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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Africa, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 172
1. African encounters in Roman Britain

Hadrian’s Wall has been in the news again recently for all the wrong reasons. Occasional wits have pondered on its significance in the Scottish Referendum, neglecting the fact that it has never marked the Anglo-Scottish border, and was certainly not constructed to keep the Scots out. Others have mistakenly insinuated that it is closed for business, following the widely reported demise of the Hadrian’s Wall Trust. And then of course there is the Game of Thrones angle, best-selling writer George R R Martin has spoken of the Wall as an inspiration for the great wall of ice that features in his books.

Media coverage of both Hadrian’s Wall Trust’s demise and Game of Thrones’ rise has sometimes played upon and propagated the notion that the Hadrian’s Wall was manned by shivering Italian legionaries guarding the fringes civilisation – irrespective of the fact that the empire actually trusted the security of the frontier to its non-citizen soldiers, the auxilia rather than to its legionaries. The tendency to overemphasise the Italian aspect reflects confusion about what the Roman Empire and its British frontier was about. But Martin, who made no claims to be speaking as a historian when he spoke of how he took the idea of legionaries from Italy, North Africa, and Greece guarding the Wall as a source of inspiration, did at least get one thing right about the Romano-British frontier.

There were indeed Africans on the Wall during the Roman period. In fact, at times there were probably more North Africans than Italians and Greeks. While all these groups were outnumbered by north-west Europeans, who tend to get discussed more often, the North African community was substantial, and its stories warrant telling.

Birdoswald Roman Fort, Hadrians Wall (8751341028)
Hadrian’s Wall, by Carole Raddato. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps the most remarkable tale to survive is an episode in the Historia Augusta (Life of Severus 22) concerning the inspection of the Wall by the emperor Septimius Severus. The emperor, who was himself born in Libya, was confronted by a black soldier, part of the Wall garrison and a noted practical joker. According to the account the notoriously superstitious emperor saw in the soldier’s black skin and his brandishing of a wreath of Cyprus branches, an omen of death. And his mood was not further improved when the soldier shouted the macabre double entendre iam deus esto victor (now victor/conqueror, become a god). For of course properly speaking a Roman emperor should first die before being divinized. The late Nigerian classicist, Lloyd Thompson, made a powerful point about this intriguing passage in his seminal work Romans and Blacks, ‘the whole anecdote attributes to this man a disposition to make fun of the superstitious beliefs about black strangers’. In fact we might go further, and note just how much cultural knowledge and confidence this frontier soldier needed to play the joke – he needed to be aware of Roman funerary practices, superstitions, and the indeed the practice of emperor worship itself.

Why is this illuminating episode not better known? Perhaps it is because there is something deeply uncomfortable about what could be termed Britain’s first ‘racist joke’, or perhaps the problem lies with the source itself, the notoriously unreliable Historia Augusta. And yet as a properly forensic reading of this part of the text by Professor Tony Birley has shown, the detail included around the encounter is utterly credible, and we can identify places alluded to in it at the western end of the Wall. So it is quite reasonable to believe that this encounter took place.

Not only this, but according to the restoration of the text preferred by Birley and myself, there is a reference to a third African in this passage. The restoration post Maurum apud vallum missum in Britannia indicates that this episode took place after Severus has granted discharge to a soldier of the Mauri (the term from which ‘Moors’ derives). And has Birley has noted, we know that there was a unit of Moors stationed at Burgh-by-Sands on the Solway at this time.

Birdoswald eastern wall
Hadrian’s Wall, by Midnightblueowl. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Sadly, Burgh is one of the least explored forts on Hadrian’s Wall, but some sense of what may one day await an extensive campaign of excavation there comes from Transylvania in Romania, where investigations at the home of another Moorish regiment of the Roman army have revealed a temple dedicated to the gods of their homelands. Perhaps too, evidence of different North African legacies would emerge. The late Vivian Swann, a leading expert in the pottery of the Wall has presented an attractive case that the appearance of new forms of ceramics indicates the introduction of North African cuisine in northern Britain in the second and third centuries AD.

What is clear is that the Mauri of Burgh-by-Sands were not the only North Africans on the Wall. We have an African legionary’s tombstone from Birdoswald, and from the East Coast the glorious funerary stela set up to commemorate Victor, a freedman (former slave) by his former master, a trooper in a Spanish cavalry regiment. Victor’s monument now stands on display in Arbeia Museum at South Shields next to the fine, and rather better known, memorial to the Catuvellunian Regina, freedwoman and wife of Barates from Palmyra in Syria. Together these individuals, and the many other ethnic groups commemorated on the Wall, remind us of just how cosmopolitan the people of Roman frontier society were, and of how a society that stretched from the Solway and the Tyne to the Euphrates was held together.

The post African encounters in Roman Britain appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. What constitutes a “real” refugee?

Refugee identity is often shrouded in suspicion, speculation and rumour. Of course everyone wants to protect “real” refugees, but it often seems – upon reading the papers – that the real challenge is to find them among the interlopers: the “bogus asylum seekers”, the “queue jumpers”, the “illegals”.

Yet these distinctions and definitions shatter the moment we subject them to critical scrutiny. In Syria, no one would deny a terrible refugee crisis is unfolding. Western journalists report from camps in Jordan and Turkey documenting human misery and occasionally commenting on political manoeuvring, but never doubting the refugees’ veracity.

But once these same Syrians leave the overcrowded camps to cross the Mediterranean, a spell transforms these objects of pity into objects of fear. They are no longer “refugees”, but “illegal migrants” and “terrorists”. However data on migrants rescued in the Mediterranean show that up to 80% of those intercepted by the Italian Navy are in fact deserving of asylum, not detention.

Other myths perpetuate suspicion and xenophobia. Every year in the UK, refugee charity and advocacy groups spend precious resources trying to counter tabloid images of a Britain “swamped” by itinerant swan-eaters and Islamic extremists. The truth – that Britain is home to just 1% of refugees while 86% are hosted in developing countries, including some of the poorest on earth, and that one-third of refugees in the UK hold University degrees – is simply less convenient for politicians pushing an anti-migration agenda.

We are increasingly skilled in crafting complacent fictions intended not so much to demonise refugees as exculpate our own consciences. In Australia, for instance, ever-more restrictive asylum policies – which have seen all those arriving by boat transferred off-shore and, even when granted refugee status, refused the right to settle in Australia – have been presented by supporters as merely intended to prevent the nefarious practice of “queue-jumping”. In this universe, the border patrols become the guardians ensuring “fair” asylum hearings, while asylum-seekers are condemned for cheating the system.

That the system itself now contravenes international law is forgotten. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan asylum-seeking mothers recently placed on suicide watch – threatening to kill themselves in the hope that their orphaned, Australian-born children might then be saved from detention – are judged guilty of “moral blackmail”.

Opening ceremony of new PNC headquarters in Goma (7134901933).jpg
Population fleeing their villages due to fighting between FARDC and rebels groups, Sake North Kivu the 30th of April 2012. © MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti (from Opening ceremony of new PNC headquarters in Goma). Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Such stories foster complacency by encouraging an extraordinary degree of confidence in our ability to sort the deserving from the undeserving. The public remain convinced that “real” refugees wait in camps far beyond Europe’s borders, and that they do not take their fate into their own hands but wait to be rescued. But this “truth” too is hypocritical. It conveniently obscures the fact that the West will not resettle one-tenth of the refugees who have been identified by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees as in need of resettlement.

In fact, only one refugee in a hundred will ever be resettled from a camp to a third country in the West. In January 2014 the UK Government announced it would offer 500 additional refugee resettlement places for the “most vulnerable” refugees as a humanitarian gesture: but it’s better understood as political rationing.

Research shows us that undue self-congratulation when it comes to “helping” refugees is no new habit. Politicians are fond of remarking that Britain has a “long and proud” tradition of welcoming refugees, and NGOs and charities reiterate the same claim in the hope of grounding asylum in British cultural values.

But while the Huguenots found sanctuary in the seventeenth century, and Russia’s dissidents sought exile in the nineteenth, closer examination exposes the extent to which asylees’ ‘warm welcome’ has long rested upon the convictions of the few prepared to defy the popular prejudices of the many.

Poor migrants fleeing oppression have always been more feared than applauded in the UK. In 1905, the British Brothers’ League agitated for legislation to restrict (primarily Jewish) immigration from Eastern Europe because of populist fears that Britain was becoming ‘the dumping ground for the scum of Europe’. Similarly, the bravery of individual campaigners who fought to secure German Jews’ visas in the 1930s must be measured against the groundswell of public anti-semitism that resisted mass refugee admissions.

Opening ceremony of new PNC headquarters in Goma (6988913212).jpg
Population fleeing their villages due to fighting between FARDC and rebels groups, Sake North Kivu the 30th of April 2012. © MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti (from Opening ceremony of new PNC headquarters in Goma). Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

British MPs in 1938 were insistent that ‘it is impossible for us to absorb any large number of refugees here’, and as late as August 1938 the Daily Mail warned against large number of German Jews ‘flooding’ the country. In the US, polls showed that 94% of Americans disapproved of Kristallnacht, 77% thought immigration quotas should not be raised to allow additional Jewish migration from Germany.

All this suggests that Western commitment after 1951 to uphold a new Refugee Convention should not be read as a marker of some innate Western generosity of spirit. Even in 1947, Britain was forcibly returning Soviet POWs to Stalin’s Russia. Many committed suicide en route rather than face the Gulags or execution. When in 1972, Idi Amin expelled Ugandan’s Asians – many of whom were British citizens – the UK government tried desperately to persuade other Commonwealth countries to admit the refugees, before begrudgingly agreeing to act as a refuge of “last resort”. If forty years on the 40,000 Ugandan Asians who settled in the UK are often pointed to as a model refugee success story, this is not because but in spite of the welcome they received.

