chronicles recently flagged this series of dialogue-free, how-to recipe videos:

Somalia: Pirates and their 401(K)s, Cont'd

Click to enlarge Somalian Piracy Threat Map 2010:


"Ransoms paid to Somali pirates totaled $238 million in 2010 — the worst year for piracy on record, according to the International Chamber of Commerce," cites Wired's Danger Room, parsing the oceansbeyondpiracy.org report below:
The Economic Cost of Piracy (2010)

More here and here...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

South Africa: The Revolution will be Embedded



 Don’t Mean To Be Rude Spoek Mathambo. ft. Zaki Ibrahim. Album: Mishini Wam. 2010.

More...

Zanzibar: You Have Dinner Reservations...

Tunisia: Bouazizi, Sidi Bouzid, Social Media and the 'Struggle for Recognition'

Kareem Fahim profiles for NYT the 26 year old and dusty town that sparked a revolution. Excerpt:
His first name was actually Tarek, but he went by Mohamed. He was not a college graduate, as earlier reports had said. He had been a vendor since he was a teenager, and had worked odd jobs since he was 10, his relatives said. His father, a construction worker in Libya, died of a heart attack when he was 3, said his mother, Mannoubia Bouazizi. She later married Mohamed’s uncle. Mr. Bouazizi made it to high school, but it was unclear whether he graduated: a cousin said he devoured literature and especially poetry, but his mother said he preferred math. He had a girlfriend, but they had broken up recently. He was a soccer fan and spent much of his spare time at the Fustat cafe downtown, engaged in the local diversions of smoking and playing cards. Despite his struggles to work, he was easygoing and liked to laugh. His relatives saw no hint of depression, and though they said Mr. Bouazizi refused to pay bribes, they could not recall any time where he had made such an unyielding stand.
Al Jazeera points out that in relation to the use of social media in Iran's "Green Revolution" in 2009 and Egyptian protests in '04 and '05, what's different this time around ...


...is how much the relationship between mainstream and social media has matured. FP's/George Washington U's Marc Lynch observes:
If you go back to Egypt in 2004 and 2005, you had many of the same things you saw in Tunisia. You had activists who are using blogs, forums and various kinds of internet sites, including facebook, and you had AlJazeera and various other satellite stations covering the protests and really helping to feed this notion of a dramatic change in Arab politics. So the raw material is the same, but this time there was a much tighter integration between the 2, with AlJazeera regularly and frequently using user-generated content and rapid interaction between the two. You need to have a framing process. It's not just the pictures. It's what people make of the pictures.
And Nawaat's Sami Ben Ghabia breaks down for Riz Khan what Lynch referred to - that evolution of a "much tighter integration" ...



... between social and mainstream media this time around in Tunisia:
...The Tunisian government [which had successfully integrated ICT in education] was very successful in preventing people from within the country to access information but in the meantime they managed to create a new generation, entire youth, who are skilled at using conventional technology to bypass the filter to get access to information - that's the big irony that played during the last month... The social media aspect to this played as a way of bridging the gap between people on the ground taking [the] footage and uploading it on their facebook accounts, another team [making sure the information was accurate]. We've seen tens of facebook pages with the 'Tunisian Streets News Agency' who were [making  the information accurate]; correcting the dates, the places. And you have people who are the taking the information out of facebook and putting it on dedicated blogs, translating the information and putting it into context and making that ready for mainstream media to pick the story up - that's what AlJazeera was doing; that's what France 24 was doing. So you have multiple nodes of activists online and each of those nodes [implementing its own] strategy - you have people who are translating, people who are putting stories in context, people who were trying to build hubs with the mainstream media and pushing them to write about Tunisia. And that's when we reached an information cascade and that information cascade helped convince the Tunisian people to go into the streets.
And on why the American media missed the boat on Tunisia's revolution or why, when they finally did get a boat, they went with "twitter/facebook revolution" angle instead, Lynch boiled it down to "pre-existing narratives":
It didn't fit anyone's pre-existing political interest... Twitter and Facebook fits the pre-existing narratives about technology. I think it is a sign of the fact that very few people in Western media really understand what's happening in Tunisia.
And finally, one could also argue that the same fundamental or dynamic that motivated a 26 year old fruit seller in an impoverished corner of the world to light himself up is, on another level, the same dynamic that makes a revolution, in its bid to matter, tap into social media to bypass mainstream gatekeepers in a "... struggle of recognition." Back in The End of History and the Last Man, Fukuyama, standing on the shoulders of Hegel, explains this oft ignored driver of historical process:
Much of human behaviour can be explained as a combination of the first two parts, desire and reason: desire induces men to seek things outside themselves, while reason or calculation shows them the best way to get them. But in addition, human beings seek recognition of their own worth, or of the people, things, or principles that they invest with worth. The propensity to invest the self with a certain value, and to demand recognition for that value, is what in today’s popular language we would call “self-esteem.” The propensity to feel self-esteem arises out of the part of the soul called emos. It is like an innate human sense of justice. People believe that they have a certain worth, and when other people treat them as though they are worth less than that, they experience the emotion of anger. Conversely, when people fail to live up to their own sense of worth, they feel shame, and when they are evaluated correctly in proportion to their worth, they feel pride. The desire for recognition, and the accompanying emotions of anger, shame, and pride, are parts of the human personality critical to political life. According to Hegel, they are what drives the whole historical process.

