Showing posts with label Post-colonialism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Post-colonialism. Show all posts

Monday, August 27, 2012

Africans in the '60s - Liberation and Neil Armstrong's Moon Landing

The sad news of Neil Armstrong's passing offers a chance to revisit how much the idea of space travel and race to land a man on the moon also had a powerful hold over the popular imagination of many Africans in the 1960s. One example, of course, is grade-school science teacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso's Zambian space program and its proposed mission to Mars on the eve of Zambian independence in 1964.

Hinted in Alexis Madrigal's blog post about Nkoloso is a sense of the end of liberation struggle, Zambia's independence day celebrations and, perhaps, the same kind of naiveté, optimism and euphoria we've seen frozen and capsuled by photographers like Philippe Koudjina and Malick Sidebe in the black and white pictures they took of Malian youth in that hopeful time.

The same optimism is captured in a different way in the two 5 mins excerpts below from Congolese auteur  Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda's 2009 short film, We Too Walked on the Moon (Nous aussi avons marché sur la lune), which uses the 1969 American Apollo 11 mission that landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon as the year and the backdrop for an interesting glimpse at middle class Congolese lives -- the lives of a teacher, a doctor and an artist.

In the film we get to see each person experience the radio broadcast of the moon landing differently, with the artist (you can see that in the 2nd excerpt) eventually deciding that he must also walk on the moon.

With the news and discussion of a moon landing as a reminder of the technological chasm between Africa and the West, Olivier Barlet's  review over at Africultures, I think, touches the core of Bakupa-Kanyinda's film (Google auto translation + mine):
The film revolves between poems by Aime Cesaire and the Congolese poet Tshiakatumba Mukadi, recited by students under the direction of their teacher.... A slow tracking shot shows various portraits tacked above the blackboard, revealing many major African figures, including Obama, confirming them as sources of inspiration.... For an Africa that suffers from an inferiority complex inherited from the mental integration of its alleged backwardness, the message is simple: be the image of those of you who believed in themselves.
This post is a reworked version of a previous post from July 2nd 2010.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

Evolution of English - Pidgins and Degeneracy of English in Postcolonial Contexts

In their paper Sociolinguistic Variables in the Degeneracy of English in Postcolonial (Non-Native) Contexts , A. Anchimbe and Stella A. Anchimbe (University of Ludwig-Maximilians In Munich and the University of Yaounde in Cameroon) argue Pidgin English in postcolonial contexts is less about the degeneracy of English and more about the successful existence of the English language in adapting and adopting from new postcolonial ecologies in order to represent them properly:
...Along the West African coastline several vocabulary items are shared which do not belong to the British English vocabulary. These include bitter-leaf, corn-chaff, bush-meat, head-tie, watch-night, chewing-stick and so forth (see Anchimbe 2004). Although all of these words are English if treated individually, they have been compounded in a way that reflects the region in which they are used. It is no longer strange to find native language words and other neologisms created to fill communicative gaps in second or foreign language contexts. The recreation of the ecology in language may extend beyond simply the creation and addition of new words to larger linguistic units as collocational preferences, analogical creations, sentence structure and discourse patterns. It might and often generally result in extensive restructuring of the language to suit the communicative habits of the speakers. So restructuring in this manner must not be pro rata to non-native or postcolonial heritage. Mufwene (2001) and Schneider (2000) uphold that the restructuring patterns are basically the same in all languages whether termed Creole, koinés, pidgins, non-native or native. In a nutshell therefore the evolution of the New Englishes cannot be singled out as cases of degeneracy or deficiency since English itself has had as much contact in Britain as any of the Englishes out of Britain (pg 26).
Video: Cameroon - Jovi - Don 4 Kwat (Official Video). Album: H.I.V (2012). Dir. By February 16th.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Modern Architecture in Tanzania

An excerpt from Dutch architect and film maker Jord den Hollander's 2009 documentary on Anthony B. Almeida and modern architecture in Tanzania...

From synopsis:
In 1950 architect Anthony B. Almeida was one of the first to introduce modern architecture in Tanzania. At that time architectural modernism was the preferred expression of the intended colonial welfare state. After Independence in 1961 Nyerere’s African socialism used the same architectural style to convey the hope and strength of the new African nation. Following Almeida and some of his colleagues, the film questions what is left of the dreams and ideals of this first generation. It searches for new definitions of happiness in booming African cities like today’s Dar es Salaam. The film documents the everlasting human pursuit of modernity, not only in architecture but also in contemporary urban life.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Transnational Surrealism - Tropiques, Wifredo Lam and Aime Cesaire

Back in April 2011, Prof Dawn Ades (Oxford U/ Dept of History) 53 mins lecture on the 1941 collaboration between the Cesaires and the Cuban-born artist Wifredo Lam, who had met in Martinique in April 1941.

7:00 mins in:
Surrealism became a scapegoat for the primitivizing fantasies of the West. Muscera denounced, and I quote, a certain exoticism, typical of the astonished Western vision, particularly among the Surrealists, which extends to everything primitive. It aesthesizes mystery, magic, night, dark, the fantastic, etc. The assumption that surrealism is an aesthesizing, even anesthetizing, influence in the complex story of modern art outside the Western centers, ignores the political commitments of this movement whose anticolonial stance differentiates it from the earlier avant-garde which fed simply on the form and inventiveness of African art - Slade Lectures 7: Transnational Surrealism: Tropiques and the role of the little magazine | University of Oxford Podcasts - Audio and Video Lectures 
Also in April, France honoured Aimé Césaire at the Panthéon. See Jen Bouchard's piece on 'Representing Negritude in Surrealist Imagery and Text: The Césaires and Wifredo Lam.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Imperialism and Modernity - The Colonial Film Online Catalogue

Above still from 1961 technicolor film - Three Roads to Tomorrow. It traces the journeys of 3 Nigerian students to the university of Ibadan. The film shows scenes of their homes in the old country and how a modern network of communications - all dependent on oil and petrol - has opened up what was not so long ago inaccessible territory.'

The catalogue is history documentary crack. Be warned. For example, check out this historic parade of the first Nigerian women police force at the Southern Police ground in Ikeja, Lagos, from 26 April 1956:
This website holds detailed information on over 6000 films showing images of life in the British colonies. Over 150 films are available for viewing online. You can search or browse for films by country, date, topic, or keyword. Over 350 of the most important films in the catalogue are presented with extensive critical notes written by our academic research team. The Colonial Film project united universities (Birkbeck and University College London) and archives (British Film Institute, Imperial War Museum and the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum) to create a new catalogue of films relating to the British Empire. The ambition of this website is to allow both colonizers and colonized to understand better the truths of Empire.
FSFF points out two freely accessible book chapters by those involved in the project: Lee Grieveson and Colin MacCabe (eds), Empire and Film (BFI/Palgrave, 2011) and 32 sample pages; and Lee Grieveson and Colin MacCabe (eds), Film and the End of Empire (BFI/Palgrave, 2011) and 25 sample pages.

Monday, October 10, 2011

French Political Correctness Run Amuck

Text here:
A modern French history textbook now boasts no less than 20 pages on the history of black slavery while devoting a mere six pages to the achievements of Napoleon – shown here sitting on a toilet. France's new history textbooks are enraging parents and teachers who call it political correctness gone mad.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Africa: Return/ Reverse Anthropology

From the internet archives, a spoof on ethnological documentaries as an African TV team travels to an Austrian province to document the strange behavior of the natives in an episode titled "Darkest Austria." Though this example is fictional, the point of reverse anthropology (or simply "return anthropology"), wherein those often anthropologized and ethnographed now turn the lens of study on their anthropologists, gets across .

Like below in Jean Rouch's La Petit Petit (1971) where we see Rouch's protege Zika Damouré leaving Niger for France to observe to study the "curious" ways Parisians live. Soon Damoure's descriptions of the Parisians in letters to his companions back in Niger start sounding so bizarre to them that they think he's gone mad and they soon send someone after him:

"The indigenous critique and articulation of political alternatives [by the anthropologized and ethnographed] ," according to Stuart Kirsch, "temporarily align[s] ethnography and anthropology with the objectives of social movements."

H/T: @hamdi02

Friday, May 6, 2011

Botswana: A Metal Bridge Between Cattles and Loud Distorted Guitars

Steel Panther

Taking the cue from Africa Unchained, its time we also stashed over here a link to the awesome VICE piece, Atlas Hoods: Botswana’s Cowboy Metalheads, introducing Frank Marshall's photographs of the Botswana metal scene. The piece has burned a swath through the blogosphere in past month.


A Wyoming professor once said "Botswana is the Wyoming of Africa... Lots of beef and cowboys" and " Wyoming, [the] country also struggles with the often conflicting desires for development and protection of a precious way of life”. In light of that statement, what Skinflint, one of metal bands featured in the VICE piece and one of the few with a white member, said about...

... about the fusion of heavy metal and the rural cattle herding/farming culture was really interesting:
Giuseppe Sbrana is the lead guitarist and vocalist with the band Skinflint. He’s also one of the few white metallers in Botswana, and reckons that the scene’s dress code is ‘old school.’ “A good example of where we get the style from is Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades cover,” he says. “Also, many metalheads in Botswana are cowboys from the villages and farms, so they mix the cowboy image with a biker metal look. Many wear hunting knives and parts of dead animals. We drink from the hollowed-out cow horns.” 
Cue to 2:33 of this BBC feature on Botswana for a feel of the hot cattle farms and outposts some of the Batswana metalheads hail from.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Africa/France: The Neo Blundering "Colonial"

Skim thru digibidi preview pages from Nicolas Dumontheuil's '09 graphic novels, Le Landais volant, volumes 1 and 2 (colors by Isabelle Merlet/ Futurepolis). They feature French Baron Jean-Dextre Pandarus Cadillac and his pseudo-colonial, travelogue-esque forays into modern African life in Ghana, Benin, Mali  and Burkina Faso...

...Endowed with great coping skills inherited from his illustrious ancestors and an open mind taught by his father, who imperially suggested that he run the wide world, Jean-Dextre, full of goodwill, although bit naive, goes to Africa carrying the guilt of the history between Africa and Europe, fears of not yet being free of his prejudices, and, of course, blundering and falling over each well-intentioned step he takes. Goog Trans BDGest reviews for Vol 1 - here & Vol 2 - here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

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.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Africa: Godard on Colonialism

Phil Alden Robinson's quote about how “[Godard] didn’t just break the rules, he ran them over with a stolen car” is a keeper. No doubt, the same car Michel Poiccard steals in the opening scenes of À bout de souffle. Anyway, JLG tuned 80 today [Friday]. Weeks ago when he was told he received a honorary Oscar award at the Governors Awards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and he said the award meant bupkis to him, all the old anti-Jewish accusations came crawling out of the woodwork. Around that time, NY Mag snagged translations to an interview JLG gives to NZZ, at which the questioncame, "Jews have inhabited your intellectual universe since the late sixties. Is there a certain reason for this?" In his response, Godard, who directed Le Petit soldat

... a film in 1963 directly referencing Algerian war for independence, also spills some thoughts on blackness as well:
When the Holocaust happened, I was 15 years old. My parents kept it a secret from me, despite belonging to the Red Cross. I only found out about it much later. Even today I still feel guilty, because I was an ignoramus between the age of 15 and 25. I am sorry I couldn’t stand up for them. Today, in my own thoughts, I would like to have a critical look at them. I am generally interested in the ‘other’. It’s the same thing with blacks. First, they were colonised, and later everyone acted as if they were just as we are. Of course, a black person can wear glasses and a watch, but this doesn’t make us the same.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

South Africa: The Art of Mary Sibande

Coming from a long line of maids Mary Sibande makes the postcolonial politics of Shonibare's Victorian subvertions, personal.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Zambia: Postcolonial Sci-Fi

Zambia marked its independence day 2 days ago and over at the Atlantic's tech blog Alexis Madrigal digs up the story and video of a Zambian space program in 1964 spearheaded by a grade-school science teacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso. Nkoloso claimed he heads the Zambia National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy and wanted 7 million pounds from UNESCO to fund his race to beat the Americans and Russians to the moon.

One of the links in Madrigal's post leads to this 1964 Time magazine article about the buzz leading up to Zambia's independence ceremonies, and mentions Nkoloso:
During the independence festivities only one noted Zambian failed to share in all the harmony. He is Edward Mukuka Nkoloso, a grade-school science teacher and the director of Zambia's National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy, who claimed the goings-on interfered with his space program to beat the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the moon. Already

Nigeria: @ 50, Cont'd

Recently Goodluck Johnathan and retired chief justice Alfa Belgore were going on about government structures and constitutions that are still alien and haven't been modified to recognize and include long held socio-political allegiances that still hold sway over the land.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Africa: East India Company Reborn as a Luxury Brand

