Set up in 2010, Dynamic Africa is diverse multi-media curated blog with a Pan-African outlook that seeks to create an expressive platform for African experiences, stories and African cultures.

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#TBT Dynamic Africa History Post: 10 of Africa’s most well-known couples of the 20th century.

This post is not made with the purpose of romanticising the unions of these couples, but rather as a way to reflect on a different angle of 20th century history on the African continent by looking at some of the most prolific, politically-involved, highly revered or controversial couples we have come to know from around the continent. Some were loved during their time, others loathed - or even a mixture of both at times. Either way, both individuals in all these relationships are popularly known names because of, and some times in spite of, their unions.

Nelson and Winnie Mandela

Perhaps the most famous African couple of the 20th century, both Nelson and his second wife Winnie are political icons in their own right.

The pair met in 1957 at a Soweto bus station at the height of their political activities. Winnie, then Madikizela, was 22 and Nelson was . They were married the next year and the two of them had two daughters - Zenani and Zindziswa. In 1963, three years after the birth of their second child, Nelson Mandela would be sentenced to prison on Robben Island. He wouldn’t be released until 1990.

Although initially banned from visiting him for several years, and occasionally imprisoned herself (and put under house arrest), throughout much Mandela’s prison term Winnie remained dedicated to Nelson, visiting him when permitted and sharing news of his state with the outside world, and vice versa. However, his incarceration eventually took a toll on the both of them.

The two finally separated in 1992 and were officially divorced in 1996.

Nelson Mandela eventually passed away in late 2013.

Albertina and Walter Sisulu

Another South African political couple, the Sisulu’s long-lasting relationship was one of an enduring love and friendship that began in 1941 when the couple first met in a Johannesburg hospital. Him a lawyer and she a nurse, the pair married in 1944 and remained so until Walter’s death in 2003 aged 90. Albertina Sisulu would pass almost ten years later in 2011 aged 92.

Nelson Mandela was the best man at their wedding and he and Walter would both be sentenced during the Rivonia Trial in the early 1960s to serve life sentences on Robben Island. 25 years of Walter Sisulu’s life would be spent there.

The couple had five children and adopted four more. Like Winnie Mandela, she raised the couples children whilst Walter was in prison and was at times imprisoned herself. The couple’s relationship stood the test of time and both are highly affectionately remembered by the South African public.

Jomo and Ngina Kenyatta

Kenya’s first president and First Lady were married in in 1951, a little over a decade before Kenyatta would serve in office as the nation’s first president. Although Jomo Kenyatta had married twice before, Mama Ngina became more well known to the public due to her glamorous appearance, often accompanying the president in public. The couple had children four children one of which is Uhuru Kenyatta, current president of Kenya.

The two remained married until Jomo Kenyatta’s death in 1978 but Mama Ngina would retained her status as ‘Mother of the Nation’, and First Lady of Kenya until 2002 as incoming president Daniel Arap Moi had separated from his wife in 1974.

Mama Ngina currently resides in Nairobi.

Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings and Jerry Rawlings

The Rawlings met whilst both attending Achimota School in Ghana a co-ed boarding high school located in Accra, later marrying after in 1977.

In May 1979, Jerry J. Rawlings led a successful military coup that resulted in him becoming 8th Ghana’s president. He and his armed forces stayed in power for a little over 100 days, until September of that same year when he handed power to a freely elected civilian president, Hilla Limann. He would again serve as head of state in 1981, after Rawlings overthrew Limann’s government. Rawlings is often credited with reviving Ghana’s economy in the late 80s and 90s. In the country’s first elections since 1979, he was elected as Ghana’s president in 1992 and be again reelected in 1996. He stepped down from the presidency in 2001.

The couple remain married to this day and currently reside in Ghana and have four children.

Robert and Sally Mugabe

Born Sarah Francesca Hayfron in Ghana, then the Gold Coast, Sally Mugabe became current Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s first wife in 1961. The two met at a school in Ghana where they both were teaching at the time. It was during this time that Robert Mugabe became inspired by the Pan-African ideologies of Kwame Nkrumah that would lead Mugabe into a career of politics. 

