300 South African firefighters are trained and headed to Fort McMurray
The South African government sees it as repaying a debt to the Canadian people for their support for the anti-apartheid struggle. But it’s also a strategy for changing the lives of unemployed South African youths

When she saw the Fort McMurray wildfire on television, Sibongile Zwane admits she found it frightening. In all her firefighting experience in the South African bush, she had never seen flames leaping across roads and climbing to the tops of tall pine trees.

But on Sunday, after a 10-day boot camp by Canadian trainers, she will be one of 300 South African firefighters flying into Alberta to help fight the massive blaze near Fort McMurray.

“I’m not afraid any more,” the 21-year-old firefighter says. “They’ve trained us on what to expect. I’m strong now. I’m a firefighter and we have to help.”

The mission is the biggest ever non-military deployment of South Africans to help a foreign country. For the exhausted Canadian firefighters, the impressively fit and well-trained South Africans will be a welcome relief.

The South African government sees it as repaying a debt to the Canadian people for their support for the anti-apartheid struggle. But it’s also a strategy for changing the lives of unemployed South African youths. The jobless young men and women were recruited for a government-funded organization called Working on Fire, which has trained 5,000 firefighters to serve in 200 bases across South Africa.

Ms. Zwane, from a small town near Johannesburg, has never travelled outside South Africa before. Indeed she has never even been an airplane before.

But last Monday, the call came from Canada: Firefighters were needed in Alberta. And so on Saturday she was preparing for the 18-hour flight to Edmonton on a chartered Air Canada Boeing 777, which arrived in Johannesburg on Saturday morning to pick up the firefighters.

The huge Alberta wildfire, which forced 80,000 people to flee from Fort McMurray this month, now covers more than 5,200 square kilometres of forest. After more than a month of gruelling work on the blaze, the Canadian firefighters need a break, and the South Africans will help to step into the breach for several weeks.

“That fire is so big and they can’t extinguish it and they need help,” Ms. Zwane said. “I’m excited to go. The Canadians taught us how to extinguish those tall fires with special hoses.”

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The Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu-Van Furth surrenders license to minister

The Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu-Van Furth has surrendered her license to the Anglican Church of South Africa following her marriage to her wife, Marceline. Her archbishop had been instructed to revoke her license due to her marriage, and she chose to surrender it rather than have it revoked. 

Tutu-Van Furth is the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of South Africa’s most prominent apartheid activists and a staunch proponent of LGBT equality. 

In an email to the City Press, Tutu-Van Furth elaborated on her decision:

“My wife and I meet across almost every dimension of difference. Some of our differences are obvious; she is tall and white, I am black and vertically challenged. Some of our differences are not apparent at a glance; she is Dutch and an atheist, I am South African and a priest in the Episcopal/Anglican Church.

“Ironically, coming from a past where difference was the instrument of division, it is our sameness that is now the cause of distress. My wife and I are both women,” she said.

Tutu-Van Furth was married with her father’s blessing and continues to be in good standing as a priest in the US-based Episcopal Church.
South African Fire Fighters arrive in Edmonton, start dancing at the airport (video)

“This is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.”

300 South African firefighters have arrived tonight to help fight the Fort Mcmurray wildfire.


The volcano Erta Ale (translates to smoking mountain) in Ethiopia hosts one of the world’s long-lived lava lakes. The lake volume moves up and down, occasionally overflowing the rim of the crater. This video was taken about 5 years ago; here’s a video taken last December where you can see the lake level is much higher. 

50 million Africans face hunger after crops fail again

UN fears that food aid will not arrive in time to help people of ravaged countries

Farmer Serena Gadinala stands next to her wilted crops in the Neno district of southern Malawi. Photograph: Tamara van Vliet/OCHA

by John Vidal
in Lilongwe, Malawi

Up to 50 million people in Africa will need food by Christmas as a crisis across the continent triggered by El Niño worsens, the UN and major international charities have warned.

A second year of deep drought in much of southern and eastern Africa has ravaged crops, disrupted water supplies and driven up food prices, leaving 31 million people needing food now, and 20 million more likely to run out this year.

A further 10 million people in Ethiopia, six million in southern Sudan and five million in Yemen were in danger of starvation after floods and drought, said the UN.

The severest El Niño in 30 years was expected to tail off in the next month as hot equatorial waters in the Pacific returned to normal temperatures, but its effects would be felt for many more months, said the World Food Programme. Stephen O’Brien, the UN’s humanitarian chief, said: “The collective impact of the El Niño phenomenon has created one of the world’s biggest disasters for millions of people, yet this crisis is receiving little attention.

“The numbers are staggering. One million children in eastern and southern Africa alone are severely acutely malnourished, and across southern Africa 32 million people need assistance and that figure is likely to increase.” The UN predicts that food will start running out on a large scale by July, with the crisis peaking between December and next April.

Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Madagascar, Angola and Swaziland have declared national emergencies or disasters, as have seven of South Africa’s nine provinces. Botswana, Kenya, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have also been badly hit.

In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe has appealed for foreign aid to buy food and Malawi is expected to declare in the next few weeks that more than 8 million people, half the population, will need food aid by November. Maize prices have risen by 60% across much of the region within a few months.

Seven million people in Syria, 10 million in Ethiopia and 14 million in Yemen also needed food urgently, said the UN. Elhadj As Sy, secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, pledged $110m after visiting Malawi and Zimbabwe last week. “We cannot describe enough how dire the situation is,” he said.

Abdoulaye Balde, the World Food Programme country director in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, said: “The situation is critical. We are at the point of no return.”

Fears are mounting that international donors, meeting at this week’s UN humanitarian summit in Istanbul, will not pledge enough in time to buy and deliver food. Their fear is that the Syrian civil war and refugee crises are putting an unprecedented strain on aid. African leaders have requested more than $1.5bn, but less than 25% has been pledged.

“The window for responding in a meaningful manner is closing rapidly,” said Shadrack Omol, senior adviser to the UN’s children fund, Unicef. “The concern is that slow-onset emergencies, such as the one we are dealing with in southern Africa, do not get enough attention because they creep up on us.”

Since July 2015, Britain has contributed about £150m for aid to El Niño-affected countries in Africa, including Malawi, Ethiopia, Kenya Mozambique, Somalia and Uganda. The international development minister, Nick Hurd, said: “We cannot and will not stand idly by while millions suffer. Britain is playing a leading role in helping countries across Africa to cope with the impact of El Niño. Support for people affected by El Niño is important to Africa and also firmly in Britain’s national interest.”


Identity Politics

Almost every single time that I tell another African person that I’m Nigerian— without fail I literally get the 🤔 look in response. Some will even cock their heads to the side and peer at me, clearly not believing me. Today someone went as far as to ask for my “tribe” (his words- I use “ethnicity” instead) and last name as validation. Other times I’ve had to name not only my Nigerian ethnic group but all the way down to my father’s state and village in order to be seen as plausibly Nigerian and not as a “poser.” At times I’ve gone and named my mother’s too for good measure. Double points bonus round if you will.

In all of these conversations the questioner’s level of confusion is not only sad but hilarious. I have begun playing with how long I wait to tell them “I’m part Swedish” and watch the relief wash over their faces in a giant sudden WOOSH. When I’m feeling tired I cut to the chase, but when I’m having fun with it I dragggg that shit out.

But what I find sad is just how limited our collective understanding of what a “Nigerian” or “Somali” or “Ethiopian” or what have you person “looks like”, especially when these are countries with millions of people (in Nigeria over 170 million). And when people don’t ascribe to or look like said aesthetic they get questioned or challenged on their identity- constantly.

The amazing thing about the African continent is our tremendous diversity and I hope that we can embrace this multifacetedness and three dimensionality more rather than defaulting to boring identity politics (some of which are directly rooted in colonialism) that me and many many others are subjected to constantly because we don’t fit other’s basic notions of what an “African” person looks like.

New painting inspired by @markusprimelives 🙂✌️

#myart #art #illustration #illustrator #drawing #instaart #instagood #sketchbook #sketch #painting #graffiti #cute #artist #stuttgart #creative_instaarts #patreon #artscrowds #artcomplex #artsbeautifulx #artistic_nation #artsupporting #arts_gallery #arts_help #artzspiration #blackart #africa #africanqueen

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Dreams On Wheels Niamey Streets Niger Photo Hugh Ardoin

The mobile vendors in a door to door business with no doors

They carry on their wheeled displays the modest dreams and immediate aspirations of entire populations

It is about a pair of plastic flip-flops, a comb, a hat or freak sunglasses

The rolling cornucopia of the minimal material desires summed up in flashy plasticine

Confusing the essentials and the superficial

In a serialization of the standards of desire

And the illusion of working their way up a social ladder that has no steps

The satisfaction of material desires is a training of O, fraught with useless sufferings

Hugh Ardoin Africa by any Means Necessary
South African firefighters arrive to help fight Fort McMurray wildfire
Over 280 firefighters from South Africa landed in Edmonton late Sunday night ready to help wildfire relief efforts in Fort McMurray, Alta., singing in unison to give them 'moral courage' for the task at hand.

The first thing the 281 South African firefighters did when they touched down in Edmonton was sing.

They sang soldier songs — songs of South Africa — while the large crowd gathered there to welcome them cheered.

Khomt Alucie, one of the firefighters who made the journey, said the group has only known each other for a day and singing is how they bond.

“It gives us moral courage, it gives us teamwork,” she said. “If we become tired in the fire we sing.

"It’s not something you practice, it’s in the soul.”

A man who worked in Anzac, a town once evacuated by the fire, personally thanked each one as they walked through the arrival gates.

“Welcome to Canada, thank you so much,” he said, in his other hand he held a Canadian flag tied to a hockey stick.

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