Video: African dances, from A to Z

A wonderful video primer on African traditional and modern dance styles, from Ghanaian Azonto to Ivory Coast's Zoropoto. [The Dance Hall]

Ugandan “Ghetto kids” dance battle goes viral

Ugandan Afropop artist Eddy Kenzo's 2014 hit “Sitya Loss” (“I'm not afraid of losing”) has inspired a number of fan-created dance videos. None are as popular as this one, featuring a group of boys and a girl, referred to as “ghetto kids,” who perform on a dirt road in Uganda.

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Nigerians in Space: afrofuturist science fiction debut novel

This sounds good: Afrocyberpunk reviews the debut novel of Deji Olukotun, Nigerians in Space: "He wouldn't hit golf balls like the American astronauts. He would squeeze out rhythms from a talking drum into the blackness between the stars. These were the drums of war and death, of celebration, the drums that had bonded the towns of his homeland over centuries in tonal communication… He would bind the stars with the drums. There would be dancing."

Review [Afrocyberpunk]

Nigerians in Space [Amazon]

Where are the stolen girls of Nigeria? And why don't we care more?

Maybe if the more than 200 Nigerian girls abducted from their school weeks ago were on a ferry in Korea, a jet liner in the Indian Ocean, or were white, the world would pay more attention. Xeni Jardin on why it took so long for America to notice an intractable tragedy unfolding abroad.

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The state of vintage contemporary hipster fashion in Africa, according to a Namibian style guru

This is Africa interviews Namibian designer and trendsetter Loux the Vintage Guru on contemporary African fashion trends that involve "black hipsters in tweed jackets and round spectacles, trilby hats, Oversize coats," and a wide array of vintage style. A wonderful interview with some really knockout photos, and a mini-documentary on African "sapeurs." [Photos: Harness Hamese and Lukas Amakali for This is Africa]

Namibia's vintage guru on fashion, thrifting, and Namibian style


Loux the Vintage Guru's Tumblr is full of photos of snazzily dressed models clad in the vintage clothing Loux discovers in the markets of Namibia and the styles he creates based on them. In a revealing interview, Loux (a self-described "hipster") vividly describes the process of thrifting in Nambian markets, and the fashion potential he's unlocking by reimagining the clothes of his parents' generation.

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Somali Al Qaeda affiliate orders Internet shutdown

Al-Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-affiliated faction in Somalia, has ordered the nation's ISPs to shut off the Internet, or else. The Somali government has ordered the ISPs not to shut down. Cory 13

Maker doctor builds his own rural hospital equipment out of scrap

Dr Oluyombo Awojobi founded the hospital at Eruwa, Nigeria, a rural location without consistent access to electricity. Dr Awojobi is an accomplished maker, and over 27 years, he's built a variety of vital medical apparatus out of scrounged materials.

His guiding principles are that devices should be simple and easy to repair, and should not require access to off-site power to run.

He's built an operating table with a foot-pumped jack to raise and lower it, a bike-powered centrifuge, a pedal-powered suction pump made from an inner tube, a corn-cob-powered boiler made from an old propane tank, and more.

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Giving no-strings-attached money to the world's poorest produces remarkably good results

The Economist details outcomes from Give Directly, an organization that analyzes satellite photos to identify the poorest places in the world and then hands over no-strings-attached cash grants to the people who live there. It's a contrast to other programs, where donations are funneled into school construction or funding planned-out businesses. Give Directly has produced remarkably good results: "In randomly selected poor households in 63 villages that have received the windfalls, they say, the number of children going without food for a day has fallen by over a third and livestock holdings have risen by half. A year after the scheme began, incomes have gone up by a quarter and recipients seem less stressed, according to tests of their cortisol levels."

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Smati Turtle: car made from scrap parts by Ghanian artisans and Dutch artists


The Smati Turtle 1 is an "African concept car" created by Dutch artist/researcher team Melle Smets and Joost van Onna, who worked with the artisinal car-makers of Suame Magazine, Ghana, to create a killer junker for the African market. Suame Magazine is a neighborhood full of people who take apart scrap cars and rebuild them for local markets, removing the difficult-to-maintain electronics, expanding the cargo areas. The Turtle 1 took three months to create, and had its test-drive inaugurated by the Ashanti king.

