Feast Your Eyes On This

I love food and most of my travel ideation probably revolves around all delicious goodness I’ll get to devour. While my piss poor financial skills and limited budget aren’t letting me be great a girl can still dream 😬 Nothing can match my devotion to African gastronomy. I was fortunate enough in my early years to travel the continent and experience different culinary cultures (goal number X when when my bank account finally lets me move back is to do a West-African road trip sampling all suyas and brochettes and kebabs I can find on my path. My mouth is literally drooling as I type this😩)

I’m obviously over the moon with regards to the current culinary developments in African cuisine. The rise in prominence of afrocentric food bloggers, chefs and restaurants gives me so much life. Features of my personal faves include a focus on local sourcing,  preserving cultural heritage, a fusion of cultures and amazing visuals. I would love to see them all profiled with a Netflix Chef’s Table style documentary (Iroko TV , don’t say I never gave you any ideas😬)

Souvenir_Cameroon_ #voyageculinaire #workantravel

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Sure, we’ve been feeding each other for eons but a focus on traditional inspired dishes at the haute cuisine level is an interesting shift. Our dishes can also now benefit from the popularity that comes with social media proliferation. I never felt any shame towards food from my corner of the world but I know that’s not everyone’s experience. Some have developed mad complexes with regards to food that they felt the world considered unsophisticated and favoured western cuisine as a mark of refinement. That someone would decide Ekwang deserves the luxe treatment still makes me all giddy inside though.

I hope the agricultural sector will also benefit from this burgeoning scene of food connoisseurs. Propping up local dishes could spur the popularity of our local ingredients even beyond our continent. Think of the technological advancement in food production from farm to table! I’m just sitting here waiting for the rise of the palm-wine sommelier 😬

Radical

Last night Paris was the target of 7 coordinated attacks claiming the lives of more than 150 people and injuring more. ISIL, on cue, has claimed responsibility for these acts, the latest of a series that also targeted Beirut and Baghdad this week. These attacks are not happening in a vacuum. Particularly when we consider the ones on western soil, it’s not random that certain countries seem to always be targets. However deplorable, they are a reaction to perpetual war, displacement and manufactured poverty. This neither justifies nor condones them, but one cannot so violently antagonize whole regions and expect no consequences.

Western governments should take responsibility for what they have created, drop that “woe is me” facade. The radicalized youth terrorizing their streets are the fruit of their womb, their deformed offspring. Paris should turn to its leaders and understand that they have become collateral damage in their senseless war.

True evil doesn’t burst into flames out in the open – that’s the language of the desperate, the disenfranchised, the fearful.
True evil burns slow in the shadows, refuses to educate its people so it can scare them into submission, absolve them from the guilt of their horrors by ignorance, let’s them believe that their prosperity is honestly earned and not at the expense of countless lives.

Leaders of these terrorist cells are simply reaping the bountiful crop of terrified youths the west has left in their wake on their quest for hegemonic dominance, giving them the illusion of power in a world where everything has been taken from them, restoring a sense of dignity albeit to nefarious and equally selfish ends.

For decades, centuries even, the West has been waging war on the global South to secure its own interests out of greed. Islam is the religion of terrorism? What of the God of the “free” market with his invisible hand? His disciples are many, spreading the good gospel of drone democracy and profit maximization at any cost, converting the Gentiles to the one true socio-economic system, preaching docility while dispensing death and destruction like free candy. The hypocrisy is strong in this one.

Terrorism: the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. Or business as usual for Western governments, leaving houses of cards wherever they go, mortgaging their own people’s futures and safety, taking advantage of the resulting chaos to control “the great beast”, imposing destructive economic sanctions, backing dictatorial regimes and gagging dissenting voices and movements.

Bullets and bombs, empty stomachs or drained pockets, whatever their weapon of choice, death and fear will follow. It’s not war when one side has a full arsenal and the other is just picking up its scraps in a desperate attempt to survive.

Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, World, stay strong. One day, the true authors of your misfortune will be held accountable.

