DYNAMIC AFRICA

African-based news, lifestyle & popular culture platform that brings you stories and information concerning Africa and the African diaspora. Set up in 2010, Dynamic Africa is a rich content-driven creative space with a Pan-African outlook established as an expressive platform for African experiences, African culture and African stories.


Dynamic Africa is a diverse multimedia platform, which curates global ideas, memes, attitudes and other phenomena that shape popular culture, with both a local and global African perspective.




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Posts tagged "history"

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony.

As the top African producer of coffee, and seventh in the world, Ethiopia has a long-standing relationship with the consumption and use of coffee. Ethiopia is home to coffee arabica, a species of coffee indigenous to the country. Considered to be one of the better tasting coffees, it is believed that coffee arabica was the first coffee plant to cultivated and grown in the southwest of the country. It is said that the first instance of the effects of coffee being noticed came about when Ethiopian shepherds in the 9th observed the reaction of their herds after eating the fruit.

Today, one of the ways that Ethiopians (and Eritreans) continue to demonstrate their love of coffee and their historical relationship with the second most traded commodity in the world, after oil, is through what is known to outsiders as a traditional Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony or Buna by Ethiopians. Often, this practice takes place in peoples homes and at Ethiopian restaurants which is where I first experienced a Buna, in Addis Ababa.

Conducted entirely by women, the Buna process involves the roasting, grinding and serving of coffee. Washed coffee beans are roasted in a pan, similar to the process of making popcorn. As the aroma of the coffee begins to fill the air, the preparer takes the roasting coffee and walks around letting the fresh scent of the coffee settle around the room.

Once roasted, the coffee is then put in what is called a Mukecha - a tool used for grinding. Another tool, called a zenezena, is used to crush the coffee in a pistil and mortar fashion. Some places will use modern coffee grinders to save time as it can be a slightly laborious and time-consuming task. After the coffee has been crushed, the fresh coffee powder is put into a jebena, a clay pot. Water is added and the mixture is boiled before being ready to be served in small usually white porcelain cups called cinis.

Each serving round of coffee has a name - the first being Abol, second is Huletegna and the third and final round is called Bereka.

Watch an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony take place.

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All Africa, All the time.

The Life of Steve Biko Chronicled Through Google’s Cultural Institute.
The brilliantly compiled Google Cultural Institute website offers a unique interactive and in-depth view into the life of Steve Biko, complete with timelines, photographs and important documents, compiled and archived from various sources include the Steve Biko Foundation, the South African History Archive, Africa Media Online and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory.
Check it out here.

The Life of Steve Biko Chronicled Through Google’s Cultural Institute.

The brilliantly compiled Google Cultural Institute website offers a unique interactive and in-depth view into the life of Steve Biko, complete with timelines, photographs and important documents, compiled and archived from various sources include the Steve Biko Foundation, the South African History Archive, Africa Media Online and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory.

Check it out here.

"Black man, you are on your own" - Steve Biko (18 December 1946 – 12 September 1977).

September 12th, marks the day South Africa anti-Apartheid activist and Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko was killed in police custody in Pretoria. Biko had been arrested a month earlier in Port Elizabeth where he had been detained and tortured, resulting in him falling into a coma.

Nearly dead and suffering a serious and untreated head injury, Biko was transported to Pretoria by car and died shortly after his arrival at the prison there. Police at the time would claim and broadcast to the world that Biko died due to a hunger strike but an autopsy and photographs taken of Biko postmortem, exposed with the help of journalists Donald Woods and Helen Zille, revealed that he had died as a result of the injuries he sustained whilst in police custody.

Today, nearly 40 years after his death at age 30, we remember a man that fought for an end to the brutality he and countless others suffered and still do today. The fight is far from over.

A luta continua!

Today, September 8th, is the 60th birthday of Ruby Nell Bridges - a woman who, being the first black child to attend an all-white school in New Orleans in 1960, underwent a traumatizing ordeal that came to signify the deeply troubled state of race relations in America.

On her first day of school at William Frantz Elementary School, during a 1997 NewsHour interview Bridges recalled that she was perplexed by the site that befell, thinking that it was some sort of Mardi Gras celebration:

"Driving up I could see the crowd, but living in New Orleans, I actually thought it was Mardi Gras. There was a large crowd of people outside of the school. They were throwing things and shouting, and that sort of goes on in New Orleans at Mardi Gras.”