Friday


Click to enlarge a compliant and, below, the response in a classic exchange between a season ticket holder and the Cleveland Browns front office from 1974... back when customer service had the balls to tell the customer he or she wasn't always right.



H/T: ACL

Ghana: Vice Guide to "Sakawa Boys"



This Vice episode aired on MTV Dec 2010. Cue to 3rd segment (11:06) for the intro:
A few years ago some enterprising kids in Ghana figured out a way to spice up the old Nigerian email scam by combining it with magic. The result is called "sakawa" and right now it's huge in Ghana. All it takes to get started is a trip to the local dump to get a computer...

Uganda: Playing Dress Up



Ugandan Kiara Kabukuru recalls not being tall enough to be a model but ending up blowing up runways anyway back in the Tom Ford-Gucci 90s -

Vogue-Black essay and pictures - here.

Nigeria: The Revolution will be Embedded



Finally, someone leaked an unofficial cut of this club banger - Oleku - IcePrince Feat. Brymo. Prod. Jesse Jagz. Below, more lyrical wizardry - Ejo le fe ro - Jhybo feat. Cynthia Morgan. Bay Prod. Dir. Playsay.



H/T: DJ Mighty Mike

Ghana/UK: Boateng... Who?



Designer Adrien Sauvage's Magritte-like approach to naming a collection ("This is not a suit") and promoting it - "The Art Of DE" or "Dressing Easy". Below, Italian Vogue/Vogue-Black profiles Phyllis Taylor's label - Sika.


Africa: Positive Rhythms - Ad Love




Client: Ecobank
Agency: Brand Communications, London, UK
Production Company: RSA Films
Director(s): Trevor Melvin
Creatives: Ben Millar ( Creative Director)
Paul Hodgkinson ( Copywriter)
Sue Lee-Stern ( Agency Producer)
Country: United Kingdom



H/T: KMBA

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ethiopia: Kebede in Woods Pretentious

South Sudan/ Nigeria: Referendums and Registrations

Provincial results released show it's a landslide vote for secession. Over at Sahel blog, Alex Thurston parses Reuters' polling data to get a better view of how the landslide looks:
Border states seem to be voting for independence at essentially the same rates as the other states. Reuters’ poll put Unity (a border state) slightly lower than others, but the official results have Unity’s total at over 90%, and other border states (Western Bahr al-Ghazal, Northern Bahr al-Ghazal, Warrap, and Upper Nile) in the same range. Check out this map of South Sudan for better visualization. All this says to me that South Sudan will enter into independent nationhood possessing a broad consensus about its political destiny: across the South, almost everyone wants independence. It is possible that the expectation of a pro-secession landslide depressed voter turnout among proponents of unity to some extent...
And in case you missed it, I did, Jon Stewart and the Daily Show's Sudan Referendum "coverage" below:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Inde-Sudan 2011
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

