All Articles Tagged "Africa"

I Agree With Naomi Campbell: Why Isn’t There A Vogue Africa?

April 9th, 2014 - By Charing Ball
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Layouts courtesy of Mario Epanya

Layouts courtesy of Mario Epanya

I swear, sometimes I think that Naomi Campbell is my spirit animal.

Forget her edges (or the lack thereof) and Tyra Banks’ hurt feelings. Who needs them when you are the queen of telling folks exactly how it is? And according to New York Magazine‘s The Cut, Ms. Campbell had no qualms with calling out the fashion industry, yet again, for its lack of diversity.

Hattie Crisell writes for The Cut that last week at the Vogue Festival in London, Campbell joined Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, for discussion about Africa’s future in print fashion. Sozzani, who is the global goodwill ambassador for the United Nation-led campaign, Fashion 4 Development, had lots of “interesting” things to say about the topic. The most interesting point was about how she feels she contributed to highlighting African talents as well as encouraging further development of the fashion industry on the continent, which are two aims of her ambassadorship. According to Crisell:

In slightly broken English, she explained why she’d created the May 2012 “Rebranding Africa” issue of L’Uomo Vogue. “For me, L’Uomo Vogue is not a fashion magazine — I mean, it is, of course, but it’s more how to use fashion as a media to awareness for something else. So when we did [the] African issue, for example, I stayed two weeks in Africa, I interviewed the president of Nigeria, and we put, on the cover, Ban Ki-moon [secretary general of the United Nations].” The goal of the issue, she said, was to show some of the many positive things happening within the continent — because “if we go home and say Africa is poor, Africa is civil wars, Africa is AIDS, Africa is malaria — how can people go there?”

That’s right: In order to “rebrand” the continent away from the image of famine-starved children with large malnourished tummies and flies swarming around their heads, the editor-in-chief of a global fashion magazine (fashion being the key operative word here) puts the very non-chic Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations on the cover. I don’t have any good snark to match the sheer ridiculousness of that so I’ll just say: No!

According to Crisell, Sozzani then goes on to talk about how she saw some nice designers in Ghana and Nigeria, but unfortunately, most of the fabric wasn’t really African and is printed in Holland. She also spoke on how “more manufacturing needs to happen on African soil to build a sustainable industry.” There is a bit of truth in what Sozzani says in terms of building a sustainable textile industry on the continent. And I should also mention that there are some very real and intentional reasons why textile industries have failed to take form on parts of the continent. But besides that, Sozzani seems to be saying that the supposed “inauthenticity” of the fabric is the reason why African fashion designers are denied platforms, which sounds like nonsense to me, considering that the entire fashion industry as a whole relies on global fabric and textiles. I mean, does Sozzani chide Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Diane von Furstenberg and the likes for working with Maasai prints in their collections without authentication from the tribe itself?

Thankfully, Ms. Campbell was there to slightly pull the covers back and put people rightfully in the hot seat. As Crisell writes:

In the midst of this discussion, Naomi Campbell turned to the front row and directed a public request toward Jonathan Newhouse, chairman of Condé Nast International. “I’m hoping, Jonathan, that we can have African Vogue,” she said, laughing in the deadly serious way that only she can. “I would be the editor,” said Sozzani, and Campbell replied, “I’ll be an assistant.” (Now there’s a reality show we’d like to see.)

But when pressed…Sozzani said she thought the possibility of a Vogue Africa was still very far off. “We really have to work much more, and to have more people believe in [Africa]. There is not confidence in these countries [from the international fashion industry] because they’ve seen too many things, and of course in the newspapers they only put [negative] things. The good side is huge … So now, everybody’s talking about Africa, and probably something will happen. I hope so.”

Yeah, some of you all might see this as Campbell asking for scraps from the table. However, I think of it as a clever call-out of the same tired excuses people of color, particularly black folks, are given every time the question is raised about why it is perfectly reasonable for these industries and so-called bastions of global tastemakers to exclude us from the profit side – even as its inspiration is largely derived from our aesthetic. From what I gather from Sozzani’s reasoning, it’s really not about promoting or even rebranding Africa and its talented children for the rest of the world. But rather, selling Africa and its children on Vogue‘s (and its specific designers) ideas of what is fashionable and luxury.