Many refugee advocates and NGOs are nevertheless wary of picking apart the public belief that a “generous welcome” exists for “real” refugees. The public, after all, are much more likely to be flattered than chastised into donating much needed funds to care for those left destitute – sometime by the deliberate workings of the asylum system itself. But it is important to recognise the more complex and less complacent truths that researchers’ work reveals.

For if we scratch the surface of our asylum policies beneath a shiny humanitarian veneer lies the most cynical kind of politics. Myth making sustains false dichotomies between deserving “refugees” there and undeserving “illegal migrants” here – and conveniently lets us forget that both are fleeing the same wars in the same leaking boats.

The post What constitutes a “real” refugee? appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. New Program In Senegal Trains Aspiring African Animators

The BBC published a video report on a new animation initiative in Africa that aims to nurture new talent from around the continent.

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4. Learning About Africa: Coping with Ebola in Kenema

JP-WORKERS-2-articleLarge

 

While Ebola seems to be off the  New York Times front page, the articles are still there.  “If They Survive in the Ebola Ward, They Work On” features some heroic people in and around Kenema, an area I knew when I lived in Sierra Leone. (For a different sort of context, this is center Mende country where the Amistad captives of Africa is My Home were from.)


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5. Marcus Garvey: What Does it Mean to be a Man?

marcus garvey

Today marks the 127thbirthday of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the first National Hero of Jamaica, and one of my spiritual ancestors.

Marcus Garvey through his life and work helped me to understand a question that has haunted me and many other Africans at home and abroad: What does it mean to be a man?

After travelling through the Americas and into the center of colonial power in the West Indies, Garvey realized that Africans at home and abroad in order to survive the brutalities of slavery had been reduced to a childish state in which they had relinquished personal and collective power. Cowed into submission, Africans at home and abroad lived in fear of outside forces over which they had no control, and even after gaining “freedom,” their existence was based on the level of servility to their former masters.

As Garvey saw it, Africans at home and abroad could either live in a reactionary state in which they only responded to crises (and once the crisis was over resume a passive, dormant existence) or take control of their lives by assuming personal and collective responsibility.

“A race without authority and power, is a race without respect,” said Garvey, and to remedy the situation, he created the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Men and nations assume responsibility for their lives. Personal and collective responsibility guided Garvey’s philosophy of manhood and nationhood, which were organized around these principles:

Redemption of Africans at home and abroad
Education
Self-Respect

Purpose
Economics

Community
Tradition

Garvey set a challenge before Africans at home and abroad when he wrote in the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey: "The greatest weapon used against the Negro is disorganization.”

In the midst of Ferguson and other daily insults to Africans at home and abroad, either we can continue living in a childish, reactionary state where we do not assume responsibility for our lives or we can organize and plan accordingly.

The choice, as it was then and now, is ours.


***

The Coalition for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey is petitioning President Barack Obama to exonerate Marcus Garvey:

https://www.causes.com/campaigns/71936-urge-president-obama-to-exonerate-marcus-garvey

Thank you for your support.

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6. Learning About Africa: The Realness of Ebola in Sierra Leone

This blog is a platform I normally reserve for the important issue of fashion in Sierra Leone, but this week, I’m struggling to find a fashion angle. Unless you’ve been living on mars, you will know that West Africa is suffering the worst ever outbreak of the world’s most deadly disease – Ebola. I traveled to Kenema district last week for an assignment to write about the outbreak. I live in Freetown and before leaving, the epidemic hadn’t really kicked off here. ‘EBOLA!’ (said with a loud voice and chuckle) was something that was happening in villages, places that didn’t affect the urban folk of Sierra Leone’s capital. I knew Kenema was a district suffering huge case numbers, but nothing prepared me for what I saw and heard in one of Sierra Leone’s most brutally affected areas.

From Human Tales of Ebola.

And here is a  New York Times video from one of the villages most affected.


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7. Learning About Africa: Ebola

Yet again Africa is in the news as the other, as a place of horror and misery.  So just a few reminders:

Ebola is not throughout Africa. You don’t need to worry when coming into contact with someone from the continent or someone who has been there recently. Africa is a big continent and Ebola is not everywhere.  In fact…

Ebola is currently in three West African countries:  Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. But…

Ebola is not an air-borne illness. You will not contract it by being in the same plane or auditorium or building as someone who has it or has come from one of the countries where it is prevalent. In fact…

you would need to be directly exposed to fluids from someone with the illness to be exposed. And that means that it is in the affected areas, in direct contact with those who have the illness, that you would be most at risk.  And that is just not true for those of us living in the United States. So stop worrying about getting it here. Instead worry…

that those in the affected areas do not have the basic health care we in the United States take for granted. And so while there is indeed not a cure for Ebola,…

with the sort of hospital care we in the US take for granted, treating the disease in early states, many who are dying would be saved.  But…

in the affected areas that sort of care is rare.

To learn more please read:

Stop Worrying About Ebola (And Start Worrying About What it Means)

As WHO Warns Ebola Death Toll is Underestimated, How Should Global Community Handle Dire Crisis?

 


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8. Brilliant Libraries create Brilliant Opportunities: Book Aid’s Open Doors Campaign

This really speaks to my heart.

Open Doors is Book Aid International‘s new appeal to create library environments for children in which reading for pleasure and learning can flourish.

Soroti Library's Children's Corner, Uganda, 2013. Photo: bookaid.org

Soroti Library’s Children’s Corner, Uganda, 2013. Photo: bookaid.org

Between now and 2018 they are planning to create create a total of 60 child-friendly spaces – Children’s Corners – in libraries in Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Cameroon, Zambia and Zimbabwe, in conjunction with local partners. They will train librarians to work effectively with children, supply new books from the UK and provide each library with a grant for refurbishments and the local purchase of books.

Children's Digital learning pilot project  in Kenya. Photo: bookaid.org

Children’s Digital learning pilot project in Kenya. Photo: bookaid.org

Why am I telling you this?

Open Doors will revolutionise access to books for thousands of children in sub-Saharan Africa, where many children live below the poverty line and literacy levels are among the lowest in the world.

With few books in their schools and no books at home, children struggle to read and to learn. For most children, a local library – where one exists – is the only place where they can read the books they need to prepare them for adulthood. However, few libraries have suitable spaces for children and most librarians are not trained to work with children.

It happens that I was born in Zambia and had my first books read to me there.

Me in Zambia

Me in Zambia

We didn’t have access to many books, but my favourite was Tiger Flower by Robert Vavra, illustrated Fleur Cowles which my Mum found in a bookshop in Ndola.

tigerflower450

My first introduction to the power and beauty of books, and the way they open doors into worlds of opportunities happened in Zambia, one of the countries where Book Aid works. So this campaign not only appeals on a professional level, it matters to me personally.

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Please consider making a donation to the Open Doors Campaign – you can do so via this link: http://www.bookaid.org/get-involved/opendoors/
*
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If you’re reading this as a publisher or book distributor please do take a look at this information sheet about how you can get involved. Each library is looking for new stock and you could be the one to make a huge difference. The number of books being sought really isn’t enormous.

Each of the 60 participating libraries will receive 2,500 children’s books. This will be broadly made up as follows:

  • 80 board books
  • 80 big books
  • 350 picture books – to age 6
  • 500 fiction titles (including graded readers), ages 6-12
  • 350 fiction titles ages 12+
  • 400 non-fiction titles for ages 6-12
  • 400 non-fiction titles for ages 12+
  • 40 reference books
  • 300 primary-level educational non-fiction (eg geography, history, science)
  • If you, as a publisher, do decide to get involved, let me know and I’ll be so delighted to tell the world what fab folk you are!

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    9. Why measurement matters

    By Morten Jerven


    In most studies of economic growth the downloaded data from international databases is treated as primary evidence, although in fact it is not. The data available from the international series has been obtained from governments and statistical bureaus, and has then been modified to fit the purpose of the data retailer and its customers. These alterations create some problems, and the conclusions of any study that compares economic performance across several countries depend on which source of growth evidence is used.

    The international databases provide no proper sources for their data and no data that would enable analysts to understand why the different sources disagree about growth. See, for example, the disagreement in economic growth series reported by the national statistical office, from Penn World Tables, The World Bank, and the Maddison dataset for Tanzania, 1961-2001.

    The average annual disagreement between 1961 and 2001 is 6%. It is not evenly distributed; there is serious dissonance regarding growth in Tanzania in the 1980s and 1990s, and how the effects of economic crisis and structural adjustment affected theeconomy depends on which source you consult.

    The problem is that growth evidence in the databases covers years for which no official data was available and the series are compiled from national data that use different base years. The only way to deal satisfactorily with inconsistencies in the data and the effects of revisions is to consult the primary source. The official national accounts are the primary sources.

    Tanzanian_farmers

    The advantage of using the national accounts as published by the statistical offices is that they come with guidelines and commentaries. When the underlying methods or basic data used to assemble the accounts are changed, these changes are reported. The downside of the national accounts evidence is that the data is not readily downloadable. The publications may have to be manually collected, and then the process of data entry and interpretation follows. When such studies of growth are done carefully, it offers reconsiderations of what used to be accepted wisdom of economic growth narratives.

    I propose a reconsideration of economic growth in Africa in three respects. First, that the focus has been on average economic growth and that there has been no failure of economic growth. In particular the gains made in the 1960s and 1970s have been neglected.

