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Africa in vibrant technicolor, Paul Sika talks to CNN

One of  the most dynamic, engaging young creative talents coming out of the African continent recently is Ivorian photographer/creative director Paul Sika. After being introduced about a year ago by a mutual friend, I was impressed by his creative vision and passion. Paul’s use of color and juxtaposition of characters in his photo and video creations expose a new way of looking at contemporary African life, culture, and style. A true entrepreneur, Paul has put together an upcoming book titled “At The Heart Of Me …” featuring his intricate work and concepts. As I mentioned in my earlier post “Top 6 African business and culture trends to watch in 2010“, Paul Sika is one of the African creative class making an impact this year. For more about Paul Sika and his upcoming book, visit


Trailer for the book “At The Heart Of Me …” by Paul Sika

CNN Inside Africa’s Isha Sesay talks to Ivorian photographer Paul Sika about his vibrant images, filled with eye-catching colors.

If you can’t see the videos above, go here to view

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NY African Film Festival opens, celebrates World Cup and independent Africa


The 17th annual New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) has opened on April 7th celebrating the 50th anniversary of 17 African nations’ independence from colonial rule as well as the freedom that the rise in technology has given African filmmakers to tell their own stories. Among the 13 features and 25 short films from emerging and veteran filmmakers from 18 countries are four soccer films in honor of the World Cup’s first games in Africa opening in June 2010, an animated short program, Focus Features’ Africa First short program and an environmental film.

The festival runs from April 7 through the 13th at The Film Society of Lincoln Center and continues at Columbia University’s Institute for African Studies, 3ten Lounge, New Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music BAMcinématek with dates in April and May. Some films showing during the festival include The Absence, directed by Mama Keïta (Senegal/France), Eliane de Latour’s narrative film Beyond the Ocean, winner of the Jury Prize at the Festival des Cinéma du Monde 2009, and Wanuri Kahiu’s Pumzi, which I highlighted here before.

Take a look at the full film schedule.

On Saturday, April 10, a panel discussion will also be held where established and aspiring directors and producers will learn how to craft an attention-getting pitch and utilize social networking tools at “Getting Exposure: Securing the Buzz You Need for Your Film.” The panel takes place at The Film Society of Lincoln Center at 1:30 pm, and is part of  the film festivals “Independent Africa”.

Panelists will include Jennifer Merin, film journalist with and founder of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists; Misani, culture writer for the Amsterdam News; Paul Burani, social media strategist; and Pam Pickens, digital marketing expert. The event, which is open to the public, will be moderated by veteran entertainment publicist and NYAFF’s public relations consultant Cheryl L. Duncan of Cheryl Duncan & Company Inc.

For panel or film tickets, go to

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Morocco’s desert region a widescreen backdrop for Hollywood films

November 25th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in Art, Books/Magazines, Business, Film/Television, General, Travel

Speaking about the Ouarzazate region in Morocco, The Global Post reports:

Chances are you’ve unwittingly seen this region’s wild vistas in any number of movies. Among other locales, the desert was billed as Iraq in “Body of Lies,” dressed up as Jerusalem in “Kingdom of Heaven” and transformed into ancient Egypt in “The Mummy Returns.”

An array of ready-built sets, cheap labor and stunning landscapes has helped turn this sleepy provincial capital into a Third World Hollywood.

Production remnants abound, from concrete castles and plaster villages, to an American gas station falling to pieces beside a two-lane road. Featured in the horror film “The Hills Have Eyes,” its English sign offers non-existent beer to the Muslim drivers passing by.

But veterans of the country’s film trade say they wish more of their studios were in use this year. The global downturn has caused several big films to cancel or push back start dates, delaying cash upon which a growing population of technicians, actors and extras have come to depend.

The video below tells an interesting story of the North African desert’s draw for Hollywood.

If you can’t see the video above click here.

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LAFF & African Film Commission hosts On the Rumba River

June 27th, 2007 | No Comments | Posted in Film/Television, General, Music, Politics, Travel

As part of the 2007 Los Angeles Film Festival, the African Film Commission will present On The Rumba River (Le Batelier de la Rumba) a film Jacques Sarasin. I won’t be able to attend but, I encourage any of you who will be in LA this week to support us and catch this exciting documentary. Details below.

On the Rumba River LAFF AFC

Brimming with music and dance, On the Rumba River looks at the life and times of beloved Congolese musician Wendo Kolosoy. Throughout a career that spans decades, Papa Wendo has weathered personal hard times as well as Congo’s troubled political and economic history, all of which he’s faced with a combination of determination, humor and, of course, music. This touching and lively documentary captures Kolosoy’s latest reunion with his band, the Victoria Bakolo Miziki Players, when they gather to play the transcendent music that has come to embody the spirit of the Congolese people.

Screening Times:
Thu. Jun 28, 7:00pm, Mann Festival Theater
Sat. Jun 30, 5:00pm, Italian Cultural Institute

For event information and tickets, call 866.FILM.FEST (866.345.6337) or visit

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Hip-hop’s African ancestry at Odyssey Awards

Beverly Fab5 and Kofi at H20Last Saturday I attended the 5th Annual Hip-Hop Odyssey (H2O) Awards, held at BB Kings in New York City. Organized by the Hip-Hop Association, the awards ceremony recognized today’s hottest Hip-Hop filmmakers, industry professionals and pioneers. The event always features appearances and performances by Hip-Hop heavyweights. This year’s event, as usual, was packed with many of the individuals who have played a major part in shaping the hip-hop landscape including, artist/entrepreneur/hip-hop personality Fab 5 Freddy (that’s him in the picture standing in front of me as we listen to DJ Beverly Bond speak about YO! MTV Raps’ late producer Ted Demme), Ice-T (who gave an excellent acceptance speech about staying true to oneself), Dana Dane, Grand Wizard Theodore, (Dr.) Roxanne Shante, Ralph McDaniels (Video Music Box), The Cold Crush Brothers, Chubb Rock and much more.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about the awards and the preceding H2O International Film Festival, is how the organizers (Martha Diaz, Rolando Brown etc) make a conscious effort to show the influence of African (and international) cultures on the growth of America’s hip-hop/urban culture. A few years back, besides the performance by the Nomadic Wax Global Hip-hop All-stars’ Chosan (Sierra Leone) , Eli Efi (Brazil) , and El Gambina (Korea), the festival grand prize went to Hip-Hop Colony, a film about the African hip-hop explosion – now on DVD. This year Hip-Hop Colony’s Kenyan director, Michael Wanguhu, was on hand to present an award. To further encourage the hip-hop generation to connect with Africa, this year’s awards was sponsored by and involved a presentation by popular DNA lineage identification company African Ancestry Inc. Some of you might remember that African Ancestry Inc. was the company behind VH1′s Spike Lee-directed February (Black History month) spot which promoted a stronger connection between African-Americans and the African continent through DNA swab testing. African Ancestry’s President, Gina Paige, was on hand at this year’s H2O Awards ceremony to present the evening’s host, Paul Mooney, with his personal DNA test results. Upon revealing that Paul Mooney’s lineage goes back to Guinea-Bissau (I don’t remember which specific ethnic group was cited), Gina Paige presented Mr. Mooney with a folder containing the details of the tests as well as a t-shirt with a Guinea-Bissau logo. A very nice touch.

African Ancestry offers a great solution for African-Americans looking to re-connect with their African heritage. With the DNA procedure gaining popularity and support from African-American celebrities like Oprah, Whoopi Goldberg, LeVar Burton, Chris Tucker, Chris Rock, and Isaiah Washington – who also holds a seat on African Ancestry’s Board of Directors -, and media outlets from ABC’s Good Morning America to PBS championing the efforts, African Ancestry has already begun to solidify the link between African-American and African cultures.

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Africa’s next chapter convenes at TEDGlobal 2007

Chris Anderson and Emeka Okafor at TEDGlobalOne of the most important events for Africa’s technology, entertainment, and design industry development, TEDGlobal 2007, is in full swing in Arusha, Tanzania. Coming from vacation I have been reinvigorated by all the developments coming out of this seminal event. Now in it’s 3rd day, the conference has already given me more than enough insight into innovative ideas behind Africa’s next chapter. With all the information and idea sharing at this event, the African blogosphere is sure to be fueled for a long time to come. Below are some important resources for keeping up to date with the happenings in Tanzania. I’ll be watching and listening closely as I hope you all are.

