Showing posts with label intercultural communication. Show all posts
Showing posts with label intercultural communication. Show all posts

Friday, August 31, 2012

South Africa's Great Advertising [Creative] Divide

Over @ the Daily Maverick, Mandy de Waal has a much discussed piece about South Africa’s extremely white advertising industry, and why she thinks it continues as "a colonial enclave where racial polarisation is rife and the best profits are being creamed by a handful of foreign-owned advertising companies." But it is the quote from the Association of Black Communications Practitioners' spokesperson, Taelo Immanuel, that sets up the video clip below:
“There’s a white creative director and a black team, and when they try and talk to each other there’s that chasm because of their respective upbringing. The references are vastly different. As a result there’s a cult of viewing life in an American way through hip hop, movies and music videos,” said Immanuel, who maintained that because of this the advertising mirror that reflects black culture back to South Africans is warped. What we’re seeing isn’t a true reflection of real South African life, but a perversion of its peoples and culture. “In terms of advertising work that speaks to your everyday black South African—say, for instance, my own parents—it is very difficult to find creative work like that. You just don’t get work that has real insight into the South African condition. Instead agencies and brands go to film, and there are black people singing and dancing and they slap in whatever product they want to sell,” said Immanuel. 
One of those American references for white South Africans Immanuel was referring to above was the Cosby Show. Watch the first 3 mins of the 2009 interview with South African director Gavin Hood to get an idea of how huge, for white South Africans, the Huxtables were and the gratitude owed to Bill Cosby.

Monday, July 30, 2012

"How Modern Jazz Figured in the Formation of a Modern African Identity" and Other Recent Jazz Writing

Robin D.G Kelly in Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Nathan I Huggins Lectures) (published February 2012), gives us a meditation on Africa, jazz and modernity: we see innovation not as an imposition from the West but rather as indigenous, multilingual, and messy, the result of innumerable exchanges across a breadth of cultures. From the prelude:
By exploring the work, conversations, collaborations, and tensions between both African and African American musicians during the era of decolonization, I examine how modern Africa figured in reshaping jazz during the 1950s and early 1960s, how modern jazz figured in the formation of a modern African identity, and how various musical convergences and crossings shaped and the political and cultural landscape on both continents. This book is not about the African roots of jazz, nor does it ask how American jazz musicians supported African liberation or "imagined" Africa. Rather, it is about the transnational encounters between musicians.
Other recent writings:
Musical Echoes: South African Women Thinking in Jazz (Refiguring American Music) by Carol Ann Muller and Sathima Bea Benjamin.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why the Web Divides Us

The Internet has changed many things. But it has not changed the insular habits of mind that make us replicate in our online social networks the physical networks we already have; in other words, connecting with only those who share our interests, laying waste to the utopia of a truly connected world. Ethan Zuckerman's older TED talk on this topic - here . Author Eli Pariser 2011 TED talk on the dangers of a  "personalized web" above.

Both Zukerman and Pariser arrive at the same point: the need for algorithms that let us discover what we want to know as well as what we need to know. But that conclusion still sounds vague. The question is: can developers come up with curatoral algorithms that can look into a mish mash of  unfamilairity and spot in a culture alien to us, and in a context completly different from what we know, the sameness of things we value and cherish? Such curation is a tall order even for humans.

In the 2012 spring issue of the Wilson Quarterly, Ethan Zuckerman argues :
A central paradox of this connected age is that while it’s easier than ever to share information and perspectives from different parts of the world, we may be encountering a narrower picture of the world than we did in less connected days... Despite these lowered barriers, today’s American television news features less than half as many international stories as were broadcast in the 1970s... Search engines tell us what we want to know, but they can’t tell us what we might need to know. Social media such as Facebook or Twitter might tell you to pay attention to cassette recordings in Iran, but only if your friends include Iranians. Social media are a powerful discovery engine, but what you’re discovering is what your friends know. If you’re lucky enough to have a diverse, knowledgeable set of friends online, they may lead you in unexpected directions. But birds of a feather flock together, both online and offline, and your friends are more likely to help you discover the unexpected in your hometown than in another land.
The most powerful discovery engines online may be curated publications such as The New York Times or The Guardian. Editors of these publications are driven by a mission to provide their audiences with the broad picture of the world they need in order to be effective citizens, consumers, and businesspeople. But professional curators have their inevitable biases and blind spots. Much as we know to search for the news we think will affect our lives, editors deploy reporting resources toward parts of the world with strategic and economic significance. When mysteries unfold in corners of the world we’re used to ignoring, such as Tunisia, curators are often left struggling to catch up. The limits of online information sources are a challenge both for us and for the people building the next generation of online tools. 
If we rigorously examine the media we’re encountering online, looking for topics and places we hear little about, we may be able to change our behavior, adding different and dissenting views to our social networks, seeking out new sources of news. But this task would be vastly easier if the architects of Internet tools took up the cause of helping to broaden worldviews. Facebook already notices that you’ve failed to “friend” a high school classmate and tries to connect you. It could look for strangers in Africa or India who share your interests and broker an introduction. Google tracks every search you undertake so it can more effectively target ads to you. It could also use that information to help you discover compelling content about topics you’ve never explored, adding a serendipity engine to its formidable search function. Why aren’t engineers racing to build the new tools that will help unravel the mysteries of a connected world? They may be waiting for indicators that we want them and are ready to use them.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Victorian Lagos and Modernity

The quote below about an emerging elite class of Lagosians embracing modernity under colonial rule is from Michael J. C. Echeruo's Victorian Lagos: Aspects of Nineteenth Century Lagos Life , which uses archives of the Lagos Press from that period to reconstruct patterns of life and thought in Lagos during the second half of the 19th century.
These Lagosians were usually very conversant with events in Europe and America, especially with the progress and consequences of the American Civil War. They maintained close contact with friends and other descendants of rescued slaves on the West African coast. They had high hopes for themselves and for the Africa they were going to help civilize. They felt deep obligations to the hinterland, and yet considered the civilizing influence of British power sufficiently beneficial to justify the gradual control which Britain was gaining over Yorubaloand. They wanted good education for their children to be "refined," and so they frequently sent them to England. These children had to be in the smart circles of Lagos, so thay went into the right professions--law, medicine and the Arts. Educated Lagosians wanted to associate themselves with the usual recreations of a sophisticated Europe, and so went to the Races, to Fancy Dress balls, to the Gymkhana games, and to cricket. In the evenings, they went for "brisk walks" or for "short rides." On such ocassions, (as an advertisement reminded them), they called first on "their friend, the hairdresser. Everything will be done to your taste and profit and you will come again PRO BONO PUBLICO." (page 30)
The picture of Broad Street, Lagos, from 1951, comes from the diary of Margaret Jefferies, "A Trip to Nigeria, (1951)". The growing independence of the Lagos elite during this period and the change in the colonial equation from Britain as colonizer to Britain as source of the tools for modernization is captured  in the voice of Augustus Engmannin, A West African, narrating the 1950 British documentary, Here is the Gold Coast, about the modernization of Ghana. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

U.S.- Arab Relations - The Age of Hip Hop Diplomacy

The Grand (Hip Hop) Chessboard by Hishaam Aidi

And this is the crux the growing debate over hip-hop diplomacy: Proponents claim that hip-hop can have the same liberating and rebranding effect as jazz did in the 1950s, somehow overlooking Washington’s close alliances with the authoritarian regimes of North Africa and the Middle East. The Cold War is not the “war on terror.” The US could use jazz to “sell” America behind the Iron Curtain and foster dissent in Soviet-backed regimes, but can American “soft power” liberate people in US-backed tyrannies? The hip-hop initiatives may be more successful in generating good will in Europe, where Muslims are marginalized, but do enjoy some rights, or in a non-allied dictatorship like Burma, where rap artists are heavily censored, than in authoritarian regimes backed by US hard power. The hip-hop diplomacy initiatives have sparked a heated debate over the purpose of hip-hop: whether it is “protest music” or “party music”; whether it is the “soundtrack to the struggle,” as the immensely popular Lowkey titled his latest album, or to American unipolarity; whether to accept embassy assistance or not; and what it means that states—not just corporations—have entered the hip-hop game. Hip-hop activists have long been concerned about how to protect their music from corporate power, but now that the music is being used in diplomacy and counter-terrorism, the conversation is shifting. “Hip-hop at its best has exposed power, challenged power, it hasn’t served power,” says the London-based “underground” rapper Lowkey. “When the US government loves the same rappers you love, whose interests are those rappers serving?”

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Amber Rose on Ghana's Middle Class, or the Absense of One

On a recent trip to Ghana to host a Vodaphone O20 Live music concert, Amber Rose (who is she?) remarked all she saw was any one of two extremes - mind numbing poverty or the filthy rich. She asks, where is the middle class?

