Saturday, December 18, 2010

Royal Museum for Central Africa

My friend Joshua Galjour recently visited the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. Here are some of his fascinating pictures and commentary.

"The Unavoidable Inter-Congolese Dialogue."

A view of commercial centre of Leopoldville in the 1950's. Startling image, compared to what this looks like today. Leopoldville, 1950's. In 1940, there were 40,000 inhabitants in Leo, in 1954, there were 300,000. Today, Kinshasa (aka Leopolodville) has a population of over 10 million and is the largest city in the Francophone world.

Stanleyville (modern day Kisangani) in the 1950's. The top is the neighborhood for Europeans and the bottom the neighborhood for natives.

An"Évolué"* family in Kinshasa, circa 1950's.

Évolué is a term similar to Assimulado in Portuguese. In the colonial era, Africans who adapted or "evolved" or "assimilated" to European culture were sometimes able to obtain higher social status, better education for their children and more opportunities. Usually it did not bring about true equality.

A satire of "TinTin au Congo."

Have you read King Leopold's Ghost? Adam Hotchkiss describes the life and times of E.D. Morel, a customs clerk who first discovered the atrocities in Leopold's Congo. Morel became an unrelenting crusader against the slave trade in the Congo Free State.

Pere Kabila, before his assassination.

Patrice Lumumba, one of the architects of modern Democratic Republic of Congo.

This painting depicts Congolese soldiers hauling away Patrice Lumumba to his execution, which took place in Lumbubashi 1961 with the complicity of Belgium and the U.S.

Art displayed in the exhibition "50 years of Congolese independence."

Related Post:

TinTin au Congo

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Queen Nzinga

In the sixteenth century, the Portugese position in the slave trade was threatened by England and France. As a result, the Portugese shifted their slave-trading activities to the Congo and South West Africa. Mistaking the title of the ruler (ngola) for the name of the country, the Portugese called the land of the Mbundu people Angola—the name by which it is still known today.

Here, the Portugese encountered the brilliant and courageous Queen Nzinga, who was determined never to accept the Portugese conquest of her country. An exceptional stateswoman and military strategist, she harassed the Portugese until her death, at age eighty.

Her meeting with the Portugese governor, recorded by a Dutch artist, is legendary in the history of Africa's confrontations with Europe: Representing her brother, the ngola, Nzinga arrived at Luanda in royal splendor. Upon entering the room, Nzinga observed that the only seat in the room belonged to the governor. She promptly summoned one of her women, who fell on her hands and knees and became Nzinga's "seat". Outwitted from the start, the governor never gained the advantage at the meeting, which resulted in a treaty on equal terms.

Converting to Christianity for reasons more political than religious (primarily to forge links with the governor) she adopted the name Dona Anna de Souza. However, the governor could not honor the treaty as Portugal's rapacious appetite for black slaves had to be satisfied. She appealed to her brother to repel the Portugese, but he proved to be a weakling and Nzinga decided to take matters into her own hands.

Subsequently, Nzinga formed an alliance with the Jaga. She fashioned an organized army out of disparate elements, strengthened the alliance by marrying the Jaga chief, and ultimately created a land for her people by conquering the kingdom of Matamba. The fragile alliance with the Jaga chief ended when he betrayed her and attacked Matamba. Fortunately, dissension among the Europeans—the Dutch were encroaching on Portugal's share of the slave trade—created an opportunity for Nzinga. She established a strategic alliance with the Dutch, pitting them against the Portugese. After the Portugese routed the Dutch, Nzinga retreated to the hills of Matamba, where she established a formidable resistance movement against the Portugese regime.

She became renowned for the guerilla tactics she employed for resisting the technologically superior Portugese army. She was a brilliant strategist and, although past sixty, led her warriors herself.

Never surrendering, she died on December 17, 1663.

Her death accelerated the Portugese occupation of the interior of South West Africa, fueled by the massive expansion of the Portugese slave trade.

The nineteenth century saw European powers carving up Africa, culminating in the infliction of a brutal colonial system on all of Africa.

Modern-day resistance to the colonial system in Angola, taking a page out of Nzinga's book, was in the form of a lengthy guerilla campaign which ultimately led to Angola's independence from Portugal on November 11, 1975.

