AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

HISTORY

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Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

The Year the Blackface Tradition in the Netherlands Hit the Big Time

In 2013, the world was introduced to the Dutch December tradition of Zwarte Piet (“Black Pete”)—the blackfaced sidekick to Sinterklaas. Though a letter complaining of the racism inherent in the practice was sent to the Office of the United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights way back in January of last year, and there have

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Jean-Marie Teno’s new film lays bare the affective costs of public silence in Cameroon

Filmmaker Jean-Marie Teno doesn’t pull his punches. His 1992 film Afrique, je te plumerai became a classroom staple for the thoughtful and unsparing way it tied postcolonial problems to colonial practices. Une Feuille dans le Vent (A Leaf...

Monday, January 20th, 2014

How a coup d’état drove a scholar to social media

Call me a curmudgeon, but I had never really understood the value of social media. I didn’t see the point of mundane tweets and posts on the lives of the glitterati, or the need to share personal...

Friday, January 17th, 2014

The Prisoner and his Pin-up Girl

The National Geographic issue of July 1975 is as delightful a time capsule as you would expect from the magazine that dictated our understanding of the world. On the very first page is an advertisement for Iran...

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Mali (and France) a year later

A year ago, on January 11, 2013, France launched Operation Serval, sending 4000 troops into Mali. At the time, many supported this intervention. According to one poll, as many as 96% of Malians initially supported the French...

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

An Interactive Study Map of African States

“Africa is a country,” some say with irony. Or derision. Or perhaps in sheer frustration, as those of us resident in some other part of the world try to share our interest in the vast, variegated topographies,...

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Vecinos. Neighbours. A Short Film on African Migrants in Barcelona

The short film below was part of a residency I completed at Jiwar, Creation and Society based in Gracia, Barcelona, funded by The Africa Centre and the Spanish Embassy of South Africa. I focus my artistic practice...

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

To Come Back from Qunu

I do not have a background in the struggle. Unlike the many people who over the past week shared their stories of their personal interactions with Nelson Mandela during the struggle, my only brief meeting with Mandela...

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Nelson Mandela and the Dutch

Shortly after his release from prison, Nelson Mandela embarked on a six week tour across Europe. As the Dutch newspaper NRC mentioned last week, he initially declined the invitation to include the Netherlands in this tour, this...

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Mandela was the Last Founding Father in Africa’s Decolonization

The death of Nelson Mandela has provoked an outpouring of mourning, celebration, and commentary around the world that is unprecedented for an African leader. Glowing tributes have gushed from world leaders and major magazines and newspapers have...

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

Playlist: South African Jazz for Nelson Mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the man that so many South Africans have come to love, even those who grew up being taught that he was a communist and a terrorist when communism was portrayed as a great evil....

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

Consuming Woolworths’ Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela presents a complex, complicated, even contradictory set of public images that have been cycled and recycled in ways that allow many stakeholders to appropriate and mobilise his legacy. Of course corporate entities do not have...

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Why aren’t we discussing Mandela’s Politics?

Now that the first week after Mandela’s death is coming to a close, we’re finally beginning to see more critical obituaries, or at the very least nuanced accounts, and a gradual abandonment of hagiography. Of course, idealistic...

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Posters that Challenged Apartheid

Many of us who were active in the international anti-apartheid movement are recalling our shared history as we reflect on Nelson Mandela’s passing. Here are some of our favorite graphic images from the struggle years, selected from...

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Remember to call at my grave: Madiba and John Dube

This December marks the 14th year of my involvement with the history of South Africa, both as a researcher and as a frequent visitor to a land I fell deeply in love with on my first trip...

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Nelson Mandela Did Not Walk Alone

In the early 1990s I was teaching Economics in a fifth floor classroom at Khanya College in downtown Johannesburg. During one of my early lessons at Khanya I was in the middle of explaining supply curves when...

Monday, December 9th, 2013

The photographer who showed Nelson Mandela to the world

In 1994, the ANC commissioned South African photographer George Hallett to document the electoral process and first democratic government. During the year in which Hallett covered the electoral process, his images of Mandela were published in newspapers around...

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Malawian intellectual Thandika Mkandawire: The death of Mandela marks the triumphant end of Africa’s liberation struggle

It is difficult to write about Nelson Mandela without sounding sycophantic or as if engaged in uncritical hero worship. Mandela’s stature and personality left little room for other sentiments other than those of profound admiration and gratitude....

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Nelson Mandela’s Humanity was a Political Education

If you became politically aware in the late 1970s, you became aware of a world in which no greater sustained evil existed than apartheid. There were other horrors, of course, but apartheid was insidious, entrenched, and total....

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Three Myths about Mandela Worth Busting

I sometimes feel Nelson Mandela is in need of rescuing, trapped in some pretty bizarre narratives that have nothing to do with his own story or politics. Full disclosure: I freely admit that Nelson Mandela is the...

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Tata Mandela

June 16 is a national holiday in South Africa – Youth Day, commemorating the June 16, 1976 Soweto student uprising and those who lost their lives in the violence that followed. This year, June 16 was also...

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Madiba: I remember

I remember not knowing what you looked like; at sunrise seeing the regime’s footmen erase your name from walls before the paint had dried. I remember, as a child, sitting on the back seat of the car...

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

The Book of North African Literature: Pierre Joris on Poetry and Miscegenation

A 743-page anthology of North African literature was published by the University of California last year. Ranging from documents made in sixth century Carthage to experimental prose published months after the 2011 uprisings, the Book of North African...

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Is the Central African Republic on the Verge of Genocide?

Over the last few weeks, the usually unrelenting stream of baby pictures and lose-weight ads in my Facebook feed has increasingly been interrupted by news from the Central African Republic (CAR). “Unspeakable Horrors in a Country on...

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

An Adieu to Tabu Ley Rochereau, King of Soukous

On November 30th, just this past Saturday, the “Baobab of Congolese Rumba” Tabu Ley Rochereau passed away at the age of 73. He died in Brussels at l’Hôpital Saint-Luc from diabetic complications, having never fully recovered from...

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

How much is an African body worth? Ask Theresa May

December 1, 1834, slavery was abolished in the Cape Colony. Around the world, people are watching, often aghast, more often with clenched jaws and more, Twelve Years a Slave, and then talking, or not, about the back-then....

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

The loser mentality of white South Africans

The latest piece of mythological drivel on us South African whites was published in that most stoically smug of bourgeois publications, "The Economist," with the title, “Braai the Beloved Country.” This piece (made the rather extraordinary claim...

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Before They Resurrect the Noble Savage

As history and our collective experience reveals, so much of a photograph’s meaning is not captured within its frame. What is not confined to the frame is the social environment within which the image was created. This...

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Why are historians suddenly looking at Sweden’s colonial past?

It is, to a surprisingly large extent, a story that’s been going on since the Second World War. Sweden–it is said–is different from the rest of Europe. After all, “The world’s conscience” (as newspapers in the West...

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

That New York Times column about Cape Town

Let me be clear, because some responses suggest I was not in my recent column for the International New York Times: from just about every assessment, the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape are consistently...

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