B(u)y Us, For Us: Made In Africa

African fashion has been steadily making its mark on the international stage and is showing no sign of slowing down. The age of pastiching the Western Fashion industry is finally ending! Our voices are becoming more and more clear as designers move away from the Ankara overkill deemed as “Afro inspired” while creating pieces that still speak to African stylistic sensibilities.

We have certain areas on the continent (notably southern africa) where the manufacturing sector is more developed but though often challenging due to wanting logistics infrastructure, many designers are making a statement sourcing local materials and/or basing some if not all of their production on home soil, creating jobs and sustaining indigenous textile industries and craftsmanship. We will never achieve economic sovereignty if we keep expecting foreign nations to feed, clothe and supply us with basic consumer goods.

The following african designers are among a growing number challenging the perception that good quality products cannot come from our continent, producing clothes and accessories fit for any “sapeur”:

Loza Maleombo

@loza_maleombho #LMAW15

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ADELE.DEJAK

My style.

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MaXhosa

#MaXhosaByLaduma SS 2016 | #MyHeritageMyInheritance #IamWearingMyMoney | 📷 by: @laduma

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I Ami

 

LaurenceAirline

Fall Winter 15 collection SOKASSA & TOKABANA soon available. #fw15 #LaurenceAirline #preview #soonavailable

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A A K S

🌸🌸🌸🌸 our blossoming ARE Clutch @adorethissa #sa #spring #bags

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Brothers Vellies

Ready for these! #👡🌿

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I’ve always been an avid learner both inside and outside of school. As I started progressing through the educational system however I found myself distressed by the incessant streamlining of what was available for me to learn (through my formal educational channels anyway as they tended to inform what I would explore on my own) as well the cultural perspectives that were offered to me. It’s no surprise that I’ve turned towards autodidactic learning to satisfy my intellectual curiosity as this gives me infinitely more control over my instructional material. The internet age lets my classroom extend as far as my wireless and sporadic insomnia will take me. I’ve decided to share my discoveries for any and all who are interested.

First on the Autodidact Files: Dr Jason J campbell.

I accidentally came on his Youtube channel about a year ago when I was looking for some additional analysis to help me unpack Gayatri Spivak’s notable essay “Can the subaltern speak?”, a seminal work in post colonial studies. Fun times with serendipity 😀 – I not only found exactly what I was looking for but stumbled upon what is now one of my favourite learning resources for philosophy and theory/philosophy of mind.

A little background on the good doctor: he’s trained as a philosopher and is currently an assistant professor of conflict analysis and resolution at Nova Southern University, Florida as well as the founder and Executive Director for the Institute for Genocide Awareness and Applied Research. With so much on his plate he still takes time to share knowledge through video lectures on his youtube channel (You can find it here). His vlogs are very accessible (very little of that staunch pretence characteristic of academia at that level) and he is very open to communication with subscribers exploring a wide range of topics from neoliberalism to theories of ethnicity and nationalism.

You can also find a decent selection of complementary notes for his lecture series here on his academia.edu page (incidentally another great resource for scholarly papers). He hasn’t posted a new video in 5 months but you’ll have more than enough to go through however before it becomes an issue (hopefully a new series will be up soon). I’m currently following his series on José Ortega y Gasset’s “The Revolt of the Masses” which, to my surprise, is striking a lot of chords with regards to my reading of Steve Biko’s “I Write What I like” (Yay to interdisciplinary study). I really hope you find this man as helpful as I have and enjoy!

