Thursday, March 19, 2020

Africa-centered activities while hunkering down

In happier days - a celebration
You're home, you're bored.
What activities can you do that you usually don't have time for - and you have an affinity for, or a relationship with Sub-Saharan Africa?

Of course we can start with the news. Much of it is depressing - about how many cases of Covid19 are in Africa, who passed away - all sad and frightening.

However there are bright spots! Among fashion designers and tailors/sew mistresses around the world, a Rwandan designer is creating masks made of African fabric. They are not medically approved, but at least there is a physical barrier.

Other activities:

- Submit a film to the Mobile Film Festival!
As per their site: Founded in 2005, the Mobile Film Festival is an international Festival of short-length movies, based on an simple principle: 1 Mobile, 1 Minute, 1 Film And further: The Mobile Film Festival is a 100% digital festival, thus aiming at reaching the largest audience. Yet, its short and creative format, as well as the technical quality of the films, enable a broadcasting of the films on all screens: smartphones, computers, TVs, cinema theaters, …

- Listen to all the music, old and new, from Africa. These are some of my favorites:

Cameroon (which I know best)
  • all the old Dina Bell songs: the first one I ever heard, and learned to dance the Makossa to, is "yoma yoma," a Cameroonian classic. I also adore his romantic songs, such as "Essèlè Nika "(loosely "let [me] be") - I was trying to obtain the entire text translated from Duala, and now found it in the comments! - or "Sophie." It appears that with Dina Bell, either you love his songs or you are indifferent. I love them!
  • A more intellectual yet popular Cameroonian singer is Toto Guillaume, one of my favorites, another makossa dance piece is "Mba na na é" (1981).
  • The world-famous Soul Makossa is from Manu Dibango.
  • I would be remiss if I didn't mention (from the older Cameroonian set) Ben Decca, Grace Decca, Ekambi Brillant, Charlotte Mbango, Prince Eyango, André-Marie Tala, and the list goes on. Petit Pays, who's become too crude in recent years. Please feel free to enter your favorites in the comments!
  • Richard Bona, who is such a talented musician that I don't know where to start. He started with Harry Belafonte and now plays all over the world, including with other musicians and bands (Salif Keita, .
  • I discovered Soraya Ebelle last year, she has a wonderful voice.
  • And let's not forget Zangelewa! That was the Cameroonian song that inspired Shakira's famous Waka Waka song. I watched an interview on 60 Minutes, and she never mentioned that this was not her original song!
My personal favorites from outside Cameroon
  • While watching the series "An African City*" I heard the song "Monkey Money" sung by Lady Jaywah, which was so much fun, and funny too!
  • The hit in the eighties or nineties was Premier Gao. The lyrics are worth nothing, but great for dancing.
  • Angélique Kidjo is still going strong, well-known in the United States: she just had to cancel a concert in Carnegie Hall, along with a plethora of other musicians, such as Yemi Alade. They sang together in "Shekere." 
  • And the incomparable Fela Anikulapo Kuti. 
  • And the incomparable Miriam Makeba.

- In order to understand a little of the songs in African languages, learn one on Je Parle L'Afrique 2.0. At the moment the base language is French, but English will be next. Among the languages taught: Bassa (the founder's parents' language), Duala, Wolof, Bambara, Lingala, Haoussa, Yoruba, Ewe, Pulaar, and many more!

- Watch African movies and TV shows.
  • Above I mentioned "An African City*," a series originally on YouTube portraying 5 young professional women in Ghana.  Netflix is showing an African series: Queen Sono
  • Movies on Netflix 
  • The classics by Sembene Ousmane, for example Camp de Thiayoré (shattering) and so many more.
  • Films by Henri Duparc such as "Le sixième doigt."
  • An African movie won the Grand Prix at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival (2020 has been cancelled): "Atlantics" - by a female director to boot.
  • The Shore Break - true story set in South Africa
-  Read novels - here is a list of five novels written by female authors I read last year.

This is a very incomplete list, and I welcome all additions!

* Not for the young set - rather R-rated.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Mboko Lagriffe - Cameroon design goes flying

A few years ago, I wrote about Mboko Lagriffe's "Barbebuexpo" in Douala: a novel way of organizing an art fair.

In the meantime, he has not been idle. He continued painting, organizing bi-annual Barbecuexpo art fairs, designing household items, but the big "coup" has been to win the competition for a new design on Royal Air Maroc (RAM) airplanes.

In 2016, Royal Air Maroc organized a competition, Wings of African Art, to decorate the exterior fuselage of its airplanes. The jury president was Mehdi Qotbi, head of the National Foundation of Museums of the Moroccan Kingdom, and included artists and critics of renown. There were three winners: Mboko Lagriffe from Cameroon, the Franco-Moroccan Sara Ouhaddou, and Saidou Dicko from Burkina Faso. Mboko Lagriffe also won the public vote. 

The "Love" Royal Air Maroc plane (photo: Dayot JC)

The Love plane in the air (photo: Guillaume Février)

Painting: Frontières Irréelles (Unreal borders)

"Flower Mask" mug (photo: Orphee Noubissi) 

"Return from the field" mug (photo: Orphee Noubissi) 

Flip flops (photo: Orphee Noubissi) 
The three airplanes are in the air, currently serving Royal Air Maroc's 80-plus destinations. Kudos to RAM for this initiative. Next, a design competition for the uniforms, perhaps?

What's next for Mboko Lagriffe? He is planning to launch his home accessories line worldwide via Amazon... we hope, soon! I have 2 mugs of my own, purchased in 2016, that I guard jealously, as it's difficult for me to get new ones at the moment.
My mugs, purchased in 2016.

Articles in French: