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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Between 1939 and 1946, Fatima Massaquoi penned one of the earliest known autobiographies by an African woman. But few outside of Liberian circles were aware of it until this week, when Palgrave McMillian published The Autobiography of an African Princess, edited by two historians and the author’s daughter.

The book follows Massaquoi, born the daughter of the King of Gallinas of Southern Sierra Leone in 1904, to Liberia, Nazi Germany and the segregated American South, where she wrote her memoirs while enrolled at Tennessee’s Fisk University.

She died in 1978, and her story could have died with her.


Moses Katuramu (born 1913 in Fort Portal - passed on 1986 in Mbarara) was a carpenter. He trained from Makerere, then still a technical college and was a teacher and deputy headmaster at Mbarara Highschool (1940-1949). After that he had his own carpentry workshop in Rahoro (Mbarara) and started his own carpentry school in Rubiri in 1954. Next to all this he owned a camera and used it a lot. Mostly to photograph the people around him, but sometimes he was also commissioned to make portraits or cover events. The collection is kept in a very good state by Musa’s son Jerry Bagonza who gave permission to share his father’s work with you.”

Source: Here

(via manufactoriel)

Portrait taken of Zimbabwean-born, South African leader and activist Chief Albert Lutuli who served as president of South Africa’s African National Congress party from 1952-1967, and in 1960 became Africa’s first ever Nobel Peace Prize winner for his role in the non-violent struggle against apartheid. He was also the first person from outside of Europe and the Americas to be awarded this prize.

Although serving a ban which confined him to a 15km radius from his home, the ban was lifted for 10 days (probably due to intense international pressure) in order to grant Lutuli and his wife permission to attend the Nobel ceremony in 1961. An Afrikaans South African newspaper, Die Transvaler, describe the award ceremony as “an inexplicable pathological phenomenon”, which is, ironically, a pretty good descriptor of what apartheid was. The South African Minister of the Interior at the time told Lutuli that he do not deserve this prize.

In this photograph, taken by South African photographer Ranjith Kally, Lutuli is standing at the window to his spazza shop in Groutville, soon after being told that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

On July 21st, 1967, Lutuli was killed as he was struck by train whilst crossing railway tracks - an explanation for his death that many believe to be false.

September: Highlighting African Photographers

WOMEN’S MONTH ICON: Albertina Sisulu

The late anti-Apartheid and human rights activist Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu was born Nontsikelelo Thethiwe in the village of Camama in the Tsomo district of South Africa’s Transkei region, on October 21st, 1918. Both Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, who she married in 1944, were born not to far from Albertina’s birth place. Like Mandela, the name ‘Albertina’ came about as a result of Sisulu attending a colonial missionary school

Affectionately referred to as ‘Ma Sisulu’ or ‘Mother of the nation’ by many South Africans, Albertina Sisulu trained as a nurse - one of the few means of employment for African women outside of domestic work. In 1940, she left the Transkei for Johannesburg to begin her training as a nurse at a non-European hospital. It was in the highly segregated and fast-paced urban ‘City of Gold’ that Albertina Sisulu experienced racism for the first time. It was also here that she would meet the man who would become her life-long partner, and the man that would introduce her to politics and the anti-apartheid struggle, Walter Sisulu.

Albertina Sisulu would go on to be involved in many anti-apartheid groups, movements and events, such as the ANC Women’s League, the Defiance Campaign against pass laws for women, and the Pietermaritzburg Treason Trial. Her husband Walter Sisulu was a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the anti-terrorist armed wing of the ANC co-founded by Nelson Mandela, and would later be imprisoned at Robben Island in the mid-1960s up until 1989. She would also, along with Communist Party member John Nkadimeng, set up an underground cell to help ANC members leave South Africa for training and education in other parts of the continent and the world. Her incredible instincts also helped the ANC weed out informants such as John Mavuso who had been leaking information about the ANC and this underground cell to the apartheid police.

From her political involvement in the ANC that began in the late 1940s, and despite being served several banning orders throughout her life, up until her in 2011, Albertina Sisulu would serve as a prominent leader in the anti-apartheid struggle and the women’s liberation movement in South Africa, winning several humanitarian awards. In 1994, after South Africa’s first democratic elections, both her and her husband served as members of parliament, and in the same year the pair celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Sadly, in 2002, Walter Sisulu passed away after collapsing in Albertina’s arms.

Albertina passed away at the couple’s Linden, Johannesburg home on June 2nd, 2011.

(read more about Albertina Sisulu)

AUGUST: Celebrating African Women


William Hoare of Bath

Portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, called Job ben Solomon

England (1733)

Oil on canvas

There are are some portraits from art history that just stand out, and in my opinion this is one of them. The skill of the artist and the beauty of the subject combine to give us not only a visual treat, but a kind of resonance with what we imagine to be the depicted person’s spirit and personality. And while the museum that this portrait is currently on loan to gives us a brief biography of Diallo, there are some seriously problematic statements in the second half of the portrait’s description.

Ayuba Suleiman Diallo was an educated man from a family of Muslim clerics in West Africa. In 1731 he was taken into slavery and sent to work on a plantation in America. By his own enterprise, and assisted by a series of spectacular strokes of fortune, Diallo arrived in London in 1733. Recognised as a deeply pious and educated man, in England Diallo mixed with high and intellectual society, was introduced at Court and was bought out of slavery by public subscription. Through the publication of his Memoirs in 1734, Diallo had an important and lasting impact on Britain’s understanding of West African culture, black identity and Islam. In the early years of the nineteenth-century, advocates of the abolition of slavery would cite Diallo as a key figure in asserting the moral rights and humanity of black people.

Now, here we have the problematic elements in bold:

Now on a five-year loan to the Gallery, William Hoare’s sensitive portrait of Diallo is the earliest known British oil portrait of a freed slave and the first portrait to honour an African subject as an individual and an equal. Painted at the time when there was a new interest in Islamic culture and faith in Britain, it provides a fascinating insight into the eighteenth-century response to other peoples and religions.

That statement is absolutely absurd, but is often applied to Baroque portraits of Black subjects as “the first of its kind”.

According to the UK government and historical documentation, high-ranking Black guests, musicians, nobles, workers, servants, and other folks have had a tangible presence in the UK since Classical times.

Here you can see in the accounts of James IV of Scotland, money allowed for gifts of clothing for noble or royal guests of the court:  “Bertaine clath to be sarkis for the Moris”, as well as an allotment “for lynyn claith and mailyeis to thir four gownis and tua kirtillis”.

In England’s royal court during the reigns of both Henry VII and Henry VIII, the famous trumpeter John Blanke was one of the more handsomely paid trumpeters for royal events and tournaments. We know this because they still have his paycheck stubs.

He is also rather famously depicted in the 60-foot-long Westminster Tournament Roll, as he was an important fixture of the court.


Another interesting note: the British Museum Archive has hundreds of small prints, engravings, sketches and studies of Black people in England from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Early Modern eras. Racist caricatures don’t begin to show up until after 1800, for the most part.

Despite the way the history of racism and global race relations are presented, history is not a linear progression of “worse to better”. The portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo is far from the first of its kind, but it may be a glaring exception to the generally derogatory depictions of Black people in European art in the late 1700s and 19th-20th centuries.

[x] [x] [x]

(via diasporicroots)

WOMEN’S MONTH ICON: Wangari Maathai

"African women in general need to know that it’s OK for them to be the way they are - to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence."

Kenyan environmentalist, author, activist, visionary, and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

RIP Wangari Maathai (1 April 1940 – 25 September 2011).

AUGUST: Celebrating African Women


Last Person To Get Smallpox Dedicated His Life To Ending Polio

So far, the human race has eliminated just one disease in history: smallpox. But it’s on the cusp of adding a second virus — polio — to that list.