In Nigeria, the attempt to register 70 million Nigerian voters is underway. Below VOA's Scott Sterns looks at problems with direct data capture machines:



The ICT Works blog covered it - here & plus thoughts on the 10 fingerprints requirement/"overkill" - here. In addition to what Sterns cites above, ICT Works notice, among other things, the DDCM laptops did not come charged, tweets abt area boys demanding to be paid for access to power, and an overall lack of preparation and testing, But still:
...there isn't an issue everywhere. Akinzo says that once the glitches are worked out, electronic voter registration is a seamless process in Shomolu. The average time to register voters dropped to less than 10 minutes per person, which is impressive considering the lack of preparation.
Perhaps that's why the INEC chairman is reluctant to extend the registration deadline. Also, he has a tight election window - once voters are registered, the commission will then have less than three months before the April 2 start of a series of polls to choose National Assembly members, a new president and new state governors.

Cameroon/ Egypt: "Sexually Transmitted Marks" and Other Harrasments



BBC's Randy Joe Sa'ah talks to students and professors in Yaounde, Cameroon, about a very old problem - students confronted with having to exchange sex for marks in order to pass their courses. In other words, "sexually transmitted marks," as it is referred to in Cameroon.



Above, trailer for Mohamed Diab's 678 (2010), first Egyptian film to squarely tackle the issue of sexual harassment. Howard Feinstein over at Filmmaker raves. Egyptian film reviewer, Hala Galal, tells the Strand it sucked.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kenya: What's Swahili for Star Trek?



Apparently, Martin Luther King was a trekkie. Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura, a female black bridge officer on "Star Trek" the original series (1967-69), recounts in a new PBS series about "pioneers of [American] television" how King encouraged her in '67 to stay with the show:
"One of the promoters came up and said someone wanted to meet me. He said he's my greatest fan," says Nichols, 78. "I thought it was some Trekker, some kid. I turned in my seat and there was Dr. Martin Luther King with a big smile on his face. He said, 'I am a Trekker, I am your biggest fan.'"Nichols thanked King, and told him she was leaving the show.... "He was telling me why I could not [resign]," she recalls. "He said I had the first nonstereotypical role, I had a role with honor, dignity and intelligence. He said, 'You simply cannot abdicate, this is an important role. This is why we are marching. We never thought we'd see this on TV.'" Nichols was at a loss for words. It was the first time the importance of being an African-American woman on television had sank in. She returned to "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry the next Monday morning and rescinded her resignation. "He sat there and looked at me and said, 'God bless Dr. Martin Luther King. Somebody does understand me,'" Nichols says.
Above, at the 92nd Y a couple of days ago, she retells how Nimoy's Spork, inadvertently, was the template for her character and how Uhura came from the title of Robert Ruark's 1962 follow up novel about postcolonial Kenya after the mau mau uprising. Below, in her '03 retelling for the DVD, she includes how Uhura got her first name - Nyota.



Her wiki entry concurs. i09 on other MLK influences on sci-fi .

H/T: S & A

North Africa: Inspired Fire Sales

CNN and the Guardian have reports on incidents of self-immolation in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania at the heels of Muhammad Bouazizi's now infamous self arson, which sparked off Tunisia's ongoing revolution. Below, India's NDTV compiles the fires:



Democracy Now asks Egyptian blogger and journalist Issandr El Armrani about self-immolations in Cairo. The Moor Next Door takes a closer look at the Mauritanian immolator, Yacoub Ould Dahoud:
This is as activist as one can get. Unlike the copy-cat self-immolations in Algeria (and Bouazizi’s original) there was no apparent spark in his personal life and he was older and better off than several of the other men...
Those speculating whether other copycat human torches can spark similar popular uprisings in the despotic trenches of the Arab world, can always be referred back to the "Elephant" argument from the opening scenes of Inception:
Saito: If you can steal an idea [from someone's mind], why can't you plant one there instead?
Arthur: Okay, this is me, planting an idea in your mind. I say: don't think about elephants. What are you thinking about?
Saito: Elephants?
Arthur: Right, but it's not your idea. The dreamer can always remember the genesis
of the idea. True inspiration is impossible to fake.
Cobb: No, it's not.

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