The pair soon moved to Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, and Robert was arrested in 1964 for his involvement with Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). in 1967, Sally went into exile in England where she spent eight years campaigning for the release of her husband and other political prisoners in Rhodesia. Their only child, Nhamodzenyika, a son, was born in 1963 but unfortunately died after a severe bout of malaria he contracted in Ghana in 1966.

Robert Mugabe was eventually released from prison in 1975 and in 1987 became Zimbabwe’s first president. Unfortunately, Sally Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s First Lady, died of kidney failure in 1992. Some consider this to be the time at which Mugabe’s policies in Zimbabwe began to take a drastic turn.

Samora and Graca Machel

Although Samora Machel, Mozambique’s first president, had had relations with three women before meeting and marrying Graca, he is most remembered for the latter relationship. Samora had been married once before, to a highly political Mozambican woman named Josina Abiatar Muthemba whom he met in Tanzania in the early 1960s. The two were married there in 1969 and Muthemba gave birth to the Samora’s only son that same year. Sadly, she passed away in 1971 at the age of 25 leaving Samora incredibly devastated.

Before Muthemba, Samora had had two previous relationships that yielded five children.

Graca and Samora met in the 1970s and were married three months after their country’s independence in 1975. The two were both members of FRELIMO before their marriage. The pair had two children, a daughter and a son, and remained married until Samora’s controversial plane crash death in 1986.

Julius and Maria Nyerere  

Married in 1953 until Julius’ death in 1999, the Nyerere’s were Tanganyika’s, and later Tanzania’s, First couple from 1961 to 1985. Julius Nyerere served as the country’s first prime minister and president from 1961 until his retirement in 1985 and was by far the most political of the two. Unfortunately, much of his policies plummeted the country in a serious state of decline.

The couple had seven children during their marriage and Maria was known as the ever-loving and doting wife who preferred to take a quiet behind-the-scenes role.

Meles Zenawi and Azeb Mesfin

Meles Zenawi Asres was Ethiopia’s prime minister from 1995 until his death in 2012, at the age of 57, after previously having served as president of the country’s transitional government from 1991 to 1995. It was during the latter phase that Eritrea seceded from the country.

Both were highly political in their own right with Azeb known for her fight against HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia, and for promoting issues concerning mental health and women’s rights.

Meles Zenawi was a very gifted student who dropped out of university, where he was studying medicine, and became involved in by joining the Tigrayan National Organization (TNO) the forerunner Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF was instrumental in the struggle against Lieutenant Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam and the Derg, the communist military government of Ethiopia.

Under his government, it is said that discrimination against and repression of Oromo people was widespread. Zenwai’s presidency was also marred by the Anuak conflict which began in 2003.

He and Azed Mesfin Haile were married until his death and the couple had three children.

Emperor Haile Selassie I and Empress Menan Asfaw

Ethipoia’s most well-known couple, and quite possibly one of the most popular couples in both African and world history, Emporer Haile Selassie I and Empress Menan Asfaw from Selassie’s coronation in 1930 until his deposition by the Derg in 1972. 

Although highly revered by the Ras Tafari movement, for which he is named after, as God incarnate and the returned messiah, his relationship and rule of Ethiopia was far more complex. During the invasion of his country by Italy, he was forced into exile in 1936. Selassie appealed to the League of Nations for assistance in defending his country during this time, after which the British came to his aid. Despite this success and his aims to modernize Ethiopia in coming years, towards the end of his rule famine and frustration with his archaic dominance over the country led to him being ousted from power in a coup and kept under house arrest in his palace until his death in 1975.

Empress Menen was remembered far more favourably in the public eye often taking on social welfare issues and causes, most notably women’s issues. She was also a devoutly christian woman who took no public stance on political affairs.

The two had no children and Empress Menen passed away little over a decade before her husband who died in 1975, and she in 1962.