After lying dormant for a century, CNN reports that, in 2005, the intellectual property rights to the East India Company --that awesome British company/engine of colonialism and imperialism, which was responsible for half of the world's trade between the 17th and 19th centuries -- was bought by the Indian-born importer and entrepreneur, Sanjiv Mehta, who plans to use the colonial brand to brand an sell a range of luxury products. Though its counterpart, The Royal African Company, was the main trader of slaves from the African continent to America and the West Indies, the East India Company, which ruled India and had its own army, was "also in the business of shipping Madagascar slaves to India and the East Indies." Below on NPR, the owner of the brand chooses not to dwell in the past. Rather he notes the enormous potential in this particular colonial brand. He refers to the East India Company has the "Google of its time":

After its dissolution in 1874, the wealth of the East India Company took on other forms of capital. However the fact that the name of the company and its place in colonial imagination now serves as an Indian "luxury brand" must provide a postcolonial/postmodern chuckle or two. But leave it to the makers of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End to supply British Imperialism and the East India (Trading) Company a Hollywood ending when Lord Cutler Beckett's hubris and top-of-the-line ship is blown to bits in the final battle. The mashup below of Lord Cutler's scenes from the film plays to the Coldplay anthem, When I Ruled the World, which drives home the point with a hammer:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Nigeria: Jemisin on Nnedi Okorafor’s "Who Fears Death"

I'm halfway through Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death (look for her blog in the roll) and I09 just posted sci fi author N.K Jemisin's review of the book, which lauds the book's main character, Onyesonwu, and digs Okorafor’s magic-realism enough to think of making a role playing game out of it:
... As Onyesonwu learns the history behind this war, she discovers that she is the focus of a prophecy that may end it. That is, of course, assuming she can survive the attempts of a powerful sorcerer — her own evil biological father — to kill her, and prevent the prophecy from coming true. There’s a lot of grim, painful stuff in this book: it starts with an horrific gang rape scene (be forewarned), then progresses through violence, torture, prejudice, bullying, female genital cutting, colorism, child soldiering, and more. Yet these are all treated in a nuanced fashion that I’ve rarely seen in fiction or even nonfiction — there’s far more to this story than just “war is bad”. Onyesonwu finds love, and sets forth with her own personal gang of Scoobies to face her father and her fate, and there’s a lot of wonder and laughter on this journey. Some elements of mythic beauty, too: the magical house of the elders, for example, and I found myself utterly fascinated by the chapters in which the gang encounters the Red People, a group of nomads who travel amid their own personal sandstorm. The magic system is complex and fascinating; I kinda want to put together an RPG campaign based on it. And not only is Onyesonwu herself a kickass character — I’d pit her against any dozen urban fantasy “chick with a tattoo and a gun” protagonists — but her whole crew of girlfriends (and Mwita, her boyfriend/lover) are pretty hardcore too. This is a horrifying, inspiring, painful, joyous book.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Nigeria: Theorizing Nollywood

Click pic below for the library link to Paul Ushang Ugor's dissertation, which joins a growing list of dissertations about Nigeria's burgeoning video industry. Abstract below:

This dissertation reflects on how young people in Nigeria have appropriated global media technology in forging a local cinema industry, popularly known as Nollywood. First begun as a renegade cinematic art by jobless youth in the late 1980s, Nollywood has become the third biggest film industry in the world, next only to America’s Hollywood and India’s Bollywood, grossing approximately $50 million US dollars annually (Okome 2007a; 2007b). The study thus examines how Nollywood has become a new social space for youth to retell their postcolonial struggles. It examines selected video films, showing how the films both represent the huge social challenges faced by young people in the city and the way youth reinvent those stormy socio-economic and political conditions into moments of possibilities and hope. Combining both an ethnographic study of the video culture in Nigeria and a textual reading of several video films, the research draws insights from a

Friday, March 19, 2010

Africa: The History of the "Default " Color

The history of "Whiteness" and those who were once excluded from the term:

And Colbert takes on Painter, and I don't mean literally:

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cameroon: Marie-Hélène Ngoa-Guislain on Development

In its series of reports on Africa Independence at 50, France 24 spotlights Marie-Hélène Ngoa-Guislain, a 69-year-old French woman elected mayor of the town of Akono, Cameroon, in July 2007, hence she's "the first white woman to achieve such a position in post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cameroon: Denis on "White Material"

It appears the trailer for Claire Denis' White Material (2009) has been up for a while. The folks at Shadow and Act have a darn good review - here - to go with Michael Koresky's, but do check out her 1988 debut, Chocolat, which I still hold contains one of the most beautiful scenes yet captured on Postcolonial celluloid. Below, at the Göteborg International Film Festival, she babbles a bit about Africa:


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