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Posts Tagged ‘Africa

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”*…

 

This map of Canada shows the country’s familiar vastness. A single line drawn across its deep south adds a surprising layer of information.

The line runs well below the 49th parallel that constitutes that long straight stretch of U.S.-Canada border from Point Roberts, WA to Lake of the Woods, MN… Split in two by the U.S. state of Maine poking north, the line traverses four eastern provinces, cutting off the southern extremities of Ontario, Québec and New Brunswick. Nova Scotia is the only province that falls mostly below the line.

Amazingly, what the line does, is divide Canada in two perfect halves – demographically speaking: 50% of Canada’s 35 million inhabitants live south of the line, 50% north of it. Below the line is where you find Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Halifax and other major cities. The vast expanses north of the line are mainly empty…

Other compelling cartographic “curious dividers” at “One Half of Canada Is Smaller than the Other — Plus More Fascinating Inequalities.”

* Audre Lorde

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As we conquer the divides, we might send adventurous birthday greetings to Hugh Clapperton; he was born on this date in 1788.  A British naval officer, Clapperton saw action in the Napoleonic Wars and in Canada before volunteering for an expedition to explore Africa.  He made several such journeys, helping to chart West and Central Africa, and was the first European to to make known from personal observation the Hausa states (in what we now call Nigeria).  Clapperton ended his career sailing in an action aimed at suppressing the slave trade.

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Written by LW

May 18, 2016 at 1:01 am

“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog”*…

 

Savior Barbie stands in front of a chalkboard in a run-down classroom somewhere in Africa. “It’s so sad that they don’t have enough trained teachers here. I’m not trained either, but I’m from the West,” the caption on the photo reads. In another, the plastic figurine poses in front shacks made from scrap metal and sticks: “Just taking a slumfie… Feeling so blessed.”

In the satirical Instagram account for Savior Barbie, Barbie is in Africa running an NGO that provides drinking water to locals. “Harnessing broken white hearts to provide water to those in Africa, one tear at a time,” the tagline for her organization reads. The account, started a month ago by two 20-something white women who have worked in East Africa, now has over 18,000 followers…

Savior Barbie also highlights the point that advocates and experts working on the continent have been observing for years—well-intentioned but naive volunteerism—or “voluntourism“—is at best ineffectual and at worst harmful to the developing countries it’s meant to serve. It drives an industry that sees 1.6 million people do volunteer work while on vacation every year, spending as much as $2 billion in the process. Nigerian-American author Teju Cole once dubbed this impulse the White Savior Industrial Complex

More at “Instagram’s White Savior Barbie neatly captures what’s wrong with “voluntourism” in Africa.” Pair with “The Smug Style in American Liberalism“– bracing stuff.

[TotH to EWW]

* Jack London

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As we rethink relief, we might send forbearing birthday wishes to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; he was born on this date in 121.  The last of the Five Good Emperors, Marcus Aurelius is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers; his Meditations, written on campaign before he became emperor, is still a central text on the philosophy of service and duty.

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Written by LW

April 26, 2016 at 1:01 am

“No other continent has endured such an unspeakably bizarre combination of foreign thievery and foreign goodwill”*…

 

What if the Black Plague had killed off almost all Europeans? Then the Reconquista never happens. Spain and Portugal don’t kickstart Europe’s colonization of other continents. And this is what Africa might have looked like.

The map – upside down, to skew our traditional Eurocentric point of view – shows an Africa dominated by Islamic states, and native kingdoms and federations. All have at least some basis in history, linguistics or ethnography. None of their borders is concurrent with any of the straight lines imposed on the continent by European powers, during the 1884-85 Berlin Conference and in the subsequent Scramble for Africa. By 1914, Europeans controlled 90% of Africa’s land mass. Only the Abyssinian Empire (modern-day Ethiopia) and Liberia (founded in 1847 as a haven for freed African-American slaves) remained independent…

More alternative– but instructive– history at “Africa, Uncolonized: A Detailed Look at an Alternate Continent.”

* Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

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As we explore, we might send an elegantly-filmed birthday greeting to Sidney Poitier; he was born on this date in 1927 (to Bahamian parents visiting Miami).  An acclaimed actor, he became the first Bahamian and first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor (in 1964, for his role in Lilies of the Field). Then in 1967, he starred in three successful films, To Sir, with Love, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, making him the top box-office star of that year.  Poitier went on to direct a number of films, and in 2010 was awarded another Oscar, the Academy Honorary Award, in recognition of his “remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being.”  Poitier led a active life off-stage as well: he served as Bahamian ambassador to both Japan and UNESCO, and served as a director of the Walt Disney Company.  He was knighted in 1974, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, in 2009.

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Written by LW

February 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

“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

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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.

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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)

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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

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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.

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XXXL…

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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