keeping track of african and africa-related culture in the media (film, photography, television, and print) “Africa is Everywhere”: The Global Art Project

Posted: February 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: fashion, globalization, multimedia, museums, photography, race | Comments Off

Watch the full episode. See more SundayArts.

Great interview with Lowery Stokes Sims , co-curator of the Global Africa Project exhibition now showing at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City. Through the interview, Sims discusses how much cultural fusion there is in the “psychic African space” or anywhere African artists are in the world. Snip from exhibit description:

In order to present various dimensions of the work of African artists and artisans worldwide, The Global Africa Project is organized around several thematic ideas. These include: the phenomenon of intersecting cultures and cultural fusion; the branding and co-opting of cultural references; how art and design is promoted in the international market and the creative global scene; the use of local materials; and the impact of art-making on the economic and social condition of local communities.

See Also: New York Times Feature: “Five artists featured in the Global Africa Project

random goodness: “bookmark this” edition

Posted: January 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: books, fashion, globalization, illustration, magazine, multimedia, photography, race | 2 Comments »

Screen shot from the Gold Coast Trading Co. Site © K. Johnson
FASHION: The fashion collection of Gold Coast Trading Co. Photography of the “Soweto Youth 1976″ collection is visually stunning.

Relatedly: Interview with Ivorian fashion designer Emeka Alams here.


WEBSITES: Another Africa: Unravelling a Hidden Continent. Founder Missla Libsekal’s beautiful site serves as a “contemporary vision of Africans, Africa and those related to the continent and its peoples in the areas of culture, art, fashion, architecture, design, music, photography and more ….”
Screenshot from home page of Another Africa web site.

Screenshot from home page of Delphine Diallo’s web site. © D. Diallo

PHOTOGRAPHY: Delphine Diallo: The Great Vision Franco-Senegalese graphic artist/photographer’s portfolio site. Still love “Magic Photo Studio” series after first seeing it in Clam magazine a while ago.

Screenshot from TRACE web site home page

MAGAZINES: Trace: The Last Issue. Sad passing. Before there was A.V_M, there was my collection of Trace magazines and Claude Grunitzky’s concept of transculturalism.

Merry Christmas from A.V_M!

Posted: December 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off

Merry Christmas, Bronx
Christmas card featuring the work of Martha Cooper. Photo by your humble servant.

random goodness 12/18: picha

Posted: December 18th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: photography, race | 1 Comment »


PHOTOGRAPHY: The Destruction of Sophiatown: Rare Color Photos, 1959 Great essay by John Edwin Mason illustrated with images on the cultural/racial significance of Sophiatown an interracial Jo’burg suburb destroyed in 1955 to make way for white residential area. By the way, if you are not a regular at Mason’s blog or following him on Twitter, I suggest you do that now. He is an eloquent voice on the photography scene in general, but Africa in particular.

“A new synthesis of urban African culture sprang up here, shouting for recognition. Materially poor but intensely social; crime-ridden and violent but neighborly and self-protective; proud, bursting with music and literature, swaggering with personality, simmering with intellectual and political militance, Sophiatown was a slums of dreams, a battleground of the heart in the war for the city’s and even the country’s suppressed black soul.

“Sophiatown produced leaders in many fields, enough to create a ‘Sophiatown Renaissance’ comparable to New York’s Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Africans in other cities looked to Sophiatown for inspiration, and the location became a symbol as well as a partial realisation of their aspirations.

“Even as government bulldozers were leveling its houses, Sophiatown generated a cultural flowering unequaled in the urban history of South Africa.”

PHOTOGRAPHY: Brent Stirton: “Dateline: TImbuktu”

On Nov. 30, National Geographic photographer Brent Stirton presented his photography from his and Peter Gwin’s reporting trip to Timbuktu at Dateline: Sahara, an event held at the National Geographic Headquarters and co-sponsored by the Pulitzer Center.


PHOTOGRAPHY: Nairobi, Life and the Daily Struggle beautifully composed street scenes of life in Nairobi by good friend LM.

