DYNAMIC AFRICA

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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Posts tagged "east africa"

#EarthDay DOCUMENTARY: “Taking Root - The Vision of Wangari Maathai” (film clip).

Taking Root tells the dramatic story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai whose simple act of planting trees grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, protect human rights, and defend democracy—a movement for which this charismatic woman became an iconic inspiration.

Born in Nyeri, Kenya, in 1940, Maathai went on to study at Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas where she obtained a degree in Biological Sciences in 1964. Maathai furthered her studies at the University of Pittsburgh where she graduated with a Master of Science degree in 1966,  obtained a Ph.D. in 1971 from the University of Nairobi, where she also taught veterinary anatomy. This qualification saw Maathai make her history as she became the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree. At the University of Nairobi, Maathai became chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy and an associate professor in 1976 and 1977 respectively, once again becoming the first woman to occupy those positions in the region.

Wangari Maathai is best known as the founder of the Green Belt Movement, which she founded in 1977, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and the author of the book ‘Unbowed’.

The Green Belt Movement is an environmental organization that empowers communities, particularly women, to conserve the environment and improve livelihoods.

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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All Africa, All the time.

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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All Africa, All the time.

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.

Writer and Director of Pumzi, Wanuri Kahui, Talks about afrofuturism and Africa’s changing standing.

(via frozenfoxtails)

awkwardsituationist:

HERE WE ARE, WE ARE GAY, WE ARE UGANDAN" by tadej žnidarčič

on february 24, 2014, a new anti homosexuality law in uganda took effect, imposing life imprisonment for engaging in homosexual relationships (the death penalty was initially proposed, but was ultimately withdrawn). the bill also makes it a crime for anyone - parent, friend, priest, doctor - not to report homosexual activity to the authorities.

newspapers already out people they suspect, and this is believed to have led to the 2011 murder of david kato, a prominent ugandan gay rights campaigner. that newspaper article included a list of 100 people and their addresses, with the headline “hang them.” in uganda, publicly identifying as gay or being identified as such can result in the loss of a job, arrest, harassment, blackmail, beatings and death.

in 2010, tadej žnidarčič began a series of portraits and interviews with ugandan lgbti activists with the aim of giving voice, if not face, to the members of the community (you can read their individual stories here). due to the precarious situation, they did not want to be identified and were photographed from behind.

but when žnidarčič, a physicist turned photojournalist who has been living in uganda for four years, revisited them in 2013, they had become more empowered, assertive and confident, and were now willing to face the world. to emphasize their transformation, he paired the images together. as one of the photographed said, “here we are. we are gay. we are uganadan.”

Liya Kebede Stars in Prabal Gurung’s First-Ever Print Campaign.

For his first ever print ad campaign, Nepalese designer Prabal Gurung features the Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede like we’ve never seen her before - bold, simple but still incredibly striking.

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In photos: “Turkana” by Jehad Nga.

A photographer of Libyan descent born in the United States and raised between Tripoli, Libya and London, England, Jehad Nga's lens has explored many stories and identities all over the African continent. From photographing a beauty contest in Botswana for HIV affected to women, night commuters in Ugandan, and the Liberian civil war, to illegal migration in to South Africa and documenting his own country, Libya, Nga's body of work is unique in that it contains projects that cover all regions of the African continent.

In this 2010 series titled ‘Turkana’, Nga’s photographs highlight the people of the Turkana region of Kenya - perhaps the area worst hit by drought in the country. Despite oil and water reserves in Turkana, the people reap few of the benefits as the government and large corporations take control of these resources.

According to Nga, the Turkana are ‘dwindling in numbers’ due to drought and subsequent neglect from them Kenyan government. Devastatingly, as a result of food and water shortages and with little to no aid reaching them, for some of the people photographed by Nga, these are the very last images of them. Shortly after photographing them, several of the individuals photographed passed away as a result of starvation caused by drought.

With the darkness filling up the negative space in the photographs, the significance of this sombre effect is to show the disappearing of a people. Nga’s aim, through these photographs, is to highlight the neglected plight of the people of the Turkana region and create a consciousness and awareness concerning their situation. 

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All Africa, All the time.

Art by Michael Soi.  

My Top 5 African Dishes for a Hearty Valentine’s Day.

Jollof rice with chicken/meat/fish and fried plantain:

Predominantly eaten in West African countries such as Senegal (it’s country of origin), Ghana and Nigerian, jollof rice has become a staple meal acceptable for any occasion - from weddings to birthday parties. With a preparation time of a little over an hour (depending on your serving quantities), the ingredients needed are easy to obtain. The flavour of the rice is dependent on how you prepare to the stew, whether mild or spicy. Vegetables such as peas, carrots and sweet corn can also be added to the mix. For a slightly healthier option, boil or grill the plantain instead of frying it. Similarly, grill the fish or chicken.
Vegetarian option: Substitute chicken/meat/fish for moi moi (contains egg).

Ethiopian injera with sides:

The very thought of eating this Ethiopian teff-grain flat bread with my favourite sides (doro wat, shiro, ye’abesha gomen, etc), is enough to get my mouth watering. With a near-endless possibility of traditional sides (you can also add your own creations), this meal can easily be adapted to suit various palettes. Although injera can be made at home from scratch, you’re much better off buying it from a restaurant. Want it gluten-free? Here’s a recipe for that.
Vegetarian option: go meat-less, stick to vegetable sides.

Senegalese thiéboudienne:

Another feature from Senegal because the food there is just that good. Although I’ve only ever been to Dakar once, as a child, the experience and taste of eating thiéboudienne is not one easily forgotten. Served on a large platter, this meal usually comes with either a rice or cous cous base and is laden with fish, stew and vegetables.
Vegetarian option: leave out the fish.

