Sunday, February 25, 2007



Djimon Gaston Hounsou born April 24, 1964 in Cotonou, Benin. Former model, emigrated to France in 1977 and was discovered by Thierry Mugler, French fashion designer. After a career in modeling, landed a part in Without You I’m Nothing (1990), then receiving plum roles in Amistad (1997), Gladiator (2000), and with In America (2002) he became the first African (with Charlize Theron of South Africa, for a different film in the same year) to be nominated for an Oscar.

Djimon Hounsou as Solomon Vandy stars in a story about a farmer, a smuggler and a syndicate of businessmen who match wits over the possession of a priceless diamond.


Charlize Theron was born in Benoni, South Africa. She grew up as the only child on her family’s farm. Learned the some of her 8 languages from staff on this family farm. Her parents also owned a road construction business at the same time. At the age of 6, Charlize took up ballet and began to think of going professional. She would soon take her dancing ability to higher levels, going professional in the town of Johannesburg. At 13, in Johannesburg, her parents enrolled her in a boarding school. When she was 15, her father attacked her mother, and her mother shot her father in self-defense. Her father died, and her mother was not charged in the incident.

Charlize Theron and Nelson Mandela

Charlize began her modeling career in 1991 aged 16 when she won a local modeling contest. She started modeling in Europe and came to New York a year later. She didn’t like being a model though, and decided to try her luck with ballet, which had been her biggest passion as a child. Unfortunately, a knee injury prevented her from dancing. Her mother bought her a one-way ticket to Los Angeles in 1994 and Charlize started visiting all of the agents on Hollywood Bulevard but without any luck. She went to the bank to cash a check for $500 she’d got from her mother and became furious when she learned that the bank could not cash her check because it was an out-state check. She made a scene and an agent gave her his card, in exchange that she learn the language, which she did by watching soap operas on TV. Her first role was as a young mother in a park in a B-film in 1995, but it was a non-speaking role with three seconds of screen time. Her next role was as Helga in 2 Days in the Valley (1996), which landed her the role of Tina in That Thing You Do! (1996). Since then, she has starred in movies like The Devils Advocate (1997); The Cider House Rules (1999); and The Italian Job (2003). An important day in her life was February 29, 2004 when she was awarded with her first Academy Award for her performance in Monster (2003).


The Last King of Scotland starring Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, is an incredible twist of fate. A Scottish doctor (McAvoy) on a Ugandan medical mission becomes irreversibly entangled with one of the world’s most barbaric figures: Idi Amin (Whitaker). Impressed by Dr. Garrigan’s brazen attitude in a moment of crisis, the newly self-appointed Ugandan President Amin hand picks him as his personal physician and closest confidante. Though Garrigan is at first flattered and fascinated by his new position, he soon awakens to Amin’s savagery - and his own complicity in it. Horror and betrayal ensue as Garrigan tries to right his wrongs and escape Uganda alive.


Set amidst the sprawling Johannesburg township of Soweto - where survival is the primary objective - TSOTSI traces six days in the life of a ruthless young gang leader who ends up caring for a baby accidentally kidnapped during a car-jacking.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Mali Grand Prince of Kora

Toumani Diabaté born August 10, 1965 in Bamako, Mali into a family of groits is a Malian kora player who has gained international acclaim for his music. He is considered by many to be the world’s finest kora player. He is a versatile performer, being equally at home with the traditional music of Mali as well as with cross-cultural collaborations with flamenco, blues, jazz, and other international styles. He comes from a long family tradition of kora players including his father, Sidiki Diabate, who recorded the first ever kora album in 1970. He lives in Bamako, Mali.

Toumani Diabate Symmetric Orchestra will be performing at Carnegie Hall-Zankel Hall New York on Friday March 30, 2007


Nearly 2,000 people perished down slope of Lake Nyos in August 1986, when the Lake burped and large volume of poisonous gas was suddenly released from the lake late one evening. Death came quickly. People simply “went to sleep” that night, and few ever awoke. The Crater Lake perched inside a dormant volcano, become overloaded with carbon dioxide gas. This gas had suddenly bubbled out of the lake and choked nearly every living being in the surrounding valley community.