Only six-years-old at the time, little Ruby had to deal with a slew of disgusting and violent harassment, beginning with threats of violence that prompted then President Eisenhower to dispatch U.S Marshals as her official escorts, to teachers refusing to teach her and a woman who put a black baby doll in a coffin and demonstrated outside the school in protest of Ruby’s presence there. This particular ordeal had a profound effect on young Ruby who said that it “scared me more than the nasty things people screamed at us.”

Only one teacher, Barbara Henry, would teach Ruby and did so for over a year with Ruby being the only pupil in her class.

The Bridges family suffered greatly for their brave decision. Her father lost his job, they were barred from shopping at their local grocery store, her grandparents, who were sharecroppers, were forcibly removed from their land, not to mention the psychological effect this entire ordeal had on her family. There were, however, members of their community - both black and white - who gathered behind the Bridges family in a show of support, including providing her father with a new job and taking turns to babysit Ruby.

Part of her experience was immortalized in a 1964 Norman Rockwell painting, pictured above, titled The Problem We All Live With. Her entire story was made into a TV movie released in 1998.

Despite the end of the segregation of schools in the United States, studies and reports show that the situation is worse now than it was in the 1960s.

Today, still living in New Orleans, Briges works as an activist, who has spoken at TEDx, and is now chair of the Ruby Bridges Foundation.

The World War I in Africa Project Sheds Light On An Often Forgotten Part of History.

As a student of history for all my years of secondary education, I can’t say that I never learned about World War I, the events leading up to it as well as the aftermath it had on Europe and to some extent the United States. Perhaps we never delved into it in quite as much depth as we did World War II, but even then, I’d be hard-pressed to think of time where my history teacher (bless her soul) ever mentioned the impact that the First World War had on Africa and Africans. Such a truth wouldn’t concern me if the circumstances were different; if I wasn’t at a school in an African country, if I weren’t an African myself, if I wasn’t one of five black students in a history class of over 20, if I didn’t come from a country that was colonized by the British (who, as history goes, love war).

But all these things were and still are a part of who I am, and it is for these reasons – and so many more, that the World War I in Africa project is incredibly important learning for me. Even beyond the personal connection of history and heritage, the ignorance of many to the involvement of Africans in World War I and the integral roles the played speak to a much broader concern of the omission and reduction of black people and Africans in many important events in Western history.

It’s been 100 years since the First World War began. 100 years since the first shot fired by British troops occurred in what is today known as Togo, on August 7th, 1914. 100 years gone by and still, the world is yet to actively include and universally commemorate the lives of the estimated two million Africans who in some way contributed to the efforts of their colonial empires during this bitter war of the 1910s. World War I was indeed what its title refers to it as – a war that saw involvement on a global scale.

From the Gold Coast to German East Africa, Algeria to the southernmost tip of Africa, a new initiative is bringing to light the forgotten ways in which European politics brought the Great War to African homes. Through the efforts of World War I in Africa project, we are provided with a multimedia database that both highlights and archives the ways in which African lives were affected by a war they had no agency in. Because what happens in Africa should be told around the world.

World War I in Africa.

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Consider the history of borders. Starting with the Berlin Conference of 1884 when seven European countries carved out their stakes on the continent, Africa was gradually broken down into an illogical clutter of nation-states. The borders of these states had no regard for historical groupings and identities, and shifted depending on what was most politically and economically expedient for the colonising country. At different points during the first half of the century, for example, Burkina Faso was part of Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Mali and Senegal, before eventually coagulating as the Republic of Upper Volta.

In the early 1960s, as more African states gained “independence” and moved towards establishment of the Organisation of African Unity, border blues drove one of the earliest rifts in continental politics. The “Casablanca group” of states led by Kwame Nkrumah advocated a radical approach to African unification, while the “Monrovia group” led by Leopold Senghor called for a more conservative approach, one that held the borders of nation-states in higher esteem.

The Monrovia group won, and one of the first resolutions of the OAU was to endorse colonial borders. Today, there are only a few African countries – Comoros, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda and Seychelles – that allow all Africans either to enter without visas or to obtain visas upon arrival. For the rest, fellow Africans have to jump through hoops whose variations in complexity often reflect larger political dynamics. It seems that what has infiltrated our psyche even deeper than colonial geography is the spirit that inspired the origin of borders: perceptions of superiority and inferiority, the violence of competition for resources, selective openness determined by levels of perceived threat and historical animosity. And questions of historical clarity are chronically present.