    Secondly, for many countries the decline in economic growth in the 1980s was overstated, as was the improvement in economic growth in the 1990s. The coverage of economic activities in GDP measures is incomplete. In the 1980s many economic activities were increasingly missed in the official records thus the decline in the 1980s was overestimated (resulting from declining coverage) and the increase in the 1990s was overestimated (resulting from increasing coverage).

    The third important reconsideration is that there is no clear association between economic growth and orthodox economic policies. This is counter to the mainstream interpretation, and suggests that the importance of sound economic policies has been overstated, and that the importance of the external economic conditions have been understated in the prevailing explanation of African economic performance.

    We know less than we would like to think about growth and development in Africa based on the official numbers, and the problem starts with the basic input: information. The fact of the matter is that the great majority of economic transactions whether in the rural agricultural sector and in the medium and small scale urban businesses goes by unrecorded.

    This is just not a matter of technical accuracy; the arbitrariness of the quantification process produces observations with very large errors and levels of uncertainty. This ‘numbers game’ has taken on a dangerously misleading air of accuracy, and international development actors use the resulting figures to make critical decisions that allocate scarce resources. Governments are not able to make informed decisions because existing data is too weak or the data they need does not exist; scholars are making judgments based on erroneous statistics.

    Since the 1990s, in the study of economics, the distance between the observed and the observer is increasing. When international datasets on macroeconomic variables became available, such as the Penn World Tables, and the workhorse of study of economic growth became the cross-country growth regressions the trend turned away from carefully considered country case studies and then rather towards large country studies interested in average effects.

    However, the danger of such studies is that it does not ask the right kind of questions of the evidence. As an economic historian, I approach the GDP evidence with the normal questions in source criticism: How good is this observation? Who made this observation? And under what circumstance was this observation made?

    Morten Jerven is an economic historian and holds a PhD from the London School of Economics. Since 2009, he has been Assistant Professor at the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University. He is author of Economic Growth and Measurement Reconsidered in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia, 1965-1995 and has published widely on African economic development, and particularly on patterns of economic growth and economic development statistics.

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    Image credit: Tanzanian farmers, by Fanny Schertzer. CC-BY-2.5 S.A via Wikimedia Commons.

    The post Why measurement matters appeared first on OUPblog.

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    10. Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014)

    via The Paris Review

    Nadine Gordimer has died at the age of 90, a significant age to reach, and yet, as always with the loss of a major figure (particularly one who stayed active and known) it feels like a robbery. We are greedy, we living people.

    Writers satiate some of our greed against death by leaving us with their words. Gordimer's oeuvre is large (she began publishing fiction in South Africa in the late 1940s), and her fiction in particular will live long past this moment of her body's death.

    Because Gordimer was so active in the anti-apartheid struggle, and her writing so often addresses the situation in South Africa at the time of its writing, it is easy to fall into the trap of reducing her to a political writer and to ignore or downplay the artistry of her work. She sometimes encouraged this view in her essays and interviews, but she also understood that she was not a propagandist, telling Jannika Hurwitt in 1979, "I am not by nature a political creature, and even now there is so much I don’t like in politics, and in political people—though I admire tremendously people who are politically active—there’s so much lying to oneself, self-deception, there has to be—you don’t make a good political fighter unless you can pretend the warts aren’t there."



    Gordimer is often contrasted (sometimes by she herself) with the other white South African Nobel laureate, J.M. Coetzee. In that frame, Gordimer is the engaged realist, Coetzee the disengaged postmodernist. Like any caricature, this one contains some elements of truth, but it hides as much as it reveals. Though Gordimer had a bit more faith in the ability of words to represent immediate reality than Coetzee does, and was more comfortable participating in political arenas and writing about the recognizable here-and-now, both writers are strongly influenced by European high culture, particularly European Modernism — Kafka is a key influence for both, though Coetzee tends to wear that influence more obviously.

    One of the qualities I value in Gordimer's work is her ability to show how people of different backgrounds and ideologies grapple with political ideas in their lives. She's often portrayed as an explicitly political writer because she writes about people embroiled in politics. In her best writing, she understood quite powerfully the difference between showing people engaged in politics and making her work into propaganda for a particular political line.

    That's a wonder for me of a novel like Burger's Daughter, which I wrote about here in 2009. It shows politics in life, politics as life. It is at times merciless toward characters who could be considered the ones a nice, liberal reader is supposed to feel sympathy and affection for. It never forgets Renoir's great line from The Rules of the Game:  "The awful thing about life is this: everyone has their reasons."

    Gordimer's range is best demonstrated by her short stories, such as the parable-like "Loot", which I wrote about in 2010. Especially in the later decades of her career, her stories frequently experimented with form, perspective, and subjectivity — which is not to discount the powerful effect of her many rich, detailed, fiercely realistic stories (her Selected Stories from the mid-'70s remains a high point to me of her work).


    The view of Gordimer as a writer of her times, for her times, limited to her times might try to prevail. That would be a shame. Though she certainly chronicled ways of living in South Africa throughout the last 60+ years, that specificity does not in any way make her work less important for us now. It is, rather, differently important — and as necessary as ever.

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    11. Hilda Wade, a Woman with Tenacity of Purpose

    I never wrote anything about Hilda Wade, did I?

    So, obviously I’m pretty into Miss Cayley’s Adventures. So into it that I was kind of terrified of reading anything else by Grant Allen, which is why Hilda Wade has been languishing on my Kindle (and then my other Kindle) for several years. I shouldn’t have worried, though. Hilda Wade is good and bad in almost exactly the same ways as Miss Cayley’s Adventures is good and bad.

    It’s narrated by Dr. Hubert Cumberledge, who is to doctor-narrators what many of Carolyn Wells’ protagonists are to lawyer-narrators, except that unlike most Carolyn Wells protagonists, he is capable of seeing women as people. Most of Grant Allen’s characters are capable of seeing women as people. Grant Allen’s female characters command respect.

    Anyway, Hilda Wade is a nurse, and she and Dr. Cumberledge work at a hospital with Professor Sebastian, who is a Great Man. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good man, though, and Hilda Wade knows he’s not. It’s pretty clear to the reader early on that Hilda a) does not like Sebastian, b) had some special purpose in coming to work for him, and c) probably wants revenge for something he did to her father. Eventually these things also become clear to Sebastian, and even, eventually, to Dr. Cumberledge.

    Dr. Cumberledge is only moderately bright, compared to Professor Sebastian’s genius and Hilda’s superhuman intuition, but he’s pretty likable, mostly because his awe of Hilda turns out to be greater than his awe of Professor Sebastian. Early on, he’s skeptical of her concerns about Sebastian, but she slowly convinces him, and it works because he respects her and listens to her and is willing to see her point of view. And for all that the novel goes way downhill once he is convinced, that’s a really nice thing.

    After that, the book gets adventurous and racist and sentimental, but wound to a close entertainingly enough that I never wanted to put it down. Apparently the last chapter was written by Arthur Conan Doyle from Grant Allen’s notes after his death or during his final illness. I have to say, I wasn’t a huge fan of the last chapter, but I don’t know that him not dying would have helped–he has a tendency to fall apart toward the end of a book. That’s the thing about Grant Allen, though: he starts off so strong, and builds up enough good will, that he’s free to make a mess of things later on–it doesn’t really matter that much. I guess Grant Allen’s heroines are better than his books, which doesn’t bother me at all, because the opposite is so much more common.

    Lois Cayley is still better than Hilda Wade, though. She’s funnier.


    Tagged: 1890s, adventure, africa, grantallen, london

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    12. The #BringBackOurGirls rallying point

    By Isaac Terwase Sampson


    The Boko Haram (BH) terrorist group, responsible for the abduction of over 200 school girls in north-eastern Nigeria, has been Nigeria’s prime security threat since 2009. Although the group has carried out innumerable acts of terror in Nigeria since 2009, its abduction of more than 200 girls at Government Girls Secondary School Chibok, on 14 April 2014, outraged the world and gave it reinforced international currency. The global and Nigerian Muslim community has since distanced itself from Boko Haram’s violent ideology. In the face of current cosmopolitan campaign to rescue the Chibok girls, which is christened #BringBackOurGirls (#BBOG, #BBG), the question that dominates public discourse in the aftermath of Chibok abduction is whether #BringBackOurGirls as an isolated phenomenon, or the increasing de-legitimisation of Boko Haram’s extremism by Muslims generally, would serve as a rallying point against violent extremism in Nigeria, or rather reinforce the historic sharia question that has threatened peaceful co-existence in the country since independence in 1960. For those unfamiliar with Nigeria’s religious politics and relations, the following cursory background would suffice as clarification.

    Hudreds of people gathered at Union Square in New York City on May 3 to demand the release of some 230 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria. Photo by Michael Fleshman. CC BY-NC 2.0 via fleshmanpix Flickr.

    Hudreds of people gathered at Union Square in New York City on May 3 to demand the release of some 230 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria. Photo by Michael Fleshman. CC BY-NC 2.0 via fleshmanpix Flickr.

    Boko Haram in the Context of Nigeria’s Religious Politics


    In most parts of northern Nigeria, Islam and sharia predated the post-independence Western-secular system that was bequeathed to a unified Nigerian state at independence. Uthman dan Fodio’s jihad of 1810, which captured the Hausa states of northern Nigeria, brought about the establishment of an Islamic central authority under the Sokoto caliphate. Since dan Fodio’s jihad was aimed at establishing a theocratic state, Islam inevitably became a state religion in these captured Hausa states. Although the British colonial authorities protected the theocratic political order they met in these emirates for reasons of imperial convenience, they nonetheless introduced a legal system that modulated the sharia order. Notwithstanding this interference, Islam and sharia survived colonial invasion in these states. Although the sharia legal order was relatively modulated to protect the British and other European merchants, its application on the natives remained significantly strong. This arrangement remained so until it became obvious to the British that an Islamic political/legal order would not serve the commercial interest of Western merchants, particularly after independence. With this concern in mind, the British orchestrated a reversal of the sharia order, and cajoled the Muslim north into accepting a relatively secular system at independence, an arrangement that was christened “the Settlement of 1960”.

    The settlement of 1960 was a pact between the British colonialists, as arbiter, the northern and Southern Animist-Christians on the one hand, and the Muslim north on the other. It was aimed at establishing a secular legal order side by side a modulated Islamic legal regime. It is intriguing to note that whereas the Christian community initially opposed this settlement for the fear of a covert Islamization agenda, the northern Muslim community was at first supportive of it. But the respective positions of the Christian and Muslim communities were to be reversed shortly after independence. The Christian community turned around to favour the settlement of 1960 while the northern Muslim community became avidly antagonistic to this arrangement.

    Although many factors account for northern Muslims’ opposition to the settlement, the most significant factor is the sharia debate that ensued during the constitution-making process of 1976-78. At the constitutional conferences, there was considerable mobilisation by northern political and religious leaders for the entrenchment of sharia in Nigeria’s legal system. Unfortunately, the Muslim north suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Christians in their quest for the establishment of sharia. This bitter defeat meant that northern Muslims had lost most of the incentives that made the Settlement of 1960 attractive to them in the first place. Among other consequences, the sharia debate marked the beginning of vigorous and sustained activism by northern Muslims for an Islamic state, or much less, an Islamic legal, economic, and social order within the Nigerian state. This activism has taken both liberal and radical approaches. Whereas the intellectual and political classes continue to pressure the state for Islamic determinism, the Islamists and rustic northern Muslim folk often express this quest in violent ways.

    The Islamic revivalism that followed the sharia debate of 1976-8, inspired the emergence and proliferation of radical Islamic sects and spurred the influx of radical Islamic clerics from neighbouring states and Senegal, into northern Nigeria. Within this period, acts of religious violence were often encouraged or ignored by state authorities in northern Nigeria. Consequently, religious violence became a common feature in this part of the country, as Christians became objects of religiously-motivated attacks at the least provocation, either directly or vicariously. For instance, the US invasion of Iraq in the 1990s led to pervasive attacks on Christians and their worship centres in northern Nigeria. In 2003, a Danish newspaper cartoon, which allegedly disparaged Prophet Mohammed, led to mass killing of northern Christians and destruction of their Churches and property. In the aftermath of 9/11 bombing in 2001, Muslims celebrated in Northern Nigeria and vandalized Churches in the process. More recently, Christians in northern Nigeria were subject of attack from Muslims, when US planes attacked Libya during the Arab Spring. The Boko Haram sect emerged in the context of this continuum of Islamic activism, which endorsed violence as one of its operational tools. Its ideology was therefore weaved around the establishment of an imaginary puritanical state governed by sharia. Fortunately or unfortunately, Boko Haram’s interpretation of kafir (heathen) transcends the simplistic description of “non-Muslims” and encompasses those Muslims who don’t subscribe to its fundamentalists brand of Islam.

    Would #BringBackOurGirls Reverse this Tendency?


    Paradoxically, Boko Haram which emerged as an ‘Islamic sect’ has taken its defence of Islam overboard, killing in the process moderate Islamic teachers, preachers, and other Muslims who deprecate its fanatical brand of Islam. Its indiscriminate attacks over the civilian population also do not distinguish Christians from Muslims. Specifically, Boko Haram’s policy of targeting moderate Muslims has become a significant paradox of sorts, given that it is a product of the overarching sharia struggle in northern Nigeria. With the unfolding of its extreme and caustic brand of Islam, the group has not only denounced the legitimacy of the Islamic leadership in Nigeria, it has declared them and other moderate Muslims as kafir and enemies of Allah. As #BringBackOurGirls draws global attention to Boko Haram specifically, and violent extremism in Nigeria generally, the global and Nigerian Islamic community have continued to condemn their activities, describing their activities as criminal un-Islamic. Both the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the President of Nigeria’s Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs have said so. However, many questions have been asked of the recent de-legitimisation of Boko Haram by the Muslim community: Is the condemnation of Boko Haram by Muslims inspired by a genuine concern over violent extremism or borne out of its indiscriminate attacks against Muslims? Would Muslims in northern Nigeria, continue to condemn the activities of individuals or groups who express extreme and violent tendencies in the name of Islam? Would any attack on Christians and their property be condoned or ignored in the future?

    In the aftermath of the #BringBackOurGirls, two schools of thought have emerged.

    There are those who opine that Boko Haram insurgency is a prelude to greater religious upheavals in northern Nigeria, if northern Muslims are neither allowed the liberty of having an Islamic state nor practicing sharia in its orthodox fashion. Those who hold this viewpoint argue that the Muslim community would not have genuinely distanced itself from Boko Haram, if its targets were solely Christians. They also contend that the general discord between liberal and fundamentalist Islam in the Middle East has not deterred the support for an age-long global Islamization agenda that is funded from this region. Relating this to the Nigeria situation, the logic is that Islamism or violent extremism would not deter the historic sharia activism in northern Nigeria hence the need to revisit the sharia debate.

    Persuasive as these arguments may sound, I hold a contrary view. In my estimation, the Boko Haram and Maitatsine Islamic sects have clearly demonstrated that Islamism (rigid and extreme adherence to Islamic tradition and its violent expression) is totalitarian and provides no room for liberal adherence to Islam. Secondly, due to its anti-modernisation character, no state desirous of progress tolerates violent extremism. Saudi Arabia, which is the cradle of Islam, has zero tolerance for it. Moreover, the northern elite, who supported Islamic activism in the past, has become its biggest victim. As the northern economy crumbles under Boko Haram’s campaign of violence, the elite who hold the highest stakes in the economy are equally the biggest losers. They have also realized that there is no ideological discipline for men in arms, as they are bound to resort to violent crime for economic reasons. It is in realisation of these facts that the northern Governors admitted in their meeting in February 2014, that Boko Haram has destroyed the north economically, socially, and politically.

    For these and many other reasons, I hold an optimistic view that #BringBackOurGirls would not only lead to the rescue of the abducted girls, it marks the beginning of the end of Boko Haram insurgency — but most importantly, the end of religious intolerance and violent extremism in northern Nigeria. #BringBackOurGirls presents an opportunity to Christians and Muslims in northern Nigeria to rally against violent extremism by treating the indiscriminate killing and destruction of property as criminal acts and not acts of religious deference. I believe these two religious communities would embrace this opportunity as was recently demonstrated in the city of Kaduna, where they united to wade off Boko Haram attackers.

    Isaac Terwase Sampson is the author of “Religion and the Nigerian State: Situating the de facto and de jure Frontiers of State–Religion Relations and its Implications for National Security” (available to read for free for a limited time) in the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion. He is a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Strategic Research and Studies, National Defence College, Nigeria. He joined the Centre in 2006 from the Ministry of Justice, Kogi State, where he served as a Senior State Counsel.

    The Oxford Journal of Law and Religion publishes a range of articles drawn from various sectors of the law and religion field, including: social, legal and political issues involving the relationship between law and religion in society; comparative law perspectives on the relationship between religion and state institutions; developments regarding human and constitutional rights to freedom of religion or belief; considerations of the relationship between religious and secular legal systems; empirical work on the place of religion in society; and other salient areas where law and religion interact.

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    13. Picture Book Surprises, part 3: Poetry Friday


    Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole
    by Irene Latham
    illustrated by Anna Wadham
    Millbrook Press, August 1. 2014
    review copy provided by the publisher

    What a surprise to visit an African Water Hole with Irene Latham!

    The fifteen poems in this picture book introduce us to the importance of the water hole to the African grassland ecosystem. Each poem is accompanied by a short bit of nonfiction text that tells more about the water hole or the animal featured in the poem.

    Working alone or in small groups, I can imagine students using this book (and others like it that combine poetry and nonfiction) as a mentor text for their own writing about an ecosystem, their neighborhood, or the cultures they are studying in social studies.

    Jone has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Check it Out.

    Roundup host/hostesses are still needed in July, August, November and December. Sign up here.


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    14. 1914-1918: the paradox of semi-modern war

    By Dennis Showalter


    The looming centennial of the Great War has inspired a predicable abundance of conferences, books, articles, and blog posts. Most are built on a familiar meme: the war as a symbol of futility. Soldiers and societies alike are presented as victims of flawed intentions and defective methods, which in turn reflected inability or unwillingness to adapt to the spectrum of innovations (material, intellectual, and emotional), that made the Great War the first modern conflict. That perspective is reinforced by the war’s rechristening, backlit by a later and greater struggle, as World War I—which confers a preliminary, test-bed status.

    Homeward bound troops pose on the ship's deck and in a lifeboat, 1919. The original image was printed on postal card ("AZO") stock. Public Domain

    Homeward bound troops pose on the ship’s deck and in a lifeboat, 1919. The original image was printed on postal card (“AZO”) stock. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

    In point of fact, the defining aspect of World War I is its semi-modern character. The “classic” Great War, the war of myth, memory, and image, could be waged only in a limited area: a narrow belt in Western Europe, extending vertically five hundred miles from the North Sea to Switzerland, and horizontally about a hundred miles in either direction. War waged outside of the northwest European quadrilateral tended quite rapidly to follow a pattern of de-modernization. Peacetime armies and their cadres melted away in combat, were submerged by repeated infusions of unprepared conscripts, and saw their support systems, equine and material, melt irretrievably away.

