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African Film Festival returns to New York

April 28th, 2006 | 2 Comments | Posted in Events, Film/Television

Taye Diggs in Drum at African Film FestivalThe African Film Festival returns to New York for it’s 13th installment. This year’s theme, Africa in Transition Today, explores contemporary African issues like the effects of war, personal tales of displacement, the HIV/AIDS plague, and the search for reconciliation The Festival will spotlight a wide array of U.S. premieres of internationally-acclaimed films, including Drum starring Taye Diggs from South African director Zola Maseko, which screened at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, and the U.S. premiere of U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, an exquisite adaptation of Bizet’s opera “Carmen” that won the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear Award. Other highlights include the first-ever section spotlighting filmmakers from the Maghreb and a program of short films from South Africa that explores issues of sexuality and gender. The month-long event is co-presented by the African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) and the Film Society at Lincoln Center.

13th Annual New York African Film Festival
When: Wed 4.26 – Mon 5.29
Where: Various locations
Price: $5-10

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Liberian wins Environmental Award

April 24th, 2006 | 2 Comments | Posted in Events, General, Politics

Silas Siakor 2006 Goldman Prize winnerFor those who were wondering about Google’s latest logo, this past Saturday marked Earth Day 2006. In commemoration of Earth Day and to promote environmental awareness worldwide, The Goldman Environmental Prize will be awarded today in a ceremony in San Francisco. One of the six recipients this year is Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor (36), a Liberian environmentalist who exposed evidence that Liberian President Charles Taylor used the profits of unchecked, rampant logging to pay the costs of a brutal 14-year civil war that left 150,000 people dead. At great personal risk, Siakor collected extremely hard-to-get evidence of falsified logging records, illegal logging practices and associated human rights abuses. He passed the evidence to the United Nations Security Council, which then banned the export of Liberian timber. Fearing for his life Mr. Siakor left Liberia for a period of exile spent in several neighboring countries.

With international sanctions on timber exports set to be lifted in June, Mr. Siakor continues fighting powerful forces that want to tap into Liberia’s forests as a source of income. As director of the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), in January he published a report outlining the sort of reforms he feels need to be carried out in order to protect the long term future of Liberia’s forests and the wildlife that depends upon them.

The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest prize honoring grassroots environmentalist. Described as “the Nobel Prize for grassroots environmentalism” the prize provides International recognition, worldwide visibility, and financial support of $125,000 to the winners to pursue their vision of a renewed and protected environment. After the San Francisco ceremony today at the Opera House, the Prize winners will travel to Washington D.C. for an awards ceremony and events at the National Press Club, on Capitol Hill and at the Brookings Institute with political, policy and environmental leaders.

Info: BBC

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Actor Don Cheadle documents Uganda’s “Night Commuters”

April 21st, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in Events, Film/Television, Politics

Don Cheadle with family in UgandaIn May of 2005, Academy Award-nominated actor Don Cheadle (Crash, Ocean’s Eleven, Traffic, Boogie Nights) traveled with his family to Kampala, Uganda to attend a charity screening of his award-winning film Hotel Rwanda. The screening was held to raise money for a group of children called the “night commuters”. They are called “night commuters” because every night they must flee their homes seeking refuge in large camps in the cities to keep from being kidnapped, dragged into the bush and ultimately forced to fight against the Ugandan government for the rebel Lords Resistance Army.

The Cheadles and a group of filmmakers traveled 5 hours outside the capital to the town of Gulu to see for themselves how these kids and their families are forced to live. Filmmaker and longtime ABC News producer Rick Wilkinson documented what they found in a 24-minute short called Journey Into Sunset. The documentary examines the lives and experiences of several of these boys and girls. Some of them have been able to avoid being kidnapped. Others who weren’t so lucky. They lived or died at the will and whim of their captors. They were forced to fight. And some committed horrible atrocities.

“Journey Into Sunset” will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC on April 26, where both Mr. Wilkinson and producer John Prendergast will be present for a Q&A. The film will also be screening at the Boston Film Festival, and the Atlanta Film Festival in June. Rick Wilkinson is a 4-time Emmy Award winner who has traveled the world, covering many of the pivotal news events as a producer for ABC television’s Nightline.

Info: Boing Boing

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Making Mali Music

April 20th, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in General, Music

Mali's Ali Farka TouréThe NY Times recently published an excellent article on the Malian music scene and it’s growth beyond it’s borders.

“A Malian music boom that began in the 1990′s, when the soulful vocalist Salif Keita and the singer-guitarist Ali Farka Touré achieved international stardom, has brought an influx of tourists, record producers and aspiring musicians seeking to emulate the stars’ successes. (The news of Mr. Touré’s death on March 6 from cancer resonated around the world.) As a result, Bamako has become a meeting place and incubator for West African talent, and one of the best places on the planet to hear live music.”

This year’s Grammy Awards featured two Malian albums in the Best Traditional World Music Album category. Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabate’s win against fellow Malian Mamadou Diabate for their album In the Heart of the Moon,” goes on to re-enforce the worldwide appeal of the distinct sound and culture Mali continues to produce.

Link courtesy of The In Crowd

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Ghanaian Twins get Rising Star Award nomination after feature in Black Enterprise Magazine

April 19th, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in Books/Magazines, General

Roadstarr Motorsports in Black Enterprise MagazineI must give props to Black Enterprise Magazine. For as long as I can remember they have continued to deliver timely and in depth stories about issues relating to black business. The January 2006 issue was no exception. On first glance the cover story, “Great opportunities for young entrepreneurs”, was the usual feature but upon reading it I soon found that it highlighted three African entrepreneurs who are making an impact in the business world.

One of those entrepreneurs, Roadstarr Motorsports, has made such an impact as to be nominated for a Black Enterprise Magazine Rising Star Award. Started in 2001 by Ghanaian twins Hassan and Hussein Iddrissu (28) and cousin John Spio , Roadstarr Motorsports has been making a flashy impact in the car customization culture. As the popularity of MTV’ Pimp My Ride has shown, car customization is really taking off in the mainstream. Not ones to fall into line the Ghanaian boys have taken the trend to another level by targeting only the very high-end luxury cars like Porches, Lamborghini’s, and Mercedes Benz. Their hard work is certainly paying off. RoadStarr MotorSports, located in Los Angeles, California, generated 3.8 million in revenue in 2005 and appearing on the cover of January’s Black Enterprise and now the award nomination, their stock can only go up. Get the new issue of Black Enterprise to see the other nominees.

Congratulations to Roadstarr Motorsports.

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Indie Rock group and Nigerian frontman begin tour

April 18th, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in Events, Music

TV on the RadioHaving won the Short List with his band TV on the Radio in 2004, Nigerian renaissance man Tunde Adebimpe is about to have another great year. His 2004 album, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, earned his band praise from artists as diverse as Morrissey, Mos Def and Trent Reznor. But this was not Adebimpe’s first time in the spotlight. His first brush with fame came with his lead role in the 2001 romantic comedy Jump Tomorrow. Jump Tomorrow starred Adebimpe as George, a young Nigerian man on the verge of being in an arranged marriage who suddenly questions his situation after an encounter with a stunning Latin woman, who is also about to be married. The film won several awards and was a critics’ favorite. Following Jump Tomorrow, the NYU film school graduate landed himself a stint at MTV (Celebrity Deathmatch) and got directorial accolades for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ debut video “Pin”TV”. His friendship with roommate Dave Sitek, who was also producing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the time, led to the formation of TV on the Radio. In 2001 they released their debut cd titled Young Liars on the Touch and Go label. But it was 2004′s Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes that catapulted the trio (with band mate Kyp Malone as an addition) to stardom.

Since their debut, Adebimpe and TV on the Radio have left indie label Touch and Go for the majors at Interscope (also home of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Their new cd, tentatively titled Return to Cookie Mountain, is “a collection of hypnotic, shape-shifting tunes” that has already earned raves from David Bowie whom they have also been collaborating with. You can see the Nigerian Brooklynite on tour in the US as he promotes the new TV on the Radio album due out this summer.

Check out Tunde Adebimpe with TV on the Radio in the video for their song “Staring at the Sun” from their album Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes.

