Online magazine that focuses on issues relating to Africa and the African disapora.

Video Hyperlink: Die Antwoord

Die Antwoord – which is Afrikaans for ‘The Answer’ - is a South African rave group whose style draws from the Zef counter-culture movement.

Its lead vocalists are Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er. DJ Hi-Tek is commonly referenced as a third member of the group: however, the band blends reality with fantastical elements for artistic effect and they do not acknowledge whether DJ Hi-Tek is a real person or a character played by a variety of musicians and actors.

Formed in 2008, with their debut album free to download, Die Antwoord toured globally and signed to Interscope, but quit the label last November: Vi$$er claimed their creativity was being compromised.

Their debut video, Enter the Ninja, won the 2010 MySpace Video of the Year award

1Viva Riva!

By: Chris Salewicz

Described by the Guardian on its June cinematic release as a ‘tough, sturdy thriller’, the fast-moving Congolese film Viva Riva gets its UK DVD release this October.

Directed and written by Djo Munga, Viva Riva is the story of a smalltime hustler called Riva (Patsha Bay). Riva is smart, ambitious and willing to bend the rules – especially after finding a secret stockpile of gasoline in oil-starved Kinshasa. But Riva is not the only one who is looking to make some fast money off the fuel.

Africa Utopia

This issue of D’ACCORD! is centered around the diversity of culture in Africa. Chris Salewicz considers the photography of the celebrated Malian Malik Sidibe, as well as the writing of Nigeria’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; meanwhile, Hannah Pool looks at the pioneering approach to African fashion of Enyinne Owunwanne and her online lifestyle boutique Heritage1960. Africa is a continent blessed with creativity; yet many of Africa’s nations still struggle for survival: in this light Baaba Maal speaks of recent political upheavals, and their potential consequences, in West Africa, as well as of threats to the prosperity and the culture of that region, and the danger it poses to his own nation of Senegal.

‘This is not the Africa I dream of, and it is something we should try to avoid,’ Baaba Maal worries. ‘It is caused by religious division and also corruption – as we see in Guinea-Bissau. It’s a shame to see that that has happened in Mali with its wonderful culture, both of the past and the present – it’s a country we have been relying on. When there is a coup, everything comes to a halt: it stops you thinking about important things. These important Malian musical artists can’t leave the country and I can’t go there at the moment because it’s too dangerous.

‘All this brings people to a mental state of strife and war. But to win something strong, we need peace. That is the only way Africa can benefit and move forward.’

African Fashion: Past, Present, Future

By: Hannah Pool

Founder and creative director of online African fashion and lifestyle boutique Heritage1960 Enyinne Owunwanne is jetting in from New York to take part in the Africa Utopia fashion panel, which will be chaired by journalist, author and curator of the Africa Utopia talks and debates Hannah Pool. Hannah caught up with Enyinne for D’accord to talk fashion, Africa and social change…

You’re taking part in the Africa Utopia fashion panel - what points do you want to get across?

When we speak of “African Fashion”, there’s no one definition of what this truly means. Fashion, generally speaking, is purely subjective. The same goes for the notion of African Fashion. Our parents and grandparents may view “African Fashion” as the traditional dress coming from specific regions of the continent. Whereas a younger generation like ourselves, may view “African Fashion” from both the historical context of traditional wear and also the modernized interpretations that we’re seeing gracing the catwalks on the continent and overseas. Furthermore, the notion of “African Fashion” implies that African culture and tradition is similar across all countries. When the reality is, even within single countries, there exists a vast array of languages, ethnic groups, and traditional practices. 

What role does fashion have in creating social change?

The fashion industry is a billion dollar business, from concept to consumer. The more emphasis we place on fostering the growth of Africa’s apparel supply chain, the greater the economic impact will be for all stakeholders.  The more players involved along every step of the way (from manufacturing to public relations to retailing) the more sustainable our industry will be.

Every country within Africa is steeped with tradition and artisanal craftsmanship. Africa’s manufacturers may not be able to compete with the speed and mass production of China, but our advantage lies in the added value of skilled artisanal work. Designers such as Maki Oh, Jewel By Lisa, and Laurence Airline have perfected the craft of conveying a story of tradition, respective to their cultures, while appealing to a global audience. There is no one “African aesthetic”. Rather, every brand that manufactures on the continent or gains inspiration from African culture, tells their own story through their own viewpoint. Storytelling is one of the most meaningful methods of cultural proliferation.  Fashion tells a visual story, often times coupled with a story of history and tradition, and this is invaluable for promoting the sustainability of African culture.