On moving back: a few things to consider as a returnee

We are finally getting to the age where we have more control over where we decide to root ourselves. I am personally part of those who can see no better option for me but to move back to my continent. This was always going to be the case but I really had to decide for myself why I wanted to move back and what role I would or could have in the society I’d be reintegrating myself into. Returnee dynamics have already been covered on this blog, consider this my own pinch of salt. Recently I’ve gotten myself acquainted with two francophone intellectuals, Fatou Diome and Jean-Paul Pougala, both of whom have raised interesting questions on our function as part of the african diaspora and as returnees. Here’s a brief overview of what I have digested:

Get over returnee superiority

Let’s get one thing straight: our “sophistication” and degrees from abroad don’t make us better than those left behind for lack of a better expression. This is something that the african bourgeoisie really needs to start working on. Can’t be feeling like hot shit because massah has allowed you to play in his court now. We should also remember that we in the diaspora make up a stark minority of our populations. We may have had the chance to be exposed to more but a degree is just certification(by western standards might I add). In all honesty it’s not proof that I’m intelligent, skilled or anything – why are we acting as if people don’t pay or sleep their way to degrees? All I’m saying is that those of us who come from abroad have been “given” the chance to step out of our usual subaltern position – we can now operate within the dominant hegemonic system (I do believe our long term goal should be to eradicate said hegemony but that’s a conversation for another day) and we have the opportunity to speak on the behalf of our own, but if we too have been indoctrinated into believing that West is best, we won’t be able to. We should value the wealth of knowledge that is back home and not look down on our own like our western counterparts.

Killing the image of the El Dorado “abroad”

There’s this pervasive narrative of abroad as the land of opportunity. The media and television won’t show the whole story. Some of us have the benefit of coming from families of means so being sent abroad is a relatively simple process. The communities that we are being accepted into look upon us more favourably because our parents’ bank statements say we’ll “contribute” to that society. Now no one tells those at home how hard it is to set up with no certification (even the one you have they will make you upgrade –and that’s another insulting issue on its own), no money, with barely any chance at upwards mobility. Yet somehow boats and planes are filling up and people are risking their lives and pooling obscene amounts of money for a pipe dream (I’m only referring to economic migrants here – war refugees, though migrants, aren’t exactly choosing to leave*little amendment: 2016 me recognizes how short-sighted this statement is*). How will someone whose population is aging and whose birthrate is falling tell you that you’re leaving one struggle for air-conditioned struggle when they need you and your children to sustain their economy? Instead we sell this dream of A Land of Milk and Honey. Kill that shit ASAP. I’m not deluding myself that our countries are perfect but if I’m going to hustle, let it not be somewhere where I’ll be paying for my own oppression.

Formalizing remittance & co-operative investments

Nigeria’s $21bn remmitance may sound impressive but when you consider that the bulk of that money is sent to the uncle Bonifaces’ of the continent to be building half a house in the village for 10 years there’s a problem. Just like GDP, that big number means nothing if it’s not used to create infrastructure. If you don’t move back at least try to ensure that the money you’re sending back is actually making difference. Consider this scenario (forgive the oversimplification): there’s a strong river that goes across your village. Alone you can’t do much, but bring together a group of like-minded individuals, work with the local government (who hopefully will be able to finance projects with the help of a pooled remittance fund) to build a dam that will not only supply the village’s electrical needs but where you can sell extra power you generate. Now this isn’t the easiest project to undertake but when you at least table the first 2 issues raised here, you can start to lay the ground work for such endeavours.

If you’re planning on moving back, make sure that at the back of your mind you intend to translate everything you learn and can apply into the African context vs copy and pasting something you saw in the country in which you furthered your education. Different environments require different theory application – the knowledge you gain from your education is not one size fits all. If you come barging in like you have all the answers be sure to meet antagonism. No one is calling your abroad knowledge useless but your advance grasp of precipitation in the northern hemisphere doesn’t mean jack shit for someone who has to deal with harmattan.

On a final side note, our value can’t be limited to the commercialization of our culture, how palatable we can make it for others – we can’t be reducing our rich heritage to Ankara flavoured everything. The main consumer of African goods and services is going to be the African, let’s make sure that whatever we bring to the table reflects that.

Originally published on The Naked Convos.