Kwame and Fathia Nkrumah

The First President and First Lady of Ghana were wed in what some press outlets described as a ‘surprise ceremony’ in 1958. The pair were married on the evening of her arrival in Ghana on New Year’s Eve that year. A relation of President Nasser of Egypt, Fathia received her marriage proposal from Kwame Nkrumah whilst working at a bank in Cairo. Fathia, inspired by Kwame’s Pan-Africanist ideals, accepted the proposal despite not knowing Nkrumah personally. At the time of their wedding, communication proved difficult as she spoke only Arabic and he, none at all.

The couple had three children together and following Kwame’s exile in 1966, Fathia was forced to single-handedly raise her children in her home country of Egypt ending her time as First Lady of Ghana.

Theirs was a marriage that was more romantic that political and was said to have been a Pan-Africanist strategy carried out in the hopes of linking North Africa with the rest of Africa.

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Today’s style inspiration: Louis Philippe de Gagoue.

Hailing from both Cameroon and Cote D’Ivoire, the self-described eclectic fashion stylist, blogger and personal shopper is currently based in Morocco after half a decade living in neighbouring Tunisia.

With a style all his own, there’s a sense of vintage cool, classic sartorialism and modern vibrancy in almost everything he wears. From Congolese sapeurs to traditional North African garments, there’s always a strong African influence in de Gagoue’s visual aesthetic.

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NEW MUSIC: Kato Change ft Lisa Oduor-Noah - Aparo.

Two Kenyan artists - one on vocals and one on guitar, team up to create a sultry melodic tune that explores the battle between personal belief and the pressures of society to conform. The chorus expresses one of the strongest human emotions; doubt. It tries to convey the question that remains — “Is what I believe truth? And if so, how can I sustain it?”

Aparo, written as a fusion of English and Luo, means “to think, wonder or ponder”.

In Photos: “Family Album” by Mamaki Rakotsoana.

This series of images by South African photographer Mamaki Rakotsoana is a project in which she took her deceased father’s photographs and reproduced them in a manner that investigates her relationship to him, as well as his relationship to the women in his life.

How a Ghanaian entrepreneur turned his “impossible” dream into a reality.

A few years ago, Fred Deegbe was working as a banker - a profession that left him somewhat unsatisfied with the lack of impact he was having in the world. After buying a pair of Oxford wingtips at a store to impress a friend, Deegbe began to wonder if such high quality luxury shoes could indeed be manufactured in Ghana.

Despite the negative feedback he received from those who believed that such shoes couldn’t be made in Ghana, Deegbe wasn’t dissuaded from his idea of starting a shoe company in Accra. With no knowledge of the shoemaking industry, and armed only with passion and his gut feeling, Deegbe teamed up with friend Vijay Manu (pictured right) to start their luxury shoe and accessories company ‘Heel the World’, based in Accra.

Although the shoes are all handmade in Ghana, the goods used to make them are imported from places like the United States and Italy putting the price range of the shoes between $200-$400. This is Deegbe’s greatest challenge: proving that the shoes are worth the money they command.

To hear Deegbe tell his start-up story in his own words, watch this clip from CNN.

British-Nigerian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor gets personal with the BBC as he discusses why and how he got involved in the screen adaptation of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’.

You’ll also get to hear clips from the film and Ejiofor’s experience of shooting a film in Nigeria.

Read The Guardian’s review of the film.

What you need to know about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The Ebola virus has been detected in several West African countries. Here’s what you need to know about Ebola and what’s going on (so far):

The back story on this particular outbreak of Ebola in West Africa:

It began early this year in the forested villages of southeast Guinea.

For months, the infected went undiagnosed. It wasn’t until March 23 that the news finally hit the World Health Organization. And by then, Ebola had already claimed 29 lives, the organization reported in a one-paragraph press release.

Since then, the organization has dispatched nine additional updates on a ballooning outbreak that’s received modest notice in the West, but has sent waves of panic across the African continent.

What exactly is Ebola?