Why did you set up Heritage 1960?

I created Heritage1960 as a platform for discovering Africa’s influence on creativity and design.  Africa is such a rich and diverse continent – inspirational to so many different types of people from so many different walks of life.  I believe in celebrating and indulging in different cultures as opposed to keeping our culture to ourselves.  As such, you’ll find that all of the designers and items that we sell on Heritage1960 and highlight on our blogazine, H1960Edit, are related to Africa but in all sorts of ways, many of which are unexpected.

What do you think of the current trend for African inspired pieces by mainstream designers on the catwalk?

It’s a beautiful thing when people can embrace cultures outside of their own.  Africa is a beautiful continent, chock full of beautiful people.  So why not look towards Africa for a source of inspiration?   It excites me to see various interpretations of “African-inspired” design on the catwalk!

Is this a good thing for the African fashion industry?

The proliferation of African-inspired design creates an unprecedented level of awareness and buzz about Africa. Granted, non-African “African-inspired” designers are gaining more media attention than African designers themselves, but the hurdles and obstacles that African designers need to overcome are no different from their overseas counterparts.  Burberry and Louis Vuitton are going to gain media attention regardless of where they draw their inspiration.  I like to celebrate and revel in the fact that mainstream designers look to Africa for what’s fresh and new.  It’s an amazing opportunity for us to use this momentum to further the dialogue and attention placed on Africa as a source of creativity. 

Does the fashion industry do a good job of representing Africa?

The fashion industry takes a very safe and narrow approach towards representing Africa.  It’s undeniable that all eyes are on Africa as a fresh source of creativity.  But by the same means, the industry remains cognizant of their respective target consumers, therefore, much of what is out there may not be relevant for their eyes.  This makes it difficult for many fashion professionals to know where to begin.  They turn to the same handful of designers, they are barely scraping the surface of African fashion and design.

What else are you looking forwards to at Africa Utopia?

I’m excited for the ultimate Afrobeats night. There’s nothing like the sweet sound of African music to move your soul and body!  I’m also looking forward to the Africa Sci-Fi screening.  I think I’ll walk away with an interesting perspective to African literature and film.  Lastly, The Robbin Island Bible performance sounds intriguing.  I’m a fan of Shakespeare so I’m interested in seeing how South African prison inmates interpreted some of his works during their captivity.

More than zebra print – the African fashion panel is part of an extensive weekend of Africa Utopia talks and debates taking place on July 20th, 21st and 22nd(11am-7pm). More details will soon be released on the Southbank website.

Autumn

In this issue of D’ACCORD we are celebrating the change of the seasons and, with it, the new crop of artists and endeavours that emerge around this time of year. Our focus is on new talents to emerge from Africa including the Nigerian hip hop artists D’Banj & Don Jazzy (recently signed to Kanye West’s label) and Congolese director Djo Munga’s film release Viva Riva. Both these articles speak to the increasing prominence of African influence in the world of Western arts and entertainment. While African influence used to trickle down through Western filters, it now appears that it is talent is being plucked, raw, right from the source, and that represents a significant shift in how the West consumes African culture.

This issue also looks at two other topics that we felt required attention: the famine in South-East Africa and the riots that took place recently in London. The former is covered by Baaba Maal himself who discusses his views on the issues facing the communities in these areas, while the latter is examined by author Alex Wheatle, who relates it back to his own experiences of rioting in London during the 1980s.

Artist Spotlight: Malick Sidibé

By: Chris Salewicz

Since his discovery in the early 1990s by Andre Magnin, a French art curator, the international reputation of the Malian photographer Malick Sidibé has grown exponentially, to the point where he is probably the best-known African photographer. The first photographer to be awarded the Lion d’Or for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale in 2007, Sidibé is now internationally respected for his black-and-white photographs that capture the transformation and energy of post-colonial Bamako, Mali’s capital city.

Championed by the likes of Marc Jacobs, for a celebrated 2003 fashion-shoot – the same year he was honoured with a major exhibition at London’s National Portrait Gallery - his new book Malick Sidibé: Portraits of Mali was published last month.             

In recent years Studio Malick, in Bamako, has become a place of homage for Africa’s myriad up-and-coming photographers. He lives there with 50 other people, his four wives and children, and their relatives.

‘Malick finds it all a bit serious,’ says the curator Tristan Hoare, who has exhibited Sidibé at London’s Wilmotte Gallery. ‘He was just having a good time taking pictures, as far as he was concerned. He also bemoans the constant talk of money. He loves to talk philosophically. He’s travelled a huge amount for his exhibitions – more than anyone around him – and has a great global overview.’