Global migration: Moving away from mainstream narratives

In the wake of recent and tragic drownings of migrants in the Mediterranean sea, news headlines have once again put this crisis and the issues surrounding it in the spotlight. However, despite the heavy spotlight placed by global news agencies on this matter, it is not a new and emerging event but part of an ongoing chronic issue that affects both the African and European continents. In the West, the hypocrisy of European governments is appalling yet not surprising. As they continue to pillage Africa for resources, using revised colonial relations often with the consent of African leaders, as they actively contribute to the conditions that create poverty and conflict in these migrant producing regions.

migration DA

As NGOs and humanitarian organizations continue to exert pressure on European governments to act, one cannot stress the importance of coming up with long term  solutions that address all sides of this issue. It is important not to focus on one side of this story as the bulk of current media coverage does. To reiterate the words of Senegalese writer and critic Fatou Diome, the dynamics of immigration and the relationship between the African continent and Europe show a failure in policy and leadership on both sides of the Mediterranean. In this clip where she appeared on a French television show, Diome shared her frustration with this by illuminating some of the nuances of this issue that western media fails to critically interrogate. I felt compelled to provide a translation of one particular segment not only because her words challenge current narratives, but because I believe it is important for Africans to continuously engage in conversation with each other. As diverse as we are, and with equally diverse points of views concerning the conditions that see Africans from various parts of the continent embark on the same perilous journey, it would do us good to share them with each other for the sake of our development:

fatou DA

[Translated segment from 2:22 – 4.45]

“When someone sets off, it is as if he is elected, chosen – perhaps the most resourceful one of them – and there’s an entire clan or a whole family that pins their hope on this person. [she addresses the previous speaker] Sir, today I can see that you well dressed and well fed. Suppose you were starving at home, it wouldn’t be too farfetched for your family to hold on to the belief that you could go off somewhere and make enough to provide a source of livelihood for those left behind. In essence, this journey become an act of solidarity. You let someone go and you count on them. [previous speaker attempts to interrupt her] You will let me finish.

[Here she references a point the previous speaker made about how the Schengen area’s passport policy creates porous european boarders that can be exploited. Note that Diome is a French citizen and therefore benefits from said policy] Sir, your quote unquote Schengen now allows me to be invited to the Netherlands and give lectures in your universities. We [as immigrants] are only worth something to you when you find our brains suitable for your purposes. It bothers you to welcome my brother who, though not has qualified as me, may also want to work in these same buildings. Your countries have split personalities. You can just sort people out like that with nonsense categories like useful immigrants and nefarious immigrants.

I also want to touch on a second point. There is so much focus put on Africa to Europe immigration – we are constantly being made aware of this movement. On the other hand, little notice is given to the movement of Europeans into other countries. Now this movement is that of the powerful, those who have money, those who have the right passport. So you go to Senegal, Mali, you go to any country in the world, Canada, the U.S., everywhere I go – and I travel all the time – I meet people from France, Germany, the Netherlands, I meet them on every corner of this earth because they have the right passport. So Europe has arrogated a unilateral concept of exoticism to themselves; it’s alway the other, the non-european who is exotic meanwhile, for someone from my village, there is nothing more exotic than someone from Amsterdam.

The continent has now done the same thing with the concept of the foreigner and modern travel in the wake of globalization. When the poor come towards you “There are waves of immigrants we must block!” But when you, with your passport and with all the pretensions that come with it, when you land in third world countries, in your mind you are in conquered territory. So we see the movement of the poor but we do not see that of the rich who come can make money off our land. Africa is developing at a rate between 5 and 10%. This is past progress and on to overdrive. But when third world countries are developing and don’t have the means to manage this excess growth, all of a sudden we need engineering economics, we need training, we need people to install a democracy. You need us to stay subjugated so you can use this excess growth help sustain European industry. So let’s stop with the hypocrisy – either we’re rich together or we’ll all drown together.”

Diome’s final words in this clip seem harsh but express a sentiment many of us a familiar with.

The focus, in regards to migration, is largely on disenfranchised and marginalized individuals that emigrate from Africa to Europe – rarely the other way around, if at all. We are constantly reminded of this movement, often in a negative perspective, by European media and politicians alike. Considering the heinous legacy of European colonialism, not just in Africa but worldwide, it is no wonder that the neocolonial privileges of Europeans, and other Westerners, continues to be swept under the rug. In this list of the most powerful passports in the world, based on which nationalities have the most visa-free access to nations around the world, no African country is in the top 20. Even in situations of travel and visa-facilitated movements, there is discrimination against citizens of African countries.

