Harlem Shake meets Maasai/Afro-futurism
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Harlem Shake meets Maasai/Afro-futurism
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Postage stamps commemorating the controversial independence of the Transkei region of South Africa in 1976.
The Transkei was made nominally independent in 1976 in order to serve as a legal homeland for millions of Xhosa-speaking black people who had lost their South African citizenship under thesystem of racial separation. However, upon the creation of a (nominally) independent Transkei in 1976, all black South Africans with language ties to Transkei (whether or not they lived there) lost their South African citizenship and became citizens of the new country. As a result, 1.6 million Xhosas living in the Transkei and a further 1.3 million non-Ciskei Xhosas living in South Africa lost their South African citizenship - something they had no say in as under the apartheid system, both racial and ethnic classification was ultimately decided upon by the apartheid government. Dual citizenship at birth was not permitted, and renunciation of one’s citizenship was legally possible, but rendered the individual stateless in most cases.
Theurged the world to shun Transkei on the grounds that recognition would constitute acceptance of apartheid, and the United Nations supported its view.
On October 26th, 1976, the Transkei - a Xhosa region (known then as a Bantustan) that lay between Natal and the Kei River in the Eastern Cape - gained complete independence as an autonomous republic under the policy of separate development. South African prime minister B. J. Vorster justified the declaration of Transkei as an independent republic by referring to “the right of every people to have full control over its own affairs” and wished “Transkei and its leaders God’s richest blessings on the road ahead.” A press release by the African National Congress at the time rejected the Transkei’s independence and condemned it as “designed to consolidate the inhuman policies of apartheid”.
Furthermore, the Transkei could never be an economically self-sufficient nation as it would be financially dependent on the white South African government , and the majority of its citizens would have to migrate into South Africa to find work.
At its opening session the Transkei National Assembly elected Paramount Chief Botha J. Sigcau as the Transkei’s first President and Kaizer Matanzima as Prime Minister. The new republic did not incorporate the apartheid ideology into its constitution, but became a multiracial state in which all citizens had the franchise.
The Republic of Transkei was not recognised beyond South African borders. The General Assembly of the United Nations rejected the declaration of independence as invalid, and called upon all governments to deny any form of recognition of the Transkei and other Bantustans as a direct result of the ANC’s condemnation of the state as a means to reaffirm apartheid policies of separate development.
In 1994, following the dismantling of the apartheid regime, the Transkei was incorporated into the Eastern Cape province.
Country: Republic of South Africa
Style: Abstract, Contemporary, Portraiture
I can’t say when the change came, when we moved - we being those of us Africans whose cultures historically revered the elderly and bestowed upon them an almost saintly kind of respect - from upholding the once firm traditions of our past, to almost casting a sort of social amnesia upon ourselves, conveniently forgetting the place the elderly amongst us held within our communities.
As someone who didn’t have the opportunity to grow up around my grandparents, it was my parents who both reminded and made great efforts to instill a sense of deep respect for the elderly that would grow to feel almost natural whenever I was in the presence of someone much older than myself.
But often, I’d in some become privy to concerned conversations where those of my parents generation would express, with great bitterness, their disdain at African youth who seemed to be falling out of touch with this crucial tradition of reverence for the elderly - a sentiment that I was quickly reminded of when looking at Mozambican photographer Mário Macilau's series dedicated to elderly African people, titled “Esquecidos” (Forgotten).
Social amnesia isn’t the solitary cause of this concerning treatment of the elderly in many African countries. There are several factors that have contributed to this specific loss of value within our cultures and, of course, it is more complicated than simply ‘forgetting’ or not caring for the elderly. Industrialization, lack of resources, historical influences and transitions, as well as the side-effects of urban migration and of diseases such as HIV/AIDS have all, in some way, had an impact on the displacement of the elderly within certain African cultures.
The question now is, how do we change all of this?
Images of South Africa’s Indian community in the 1950s that were published in notable and widely-read South African-based magazine DRUM, that was centered around highlighting various facets of African lifestyles throughout Africa and the diaspora.
ETA: I believe most of these images were taken by South African photographer Ranjith Kally.
Miriam Makeba with Sonny Pillay and his family, 1959.
