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AfricaFocus: Something Different + Website Updates

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Jun 30, 2009 (090630)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

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.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin takes advantage of information sent in by subscribers to share with you some links going beyond the current crises to such diverse topics as geometry, baskets, and sand drawings, plus several videos from Kibera, Kenya, and news of a new feature film in the making. Enjoy!

You'll also find a selection of recent articles highlighted in AfricaFocus FYI, a new feature I've added for articles that shouldn't be missed, but that I haven't been able to put in an AfricaFocus Bulletin.

These include the cover story for the July issue of In These Times: "The Somalia Crossroads: Piracy, insurgency tempt Washington to get it wrong--again," written by William Minter and Daniel Volman. -

Take a look at the links below. For more, visit the page on the web at

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Paulus Gerdes on Mathematics and Art

Paulus Gerdes is currently Vice-President for Southern Africa, African Academy of Sciences. He is based in Maputo, Mozambique, where he directs the Centre for Mozambican Studies and Ethnoscience, Universidade Pedagˇgica

Sipatsi: Basketry and Geometry in the Tonga Culture of Inhambane (Mozambique) (2009, 422 pp.) and of the supplement "Sipatsi Images in Colour" (56 pp.) (Lulu, Morrisville NC, USA).
Also available in print and as download from (

Gitonga speaking basket weavers, mostly women, from Inhambane in the Southeast of Mozambique make colourful 'sipatsi' purses, and handbags. .... This book, resulting from thirty years of enquiring, collecting and observing, is unique. It presents a series of 'snapshots', which collectively constitute a short film that records an unfolding exploration of personal and collective memory, of symmetry, of combinations of colour and pattern, and of variations of order and logic to create new designs. The book includes a catalogue of over 700 different decorative patterns. ... In several chapters, activities and problems for exploration in mathematics (teacher) education have been presented, underscoring the scientific and educational wealth of the sipatsi as a mathematical construct.

The book contains a Preface by Alcido Nguenha, Minister of Education of Mozambique (2000-2005), a Foreword by Dr. Emília Nhalivilo, Deputy Director of the Centre for Mozambican Studies and Ethnoscience, and an Afterword by Dr. Hippolyte Fofack, Founder of the Nelson Mandela Institution. It includes an introduction to Tonga basket weaving by Gildo Bulafo and an introduction to the Vatonga by Dr. Gregorio Firmino.

African Basketry: A Gallery of Twill-Plaited Designs and Patterns (2007, 220 pp.)
Also available in print and as download from (

From the Preface: "Over the years, Paulus Gerdes has established himself as the pre-eminent expert on patterns in African weaving and basketry, and the broader implications of these patterns... This new book is a broad gallery of plaited African designs. These range over much of the continent while concentrating on those parts of Africa that are closest to his Mozambique center, including Kongo, Mbole and Mangbetu from Congo, Cokwe and Lunda from Angola, Digo from Kenya, Soga from Uganda, Zulu from South Africa, and Makhuwa in Mozambique itself, but including such distant peoples as Bamileke in Cameroon. As well as careful illustrations of details that might easily be overlooked by a casual observer, there is enlightening information about the cultural meaning of particular designs and their symmetries, both local and global. ...

In Gerdes' gallery we are shown the love of patterns and symmetries that are the result of centuries of exultant exploration. Enjoy! - Donald W. Crowe, Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, University of Wisconsin

Drawings from Angola: Living Mathematics. 2007. 72pp.
Also available in print and as download from (

For children from age 8 to 14. "Drawings from Angola" present an introduction to an African story telling tradition. The tales are illustrated with marvelous drawings made in the sand. The book conveys the stories of the stork and the leopard, the hunter and the dog, the rooster and the fox, and others. It explains how to execute the drawings. The reader is invited to draw tortoises, antelopes, lions, and other animals. The activities proposed throughout the book invite the reader to experiment and to explore the 'rhythm' and symmetry of the illustrations. Surprising results will be playfully obtained, such as in arithmetic, a way to calculate quickly the sum of a sequence of odd numbers. Children will live the beautiful mathematics of the Angolan sand drawings. Answers to the activities are provided. The book can be used both in classrooms and at home. (72 pp.)

Lunda Geometry: Mirror Curves, Designs, Knots, Polyominoes, Patterns, Symmetries. 2007. 198pp.
Also available in print and as download from (

The book "Lunda Geometry" explains how the mathematical concepts of mirror curves and Lunda-designs were discovered in the context of the author's research of 'sona', illustrations traditionally made in the sand by Cokwe storytellers from eastern Angola (a region called Lunda) and neighboring regions of Congo and Zambia. Examples of mirror curves from several cultures are presented. Lunda-designs are aesthetically attractive and display interesting symmetry properties. Examples of Lunda-patterns and Lunda-polyominoes are presented. Some generalizations of the concept of Lunda-design are discussed, like hexagonal Lunda-designs, Lunda-k-designs, Lunda-fractals, and circular Lunda-designs. Lunda-designs of Celtic knot designs are constructed.

Hot Sun Foundation / / /

28 March 2009

News Release

Contact: Pamela Collett

Hot Sun Films/Foundation announces the filming of "Togetherness Supreme" - a feature length fictional film made by, with, for the community of Kibera.

Kibera, the largest slum in east Africa, located in Nairobi, was ripped apart by the 2008 post election violence in Kenya

"Togetherness Supreme", a story of hope and reconciliation, shows a new, realistic, entertaining picture of urban Africa in a feature film - an historic first in the cinematic world.

Filming of "Togetherness Supreme" is currently underway in Kibera, with an all local cast and crew trainees. Shooting began on 23 March 2009.

"Togetherness Supreme" is produced by Hot Sun Films/Foundation (Sinema Jua Kali), creators of the international award winning "Kibera Kid".

Don't miss this unique opportunity to visit the "Togetherness Supreme" set in Kibera and watch the community in action!

Contact Pamela Collett for more information and for the shooting locations and schedule in Kibera.


Charcoal Traffic

Buy DVD from at this link [DVD for home use; after using this link you can also search on Amazon for versions for institutional use and by streaming video]

"Charcoal Traffic" is the story of two brothers trapped in a murderous cycle of environmental and cultural devastation in Somalia. Olaad is a charcoal trader, living well by destroying trees to make charcoal. Olaad uses the power of the gun to get what he wants.

Olaad's work crew are young men, whose only skills are using guns and chewing the narcotic leaf known as khat. In their goal to make money, the charcoal producers lost their connections with their traditional pastoralist culture and the natural environment.

Olaad's brother Gelle lives in the traditional Somali way - as a nomadic pastoralist herding goats. When Gelle tries to stop charcoal producers from cutting trees, needed to preserve the fragile environment and ensure vegetation for his goats, Olaad cannot protect him.

The brothers' story illustrates the other war in Somalia - pitting the fragile environment and the pastoral way of life against charcoal producers - out to make money whatever it takes.

The first fictional film shot in Somalia in over 20 years, "Charcoal Traffic" was filmed entirely on location in northern Somalia featuring a local cast with no previous acting experience.

Through the dramatic story of "Charcoal Traffic", Hot Sun Films and Sun Fire Cooking's goal is to promote community discussion among Somalis about charcoal production, environmental destruction and solar cooker alternatives to charcoal for everyday cooking.


Kibera Kid

Buy DVD from at this link [DVD for home use; after using this link you can also search on Amazon for versions for institutional use and by streaming video] You can also order DVDs and instructional material from

"Kibera Kid" is the story of Otieno, a twelve-year-old orphan living in Kibera, one of the worlds' largest slums. Otieno lives with the Razors, a gang of petty thieves. After a theft gone bad, Otieno is forced to choose between saving an innocent man's life and the Razors - the only family he knows.

"Kibera Kid" is a unique film, a global first - a short story based on the lives of people in Kibera, Africa's largest slum, located in Nairobi, Kenya.

"Kibera Kid" offers a window into a life that is shared by millions of people living in urban slums throughout the world.

"Kibera Kid" is suitable for all ages, from 10 through adult.

"Kibera Kid" has screened at over 40 film festivals worldwide and won numerous awards including:
* Student Emmy 2007 for best Children's Program category (Hollywood, USA)
* Best Short Film, Kenya International Film Festival, (Nairobi, Kenya)
* Best Kenyan Children's Film, Lola Film Festival (Nairobi, Kenya),
* Best Director, Angelus Film Festival, (Los Angeles USA),
* Graduate Student Director Award, Hampton's International Film Festival (New York, USA),
* Most Innovative Short Film, Real to Reel (Vancouver, Canada)
* Best Film for Teenagers, Danville International Children's Film Festival (California, USA)

The Oath

Buy DVD from at this link [DVD for home use; after using this link you can also search on Amazon for versions for institutional use and by streaming video]

"The Oath" is a story of the Mau Mau rebellion. Were the Mau Mau freedom fighters or terrorists? For African Kenyans, the Mau Mau cry for Land and Freedom in the 1950's expressed their deepest desires. For the British colonialists, the Mau Mau were terrorists.

"The Oath" is the story of two brothers, Mwangi and Joseph, during the time of the Mau Mau. Mwangi is a laborer on a white settler's farm. Joseph is a priest. Mwangi joins the Mau Mau, taking an oath to fight the white settlers. Joseph insists violence is never justified.

"The Oath" is in two parts: a short story about two brothers during the Mau Mau rebellion (20 minutes) and a documentary explaining how the movie was made (10 minutes). Kenyans volunteered their time and energy as a labor of love to bring the history of the Mau Mau to people around the world.

AfricaFocus FYI

Visit regularly for these and other notes on recent stories you shouldn't miss.

Jun 29, 2009 - William Minter and Daniel Volman, "Somalia Crossroads: Piracy, insurgency tempt Washington to get it wrongagain.", In These Times (Published Jun 29, 2009)

For Somalis, the crisis continues. So does the danger that Washington may be tempted into military intervention that would be damaging for Somalis, for U.S. relations with Africa and for U.S. security. That risk exists, despite commendable caution thus far by Obama administration policymakers, who are aware of the potential for military actions to backfire.

Scenarios projected for the next few months range from complete collapse of the internationally backed government, on the one extreme, to significant weakening of the insurgent forces through defections, on the other. What is certain is that outside forces, including the United States, will need flexibility and patience as well as good intentions to avoid mistakes that could make the situation much worse. Unfortunately, there is no sure formula for getting it right.

Jun 30, 2009 - Kevin Kelley, "Is Obama Following in the Disliked Footsteps of Bush in East Africa?", East African via (Published Jun 29, 2009)

The Obama administration is seeking substantial increases in military aid to East African countries, leading some analysts to argue that the new president's handling of perceived threats to US interests closely resembles that of his predecessor, George W Bush.

... it seems clear that the Obama administration intends to further develop the Africa Military Command (Africom) established during Bush's tenure. Johnnie Carson, the new assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told a Washington forum last week that "Africom isn't going away." Indeed, President Obama is asking Congress to approve more than $500 million for Africom's operations as well as for communications and airlift capabilities in the coming fiscal year.

Jun 24, 2009 - Michael Levin, "Bill to Protect Poor Countries from VULTURE Funds", Congresswoman Maxine Waters (Published Jun 18, 2009)

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) today introduced the Stop Very Unscrupulous Loan Transfers from Underprivileged countries to Rich, Exploitive Funds or "Stop VULTURE Funds" Act (H.R. 2932), legislation designed to protect impoverished countries from lawsuits by so-called vulture funds.

Vulture funds are private investment funds that buy up the debts of poor countries at reduced prices, usually for pennies on the dollar. They then sue these countries to recover the original value of the debts plus interest. Several poor countries that have received debt cancellation from the United States, other participating donor countries, and multilateral financial institutions have subsequently been sued by vulture funds.

Several prominent Africa advocacy groups working on the Vulture Fund issue strongly called for support for the bill. These groups included Africa Action, TransAfrica Forum, and Jubilee USA Network

Jun 18, 2009 - Scott Gration (Special Envoy to Sudan), "Current Status of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and His Recent Travels", U.S State Department (Published Jun 17, 2007)

Obama administration special envoy for Sudan Scott Gration gives a briefing in advance of talks next week on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

"What we see is the remnants of genocide. What we see are the consequences of genocide, the results of genocide. We still have thousands of people living in camps as IDPs. We have women who are still afraid to go out and collect firewood.

The level of violence that we're seeing right now is primarily between rebel groups, the Sudanese Government, and as you know from the news, we've had some violence between Chad and Sudan. The violence still exists where bandits and Janjaweed and warlords and those kinds of folks do conduct terrorist activities on these folks and do increase terror. But it doesn't appear that it is a coordinated effort that was similar to what we had in 2003 to 2006."

Jun 10, 2009 - National Union of Somali Journalists (Mogadishu), "Journalists Stop Work to Mourn and Condemn 'Savage' Killing of Colleagues", (Published Jun 09, 2009)

Journalists downed their tools and shut down their broadcasting stations to mourn and to protest the latest killing of Radio Shebele director, Muktar Mohamed Hirabe. 15 senior radio journalists of editors, producers, reporters, and anchors held a press conference at Hotel Sahafi today and announced the work stoppage.

Muktar Hirabe who was in the company of his colleague Ahmed Omar Hashi, was on Sunday (7 June) shot five times by a gunman at Bakara market in Mogadishu. Ahmed Omar who described the attack and killing as "vindictive and barbaric" was also injured in the attack. Muktar is the fifth journalist to be killed in Somalia by gunmen this year alone.

AfricaFocus Bulletins - June 2009

Jun 24, 2009 USA/Uganda: Recovery from Conflict?

Jun 18, 2009 Africa: Climate Change Action, Who Will Pay?

Jun 12, 2009 Nigeria: Midterm Results Disappoint

Jun 12, 2009 Nigeria: Delta Violence Past & Present

Jun 8, 2009 Africa: Innovative Global Financing

Jun 1, 2009 Africa: Economy and Human Rights, 2

Jun 1, 2009 Africa: Economy and Human Rights, 1

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at Please write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin, or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see

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