Lake Nyos is one of only three lakes in the world known to be saturated with carbon dioxide—the others are Lake Monoun, also in Cameroon about 100 km away, and Lake Kivu in Rwanda.

The landscape was littered by the bodies of dead animals - only plant life survived.

Permanent habitations in vulnerable areas down slope are now prohibited.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Cameroon songstress Sally Nyolo, former singer in the acapella band Zap Mama.

Sally Nyolo hails from the South of Cameroon. She was born in the Eton Land, in the small village of Eyen-Meyong, near the town of Tala, in the Lékié Region. She left Cameroon at the age of 13 to settle in Paris.

Sally Nyolo joined the group Zap Mama in 1993 and went on to produce several solo recordings earning her a degree of stardom in Europe, America and Africa. Sally Nyolo has since returned to her native Cameroon where she hopes to develop the local music scene. In 2006, Sally Nyolo released her most ambitious project so far, “Studio Cameroon”, which focuses on little-known musicians from her homeland.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


(Photo from

The Rashaida are closely related to the Saudi Arabia Bedouin, who migrated to Sudan from the Arabian Peninsula about 150 years ago. Many Rashaida also live in the neighboring country of Eritrea; in fact, they make up five percent of the population of Eritrea (3.75 million people). In Sudan, they number around 68,000, and live mostly in the northeast part of the country on the outskirts of the city of Kassala, one of the most frequently visited spots in Sudan.

Nomads on the move.

Rashaida young couple

The Rashaida are a nomadic people who live in tents made of goatskins. They are herdsmen, breeding primarily goats and sheep. Since they are largely illiterate, they memorize in great detail the pedigree of their animals, keeping mental records of their herds over seven or eight preceding generations of the flock, although they usually only emphasize the female lines.

Rashaida preparing camel milk and sorghum for dinner.

Besides herding, the Rashaida also gain income through jewelry making. It is the veiled Rashaida women who craft much of the silver jewelry sold in the Kassala souq, or market, which is said to be one of the best in Sudan. Along with the jewelry, the Kassala souq supposedly markets some of the best and juiciest fruits Sudan has to offer. Kassala, with a population of 150,000, is a popular spot for tourists and Sudanese honeymooners, for it offers cooler temperatures than the rest of Sudan, along with beautiful mountains and tens of thousands of trees.

How does he move around with his big bed? I sympathise with the camel

Veiled from the age of five, Rashaida women are required by the law of purdah to cover their faces when they are in public. The mask is considered an expression of female beauty and its elaborate style has remained unchanged for more than 150 years.

The Rashaida are primarily Muslim, and very few Christians are known to exist among the group. The Rashaida combine their traditional Islamic religion with their ancient folk beliefs. They believe in the Jinn, an invisible people who live underground. Women often carry bags with buttons, shells, bits of smooth glass and beads in order to tell fortunes.


Monday, February 19, 2007


The Most Beautiful Men in the World: The Wodaabe of Niger and Nigeria

The Wodaabe are a proud nomadic people who are scattered across the sub-Saharan Sahelian steppe in Niger, West Africa. They are said to have originated in the upper Nile basin, and their exact origins are heavily debated by scholars; some say they are from Ethiopia, while others insist they are from Egypt. The Wodaabe keep largely to themselves and rarely marry outside of their own group, which has enabled them to keep their cultural and genetic identity pure. The Wodaabe people trace their origins to two brothers, Ali and Degereejo. A sub-group of the Fulani people, the Wodaabe are traditionally known as the Bororo.

The Bororo tribe has attracted attention because of their traditional value of beauty. Dubbed as the inventors of beauty pageants, the Bororo consider themselves to be the most beautiful people in the world. Their long history of tradition, culture and values are the core of their lives. A nomadic people, the Bororo have been able to resist most colonialization, imperialism and modernism that is plaguing Africa today.