In response, I'd say you need to stray outside the reach of your agenda and your handlers and off the beaten path of the tourist in order to meet a country's middle class. Lot's more - here. Old thoughts on tourism and Africa's middle class - here...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Wavin Flag" - The Glee-d Remix

Corny but powerful - University of Rochester's singing club, The Yellowjackets, perform Somali troubadour K'naan's "Waving Flag" on the Season 3 premier (September 19, 2011) of NBC's "Sing-Off", a singing competition show featuring a cappella groups.

H/T: @genetparadise

Monday, June 27, 2011

Africa/ China: "How Africans Want to be Seen Rather than how They are Forced to be Seen"

Watch the April 2011 Beijing photography exhibition: Africa: See You, See Me! tagged Postcolonial African Photography and its Global Influence of Representing Africa and its Diaspora. It includes photographs by Angele Etoundi Essamba (Cameroon), Majida Khattari (Morocco) and Marco Ambrosi (Italy), Mario Macilau (Mozambique)... Over at WSJ Asian Scene blog, Lara Farrar quotes the curator Awam Amkpa:
Africa: See You, See Me!” features the work of 36 African and non-African photographers, including Angele Etoundi Essamba from Cameroon, Moroccan Majida Khattari and Italian Marco Ambrosi. China, which has a growing business presence in Africa, seemed an important place to display the photographs, said Awam Amkpa, the exhibition’s curator, who described the images in the show as an illustration of “how Africans want to be seen rather than how they are forced to be seen.” The Chinese “don’t know the diversity, the robustness of African culture,” Mr. Amkpa, a Nigerian, said. “I think it is an opportunity for us to show this Africa that is a very modern and diverse continent…. We are not always at war. We are not always starving.” (more)
Slideshow of the exhibition - here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kenya/ UK: Middle Class Mombasa

Though it's reality television, you still get a rare foreign media glimpse into middle class Kenyan lives in Series 3 of the BBC reality show, "World's Strictest Parents," which aired in the UK November 2010. Two teenagers from Surrey get shipped off to Mombasa, Kenya, to live with new parents. Series synopsis - here. Part 2 below. Parts 1 - 6 @ jambonewspot.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Nigeria: All Shades of Yoruba and Yorubas

Cara 'Titilayo' Harshman, a University of Wisconsin journalism student, who studies Yoruba has since moved to Ibadan, Nigeria, to fully immerse herself in the Yourba culture.

YouTube videos of her speaking fluent, authentic Yoruba while reporting on the just concluded elections, getting her hair done or interacting with market women, have since gone viral. A few more months and her intonation will be spot on. More videos - here.

For those who've ever wondered what the nonsensical name of this blog actually means, look no further.

Sugabelly found the gem below: buzzed on nostalgia, some Nigerians in the diaspora cruise down the memory lane of popular Yoruba invectives.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ethiopia/ Italy: Comics, Immigration and Remembering Hugo Pratt

You can add to Faustin Titi's An Eternity in Tangier (see 2nd slide) and Joe Sacco's recent look at the tide of African immigrants pouring into Malta, another graphic novel look at North Africa-Europe immigration - Italian Paolo Castaldi's recently published graphic novel, Etenesh (BeccoGallio). Like Faustin Titi's book, it also follows the North Africa-Europe journey of one immigrant.
Etenesh, landed on the coast of Lampedusa almost two years after starting from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He wears the memory of a hellish journey, undertaken in the hope of a better future. He traveled to Sudan, the Sahara desert, ended up in the hands of human traffickers in a prison in Libya and has crossed the Mediterranean sea in an inflatable boat thinking at every meter, that everything was futile.
Also with strong ties to Ethiopia is the life and work of another Italian comic artist - Hugo Pratt. In fact when Pratt died in 1995 it’s said the reknowned artist was holding an Ethiopian cross to his chest. His intense relationship with Africa was explored in this 2009 documentary, Hugo in Africa, dir by Stefano Knuchelm - trailer here.