Ebola is one of the deadliest virus diseases in humans. Known formally as the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) or Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever (EHF), it is caused by any one of the five known Ebola virus species:

  • Bundibugyo ebolavirus (BDBV)
  • Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV)
  • Reston ebolavirus (RESTV)
  • Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV)
  • Taï Forest ebolavirus (TAFV).

What’s the history of this virus?

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter was in a village situated near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.

Here’s another infographic about Ebola’s history.

How does one get Ebola?

The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are considered to be the natural host of the Ebola virus. Consumption of a contaminated animal, close contact with an infected animal or it’s blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids can also lead to infection.

Once a human being is infected and comes in to contact with others, the disease continues to spread.

EVD outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.

What happens when you get Ebola?

EVD is a severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.

People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus. Ebola virus was isolated from semen 61 days after onset of illness in a man who was infected in a laboratory.

The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is 2 to 21 days.

Which countries has the outbreak occurred in?

Guinea and Liberia have both confirmed multiple cases of Ebola. Ghannareported tests on a suspected case were negative. The WHO says Sierra Leone has ruled out Ebola in its two suspected cases, and two of Mali’s six suspected cases have been cleared. Nigeria’s Minister of Information confirmed there was no outbreak of Ebola earlier this month.

How many people have died so far in this particular outbreak?

As of April 8th, 2014, 98 people in Guinea and 10 in Liberia have all been confirmed dead as a result of Ebola.

Is there a cure for Ebola?

EVD outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90%. So far, there is no specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals.

What about treatment?

No specific treatment is available. New drug therapies are being evaluated. No vaccine for EVD is available. Several vaccines are being tested, but none are available for clinical use.

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ETA: I’m not a medical doctor or health practitioner so feel free to rectify anything you see here that’s incorrect.

(top image via usatoday)

South African directs viral Skrillex music video set in apocalyptic Johannesburg.

LA-born electronic music DJ Skrillex’ latest music video for his single ‘Ragga Bomb’, a collaboration with the Ragga Twins, is close to hitting 3 million views on YouTube just days after being released.

Shot in December in Johannesburg’s densely-populated Hillbrow neighborhood notoriously known for its high crime rates, the video was directed by South African directer Terence Neale of Egg Films - the Cannes Award-winning number one production house in South Africa. Amidst wreckage and ruin, set in a dystopian futuristic setting that includes dancers of all kinds, the video builds up to a lightsaber battle between two different groups in this all-black cast clad in tattered oversized clothing.

According to producer Rozanne Rocha-Gray, the original brief for te video was rather vague containing only the words ‘dark and dancey’. “Everything you see is Terence’s imagination”, she says.

Neale has previously directed music videos for Die Antwoord (Fatty Boom Boom, Baby’s On Fire) as well as commercials for some of the country’s top local brands (Nedbank, Chicken Licken, Nandos, Engen).

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Lupita Nyong’o lands top beauty gig as new face of Lancôme.

After being featured in numerous magazines from Vogue to Vanity Fair, and being chosen as one of the representatives of Miu Miu’s Spring 2014 campaign, Oscar-winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o has been announced as the new face of top French beauty brand Lancôme. Even though many of us are already familiar with her gorgeous face, the beauty brand ambassador will now be seen all over the world and I can’t help being excited at that thought.

This comes as no surprise as the actress and filmmaker is not only known for incredible thespian talents, she also consistently manages to leave us all in awe as she pulls off one beauty and fashion look after another.

Concerning her new role, Nyong’o remarked, “I am particularly proud to represent [Lancôme’s] unique vision for women and the idea that beauty should not be dictated, but should instead be an expression of a woman’s freedom to be herself.”

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New record deal and European tour dates for Shangaan Electro pioneer Richard “Nozinja” Mthetwa.

Considered to be the driving force behind the fast-paced Shangaan-inspired electronic dance music genre, the Limpopo based musician and entrepreneur has officially signed British record label Warp. His song Nwa Gezani My Love’ received a lot of attention online after being featured on Honest Jon’s compilation New Wave Dance Music from South Africa.