Makeba and the Durban-Indian ballad singer, born Shunna Pillay, were briefly romantically involved after Makeba left an abusive relationship with her first husband and father of her only daughter Bongi, James Kubayi.
Of his relationship with the late singer, Pillay says:
“My relationship with Miriam had no family pressure, just gossip. Our romance lasted a few months and then we moved on. We remained the closest of friends until her death.”
“Miriam Makeba and I had a brief romance. If we were married, it would have lasted a lifetime.”
Photograph by South African photographer Ranjith Kally.
Rita Lazarus, Miss Durban, 1960.
Photographed by South African photographer Ranjith Kally.
I have realised
That kindness is a curse,
That one cannot live on dreams
— Lines taken from a Farouk Asvat poem, The Wind Still Sings Sad Songs, found in his book of the same name.
There’s a striking intimacy embedded in almost every single portrait taken by South African photographer Mpho Mokgadi, that adds a delicate, poetic and romantic touch to his images - an intensely captivating factor that leaves one drawn to both the individuals in Mokgadi’s photographs and Mokgadi himself.
Raised in South Africa’s capital city of Pretoria, Mpho Mokgadi’s relationship with photography began at an early age when his mother bought him his first point & shoot camera. Currently studying to obtain his 3- year National Diploma in Photography, the 25-year-old photographer has won an academic award for the most improved student 2012, and was an award winning photographer for a Pretoria News and Nikon South Africa competition. Mokgadi has also had his work featured in various online art magazines including 10and5.
About his journey as a photographer, Mpho says:
"What inspires me is the everyday reality of life and creating history through the lens. I spends most of his time refining, perfecting, even obsessing over my work. I have a very curious eye, which gets me into trouble sometimes.
Through my own photography I seek to document my own personal experience, to capture scenes and events as I see them and share with others the beauty and diversity of the experiences I have seen.”
Mozambique: Meanings Behind Women’s Traditional Mussiro Masks
In the northern coastal region and islands of Mozambique, it’s common to come across women with faces covered with a natural white mask, called mussiro or n’siro. The purpose of the mask seems to have evolved over time. Nowadays it tends to be considered more as a means of beautifying the skin, but according to oral accounts, mussiro masks used to carry other subliminal messages related to the civil status of women.
While some meanings might have been lost through history, we pay homage to Mozambican women through this article on what some consider to be one of the strongest brand images of the country.
Matope Jose, from Mozmaníacos, wrote[pt] about the mussiro tradition:
"The Nampula province is traditionally known as the land of “muthiana orera”, or simply beautiful ladies. The women from that region of the country have a technique that is particular to them: they treat the skin from an early age, using a sought-after forest species called mussiro, a plant that by law must be preserved and multiplied, and that is used more generally by communities to cure various diseases, as well as for decorative purposes."
In the following video [pt] by Julio Silva, women from Angoche explain how the tradition has been passed down to today’s generation from their grandparents, and they show how the cream is extracted from the Olax dissitiflora plant using a stone and some water:
"This is the plant that we, as mussiros, use on our faces. It is what you can see on my face, that’s the plant.
I am Fátima, from Angoche. This mussiro, our grandparents first used it to show when a girl was a virgin. Then she would enter a house. They painted themselves with this mussiro to become white, until a boy came along who they fell in love with and married; only afterwards did they stop using the mussiro. Only afterwards, they use the mussiro like this, when someone is outside, in order to be white, to make their faces beautiful. This is mussiro. The plant is in the forest. While we usually go and meet our husbands, the great grandparents go and cut it and start selling it. Now I will show you the way we make the mussiro.”
A post [pt] on the Baía magazine website adds that the tradition of mussiro being used by virgins or by women whose husbands were away is no longer its only usage:
"Nowadays, this paste is widely used and has been “liberalised” for all women, from the north to south of the country, so that it can be used not only by the Makwa or Makonde women, but also by the Manhungue, Machuabo, Maronga, Machope, Matswa, etc. It is already considered to be a beauty treatment used by all women specially concerned with African feminine beauty. Some designers are expecting their models to use this “Afro paste” on major catwalks, as they do at Mozambique Fashion Week."
An unnamed Rashaida bride from Eritrea (left) wearing a burga, Nosianai (center), a Masai bride from Kenya, and Zanelle (right) an Ndebele bride from South Africa.
A grandmother cares for her grandchild in Mozambique.
Reading about one of Africa’s best documented 17th-century rulers, and one of the the world’s most controversial queens, I am both in awe and slightly disturbed at the magnitude of her power and the ways in which she displayed and demonstrated it.
Ruling of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms in what is today known as Angola, in southern Africa, Queen Nzinga Mbanda (aka Ana de Sousa Nzinga Mbande) fought fiercely over her territory against encroaching colonial Portuguese forces at a time when the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade was destroying much of the Western coast of the African continent.
Many sources cite Queen Nzinga as a strong military strategist, a trait that probably stems from her upbringing where she spent much of her youth accompanying her father, a warrior named Ndambi Kiluanji who was the ‘ngola’ (king) of the Ndongo in the mid-1500s, during times of war. Her father had led the Ndongo people to war against Portuguese forces in rebellion, at a time when other neighbouring peoples were making deals with the Portuguese. Queen Nzinga’s mother, Kangela, was her father’s second wife and a captive from another ethnic group.
Following her father’s death, her older brother, Mbandi, and son of her father’s first wife became king some time in the early 1620s. In 1622, King Mbandi sent his younger sister on a diplomatic mission to see Portuguese governor Joao Corria de Sousa with whom she was to find an agreement on a way to end the fighting between the Ndongo and the Portuguese forces. It was during this meeting that one of the most iconic moments (as seen in the top drawing imagined and re-created by Italian priest Cavazzi) is recorded. Upon her arrival, de Sousa offered Nzinga a mat on which to sit on, which she refused. Instead, she instructed a servant to offer his back to her as a seat in order for her to sit level with the governor. Despite not wanting to agree to the terms laid out by the Portuguese, because of the odds her people faced, Nzinga reluctantly agreed to adopt Christianity and was baptised Ana de Sousa Nzinga Mbande with the Portuguese colonial governor and his wife as her godparents, opening up trade between her people and the Portuguese, urging her brother to do the same. Her brother, on the other hand, was not able to handle the mounting pressures of the Portuguese forces with the same defiant attitudes of his sister and, after the Portuguese did not adhere to the terms of the treaty, tragically committed suicide as he was convinced that he would never recover what was lost during the war. The Portuguese, in order to legitimize Nzinga’s succession to the throne, maintained that she had poisoned her brother.
During her reign, Queen Nzinga would eventually be forced to save her people from further tragedy by creating alliances with the Portuguese, who eventually betrayed her by not adhering to the treaty they had signed with her, forcing Queen Nzinga to flee to the neighbouring Matamba Kingdom when fighting once again broke out. Once there, Nzinga captured the Queen of Matamba and used her army to fight on behalf of the Ndongo’s.
To further build up her military capacity, Queen Nzinga offered sanctuary to any runaway slaves and Portuguese-trained African soldiers, laying a foundation for an ideology that many of us today refer to as Pan-Africanism. More out of necessity than anything else, Nzinga also reached out to the Dutch and formed an alliance with them against the Portuguese. However, despite her efforts this was not enough to drive the Portuguese out of the area as they had won over many neighbouring African groups in the area.
Whilst unable to completely drive the Portuguese out of the area as she had intended, Queen Nzinga’s defiant attitude and spirit of resistance remained long-reigned over her people and was a source of constant inspiration as even after her death in 1661 at age 81, her people continued to resist efforts by the Portuguese to integrate them into the colony of Angola. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the Portuguese became successful in integrating the joined Ndongo and Matamba kingdoms into Angola.
Where Nzinga’s life gets interested, and rather complicated, is in the reports that say that she “immolated her lovers” who were often part of a large all-men harem. According to History of Zangua, Queen of Angola
and the Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy in the Budoir, Nzinga is said to have made her lovers fight to the death in order to spend the night with her and, after a single night with her, would put them to death. She is said to have also made them dress in women’s clothing. Whether this is true or is simply a fantasy of some sort concocted by European sources is something that remains somewhat of a mystery.