    Russia and the Balkans, the Middle East, and East Africa offer a plethora of case studies, ranging from combatants left without rifles in Russia, to the breakdown of British medical services in Mesopotamia, to the dismounting of entire regiments in East Africa by the tsetse fly. Nor was de-modernization confined to combat zones. Russia, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and arguably Italy, strained themselves to the breaking point and beyond in coping with the demands of an enduring total war. Infrastructures from railways to hospitals to bureaucracies that had functioned reasonably, if not optimally, saw their levels of performance and their levels of competence tested to destruction. Stress combined with famine and plague to nurture catastrophic levels of disorder, from the Armenian genocide to the Bolshevik Revolution.

    Semi-modernity posed a corresponding and fundamental challenge to the wartime relationship of armed forces to governments. In 1914, for practical purposes, the warring states turned over control to the generals and admirals. This in part reflected the general belief in a short, decisive war—one that would end before the combatants’ social and political matrices had been permanently reconfigured. It also reflected civil authorities’ lack of faith in their ability to manage war-making’s arcana—and a corresponding willingness to accept the military as “competent by definition.”

    Western Battle Front 1916. From J. Reynolds, Allen L. Churchill, Francis Trevelyan Miller (eds.): The Story of the Great War, Volume V. New York. Specified year 1916, actual year more likely 1917 or 1918. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

    The extended stalemate that actually developed had two consequences. A major, unacknowledged subtext of thinking about and planning for war prior to 1914 was that future conflict would be so horrible that the home fronts would collapse under the stress. Instead, by 1915 the generals and the politicians were able to count on unprecedented –and unexpected–commitment from their populations. The precise mix of patriotism, conformity, and passivity underpinning that phenomenon remains debatable. But it provided a massive hammer. The second question was how that hammer could best be wielded. In Russia, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, neither soldiers nor politicians were up to the task. In Germany the military’s control metastasized after 1916 into a de facto dictatorship. But that dictatorship was contingent on a victory the armed forces could not deliver. In France and Britain, civil and military authorities beginning in 1915 came to more or less sustainable modi vivendi that endured to the armistice. Their durability over a longer run was considered best untested.

    Even in the war’s final stages, on the Western Front that was its defining theater, innovations in methods and technology, could not significantly reduce casualties. They could only improve the ratio of gains. The Germans and the Allies both suffered over three-quarters of a million men during the war’s final months. French general Charles Mangin put it bluntly and accurately: “whatever you do, you lose a lot of men.” In contemplating future wars—a process well antedating 11 November 1918—soldiers and politicians faced a disconcerting fact. The war’s true turning point for any state came when its people hated their government more than they feared their enemies. From there it was a matter of time: whose clock would run out first. Changing that paradigm became—and arguably remains—a fundamental challenge confronting a state contemplating war.

    Dennis Showalter is professor of history at Colorado College, where he has been on the faculty since 1969. He is Editor in Chief of Oxford Bibliographies in Military History, wrote “World War I Origins,” and blogged about “The Wehrmacht Invades Norway.” He is Past President of the Society for Military History, joint editor of War in History, and a widely-published scholar of military affairs. His recent books include Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk (2013), Frederick the Great: A Military History (2012), Hitler’s Panzers (2009), and Patton and Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century (2005).

    Developed cooperatively with scholars worldwide, Oxford Bibliographies offers exclusive, authoritative research guides. Combining the best features of an annotated bibliography and a high-level encyclopedia, this cutting-edge resource guides researchers to the best available scholarship across a wide variety of subjects.

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    15. Africa is My Home: In Sierra Leone

    Two friends who also served in Sierra Leone in the Peace Corps recently returned for a visit bringing along several copies of Africa is My Home as gifts. But what a gift they gave me by sending this photo of Peggy reading it to the people of Kenema Blango. I get weepy every time I look at it.

    1902810_10153835694700591_1759677259_n


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    16. Africa is My Home: A 2014 Children’s Africana Book Award Winner

    Yesterday I was over the moon after learning that Africa is My Home had been honored with a 2014 Children’s Africana Book Award (also know as CABA). I have long been familiar with these awards and have often discovered new books through them. So to be honored with one myself is amazing.

    Here’s more about them:

    In 1991, Africa Access in collaboration with the Outreach Council* of the African Studies Association created the Children’s Africana Book Awards  with three major objectives (1) to encourage the publication of children’s and young adult books that contribute to a better understanding of African societies and issues, (2) to recognize literary excellence, and (3) to acknowledge the research achievements of outstanding authors and illustrators. The first CABA was presented in 1992. Today over seventy-four titles have been recognized and more than 100 authors and illustrators are members of our Winners Circle. Each winning title has been vetted by our awards jury which is composed of African Studies and Children’s Literature scholars.

    There will be an award ceremony on Saturday, November 8, 2014 the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC. From this cool slideshow of last year’s celebrations, I’m expecting that it and the other related activities are going to be wonderful.

    My great thanks to the committee for honoring Africa is My Home this way.

     


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    17. Celebrating Women’s History Month

    world

    This March we celebrate Women’s History Month, commemorating the lives, legacies, and contributions of women around the world. We’ve compiled a brief reading list that demonstrates the diversity of women’s lives and achievements.

    Women in Asia

    Map of Asia

    The Courtesan’s Arts: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, Edited by Martha Feldman and Bonnie Gordon

    Delve into courtesan cultures, including artistic practices and cultural production, often overlooked or diminished in relevancy.

    The Power of Gender and the Gender of Power: Explorations in Early Indian History by Kumkum Roy

    Discover the distinct strategies through which men and women constituted their identities in India for all their implications, tensions, and inconsistencies.

    Cornelia Sorabji: India’s Pioneer Woman Lawyer: A Biography by Suparna Gooptu

    Learn about Sorabji’s decisive role in opening up the legal profession to women long before they were allowed to plead before the courts of law, including her writings and personal correspondence.

    Women in the Middle East

    Map of Middle East

    Cleopatra: A Biography by Duane W. Roller

    Uncover not the figure in popular culture, arts, and literature of the last five hundred years — but the real last Greek queen of Egypt.

    Conceiving Citizens: Women and the Politics of Motherhood in Iran by Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet

    Place women in their proper role as mothers of a nation — central to the history of Iran during successive regimes in the 19th and 20th centuries.

    The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire by Leslie P. Peirce

    Examine the sources of royal women’s power and assess the reactions of contemporaries, which ranged from loyal devotion to armed opposition.

    Women in British History

    UK Map

    Singled Out: How Two Million British Women Survived Without Men After the First World War by Virginia Nicholson

    Try to keep up with a generation of women fated to remain unmarried in the aftermath of the Great War.

    The Wealth of Wives: Women, Law, and Economy in Late Medieval London by Barbara A. Hanawalt

    Consider an overlooked contribution to London’s economy—the wealth that women accumulated through inheritance, dowry, and dower.

    Queen Anne: Patroness of Arts by James A. Winn

    Study the life and reign of Queen Anne through literature, art, and music from Dryden, Pope, Purcell, Handel, Lely, Kneller, Wren, Vanbrugh, Addison, Swift, and many other artists.

    Women in European History

    europe

    Murder of a Medici Princess by Caroline P. Murphy

    Illuminate the brilliant life and tragic death of Isabella de Medici, one of the brightest stars in the dazzling world of Renaissance Italy, the daughter of Duke Cosimo I, ruler of Florence and Tuscany.

    Writing the Revolution: A French Women’s History in Letters by Lindsay A. Parker

    Investigate nearly 1,000 familiar letters, which convey the intellectual, emotional, and familial life of a revolutionary in all of its complexity.

    The Burgher and the Whore: Prostitution in Early Modern Amsterdam by Lotte van de Pol

    Delve into the cultural, social, and economic conditions of the lives of poor women in a seafaring society from the perspectives of prostitutes, their bawds, their clients, and the police.

    Women in American History

    U.S. Map

    Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy by Elizabeth R. Varon

    Probe the life and work of one of the most remarkable women of the Civil War era–the leader of the North’s key spy ring in the South.

    Working Women, Literary Ladies: The Industrial Revolution and Female Aspiration by Sylvia J. Cook

    Trace the hopes and tensions generated by expectations of gender and class from the first New England operatives in the early 19th century to immigrant sweatshop workers in the early 20th.

    Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement by Sally McMillen

    Join the meeting that launched the women’s rights movement and changed American history.

    I Died for Beauty: Dorothy Wrinch and the Cultures of Science by Marjorie Senechal

    Enter the provocative, scintillating mind of the talented and flawed scientist.

    African American Women Chemists by Jeannette Brown

    Connect to the lives of African America women chemists, from the earliest pioneers through late 1960′s when the Civil Rights Acts were passed, to today.

    Women in Latin American History

    Map of Latin America

    Power and Women’s Representation in Latin America by Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer

    Look at the recent trends in women’s representation in Latin America, and the complex and often incomplete nature of women’s political representation.

    Refusing the Favor: The Spanish-Mexican Women of Santa Fe, 1820-1880 by Deena J. Gonzalez

    Uncover the key role “invisible” Spanish-Mexican women played in the US takeover of Mexico’s northern territory and gain a greater understanding of conquest and colonization.

    Weaving the Past: A History of Latin America’s Indigenous Women from the Prehispanic Period to the Present by Susan Kellogg

    Reach back through women’s long history of labor, political activism, and contributions to — or even support of — family and community well-being.

    Women’s history encompasses the history of humankind, including men, but approaches it from a woman‐centered perspective. It highlights women’s activities and ideas and asserts that their problems, issues, and accomplishments are just as central to the telling of the human story as are those of their brothers, husbands, and sons. It places the sociopolitical relations between the sexes, or gender, at the center of historical inquiry and questions female subordination.