Live updates:
Soyapi Mumba is Twittering TEDGlobal
Ethan Zuckerman of My Heart’s in Accra is live-blogging

Other bloggers at TEDGlobal 2007:
TEDFellow Erik Hersman, of White African
TEDFellow Rafiq Phillips at WebAddiCT
David McQueen
Africa Beat, by Jennifer Brea
Mental Acrobatics
TEDFellow Mweshi
TEDFellow Fran Osseo-Asare, of Betumi: The African Food Network
TEDFellow Soyapi Mumba
TEDFellow Ramon Thomas, of NETucation
Ndesanjo Macha, who writes Digital Africa, in English, and Jikomboe, in Swahili
Ellen Horne at Radio Lab in Tanzania
Sam Ritchie
Harinjaka (in French)
Kenyan Pundit, by TED Conference speaker and blogger Ory Okolloh
Timbuktu Chronicles, by TEDGlobal conference director Emeka Okafor
and of course you can get official updates at the TED blog site

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Vh1, Spike Lee, Oprah find African ancestry

February 1st, 2007 | 13 Comments | Posted in Business, Film/Television, General, Music, Travel

Spike Lee at Oprah's eventToday is February 1st and the beginning of Black History month here in the US. In the past I haven’t really followed the events which take place for Black History month because it had turned into just a part of big business’ marketing calendar. But this year Black History Month might turn out to be worth noting for both Africans and African-Americans. Vh1 is leading the pack with it’s debut of a 30-seond spot directed by director Spike Lee encouraging African-Americans to scientifically determine their African lineage.

The spot which debuts today (February 1st) on the VH1 soul channel will feature several African-Americans initially mentioning the American cities that they are from. The people are then featured again, holding swabs and naming the African region that their ancestors are from. The spot then encourages viewers to “take pride in their original homes during Black History Month”. The campaign feature DNA-based ancestry tests performed by African Ancestry, Inc., a company that uses swabbed DNA to genetically determine where in Africa a person’s African ancestors came from. DNA ancestry tests have gained mainstream popularity particularly through the efforts of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr’s four-part PBS series “African American Lives,” which used DNA to trace the roots of Oprah Winfrey, Chris Tucker and other prominent African Americans all the way from slave plantations to the shores of Africa. Dr. Gates, a professor who heads Harvard’s Afro-American Studies program, also hosted another recent PBS special centered around tracing Oprah Winfrey’s genealogy and is releasing a book and DVD “Finding Oprah’s Roots — Finding Your Own”.

VH1 will also be launching a new music video show “One Planet. One Soul” beginning Sunday, February 4 showcasing soul artists from the U.K., Africa, Canada, Australia, including Akon, K’Naan, and Rhian Benson. “One Planet. One Soul” will air every Sunday at 10:00 am, 6:00 pm and 2:00 am.

Oprah Winfrey and Henry Louis Gates discover African roots

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Botswana Bushmen win land after DiCaprio appeal

December 14th, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in Books/Magazines, Charity, Film/Television, General, Politics

Botswana Bushmen await ancestral land decisionEarlier this week the NY Daily News rang the bell on the newest blood diamond match this time between Russell Simmons and Blood Diamond director Ed Zwick. The director’s critisism comes as the latest part of the fallout from Simmons’ fact-finding African diamonds mission. Since last week’s press conference, Russell has been fending off all kinds of hits about what many perceive as his being a puppet for DeBeers. Everyone from the hip-hop press to Rush Limbaugh have an opinion on diamonds now. I think Russell hurt his business more than ever. As Zwick and Simmons continue their match, the winners of the week seem to be Botswana’s Kalahari Bushmen who just won their diamond filled land back from Botswana’s government. It seems they have Leonardo DiCaprio to thank.

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The Independent names 50 best African artists

December 1st, 2006 | 1 Comment | Posted in Art, Books/Magazines, Fashion, Film/Television, General, Music, Politics

K'NaanThis is an excellent article from today’s Independent newspaper. As part of the World AIDS day Product (RED) issue, the article emphasizes the importance of African cultural expression.

“African leaders need to be more conscious of the role that culture can play, particularly economically. Many Western economies – such as Britain – have benefited hugely from the showbusiness and music sector. It generates huge amounts of money and provides significant opportunities to work. Everyone in Africa – whether a politician, musician or businessman or woman – needs to appreciate the role that culture can play in our development.”