Yes, it is true that advertising dollars move magazines, and on the continent, there are only two Louis Vuitton stores. However, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Givenchy and the likes were not birthed royalty. That came through branding and lots of backing and support from the industry. And honestly, there is nothing really stopping the industry from doing the same for black designers, except the industry, including Vogue‘s unwillingness to do so. Seriously, the best way to rebrand Africa is to stop treating it like a charity case all the time and just put some African designers in the magazine already.

Likewise, the high-end fashion industry thrives on exclusivity and aspiration. The lack of access of these products to the “average” person makes people more inclined to seek it out. It’s a game plan, which has worked wonders in the ‘hoods of America. And let’s not act like there isn’t enough purchasing power in certain areas of Africa to support luxe products. Sozzani is correct in her assertion that the image of Africa we often see in film and on television only tells a fraction of the continent’s story.

According to this Bain & Company Worldwide Luxury Market study, luxury spending on the continent, while small compared to the rest of the world, has increased by as much as 25 percent, particularly in South African, Moroccan and Nigerian markets. And as anyone with friends or family on the continent knows, some of the biggest requested items to bring back include the luxury s**t. This article from last year in the Guardian UK points out how Nigeria is the UK’s second largest trade market thanks in part to all those Nigerian cousins, visiting the UK from the continent, “who are spending more due to a booming oil-driven economy.” According to the Guardian, “Nigerian visitors want to spend not just on luxury, but also at mass market chains including Marks & Spencer and even Prada, as they get better value over here.”

I’ll be the first person to say that Africa does not need Vogue, or any other Western magazine, to validate its fashion sense. The patchwork handmade tote bag I had made during my visit to Ghana gets me at least five compliments a day (true story!). But part of me believes that a major reason why Vogue Africa does not exist is because it would likely cypher off the allure of the Western-fashion houses, while actually keeping the fashion (and eventually textile) dollars on the continent. Without a Vogue Africa, which would hopefully promote black African beauty and fashion, Western designers can still try and justify white girls in blackface posing with slave earrings in mock African jungles while wearing “authentic” African zeb-raffe prints as homages or as art.

But even still, I agree with Ms. Campbell’s particular call out of the BS too. I mean, there are 16 active Vogue international editions in publication, including one in Mexico, whose economy is ranked 14th in the world; Taiwan, whose economy is ranked 19th in the world economy; and Portugal, whose world economy ranks in at 49th. But Nigeria, which is ranked 26th and South Africa, which is ranked 28th respectively in world economies, don’t get one? In the fashionable words of RuPaul, sashay away with that!

Despite The Hype, Your Weave is Probably NOT Infested With Deadly Worms

November 1st, 2013 - By Charing Ball
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

If you’re still in the Halloween spirit, there’s a chilling news story about the deadly hair weave, infested with ear-burrowing worms.

If you haven’t heard of the story, (and have the stomach for it), the reports go something like this:

Irene Myangoh, a personal assistant working at a law firm, went to a renowned hair salon along Kenyatta Avenue, in the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi, and spent more than N5,500 on a human hair weave. Two weeks later she started suffering from severe headache that would not go away. She even could not sleep at nights and was forced to call a private doctor. The doctor proscribed her drugs for the relief of mild to moderate pain of inflammatory origin with or without fever. This did not solve Myangoh’s problems: the effect from the medicine lasted for a few hours only, and then the headache would be back worse than even before. Desperate, the lady went to see another specialist who did blood tests and even a brain scan. All the tests were negative but the headache persisted, making her unable to concentrate at work and sleeping very poorly. Fortunately, her doctor who decided to examine her scalp carefully, and, under the beautiful weave, he found worms!The worms were burrowing into her skull and after sending the samples to the lab they found that the hair had eggs from which the worms had developed. Irene had to shave after this ordeal and took antibiotics for two weeks. The alleged reason of parasites appearance is that the hair has been taken from a dead body.In a parallel story, a 16-year-old girl from Buruburu, a Nairobi surburb, also suffered similar fate, but unfortunately for her, she died. The girl dropped dead after constant headaches. Cobweb eggs were found in her hair after corpse examination. The root of death was unnoticed spider eggs. The warmth produced after weaving provided a very conducive environment for the eggs to hatch. A spider grew in her scalp and bit her. The poison found its way to her blood. She had no chance to survive the attack…”

Somebody cue the Vincent Price laugh because we have a certifiable Thriller on our hands…

The sources of the tale has been narrowed down to three African gossip blogs: Trendy Sturvs, iReporters TV and Stella Dimoko Korkus however variations of the story have been showing up on various continental African and African-American websites and hair message boards including Naturally Moi, Information Nigeria, Nairaland, and Long Hair Care Forum. The horrifying narration of the deadly hair weave has also been making the rounds on social media, particularly Facebook, where it has been mainly posted as a cautionary warning for weave wearers about the potential dangers lurking behind that 18 inches of virgin Indian. But despite being a rallying cry for #TeamNatural – as well as some pretty funny fodder for some concern trolling – few have stopped to find out if the terrifying story of the deadly hair weave is even true.