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    Image Credits: (1) Physical World Map via CIA World Factbook (public domain). (2) Map of Asia by Bytebear. CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (3) Map of Middle East by NuclearVacuum. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. (4) Map of Britain by Anonymous101. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (5) Map of Europe via CIA World Factbook (public domain). (6) Blank US Map by Theshibboleth. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (7) Map of Latin America and the Caribbean by Yug. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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    18. #520 – Elephants at the Airport: Once Upon a Time in Zimbabwe by Steve Wolfson & Heleen Brulot

    EA Frnt Cover-1sm.

    Elephants At The Airport: Once Upon a Time in Zimbabwe

    by Steve Wolfson & Heleen Brulot

    Argami Productions     11/25/2013

    978-0-9798324-5-1

    Age 4 to 8   32 pages

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    “Nicki is not so happy about having to move to Zimbabwe, Africa. She is not sure what to expect and is truly surprised when one of the first things she sees is an elephant at the airport.”

    Opening

    “Nikki thought she was waking up, but maybe it was a dream. Why else were her parents sleeping in her bedroom and why she was sleeping sitting up in a chair.”

    The Story

    Nikki’s mother gets a job that takes the family to Zimbabwe, Africa. Like most young kids, Nikki does not want to leave her home and her friends. She wonders how she will hang her posters on a mud wall. She is also fearful of all the wild animals that she believes will be everywhere. Nikki might be right. At the airport an elephant—a green elephant with red and yellow spots—takes her suitcase off the belt and walks away with it. Dad insists there are no elephants in the city.

    In her new home, Nikki sees a menagerie of animals come through the bushes defining her backyard. Rhinos, lions, zebras, baboons, and an ostrich run and play in front of Nikki’s bedroom window. Dad sternly insists there are no wild animals in the city. Nikki spends all her time playing with the elephant from the airport, much to her parent’s dismay. They never see any of the animals that hide in the bushes until Nikki is alone.

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    Review

    The first reading of Elephants at the Airport was confusing. Why could only Nikki see the animals that were real enough to play with her? The title on the cover states, Elephants at the Airport and nothing more, not even the author and illustrator’s name (that is perfectly okay). A closer look at the credit and title pages shows a subtitle: Once Upon a Time in Zimbabwe. Now I get it. The story is a fable. Nikki has no desire to move to Africa and is terrified of the unknown. To make things worse, a green elephant—with red and yellow dots—grabs her suitcase. Dad refuses to believe his child.

    Zimbabwe is not a place to fear, but a magical place for kids where the animals entertain Nikki in front of her bedroom window. The story lacks development. Mainly Nikki and her father are in a stalemate over wild animals in the city in which they live. Dad even takes Nikki to a game park—actually a mechanism to end the story. Nikki declares the elephants were great, but her favorite is still the airport elephant, which causes her dad to yell,

    “There are NO elephants at the airport!”

    Nikki replies that he is right; the elephant is now at their home. She then runs out to play with Airport. Nikki happily skips out of the house and her parents look out to see their daughter with something green and wonder . . . could it be? An acceptable ending I suppose. Kids will laugh and so might their parents.

    3

    To me, the ending just tells me the inevitable. An easy ending that does not develop the protagonist. Nikki should change by story’s end, but she changes on the first morning. It seems the character that might change is dad, a secondary character. Does he now believe wild animals are in the city? Does he now believe a green elephant with red and yellow spots plays with his daughter? Nikki folded her fears and her lack of enthusiasm for living in a new country too soon in the story.

    Young children will like the imaginary playmate aspect of the story. They will like Airport, maybe even more so because of his coloring. They will most likely not care that the story is poorly constructed and in need of a good edit. Though they might want to know where the other elephants are at the airport.
    2

    I love the cover and really like the elephant. The artist draws a nice, realistic elephant. The illustrations are good. A few have what looks like paint smeared across the paper, making the image difficult to see. I think this is supposed to indicate speed—of the animals as they play. A few other images are mostly shades of brown with a bit of color, making it difficult to see what the image represents. That very well could be a printing problem, but in the end, whatever the problem, these spreads are not good. It really is a shame because the illustrations are extremely good.

    [After watching the trailer, it is clear that the problem is with printing. The illustrations, every one of them, are gorgeous and detailed clearly in the trailer, but muddled on the page.]

    Elephants at the Airport: Once Upon a Time in Zimbabwe takes a young girl out of her familiar surroundings and places her into a strange land of wild animals. Nikki quickly recovers from her fears and plays with the elephant from the airport. Dad is not happy, thinking his girl is isolating herself. She has a great time playing with what might or might not be an imaginary friendly elephant. I like the premise of the story. Elephants at the Airport has wonderful story potential but it needs work before I would purchase this adorable green elephant.

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    Learn more about Elephants at the Airport: Once Upon a Time in Zimbabwe HERE.

    Get a copy of Elephants at the Airport at AmazonB&Nbook’s websiteask for it at your neighborhood bookstore.

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    Meet the author, Steve Wolfson at his website: http://www.wolfsonsworld.com/ 

    Meet the illustrator, Heleen Brulot at her website:  http://www.brulot.net/

    Check out other books by Argami Productions at its website:  http://www.argamiproductions.com/

    .

    ELEPHANTS AT THE AIRPORT: ONCE UPON A TIME IN ZIMBABWE, Text copyright © 2013 by Steve Wolfson. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Heleen Brulot. Reproduced by permission of Argami Productions, Weston, FL.

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    elephant at airport


    Filed under: Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Africa, Argami Productions, children's book reviews, creativity, elephants, family, Heleen Brulot, imagination, relationships, Steve Wolfson, wild animals, Zimbabwe

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    19. A brief history of ethnic violence in Rwanda and Africa’s Great Lakes region

    By J. J. Carney


    A few years ago an American Catholic priest asked me about my dissertation research. When I told him I was studying the intersection of Catholicism, ethnicity, and violence in Rwandan history, he responded, “Those people have been killing each other for ages.”

    Such is the common if misguided popular stereotype. But even the better informed are often unaware of the longer historical trajectories of violence in Rwanda and the broader Great Lakes region. Although the 1994 genocide in Rwanda has garnered the most scholarly and popular attention–and rightfully so–it did not emerge out of a vacuum. As the world commemorates the 20th anniversary of the genocide, it is important to locate this epochal humanitarian tragedy within a broader historical and regional perspective.

    Northwestern Rwanda by CIAT. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

    Northwestern Rwanda by CIAT. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

    First, explicitly “ethnic” violence has a relatively recent history in Rwanda. Although precolonial Rwanda was by no means a utopian paradise, the worst political violence occurred in the midst of intra-elite dynastic struggles, such as the one that followed the death of Rwanda’s famous Mwami Rwabugiri in 1895. Even after the hardening of Hutu and Tutsi identities under the influence of German and Belgian colonial rule, there was no explicit Hutu-Tutsi violence throughout the first half of the 20th century.

    This all changed in the late 1950s. As prospects for decolonization advanced, Hutu elites began to mobilize the Rwandan masses on the grounds of “Hutu” identity; Tutsi elites in turn encouraged a nationalist, pan-ethnic paradigm. The latter vision may have carried the day save for the sudden July 1959 death of Rwanda’s long-serving king, Mwami Mutara Rudahigwa. Mutara’s death opened up a political vacuum, emboldening extremists on all sides. After an escalating series of incidents in October 1959, a much larger wave of ethnic violence broke out in November 1959. Hutu mobs burned Tutsi homes across northern Rwanda, killing hundreds and forcing thousands from their homes. Scores of Hutu political leaders were killed in retaliatory attacks. Even here, however, motivations could be more complicated than an ethnic zero-sum game. For example, many Hutu militia leaders later claimed that they were defending Rwanda’s Tutsi king, Mwami Kigeli V, from a cabal of Tutsi chiefs. In other cases Hutu and Tutsi self-defense forces collaborated to defend their communities.

    Supported by key figures in the Catholic hierarchy and the Belgian colonial administration, Hutu political leaders like Gregoire Kayibanda soon gained the upper hand in the political struggle that followed the November 1959 violence. In turn, political violence took on increasingly ethnic overtones during election cycles in 1960 and 1961; hundreds of mostly Tutsi civilians were killed in a series of local massacres between March 1960 and September 1961. Marginalized inside Rwanda, Tutsi exile leaders launched raids into Rwanda in early 1962, sparking further retaliatory violence against Tutsi civilians in the northern town of Byumba. For their part, European missionaries and colonial officials deplored the violence even as they blamed much of it on Tutsi exile militias, attributing the Hutu reactions to uncontrollable “popular anger.”

    If these earlier episodes could be classified as “ethnic massacres,” a larger genocidal event unfolded in December 1963 and January 1964. Shortly before Christmas, a Tutsi exile militia invaded Rwanda from neighboring Burundi. The incursion was quickly repulsed by a combined force of Belgian and Rwandan army units. In the immediate aftermath, the Rwandan government launched a vicious repression of Tutsi opposition political leaders. In the weeks that followed, local government “self-defense” units executed upwards of 10,000 Tutsi civilians in the southern Rwandan province of Gikongoro. Vatican Radio among other media sources deplored “the worst genocide since World War II.” Local religious leaders like Archbishop André Perraudin stood by the government, however, calling the invoking of “genocide” language “deeply insulting for a Catholic head of state.”

    Rwanda’s “ethnic syndrome” spread to neighboring Burundi during the 1960s. After a failed Hutu coup d’état in April-May 1972, Burundi’s Tutsi-dominated military launched a fierce repression known locally as the “ikiza” (“curse”). Over 200,000 mostly educated Hutu were killed that summer. In Rwanda, anti-Tutsi violence broke out in February 1973. Although the number of deaths was much lower than in 1963-64, hundreds of Tutsi elites were driven into exile as pogroms broke out at Rwanda’s national university, several Catholic seminaries, and a multitude of secondary schools and parishes.

