May 30, 2018

Elizabeth Ohene: Why did Swaziland take 50 years to change its name?

Letter from Africa: Why did Swaziland take 50 years to change its name? Image copyright AFP In our series of letters from African journalists, Ghanaian writer Elizabeth Ohene explains why she backs the Swazi monarch's move to rename his country. As the 50th birthday of King Mswati III approached on 19 April 2018, all indications pointed towards something dramatic taking place. King Mswati being who he is, many speculated he might outdo himself and marry two or three new brides at once rather than adding just one to the 13 he already had, as is his normal practice. The king had wanted his country to celebrate its 50th independence anniversary on his birthday even though independence was won on 6 September 1968. Clearly King Mswati wanted to leave no doubts in anybody's mind that he himself was the state. After all he and the state came into being in the same year, 1968, and they would celebrate their golden jubilee together. As things turned out, the big announcement had ..
May 30, 2018

Brian Hungwe: Zimbabwe’s lion roars for his fans

Letter from Africa: Thomas Mapfumo, Zimbabwe's lion, roars for his fans Image copyright AFP In our series of letters from Africa, journalist-turned-barrister Brian Hungwe reflects on the return from exile of Zimbabwean musician Thomas Mapfumo four months after Robert Mugabe's resignation as president. Known to his fans as the "Lion of Zimbabwe", Mapfumo has long been a figure of protest. His music was the soundtrack during the fight for independence and some of his songs were later banned by state-owned media under Mr Mugabe's government. So the crowds roared with delight this weekend to have the 72-year-old music legend back on stage in the capital, Harare, after 14 years in self-imposed exile in the US. He played until the early hours of Sunday morning, revealing a deep nostalgia for his distinctive style of struggle music, known as "chimurenga", which first gained him recognition during the war against the white-minority rule in the 1970s. It is a haunting combinatio..
May 30, 2018

Kadaria Ahmed: How my home town became a bloodbath

Letter from Africa: Why is no-one talking about the Zamfara conflict? Image copyright AFP Image caption Zamfara has been suffering from bad governance for decades In our series of letters from African journalists, Kadaria Ahmed looks at the brewing crisis in Nigeria's Zamfara State, which analysts say has the potential to become as deadly as the Boko Haram conflict. Growing up nearly 50 years ago in Nigeria's north-western Zamfara State, I could never have imagined its future of grinding poverty and escalating violence. The capital of Zamfara State, Gusau, used to be a prosperous town. British company John Holt ran a tannery, which bought and treated hides before shipping them off to Europe. Sugar giant Tate and Lyle had a presence. There was also a textile company, an oil mill, and a ginnery that prepared cotton for export. As children, our favourite place in Gusau was the sweet factory, run by a Lebanese family who were, for all intents and purposes, locals. There, we could..
May 30, 2018

In pictures: Africa’s first AfroPunk festival

In pictures: Africa's first AfroPunk festival Thousands of people attended the first AfroPunk festival to be held on the continent. The celebration of alternative black culture was held in the South African city of Johannesburg recently. Image copyright Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi The festival describes itself as "a blank space to freak out in, to construct a new reality, to live your life as you see fit, while making sense of the world around you". Image copyright Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi For years the festival has been a space for Africans in the diaspora to explore their heritage. So some described its first appearance in Africa as a homecoming. AfroPunk was first held in New York in 2005, and was started by people who felt marginalised by both mainstream black and pop cultures. They drew heavily on the rebellious spirit of punk. Image copyright Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi It has since become a global movement, and has been held in Atlanta, Paris and London. Image copyright Setumo-Thebe M..
May 30, 2018

