Weekend Special, N°1001

1. The gray lady will sing. The New York Times has now featured two West African marriages in its Sunday “Vows” section in a matter of weeks. The first is of a Nigerian wedding (ceremonies in Abuja and Virginia). It’s a union of a very well connected lawyer and an investment banker that makes for, shall we say, interesting copy. Wole Soyinka (who now lives in California, according to the article) is the bride Mojoyin Morolayo Onijala’s maternal grandfather and her father is the state chief of protocol for President Goodluck Jonathan. As for the groom Aderemi Ademola Jacobs, his reasons for marrying his new wife read like a CV: “She was beautiful, very intelligent and well traveled … She brought a different perspective to every one of my conversations.” They also went for 14 months of “premarital counseling” before the wedding. Above is the happy couple.

 The second wedding features Ghanaian migrants in New York City. The father of the groom was murdered in 1984 by Ghana’s then-military regime.

2. The writer Taiye Selasi, is on a roll. Her first novel “Ghana Must Go,” just came out and garnering mainstream praise (yes, we will have a review in due course) and she was included in Granta’s list of the “Best of Young British Novelists.” Good for her. She also published, late last month, a piece for the Guardian’s book section on “discovering her pride in her African roots.” Selasi, whose parents are Ghanaian and Nigerian, grew up in Boston and now lives in Rome. In the piece she reminds readers that she sort of invented the term “Afropolitan” (I thought it had been in use before 2005, when she wrote hers). But the piece–a riff on her family history, her therapist and partying in Accra– also illuminates what’s problematic about the whole Afropolitan / ‘Africa Rising” moment. For that I will just excerpt from the comments on her piece:

JJRichardson: Is this satire?

SKMGweme: @JJRichardson – I am really curious. Why do you imagine it is satire?

JJRichardson: @SKMGweme – Because it is everything you would expect from someone satirising a dillettante. designer in the vibrant clothes, a screenwriter in the desert scenes, a poet in the rhythms.
Malaga, Lausanne, Malibu, Yale.
Midnight swims, midnight drag races.
The writing is so bad I thought it may be satire.
You never know these days.

3. I am still trying to get my head around the recent coup in the Central African Republic which replaced one set of looters with another. We’ll promise to find some expertise to wade through unfolding events there. The reporting is sparse in English-speaking media as well as on blogs (last time we covered it was in relation to the documentary “The Ambassador”). One exception has been South Africa where local media rarely reports on matters elsewhere on the continent (everything outside South Africa is still “Africa” for most of its people, including some in its media). Fourteen South African soldiers, in the CAR, there to protect the now deposed president, were murdered by advancing rebels. But South Africa’s media have also not been that helpful. Most of the reporting in South Africa, fueled by anger over the deaths and the failure of the country’s president to convincingly explain why the soldiers were in the CAR, has been on the “local angle” and amounted to sensationalist, unproven, reporting about ruling party business interests in the CAR. That said, there’s been better reporting from the likes of The New York Times, on the motivations and politics of the rebels especially.

4. Anthropologist Ben Magubane, one of a few black scholars in that still mostly white discipline when it comes to South Africa, died last week. Magubane was partly trained by what is now known as the University of Kwazulu-Natal and later at UCLA, where he got his PhD. In this hour-long interview with Magubane (by Cape Town historian Sean Field), he recalls his impoverished childhood in and around Durban, the racism of post-war South Africa, his initial university studies, scholarship to the United States (which also meant exile), activism against Apartheid (including taking part in a well publicized consumer boycott) and work and life at the University of Zambia (where he was close to OR Tambo and Jack Simons. Magubane returned to South Africa in 1994. His research legacy includes his pioneering critique of the supposed radicalism of the “Manchester School” of anthropology (since reprised by James Ferguson), a book on race and class in Apartheid South Africa in 1979 (a critique of neo-Marxist interpretations of the South African “question” at the time), and edited a series of volumes on “The Road to Democracy in South Africa.”

5. Striking present day (from this year) image of District 6, the Cape Town neighborhood razed by the Apartheid state in the late 1960s in its efforts to move the city’s black, mainly coloured, residents from the city center. Much of it still stands empty. It was taken by Barry Christianson, who describes himself as a “mostly street photographer.”

6. From the archives: Vanity Fair’s 2007 photograph of South African activist Zackie Achmat and his dog Socrates on the beach in Cape Town (photo by Jonas Karlsson):

7. I want to include at least one goal (from football that is) in this weekly post: This week, one by the Nigerian national team member, Nosa Igiebor, who has had an unhappy spell (especially the fans) at his Spanish club, Real Betis, and who does not celebrate his goals in the usual way. This was in the 90th minute in a local derby against Sevilla with the score 2-3 in Sevilla’s favor.

The Guardian’s Sid Lowe explains why:

Racing behind the goal, the Nigerian celebrated his first and probably his last ever goal for Betis. A dramatic late equaliser in the biggest game in the city, one of the biggest in Spain. They’d waited a long time for him and he’d waited a long time for this. Running to the home fans, he raised both index fingers and let out a shout that summed it up:

“Fuck you!”

Elliot suggested filing it either under “Great African football meltdowns.” The other main contender: Didier Zokora’s kicking racism or Turkish player Emre’s testicles out of football. Alternatively file under “Great Angry Goal Celebrations.” Others: Marco Tardelli in Spain 82 and Temuri Ketsbaia for Newcastle (he ripped off his shirt and started furiously kicking an advertising hoarding).

9. The New York Times story of the US government drug smuggling sting that snared a former admiral in Guinea Bissau’s army, which included this odd reaction from the government in Bissau:

The arrest of the former admiral appears to have shocked the authorities in the capital, Bissau. Last week, they dismissed the country’s top intelligence official, apparently for failing to spot the American operation unfolding under their noses over months.

10. Finally, I watched the new “Venus and Serena” documentary on iTunes. The film, which ambles on in parts (and includes some odd sightings: Anna Wintour telling us obvious things), is quite good in exposing the racism among tennis “fans” and the journalists covering the sport, especially against the Williams sisters and their dad, for whom, despite his personal foibles, I still have lots of respect. Here’s the trailer:

* H/T to Elliot Ross, Tom Devriendt and Derica Shields. Read last Sunday’s Weekend Special here.

Sean Jacobs

Sean Jacobs is the Founder and Editor of Africa is a Country. He is on faculty of The New School in New York.

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