    Rwanda and Burundi were both dominated by one-party military dictatorships during the 1970s and 1980s. For some years each regime paid lip service to a pan-ethnic ideal. However, as economic and political conditions worsened in the late 1980s, ethnic violence flared again in 1988 in the northern Burundian provinces of Ntega and Marangara. In October 1990, the Tutsi-dominated Rwanda Patriotic Front invaded northern Rwanda, sparking a three-year civil war that profoundly destabilized Rwandan society. Following the pattern of the early 1960s, Hutu militias responded by targeting Tutsi civilians in six separate local massacres between October 1990 and February 1994. In turn, the October 1993 assassination of Melchior Ndadaye, Burundi’s first Hutu Prime Minister, sparked a massive outbreak of ethnic violence and civil war in Burundi that would ultimately take the lives of over half a million.

    In turn, one should not forget the post-1994 violence that continued to plague the region. Not only did Rwanda suffer more massacres (some directed at Hutu) between 1995 and 1998, but Burundi’s civil war continued until 2006. Perhaps worst of all, Eastern Congo after 1996 became the epicenter of what many scholars have dubbed “Africa’s World War.” The precipitous cause of the conflict was Rwanda’s invasion of Congo in October 1996, ostensibly to clear Hutu refugee camps that were serving as staging grounds for cross-border raids into Rwanda. Upwards of four million Congolese died from war-related causes over the next six years. Over a decade later, Rwandan-backed militias continue to dominate Congo’s Kivu provinces. The “afterlife” of the Rwanda genocide thus continues even in 2014.

    The 1994 genocide took the lives of an estimated 800,000 Rwandans, the vast majority of them Tutsi. This genocide–and the world’s utter abandonment of the Rwandan people–should never be forgotten. But nor should we overlook the political and ethnic violence that preceded and followed the genocide, whether in Rwanda, Burundi, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One can only hope that the next 20 years will be kinder to a region that has suffered so much over the past generation.

    J. J. Carney is Assistant Professor of Theology at Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska. His research and teaching interests engage the theological and historical dimensions of the Catholic experience in modern Africa. He has published articles in African Ecclesial Review, Modern Theology, Journal of Religion in Africa, and Studies in World Christianity. He is author of Rwanda Before the Genocide: Catholic Politics and Ethnic Discourse in the Late Colonial Era.

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    20. Twenty years after the Rwandan Genocide

    By Scott Straus


    We are now entering the month of April 2014—a time for reflection, empathy, and understanding for anyone in or involved with Rwanda. Twenty years ago, Rwandan political and military leaders initiated a series of actions that quickly turned into one of the 20th century’s greatest mass violations of human rights.

    As we commemorate the genocide, our empathy needs to extend first to survivors and victims. Many families were destroyed in the genocide. Many survivors suffered enormous hardships to survive. Whatever our stand on the current state of affairs in Rwanda, we have to be enormously recognizant of the pain many endured.

    In this brief post, I address three issues that speak to Rwanda today. I do so with trepidation, as discussions about contemporary Rwanda are often polarized and emotionally charged. Even though I am critical, I shall try to raise concerns with respect and recognition that there are few easy solutions.

    My overall message is one of concern. At one level, Rwanda is doing remarkably and surprisingly well—in terms of security, the economy, and non-political aspects of governance. However, deep resentments and ethnic attachments persist, hardships and significant inequality remain. While it is difficult to know what people really feel, my general conclusion is that the social fabric remains tense beneath a veneer of good will. A crucial issue is that the political system is authoritarian and designed for control rather than dialogue. It is also a political system that many Rwandans believe is structured to favor particular groups over others. Fostering trust in such a political context is highly unlikely.

    I also conclude that a “genocide lens” has limits for the objective of social repair. The genocide lens has been invaluable for achieving international recognition of what happened in 1994. But that lens leads to certain biases about Rwanda’s history and society that limit long-term social repair in Rwanda.

    Rwandan Genocide Memorial. 7 April 2011. El Fasher: The Rwandan community in UNAMID organized the 17th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi hold in Super Camp - RWANBATT 25 Military Camp (El Fasher). Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID.

    Rwandan Genocide Memorial. 7 April 2011. El Fasher: The Rwandan community in UNAMID organized the 17th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi hold in Super Camp – RWANBATT 25 Military Camp (El Fasher). Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID. CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 via UNAMID Flickr.

    During the past 20 years, a sea change in international recognition has occurred. Fifteen years ago, very few people knew globally that genocide took place in Rwanda. Today, the “Rwandan Genocide” is widely recognized as a world historical event. That global recognition is an achievement. We also know a great deal more about the causes and dynamics of the genocide itself.

    However, several important controversies and unanswered questions remain. One is who killed President Habyarimana on 6 April 1994. Another is how to conceptualize when the plan for genocide began. Some date the plan for genocide to the late 1950s; others to the 1990s; still others to April 1994. A third question is how one should conceptualize RPF responsibility. Some depic the former rebels as saviors who stopped the genocide. Others argue that their actions were integral to the dynamics that led to genocide. And there are other issues as well, including how many were killed. Each of these issues remains intensely debated and hopefully will be the subject of open-minded inquiry in the years to come.

    Contemporary Rwanda is at one level inspiring. The government is visionary, ambitious, and accomplished. The plan is to transform the society, economy, and culture—and to wean the state from foreign aid. The government has successfully introduced major reforms. The tax system is much improved. Public corruption is virtually absent. Remarkable results in public health and the economy have been achieved. Public security is also dramatically improved.

    But there is a dark side. Most importantly, the government is repressive. The government seeks to exercise control over public space, especially around sensitive topics—in politics, in the media, in the NGO sector, among ordinary citizens, and even among donors. The net impact is the experience of intimidation and, as a friend aptly put it, many silences.

    That brings me to the delicate question of reconciliation. Reconciliation is an imprecise concept for what I mean. What matters is the quality of the social fabric in Rwanda—the trust between people—and the quality of state-society relations.

    Jean Baptiste and Freda reconciliation. Photo by Trocaire. CC BY 2.0 via Trocaire Flickr.

    Jean Baptiste and Freda reconciliation. Photo by Trocaire. CC BY 2.0 via Trocaire Flickr.

    A central pillar in Rwanda’s social reconstruction process has been justice. Much is written on gacaca, the government’s extraordinary program to transform a traditional dispute settlement process into a country-wide, decade-long process to account for genocide crimes. Gacaca brought some survivors satisfaction at finally seeing the guilty punished. Gacaca spawned some important conversations, led to important revelations, and prompted some sincere apologies.

    But there were also a lot of problems. There were lies on all sides. There were manipulations of the system. Some apologies were pro-forma. And there were weak protections for witnesses and defendants alike. In many cases, justice was not done. But to my mind many the bigger issue is gacaca reinforced the idea that post-genocide Rwanda is an environment of winners and losers.

    The entire justice process excluded non-genocide crimes, in particular atrocities that the RPF committed as it took power, in the northwest the late 1990s, and in Congo, where a lot of violence occurred. This meant that whole categories of suffering in the long arc of the 1990s and 2000s were neither recognized nor accounted for. Justice was one-sided. Many Rwandans experience it therefore as political justice that serve the RPF goal of retaining power.

    The second issue is the scale. A million citizens, primarily Hutu, were accused. The net effect is that the legal process served to politically demobilize many Hutus, as Anu Chakravarty has written. Having watched the process of rebuilding social cohesion and state-society relations after atrocity in several places, I come to the conclusion that inclusion is vitally important.

    If states privilege justice as a mechanism for social healing, judicial processes should recognize the multi-sided nature of atrocity. All groups that suffered from atrocity should be able to give voice to their experiences and, if punitive measures are on the table, seek accountability. Otherwise, in the long run, justice looks like a charade, one that ultimately may undermine the memories it is designed to preserve.

    Here is where the “genocide lens” did not serve Rwanda well. A genocide lens narrates history as a story between perpetrators and victims. Yet the Rwandan reality is much more complicated.

    Scott Straus is Professor of Political Science and International Studies at UW-Madison. Scott specializes in the study of genocide, political violence, human rights, and African politics. His published work includes several books on Rwanda and articles in African Affairs. A longer version of this article was presented at the “Rwanda Today: Twenty Years after the Genocide” event at Humanity House in The Hague on 3 April 2014. The author wishes to thank the organizers of that event.

    To mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide, African Affairs is making some of their best articles on Rwanda freely available. Don’t miss this opportunity to read about the legacy of genocide and Rwandan politics under the RPF.

    African Affairs is published on behalf of the Royal African Society and is the top ranked journal in African Studies. It is an inter-disciplinary journal, with a focus on the politics and international relations of sub-Saharan Africa. It also includes sociology, anthropology, economics, and to the extent that articles inform debates on contemporary Africa, history, literature, art, music and more.

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    21. 2 picture books about world markets and universal child delights

    Market_cover_LIt’s a familiar scenario from childhood; the thrill of setting off with pocket money to spend: What to choose with the coins in your pocket? Where to spend it? And yet, in To Market! To Market! by Anushka Ravishankar, illustrated by Emanuele Scanziani, a joyous, richly illustrated rhyme, what one little girl discovers is that the real fun’s not in the spending and buying at all.

    Great fun to read aloud, especially if you let your voice mirror the playful typesetting, To Market! To Market! is also beautiful and exciting to look at. Vibrant, intensely coloured illustrations of various market stalls overflowing with goods evoke childhood fantasies of hoards of treasure.