The hypocrisy and double standards that exists surrounding conversations on migration are a stark and concerning reminder of the power relations and racist systems that have remained unchained for centuries, despite African states achieving their independence from European colonists. The real concern, however, lies not in whether or not European governments will shift their attitudes to reflect a standards and instil policies that are in line with basic values of humanity and human rights, but in whether or African leaders will finally step up to the plate and acknowledge the humanity of their citizens.

Originally published on Dynamic Africa, artwork by Jacob Lawrence.

Trouble in the Newsroom: A brief overview of the state of African media

Nigeria finally has a new president and contrary to the predictions (and hopes in some cases) of western media houses the elections were relatively violence free – thank goodness. It’s a shame that such outcomes were expected but this trend set off a few alarms in my mind. I was slightly pissed to see that most news agencies covering the election results were from ‘abroad’ which in all honesty is not shocking. My main issue was that when I did find them in African/Nigerian owned media, with a few notable exceptions, if the quality of the information wasn’t questionable at best, it was lifted from other sites and unreferenced. I’m not saying that poor ethics in news is a purely african problem (News of the World and Fox News anyone) but would it hurt for those that are in the continent to be more credible?

Media in anglophone Africa, unlike that of our francophone counterparts who were stifled by their colonial administrations, got the chance to develop independently and got more control of press. Its evolution, sadly, is symptomatic of most institutions on our continent. From brown envelope journalism to lack of intellectual integrity, this industry is in a state of disarray. The Linda Ikeji-Aye Dee debacle scratched the surface on this matter but sadly the conversation didn’t take a turn in a direction that would change current trends. I don’t even need to go on about party-sponsored social media personalities. What did it for me was seeing a Wole Soyinka article I had just read on The Guardian, copy-and-pasted word for word mind you with no reference to the original source or author on an online news magazine whose mission statement, and I shit you not, stated that it was “created to bring about more professionalism in online journalism”. Is that so?

What all these issued have in common is that they make me question a) the credibility of the organization and by de facto b) the credibility of the information. The bribery of the brown envelope journalism posed an obvious moral impasse: one can pay for the version of the truth they want. The intellectual laziness of the copy-and-pasting on the other hand reveals more fundamental issues. As the journalistic equivalent of chew-and-pour studying, it shows a lack of analytical skills. That kind of journalist/columnist is really just pushing someone else’s agenda with no thought as to whether he supports their rationale. If you put no real pride in your work to begin with, selling your platform to the highest bidder isn’t that far a step. In the true spirit of mimicry, some go as far as copying formats or presentation style down to font colour. Sure, there may only be so many ways to organize news sites but I can only come across so many sub-standard ripoffs to come to the conclusion that imitation isn’t always flattery. Most importantly for me though, it exposes the lack of a fact checking and proper referencing culture.

Those of us who intend to or already work in mass media don’t just report what is happening in our communities, we analyse events and culture, contributing to the formation of public consciousness on a range of complex issues and public figures. We then owe it to readers to provide them with accurate, well supported and relatively unbiased information. The dangers of unsubstantiated stories become more obvious in tense situations such as seminal elections; they conjure unnecessary animosity. I’m sure everyone saw their fair share of shit-stirring-enemy-of-progress articles. We media workers should consider our role as the new griots and talking drums of our communities. We can’t always cry foul when the west paints our continent with whatever colours suit their narrative at the time if we are doing no better to ourselves at home.

We spent most of the past months demanding accountability from our leaders so we too should uphold ourselves to those same rigorous standards, regulate the media not for conformity but for quality assurance. Well informed conflicting points of view should be encouraged – I’m a firm believer that truth lies in the synthesis of opposites. I commend those who continually push for original voices, content and analysis in new and old media and offer platforms for legitimate discussion, these will become crucial spaces as our societies continue to evolve.

Originally published on The Naked Convos.