Copy and Pasted from

Obstetrics in Mozambique: Making Choices, Finding Solutions

Here's a video about a trend in Mozambique towards training technicians to perform emergency obstetric care. There is a shortage of doctors in Mozambique, especially in the rural areas. Therefore, training non-physicians to perform cesareans and hysterectomies may be essential to improving maternal mortality rates.

Related Post:

Midwives in Mozambique

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Linguistc Map of Angola

Also see Linguistic Map of Mozambique.

Linguistic Map of Mozambique

Click image to enlarge.

Something most Americans miss about Africa is that within every country there is an official language and then there are many, many African languages. Most Africans speak more than one language. If they have been to school, they are likely to speak the official language in addition to their maternal language.

In most African countries, the official language is a European language - English, French or Portuguese, although some countries use an African language as an official language too - as Tanzania uses Swahili.

Mozambique uses Portuguese as it's official language. Portuguese is used in education and business. But almost every Mozambican also speaks their maternal language, the language they speak at home, with their families.

In this map you can see the great linguistic diversity of Mozambique.

See also Linguistic Map of Angola.

Monday, November 29, 2010

PBS and Ray Suarez in Mozambique

Ray Suarez just finished up a three-part story on development in Mozambique. Thanks to my friend Josh for bringing this to my attention! You can see all PBS reports on Mozambique here, or choose below which videos you would like to watch:

November 22, 2010
Mozambique's Growth Not Benefiting Its Poorest

November 22, 2010
In Mozambique, Signs of Growth Seen Amid Rampant Poverty

November 23, 2010
Preventing Mother to Child HIV Transmission in Mozambique

November 23, 2010
Preview: Sustaining Mozambique's HIV/AIDS Fight

November 24, 2010
Mozambique Looks to Battle Illnesses to Boost Kids' IQs, Economy

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Portugal Turns to Former Colony for Growth

LISBON — António Cunha Vaz, along with his mother and sister, was part of a mass exodus of Portuguese from Angola in 1975, when it gained independence before descending into a devastating civil war.

Underlining Angola’s growing importance, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, the Portuguese president, is expected to make his first trip to the capital of Angola on Sunday at the helm of a delegation of about 80 Portuguese executives.

But in 2008, Mr. Cunha Vaz opened an office of his Lisbon-based public relations consultancy in Luanda, the capital of Angola, and last year, the company derived 37 percent of its 22 million euros ($28 million) in revenue from Angola.

Portugal, one of Europe’s ailing economies, is increasingly placing its hopes of recovery on Angola, a former colony that has established itself as one of the strongest economies in sub-Saharan Africa — thanks largely to oil and diamonds. The shift comes as competition is getting stiffer in Brazil, another booming former colony, and as Portugal’s traditional European trading partners, led by Spain, struggle under a mountain of debt and soaring joblessness.

Angola has already become Portugal’s largest export market outside of Europe, accounting for 7 percent of Portuguese exports last year, compared with 1 percent in 2000, according to the Portuguese statistics institute and Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency. Machinery and industrial equipment lead the list, along with food, beverages and metals.

Perhaps even more spectacular than the trade flow has been the arrival of a new generation of Portuguese working in Angola, a trend that is expected to gather pace as more Portuguese companies shift operations there and Angola moves ahead with investment-friendly plans like the opening of a local stock exchange. Last year, 23,787 Portuguese moved to Angola, compared with only 156 in 2006, the Portuguese immigration observatory said.

Continue the story HERE at the New York Times.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Violence in Maputo: Mozambique Police Fire at Crowds Protesting Prices

More pictures found HERE.

MAPUTO, Mozambique (AP) -- Young men angry over the rising cost of food, fuel and water rampaged through Mozambique's capital Wednesday, throwing stones, looting shops and drawing police fire that killed at least seven people.

Rising prices around the world have raised concerns about a return to the political instability of 2008, when Haiti, Kenya and Somalia were among impoverished countries that saw rioting over the cost of living.

Egypt, where rioting also broke out in 2008, has in recent months seen protests over rising food prices. The U.N. said Wednesday that international food prices have risen to their highest in two years.

Mozambican police had declared Wednesday's marches illegal, saying no group sought permission for them. For days, word of the protests had been spread, in some cases by cell phone message, in this former Portuguese colony in southeast Africa.

Thousands of people, mostly young men, turned out.

''This strike is about the hike in prices. More than that, it's about injustice,'' said one protester, 34-year-old Albino Mkwate.