Ernest Cole: Photographer. Pioneer. Rebel. Exile.

Posted: December 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: books, magazine, museums, photography, politics, poverty, print, race | 3 Comments »

Screen shot of New York Times’ slideshow of Ernest Cole’s photographs. © Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

Per the South African Journal of Photography Ernest Cole, South Africa’s first black photojournalist was born as Ernest Levi Tsoloane Kole. He started out his photography career as a studio assistant to a Chinese photographer; it took off when he asked Jurgen Schadeberg for a job at Drum magazine. It was while taking a correspondence course with the New York Institute of Photography that the staff there encouraged/helped him to start taking pictures of life under apartheid in South Africa. By tricking the government to reclassify him as a colored (enabled by the name change to “Cole”) he was able to get access to places other blacks would not have had. As a colored he was also able to sneak his images out of South Africa, that were made into the book “House of Bondage”. He never returned to South Africa, dying in exile and isolation in New York in 1990 a week after Nelson Mandela’s release.

RELATEDLY: BBC’s The Strand discusses the life and legacy of Ernest Cole in the wake of the exhibition of his work in Johannesburg. Includes quotes from Cole himself as well as David Goldblatt who worked with the Hasselblad Foundation to get the photos finally shown in South Africa.

SEE ALSO: Click on the image below to view additional images that Cole took that are now part of the Hasselblad Foundation’s collection.

Screenshot of selection of Ernest Cole’s photographs in the Hasselblad Foundation’s collection. needed, a new visual story

Posted: November 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: photography, politics, race | 1 Comment »

File Under: Photography critiques, Good Reads

David Campbell: The New Visual Stories of Africa starts with the “single story” theme that Chimamanda Adichie struck in her seminal TED talk and takes image makers to task on their dualistic portrayal of Africans as good or bad, primitive or modern. This viewpoint evidently has not progressed much from that espoused in the early days of colonization where it was important for image makers to show Africans as inferior to Westerners so as to justify colonial/missionary forays into the continent.

Asim Rafiqui: How to Take Photos Of Africa: Binyavanga Wainaina’s legendary essay “How to Write about Africa” made Rafiqui question how he took photos, looking for complexity in the portrayal of the subjects. He contrasts Malick Sidibe’s humanizing, complex images with British photographer David Chancellor’s award winning photo essay “Elephant Story”. To Rafiqui Chancellor’s story dehumanizes its subjects reducing them to “maggot-like” creatures picking clean an elephant carcass; failing to raise or answer questions about the people in the images.


See Also: How to Photograph Africa, a Satire by Getty Images & Stefano de Luigi: Photographer/blogger John Edwin Mason also uses Wainaina’s essay as a starting point to illustrate humorously if a little harshly how otherwise well-meaning, beautifully executed work can just become a cliched rehash of the stereotypes of dark, f**ked up Africa. tribal mod

Posted: August 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: fashion, globalization | 4 Comments »

Screenshot of Missoni Resort 2011 collection on the site.

Missoni Resort 2011 Collection. Mod fashion with a nod to “tribal” (Ndebele) style.

(via the always interesting katebomz tumblr)

random goodness: document

Posted: July 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: books, museums, photography, politics, poverty, race | Comments Off

Screen shot from Jason Florio’s site. © J. Florio

PHOTOGRAPHY: Jason Florio: 930km African Odyssey. Portraits of chiefs and elders taken while on a 2009 walking trip of Gambia.

Screen shot from Greg Constantine’s site. © G. Constantine

PHOTOGRAPHY: Greg Constantine: Slum Warriors: Kenya’s Nubians. Kibera’s 100,000 strong Nubian community has lived there for over 100 years on land give them as compensation for fighting in the Kings African Rifles. “Nubian” is not officially recognized as a Kenyan tribe, so unless they are “vetted” at age of 18 to get Kenyan ID cards they become essentially stateless.

