(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Africa

“We face neither East nor West; we face forward”*…


To the Western mind, “African Electronics,” the theme of this year’s annual Chale Wote street art festival in Ghana’s capital, might conjure up images of social media revolutions, telecommunications giants, farmers using smartphones, or other “tech solutions” to development. Not for artist Serge Attukwei Clottey.

Serge, like most artists participating at Chale Wote, views African Electronics as a call for African empowerment, and celebration of the innovation and energy which has been flowing through the continent for centuries. This was ever present throughout a festival that saw examples of both traditional and contemporary art forms: from colorful wall murals to performance art, interactive installations to stand alone sculptures, traditional drummers to electronic music DJs…

More at “‘African Electronics’ Takes a Spiritual Approach to Individual Power.” (Serge Attukwei Clottey will exhibit his performance installation, The Displaced, at Feuer Mesler gallery in Manhattan in October 2015.)

* Kwame Nkrumah


As we agree with Jaron Lanier that “You Are Not A Gadget,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1888 that Granville Tailer Woods– the first African-American electrical engineer working n the U.S. after the Civil War, whose many inventions (and 50 patents) earned him the moniker “the Black Edison”– patented the Multiplex Telegraph, a device that sent messages between train stations and moving trains, thus assuring a safer, better public transportation system.



Written by LW

August 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Trying to plan for the future without knowing the past is like trying to plant cut flowers”*…


It’s happening by hook (violence) and by crook (economic development)…

Palmyra, an ancient oasis city and one-time capital of a short-lived empire, has been razed before. In the third century, Roman emperor Aurelian punished its rebelling citizens by looting its treasures and burning its buildings. The city never recovered; its broken, but well preserved remains have stood in the Syrian desert ever since. Now looms the very real possibility of Islamic State (IS) finishing-off the job Aurelian began by reducing the historic site to rubble. Earlier this year, IS declared the three thousand-year-old palace at Nimrud, Iraq, a symbol of polytheism and demolished it with bulldozers and explosives. In the past days, Islamic State’s advance into Syria has brought Palmyra’s splendid ruins under its control. Its ancient temples, already damaged by fighting, risk suffering Nimrud’s fate.

Conflict has often threatened antiquities, and violent threats to cultural sites often draw the public eye. Today however, development and resource extraction are far more common perils. Among UNESCO’s list of more than a thousand World Heritage Sites (places considered as of special cultural or physical significance), 46—Palmyra included—are categorized as ‘in danger’. Housing, mining, logging, and agriculture are responsible for putting more than half of the sites on the threat list.

Via The Economist, where one will find an interactive version of this chart: mouse over a site to learn the details of both the treasure and the threat to it.

* Daniel Boorstin (quoted by his son, David)


As we promise to preserve, we might recall that it was on this date in 1415 that Infante Dom Henrique de Avis, Duke of Viseu, better known as Henry the Navigator, embarked on an expedition to Africa.  Having encouraged his father his father, King John I, to conquer a North African port, Henry went to assess the continent’s prospects for himself.  Impressed, he became the champion of Portuguese exploration and expansion, sponsoring the systematic mapping of West Africa, the development of new ships, and the continual search for new trade routes.

Portrait believed to be the true likeness of Henry the Navigator. Detail from the fifth panel of the polyptych of St. Vincent by Nuno Gonçalves, c.1470



Written by LW

June 13, 2015 at 1:01 am

What goes around…

George Packer described in the New York Times what happens to the clothes that one drops with charity…

If you’ve ever left a bag of clothes outside the Salvation Army or given to a local church drive, chances are that you’ve dressed an African. All over Africa, people are wearing what Americans once wore and no longer want. Visit the continent and you’ll find faded remnants of secondhand clothing in the strangest of places. The ”Let’s Help Make Philadelphia the Fashion Capital of the World” T-shirt on a Malawian laborer. The white bathrobe on a Liberian rebel boy with his wig and automatic rifle. And the muddy orange sweatshirt on the skeleton of a small child, lying on its side in a Rwandan classroom that has become a genocide memorial. A long chain of charity and commerce binds the world’s richest and poorest people in accidental intimacy. It’s a curious feature of the global age that hardly anyone on either end knows it.

Mother Jones and the International Reporting Project collected a stunning gallery that helps those on this end of the chain better appreciate the other.

The circumstantially-ironic commentary of the photos is just a bonus…

"Iowa: Nothing to do since 1772" shirt worn by University of Liberia student

More wonderful pix– all shot in November, 2010 in Liberia, West Africa, “where former warlords tend rice paddies and American t-shirts are sold in heaps under the hot African sun”– at Mother Jones‘ “Where Do Goodwill Clothes Go?


As we appreciate the long reach of the global market, we might recall that it was on this date in 1954 that Walt Disney announced plans for Disneyland in Anaheim, California.  Construction was begun on July 21st of that year, and the park opened a year-and-a-day later.




Your correspondent has a reasonable grasp of the world’s geography, at least insofar as the relative locations of the world’s nations.  But prisoner of a worldview that has been framed by a lifetime of consulting traditional maps, his sense of scale has been more-than-a-little out of whack…  Mercator’s cylindrical projection— first adopted for its ability to represent lines of constant course (rhumb lines or loxodromes) as straight segments for nautical navigational purposes, now standard– distorts one’s sense of relative scale.  For example, on a traditional map, Africa appears not much larger than China or the U.S.

Now, by way of corrective, Kai Krause has scaled countries by their area (in square kilometers) and fit them into Africa’s borders:

for a larger version, click the image above, or here, then click again

(TotH to Flowing Data)

As we discipline ourselves to emulate Ed Sullivan in saying “really big,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1952 that British Governor Evelyn Baring declared a state of emergency in the colony of Kenya and began arresting hundreds of suspected leaders of the Mau Mau Uprising, including Jomo Kenyatta, the future first President of Kenya.

Jomo Kenyatta



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