Continue the story HERE at the New York Times.

I Already Miss the World Cup

Riot police contain supporters of Mozambique's national soccer team after their their World Cup 2010 qualifying soccer match against Kenya in Maputo, Mozambique Setember 6. (REUTERS/Grant Lee Neuenburg) found HERE.

This picture must be a year old by now. I love the guy in the mask. I wish I had seen it earlier.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Global Wildlife Center: Zebras in Louisiana

In Folsom, Louisiana there is a free-range zoo full of gazelles, elands, reindeer and a few naughty zebras. I was intrigued with the beautiful patterns on their hides. Here is my other post on the Global Wildlife Center, that's not so zebra-centric.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Undoing Racism and Peace Corps

This is a hard post to write and I don't know how it will be received. I write it with a lot of love for Peace Corps, but also a lot of frustration.

About a month ago I attended an Undoing Racism training through a local organization in New Orleans. I was ready for it. I've been reading sociological blogs for a few years now, making up for lost time at UF when I didn't take a single sociology class even though I would have loved every moment if I had. So by now, with Tyree's help, I've caught up on all the race and gender theory I didn't study in undergrad.

So caught up that when I reflect on my Peace Corps training, and how it did not include the word privilege, not even once, I have to cringe. Training was the most stressful time of service, everyone said so. If you weren't struggling with the new language, the new family, the new life, you were struggling with all the other Americans who weren't acting their best, were suffering culture shock and acting out. And on top of all of that, we had to spend hours and hours training to be teachers when most of us had never taught a day in our lives.

Other volunteers came to our training to tell us how teaching in a Mozambican school was going to be. Cheating and how to combat it was a big topic. Mozambican teachers and their conduct was another thing we talked about too much. We were told of all the bad things Mozambican teachers do - beat students, sleep with students, fail to teach students. I remember a volunteer standing before our training cohort and saying something along the lines of "It doesn't matter what you do, you will still be a better teacher than the ones they have now." It hurts to remember that because I believed it. Because I let it influence the way I interacted with my Mozambican colleagues.

Certainly issues of beating, of sexual harassment, of failure to teach were real. But the idea that no matter what, we, without any teaching experience at all, without being from the same culture or speaking our students' first languages, the idea that we could possibly be better teachers than our Mozambican colleagues - it's absurd and it's racist. It hurts to think this idea was allowed to be planted in our heads.

During training we had Diversity Sessions. But all I remember was other people complaining about them. I remember listening to a conversation after a somewhat successful session on gender roles and having a revelation about Peace Corps recruitment. The conversation was between a male trainee and the female volunteer who had facilitated the session on gender. He was spouting something about how we couldn't be expected to improve gender relations in the country and how that wasn't what we were here for. It was a revelation to me because for the first time I realized that not everyone in Peace Corps was necessarily on board with feminism. As I recalled, no one ever asked me during the interview process if I really believed the sexes were equal. No one ever asked me if I was a racist bigot, or if I was ready to deal with my White Privilege while I worked in Africa. When I think about it now, I think these questions should be asked by Peace Corps, before you ever get nominated for a position.

Because if you don't believe that women are equal to men, or that, as an American, you have privilege that you need to keep in check while in Africa (and for your whole life), you are not going to be the volunteer the world needs. You are going to play right into the post-Colonial world where the North is still in control of the South and Africa will be eternally backward, suffering and in need of foreign help.

There were many times when I felt my culture was superior to Mozambican culture. From the design of the high school curriculum to the number of children a family produced. From the belief in witchcraft to the belief that women shouldn't drink coca-cola. It went completely unchecked during my entire service. Never once did I feel guilty for hitch-hiking, knowing full well that the only Mozambicans able to hitch-hike were nuns and my students WHEN THEY WERE WITH ME.

It hurts now. I wish that the volunteer who told us it didn't matter what we did because we would be better had been stopped. I wish someone in Peace Corps had said, You know what? That's smacking of some white privilege and we don't play that here. I wish that staging, instead of the bs two days it was had been an Undoing Racism training.

