World’s First Hand-Woven Car Belongs to Nigeria

Art has no boundaries and does not belong to rich alone, a 40-year-old man from Ibadan, Nigeria named Ojo Adeniyi proved. Instead of making mats and baskets, Adeniyi made full car body using date leaves. The car is functional, aesthetically pleasing and very economical due to its great power to weight ratio.
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(Courtesy of : http://www.pickchur.com/2013/02/worlds-first-hand-woven-car-belongs-to-nigeria/)
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Beyoncé and the Tofo Tofo Boys

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As the saying goes: “It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.”  -The story of Tofo Tofo inspiring Beyoncé’s MV is a great example of the above saying.

Tofo Tofo is a dance group from Maputo, Mozambique that does Kwaito dance – its founding members have practiced dance from an early age, gaining popularity while dancing on the street, and eventually in weddings and other functions.

Beyoncé saw a video of them dancing a while ago, and she held on it, locked it away in her memory bank, waiting for the right moment to incorporate the dance in her next project. Time came a year later when she’s shooting for her new MV “Run the World (Girls)”.

The video seen by Beyoncé:

Beyoncé and her team tried to mimic and build on their ‘Kwaito’ style dance in the MV but was unsuccessful. Finally, Beyoncé decided to fly the Tofo Tofo boys over to the States and teach her and her dancers. There was a problem though – no one knows how to find them. Eventually, after several months of searching, with the embassy people involved, the group was found and flew to LA.

“At first we didn’t know we were going to be shooting a video. We were going there for a kind of a workshop, for dance. But when we arrived in LA, first, second, third day and then Beyoncé came and introduced herself,” group leader David said. Such rigid but fast paced dance moves are common in Mozambique, but the sequence in “Run The World” borrowed heavily from the South African panstula influence.

It took Tofo Tofo about 19 days to teach Beyonce’s dancers how to do the steps, working from 10am to 6pm every day, and it took three days to shoot the MV. The boys were happy to have shared their culture with the world through the video.

Tofo Tofo boys work widely among youth in various parts of Mozambique to be able to impart their skills and contribute to building the nation through that.

David said,

We are human, one day we can disappear. So it’s important for us to leave some positive message behind. Especially the children, we need to teach them something.

Beyoncé and the Tofo Tofo Boys video footage:

Lesson to be learnt: 

If you or you know someone with a talent but can’t seem to find prospects, keep working on your talent. Make a small video and upload it to social media. You will never know who comes across it and when the opportunity will visit you. If all fails, keep trying.

(Courtesy of HowAfrica: http://howafrica.com/beyonce-saw-a-youtube-video-of-this-african-group-and-flew-them-from-africa-to-work-with-her/;

Laura Walubengo: http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/lifestyle/2011/10/07/5173/)

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Namibian IT student Develops the Country’s Own Social Networking Service

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Namibian whizz-kid, Gerson Mangundu, currently studying information technology in Cuba, has developed Namibia’s first own social network service called Namhook.

“I thought having our own social network could be a great thing, to be able to connect Namibians all over the world. Namhook is not just a social network, it’s more of a business platform too. Namhook will help solve many problems like offering free advertisements, artists can sell their songs on the network to their fans rather than roaming around the streets to sell their CDs. We are also launching safe online shopping where shops in Namibia will be able to sell their products to the rest of the nation via Namhook hence helping them expand their business,” explained Mangundu.

Mangundu said the mission is to get all Namibians connected to enjoy the free services offered by the site. “It took me a year to finish the project with help from my professors and other developers. The main challenge was only time since I had to divide my time of developing the site with school,” explained Mangundu.

The IT student elaborated that he has invested countless hours in developing the website. “I had sleepless nights. I used to sleep less than four hours a day and the sleepless nights still continue since I have to market the website,” he said.

According to Mangundu, the site – which went live in January this year – currently has over two-thousand members. “Feedback from people has been great. I am not going to lie but I received 100 percent satisfactory feedback from people. It is really a great website with many useful features,” said Mangundu, adding that Namhook is “a network of networks” and has all the features found on giant networks and has its own unique features. “I am sure it’s the best social network. I would not have launched it if it was not the best,” said the confident Mangundu.

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(Courtesy of New Era: https://www.newera.com.na/2015/06/17/student-develops-namibias-social-network/)

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“Everybody Loves Africans” — Ghanaian YouTube Star Clifford Owusu

Clifford Owusu

Clifford Owusu is a Ghanaian comedian, entertainer, and YouTube sensation whose dancing, humor, and positivity have won over African and non-African viewers alike. A firm believer in the ability of dancing to bring people together, he infuses his videos with elements of his culture that include music, comedy, and an African dad impersonation that’s so accurate it feels familiar.

Below is an edited and condensed version of his interview with Hannah Giorgis for Okayafrica.

When did you first start making videos and what inspired you?

Around 2007. I had just graduated from college. My friends and I used to post videos on Facebook all the time, we used to do a lot of dancing to music. Then in 2007, my friend recorded me dancing to my ring tone and posted on Youtube, and it went off.

Honestly, I really do enjoy just making people happy—that’s really it, no other motive. That’s what inspires me. I like to see people smile. Do you know how powerful a person is that can people smile? They can get whatever they want. If my girlfriend has a guy friend who’s really funny, I would tell her she can’t be friends with him anymore because he could steal her heart at any moment.

You make a lot of videos about being an African in the US. Where on the continent is your family from? What do you think is unique about the experience of being African in America?

My family is from Ghana and I came to the US when I was 6. Back in junior high, being African was one of those things people I was growing up with weren’t proud of. People made a lot of jokes about us—everything you can think of. There was no honor, it wasn’t something to be happy about. A lot of people tried to adapt to the culture here, but I couldn’t because my parents were so African that there was nothing I could do to hide it.

Fast forward to now: now everybody loves Africans. At the age I’m at right now, for me there is no better feeling than being African. I love the culture. I feel very connected to it even though I’m not back home. My home right is still filled with my culture because my parents never took me out of it. It’s a blessing to be in touch with my culture.

What has the response to your videos been like outside your family, in your broader community?

When I first started this, everyone looked at me like I was stupid and what I was doing was foolish. One thing that I always tell young adults who are trying to do something outside of what “normal” people do is that when people tell you you’re too confident or too cocky, tell them “yes and thank you.” That’s because my confidence level is the reason why I kept doing what I was doing—because I kept believing in myself. I believed in myself so much so that when people told me I couldn’t do this, I just would say okay and keep going anyway.

Sometimes it feels like your friends and family are not going to support you until strangers do. Then everyone will. People in church used to tell me to stop all the time. Now everyone who used to tell me to stop is telling me keep doing it, you’re doing it well. When I was featured on Good Morning America, that’s when everyone was like “OMG.” now everyone is like “God will bless you.” There was nothing anyone could tell me that could stop me; this was a hobby I really loved. The same way someone else might go play basketball as a hobby–for me, making videos was my downtime. Now I’m in a good place. Everyone is supportive.

What should we expect from you in the future?

I can’t give away the big stuff but I will continue doing what I’m doing. It’s just going to be on a bigger stage. Every day it gets better and better, and the thing is…I know it’s destined to happen. All I need the most is for people to support me and keep me in their prayers and heart, and I promise I will never ever change when it comes to my culture, I will never have anything but the utmost respect for African culture—even on the moon my heart will still bleed red, green and black. That’s the African colors right?

(Courtesy of Hannah Giorgis: http://www.okayafrica.com/news/clifford-owusu-ghanaian-youtube-star/)

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Superheroes: Male, White, Straight and Privileged – But Not This One

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Milumbe Haimbe is a digital illustrator with a background in fine art and architecture. She explores genres such as comics, animation and graphic novels. Milumbe has exhibited her work in shows including the Biennale for Contemporary African Art in Dakar, 2014.

Superheroes have always had a special place in my heart.

I grew up in Zambia in the 1980s, an era that marked the beginning of the country’s worst economic crisis. My childhood memories are of a prolonged state of emergency that was characterized by acute food shortages and an economic decline where the basic needs of the average Zambian family were barely met.

My siblings and I — and our gang of friends from around the farmlands — spent countless hours sitting on a deserted piggery wall, perfecting our extra-terrestrial code language.

Our goal was to send an SOS out to the superheroes in the galaxies, and had our code language been refined enough to reach across the chasm of space, perhaps a spaceship would come down to Earth to save us from our dreary lives and carry us away into outer space.

Searching for Superheroes

Rewind to just a few years earlier — in the mid to late 1970s and before the economic decline — when superheroes like Superman, Spiderman, Batman and the Incredible Hulk were huge deals for anyone growing up.