The most important, rainy-season celebration among the Bororo happens weeks after the Worso celebrations. It is called Geerewol, and it is a celebration joining two lineages for seven days of dancing and celebration of beauty. Not only does it allow two lineages to join together in celebration, but the Geerewol provides an opportunity for young Bororo men and women to find attachments outside of their circle of cousins. The week-long celebration is centered around dance and beauty marathons. Two dances, the yaake and the geerewol, take precedence in the celebration, and it is these two dances that give the men a chance to show off their charm, beauty, and ability to attract women.


In the Bororo tradition, a man may have multiple wives. Many teegal marriages (marriages of love and romance, rather than an arranged marriage) are the outcome of these yearly celebrations. These teegal marriages often take the form of willing abductions, where both the man and the woman agree to flee, and often occur during the night after the charm competitions. Married women who are not happy with their current husbands are free to choose another man, but if she leaves her marriage, she must leave her children behind as well. If the new couple who have run away can slaughter a sheep, roast the meat and share the food before they are caught by the family (or husband) of the girl or woman, the marriage is confirmed.

Make up time

The yaake, or charm competition, requires much preparation by the men. Men devote many hours before the yaake to make themselves beautiful. They apply extravagant facial make-up and wear elaborate clothes to show off their attractiveness. A pale yellow powder is heavily applied to the dancers face, and black kohl is applied to highlight the whiteness of the teeth and eyes. A line running from the forehead to the chin helps elongate the men’s nose, and many men shave their hairline to show off their forehead.

Once the men have prepared them-selves physically, they join together, shoulder to shoulder, and begin their dance. In a chorus line style, the men tiptoe forward to show off their height and display their charm by exaggerated facial expressions and sounds. Eyes roll, cheeks tremble, and teeth flash. Their cheeks inflate like a fish and then collapse again, and lips purse, part and tremble. A man will roll his right eye in and out, which is a talent that is highly recognized and valued. Meanwhile, elders of the group taunt the dancers, attempting to force them to try harder and show more of their magnetism. The men are being judged on their charm, magnetism and personality. It is not necessarily the most beautiful man that wins the yaake, but it is the one with the most “togu”, or magnetism and charm, that will emerge the victor.


The geerewol dance is the most rigorous and prestigious dance of the celebration, and only the most beautiful men take part. The men take the same delicate and lengthy preparations for the geerewol dance, but their appearance is different. The men wear the same dress: tight white wrappers bound at the knees, strings of white beads crisscrossing bare chests, and turbans of ostrich feathers and cowrie shells. Their faces are painted red, and they line up for two hours of frenzied dancing and chanting.

Those who feel that their competition is too great often voluntarily withdraw from the challenge. Those who remain eventually replace their ostrich feathers with horsetail plumes, signifying the next level of competition. The dancing becomes harder, more wild, and more intense. This is a beauty contest, and the judges are three unwed young women who have been chosen by the elders by their beauty. Concealing their judging eyes with their left hand, they nit-pick the dancers, looking for the most beautiful man. In turn, the men use every facial expression and body movement they can to attract the judges favor. The young women are looking for precise characteristics in the men: tall, lithe limbs with graceful movements, long, straight hair perfectly braided in a beautiful style, and light, smooth skin. A slender nose, thin lips, sparkling white eyeballs and teeth, and an elongated face are desirable. A high forehead, long fingers, large eyes and a long neck are ideal.

Once the young women have made their choice, they slowly creep toward the dancers. The most beautiful men are chosen with a graceful swing of the arm. The winners receive an increased pride in themselves as well as the admiration of other men and women.



Location: Nothern Nigeria, South Western Niger
Language: Fulbe languages
Types of Art: Wodaabe weave and dye beautiful cloth that is considered extremely valuable throughout western Africa.
Economy: Wodaabe are mainly nomadic herders and traders. The routes they established in western Africa provided extensive links throughout the region that fostered economic and political ties between otherwise isolated ethnic groups. Dairy products produced from cattle were traded to sedentary farmers for agricultural products and luxury items. These items could then be traded to trans-Saharan traders such as the Tuareg for shipment north. Fine woven cloth produced by the Wodaabe was considered a luxury item that could be traded on the international market.
Political Systems: The two most significant factors in Fulani political systems are clientage and competition. In order to gain political office a Fulani man would have to compete among his fellows for the right to rule. He could show his political favor by demonstrating that he had a large following in the form of individuals and families. By agreeing to become the client of a powerful man or family, a subject would offer tribute in the form of gifts and political support in exchange for security. Wodaabe men often held considerable political power within their own nomadic communities, as well as within the communities in which they settled in northern Nigeria.
Religion: Wodaabe religion is largely Islamic. Although there are varying degrees of orthodoxy exhibited, most adhere to at least some of the basic requirements of the religion. It is usually the case that the wealthy and powerful are among the most religious, while those who have fewer resources are less likely to strictly observe their religion.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Swahili is the most extensively used Bantu languages spoken in many areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. Swahili is a language that developed and spread through the trading links that the coastal towns had with the interior of Africa and with the land around the Indian Ocean. The expansion of the trade routes between the island of Zanzibar, the coast and the interior gave an impetus to the use of Swahili as a means of communication between people at trading places who did not share the same ethnic languages. It is in Tanzania that the use of Swahili is widespread as most of the major trade routes went through Tanzania.


The best way to acquire good Swahili pronunciation is to imitate a native speaker.

Hakuna Matata- No Worries
Hujambo - how are you?
Sijambo - I am fine
Mchana- Day time
Chakula - Food
Twanga - Pound
Leo - Today
Jana - Yesterday
Njaa - Hunger
Maendeleo - Development/progress
Bibi - Lady
Choo - Toilet
Sipendi - I don't like
Mtalii - Tourist
Mzungu - White person
Marekani - USA
Ulaya - Europe
Pole -An expression of condolence
Tazama - Look
Kwanza - First of all

Moja 1 Sita 6
Mbili 2 Saba 7
Tatu 3 Nane 8
Nne 4 Tisa 9
Tano 5 Kumi 10


Angelique Kidjo is an African singer from Benin, a small country in West Africa. She moved to Paris due to political turmoil in Benin. While in Paris, she attended a jazz school. Here she met her future husband, Jean Hebrail, a musician too. They now live in New York and they have an 11 year old daughter, Naima. Angelique speaks and sings in several languages including Fon, Yoruba, Mina, French and English. She has been nominated four times for the Grammies awards and is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Kidjo will be performing live in New York, NY - Madison Square Garden Monday, March 12th

Featuring guest appearances by:

Alicia Keys;
Amadou and Mariam;
Carlos Santana;
Josh Groban;
Joss Stone;
Peter Gabriel;
Ziggy Marley;

Friday, February 16, 2007


Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qaddafi

Colonel Gadaffi is the leader of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Gadaffi has no official title, although he is effectively Head of State and has been since 1969.

Muammar Abu Meniar el-Gaddafi was born in the North African desert, south of Sirte, Libya in 1942. The son of a poor Bedouin nomad, Gaddafi lived in his family’s remote desert camp until he went away to school at age 9. One of his teachers once (as a child) publicly slapped Gaddafi. Many say that this is the source of his resentment for academics, apparent in many of his speeches and essays.

Gaddafi overthrew the monarchy of Libya in the so-called “Green Revolution” in 1969, establishing a socialist Arab state under his leadership.

Gaddafi has eight children, seven of them sons. Gaddafi’s reportedly adopted daughter, Hanna, was killed in the 1986 USAF bombing raid.

His “Green Book” was “an attempt to explain the dialectic which exists between Marxism and Capitalism,” and in it Gadaffi proposes his Third Universal Theory – claiming that there is a third way, beyond communism and capitalism, through which social harmony can be achieved.

His ideas are allegedly based around democracy, equality, and communion with nature. In addition to his Green Book, al-Gaddafi is the author of a 1996 collection of short stories, Escape to Hell.

Gadaffi is infamous for his support of terrorist organizations including the IRA in
Ireland, and the Spanish Basque separatist movement ETA. He has also shown support - both moral and financial - for Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, who has been exposed as a tyrant. For many years he harbored the two terrorists responsible for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland, and to this day refuses to accept responsibility or pay compensation.

Gaddafi’s personal Bodyguard, the Amazonian guard, is composed of 40 African women who are martial arts experts and highly-trained in the use of weapons. The Amazonian Guard sparked an international incident in 2006 when Gaddafi landed in Nigeria with over 200 heavily armed female guards for a summit. Nigerian security officials refused to allow the Libyans entry based on their armaments, and Gaddafi angrily resolved to set off on foot 40 km to Nigeria’s capital from the airport. The Nigerian President personally intervened, and a compromise was sought. However, the Libyans rejected mediation and threatened to fly home, whereupon the Nigerians revoked their compromise offers and announced that the Libyans could only bring in 8 pistols, which is the limit for international delegations. The Libyans finally backed down and complied with the Nigerians after several hours. In a prevoius assassination attempt on Gaddafi, one of the girls, Aisha, eventually gave her life as she shielded the leader.


Our children may learn about heroes of the past. Our task is to make ourselves architects of the future.

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta
1st President of Kenya


In August or early September each year The Umhlanga (or Reed Dance) takes place. It is announced during the end of the August, by the elders of the country, according to the position of the moon and the stars. With the start of the reed dance, soft rain begins to fall. It is a ceremony, which attracts young maidens from every corner of the Kingdom of Swaziland and parts of South Africa and provides the occasion for them to honor and pay homage to the Queen Mother (iNdlovukazi).

The Queen Mother of the Kingdom of Swaziland

The girls who must be virgins and older than 13 are flanked by male supervisors dressed in animal-skin loin cloths with traditional porcupine quills in their hair.

The girls wear short beaded skirts decorated with fringes and buttons; together with anklets, bracelets and necklaces, and colorful sashes. Each sash has appendages of different colored wool streamers; these denote whether or not the maiden is betrothed (promised to marry) and which regiment ( group) she belongs too. The red feathers in their hair recognize the Royal Family Princesses. They lead the maidens to perform for the King and Queen. Each group has its own particular dance steps and song which marks their respect for the Monarch and his mother. It is not uncommon for the King to choose another wife during this Ceremony.

Swazi wives

Princess Sikhanyiso Swazi’s outspoken 18-year-old princess, who is King Mswati’s oldest daughter and the child of his first wife views about polygamy got her into serious trouble in the Swazi kingdom. “Polygamy brings all advantages in a relationship to men, and this to me is unfair and evil,” Princess Sikhanyiso told a recent media conference.

Many of the girls carry torches and knives to indicate that they had cut the reeds at night.Although it is an ancient tradition that has similarities to other tribes of the African continent, modern maidens seem to enjoy the yearly camp. Homesteads along the reed-cutting route provide shelter and slaughter a beast(Cow) for the occcasion. The women are guarded on all sides by the women’s police force and members of the Umbutfo (the Kings traditional Men’s Regiment). The Ndzimba Mountains and the dramatic colors of the African skies as background, the beauties of the country join their singing voices in unison. It is a sight and experience so rare in this modern commercialized fanfare of international carnivals. It is not to be missed.

King Mswati III

King Mswati III and one of his 13 wives

Mswati has courted controversy for his lavish lifestyle while two thirds of his subjects live in abject poverty. Critics say he sets a bad example by encouraging polygamy and teenage sex in a country where 40 percent of adults live with HIV. But many Swazis say the young monarch has a right to do as he pleases, arguing ceremonies like the Reed Dance cement national identity.

So ladies if you are single and want to live a nice life as a Queen, have money, be rich, have a BMW and dont mind being a statistic to the Swazi King well then the reed dance festival is worth a try.


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela aka Madiba

Nelson Mandela is one of the great political leaders in Africa. An acclaimed international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country.

(more info to come)

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Who else to ask but HRH Makhosetwe (King of Nations) now King Mswati III. But since he is not able to grace us with his presence at this time we have to seek elsewhere for answers.

Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being in love which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin


A pair of human skeletons lie in an eternal embrace at an Neolithic archaeological dig site near Mantova, Italy, in this photo released February 6, 2007. Archaeologists in northern Italy believe the couple was buried 5,000-6,000 years ago, their arms still wrapped around each other in a hug that has lasted millennia. REUTERS