It’s an extraordinary journey for someone born in the middle of the 1930s – Malick Sidibé’s exact date-of-birth is unknown - who started out in life as a shepherd, herding sheep and goats on the edge of the Sahara desert, in a country then known as the French Sudan.

Talent-spotted at an early age, he was sent to Bamako for education at – as his father defined it – ‘the white school’. His later training as a draftsman gave Sidibé a comprehension of the form of images, hence the perfect compositions of his pictures, which frequently employ objet trouvé as visual motifs – radios, James Brown album covers, scooters - lending the pictures a unique character. ‘It’s all about trying to make light with a pencil or with a crayon,’ he explains. ‘It really helped me in the beginning, because I understood how light and shadow were working on an image.’ Finding employment as a trainee photographer, he was swept up in the joyous energy of 1960, when his country transmogrified into Mali, after the French had granted independence. Many French were leaving Mali for France; from a photographic studio, Malick Sidibé purchased the entirety of its equipment. The country’s infectious mood of post-colonial excitement had led to a feverish round of partying in Bamako; Sidibé, armed with a 35 mm camera, set out to document this world, visiting four or five parties a night, every night; by six in the morning he would be at home, printing his film; by lunchtime, after a brief sleep, he would be selling the pictures back to his subjects.

At his studio, meanwhile, paying subjects would arrive, to test his powers of more formal composition. Invariably this would be the first occasion that most of them had been in a photographic studio. But the influence of Bamako’s party mood tended to direct the images he shot: ‘People get very interested in the actual machine, the camera. That can also depend on my own approach. I have to pay attention to what the dynamic is between people. And often when there is a man and a woman, the relationship between them in the picture depends a lot on how they relate to me and my camera — a crucial moment, which the photographer fixes in time, so they have to really pay attention to the photographer. But in Mali, men and women are apart. They still don’t get together. So the influence of Occidental music is that men and women are together when they dance, they come together, they actually take each other in their arms.’

Despite his down-to-earth nature, Malick Sidibé is all the same delighted at the appreciation he now receives globally. ‘I am very proud of that,’ he laughs. ‘It shows me that all those years I wasn’t working for nothing.’

Artist Spotlight: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

By: Chris Salewicz

The news that Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Orange Broadband Prize-winning novel, is to be made into a film is unsurprising.

An epic, ground-breaking work by the Nigerian writer, the gripping 2007 book is set at a pivotal juncture in African history, the Biafran war from 1967 to 1970, ending seven years before Adichie’s birth. Half of a Yellow Sun seems eminently adaptable to the big screen: cinematic in scope, poetic in texture, the novel tells a personal story, that of her Igbo family’s existence during the war – when the Igbo-dominated eastern state attempted to secede from Nigeria - and their assorted fates, narrated by three differing voices.

Half of a Yellow Sun was the second novel by Adichie, who was a featured guest at this year’s Calabash literary festival, held in Treasure Beach, Jamaica, in May.

The prize-winning novel was preceded in 2005 by Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize: the novel’s story is centred around the life of a 14-year-old growing up in Nigeria under the stifling patronage of a stern father.

The Thing Around Your Neck, her most recent book, is a collection of short stories, set both in Nigeria and the United States.

A product of a creative writing course in the United States, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Adichie grew up in an academic family – her father was a professor of statistics at Nsukka University, where her mother was registrar. Yet the recent past of the savage Biafran war seems to have dominated all their lives. ‘Adichie may not have lived through the civil war, but her imagination seems to have been profoundly molded by it: some of her own Igbo family survived Biafra; others did not,’ wrote the American critic Rob Nixon in the New York Times. ‘…Adichie approaches her country’s past violence with a blend of generational distance and familial obsession.’

Although the recipient of universal respect in the west, Adichie ‘cried for a whole day,’ she said, on learning of praise from a true literary mentor, the Igbo writer Chinua Achebe. ‘We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers,’ declared the sage elder statesman of Igbo literature.

Warning Signs in West Africa

By Baaba Maal

The famine that has occurred in south-eastern Africa, especially in Somalia, could have easily been prevented, believes Baaba Maal. Moreover, the east of his own country of Senegal, stricken with drought, is currently facing considerable food shortages. If these warning signs are not heeded, he believes, Senegal itself could face a similar disaster.

The country’s new government, Baaba insists, must prioritise and address this imminent crisis. Overturning old ways of thinking is crucial to this shift: ‘From outside Senegal it is possible to perceive the full extent of this potential crisis, and that if we do nothing, we’re heading for famine. The difficulty is that in Senegal itself, many people simply regard this problem as a matter of fate. “It happens every two years: what can we do?”

The fact is, insists the musician, that plenty may be done to prevent potential famine: it is all a question of forward planning, a lack of which, Baaba Maal insists, lay at the roots of the south-east African crisis. An under-used resource, he believes, is the mighty river Senegal itself, not only as a source of actual food, but also for the irrigation it provides for surrounding land. ‘We have land for good agriculture: we have people who have understood local agriculture for thousands of years. However, we need new ways of doing agriculture so it is more profitable. NGOs like Oxfam will really support people in implementing modern concepts of agriculture. Africa is a continent which has always been open to new ideas.’

Notwithstanding its relatively impoverished circumstances, basic food commodities in Senegal are by no means cheap. This, says Baaba, is because of a lack of equability in the financial exchange rates between the west and the south, only exacerbated by the high cost of transportation. ‘We should be able to manufacture the food we have, such as rice and oils. People should be able to have at least one good meal a day.’

Senegal’s northern neighbour, Mauritania, has already demonstrated impressive governmental initiatives with regard to this nutrition crisis. ‘The government of Mauritania had concerns about what was happening, and have put things in motion. If we don’t act in Senegal, there is a problem coming. People must wake up to reality: they don’t see that – like in south-east Africa – if we do nothing, we’re heading for famine.’

A country with a 1,000-mile coastline, much of Senegal’s food stock traditionally has come from the sea. Outside of Senegalese territorial waters, however, the nation’s traditional fishermen face competition from enormous factory fishing-ships which decimate the ocean’s food stocks. ‘There are five or six countries with the same coastline. But these separate countries do not have one agreement between them. And they don’t know how to deal with these companies.’

If African nation states themselves lack the understanding and collective will to deliver a solution, how much harder is it for the average fisherman journeying out into the vast Atlantic in his tiny pirogue? ‘When you live from fishing, and you are not organized in the way that big companies are, you cannot really understand any longer how to make a profit. A lack of education makes you think that the arrival of these big factory ships is a normal event over which you have no power. ‘But it is never too late to make sincere deals with these fishing countries, such as Russia – in fact, there are a lot of possibilities there. The EU should help and have discussions with us.’

Meanwhile, solutions to such assorted potential crises hardly benefit from the grim spectre of military coups: in recent months, there have been military interventions in both Mali and Guinea-Bissau. Senegal itself, meanwhile, is easing into a transition to a newly elected government. ‘This new government must succeed and be an example: it’s dangerous to have these countries around us having coups,’ worried Baaba Maal.

‘This is not the Africa I dream of, and it is something we should try to avoid. It is caused by religious division and also corruption – as we see in Guinea-Bissau. It’s a shame to see that that has happened in Mali with its wonderful culture, both of the past and the present – it’s a country we have been relying on. When there is a coup, everything comes to a halt: it stops you thinking about important things. These important Malian musical artists can’t leave the country and I can’t go there at the moment because it’s too dangerous.

‘All this brings people to a mental state of strife and war. But to win something strong, we need peace. That is the only way Africa can benefit and move forward.’

D’Banj & Don Jazzy - Africa has become global!

With Kanye West signing D’Banj & Don Jazzy to his Good Music Entertainment, it is a significant acknowledgment of how Nigeria is edging up to join the front-runners of African hiphop. ‘Africa has become global,’ D’Banj declares.

Last year D’Banj appeared onstage at the London Apollo with Kanye. In an archetypal Nigerian manner, D’Banj would appear to far out-bling the American. ‘You have to have glamour and excellence,’ laughs the man who not only owns his own mobile phone network in Nigeria, but is also a manufacturer of D’Banj breakfast cereal. ‘Coming from Africa, you have to come correct!’

Check out his Mr Endowed video from 2010, which also features Snoop Dogg, indicating that Kanye West is not the only US hiphop star with whom he has links. The addictive Oliver tune, however, takes it higher.

The son of a Nigerian military officer, D’Banj was studying in London when he met Don Jazzy. In 2004 they put together their idea for the Mo’Hits label, and returned to Nigeria. Back in Africa, they released their first album in 2005. By 2007 D’Banj was being lauded as MTV Africa Artist of the Year.

And now, all Kanye West wants is that he hightails it over to New York, to make more hits.