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Nokia picks the Face of Africa for 2006

April 17th, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in Fashion, Film/Television

Oluchi OnweagbaOn April 22 the Nokia Face of Africa 2006 contest will have its final casting in Johannesburg, South Africa. Having covered 12 cities since February, the contest is in its eighth year of selecting a unique model who will reign as the Face of Africa. In countries such as Ghana, Rwanda, Namibia and Nigeria, a scouting team has already chosen a semi-finalist. The winner of the continent-wide search will be chosen on August 13 in Sun City in Johannesburg.

Though the contest has been long running, with Nokia backing the efforts, the winner of the contest will gain more exposure than the winners of the past. Only one model so far has turned her win into an international modeling career, though others continue to work as models. Since winning the contest in 1998 at the age of seventeen, Nigerian model Oluchi Onweagba was awarded a three-year contract by Elite Models Management. Oluchi (as she’s known in the modeling world) has since graced the covers of Italian Vogue, I-D, Elle, Untold, and Surface and has been featured in Nylon, Marie Claire, Allure, and Vogue while working with the who’s-who of the fashion world.

The Nokia Face of Africa 2006 contest is being filmed by South Africa’s M-Net channel for its African lifestyle program Studio 53 and will dedicate three programs in July to the search for Nokia Face of Africa 2006.

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Converse sees RED for Africa

April 17th, 2006 | 1 Comment | Posted in Fashion

Converse  Product RED mudcloth sneakerThe fight against AIDS in Africa has produced yet another initiative. Converse recently joined Armani, the Gap, American Express, and other major brands in support of Product RED. Spearheaded by everyone’s favorite African spokesman, Bono of U2, and Bobby Shriver (Chairman of DATA – Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa ), Product RED is an economic initiative “designed to deliver sustainable flow of private sector money to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria”. The first model in the Converse RED Collection is the Chuck Taylor All Star mudcloth shoe designed by UK designer Giles Deacon and inspired by Nakunte Diarra, a renowned mudcloth artist and storyteller since the 1950’s who originates from Mali. Bogolanfini, the mud-dyed cloth of the Bamana people of Mali, is a living art form, constantly changing, reflecting new inspirations, while paying homage to the past.

The Converse RED Chuck Taylor All Star African Mudcloth shoe debuted on April 1, 2006 and retails for $295. It will be available at specialty stores in the UK, online globally at the Converse online store and exclusively at Barney’s in the US (New York and Los Angeles). A portion of the proceeds from the Converse RED Mudcloth shoes and will benefit The Global Fund.

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Hugh Masekela past and present

April 14th, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in Events, Music

Hugh Masekela: The Chisa YearsSouth African trumpeter, Hugh Masekela is in concert in the USA this month. He will be promoting his latest cd “Revival”. Known throughout the world as one of Africa’s great musicians. Hugh Masekela was one of the first African artists to break into U.S. pop radio. If you’re into a more funky African sound check out “Hugh Masekela: The Chisa Years 1965-1976 (rare and unreleased)” which features rare, unheard tracks from the jazzman’s early years in exile in New York.

Show Dates
Somerville Theatre
Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square. Show: 8 PM, TIX: $28-35

African Heritage Celebration

Cape May Jazz Festival
Cape May
New Jersey
Show: 8 PM.
For more information on the Cape May Jazz Festival, visit:

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Western movies get African treatment

April 14th, 2006 | 2 Comments | Posted in Film/Television

Jingo Tabula - Ugandan veejayThe Christian Science Monitor writes about the emergence of video jockeys (veejays) in Uganda. Emerging out of the phenomenon of homegrown video hall, the veejays act as cultural translators, providing colorful “voiceovers” of Western Movies for the native population. The veejays have gained such popularity as to become local celebrities. The unique way each veejay translates the films have even spawned genre specialists, with some being known for action movies and others for romantic comedies. This veejaying method lends creative license tot the “interpreter” with many choosing entertainment of their audience over accuracy. It’s an interesting article about how some African communities are customizing foreign movies for their market allowing them to earn a living and tap into their creative spirit.

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