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]
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. Read the rest
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.
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. Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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? Read the rest
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." Read the rest
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.)
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?
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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.
Wired has a gorgeous gallery of photos from Conflict and Costume, a new book by Jim Naughten documenting the Herero tribe of Namibia, who fought an early 20th-century action with German colonizers, and wore captured German uniforms as trophies. The women adopted the ankle-length dresses of German missionary women, and adapted them into gorgeous, patchwork garments that are worn with headdresses made to look like cattle-horns.
Read the rest
The Herero women adopted the German missionaries’ Victorian-style floor length gowns, but they eventually incorporated the vivid colors and cow-horn-shaped headdress (to represent the Herero’s respect for cattle) you see today. After a woman is married, she is expected to make most of her dresses, often from the offcuts of other garments. These voluminous, patchwork outfits are considered every-day attire, while dresses made from a single material are reserved for special occasions. In the book’s introduction, Lutz Martin writes: “Rounded to resemble healthy cows, the dresses contain up to 10 metres of cloth, despite summer temperatures reaching 50 degrees celsius.”
To get his portraits, Naughten immersed himself in Herero culture. He and his guide traveled from village to village, asking permission of the elders to photograph. In turn, he would be invited to weddings, funerals and ceremonies where would he set up his equipment and snap shots of passersby against the Namibian landscape. Naughten said he lost track of how many people he photographed (it was a lot), but he does recall that most everyone was excited to show off their garb. “The man in the yellow suit has to be a favorite,” Naughten wrote.
Back in April, I reviewed Akissi, a delightful kids' comic about a mischievous little girl in Cote D'Ivoire, translated from the original French. Back then, it was only available in the UK, but as of today, you can buy it in the USA, too! Here's my original review:
Akissi is a French-language comic about the adventures of a little West African girl, now available in English translation thanks to the astoundingly excellent Flying Eye, a new kids' imprint of London's NoBrow. It was created by Marguerite Abouet, whom you may know from Aya, a series of comics for adults set in Cote d'Ivoire, widely available and appreciated in English translation.Read the rest
Akissi's adventures are both universal and absolutely particular to her milieu. My young daughter -- born and raised in London -- has never kept a pet monkey, had a tapeworm come out of her nose, or had to contend with an older brother who wouldn't take her pigeon hunting; but Akissi's struggles with authority, her close friendships, and her misunderstandings are immediately recognisable to my daughter and her friends when they come over, and I've read the book aloud to them a good half-dozen times since I brought it home last week. It's the perfect combination of gross-out humour, authority clashes, and general mischief to capture a kid's interest.
Akissi comprises seven short stories, each of which stands alone, and, as with all of the NoBrow titles, it is a beautiful package -- great binding, endpapers, paper stock, and spine -- suitable for both your own library and as a handsome gift.