keeping track of african and africa-related culture in the media (film, photography, television, and print)

year-end list.redux

Posted: December 25th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: books, film, internet, magazine, museums, music, print, race, television | Comments Off

herewith, in no particular order some observations on ideas, trends, programs, music, magazines of note for 2007 here at casa forota, organized as a randomly ordered year end list.

print: the new african literary renaissance. as heralded in the bono-edited “africa” issue of vanity fair. personal highlights:
chimamanda adichie wrote about Biafra in 60’s nigeria so vividly one would have thought she lived through the time.
ishmael beah described the crushingly depressing experience of being a child soldier in liberia (somehow he managed to survive and transcend it). dinaw mengestu intimately described the dream-crushing experience of being an african immigrant/expat in washington DC in a way a lot of us can relate.

music: east african urban music arrives: although i have limited exposure to music from home, i was quite impressed with collections like urban africa club and nomadic wax’s nomadic mixtape vol. 2 east african hip hop beatdown where music from artists like necessary noize, professor jay, peter miles, xplastaz and others highlighted the fact that east african music has reached a creative watershed where hip hop/dancehall + sheng + bongo flava = globally aware music that distances itself from the pejorative term ‘local music” that has hung over the imitative music available until quite recently.

ideas: the term “afropolitan” enters my lexicon. as described by author taiye tuakli-wosornu a nigerian-ghanaian writer based in New York City, an afropolitan has a hard time answering the question “where are you from?” why? they have lived in multiple places outside africa (boston, brixton, berlin), claim some part of the continent as home (metaphorically) but inhabit a physical/mental space that encompasses all the places they have lived.

print/web: quality africa-related lifestyle/entertaiment magazines online and off: colures, kitu kizuri, jamati, mimi magazine and pan-african clutch magazine all published to highlight the doings of afropolitans in the worlds of art, music, film, fashion, business. trace (now a fashion mag) and clam were there before, but they still best capture the cutting edge of this quintessentially 21st century experience.

music: global album of the year. migration/globalization are annihilating all kinds of cultural/racial/whatever barriers. with “kala“, maya arulpragasm just dives into it all, equally embracing bhangra, dancehall, africa, australia, digeridoos, hip hop, punk, bollywood, politics, guns, violence, boys to create an album that is a hallmark of the dizzyingly disorienting cultural times we now live in. personal highlight: “hussel” a collaboration with ghanaian/brit afrikan boy sounds to me like the de facto soundtrack for new (illegal) immigrants from everywhere hustling and grinding to get a foothold in their new homes, all while trying to evade deportation.

film: ousmane sembene RIP. [ny times registration req’d] the father of african cinema, all other african directors will be measured against him. he was driven by the insight that film was the most powerful method to convey education/entertainment to africans without the formal education to read books. one of the tragedies of his passing must be that his films commenting on post-colonial african society/politics (xala, moolade, faat kine) were never seen widely outside art movie houses in cities like new york and paris during his lifetime. i managed to catch xala at a recent sembene retrospective here in NYC. if you missed it, some of his films are available on netflix.

race/television: pbs’ brazil in black and white. overt racism is receding everywhere (“it never existed in brazil”, as they like to say). however, social/economic exclusion of black folks in brazil and elsewhere is as plain as day. but how to redress this inequality using policy when there has been generations of racial mixing with african descendants and the identification with “blackness” is sometimes a personal/cultural choice, versus a genetic one? relatedly: the debate in the US on a certain presidential candidate’s blackness.

art/museums: “eternal ancestors, the art of central african reliquary“. brilliant exhibit at the metropolitan museum in NYC that displays sculptural pieces that fired the imaginations of the early 20th century art avant garde (among them picasso). inspired by these innovative, expressive religious artifacts from central africa, these artists found a way to break modern art from its representational (renaissance) roots. the exhibit runs until march 2nd, 2008 go. see it.

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