Here’s a couple of links we’ve bookmarked for reading and watching this week. Chadian director Mahamat Saleh Haroun’s new film “Grigris” premiered in Cannes. First reviews are up in Variety, the GuardianHollywood Reporter and rfi.fr. Rfi also has an interview with Haroun about his first meeting with the film’s lead actor and Burkinabe dancer Souleymane Démé. Watch one of the film’s opening scenes. Less space was taken up in the papers by the fact Démé was held for hours by immigration officers in Brussels Airport on his way to Cannes. Says Haroun: “I think when you want a continent of freedom, it is outrageous that not only do we [Haroun has been residing in France for years] expell the undocumented, but also those people who come here with their papers in order.”

What’s happening in Salone? Joan Baxter asks: “Who are the new landlords in Sierra Leone and what lands do they hold?”

The Sierra Leone government is providing the Chinese company Hainan Natural Rubber Group 135,000 hectares [333,592 acres] of land in the country for rubber and rice in exchange for a 10 percent share. An Italian company, FNP Agriculture Limited, holds a lease on 15,000 hectares [37,066 acres] in the north of the country. Other investors claiming large land holdings in the country include the British firm Lion Mountains Agrico. Ltd (14,000 hectares or 34,594 acres), and another British firm, Whitestone Agriculture (SL) Ltd. (542,279 hectares or 1.3 million acres) in the north of the country.

Meanwhile, on anthropologist Mats Utas’s blog, Tilde Berggren questions a recent Swedish Government’s aid scheme in Sierra Leone:

According to a number of local and international NGO’s, journalists and researchers monitoring the situation on the ground, the large scale investment in Sierra Leone between Addax Onyx Group (AOG) and Swedfund, as well as a range of additional investors, is causing concern. The main concern is that the investment is contributing to poverty, decreased access to basic rights and may increase instability and anger amongst the local population. Swedfund is consistently dismissing the concerns, arguing that the monitoring of the situation is not sufficient and not carried out in detail, hence not trustworthy and does not illustrate the overall situation. (Swedish Governmental funds, land grabbing and human rights in Sierra Leone)

Better news on Sierra Leone: The newly launched Research in Sierra Leone Studies: Weave is a refereed, open access, open-text, electronic journal that publishes articles, book reviews, interviews, drama, fiction, and poetry on Sierra Leonean themes from national, international, diasporic, and global perspectives, aiming to “liberate Sierra Leonean scholars into international scholarship”.

This week’s series of photographs by Iwan Baan in the New York Times of Makoko’s “School at Sea” reminded me of a recent piece over at Nairaland Forum by “a Nigerian American” who asks: “Why Is Eko Atlantic Legal, And Makoko Illegal?”

Makoko is a floating residential structure built by private initiative, as is Eko Atlantic. The differences between the two are trivial. It is now funny to me that the ACN led ‘Awoist’ (Awolowo himself as advocate for ending poverty with socialism) government of Babatunda Fashola believes the Makoko developments are illegal, while Eco Atlantic has not only been considered legal, but allowed to, in it’s development, violate several other Nigeria laws such as having an independent power grid before the grid was decentralized only a few months ago, as well as a Free Trade Zone, which Tinapa in Calabar has still not been granted upon completion due to the ‘legal’ (class) implications of both.

A much-circulated follow-up piece on the discussion between Santiago Zabala and Hamid Dabashi (and less on Slavoi Zizek) by Aditya Nigam in Critical Encounters about the End of Postcolonialism and the Challenge for ‘Non-European’ Thought:

I take Dabashi’s injunction (…) – that of the need to transcend the West versus non-West binary instituted by the colonial condition and continued through the postcolonial, seriously. In so doing, I also want to raise some questions about the challenges for the non-European thinker today. (…) One way of taking Dabashi’s injunction seriously is to move beyond this need to say that ‘we also have philosophy’ or ‘we also have thought’ – to the same white man who he describes as a chimera. For some us grappling with the issues of what it is to think in India/ South Asia today, it is becoming increasingly clear that this task is impossible to accomplish  – indeed even begin meaningfully – without challenging the canon itself.

Eve Fairbanks wrote a long report (published in Moment) on South African campus life in the city of Bloemfontein. The interesting part is where Fairbanks details the “resegregation”, as she calls, that happened in some of the University of The Free State’s dorms in the late nineties.

Karee— [a dorm] named for a drought-resistant tree found in the South African desert—had been built in 1978, as apartheid rule was consolidating and Afrikaans-language universities were expanding. The photos my teacher had mentioned were class photographs. The first dozen or so showed only white boys arranged on the dorm stoop, mugging for the camera. Then, in 1992, a few blacks appeared. There was one looking proud in a mauve suit, and another in a yellow shirt, his hip popped out in a jaunty contrapposto, his lips stretched wide in an enigmatic smile. 1993, 1994, 1995: Every year there were more black students, intermingled with the whites.

And then, in 1997, one year after the riot Billyboy Ramahlele witnessed, something new appeared in the photo: two flags from the age of white supremacy in South Africa—one from the old Afrikaner republic and one from the apartheid state that followed it. They were jarring to see, held high by two white boys in the last row right over the head of a black boy in a wide-brimmed hat. Over the following years, the flags remained, but the black students in the photos disappeared. By 1999, the class photo was all white again, and it stayed that way until 2008, the last year for which there was a picture.

File under unexpected collaborations: Congolese painter Chéri Samba illustrated a fancy travel guide for Paris, one of two cities he calls home:

Warscapes publishes an excerpt from the English translation of Mia Couto’s Tuner of Silences (originally published as “Jesusalém” in 2009). Don’t know why it still takes years to publish an English translation of Mozambique’s foremost author of fiction. An interview with Couto here; a rare review of the book here.

There’s a new book by Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo: We Need New Names. Granta published an extract here. The New York Times calls it a “stunning novel”. Also read Bulawayo’s short story, “Blak Power,” published by Guernica earlier this month.

More new fiction: Belgian-Nigerian writer Chika Unigwe’s new novel “De Zwarte Messias” (“The Black Messiah”) was launched in Antwerp this week. An English edition will most probably follow soon. The story is based on the life of Olaudah Equiano, Nigerian pioneer of the abolitionist cause. The English translation of the original Dutch title (“The Black Messiah”) is mine, but you never know with these Dutch editors. See the atrocious cover and translation publisher De Geus has come up with recently for Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place:


I’m not making this up.

Joe Wright is directing Aimé Césaire’s “A Season in the Congo” in London this summer. The play follows Lumumba’s efforts to free the Congolese from Belgian rule and the political struggles that led to his assassination in 1961. Curiously, Wright seems to have chosen Ralph Manheim’s translation over the one by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. (Lead role for Chiwetel Ejiofor, dance choreography by Belgian-Moroccan Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.) Details and tickets here. The Guardian ran an interview with Wright about the play last year. Rumor has it he is also working on a film adaptation.

Finally, two music videos as a mini-Weekend Music Break. First is a track taken from Owiny Sigoma Band’s second album ‘Power Punch’ (remember them). The video was shot on location in Zanzibar on an iPhone. Might this be a first “iPhone-music-video” featured here on the blog?

And new South African (Cape Town) Hip-Hop that made us sit up: Slipper’s “Ndivoteleni”: