AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

Mali

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Thursday, June 19th, 2014

“How was Africa?”

“Welcome back to civilization,” a family member said, slapping my shoulder. “How was Africa?” That was the refrain I encountered most frequently upon returning to the United States after conducting a year of fieldwork amongst northern Malian internally displaced persons and refugees. I’d been away for all of 2013. During the first six months I

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...

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...

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Mandela had an Ethiopian passport under the name David Motsomayi. Where did he go?

We don't live in a world of heroes, but at rare moments we celebrate those who emerge from the shadows to push them further back. I don't know if Nelson Mandela had heroes. He must have done....

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

My Favorite Photographs: Arnaud Contreras

The Sahara is changing fast. Still a beautiful desert but not just that. Most populated cities such as Tamanrasset or Timbuktu are microcosms that reveal all the problems of those former touristic regions: threats of terrorism, trafficking,...

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Mali’s Elections: First Thoughts on Round Two

In Mali, it’s taken to be a good sign when a journey begins under the rain. Yesterday’s voting in Bamako began under torrents, keeping people from the polls. When the skies cleared, the voters turned out for...

Monday, July 29th, 2013

While we wait for election results in Mali

Malians voted yesterday to elect a president for the next five years. Based on the first news reports and the echo chamber of Twitter, large numbers went to vote for this first round, making the possibility of...

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Malians educating Malians ahead of elections

On Sunday, Malians will go to the polls for the first time since a military coup deposed elected President Amadou Toumani Toure in March 2012. As international media have abundtly reported, there are serious concerns over Mali’s...

Friday, July 19th, 2013

The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson Goes to “Mali”

Where to begin with the foolishness that is Jon Lee Anderson’s recent article on Mali in the New Yorker? Maybe with my own disclosure. Before it was published, one of the magazine’s fact-checkers called me about the...

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Meeting Sembène: An Interview with Abderrahmane Sissako

Abderrahmane Sissako is a Mauritanian-born, Mali-raised filmmaker who completed cinematic training at Moscow’s Federal State Film Institute during the 1980s. The program concluded with his first film, the 23-minute short Le Jeu , which he shot...

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Why France doesn’t want to let Aminata Traoré in and Germany allowed her only inside Berlin’s city limits

Malian writer, activist, former member of government Aminata Traoré is unwelcome in France, and, thanks to the ‘open borders’ of the Schengen Area, she is persona non grata in pretty much all of Europe. Another dialogue is...

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

I Sing the Desert Electric: Sights and Sounds from the Sahel

“I Sing the Desert Electric” is a collection of video material shot over the past three years by Sahel Sounds founder Christopher Kirkley in different locations in the Western Sahel (Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria), representing distinct and highly regionalized musical...

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Welcome to Mali

Bamako doesn’t feel like the capital of a country at war. True, people are stressed, and the pace of life might have slowed. The city’s building frenzy has subsided. Ça va pas, but things are calm, even...

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Mali needs heroes at the moment–even cinematic ones will do

Mali is short of heroes at the moment. War in the north has produced very few, only villains aplenty, some of them in uniform. The same holds for Bamako’s deep, existential political crisis. Many people have tried...

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Rap Comes Home

It’s quite a weekend for New York’s prodigal child. Hip-Hop, that burst of youthful energy that was put out into the universe 30 plus years ago is coming back home from several places at once. It’s arriving at...

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Super Eagles!

Nigeria’s Super Eagles have in the last few minutes brushed aside the Eagles of Mali to move imperiously into the final match of the 2013 African Cup of Nations. First half goals from Elderson Echiejile, Brown Ideye...

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

“Only Seydou Keita is worth anything.”

The Western-most tip of Africa seemed like as good a place as any to watch the Mali vs. South Africa quarter-final in the African Cup of Nations. On Saturday, I was at the Pointe des Almadies in...

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

The bigger question is not why France decided to intervene in Mali, but why America has held off

Stephen W Smith in The London Review of Books:

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Timbuktu: It’s like a library has burned

News came yesterday, violent, rotten news. It’s been a steady rhythm from Mali, a country that has already suffered too much. But there’s something brutal in the news that Salafist fighters burned hundreds of rare manuscripts, some...

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

What We Learned From Day Two of The 2013 African Cup of Nations

No goals on Day 1, but they were flying in on Day 2! Great goals they were too: Agyemang-Badu’s box-busting team goal, Kwadwo Asamoah’s crafty back-post header (he’s only 5’8”), graceful Eto’o-like precision from Tresor Mputu, and...

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Afcon 2013 Preview: Bamako expects experienced Mali team to go far

Guest Post by Samira Sawlani* We won’t be surprised if Malians don’t care much for football right now as conflict ravages through the country’s north and east (separatists and Islamists are occupying much of the north of...

Monday, January 14th, 2013

France in Mali: the End of the Fairytale

Whew, Mali. French air raids against Islamist positions in Mali began Thursday night, and the dust hasn’t settled yet. The news is changing fast, but, three things emerge from the haze. First, fierce fighting in the North...

Friday, December 28th, 2012

10 Contested Images of 2012

Remember that little video campaign called #Kony2012? Yeah, we wish we could forget too. Few videos have reached the magnitude of pestilence that the non-profit Invisible Children’s video achieved this year. By transforming a complex regional crisis...

Friday, December 21st, 2012

French President François Hollande went to Algeria

Ah, the warm bath of public affection in the post-colony. French President François Hollande’s visit to Algeria this week was a little odd, on more than one count. Algeria is about the last place you’d think a...

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

First thoughts on Mali’s second coup

Mali’s interim Prime Minister—and NASA’s ex-interplanetary navigator—Cheikh Modibo Diarra was chased out of office Tuesday morning. He’d been arrested the night before by soldiers under the orders of Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, the man who led the...

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Foreign correspondents and false notes

Two things I’ve learned about the popular press in the last few months: you don’t get to pick your own headline, and you don’t want anyone thinking that the inevitable picture of the guy with a machine...

Monday, October 8th, 2012

When Animal Collective’s Deakin went to Mali to make an album and to end slavery

I’m not in the music business. I am, however, in the bullshit business. So my ears prick up when I hear some guy’s launched a Kickstarter project to go to Mali and make music and instead wound...

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Timbuktu: whatever happened to the African Renaissance?

Mali in the rainy season has its own rhythm, especially in the South: long days under heavy skies anticipating rain; moments when it comes so powerfully the world seems ready to end. Afterwards, a peculiar freshness and...

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Mali’s Rebels and their Fans–Suffering and Smiling

Strange bedfellows in the Malian Sahara of late. The Tuareg rebel movements that took control of northern Mali last month looked to have struck a deal over the weekend, only to have it come into question since....

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Mali’s problem–Not child soldiers, but soldiers acting like children

Ah, Mali. From bad to worse. Monday, “protestors” found a seventy-year old man sitting in his office and beat him unconscious. Preliminary reports had him lying in hospital with head wounds. Apparently he’s been released, but after...

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