Memories and beauty captured in Africa

Memories and beauty captured in Africa Memory is among the themes featuring at the African Biennale of Photography in Mali's capital, Bamako: Image copyright Athi-Patra Ruga Image caption Miss Azania - Exile is Waiting is the work of South African artist Athi-Patra Ruga, who uses myth and alternative identities "as a contemporary response to the post-apartheid era". Image copyright Fototala King Massassy Image caption The only Malian to be included in the collection, Fototala King Massassy, puts this down to generations of Malian photographers "tending to fall back on tradition". Image copyright Sarah Waiswa Image caption Stranger in a Familiar Land is the work of Uganda's Sarah Waiswa, who says she left a job in the corporate world to follow her passion for "creating visual poetry". Image copyright Girma Berta Image caption "The beautiful, the ugly and all that is in between" are what 27-year-old self-taught photographer Girma Berta says he tries to capture in his work. Im..
May 30, 2018

The street dancers who dream big

The street dancers who dream big Image copyright Olivia Acland Street dancers in Sierra Leone have a bad reputation - they're often branded as thieves and troublemakers. Dance troupe Roughest Bounds does much to challenge this image. The group, made up of 12 members, is determined to make it big, despite social and financial struggles. Image copyright Olivia Acland Slim, 17, has been dancing since he was seven. "When I started dancing at school I realised I had a talent," he says. "People told me I was good and it felt so great to dance and be applauded. I decided I really wanted to pursue this." Image copyright Olivia Acland But the road has not been easy. Slim's father kicked him out of his house, telling him that he couldn't make money dancing in Africa. Now the group stays together in a two-room apartment belonging to their manager, Samuel, who spotted them dancing on the streets last year and decided to support their talent. They share three thin foam mattress..
May 30, 2018

Life after Ebola

Life after Ebola It has been four years since the Ebola virus outbreak in the West African states of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone was first reported. Photographer Hugh Kinsella Cunningham has been back to document the people still living with the legacy of the disease. Image copyright Hugh Kinsella Cunningham The outbreak in 2014 caused more deaths than all the others combined since the virus was discovered in 1976. The virus affected poverty-stricken areas such as Liberia's West Point, where for many, just coping and surviving are everyday victories. West Point is a densely populated township in Monrovia. When the government imposed a curfew and quarantined the area in a bid to halt the deadly outbreak there was unrest and rioting. Image copyright Hugh Kinsella Cunningham Eva Nah's grandson was killed by police while he was protesting at the quarantine. "All he wanted was to play football and become a mechanic," she says. "His father and mother died so I was everythin..
May 30, 2018

Water power: How one pump is helping an entire community

Water power: How one pump is helping an entire community Image copyright Aisha Augie-Kuta / WaterAid Dodging hippos along the Niger river, photographer Aisha Augie-Kuta reached the remote village of Norandé. It is here that she connected with a community that, despite its proximity to the river, faces a daily struggle for clean water. Despite the countries' shared border, what Augie-Kuta saw was a far cry from that back home in Nigeria. With ox carts carrying water from the river through the dry landscape, she says travelling to the region is going back in time compared with her modern home in Nigeria's capital city, Abuja. In Niger, nine out of 10 people do not have a decent toilet and half the population does not have access to safe water. Drinking dirty water from the Niger river exposed people in Norandé to potentially fatal diseases, including cholera and diarrhoea, as well as regular bouts of stomach pain and dermatitis. Recently, a borehole for drinking water was dri..
May 30, 2018

Winnie Mandela memorial

In pictures: Winnie Madikizela-Mandela memorial Thousands of people have attended a memorial service in South Africa to commemorate the life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The anti-apartheid campaigner and ex-wife of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president, died on 2 April. Image copyright AFP Image caption South Africa's Deputy President David Mabuza told the crowd that Ms Madikizela-Mandela fought "racial domination, class exploitation and gender oppression". Image copyright EPA Image caption The Mandela daughters, Zanani and Zindzi, were in attendance. Opposition politician Mangosuthu Buthelezi said it was remarkable how they had grown up despite being robbed of their parents in childhood. Image copyright AFP Image caption Mourners gave the "Black Power" salute, as speakers recalled how imprisonment and solitary confinement failed to break Ms Madikizela-Mandela. Image copyright REUTERS Image caption Many people were draped in the colours of the African Nationa..
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