One special man in Somalia was at the battlefront of both eradication efforts. He died unexpectedly last week at age 59 of a sudden illness.

Ali Maow Maalin was the last member of the general public to catch smallpox — worldwide. And he spent the past decade working to end polio in Somalia.

World health leaders called Maalin “an inspiration.” Even in the weeks before his death, he was leading anti-polio campaigns in some of the most unstable parts of Somalia.

Maalin’s fight against polio began in 1977. Jimmy Carter had just been elected U.S. president. Apple Computer had just incorporated in California. And the world was on the verge of wiping out smallpox. Decades of vaccination efforts had pushed the virus into one last corner of the world: Somalia.

Maalin, then a hospital cook near Mogadishu, caught smallpox while driving an infected family to a clinic. He was careful not to spread the disease to anyone. And about three years later, Somalia — and the world — were declared free of smallpox.

Continue reading.

Photo courtesy of the World Health Organization.

(via npr)

Anton (Anthony) Muziwakhe Lembede was a South African political activist, teacher, lawyer, and one of the principal architects of Africanism in South Africa who was also instrumental in the formation of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL).

Born in 1914 in Eston, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal), on the eastern side of South Africa, Lembede was home-schooled by his mother, Martha Norah MaLuthuli Lembede, a teacher, for his entire elementary school education. He then went on to attend formal school at the age of 13 at the Catholic Inkanyezi School where he excelled greatly. Lembede went on to matriculate at Mbumbulu Government School, gathering the funds to pay his fees by working in a kitchen, and was then given a scholarship to attend Adams College, near Durban, where he trained as a teacher.

One of his teachers at the Adams College was Albert Luthuli who then went on to Groutville Mission Reserve to take up his position as Chief. Chief Alberth Luthuli was President-General of the ANC from December 1952 until his death in 1967, and the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960.

Ever the ambitious young man, in the 1930’s whilst teaching at the Orange Free State, Lembede enrolled at the University of South Africa (UNISA), a correspondence university, to further his studies. He managed to obtain his BA and LLB degrees over a duration of six years.

Lembede changed professions in the 1943 and became a lawyer, moving to Johannesburg. But he wasn’t done with his educational aspirations. In 1945, after submitting a thesis entitled “ The Concept of God as expounded by and as it emerges from the philosophers from Descartes to the present day”, UNISA awarded Lembede with an MA in Philosophy. In 1946 he qualified as an attorney.

In the midst of his educational and professional successes, Lembede became politically active after being exposed to the harsh realities of Afrikaner Nationalism and being inspired to counter the racist tendencies of white people in South Africa and the racist systematic structure of Apartheid through his readings on European philosophy, merging them with his views on African Nationalism. These ideologies served as the foundation for the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in South Africa - a political party founded in 1959 and first headed by Robert Sobukwe, as a breakaway party from the ANC. With deep Africanist roots, members of the PAC saw the ANC’s adoption of the Freedom Charter, a document uniting all anti-Apartheid parties in a non-racial alliance towards liberation, as a betrayal of the struggle.

In 1944 Lembede became the first president of the African National Congress Youth League, going on to become highly pivotal in the drafting of the ANCYL manifesto, and what would become the 1949 Programme of Action.

Incredibly passionate about Africanism, in 1945 Lembede, along with Water Sisulu and Oliver Tambo, almost succeeded in persuading the Transvaal Congress to expel communists, who were viciously attacking Africanism, from its membership.

In 1947, at the age of 33, Lembede died of an undisclosed illness. His doctors could say nothing apart from saying he suffered from “intestinal malfunctioning”.