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Send a Togolese 3D printer made out of ewaste to Mars

Afate is a Togolese hacker who uses the WoeLab makerspace in Lome, Togo (the first makerspace in west Africa). He's invented a 3D printer made out of the ewaste that is piled high in neighborhood-sized ewaste dumps in Agbogbloshie, near Accra, Ghana. He's raised money on Ulule to standardize the printer, called the W.AFATE, so that anyone can turn ewaste into a 3D printer. The W.AFATE design has already won NASA's Space App challenge with a concept for building trashbot 3D printers on distant planets.

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Meet the fish that happily live in the lake that turns birds to stone

Perhaps you have recently heard about Tanzania's Lake Natron, a body of water that has become famous on the Internet over the last couple of days because of the work of artist Nick Brandt, who took some eerie, posed photos of the calcified corpses of birds that he found along the lake's shore.

Natron, the stuff for which the lake is named, should also sound a bit familiar to you. That's because it's the mineral salt the ancient Egyptians used as part of their mummification rituals. (In fact, they used to harvest it from dry lake beds — Lake Natron isn't the only lake in Africa that's home to large quantities of naturally occurring natron.) It's both a serious drying agent and anti-bacterial, so immersion in natron can suck all the moisture out of a dead body while simultaneously preserving it against the ravages of microorganisms. As far as I can tell, that's what you're seeing in Brandt's creepy photos — birds and bats that look like Tim Burton's garden statuary, but are actually just mummified (and then propped up for artistic purposes).

Which brings us back to the video above. If Lake Natron mummifies birds, how do the fish survive?

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Crowdfunded mosquito-confusing patch to be sent to Uganda


The Kite Patch is the subject of a very successful Indiegogo fundraiser, and holds the promise of a lasting peace between mosquitoes and humans. It bears a compound designed by UC Riverside entomologist Anandasankar Ray that confuses mosquitoes' ability to track and follow concentration gradients of CO2, which is how they locate humans. However, the product couldn't be marketed in the USA without further testing, hence the crowdfunding campaign, which will send thousands of patches to Uganda, where they will be used as part of a wider trial in fighting malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases. The actual nature of the compound is confusing: the Wired article describes it as both "toxic" and "nontoxic" and the crowdfunding FAQ calls it "nontoxic."

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Trapping Africa's animals — on camera

This great shot of a cheetah family comes from the Serengeti camera traps set up by University of Minnesota researcher Ali Swanson. The cameras are activated by heat and motion, and Swanson uses the help of citizen scientists to sort through the many, many pictures and identify species — a process that helps the scientists learn how those other big animals interact with the prides of lions that live in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park.

Check out some other great photos from the camera traps at Minnesota Public Radio's Daily Circuit blog. (I'm a big fan of the dueling buffalo.)

Head to Snapshot Serengeti to help scientists learn about how animals live.

Goths of Kenya

Middle-class Kenyan teens are inventing a local version of goth subculture, and are at the center of a moral panic about kids-gone-wild -- according to an article in Think Africa Press. The article is shy on details or photographic evidence, but I hope its true about the subculture (and not about the moral panic). Anyone have more evidence of this?

The negative public image of the goth scene also extends beyond the general public and is apparent in the attitudes of local authorities, at times with dramatic consequences. David used to have long hair, another way to stand out in a country where men tend to wear it very short. A couple of weeks before I met him, he was walking in town at dusk, waiting for the bus back to Nakuru, when a police car pulled over in front of him. The police approached him and asked to see his passport, which he was not carrying, before they accused him of looking like ‘an al-Shabaab’ – a Somali militant Islamist group responsible for several terrorist attacks in the region.

David denied this, stating that he was a Kenyan. The police then challenged him as to why he had untidy hair and facial piercings, preposterously claiming that these are hallmarks of Somali terrorists. They put him in their car and drove him to a nearby barber where they forced him to shave his head. They said that this would "stop confusing them", and they told him to "dress like a decent person" in future.

When I first met David one of the first things I asked was whether he wore his preferred clothes all the time. I asked most of the goths this question and generally they admitted to travelling incognito, blending into the crowd. David, however, looked vaguely insulted at my question before replying, simply, “Me, I even wear this in Church”.

A Day in the Life of a Kenyan Goth [Rowan Emslie/Think Africa Press]

(via Christian Science Monitor)