Fashion Pioneers Dapper Dan And April Walker Want To Use Fashion To Connect The African Diaspora
‘What is the most powerful element of African culture that’s still here in America?’
A cursory Google search of pioneering female hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa immediately produces a spread of images from the trio’s most iconic look: spandex paired with 8-ball jackets, kente-coated kufis, and heavy gold dookie chains.
Said images are by British photographer Janette Beckman, now on display at 10 Corso Como New York as part of a new exhibition that explores the origins of hip-hop culture from 1981 to 1993.
The West African element of Salt-N-Pepa’s (don’t forget Spinderella!) 1987 look was at the heart of a panel discussion that took place at the concept fashion store, Friday (Dec.13).
“What is the most powerful element of African culture that’s still here in America? You find it in South Americans, Colombians, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, people from the [rural] South,” said legendary Harlem fashion designer and haberdasher Dapper Dan, who sat in the company of Beckman, urban fashion pioneer April Walker, and renaissance woman Vashtie to discuss fashion’s role in the development of hip-hop.
“What I’ve discovered is that one thing that we never lost that we came with from Africa is the elements of the Yoruba religion that’s manifested in a lot of different ways.”
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Best of the 2010s: Novels by African writers
The last ten years have seen writers from Africa take the literary world by storm with countless ground-breaking works that have made their way onto our bookshelves and into our hearts.
The sheer abundance of talent makes the task of picking the best massively challenging. Nonetheless, here is our attempt to list some of the best novels by African writers in the decade that was the 2010s.
Kintu (2014) – Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Set between 1750 and 2004 in what was pre-colonial Buganda and became Uganda, Kintu narrates the story of Kintu Kidda, upon whom a curse has been placed, and his descendants. Filled with wit, mystery and comedy, the book unveils the traditions, practices and culture of the people of Buganda while raising questions around belief systems associated with curses, magic and madness.
Remarkably Kintu barely focuses on colonialism, which was a deliberate choice by Makumbi who has explained: “Europe remains at the centre of African creative production; there is something not right about that for me.” She has also said that agents told her the novel was “too African” and that it is almost completely dismissed by Western publishers; a huge failure on their parts to recognise an incredible book.
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West Africa’s oral histories tell a more compelling story than traditional post-colonial narratives
The last few years have witnessed a growing recognition of oral histories in Western academies. With more authors, filmmakers and artists from around the world highlighting the rich oral histories of West Africa, the tradition of passing knowledge through generations has invited a moment of change within wider Western establishments.
Oral histories are rich, complex tools of storytelling, which contain fine details of ancestry and ancestral experiences. These oral narratives are important modes of transmitting knowledge, especially as they bring alive histories that are not present in archives, books and other forms of literary tradition.
With recollections of the past often told through idioms and long, enthralling storytelling, oral histories are the vessel between the present and the past, and in many ways act as a tool of cultural preservation.
Griots of western Africa from Senegal and Mauritania across to Mali and Nigeria use oral traditions which date back over 2,000 years. They often accompany storytelling with musical instruments such as the Kora, a 21 stringed lute-bridge-harp, drums or horns to tell stories. Similarly, elders from the region which is now modern day Ghana are steeped within the oral tradition, and act as conduits of knowledge by passing down proverbs, some of which are reflected in Kente cloth print.
As history presents itself through the people, culture within West Africa shows itself to be dynamic and continuous. However, throughout history, the oral tradition has been dismissed by Western productions of knowledge. In essence, they have deprived the complexity of the oral tradition through presenting false written narratives about Africa which exclude lived experiences, and draw on loaded colonial clichés.
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South African virtual reality documentary selected for Sundance Film Festival
The South African virtual reality film Azibuye – The Occupation has been selected to screen at the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier section.
The annual film festival which takes place in Park City will run from 23 January – 3 February 2020.
This film directed by award-winning filmmaker, Dylan Valley, is a stereo 360 documentary about Masello and Evan, two homeless black artist/activists who take up residence in a crumbling mansion, vacant for 20 years, in an affluent part of Johannesburg.
They proclaim their illegal occupation to be an artistic and political act to address the ongoing racial inequalities in land ownership in South Africa. When it is revealed who the owner of the house is, the pair have a difficult decision to make.
Five African-American Films Added to 2019 National Film Registry
DVD cover of Madeline Anderson’s 1970 documentary “I Am Somebody”
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced this month the annual selection of 25 of America’s most influential motion pictures to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Selected because of their cultural, historic and aesthetic importance to the nation’s film heritage, the films in the class of 2019 range from Prince’s 1984 autobiographical hit “Purple Rain” and Spike Lee’s 1986 breakout movie “She’s Gotta Have It” to Disney’s 1959 timeless fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty” and this year’s biggest public vote getter, Kevin Smith’s 1994 “Clerks.”
“The National Film Registry has become an important record of American history, culture and creativity,” said Hayden. “Unlike many other honors, the registry is not restricted to a time, place or genre. It encompasses 130 years of the full American cinematic experience – a virtual Olympiad of motion pictures. With the support of Congress, the studios and other archives, we are ensuring that the nation’s cinematic history will be around for generations to come.”
A musical biopic, a heartwarming tale about man’s best friend, early black cinema, a notorious real-life crime drama and the anatomy of war represent the diversity of the 2019 registry. They include blockbusters, documentaries, silent movies, animation and independent films. The 2019 selections bring the number of films in the registry to 775, which is a small fraction of the Library’s vast moving-image collection of more than 1.6 million items.
The 2019 registry selections span a century of filmmaking, from 1903 to 2003. The oldest film in this year’s class depicts footage of immigrants arriving in New York at Ellis Island, and the newest film on the list is the documentary “Fog of War,” in which former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara reexamines his role in shaping American military and foreign policy.
An unprecedented seven motion pictures directed by women are on this year’s list, the most in a single year since the inaugural registry in 1989. They include the 1984 documentary “Before Stonewall,” directed by Greta Schiller; Claudia Weill’s 1978 “Girlfriends”; Gunvor Nelson’s 1969 avant-garde film “My Name is Oona”; “A New Leaf,” which in 1971 made Elaine May the first woman to write, direct and star in a major American studio feature; the 2002 indie “Real Women Have Curves,”directed by Patricia Cardoso and starring America Ferrera; and Madeline Anderson’s 1970 “I Am Somebody,” which is considered the first documentary on civil rights directed by a woman of color.
“The film documents the story of 400 black hospital works in Charleston, South Carolina, who went on strike in the spring of 1969; 388 of the strikers were women,” said Anderson. “They won the hundred-day strike, and the induction of “I Am Somebody” into the registry is a tribute to their courage and perseverance.”