Where did the vision of division come from? How does it stay alive? Who teaches you to hate your neighbour? Official classifications along invisible lines were both symptoms and tools of oppression throughout the 20th century. In apartheid South Africa, pass books determined where and when Africans had the right to exist in their own land. In Rwanda, Belgium introduced identity documents with “ethnic” classifications, to nurture divisions in the incubator of rigid bureaucracy. Across the continent, people put arbitrary colonial divisions on paper and called them passports.

Whether immigrating, emigrating or just passing through, Africans suffer among the greatest indignities of cross-border travel, abroad and on the continent. Paula Akugizibwe recounts how the hand-me-down tools of divide and rule perpetuate the abuse.

Reminds me of this quote, “It’s bad enough … when a country gets colonized, but when the people do as well! That’s the end, really, that’s the end.”
― Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions.

Watch more from this Baldwin discussion.

Vintage cover photos of magazines that catered specifically to black women. 

electricspacekoolaid:

Ancient Egyptians Used Meteorites For Jewelry

Open University (OU) and University of Manchester researchers wrote in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science that they found proof that ancient Egyptians used meteorites to make accessories.

In 1911, archaeologists dug up strings of iron beads at the Gerzeh cemetery, about 43 miles south of Cairo. The Gerzeh bead is the earliest discovered use of iron by the Egyptians, dating back from 3350 to 3600 BC. The bead was originally thought to be from a meteorite based on its composition of nickel-rich iron, but scientists challenged this theory back in the 1980s. However, the latest research places this theory back on top.

The scientists used a combination of electron microscope and X-ray CT scanner analyses to demonstrate that the nickel-rich chemical composition of the bead confirms its meteorite origins.

Philip Withers, a professor of materials science at University of Manchester, said meteorites have a unique microstructural and chemical fingerprint because they cooled incredibly slowly as they traveled through space. He said it was interesting to find that fingerprint in the Gerzeh bead.

“This research highlights the application of modern technology to ancient materials not only to understand meteorites better but also to help us understand what ancient cultures considered these materials to be and the importance they placed upon them,” said Open University Project Officer Diane Johnson, who led the study.

 -Read More -

DOCUMENTARY: “The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords.”

In a world where segregation was back both by laws and social attitudes, it’s no surprise that the mainstream press in the United States served as a reflection of these ills.

Knowing firsthand the impact of words and images as weapons against their welfare, black people in the United States knew that left in the hands of racist publications, their representation, history, culture and identities would forever be at stake. Starting with communities and individuals of free black people in the 1800s, to the birth of more contemporary publications like Ebony, the power of images and the written word of black people by black people, and in the interests of black people, has always been an act of self-preservation.

This documentary brings to light a powerful and engaging account of American history that has been virtually forgotten: the story of the pioneering black newspapermen and women who gave voice to black America. 

Watch it here.

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Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Alice Coachman Davis who passed away on July 14, 2014.

Specializing in high jump, Davis became the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal at the 1948 London games, aged 25.She was also the only female American athlete to win gold in track and field at the same tournament.

Davis, who suffered a stroke in recent months, died aged 90 in her hometown of Albany, Georgia.

Watch her incredible jump here.

Speakers For The Dead: Documentary about the original black settlers of Priceville, Ontario Canada.

When Irish settlers first moved to the area now known as Priceville in Ontario Canada, to their surprise, they found a community of black people already living there.

This documentary reveals some of the hidden history of black people in Canada.

In the 1930s in rural Ontario, a farmer buried the tombstones of a black cemetery to make way for a potato patch. In the 1980s, descendants of the original settlers, Black and White, came together to restore the cemetery, but there were hidden truths no one wanted to discuss.

Deep racial wounds were opened. Scenes of the cemetery excavation, interviews with residents and re-enactments—including one of a baseball game where a broken headstone is used for home plate—add to the film’s emotional intensity.

By Jennifer Holness, & David Sutherland, 2000

heyfranhey:

History Lesson || Why Women Of Color In The 1800s Were Banned From Wearing Their Hair Out In Public 
BGLH writes:
“Did you know that in late 18th century Louisiana, black and multiracial women were ordered to cover their hair in public?” My sister asked me.
“WOW. Really?” I replied.
I’d probably heard of this in one of my black studies classes in undergrad, but who remembers everything they’ve been taught? Besides, this information felt instantly relevant and I was absolutely intrigued.
With a little digging I found that there was in fact a “law” of sorts that demanded women of color in Louisiana to cover their hair with a fabric cloth starting in 1789 as a part of what was called the Bando du buen gobierno (Edict for Good Government).  What these rules were meant to do was try to curtail the growing influence of the free black population and keep the social order of the time. The edict included sections specifically about the changing of certain “unacceptable” behaviors of the free black women in the colony including putting an end to what he and others believed to be the overly ostentatious hairstyles of these ladies which drew the attention of white men, and the jealousy of white women. These rules are called the “Tignon Laws” A tignon (pronounced “tiyon”) is a headdress.
Read more here.

heyfranhey:

History Lesson || Why Women Of Color In The 1800s Were Banned From Wearing Their Hair Out In Public

BGLH writes:

“Did you know that in late 18th century Louisiana, black and multiracial women were ordered to cover their hair in public?” My sister asked me.

“WOW. Really?” I replied.

I’d probably heard of this in one of my black studies classes in undergrad, but who remembers everything they’ve been taught? Besides, this information felt instantly relevant and I was absolutely intrigued.

With a little digging I found that there was in fact a “law” of sorts that demanded women of color in Louisiana to cover their hair with a fabric cloth starting in 1789 as a part of what was called the Bando du buen gobierno (Edict for Good Government).  What these rules were meant to do was try to curtail the growing influence of the free black population and keep the social order of the time. The edict included sections specifically about the changing of certain “unacceptable” behaviors of the free black women in the colony including putting an end to what he and others believed to be the overly ostentatious hairstyles of these ladies which drew the attention of white men, and the jealousy of white women. These rules are called the “Tignon Laws” A tignon (pronounced “tiyon”) is a headdress.

Read more here.

(via abstrackafricana)

Brazilian Football, Jorge Ben and the Story of “Fio Maravilha”.

How I came to know of this somewhat lesser known iconic moment in Brazilian football history is a story that’s as short, sweet and somewhat romantic as the event itself. 

Anyone that knows me knows that ever since discovering his music, I’ve had a serious love affair with Jorge Ben that I see no end to. Nestled amongst his bigger and better known songs such as Taj Mahal (sampled illegally by Rod Stewart), Mas, Que Nada! (covered famously by Sergio Mendes), Pais Tropical (a tribute to his native Brazil) and his upbeat and catchy Take It Easy My Brother Charles that sees him singing partially in English, are a range of other songs that highlight and pay tribute to Afro-Brazilian legends.

There’s Xica Da Silva, the iconic story of an African and Portuguese Brazilian woman who, despite being born into enslavement, was able to accumulate wealth, power and influence in 18th century Brazilian society. The song appeared of Ben’s equally iconic África Brasil album. Then, there’s his dedication to another African victim of enslavement in Brazil, Zumbi dos Palmares who was the last of the leaders of the Quilombo dos Palmares, a settlement set up by and for fugitive enslaved men, women and children, in the present-day state of Alagoas, Brazil. Both songs are brilliant tributes and Ben’s lyrical storytelling style brings these portions of history to life with a richness that makes them unforgettable.

However, the song that to me shows the brilliance of Jorge Ben’s musical and songwriting capabilities comes in the form of his 1972-penned ode to João Batista de Sales, otherwise known as Fio Maravilha. The song, barely two minutes in length, captures the most important moment in the short-lived football career of De Sales.

Written before the release of África Brasil in 1976, the song idealizes a friendly game between Flamengo, De Sales’ team, and Benfica in the famous Maracanã stadium that was attended by Jorge Ben.  Omitted from Flamengo’s starting lineup by coach Mário Zagallo, De Sales was put on the field after chants from the crowd demanded he play. By the second half, the game was still at 0-0, but close to the 80th minute, De Sales came through for the Flamengo’s scoring the only goal of the game (one that Jorge Ben describes as ‘celestial’) that ended in a 1-0 victory for his team. To Jorge Ben, this victory went beyond the personal. It was another victory for Black Brazil.