Moroccan couscous salad:

What I love most about couscous is just how versatile it is. It’s easy to make (from a box) and a great base for a range of different meals. For a salad option, simply make some couscous and add your favourite salad bits.
Vegetarian option: I think this one is obvious.

Ghanaian fufu and peanut butter/groundnut stew/soup.

Peanuts are hands down the greatest nuts there are, simply for this dish. To turn it into a southern African dish, use sadza/pap instead of fufu. For your east African version, use ugali (same as the aforementioned, just a different name).
Vegetarian option: don’t add meat/fish/chicken to your stew.

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All Africa, All the time.

On My Radar: Three African stories told through film at Sundance.

Difret

Seen from the perspective of a young female protagonist, Difret tells the story of young 14-year-old girl abducted into marriage who, in an effort to escape, ends up killing her kidnapper and would-be husband. Following this incident, a trial ensues as the fate of Hirut hangs in the balance.

The feature debut of Ethiopian filmmaker Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, the film is based on a true story that occurred in 1996.

Watch: An excerpt from Difret.

Fishing Without Nets

The topic of Somali piracy has been a hotly reported topic in Western media over the past few years. But as with most stories about Africa, the perspective from which it’s been told is often distorted, painting the pirates as scattered collectives of nonsensical rebels without a cause, leaving out much of the complexity of the situation. 

Watch an excerpt/short version of the film.

Finding Fela

If there’s one Nigerian artist whose consciousness has managed to transcend both time and culture, permeating the minds of Nigerians, Africans and the world at large, it is the man who claimed to not fear death - the iconic Fela Anikulapo Kuti. 

In Finding Fela, Academy Award-winningfilmmaker Alex Gabney tackles and dissects the professional career and personal life of the Afrobeat legend, bringing to life the controversial and contradictory life story of Nigeria’s most well-known musician.

Watch: Finding Fela at Sundance.

Hopefully these films will be made accessible to those of us on the continent!

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All Africa, All the time.

Last night, Oscar-nominee Lupita Nyong’o beat out Jennifer Lawrence to win the Critics Choice Award for ‘Best Supporting Actress’, leaving the audience ‘in tears' as she dedicated the award to her uncle saying: 

"I’d like to dedicate this to my uncle …who always came to watch every single play I was in … and on one of the last performances he saw me in, he said ‘You’re good, but let’s see what Hollywood thinks of you. “He didn’t live to see this day, but I’m sure he’s proud of me.”

Watching the “The Last Battle” was not easy. Not simply because it is the telling of actual events, that are still ongoing, that were horrific in nature, but because this gross miscarriage in justice reveals the brutal extent that man’s inhumanity to man can - and has - manifested itself through the that is coloniliasm.

This fight for justice in the ways in which the victims define it lays out a fact that so many of us are aware of - colonialism never really ended, and for as long as we stay silent about our pain, or silence those who still bear the marks of this gruesome period in our history, we malignantly assist those who are responsible for this in leaving the scars of the victims forcibly open and lacing them with the salt of inhumanity and immorality.

Filmed on two continents over four years, The Last Battle traces the story of a small group of elderly Kenyans in their successful fight to win acknowledgement of the abuses suffered at the hands of the British colonial authorities at the height of the 1950s Mau Mau emergency. 
With intimate and disturbing interviews, observational footage, photographs and archive, this revelatory and compelling documentary follows the legal case in London and lays bare a history that was deliberately hidden, allowing the central protagonists to tell the world, for the first time, their stories and what happened to them.
- Kevin Kriedemann

tw: mentions of torture, violence.

5 Places to Visit in East Africa

Pemba Island, Zanzibar

There’s a myriad of exciting activities you can engulf yourself in on this tiny Zanzibari island - from exploring Vumawimbi beach and the Ngezi forest, to going snorkelling off Misali island. A must-visit if Zanzibar is on your vacation list.

Lake Naivasha, Kenya

Part of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Naivasha is a stunning and picturesque freshwater lake in Nakuru county, north west of Nairobi, that is home to a sizeable population of hippos, a variety of types of wildlife and over 400 different species of bird including the areas trademark pink flamingos. Natural wonders abound in this scenic 

Lalibela, Ethiopia

Eleven rock-hewn churches, each carved entirely out of a single block of granite with its roof at ground level, can be found in the sacred town of Lalibela in northern Ethiopia. With a predominantly Orthodox Christian population, Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and is a center of pilgrimage for much of the country.

Kasubi Tombs, Uganda

Located on Kasubi hill, in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala, the Kasubi Tombs site is an active religious place in the Buganda Kingdom that is of great cultural significance to the Baganda. To them, the Kabaka is the “unquestioned symbol of spiritual, political, and social state of the Buganda nation.” As the burial ground for the previous four Kabakas (kings of the Kingdom of Buganda), the Kasubi Tombs is a site where the Kabaka and others in the Buganda hierarchy often carry out important centuries-old Ganda cultural rituals.

Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, Rwanda

A painful place to visit, the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre is an incredibly important historical site for not just Rwandans, but for all of us as it stands as a reminder of the brutality that we humans can inflict on each other. Opened on the 10th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, in April 2004, and built on a site where over 250,000 genocide victims were buried in mass gravesthe centre commemorates the Rwandan genocide that occurred in 1994.

November: Highlighting Travel & Exploration in Africa

P.S.: Before you travel anywhere, it is important to do your research on the place(s) you plan on visiting and make an informed decision on whether visiting there would be in your best interests, as well as that of the local community. 

Africa’s first underwater hotel bedroom at Pemba Island’s Manta Resort in Zanzibar has finally been unveiled.

Read more about it here.

November: Highlighting Travel & Exploration in Africa