PHOTOGRAPHY:: Zwelethu Mthethwa: Inner Visions. Studio Museum in (the sweet village of) Harlem brings together a number of Mthethwa’s large scale images. Go see.

Zwelethu Mthethwa: Inner Views brings together three series by South African photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa (b. 1960). “Interiors” and “Empty Beds” document the domestic lives of migrant workers around Johannesburg, South Africa, while “Common Ground” focuses on the shared experience of natural disasters in urban areas, featuring houses in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa, after wildfires.

See Also: Talk between Mthethwa and Okuwi Enwezor last year at Aperture gallery at the launch of Mthethwa’s monograph.

Zwelethu Mthethwa and Okwui Enwezor from Aperture Foundation on Vimeo.

Weekend Music: taarab: moving the heart

Posted: July 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: music, politics | Comments Off

Screenshot of NPR website feature on Egyptian diva Um Kulthumm

A while ago, NPR did a feature on Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum as part of a series of the 50 greatest voices of all time. I sat up when I heard the orchestrastration behind her voice that sounded familiar. I sat all the way up when correspondent Neda Ulaby, in reminiscing about her Syrian father’s love for Kulthum’s music, used the word tarab which, translated into Arabic means ecstasty (the emotion, not the drug). And you could hear that ecstasy as the mostly male voices on the live recordings of her songs shouted their approval when Kulthum would hit a particularly high emotional note.

In East Africa, taarab refers to a specific form of sung poetry. Per an excellent interview with anthropology professor Kelly Askew the roots of the music are in Zanzibar, where 19th century Omani sultan Barghash brought Egyptian musicians to perform court music like he had seen in travels in India and elsewhere. Classical (Zanzibari) taraab is epitomized by groups such as Ikhwani Safaa or the Culture Music Club; their sound influenced by mid-20th century Egyptian pop music as well as the firqah orchestras of Egyptian film.

Askew also posits an alternate theory that taarab grew organically from the interaction of African/Arab/Indian sailors who plied the Indian Ocean. The music evolved as a synthesis of the cultures of these places and the people who came into contact with each other. The various flavors of taarab seem to bear this theory out. In towns like Dar es Salaam and Tanga in Tanzania, it is more vocal-oriented and flavored with the ngoma (rhythms) of ethnic groups like the Chagga, Nyamwezi, Sukuma. Over time is has also incorporated dansi or urban/western sounds like the foxtrot, cha cha and Cuban as well as Congolese rumba. Mombasa taarab is more influenced by Indian Bollywod film music and incorporates classical Arab musical structures. Mombasa bands are also much smaller and the ngoma are inspired by Giriama and Digo rhythms.

While taarab themes mostly concern themselves with matters of the heart, in Nyerere’s Tanzania it provided culturally neutral ground (together with Kiswahili) that helped Tanzanians stitch a national identity beyond tribe, something that other (East) African countries would do well to emulate.

SEE ALSO: Taarab legend Bi Kidude performs with the Culture Music Club of Zanzibar. on their own terms

Posted: July 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Snip from American Suburb X review from 2000 of Malick Sidibe’s self-titled book

The result, as Magnin’s book copiously documents, was a cultural episode during which African pop culture defied its hidden or secondhand status (always a Western cliche, but sometimes a legitimate label) and busted out all over the place. But not in terms of the now commonplace imagery, of “native” Africans in traditional dress bobbing and keening for the benefit of CNN. Instead, what Sidibe documented was an after-hours declaration of confident self-styling, influenced by Western modes, but made fresh by free adaptation.


Confidence, energy, and complexity of spirit are not concepts routinely applied to African culture these days. The continent, with few exceptions, is viewed either as an intractable problem, a fractious war zone, or the place where all the deadly virus come from. Sidibe’s photography—culled from his constant forays into clubs of Bamako from 1948 to 1976—counteracts this dour and borderline racist narrative, in the most effective way possible: by showing people having a good time on their own terms.

Nuit de Noel, 1963. © Malick Sidibe. From Artnet site