Further Reading: 'Freedom in Our Lifetime: The Collected Writings of Anton Muziwake Lembede'


Albert Eckhout

Don Miguel De Castro, Ambassador from Kongo to Dutch Brazil

Dutch (colonized) Brazil (c. 1637)

oil on wood

This portrait of D. Miguel shows the titular man clothed in impeccable contemporaneous Dutch fashion. Whether or not many of the paintings done by Eckhout depicting very sensationalized “Indios” from the series were made in Brazil or spun from whole cloth, so to speak, is a hotly debated issue. This, however, is almost certainly a portrait of the man it claims to be of; portraits of his entourage are part of the series as well (and will probably be featured on this blog at some point). During the 1600s many ambassadors were sent by Queen Jinga (Nzinga Mbandi) Soba on various diplomatic missions, including one to the Pope in Rome (Don Antonio Manuele de Funta [x] [x]).

For some reason, attempts to erase these portraits’ existence from the series have been made by various Brazilian historiographers; attempts to discredit the artist and the art as entirely from imagination and mis-attributed to other painters and locations continue. When considered in context of the many missions sent from Kongo in the age of exploration, it seems as though retroactive erasure continues to be an issue in art history.

[x] [x] [x] [x]


South Africa:

Thamsanqa (Thami) Mnyele


Thamsanqa (Thami) Mnyele (10 December 1948 – 14 June 1985) was a South African artist associated with the anti-apartheid politics of the African National Congress and the Black Consciousness Movement. His artistic career took off in the 1970s when he produced works dealing with the emotional and human consequences of oppression. By the 1980s, his work followed the trajectory of the movement resisting apartheid, celebrating African strength and unity against the oppressors.

Mnyele was born in Alexandra, in Johannesburg. His father was a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and his mother was a domestic worker. He was sent away from the crime-ridden township to a boarding school in a village northwest of Pretoria when he was eight. It was there where he began drawing, a skill which he maintained throughout his schooling and led to his hiring as a graphic artist by the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. In 1973, he spend several months studying at the Swedish Lutheran art center, Rorke’s Drift in Natal. He met many other young men who were inspired by the ideas of the Black Consciousness Movement, and he was inspired by their fight for equality and racial pride.

In 1979, he moved to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, where he joined the art troup, Medu Art Ensemble, with his friend, poet Wally Serote. Beyond art, the ensemble published newsletters and held a famous conference in 1982 entitled “Culture and Resistance.” While in Botswana, he joined the ANC and studied guerrilla tactics at an ANC camp in Caxito, Angola. In June 1985, the exiles knew that South African forces were approaching, but Mnyele did not leave early enough. In the morning of 14 June, he was killed by South African commandos.

Malawian political activist, lawyer, and writer Vera Chirwa was an instrumental figure in the Malawi’s fight for independence, as well as a central leader in the country’s women’s rights movement. 

A co-founder, along with Rose Chibambo, of the Nyasaland African Women’s League, Chirwa trained as a lawyer and became the first woman in Nyasaland to hold qualifications to practice law.

Although a member of the Malawi Congress Party that fought to win the country’s independence, Chirwa campaigned against President Hastings Banda’s autocratic policies and closeness with the West. 

Chirwa’s protesting of Banda’s one-party state led to her being charged with treason, tried and sentenced to death by President Banda. Chirwa spent 12 years on death row were she was tortured and subject to other forms of brutality. Her husband Orton Chirwa was also arrested and imprisoned. He died at the age of 73 in 1992 whilst still detained.Three weeks before his death, the Chirwas were allowed to see each other for the first time in 8 years as part of an agreement reached through a campaign launched by Amnesty International.

Vera Chirwa was later pardoned and released for “humanitarian reasons” by President Banda in 1993 following the democratization of the country. Chirwa has founded an NGO in Malawi and still continues to remain active in human, civil and women’s rights movements. She has received numerous awards for her work. In 2007, her autobiography Fearless Fighter was published.

Iconic photograph taken by Robert Lebeck in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) during Belgian King Baudouin’s procession through the city on the eve of Congo’s independence, on June 29, 1960.

The man in the dark suit, Baodouin’s sword in hand, is Ambroise Boimbo. Boimbo, a bystander in the crowd, ran up to the King’s vehicle and, in an act of ultimate defiance, stole his sword right from his side, sealing his fate as a true and patriotic hero of Congo’s independence.