The full list is below and the full article is here

The 50 greatest cultural figures shaping a continent
• Oga Steve Abah, Playwright (Nigeria)
• Chinua Achebe, Author (Nigeria)
• David Adjaye, Architect (Tanzania)
• Newton Aduaka, Film Director (Nigeria)
• Mahmoud Ahmed, Musician (Ethiopia)
• Ama Ata Aidoo, Playwright (Ghana)
• Amadou And Mariam, Musicians (Mali)
• Ayi Kwei Armah, Author (Ghana)
• Les Ballets Africains, Dancers And Musicians (Guinea)
• Biyi Bandele, Author (Nigeria)
• Sokari Douglas Camp, Artist (Nigeria)
• Boyzie Cekwana, Choreographer And Dancer (South Africa)
• Souleymane Cisse, Film Director (Mali)
• Lueen Conning, Playwright (South Africa)
• Tsitsi Dangarembga, Author (Zimbabwe)
• Toumani Diabate, Musician (Mali)
• Dilomprizulike, Artist (Nigeria)
• Cesaria Evora, Singer (Cape Verde)
• Samuel Fosso, Photographer (Cameroon)
• Flora Gomes, Film Director (Guinea-Bissau)
• Pierre Atepa Goudiaby, Architect (Senegal)
• Mahamat Saleh Haroun, Film Director (Chad)
• Delia Jarrett-Macauley, Author (Sierra Leone)
• Salif Keita, Musician (Mali)
• Khaled, Musician (Algeria)
• Abdoulaye Konate, Artist (Mali)
• Konono No 1, Musicians (Congo)
• Femi Kuti, Musician (Nigeria)
• Faustin Linyekula, Choreographer And Dancer (Congo)
• Vincent Mantsoe, Choreographer And Dancer (South Africa)
• Zola Maseko, Film Director (South Africa)
• Souad Massi, Singer (Algeria)
• Youssou N’dour, Musician (Senegal)
• Kettly Noel, Choreographer And Dancer (Haiti/Mali)
• Idrissa Ouedraogo, Film-Maker (Upper Volta/Burkina Faso
• Tracey Rose, Artist (South Africa)
• Ibrahim El Salahi, Artist (Sudan)
• Ousmane Sembene, Film-Maker (Senegal)
• Abderrahmane Sissako, Film Director (Mauritania/Mali)
• Wole Soyinka, Dramatist, Novelist, Poet (Nigeria)
• Rachid Taha, Musician (Algeria)
• Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Author (Kenya)
• Tinariwen, Musicians (Mali)
• Rokia Traore, Musician (Mali)
• Binyavanga Wainana, Author (Kenya)
• Zola, Musician (South Africa)
• Athol Fugard, Playwright (South Africa)
• K’naan, Rapper (Somalia)
• Oumou Sy, Fashion Designer (Senegal)

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Creating an African film experience

May 8th, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in Film/Television, Politics, Travel
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun directs Dry SeasonChadian filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun is dedicated to his craft. Like many African born filmmakers he is intent of furthering the African experience through film. Using his country, Chad, as a backdrop he is currently at work on another film that puts a face on the people who experience the challenges of living on the continent. A recent Washington Post article talks about the lengths to which he and his crew are going to make his movie Dry Season authentic. To some extent his filmmaking style is more documentary than entertainment. His previous films Bye Bye Africa and Abouna similarly put a face on the 30-year Chadian civil war.
Mr. Haroun is one of many filmmakers who are creating great films without the support or existence of a native filmmaking industry. Besides the virtual nonexistence of a film community and ongoing political repression, many African filmmakers also face the challenge of seeking funding abroad with "many international donors viewing the arts as a luxury in times of food shortages, health crises and other emergencies". Fueled by their travels and a new access to resources not available in their countries, more and more Africans are using their artistic vision to tell stories of Africa as they have experienced it. Last November in New York City, I got a chance to see one of the movies cited in the Post article, Hip Hop Colony, sweep the H20 (Hip-Hop Odyssey) International Film Festival Odyssey awards, winning the Best Feature Documentary award and the Heineken Emerging Filmmaker Award. Along with Bling: Consequences and Repercussions, Hip Hop Colony was a highlight at the festival, bringing Africa-themed films to the forefront. South African film Tsotsi's win (Best Foreign Language Film of the Year) at February's Academy Awards has given African film a new life and with more structure they will stand a better chance of getting funding and distribution to the world.
"Africa has such a terrible image," said Issa Traoré de Brahima, a filmmaker from Burkina Faso who was working on the Chadian film. "And at the same time, we have so many talented people with artists' souls. We just wish they didn't have to leave the continent to earn a living. But in some places that is slowly changing."

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