    To-Market-blog

    Eye-catching and exuberant, To Market! To Market! will brighten anyone’s bookshelves, as well as giving a window onto another culture – the market stalls in question happen to be in India, but the fun and beauty in this book are universal.

    offtomarketfrontcoverLikewise, whilst the specifics of Off to Market by Elizabeth Dale, illustrated by Erika Pal may seem a world way to many readers – following the problems one boy has on the bus to a market, this time in Africa – kids the world over will delight in seeing how kids just like them can be the ones to solve problems adults can’t seem to get their head around.

    The market bus, overloaded with people, goods and livestock, has ground to a halt. The adults all complain, but no-one makes a move until young Keb shows them what they need to do. Where would adults be without kids, heh?

    Click to see more illustrations from 'Off to Market'

    Click to see more illustrations from ‘Off to Market’

    With lively, rhyming text and bright illustrations mixing watercolour, print making techniques and blocks of bold flat colour Off to Market is delightful. My kids immediately remembered The No. 1 Car Spotter by Atinuke (my review here), a super early chapter book, which also features an African market.

    Hoping our bus journey to the big markets in town wouldn’t turn out to be nearly as eventful as that in Off to Market we set off for a day out exploring the sights and sounds of all sorts of (Birmingham) market stalls.

    market7

    market1
    market2

    market3

    market5

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    As we were out and about we didn’t listen to any music, but if you’re looking for a market-themed, kid-friendly set of songs you could start with these:

  • The African Market by African Treehouse
  • Let’s Go To Market by Frank Leto
  • And this great version of This Little Piggy Went to Market:
  • Apart from visiting your own local market, you could enjoy these activities alongside reading the books I’ve recommended today:

  • Making your own market role play area. This idea from Ikat bag might whet your appetite.
  • Playing with saris. If ever I see a sari in a charity shop I snap it up – they are not only great for dressing up, they’re also fabulous for den building being large, and light, and often very decorative.
  • Day tripping to India! It’s easier than it sounds… here’s how we did it without flying anywhere!
  • Giving your kids a small budget and setting them a task at the market – either buying ingredients for a meal, or treasures to play with. You could write a shopping list together and guess before hand how much you think everything might be. Whilst we were at the market we jotted down vegetable prices and then compared them with the prices in a supermarket – the kids were very surprised by what the discovered.
  • Have you a good market near to you? I’ve always wanted to go to a flower market or a spice market, but what about you?

    Disclosure: Both books reviewed today were sent to me for review consideration by their respective publishers.

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    22. 15 facts on African religions

    vsi banner

    African religions cover a diverse landscape of ethnic groups, languages, cultures, and worldviews. Here, Jacob K. Olupona, author of African Religions: A Very Short Introduction shares an interesting list of 15 facts on African religions.

    By Jacob K. Olupona

    1. African traditional religion refers to the indigenous or autochthonous religions of the African people. It deals with their cosmology, ritual practices, symbols, arts, society, and so on. Because religion is a way of life, it relates to culture and society as they affect the worldview of the African people.
    2. Traditional African religions are not stagnant but highly dynamic and constantly reacting to various shifting influences such as old age, modernity, and technological advances.
    3. Traditional African religions are less of faith traditions and more of lived traditions. They are less concerned with doctrines and much more so with rituals, ceremonies, and lived practices.
    4. When addressing religion in Africa, scholars often speak of a “triple heritage,” that is the triple legacy of indigenous religion, Islam, and Christianity that are often found side by side in many African societies.
    5. While those who identify as practitioners of traditional African religions are often in the minority, many who identify as Muslims or Christians are involved in traditional religions to one degree or another.
    6. Though many Africans have converted to Islam and Christianity, these religions still inform the social, economic, and political life in African societies.
    7. Traditional African religions have gone global! The Trans-Atlantic slave trade led to the growth of African-inspired traditions in the Americas such as Candomblé in Brazil, Santería in Cuba, or Vodun in Haïti. Furthermore, many in places like the US and the UK have converted to various traditional African religions, and the importance of the diaspora for these religions is growing rapidly. African religions have also become a major attraction for those in the diaspora who travel to Africa on pilgrimages because of the global reach of these traditions.
    8. Religion_distribution_Africa_crop

    9. There are quite a number of revival groups and movements whose main aim is to ensure that the tenants and practice of African indigenous religion that are threatened survive. These can be found all over the Americas and Europe.
    10. The concerns for health, wealth, and procreation are very central to the core of African religions. That is why they have developed institutions for healing, for commerce, and for the general well-being of their own practitioners and adherents of other religions as well.
    11. Indigenous African religions are not based on conversion like Islam and Christianity. They tend to propagate peaceful coexistence, and they promote good relations with members of other religious traditions that surround them.
    12. Today as a minority tradition, it has suffered immensely from human rights abuses. This is based on misconceptions that these religions are antithetical to modernity. Indeed indigenous African religions have provided the blueprint for robust conversations and thinking about community relations, interfaith dialogue, civil society, and civil religion.
    13. Women play a key role in the practice of these traditions, and the internal gender relations and dynamics are very profound. There are many female goddesses along with their male counterparts. There are female priestesses, diviners, and other figures, and many feminist scholars have drawn from these traditions to advocate for women’s rights and the place of the feminine in African societies. The traditional approach of indigenous African religions to gender is one of complementarity in which a confluence of male and female forces must operate in harmony.
    14. Indigenous African religions contain a great deal of wisdom and insight on how human beings can best live within and interact with the environment. Given our current impending ecological crisis, indigenous African religions have a great deal to offer both African countries and the world at large.
    15. African indigenous religions provide strong linkages between the life of humans and the world of the ancestors. Humans are thus able to maintain constant and symbiotic relations with their ancestors who are understood to be intimately concerned and involved in their descendants’ everyday affairs.
    16. Unlike other world religions that have written scriptures, oral sources form the core of indigenous African religions. These oral sources are intricately interwoven into arts, political and social structure, and material culture. The oral nature of these traditions allows for a great deal of adaptability and variation within and between indigenous African religions. At the same time, forms of orature – such as the Ifa tradition amongst the Yoruba can form important sources for understanding the tenants and worldview of these religions that can serve as analogs to scriptures such as the Bible or the Qur’an.

    Jacob K. Olupona is Professor of African Religious Traditions at Harvard Divinity School, with a joint appointment as Professor of African and African American Studies in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. A noted scholar of indigenous African religions, his books include African Religions: A Very Short Introduction, City of 201 Gods: Ilé-Ifè in Time, Space, and the Imagination, Òrìsà Devotion as World Religion: The Globalization of Yorùbá Religious Culture, co-edited with Terry Rey, and Kingship, Religion, and Rituals in a Nigerian Community: A Phenomenological Study of Ondo Yoruba Festivals. In 2007, he was awarded the Nigerian National Order of Merit, one of Nigeria’s most prestigious honors.

    The Very Short Introductions (VSI) series combines a small format with authoritative analysis and big ideas for hundreds of topic areas. Written by our expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about. Grow your knowledge with OUPblog and the VSI series every Friday, subscribe to Very Short Introductions articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS, and like Very Short Introductions on Facebook.

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    Image Credit: A map of the Africa, showing the major religions distributed as of today. Map shows only the religion as a whole excluding denominations or sects of the religions, and is colored by how the religions are distributed not by main religion of country etc. By T.L. Miles via Wikimedia Commons via the Public Domain.

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    23. Fly, Eagle, Fly! An African Tale – Perfect Picture Book Friday

    Title: Fly, Eagle, Fly! An African Tale Retold by by Christopher Gregorowski Pictures by Niki Daly Foreword by Desmond Tutu Published by Margaret McLederry Books, 2000 Ages: 5-8 Themes: parables, eagles, freedom Quote, page 10:  He climbed up a gully in case the calf had … Continue reading

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    24. Ghosts of Amistad

    I’m always on the look-out for new information and new takes on the Amistad story. One recent one is Marcus Rediker’s The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom in which the focus and viewpoint is on  the captives. And now there is a  film based on the book coming from filmmaker Tony Buba. The following description and preview has me very intrigued.

    This film, made by Tony Buba, is based on Marcus Rediker’s book about the famous slave revolt of 1839, The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom (Penguin, 2012) and is about a trip made by historians and a film crew to Sierra Leone in May 2013. All of the Amistad rebels were from southern and eastern Sierra Leone, so the filmmakers went to their villages of origin to interview elders about surviving local memory of the case. They also searched for the long lost ruins of Lomboko, the slave trading factory where the Amistad Africans were loaded onto a slave ship bound for the New World. This hour-long documentary chronicles a quest for a lost history from below.


    0 Comments on Ghosts of Amistad as of 5/20/2014 5:20:00 AM
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    25. Learning about Africa: Ghosts of Amistad

    I’m always on the look-out for new information and new takes on the Amistad story. One recent one is Marcus Rediker’s The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom in which the focus and viewpoint is on  the captives. And now there is a  film based on the book coming from filmmaker Tony Buba. The following description and preview has me very intrigued.

    This film, made by Tony Buba, is based on Marcus Rediker’s book about the famous slave revolt of 1839, The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom (Penguin, 2012) and is about a trip made by historians and a film crew to Sierra Leone in May 2013. All of the Amistad rebels were from southern and eastern Sierra Leone, so the filmmakers went to their villages of origin to interview elders about surviving local memory of the case. They also searched for the long lost ruins of Lomboko, the slave trading factory where the Amistad Africans were loaded onto a slave ship bound for the New World. This hour-long documentary chronicles a quest for a lost history from below.


    0 Comments on Learning about Africa: Ghosts of Amistad as of 5/20/2014 5:18:00 PM
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