Boimbo was born in Monkoto in Equateur Province. After leaving his village, he joined the military and relocated to Kinshasa. There, he quit the army and became an electrician, and later worked under President Mobutu. He passed away in the 1980s and was interred at Kintambo cemetery.

In this short clip from the documentary Boyamba Belgique, documentary filmmakers Dries Engel and Bart Van Peel trace the life of Boimbo and find out what became of this brave man after this almost surreal incident. Going back to his home village of Monkoto, Engel and Van Peel meet Boimbo’s remaining family there - including his daughter - and, after showing them the above photograph, details of what became of Boimbo begin to emerge in a very emotional encounter.

The video, between the 7:00-8:00 minute mark, also shows a tradition practiced by some African communities were liquor is poured over the graves of the deceased, and then shared by those paying grieving or paying homage to them. 

The clip, which shows what is perhaps the only moving image of Boimbo, ends with efforts to preserve Boimbo’s memory within the consciousness of the Congolese people.


Cândido da Fonseca Galvão, also known as Oba II d’Africa (1845-1890) was a Brazilian man who fought in the War of the Triple Alliance (also called the Paraguayan War) and claimed to be the grandson of an African prince whose son had been  brought to Brazil as a slave. Galvão himself was born a free man in Bahia, and enlisted in the military at a time when Black slavery was still legal in what was then the Empire of Brazil. 

Galvão was the grandson of the powerful African prince Alafin Abiodun, who unified the Yoruba kingdom of Oyó in the late eighteenth century. Galvão’s father fought in the wars that raged in that region of Africa in the early nineteenth century, was captured in battle, and sold into slavery. He was then transported to Bahia. With the help of friends among the Yoruba community in Salvador, Galvão’s father quickly purchased his freedom. He then married and had children. As an offspring of freedpersons, Cândido Galvão was raised as a free black man near the town of Lençóis in the interior of Bahia.

Dom Obá II considered it his duty to fight for his country in the war against Paraguay. “As the patriotic soldier that I am, I understand that I have only been doing my duty in taking an active part in all the matters that I understand to be grave.” Enlisting as a Voluntário in the all-black Zuavo company that departed from Lençóis on May 1865, Galvão remained at the front until wounded in his right hand in August 1866. After his return to Bahia, where he remained through the decade of the 1870s, Galvão petitioned government officials for recognition of his service during the war and for monetary compensation. His experience in Paraguay inspired his commitment to ending slavery in Brazil and his pride in being a black man.

Galvão settled in Rio de Janeiro in 1880, where he gained renown. The wealthy considered him a “disturbed veteran” (uma espécie de veterano resmungão) and “folkloric aberration” due to his outspokenness and appearance in attire that included a long black morning coat, tall hat, gloves, umbrella, and walking cane. An activist of the first order, Galvão met personally with the Emperor [Pedro II of Brazil] 125 at public meetings from June 1882 to December 1884! Dom Obá garnered great respect among “the Blacks and the Browns” (the terms commonly used by Galvão) residing in the city. Slaves, freedpersons, and free persons of color all provided financial support that enabled the prince to publish articles in newspapers. In his writings, Galvão praised the contributions of black and brown soldiers during the Paraguayan war, condemned the racism he witnessed in Brazil, and called for an end to slavery.

(Source: Dale Torston Graden, From Slavery to Freedom in Brazil: Bahia, 1835-1900.)

Galvão died in 1890, shortly after the abolition of slavery in Brazil and the establishment of the Brazilian republic. An biography of Galvão, entitled Prince of the People, was published in 1993.

Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Monsiga Chief of Mafeking
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print mounted on album page

Mahikeng - formerly, and still commonly, known as Mafikeng and historically Mafeking in English - is the capital city of the North-West Province of South Africa. It is best known internationally for the Siege of Mafeking, the most famous engagement of the Second Boer War.