According to the website Snopes: Heck no, silly rabbits. Hair tricks are for kids. Get it? “Hair” and “Hare?” Oh never mind…

From Snopes:

The tale of the contaminated hair weave is long on gruesomeness and variable details but short on checkable facts. While the victim’s first name is always provided (depending on the version one receives, she’s Krystal, Laimi, or Irene), her surname rarely is. Likewise, while the account always says she’s a personal assistant at a lawyer’s office, the name of the lawyer or firm that employs her is not given. The salon where the manky hair was installed is described only as an “upmarket hair salon” on a street that’s either Independence or Kenyatta, which is in a city that’s either in Namibia or Kenya, two countries the entire width of Africa apart.”

Even in the age where information tends to travels faster than all the facts, it is hard to believe that a legitimate news story would neglect to put a name the shop at the center of what is not only a scandalous incident but what very much sounds like a crime (i.e. grave digging, tampering with corpses, theft, etc…). If not for journalistic integrity than at least for liability sake (heavens forbid, we confuse one “upmarket hair salon” with another). Not to mention that a quick search on the good ole’ Google revealed that the same story has been trending on blogs and hair care forums since 2010 including on the message boards of Black Hair Media, where instead of the hair salon being located on Kenyatta Avenue in Kenya, it was on  Independence Avenue in the Republic of Namibia. According to Snopes, there are four variations of the deadly weave worm story and they all appears to be a composition of three faved wives tales including the fatal bouffant hairstyle, which (according to legend) after years of being unwashed, became the home of venomous spiders.

So why how do these stories make their way around the black blogosphere when there are so few verifiable facts?

Well,because they play on our ignorance and preconceived biases. In the case of the deadly weave worm, the story works well because it plays off our collective ignorance of what we think we know of Africa. It may not be malicious especially considering that we are constantly bombarded with imagines and stories throughout the media of the immoral, desperate and backwards dark continent. And if we recall that not too long ago, the internet was abuzz over sensationalized reports about a rash of hair crimes in South Africa, involving the theft of dreadlocks right from people’s heads. While there had been two reported cases of dreadlocks being stolen, as it turned out, the frequency of the occurrences might have been greatly overstated. Nevertheless the story – with its travel advisements about the alleged increase in random acts of hair stealing – had already imprinted in our minds. And it is that conditioning, which has made it easier to be-weave a fanciful tale about some crazy African walking around with remains of some deceased person on their heads.

Likewise, and probably more importantly, the weave worm story also latches ( “latches” get it?) onto the widespread hatred of hair weaves, particularly those worn by black women. Not only is the victim in this story suffering consequences for her vanity but she is also being punished for abiding by European beauty standards of long, straight hair. It’s the same sort of cautionary message I’d seen recently in a Nollywood film called Brazilian Hair War, which ironically is about a street vendor, who has the misfortune of having the silky straight of a dead ghost sewn onto her head.  It may not be as spooky as the hair worm story but it is just as equally laughable.

Hot Couple Alert: Keri Hilson and Serge Ibaka Step Out For A Night On The Town!

October 26th, 2013 - By Drenna Armstrong
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"Keri Hilson and Serge Ibaka 2"


There’s something about Keri Hilson and Serge Ibaka being together that we just…love.  Plus, when you see them in a picture together, we can’t help but do a double take.

Anyway, the singer and her NBA player boyfriend stepped out into the Oklahoma City streets Friday night for the Ronald McDonald House Red Shoe Gala.  The event, held annually, is the most successful fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House charities and they gain most of their resources to keep going through the money they raise at the Red Shoe Gala.

But back to Keri Hilson and Serge Ibaka.

The hot couple donned their finest threads for the gala, with Keri wearing a blue spaghetti strapped dress with a little keyhole opening in front and Serge in a nice black and white pinstriped suit. Keri is also still rocking the braids and had on very little makeup.