Nojinza is also the founder of Nozinja Music Productions, his Shangaan focused music label in Limpopo. About this style of music, Nozinja says:

"It’s similar to the Zulus, but faster and we put a lot of style inside. There’s disco in there, we use Pantsula moves…We don’t use the sounds of the hip-hop guys, or the afro-pop, or whatever, we’re using Shangaan sounds. The traditional Shangaan music is fast. You play it slow, they won’t dance."

He’ll be touring in Europe during the coming months.

Tour dates:

Tue 29 Bristol, Start The Bus
Wed 30 Brighton, Bermuda Triangle

Thu 1 Liverpool, Sound City
Fri 2 Paris, La Machine du Moulin Rouge
Sat 3 Krems, Donau Festival
Sun 4 London, Electrowerkz
Mon 5 Sheffield, The Harley
Thu 8 Gent, Vooruit
Fri 9 Berlin, Urban Spree
Sat 10 Utrecht, Spiegelbar

Fri 22 Katowice, Tauron Nowa Muzyka Festival.

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NEW MUSIC: SONA (@sonaman) - No Wahala.

Co-produced by the artist himself, along with O.Y Beatz, ‘No Wahala’ is the latest single form up-and-coming British-Nigerian artist SONA.

A laid back feel with a sensual beat, I absolutely can’t get enough of this track. Excited to hear more from SONA in 2014.

Shout out to the cat (if you know the deal with Nigerians and cats you know what I mean) and the dark skinned girl in the video (yay!).

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Giving thanks to Alek Wek: The importance of a supermodel.

I never tire of reading Alek Wek interviews. Her presence in the modelling world did wonders for my often down-trodden self-esteem whilst growing up. It still does.

Wek, often the sole black face amidst a sea of the many white visages I’d see in the pages of the fashion magazines I became obsessed with was always greatly outnumbered. Few other black faces accompanied her on the runway and in print. Similarly, I constantly found myself in social settings comprised of the same demographics.

Before high school, most of the schools I attended were majority white. At one particular school, I was the only black student in my year for an entire semester, and the only black girl between grades 4 and 8 for that same period of time. You can imagine what this sort of alienation did for myself esteem being in my highly impressionable and formative pre-teen and teenage years. To my non-white friends with flowing hair and skin that was either much paler than mine or at least a ‘nice kind of brown’, I represented all that was undesired in the world of beauty. I was not white, I was not mixed or exotic by any means. I was black, another synonym for plain. My skin? Too dark. My hair? Too stiff when natural. Relaxed? Not even close to what they had. And so the list went on.

Oddly enough, you’d think I’d be somewhat relieved to see someone like Alek Wek receive the kind of seemingly positive attention she did from the fashion world. Au contraire, mon frere - at least at first. At the time, I couldn’t understand why they’d chosen her. She seemed to represent all the things that seemed wrong with blackness in the eyes of my non-black peers. Her skin? Much too dark. Her hair? Much too stiff (if she weren’t bald). And so the list went on. How, in any way, could I look to this woman as a source of inspiration when nothing about her seemed to comfortably fit the standards of beauty defined, and often confined by, whiteness? After all, these standards plagued not just my personal life, but that of the world I lived in. Why had fashion chosen her, or at least someone that looked the way she did? Was Wek chosen because she represented an anomaly in the world of beauty? Or because despite all the notions of beauty that seemed to stand against her, she defiantly refused to accept them and in doing so, redefined how we see and construct beauty and what we consider beautiful?

Being of Dinka descent, Wek stood out physically not only from the white models that overpopulated the fashion industry, but also from the small number of black models the West had heralded both before her and during her time. Her looks seemed to make a statement, whether she liked it or not, in a world that, rather oddly, both embraced and rejected her at the same time. Where she was hired by top Haute Couture designers and graced the covers of numerous high fashion magazines, she was often a token in the fashion world and seen as exotic by the very people that claimed to celebrate her beauty.

