Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Official Theme song of the World Cup: This Time for Africa

I adore Shakira. I know she's extremely smart, speaks many languages. I love her music and dancing. But the official theme song of the World Cup - it's just all wrong.

It's a cover of a song from a group called Zangaléwa, from Cameroon. I understand that all Africans must be very excited that the World Cup is being held on the continent for the very first time. But I imagine South Africans are especially proud. So, why not choose an artist from South Africa? Or any artist from Africa? If not an African artist, why not write a song that at least gives a nod to the host country?

I'm not sure if the original song has any special meaning to South Africans. It may. But, being from an entirely separate country, I doubt it stirs up any national pride.

In Shakira's version, you can hear her sing "zamina mina zangalewa waka waka." These words are Fang, a Cameroonian language. South Africa has 11 official languages. Couldn't she have used any of them other than English? Not even a "Sawabona"?

I feel like by picking just any song that sounded African, without respect for the country and language, the idea that Africa is a country, not a continent with 54 unique countries, is cemented further into popular thought.

I understand Shakira is an international star, who transcends continents. So choosing her as the artist isn't so strange an idea. It's just that Africa, South Africa especially, has so much musical talent, why not choose someone from the continent for this momentous occasion? Like Mafikizulu or Malaika?

Already there is a version in Spanish. She'd better make a French and Portuguese version too. Really Shakira, I expected more from you.

* I stand corrected on least one issue. Apparently, this is a collaboration between Shakira and a South African group called Freshly Ground.

The original Zangaléwa, with the original lyrics in Fang (with English translation):

Zamina mina hé hé (come come)
Waka waka éé é (Do it, do it)
Zamina mina zaaangaléwa (come come, who dispatched you?)
Ana wam a a (it/he is mine, yes)

yango é é (wait)
yango éé é (wait)
Zamina mina zaaangaléwa (come come, who dispatched you?)
Ana wam a a (it/he is mine, yes)

I took this translation from Museke, from a post where at least one African expresses his satisfaction with the song. Maybe I'm the one who is all wrong, any thoughts?

Sunday, April 25, 2010


StatAttak is a line of shirts with grim African health statistics printed in stylized font on heather gray cotton. As usual with the design posts on this blog, I feel confused. Part of me feels the shirts are kind of cool. I feel like I should own the Mozambique one, because I love Mozambique. But honestly, the country's low life expectancy stats aren't the first thing I feel compelled to tell people about when I talk about my experience there. There is a lot more to modern Mozambique than poverty. I would rather have a shirt that says "The Animals are Back! -Visit Gorongosa National Park" or "They're Building Latrines on Ilha!"

The shirts, when you think about it, are pretty depressing and play into the gloomy vision so many people have of Africa. I think they are meant to be conversation starters - but they also run the risk of being too cool. They are, after all, printed on American Apparel shirts (a company that is already problematic in my opinion.) I'm afraid there is the potential for these shirts to fall into the "ironic tee" category, like when pot heads wear D.A.R.E shirts.

Is it good to talk about public health issues in Africa? Yes. Is a t-shirt the best way to get the dialogue going? Well, it's one way. But should malnutrition statistics ever be a fashion statement? That thought makes me want to throw up.

Here is the history of the shirts:

"We were perusing NationMaster, checking out statistics on various nations, something we do quite often here at the Stolen Headquarters, when we came across "Life Expectancy at Birth." Andorra was the highest with 83.51 years, and all the way at the bottom was Mozambique with 31.1 years. This shocked and horrified us, especially since the average age of our small company is just under 28 years old. We spent the next couple of weeks telling this horrible statistic to everyone we met. Everyone we told was as shocked and appalled as we were. We quickly realized that telling people individually was gonna take too long, so we came up with the idea of StatAttak - a t-shirt line based on statistics that people should be aware of. This way people would become walking billboards for these stats, and they would help spread the word. The hope is that once you see these numbers, you can't help but want to change them."

Which is kind of cool. And 20% of the sales, including the sales for the other country designs, go to support an orphanage in Mozambique. That the designers take such an interest in Mozambique because of the LE stat is strange, but, that's the way it happened. I'd like to hear from other what they think about these shirt designs. Are they offensive? Would you buy one? Would you wear one?

Creative Roots

Epa! I just found a treasure chest of posting material for this blog at Creative Roots. The premise of this site is to form a database of imagery, art and design for every country of the world. From the Mozambique page I found great material for my next post. The list of countries is impressive. A lot of the images are from advertising, and would be great prompts for dialogue on Sociological Images.

To give you a taste, here's what I found on the Angola page:

A re-working of Angola's flag by an artist named Jano.