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Trending Africa Nov. 18, 2009: Jay-Z, Will Smith produce Fela! musical, China’s $10bn for Africa, Dinosaurs in Africa

November 18th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in Business, Film/Television, General, Music, Politics, Travel


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“Africa:The Next Chapter” videos premiere

The good folks at TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) have debuted the first videos from the powerful TEDGlobal 2007 conference held in Tanzania earlier this year. Called “Africa: The Next Chapter”, the conference featured talks from many of Africa’s current innovators.  The first few uploaded videos include South African investment banker Euvin Nadoo – who I met at the Harvard Club in New York in April – describing a continent poised to light up, Ghanaian economist George Ayittey’s lacerating criticism of Africa’s “hippo generation” to inspiring appeal for the “cheetah generation” to arise, former Finance Minister of Nigeria Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala showing how the different pieces of the aid vs trade argument could be reconciled, and finally 19-year-old Malawian inventor William Kamkwamba who won a standing ovation for his shy 3-minute interview, revealing how as a 14-year-old he solved his parents’ energy needs in a village which had no electricity. These first videos are a window into the minds of Africa’s growing entrepreneural class. I can’t wait for the other speakers’ videos.

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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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Africa fuels Golden Globe wins

January 16th, 2007 | No Comments | Posted in Events, Film/Television, General, Music

Forest Whitaker wins 2007 Golden GlobeLast nights Golden Globe awards solidified what newspapers have been saying for months. Africa is red hot for Hollywood filmmakers. Babel, filmed in Morocco and Tunisia, won for best film and Forest Whitaker (Platoon, Good Morning, Vietnam, The Color of Money) won the best actor award for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland”. While the two films are dramas, the diversity of the scenery in each film is a testament to the multitude of cultures and landscapes, which makes the African continent unique.

I haven’t talked much about “The Last King of Scotland” in the past particularly because I have yet to see it and it didn’t get much of a push at the box office. But Whitaker’s Golden Globe win is a clear example of the strength of the African continent as a source for filmmaking. Whitaker who has held various roles as actor, producer, and director is an unlikely star. Since appearing on screen in the early eighties, he has constantly worked on and off the screen developing projects. Those of us in the hip-hop community probably know him best for his Wu-Tang Clan association. It’s Whitaker’s quirkiness which made him an ideal candidate for the Idi Amin character. While critics claim the movie again put the white character at the story’s’ center, Whitaker’s intensity could not be ignored. I hope both wins send a rush of viewers to see the films, and push the profit numbers up. At the end of the day, hollywood is about making money, and if it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense (to produce).

“Buoyed by the critical and financial success of movies such as Hotel Rwanda and The Constant Gardener, studios are unleashing a series of films not only based on life in Africa, but shot there as well.

The cinematic migration, filmmakers and analysts say, reflects a sea change in Hollywood’s perspective about the region, once a mystery and easy stereotype for the entertainment industry.

Gone are the safari and Africans-as-savages motifs. The new films address recent history and topical subjects from terrorism to the diamond trade to long-distance runners.” – USA Today

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Blood Diamond NY premiere

December 1st, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in Charity, Events, Film/Television, General, Politics

Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connoley, Leonardo DiCaprio at Blood Diamond NY screeningLast night (November 30th) the Museum of Modern Art in New York hosted a screening of the new movie “Blood Diamond” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, And Jennifer Connelly. Despite the serious nature of the movie and the controversy surrounding it, the screening was reported to be a very festive one. I wonder if Sorious Samura, the Award-winning Sierra Leonean filmographer and who was the primary consultant for the movie was in attendance. Mr. Samura’s movie “Cry Freetown” was a major inspiration for director Ed Zwick’s (“Glory”, The Last Samurai”) “Blood Diamond” movie. The movie will be released on December 8th.
More pictures

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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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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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Mixtress X site launch

April 7th, 2006 | 1 Comment | Posted in Film/Television

mixtressx.jpgNY-based Liberian director Dante Kaba has launched the site for his film Mistress X. The film is a documentary about hip-hop’s under-appreciated female djs. From NYC’s Beverly Bond & Atlanta’s Shortee (Fauste and Shortee), to radio host Wendy Williams, the film shines light on the struggles of being a female dj in a male-dominated industry. A must see.

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