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AfricaFocus Bulletins with Material on Culture and the Media

May 3, 2021  Africa/Global: African-Language Literature in Global Scholarship
    “Broad early modern comparative projects often fail to address Africa at all. A search of the MLAIB [Modern Language Association International Bibliography] finds that the number of pieces published in the last thirty years on the subject of 'globalization' is in the thousands, and yet only 5 per cent of them address Africa or African countries. When it comes to eighteenth-century studies, the exclusion is total: not one of the pieces on globalization addresses Africa or African countries. Not one. … This is more than unfortunate. No arena of study can be successful that has Africa as a lacuna. “ — Wendy Laura Belcher

September 14, 2020  India/Africa: Common Threads of Kanga and Vitenge
    The new book Common Threads (along with an accompanying video, both open access), explores the ties that bind India and Africa through the material medium of cloth, from antiquity to the present. Cloth made in India has been sold across African markets for millennia, by Indian, African, and European traders. ... Most significantly, it highlights the role of African consumers in defining the evolution of these genres of fabric, and the centrality of people-to-people connections in sustaining the continued cosmopolitanism of these transoceanic connectivities.

May 25, 2020  Africa: Remote Learning with African Storybooks
    Two years ago, when AfricaFocus first profiled the African Storybook project, it had available, for free reading and download, 903 storybooks in 136 different languages, including English, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Hausa, Swahili, and a host of other languages spoken on the continent. This year, as Covid-19 confronts Africa as well as the world, the Johannesburg-based project has 1,373 unique storybooks with 6,085 translations in 193 languages. With a remotely connected production operation involving volunteer authors and artists around the continent, it is uniquely placed to provide continuity of resources to parents and teachers, though smartphone apps as well as through its website.

February 26, 2019  USA/Africa: From Wakanda to Reparations, Part 2
    “Just as cotton, and with it slavery, became key to the U.S. economy, it also moved to the center of the world economy and its most consequential transformations: the creation of a globally interconnected economy, the Industrial Revolution, the rapid spread of capitalist social relations in many parts of the world, and the Great Divergence—the moment when a few parts of the world became quite suddenly much richer than every other part.” - Sven Beckert

February 26, 2019  USA/Africa: From Wakanda to Reparations, Part 1
    Jelani Cobb: “Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, the Black Panther and the King of Wakanda, confronts Erik Killmonger, a black American mercenary, played by Michael B. Jordan, as a rival, but the two characters are essentially duelling responses to five centuries of African exploitation at the hands of the West. The villain, to the extent that the term applies, is history itself.” Karen Attiah: “Indeed, ´Black Panther´ offers a radical vision of what black national power and internationalism could look like, if we trusted, respected, and elevated black women … In ´Black Panther,´ as in real life, black women be saving ev-ery-body, white or black.”

April 9, 2018  Africa: Storybooks in African Languages
    The African Storybook project, which launched only five years ago to make books available to teachers and students in African languages, already has made available 903 storybooks in 136 different languages, including English, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Hausa, Swahili, and a host of other languages spoken on the continent.

April 25, 2017  Africa/Global: Media Repression 2.0
    "In the days when news was printed on paper, censorship was a crude practice involving government officials with black pens, the seizure of printing presses and raids on newsrooms. The complexity and centralization of broadcasting also made radio and television vulnerable to censorship even when the governments didn't exercise direct control of the airwaves. ... New information technologies-- the global, interconnected internet; ubiquitous social media platforms; smart phones with cameras--were supposed to make censorship obsolete. Instead, they have just made it more complicated." - Joel Simon, Committee to Protect Journalists, April 25, 2017

July 6, 2016  Cuba/Sierra Leone: Reclaiming Slave-Trade History
    As recognition grows that the legacy of slavery and the slave trade is still embedded in the structural inequalities of today's world, scholars are finding new ways to make the lost connections visible. One dramatic and inspiring illustration, featured in this issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin, is the film "They Are We," showing the rediscovery and re-connection in person with their African relatives of an Afro-Cuban community which still celebrates their heritage with dances and songs in a language almost forgotten by current generations even in its villages of origin in Sierra Leone. The film, first released in Cuba in 2013, features the story of this rediscovery, in the voices and faces of the communities who collaborated in the making of the film.