Because if you aren't ready to accept your privilege and check it at the airport, you aren't really ready to work in Africa.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ghana by Flashlight

I just found these photos at the New York Times. These nighttime portraits were taken by Peter DiCampo, an RPCV in Ghana. I think they are beautiful. They also make me very nostalgic. I remember using kerosene lamps at my home in Monapo. I felt conflicted about getting the house hooked up to electricity. I felt like not having electricity put me in solidarity with my community. My students studied by streetlamp while I graded their papers by lantern. But I cannot deny that electricity improved my life. Kerosene is bad for your lungs, and light is bad for your eyes. The small fridge open up more cooking possibilities. I stayed up later, reading more. I bought a radio that I didn't have to constantly feed batteries.

But some of my favorite memories are of walking through the bairro at night. Vendors lit up their stalls with small, golden flames. Because it was cooler, almost everyone was out, taking a walk, looking for friends to sit with. Take at look at the two links, there are more beautiful photos that capture what I'm talking about.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mississippi Masala

I just watched Mississippi Masala - a film I've been wanting to see for a long time, mostly because I really enjoy Denzel Washington. The story addresses several themes that interest me: racism, the South, the Indian Diaspora in Africa.

The story is about Mina, the daughter of an Indian family that fled Uganda after Idi Amin expelled the Asians in the the '70s. They end up in Mississippi running a liquor store and a working and living in a sketchy motel. While this seemed a little random to me, I read that director, Mira Nair, came up with the story after meeting Indian-Ugandan families running motels in Mississippi. I don't know if there is still such a community, but I can see why Nair found it an interesting topic.

The story confronts inter-racism among people of color. As Mina and Demitrius (Washington's character) develop a romance, she is at first accepted by his family. His brother states "You're like us, you're Indian, but you've never been to India, and we're African, but we've never been to Africa." She confounds them, that she could be both Indian and Ugandan. Her father holds on fervently to his Ugandan identity - despite having been expelled. His deepest wound is the memory of his Ugandan friend telling him that Uganda was now for Africans, Black Africans. He conveniently blocks the memory that his friend also saved him from imprisonment and helped his family leave Uganda safely.

The tension begins when the inter-racial (and inter-minority) relationship is discovered by the community. The black community criticizes Demitrius for trying to date a white girl (even though it is clear Mina is not white). Mina is sequestered by her family, her parents distraught that she would date (and have sex with) a black man. The Indian community's feelings about Black Americans changes when it involves Mina. They are fine do business and even sit and have tea with Demitrius, but not when it involves Mina. Even Mina's parent's liquor store, set squarely in a poor, black neighborhood, is symbolic. They are willing to sell alcohol to the community, but not to learn anything about the community itself.

In a conversation between Mina's father and Demitrius, the rift between Indians and Africans rears it's head. Part of the reason Indians were expelled from Uganda was a failure to assimilate into Ugandan society. Indians did not allow their daughters to marry Ugandan men. The Indian community was also financially successful, sparking some resentment which also lead to the expulsion.

Mina's father, who talked of Uganda in loving terms and dreamed of returning, had to admit to himself that even there, he would never have wanted Mina to marry a Black Ugandan. I'm not sure he ever really changes that sentiment. In his last scene, he won't even say goodbye to Mina on the phone as she tells him she is going to run away Demitrius - just as he never said goodbye to his Ugandan friend.

In the closing scenes, he returns to Uganda. He sees his old home in ruin, he sees his home city of Kampala in poverty. But he also sees Black Ugandans in the street and smiles. Maybe he finally accepted that his friend was right to say what he said?

The film is interesting because it frankly confronts the fact that what happened to Indians in Ugandan was sad, that it ruined lives. It could have been done in a better way. But that ultimately, it was true that the Indian community held racist beliefs about Black Ugandans and that things couldn't have gone on in the same way forever. As Mina's father wandered around his ruined home, I thought about the Portuguese who left Mozambique after independence. How they really felt Mozambican, had never been to Portugal before, how they lamented what they had to leave behind. But that it couldn't have gone on that way forever, with the Portuguese living in one world, and Black Mozambicans living in another.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mozambique Fashion Week 2009

Found on Ads of the World

Advertising Agency: DDB, Maputo, Mozambique
Creative Director: Lenilson Lima
Art Directors: Alexandre Pons, Lenilson Lima
Copywriters: Moisés de Oliveira, Sérgio Aires
Illustrators: Mang, Muzima, Hambro
Published: December 2009

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Puma in Africa

PUMA had the great fortune of celebrating 10 years in Africa the same year South Africa celebrates hosting it's first World Cup. They even made a website about it. Click HERE.