Pratt's African bio included in "Corto Maltese in Africa" says, "from the age of of 10 to 16, Hugo Pratt was in Ethiopia with his family. He became friends with Brahan, a young Ethiopia who had fought the Italians and was forced to become a servant in the Pratt household. Thanks to this important friendship, Hugo learns Abyssinian, Swahili and his initiated into the customs of the country. Despite the war, he made friends amongst those who are supposed to be the enemy soldiers, shepherds, wise men, princes and tribe chiefs. In doing so, he developed an important characteristic of Corto Maltese: respect for different cultures... Thus did he become attached to African mythology. Those years in Ethiopia marked the beginning of Hugo Pratt's nomadic years."

You get the feeling that the relationship between the young Pratt and Brahan had aspects of the relationship between Cush and the young prince in this page from "In the name of Allah the merciful" (from Corto MalteteseLes Ethiopiques):

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nigeria/ U.K : TV Peckham Catching Up with the Real Life Peckham

Sets being built last year for the Nigerian-British sitcom "Meet the Adebanjos". See S&A for more details.

Watching those sets going up, you can't help getting that feeling the Adebanjos were moving into Desmond's old digs. Feels like the passing of the immigrants-melting pot comedy baton from West Indians to Nigerians. Keeping her fingers crossed, Yoruba Girl Dancing takes a look back at the checkered history of such British sitcoms:
Meet The Adebanjos is about a Nigerian-British family in Peckham (of course), with the kids being the more British arm of the family. I am, despite myself, cautiously optimistic. I saw a couple of clips last year, and didn’t completely hate it, so there’s that. I am also hopeful that the crew and cast (Nigerians-a-go-go, not least Mr Don’t Jealous Me, Tolu Ogunmefun) will add an air of authenticity to the venture. Perhaps the Meet The Adebanjos scriptwriters were all watching and taking notes on The Adesinas on Channel 4′s fly-on-the-wall documentary, The Family last year. It’ll be interesting to see how well it handles its Nigerian-ness; Desmond’s, The Fosters, The Crouches and the Lambert family (Mixed Blessings) were all West Indian.
You'd wish Nigerian-British stand up veterans Andi Osho and Jocelyn Jee were consulting on this.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Africa: History of the Souls of Black Folk on Twitter

We already heard Magareth Atwoord's take, over at BigThink, about the older guises of twitter: as in the diary, telegraph machines, Morse code... way back to African tribal drums.

Duke University's Mark Anthony Neal in his TED talk takes the trace to the next level. He retraces the African American ability to convert various things into social media technologies so black people can always be in communication with one another - from field songs to DuBois's Souls of Black Folk--"... the first mixtape?"--to the phonograph to turntables ... and now twitter.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

South Africa: Ad Love

We've been told that to fully appreciate the new brandy ad below, we should watch the one prior since its building on a theme and a variation in the final lines of dialogue spoken in Afrikaans.

The folks at 10 and 5 explain what “Ngena” means.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Kenya/Nigeria: The Revolution will be Embedded

Two music videos from Nigeria and Kenya, both use animation to convey messages about corrupt politics and safe sex:

Ring The Alarm - Etcetera. Animation: Elf Works. myWeku has the details.

Holela - Kwame feat. Nyach. Prod. Mark Nunn/CTA/MWAPI Entertain/Meant. Nancy Ellis - Design/ Video Animation. Museke has details.

We've also stumbled on a few more African music videos, again from Nigeria and Kenya, bridging communication divides with a comic book style fusion of words and pictures or what we've been referring to as comic book plug-ins:

Change Your Style - Twisted Minds (Benny G and P.R.E). dir. Superman. prod. DJ Tee. Knighthouse, 2010.

Dream Again - Kanjii Mbugua. Prod. Gideon Kimanzi/Kijiji Records/CTA - Cleaning The Airwaves. dir. Prince R. Makaya (GNPI Africa), 2010.

H/T: Last Plane, Kenya Christian,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

DRC: "Drums that Talk" Information Theory

Over at the New York Review of Books, Freeman Dyson writes on James Gleick’s new book, The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. He looks closely at the chapter, “Drums That Talk,” which explains the concept of information using a now extinct drum language that was used in a part of the Democratic Republic of Congo where the human language is Kele.

"Eight words of drum language were needed to transmit one word of human language unambiguously"; in other words, the Kele drummers had long ago figured out the concept "redundancy" in information. Excerpt:
Before the arrival of the Europeans with their roads and radios, the Kele-speaking Africans had used the drum language for rapid communication from village to village in the rain forest. Every village had an expert drummer and every villager could understand what the drums were saying. By the time Carrington wrote his book, the use of drum language was already fading and schoolchildren were no longer learning it. In the sixty years since then, telephones made drum language obsolete and completed the process of extinction. Carrington understood how the structure of the Kele language made drum language possible. Kele is a tonal language with two sharply distinct tones. Each syllable is either low or high. The drum language is spoken by a pair of drums with the same two tones. Each Kele word is spoken by the drums as a sequence of low and high beats. In passing from human Kele to drum language, all the information contained in vowels and consonants is lost. In a European language, the consonants and vowels contain all the information, and if this information were dropped there would be nothing left. But in a tonal language like Kele, some information is carried in the tones and survives the transition from human speaker to drums.
The fraction of information that survives in a drum word is small, and the words spoken by the drums are correspondingly ambiguous. A single sequence of tones may have hundreds of meanings depending on the missing vowels and consonants. The drum language must resolve the ambiguity of the individual words by adding more words. When enough redundant words are added, the meaning of the message becomes unique.
In 1954 a visitor from the United States came to Carrington’s mission school. Carrington was taking a walk in the forest and his wife wished to call him home for lunch. She sent him a message in drum language and explained it to the visitor. To be intelligible to Carrington, the message needed to be expressed with redundant and repeated phrases: “White man spirit in forest come come to house of shingles high up above of white man spirit in forest. Woman with yam awaits. Come come.” Carrington heard the message and came home. On the average, about eight words of drum language were needed to transmit one word of human language unambiguously. Western mathematicians would say that about one eighth of the information in the human Kele language belongs to the tones that are transmitted by the drum language. The redundancy of the drum language phrases compensates for the loss of the information in vowels and consonants. The African drummers knew nothing of Western mathematics, but they found the right level of redundancy for their drum language by trial and error. Carrington’s wife had learned the language from the drummers and knew how to use it. The story of the drum language illustrates the central dogma of information theory. The central dogma says, “Meaning is irrelevant.” Information is independent of the meaning that it expresses, and of the language used to express it.

Mali: Origins of Timbuktu's Myth

Skip through preview pages of part 1 and 2 of Abdallahi, Jean-Denis Pendanx and Christophe Dabitch 2006-7 graphic novels (Futuropolis). They pull from the diaries of René Caillé, claimed to be the first European to enter "mythical city" of Timbuktu (which was off limits to whites) and to come out alive. He then made the 4500 miles journey on foot from Senegal to Tangier.

(Goog' Translation) of Publisher's synopsis:
Part 1: Considered as ephemeral as the "Marco Polo" Africa ", he died ten years after his return, at the age of 39 years, forgotten by everyone. 1824, René Caillé who already travel in recent years on the coast of Africa, wants to explore the interior, where no white man has yet made. Without money, without any official support, René Caillé invented a method to travel. He learns in a Moorish tribe, the Braknas, whom he says he wants to convert to Islam. Then changes his name to Abdallahi (servant of God). Suspected by whites to have gone over to the natives, suspected of espionage by the Braknas, Caillé decides to make the journey on to Timbuktu, city of all fantasies. He will cross paths with Arafanba, who became his companion and his guide. For Abdallahi, now the son of Egyptians, kidnapped by whites, freed slave, to return to his homeland, he will travel on foot as a beggar. As long as we believe his new identity, he shall live.
Part 2: Nearly two centuries after the extraordinary adventures of René Caillé, Pendanx and Dabitch through the fictionalized account of this incredible journey take the opportunity to reflect on the history of relations between Europe and Africa. The two creators unveil a multicultural and multiracial Africa, crossed by many civilizations. An Africa where the implacable laws of nature concedes nothing to men.Abdallahi is the opposite of an exotic and picturesque narrative.
 Mythical Timbuktu or "lost city of Gold" forever lives on in Western imagination.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Libya: Want to Rant Like Gaddafi (The Remix)?

We've seen the app, but now it seems like Arabs and Israelis have something in common - making fun of Gadaffi:

NYT's Isabel Kershner writes on how Israeli journalist Noy Alooshe's Gadaffi's “Zenga-Zenga" Youtube video, a remix of American rapper Pitbull and T-Pain's "Hey Baby," has gone viral in the Arab world.

Within the context of communication and relationships, everything serves as content/information... In that regard, the internet in bizarre ways continues to be the flood of content people use, sample and remix to broker relationships between one another, between nations, between races, cultures, regions, enemies... strangers.


Thursday, January 27, 2011


Related Posts with Thumbnails