In all of this, I found it extremely difficult to interpret, at the time, that Alek Wek’s presence was important primarily because she was there. Not that there hadn’t been black models before her, but her particular beauty had never been celebrated in such a manner before. Whether or not the world approved of her beauty was something that didn’t matter to Alek Wek. She was visible - highly so, and she was not going anywhere. Whether I was aware of it or not, Alek Wek’s visibility was important for the reasons that made me reject not only her but myself during that time. Alek Wek was important because her presence assured people like myself that we deserved all the things we were made to believe we were not worthy of, and needed no one’s permission as proof.

This recent Guardian interview of Alek Wek highlights so much of why Alek Wek is truly one of the most important women in the world of fashion - ever. Here’s an except that demonstrates why she’s so incredibly important and inspirational.

Wek was born in South Sudan, arriving in London when she was 14, and was acutely aware of how different she was from the other big models of the day, women such as Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer and Eva Herzigova; while growing up, she had no knowledge of trailblazers such as Iman and Grace Jones.

“There was no concept of fashion and catwalk shows where I came from,” Wek says. “There were no magazines. I never saw women in makeup, or with different hairstyles. Absolutely not.” Now, she says, there are so many South Sudanese girls working as models it is not a big deal; in the late 1990s, she was one of very few successful African models. “There were black models, but no one as dark-skinned, and none with Dinka features, that’s for sure.” Even so, she was regularly mistaken for Naomi Campbell, an entirely different-looking model from Streatham with a Jamaican-born mother. She laughs at the ridiculousness: “A black woman is not ‘a type’. I never had any interest in those jobs that asked for only black girls. What the hell is that? Would you be comfortable saying you wanted only white girls, or Latin? Are you kidding me? It’s baffling.”

At a time when black models were considered commercially more viable if their hair was relaxed, their complexions light, Wek (very dark skin, cropped natural hair) was confident of her value. I have interviewed many models and, without fail, when asked if they always knew they were beautiful, each of them has given me a look of mock horror before going on to list their unsightly features as a child: big feet, too tall, gawky features. But when I ask Wek, she immediately replies, “Oh yes, of course.”

(Read more of the original article ‘Alek Wek: ‘You don’t have to go with the Crowd’)

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NEW MUSIC: Wande Coal - My Way.

Released just yesterday with already over 20, 000 views, Nigerian artist and serious R&B crooner Wande Coal’s Maleek Berry-produced track finally has a video of its own filmed in South Africa’s financial capital, Johannesburg.

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NEW MUSIC: Blitz the Ambassador ft Seun Kuti - Make You No Forget.

The third single and video released off Blitz’s “Afropolitan Dreams" album, the Ghanaian MC’s latest track was filmed in Jamestown district of the nation’s capital and features stunts from Accra’s BMX “Bikelordz”, amateur boxing and some of Blitz’s biggest fans as a backing sing-a-long ‘choir’. It’s a solid Afrobeat tune with trumpets and a catchy but conscious hook.

Oh, and don’t think we didn’t spot Blitz’s awesome t-shirts. “Make Fufu Not War" and the Kwame Nkrumah "VISIONARY" shirts are both garments made by Kayobi clothing.

ETA: Sorry folks, Seun’s not in the video sadly.

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Fanus, an 18-year-old woman in search of asylum from #Eritrea and #Lampedusa survivor, tells the story of her journey form the Horn of Africa to Western Europe.

As the boat went down, Fanus struggled to escape from the chaos of people thrashing around in the water, holding on to floating corpses. “I’d never been in a body of water before. I was trying to stay afloat by splashing my hands like a dog.”

Read more.

Fanus, an 18-year-old woman in search of asylum from #Eritrea and #Lampedusa survivor, tells the story of her journey form the Horn of Africa to Western Europe.

As the boat went down, Fanus struggled to escape from the chaos of people thrashing around in the water, holding on to floating corpses. “I’d never been in a body of water before. I was trying to stay afloat by splashing my hands like a dog.”

Read more.