"Keri Hilson"


There’d been rumors over the summer that these two had called it quits, but judging from their social media accounts, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

We’re sure she’ll be back in Oklahoma City when the NBA regular season starts in November to cheer on her boo and his team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.

For those of you looking for a new Keri Hilson album? I wouldn’t hold my breath, she looks pretty content these days!

“This Is Africa!” Australian Woman Has African-Themed Birthday Party With Blackface And Dashikis

October 22nd, 2013 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Most of us remember our 21st birthdays — the cake, the outfit, the friends who helped us enter the prime of our 20s. Whether you had an intimate dinner or a live party that left you wearing sunglasses while washing Advil down with water, we are sure you did not celebrate like this 21-year-old Australian woman.

Buzzfeed shared the story of the woman who invited her friends to celebrate her milestone bday with her in “Africa.” For her  African-themed celebration, guests came dressed in blackface, dashikis, turbans, leopard prints and animal costumes. If that wasn’t enough, someone thought it would be intelligent to dress as K-K-K members and others as Native Americans.  Like most of us, she uploaded pictures of her party to social media, titling the album, “This is Africa…my 21st :),” but after her pictures went viral and people started reacting negatively, she released a statement vowing she meant no harm or offense with her theme party. Her intention, she claims, was to celebrate another “country’s culture,” though the last time we checked Africa is a continent and interestingly enough she would like to teach English in Africa. A Tumblr user posted her response for her, which read:

“Okay don’t even know how to use tumblr but wanted to clarify this. It was my ‘African themed’ party and it was honestly made that theme because I have always wanted to go to Africa (to teach english) but haven’t made it there yet. In no way was this party intended to hurt anyones feelings or upset anyone at all. In fact as you can tell from the photos I dressed up as cleopatra, whilst MAJORITY of my guests came as animals, that can be found in africa or wore traditional african clothes or even dressed up as famous people who come from africa. If anything this was to celebrate the amazing country and people. However, some guest did decide to paint themselves, although this was in no way my intention or encouraged in the slightest. I understand that this has offended some people and I have no idea how these photos have even been seen, they were simply put on facebook for my guests to see the photos of themselves. I am 100% sure that parties would be held that would be ‘Australian themed’ or American themed or even countries of the world, and in that instance I don’t believe anyone would be offended. People wear oktoberfest cotumes to parties and no one cracks it that they are not German? So what I am saying is I do understand the people who have painted themselves have offended people, although none of them intended that…. but how can people be annoyed that the majority of the people at the party were celebrating another countries culture. Also one of my friends who is Mauritian painted himself white, but that photos didn’t make it to this page along with the MAJORITY of people who were amazingly detailed costumes that no one could take offense to!! I am sure that not one person at my party felt upset that said guest painted himself white as it was not meant in that way at all. Also, I have NEVER been asked to take these photos down, however if I had of course I would have done so, as I had no idea that anyone other than friends and guests could see these photos, and to be honest I am not a racist person at all so I didn’t think anyone could possibly take it that way. I intend to spend 2 months teaching english in cambodia in January, and cant wait to do the same in Africa. If you will still have me. To reiterate, I was cleopatra and did not encourage my guest to wear anything racist simply to come as something African Inspired, much like if you went to an australia day party (Which I am 100% sure people of all races and cultures do every year!!!) Again I am sorry for those I have offended and the photos have now been removed now that I have eventually been made aware people were upset. For those who know me at all you would know the last thing in the world I would want to do would be to offend people.”

Although her response may have been written with good intentions, it does not excuse her ignorance. By synonymously stating Africa is a country while explaining her desire to travel to the continent, this young woman’s lack of knowledge becomes blatantly apparent. Furthermore, racially charged theme parties far too often revolve around enjoying “becoming” caricatures of cultures rather than celebrating certain ethnic groups. As you can see from the pics on the next page, this party was very much the former.

Click the next page to see more pictures from this woman’s 21st birthday party. Thoughts?

Forbes Debuts New Africa Magazines, Tapping Into Female Market With ‘Forbes Women Africa’

October 10th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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forbes africa lifeStriking South Sudanese supermodel Alek Wek graces the cover. No, it’s not another fashion magazine but Forbes‘s newest publication–Forbes Life Africa. But Forbes hasn’t created just one magazine for rapidly developing continent, but two publications. The second caters specifically to the female market–Forbes Women Africa. The magazines are being introduced on the second anniversary of Forbes Africa.

Both launched on Oct. 2, reports BET. The new magazines will highlight trailblazers and pioneers in the business industry and focus on the economy and high culture of Africa.

For its first issue, Forbes Life Africa features a cover story on Wek that gives readers a glimpse into the model’s life at New York Fashion Week, further stressing the impact globalization has had on the magazine’s cosmopolitan African demographic, reports BET.

The premiere issue of Forbes Women Africa features a cover story about Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe, a South African-based businesswomen, philanthropist and fashion entrepreneur. There is also a list of the world’s 100 most powerful women and an article on the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women for South Africa Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

“There are so many stories of success on the African continent that we will never be able to do justice to all the women making a difference in the corporate world, which is the principal reason why I took the decision to have a separate magazine for women,” said Rakesh Wahi, founder and vice chairman of ABN Group, the company publishing the magazines.

“We are looking forward to making this the most sought-after business magazine for women on the continent.”

Check out this behind-the-scenes clip of Alek Wek who talks about being involved with the magazine and what’s happening on the continent.

You Know It’s A Continent Right? Lance Gross Gets Schooled By IG Followers During His Recent Trip To “Africa”

September 9th, 2013 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Source: Instagram

Source: Instagram

Our favorite cutie, Lance Gross, recently took a trip to the motherland, but as he posted gorgeous photos of his time there, fans became upset with the actor. Why, you ask? Because he kept referencing a trip to “Africa” without any regard — or reference for that matter — for the country he actually visited. At that point, fans decided to school Gross until eventually he tagged a fan saying he went to Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.  Here are some comments from Lance’s Africa 101 course, given by his Instagram followers.

kekekelechi You say Africa like its a country. Pls be specific which country in Africa this picture was taken. Africa is not a country it is a continent and there are many countries there.

temiari Its so funny when people get defensive when they were wrong in the first place…lol and I’m pretty sure its ok to ask “where in Africa” out of curiosity. Like chill

nasirahs_virgin_hair people feel like when others visit Europe or Asia their specific on the country. Thats why. Alot of people still believe that its a country not a continent. But its a beautiful picture indeed

yayabrawercombs@troysumpter it would be like me posting a picture and saying “while I was in a state” uhm… OBVIOUSLY people would want to know which damn state I was in… Lol!! While in Africa just isn’t good enough for most people… I would want to know if he was in my country Uganda… Most people aren’t on Instagram to just stare at pictures… Most people are on Instagram to get a look into other people’s lives, and get to know them. So it’s really not just a matter of liking it or moving on… Just some of my thoughts…

elesi_a It matters because it isn’t merely a ‘part’ it’s actually a country. A country with a different culture and native tongue…

Welp, as they say these days, Lance Gross gone learn today!

Click the next page to see some of  the gorgeous photography from Lance’s trip to Equatorial Guinea! What do you think about his geography lesson?

#FLOTUSinAfrica: Michelle Obama Joins Instagram, Posts Pics And Video Of First Family’s Trip

June 27th, 2013 - By Clarke Gail Baines
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If you’ve ever wanted to get a closer glimpse into what life is like for the First Lady of the United States, you will finally get your chance…Michelle Obama has joined Instagram! Woop Woop!

The first family of course took off on their trek to Africa where they will visit South Africa (though the health of Nelson Mandela is still not 100% clear), Tanzania, and they are currently making stops in Senegal at the moment. She decided to start her page and post her first photo a few hours ago under the name, @MichelleObama. No BaddieMichelle or HotGirlFLOTUS if you were hoping for some extra flair. The Obamas keep things professional.

For her first few photos, Michelle has posted pictures at a school in Dakar, as well as a video of young girls dancing during a welcome ceremony for the family. In the photo above, she captioned it, “My first instagram! So inspired and so impressed by these extraordinary young women. -mo #FLOTUSinAfrica”

Michelle Obama, as well as Malia, both look great in the photos, and I’m excited to see and learn more about her trip through Instagram. If you’re equally as excited, you’re welcome to follow too, but know that if you’re looking to be a hater, someone’s monitoring her page and removing foolish comments, so don’t try it. Keep it positive, as the first lady always does.

Obama in class

Children dancing in Dakar


God Forgives, Twitter Doesn’t: Rick Ross Confuses Africa For A Country And Twitter Has A Field Day Over It

June 26th, 2013 - By Clarke Gail Baines
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Rick Ross

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It doesn’t take much for people to get riled up about Rick Ross. When you call yourself a “Bawse,” pretend to be living the life of an actual drug dealing gangster, rap about slipping folks a Molly, and constantly walk around with your breast out, people are always going to have something to say. But Ross had to take a loss this week when he traveled somewhere in Africa (he didn’t clarify where, but he’s traveled to Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria in the past, even filming a version of “Hold Me Back” in the latter country to some side-eyes), and tried to show his appreciation for the trip and Wale’s new album on Twitter. Things went downhill from there:


Maybe if he would have acknowledged that he made a slight mistake and then clarified that Africa is indeed a continent, that would have been the end of that. But he didn’t, and the end-result was all those retweets. Folks on Twitter went on and on as they do, joking about his mistake until at some point, after letting the Tweet stay for a while, Ross or someone on his team decided to delete it. As someone who is constantly on Facebook and Twitter for this publication, it’s easy to make a mistake when you’re trying to quickly move from one thing to the next, so while I might have slowly side-eyed the Tweet, I wasn’t nearly as harsh as some of the folks on Twitter. Here are a few of the responses his mistake received:

“Rick Ross landed in the whole of Africa at once, I swear he writes the fat jokes for himself.”

“You failed Geography?”

“Africa isn’t a country and U.O.E.N.O it.”

Guys, the saddest part is that this is NOT Rick Ross’s first time in the country of Africa. He should have known better! #RoastOn

“That Rick Ross “country of Africa” tweet is the best thing since Ying Yang Twinz named their album “United States of Atlanta”

“@rickyrozay doesn’t know that having sex w/ an unconscious person is rape. Why did y’all expect him to know that Africa was a continent?”

While some might think it’s sad that Ross possibly really thought Africa was a country, it’s even sadder that all this creativity gets wasted on Twitter. Some of these people need to be out here writing for comedians!

Brazil Wipes Away Nearly $900 Million In African Debt

May 27th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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via Twitter

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff via Twitter

With trade relationships between Brazil and a number of African countries strengthening, the South American nation has agreed to forgive or restructure nearly $900 million in debt.

Most of the continent’s debt (about $700 million) is with Zambia, Tanzania, and Congo-Brazzaville, according to Clutch. The rest is with countries like Senegal and Ivory Coast.

A good deal of the debt also stems from years back, with a good chunk of it dating to the 1970s.

“To maintain a special relationship with Africa is strategic for Brazil’s foreign policy,” said Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff in a statement. Rousseff was number two on Forbes’ list of Most Powerful Women, released last week.

Rousseff was the only Latin American leader to travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last week for the 50th anniversary of the African Union. The Brazil-Arab News Agency reports that Brazil has the most embassies in Africa, 37 total. So the ties are strong.

And the economies of the countries involved here are gaining strength. Brazil is part of the BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India, and China — that have seen their economies grow dramatically over recent years. And these countries have been fostering relationships with African leaders (some that are controversial) in order to have access to these growing markets and the resources available in all of these countries.

Any debt that isn’t forgiven will be placed at a lower interest rate.

In Defense Of Twerking

April 11th, 2013 - By Charing Ball
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Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube

In the wake of the video of the “father” beating his daughters with an extension cord, I thought that we should have a serious dialog about the politics around twerking.

Some folks might object to using “serious” and “twerking” in the same sentence but the art of booty-shaking is very complex. And yes, I did call twerking an art. According to writer Cosmic Yoruba, who wrote this piece for This is Africa, the style of dance in which the booty is the main focus and movement is actually rooted to traditions dances found in black cultures across the black diaspora. Writes Yoruba, those dances includes the Columbia gouyad/gouye; Jamaican whinin’ and the very salacious Mapuoka (which is translated to mean: the dance of the behind) from the Ivory Coast. If you have never seen the Mapuoka in action, pause this column and watch this video compilation of the dance, right now! You don’t need an African heritage DNA test to see that there are some ancestral oneness between the ladies in this video and the Twerk Team.

But even with its roots being firmly planted in the diaspora, Yoruba writes that the various incarnations of the booty dance still has to fight against attacks that it is vulgar, ghetto and immoral. She writes;

“There is a long history of Black women being sexually exploited, objectified, and labelled sexually lascivious in the Americas during slavery, and the story of Sarah Baartman is familiar to many; she was the Khoikhoi woman who was taken from her home in Eastern Cape to be displayed in “freak shows” across Europe for her large bottom, and subjected to scientific dissection after her death. With such a history, it is perhaps not entirely surprising that many are still not comfortable with Black women shaking or displaying their bottoms. However, it is necessary to question that discomfort since women’s bodies belong to them, and how they choose to display or shake what belongs to them is for them to decide. It is necessary to challenge the dehumanising and objectifying gaze that will view women booty shaking as mere sexual objects, as well as the colonial gaze that labels African expressions as obscene”

I can not twerk like the girls in the YouTube videos but I do love to shake A$$. I do it around the house cooking or cleaning and when “my jawn” comes on the radio or at the club. I wiggle my tail whenever I hear good news. I think that one of the main reasons why I love Zumba is because there is a lot of hip twirling and A$$-shaking. In fact, my hip and A$$ shaking is so ferocious at times that I have been known to pop a few threads on my waist belt, sending small gold metal coins and beads flying across the Zumba room. Yes there is something second nature to my booty-shaking. And I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge ways in which my A$$-shaking could be sexual stimulating. Growing up being constantly made aware that I do not posses a black girl’s booty I spent a considerable amount of time denying myself the opportunity to feel confident about the bottom half of my body. However I am a little older, a little more forgiving and a little more comfortable in my skin. Therefore, when I back that thang up, it is much more an expression about how powerful and accepting I feel about myself than what sexual titillation someone else may receive or even perceive.

There are lots of reason for one to twerk. In fact, I would be so daring as to say that twerking is a rightful dance and just as respectable as ballet, Latin, jazz or any other dance classified as legitimate art-forms. I doubt that there will be touring companies of twerkers making it clap at Carnegie Hall anytime soon but Fela! did do exceptionally well on Broadway and it wasn’t just because of the music or the story. There is a certain skill to twerking. I mean, you can’t just come in, off the street, bend over and start P-poppin’ it. I mean, you sort of can but it takes practice. Even Miley Cyrus had to start somewhere. For those unaware, there is all sorts of muscles moving, coordination, the rolling of ankles and squats, which happens when you are trying to make your butt move. Have you ever tried to get down low, bounce one butt cheek (just one), stop and bounce the other butt cheek; stop and then bounce them both at one time? What about doing a hand stand while simultaneously jiggling your booty to the beat? Of course you haven’t, but once you finish reading this article you certainly will. Point is, there is a certain level of physical endurance one must have to be about propel and control mass through space. Likewise, there are certain rules, which govern proper postures and techniques and even opportunities for competing against an opponent. In a fairer world, twerking could be an athletic endeavor. But heck, we still live in a country, which still doesn’t recognize cheerleading as a sport.

Last year, a vlogger by the name of StrugglingToBeHeard recorded and uploaded a video called “Twerk for Mother’s Day,” which was to honor all the undervalued and marginalized mothers, “who bust their A$$ for a society that does not really respect their work.” In an interview about the video, the vlogger says

“We twerk for justice, liberation and solidarity because: justice, as defined by marginalized people, is different from the dominant ones in society and so our own acts of justice will be defined by ourselves. Liberation because we have been restricted, tied down and abused by the societies we’ve lived in for too long and we will liberate ourselves through acts of dance and loving oneself and owning our bodies. Solidarity because we know some people have to twerk to survive, some twerk for their emotional health, others form bonds of friendship through twerking, some can release energies that they’ve been forced to hold in for too long. So basically, when we say we are twerking for justice, liberation and solidarity, we are twerking for ourselves and our sisters. We are twerking to say F**K YOU to the politics of respectability that say you are only worthy if you do x, y, z when we have learned that in a white supremacist patriarchal capitalist society, we are worthless to the dominant groups even when we do do x, y, z. We twerk because we will not be tamed, shut up or told what to do. We twerk because we want to and we are tired of people telling us what to do with our own bodies.”

The video was re-uploaded anonymously onto the website World Star Hip Hop where it was then misappropriated as a joke. Watching that video last week of the two black girls being savagely beat with an extension cord by their father for daring to move their hips, bellies and bottoms once again reminded me of StrugglingToBeHeard’s message about just how little control women, particularly black women have over defining what is respectable. And as much as folks worry about the exploitation, which could occur from those young girls willfully shaking their behinds on video pales in comparison to the subjugation that occurs every time we deny girls and women a say in the context in which their bodies should be viewed. This is the conversation I wish this dad would have had with his daughter instead of beating and then humiliating them by uploading the evidence to YouTube.

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