Since then, De Sales has played for teams in both Brazil and the United States where he currently resides and coaches football. The song has ensured that that legendary feat by De Sales will never be forgotten as it remains a favourite by fans of Jorge Ben, De Sales and the Flamengo football club.

Listen to the original, a live version, and a version performed with Gilberto Gil.

Zwarte Piet: A Tradition of Blackface in The Netherlands.

The Netherlands are one step closer to the possibility of winning the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup. Continuing with our posts related to the World Cup and learning more about the African diaspora, we decided to look at one of the country’s not-so-great cultural traditions.

The Netherlands is a country popularly known for its tulips and windmills, it’s legalization of marijuana and…for brutally colonising South Africa. But during the month of December when good cheer is supposed to be spread by all, a racist tradition dating back to the late 1800s rears its ugly head.

In a book published in 1850 and written by Jan Schenkman, Sint Nikolaas en zijn Knecht (“Saint Nicholas and his Servant”), the foundation of a Christmas tradition where the Dutch paint their faces black, emphasize their often non-existent lips with red lipstick, wear kinky-textured wigs and Renaissance period attire, was birthed through a character known as ‘Zwarte Piet’. Although not named in Schenkman’s book, the name ‘Pieter’ would not appear in print until the publication of the 1891 book Het Feest van Sinterklaas, the Amsterdam-based primary school teacher depicted Saint Nicholas’ ‘servant’ as a young page with dark skin and wearing clothes typically associated with Moors at the time. The book stayed in print for a hundred years, until 1950.

This Dutch folklore character was portrayed as a ‘helper’ of Sinterklaas (Santa Claus), also known as Saint Nicholas. According to some depictions in medieval European folklore, Saint Nicholas “is sometimes presented as taming a chained devil, who may or may not be black”, and who some allude to being changed to represent a Moor, essentially Zwarte Piet, in post 19th century Germanic European folk literature.  Part of this change came about as both teachers and clergymen became concerned with the way Sinterklaas, who was essentially a saint, was being portrayed. Folklore often depicted Saint Nicholas as some sort of a boogeyman who scolded bad children and made them fearful of him. Sinterklaas had more terrifying qualities than good ones, most of which were later transferred to Zwarte Piet.

Thus, what some say began as a ‘black devil’ was later transformed into a more human form, at the same time that it dehumanized and demonized the very people it portrayed.

As the years wore on, Zwarte Piet became more and more of a docile and childlike character who was not only Santa’s helper, but a ‘friend’ to young children. Perhaps one can say that the transformation of Zwarte Piet’s characteristics also mirrored the changing attitudes of this part of Europe to black people and Africa(ns). Where during the height of colonisation, black people were portrayed as savages and animals to be tamed, by the early 20th century, European colonists began to adopt patronising attitudes towards Africa, portraying Africans as child-like and in need of saving through the adoption of Western culture. The relationship between Saint Nicholas and Zwarte Piet seems to be a clear demonstration of this - the white god-like saviour rearing the black infant-like individual who will forever be in servitude to their false father-figure.

I’m not entirely sure when the culture of blackface in line with Zwarte Piet came about but it seems to have taken flight in the early 20th century as Piet became a much more ‘docile’ character to the Dutch public. With this popularity came the twisted celebration of European racism, one that many Dutch seem to think is harmless. According to a 2013 survey, 92% of the Dutch public don’t perceive Zwarte Piet as racist or associate him with slavery, and 91% are opposed to altering the character’s appearance.

With immigration increasing in the Netherlands, and as more and more people pay attention to this cultural ‘celebration’, there have been a number of anti-Zwarte Piet protests.

The largest Sinterklaas celebration in Western Canada, in New Westminster, British Columbia, due to take place in December 2011, was cancelled for the first time since 1985 following a debate over the inclusion of Zwarte Piet in the festivities.

In 2011, legislators in the former Dutch colony of Suriname stated that government-sanctioned celebrations involving Zwarte Piet were considered an insult to the “black part of Suriname’s community.” Demonstrators in Amsterdam held an anti-Zwarte Piet protest in 2013 on the weekend of the city’s Sinterklaas celebration in November. And now, in 2014, something that’s been a long time coming has finally happened. An Amsterdam court has ruled that the traditional Dutch figure Black Pete is offensive due to its role in continuing stereotypes of black people.