March 17, 2015  Africa: Higher Education Must Be Higher Priority
    "In 2011, the average gross rate of tertiary education enrolment in Africa was 8% against a world average of 27%. Even with those low figures, demand for university admission continues to exceed capacity, and public universities are under increasing pressure to admit more students than current staff and infrastructure would allow. ... [even so] In most African countries, the increase in tertiary enrolment has not translated into a comparable improvement in employment opportunities. ... Indeed, there are growing complaints by employers that graduates are poorly prepared for the workplace." - Concept paper for African Higher Education Summit

Jan 31, 2013  Africa: Press Freedom Index
    Reporters Without Borders has just published their Press Freedom Index for 2013, with a brief review and ratings of conditions for journalists in 179 countries around the world. While some African countries rank at the bottom of the list (notably Somalia at 175 and Eritrea at 179), other African countries fall in the middle or even close to the top. Namibia (19) ranks above Canada (20). Cape Verde (25) ranks above Australia (26), and Ghana (30) above the United States (32).

Dec 10, 2010  Africa: New Books 2010
    There's never enough time to read all the books one would like to, or even to make sure one hears of those books that one would put highest on one's personal list. This week AfricaFocus highlights 12 new books published this year that I have noted as likely to be of interest to many AfricaFocus readers. They are listed below with brief descriptions.

Jul 6, 2010  Africa: Book Notes
    This AfricaFocus contains a diverse selection of recent books likely to be of interest and new to AfricaFocus readers. You will find, for example, new books by Africa's distinguished elders, such as Achebe, wa Thiong'o, and Mandela. Selected new books from publishers such as Africa World Press, HSRC Press, and Aflame Books. Books on topical themes such as SMS activism and other ICT developments, on India and China's relations with Africa, and on xenophobia and migration. And more.

Dec 18, 2009  Africa: New Books from AfricaFocus Subscribers
    This AfricaFocus Bulletin has recent books (2008 and 2009) from AfricaFocus subscribers, including authors, editors, contributors, and publishers. It's a very substantial list, but I'm sure some have escaped my notice. If you are an AfricaFocus subscriber, check this out for your own books and those by the your fellow subscribers. If you are an author or editor and don't find your recently published book here, do let me know (at, and I'll add it below.

Dec 15, 2009  South Africa: 30+ New Books
    The most popular of these new books from and about South Africa is undoubtedly that by John Carlin on Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation, now available in two editions as well as in the newly released Clint Eastwood movie. But probably the one most in need of greater international attention is the one edited by Tawana Kupe and colleagues - Go Home or Die Here: Violence, Xenophobia and the Reinvention of Difference in South Africa. This photographic and analytic portrayal of the xenophobic violence of 2008 poses fundamental questions about the shape of today's South Africa.

Dec 10, 2009  Africa: Gift Music CDs 2009
    Looking for gifts that are not too expensive, but still attractive, enjoyable, and perhaps even educational as well? Check out these new Africa music CDs.

Aug 18, 2009  Cape Verde: Transnational Archipelago
    As regular readers of AfricaFocus Bulletin know, this publication relies on selected "reposted" material. When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose Cape Verde as her last stop on her 7-country African tour, I was hoping to find some analysis on-line of the unique history and position of Cape Verde that I could share with readers. Surely someone would be commenting on-line on the long history of Cape Verdean immigration to the United States, or on the significance of Cape Verdean liberation leader Amilcar Cabral for Pan-African thought on both sides of the Atlantic. But apart from brief pro-forma tributes to the country's multi-party democracy and economic stability, I could find almost nothing in recent on-line reports to pass on to AfricaFocus readers. So I had to dig a bit deeper.

Jun 30, 2009  AfricaFocus: Something Different + Website Updates
    As regular readers of AfricaFocus Bulletin know, the bulletins most often feature current policy issues. In June, topics have included recent developments in Uganda and Nigeria, financing for action on climate change and other global public goods of great concern for Africa, and Amnesty International's heightened emphasis on economic and social rights (see links below at end of Bulletin). But occasionally suggestions from readers lead to something different. Hopefully you'll find the break refreshing.

Dec 5, 2008  Africa: Gift Music CDs Issue
    Looking for gifts that are not too expensive, but still attractive, enjoyable, and perhaps even educational as well? Last week AfricaFocus Bulletin highlighted 15 photography, art, and children's books. If you haven't yet taken a look, you can check them out at This week we focus on music CDs, featuring the top 10 of the year from Afropop and more. Just click on the links in this issue, or to view all the images, just go directly to

Nov 27, 2008  Africa: Gift Books Issue
    Looking for gifts that are not too expensive, but still attractive, enjoyable, and perhaps even educational as well? Take a look at the 15 books below and click on the links below each book for more information - or to view all the images, just go directly to

Oct 30, 2007  South Africa: RIP Lucky Dube
    "The tragic death [of Lucky Dube] shocked reggae adherents across the continent. Since the news of his death was announced on Friday, his legion of fans in The Gambia and abroad, jammed radio stations and media houses, with calls expressing shock and dismay at the violent killing of their hero. ... [he sang] many crime related songs and has died by the crime that he helped to fight, through music." - Daily Observer, Banjul

Aug 28, 2007  Asia/Africa: Ubuntu and Sangsaeng
    "'Business as usual' is inappropriate, if humankind and creation are to survive on planet Earth. The prevailing development trajectory leads to destruction. ... But this is only one side of the coin.... [Those] who have realized the life-threatening consequences of the prevailing growth-oriented economic development paradigm are re-discovering the wisdom and life-affirming values of their own cultures and civilizations." World Council of Churches general secretary Samuel Kobia

May 29, 2007  Africa: eLearning Africa
    Over 1200 eLearning enthusiasts from 85 countries are attending the annual eLearning Africa conference in Nairobi this week. The countries with the largest participation are the host, Kenya, followed by Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda.

May 7, 2007  USA/Africa: More than Just a Mvule Tree
    "Mrs. Mead's 4th grade class at Pecan Creek Elementary in Denton, Texas is writing, publishing and selling a book titled "More Than Just A Mvule Tree" for $5 per copy. All monies will be used to purchase Mvule trees to be planted in Uganda and maintained by Ugandan children to fund education thru the Kibo Group ("

Oct 11, 2006  Africa: "New News"
    "I am constantly confounded as to why American media don't find Africa an exciting place to report from and about. I think there's a perception that audience interest is limited. That's certainly not been true in my experience. ... I don't have a problem with reporting death, disease, disaster and despair, because all of the above exist. But that is not all there is to Africa." - Charlayne Hunter-Gault

Jun 27, 2006  Gambia: Defending Press Freedom
    The Gambian government has blocked a non-governmental forum of freedom of expression scheduled to take place in Banjul on June 19 and 30, prior to the African Union summit in the Gambian capital. But media freedom groups will still be focusing on threats to free expression in Gambia and demanding an investigation of the murder of Gambian journalist Deyda Heydara, which took place 18 months ago.

Mar 4, 2006  Africa: Universal Access Initiative
    AIDS activists and observers say the new "universal access by 2010" initiative is disturbingly vague and short on specific targets, with at least 4 million people still facing premature death from AIDS if they do not receive treatment. The "3 by 5" initiative, launched in 2003, targeted having 3 million people in developing countries on antiretroviral treatment for AIDS by the end of 2005. The last report, in June 2005, showed that the number had more than doubled, from 400,000 at the end of 2003 to approximately 1 million. But the year-end target was missed by at least 1 million, and there is still no detailed report for December 2005.

Nov 17, 2005  Tunisia: Free Expression Protest
    Tunisia, which is currently hosting the World Summit on the Information Society, is one of the most advanced African countries in provision of information infrastructure. But it also systematically represses internal dissent and blocks access to websites critical of the government. As the summit opened this week, Tunisian human rights activists were on hunger strike and international activists were protesting the government's refusal to allow freedom of expression.

Apr 8, 2005  Mozambique: Tree of Life
    The Tree of Life, a half-tonne sculpture made entirely of weapons reclaimed after Mozambique's long post-independence war, is among the major features in a year-long series of exhibits and events in the UK highlighting African culture and art. A project called Transforming Arms into Tools, which has collected more than 600,000 weapons in nine years, gets people to hand in old guns in exchange for goods such as sewing machines, building materials and tools. These weapons are then chopped up and used to build works of art.

Nov 7, 2004  Africa: Intellectual Property
    "Humanity stands at a crossroads - a fork in our moral code and a test of our ability to adapt and grow. Will we evaluate, learn and profit from ideas and opportunities [to share knowledge], or will we respond to the most unimaginative pleas to suppress all of this in favor of intellectually weak, ideologically rigid, and sometimes brutally unfair and inefficient policies [on intellectual property]? - Geneva Declaration on the Future of the World Intellectual Property Organization

Sep 22, 2004  Nigeria: Shari'a Manipulation
    A new report from Human Rights Watch on implementation of Shari'a law in 12 northern Nigerian states stresses that "the application of Shari'a in Nigeria has revealed patterns of fundamental human rights violations which are not peculiar to Shari'a but typify the human rights situation in Nigeria as a whole." The researchers report widespread sentiment in the states concerned that the way Shari'a has been implemented has been manipulated for political purposes.

Dec 10, 2003  Zimbabwe: "We Are Still Here Ambuya"
    "We Are Still Here Ambuya," sings mbira player and activist Machingura in his new CD released recently in Berkeley, California. Linking struggles for social justice in Zimbabwe, the United States, and around the world, Machingura's music-making in California follows on his experience as vocalist in Harare's Luck Street Blues band in the late 1990s. It has also led to his selection as one of six "Artist Ambassadors" for the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India in January. He follows in a rich tradition of Zimbabwean musicians whose music has both reflected and inspired their people's quest for justice.