In our childhood eyes, these were powerful, all-embodying beings, and their brands were merchandised on T-shirts, caps, lunchboxes, toys, and just about everything. They influenced many aspects of the childhood experience to such an extent that I spent a lot of my formative years aspiring to become a superhero when I grew up.

But then disillusionment set in. It dawned on me that I would never be a superhero seeing as most of them were male — and all of them white. The frantic search for an alternative and relatable superhero that followed only resulted in more disillusionment.

So many years later, in the year 2015, it is somewhat bewildering to experience today the same disillusionment when I see so little representation of cultural minorities in popular media.

This is a big deal to me.

I am of that school of thought that believes that radio, television, film and other media of popular culture provide the symbols, myths and resources through which we constitute a common culture.
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Meet Ananiya

The danger of excluding cultural minorities from popular media is that this limited view starts to paint a constrained picture of what a person should look like, how they should behave and live to the negation of alternative experiences of being human. These deliberations are the basis for my graphic novel, “The Revolutionist.”

A work in progress, “The Revolutionist” is set in the near future, on a satellite colony that is located a little off the orbit of mainland Earth, and administrated by a corporation.

Social conformity in the interest of the collective is subliminally reinforced through symbolism and iconology, while the economy is purely corporate-driven. Exploitation of human by human, and robot by human gives rise to the resistance.

Ananiya was only 13 years old when she joined the resistance. Now at 17, she has recently been appointed as an agent in the Covert Operations Division. In the ensuing standoff where the Corporation increasingly maintains control with an ironclad fist it is not long before the resistance galvanizes into a full-blown revolution.

As the masses are thrust into a state of emergency, Ananiya’s world is characterized by curfews, police raids, censorship and propaganda. Will the revolution overcome?
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With this literary and visual offering, I describe a world that is both like — and at the same time very much unlike — our own. As a young, black female, my protagonist, Ananiya, is the most unlikely hero for the revolution.

It would, indeed, be accurate to read her as the antithesis of the typical hero who more often than not is male, white, straight and privileged.

Hey, maybe someday the nine-year old version of me can grow up to become a superhero after all.

(Courtesy of Milumbe Haimbe: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/18/opinions/where-are-black-superheroes-milumbe-haimbe/index.html)

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If These Two Teenagers Ran The World, We’d All Jump For Joy

Memory from Malawi, left, and Achie from Ethiopia became best friends in a New York minute.
Memory from Malawi, left, and Achie from Ethiopia became best friends in a New York minute.

At first glance, it’s a typical scene: Two teenage girls lean their heads together engrossed in conversation as they munch on tuna salad on a bagel and fries.

But listen to Memory Banda, 18, from Malawi and 16-year old Achie (whose last name is not provided because of her age) from Ethiopia, and you’ll hear an earful about a lot of things you wouldn’t expect. They’re talking about how tough it is to be young and female in Africa. They’re discussing how child marriage and female genital mutilation are just two of the obstacles to girls getting an education. They’re commiserating about the challenge of getting health care and of finding jobs that will let them lead a better life.

But they’re not just griping. Memory and Achie each push for change in their communities.

The teens came to New York last week to speak on some panels at the United Nations 59th Commission on the Status of Women. They were brought to the conference by Let Girls Lead, a nonprofit group based at the Public Health Institute.

Here is an edited and condensed version of their interview with NPR.

The two of you are so comfortable with each other, it’s as if you have known each other forever. But you just met last week?

Achie: Yes, we just met last week, and we’re best friends on Facebook now! We are about the same age, we’re both petite and we share the same goals to help women.

Memory: Also, both of us also like to write in our spare time — she writes essays; I write poetry. I write in both English and in Chichewa, which is my native language at home [which is Chiradzulu in the Southern Region of Malawi]. She won a prize for one of her essays!

What was the prize-winning essay about?

Achie: The topic was what would you see if you envisioned yourself as a satellite, what you saw and what you would like to change in the world. I wrote about how Africans need to stand up together and voice a desire for change and a vision for the future. I write mostly in English. Amharic is the language we speak at home.

What made you want to work for women’s rights?

Memory: In my community in southern part of Malawi the tradition is that once a girl reaches puberty, you go to an initiation camp where we are taught how to be a woman — how to satisfy a man. As part of that you go through a sexual initiation with a man.

And did you?

Memory: I did not. This was a hard decision. My family and friends were calling me a stubborn little girl because it felt to them like I was embarrassing the family. But for me it was a life decision. I knew that some girls come back pregnant, they get married, they cannot go to school, and if the men run away from their responsibility the girls are left on their own with the children. That was not for me.

But when my younger sister reached puberty, she went to the camp. She ended up getting pregnant and had to marry to the person who impregnated her. She was 11. This is what I saw and what I wanted to change.

What are you doing to help make change happen?

Memory: I had the idea to put up posters in my neighborhood offering free lessons to the adolescent mothers. And 20 girls joined the class. That led to my working with Let Girls Lead to help create networks for girls and advocating to help stop child marriage. … So if you ask me what is it like to be a teenager here, it was a struggle. You get anxious as adolescence approaches because you know what you’re going to go through.

Achie, tell us about your life in Addis Ababa.

Achie: I live in a nice neighborhood, and go to a good school, but this is not the life that many young girls in Ethiopia have.

Early marriage is also a problem in my country. There are traditional views about women, and they are not expected to go to school. There is also female genital mutilation. In my family there is nothing like that, but I would volunteer in organizations [to tutor] and I would talk to girls and hear their stories. Listening, you just have a feeling of how heavy a burden they are carrying and you cannot be quiet about it. When they share with you what they have experienced, you feel part of it and you want to act on it.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Memory: I have the dream of becoming a lawyer, and also a journalist.

Achie: I plan on being an engineer, though haven’t decided yet what type. And if I/when I get the opportunity to study in the U.S., I would love it. And I’m also planning on doing more work for empowering girls.

(Courtesy of Diane Cole: http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2015/03/17/393344560/if-these-two-teenagers-ran-the-world-wed-all-jump-for-joy)

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New Initiative Aims to Boost Africa’s Crop Yields with New Seeds

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In Africa, seed production has long been dominated by big government monopolies, leaving few options for small-scale farmers and putting more obstacles in the way of food production. But a new initiative hopes to change all that by enhancing African farmers’ access to improved seeds.

Edward Mabaya grew up in Zimbabwe, one of 10 children in the family. His father was a construction worker and his mother farmed their land. But Mabaya’s story is not the one of typical rural poverty many people think of, and he says his family owes their success to seeds.

“This was at a time when new varieties were just coming into Zimbabwe, and you saw this huge uptake of adoption by smallholder farmers that resulted in very high yields. And with that money my parents were able to send us to school,” he says. In fact, all 10 children made it as far as university. Now Mabaya is a researcher at Cornell University in New York, working on a project he hopes will give other small farmers the same chance his parents had.
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He heads The African Seed Access Index (TASAI), launched this week, which monitors the continent’s commercial seed sector to try to get more improved seeds into the hands of small-scale farmers. Africa’s seed value chain is complex, says Mabaya, and TASAI tries to identify its weak points to pinpoint why access is a problem.

Improved seeds, which have been systematically bred for certain characteristics, are widely used in the West. But until the 1980s and ‘90s Africa’s seed sector was run by government monopolies, and since then private seed breeders have been slow to take off.

This means that most farmers still use the same seeds they have been saving for generations, and there are not enough improved seeds in Africa to supply the millions of farmers who need them. However, improved seeds can make a world of difference for a small farmer in terms of productivity. This can be enough to help lift subsistence farmers out of poverty, explains Mabaya.

Modern varieties of food crops, such as maize, can help improve productivity.
Modern varieties of food crops, such as maize, can help improve productivity.

Not only that, he adds, but new factors like climate change mean that some older seed varieties are not performing as well as they used to. “Farmers are facing challenges that they did not have to deal with only 10 years ago. So some of the varieties that farmers were growing are not doing well anymore. There are also new diseases that have come into the market, and you need new varieties that can resist some of these diseases,” explains Mabaya.

Smaller packets of seeds can make things more affordable for farmers with less big plots of land.
Smaller packets of seeds can make things more affordable for farmers with less big plots of land.

Africa’s seed industry still has a long way to go, he adds. But with access to the same agricultural technology the rest of the world is using, Mabaya says there is no reason why the continent should not be able to feed itself.

(Courtesy of Hilary Heuler: http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/?post_type=post&p=47635)

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