Based between the cities of Istanbul and Johannesburg, photographer Elsa Bleda has a unique aesthetic that is both cinematic and dystopian. In her latest work ‘Nightscapes’ she examines the city of Johannesburg after dark.
There were many other Kingdoms in Africa, not just the Kingdom of Egypt, that are worthy of praise and honour. Indeed, Egypt played a great role in civilization, but it was only one of many on the continent. Below are few of the many greats:
While Europe was experiencing its Dark Ages, a period of intellectual, cultural and economic regression from the sixth to the 13th centuries, Africans were experiencing an almost continent-wide renaissance after the decline of the Nile Valley civilizations of Egypt and Nubia.
The leading civilizations of this African rebirth were the Axum Empire, the Kingdom of Ghana, the Mali Empire, the Songhai Empire, the Ethiopian Empire, the Mossi Kingdoms and the Benin Empire.
The Aksum or Axum Empire was an important military power and trading nation in the area that is now Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, existing from approximately 100 to 940 A.D.
At its height, it was one of only four major international superpowers of its day along with Persia, Rome and China. Axum controlled northern Ethiopia, Eritrea, northern Sudan, southern Egypt, Djibouti, Western Yemen, and southern Saudi Arabia, totaling 1.25 million square kilometers, almost half the size of India. Axum traded and projected its influence as far as China and India, where coins minted in Axum were discovered in 1990.
Axum was previously thought to have been founded by Semitic-speaking Sabaeans who crossed the Red Sea from South Arabia (modern Yemen) on the basis of Conti Rossini’s theories —but most scholars now agree that when it was founded it was an indigenous African development.
Kingdom of Ghana
Centered in what is today Senegal and Mauritania, the Kingdom of Ghana dominated West Africa between about 750 and 1078 A.D. Famous to North Africans as the “Land of Gold,” Ghana was said to possess sophisticated methods of administration and taxation, large armies, and a monopoly over notoriously well-concealed gold mines.
The king of the Soninke people who founded Ghana never fully embraced Islam, but good relations with Muslim traders were fostered. Ancient Ghana derived power and wealth from gold and the use of the camel increased the quantity of goods that were transported. One Arab writer, Al-Hamdani, describes Ghana as having the richest gold mines on Earth. Ghana was also a great military power. According to one narrative, the king had at his command 200,000 warriors and an additional 40,000 archers.
After the fall of the Kingdom of Ghana, the Mali Empire rose to dominate West Africa. Located on the Niger River to the west of Ghana in what is today Niger and Mali, the empire reached its peak in the 1350s.
The Mali Empire was founded by Mansa (King) Sundiata Keita and became renowned for the wealth of its rulers, especially Mansa Musa. He was the grandson of Sundiata’s half-brother, and led Mali at a time of great prosperity, during which trade tripled. During his rule, Mansa Musa doubled the land area of Mali; it became a larger kingdom than any in Europe at the time.
The cities of Mali became important trading centers for all of West Africa, as well as famous centers of wealth, culture and learning. Timbuktu, an important city in Mali, became one of the major cultural centers not only of Africa but of the entire world. Vast libraries and Islamic universities were built. These became meeting places of the finest poets, scholars and artists of Africa and the Middle East.
The Kingdom of Mali had a semi-democratic government with one of the world’s oldest known constitutions – The Kurukan Fuga.
The Kurukan Fuga of the Mali Empire was created after 1235 by an assembly of nobles to create a government for the newly established empire. The Kurukan Fouga divided the new empire into ruling clans that were represented at a great assembly called the Gbara. The Gbara was the deliberative body of the Mali Empire and was made up of 32 members from around 29 clans. They were given a voice in the government and were a check against the emperor’s (mansa’s) power. It was presided over by a belen-tigui (master of ceremonies) who recognized anyone who wanted to speak including the mansa. The Gbara and the Kurukan Fuga remained in place for over 40o years until 1645.
According to Wikipedia, Disney’s “Lion King” movie was based on the real life narrative of Mansa Sundiata Keita.
The Songhai Empire, also known as the Songhay Empire, was the largest state in African history and the most powerful of the medieval west African states. It expanded rapidly beginning with King Sonni Ali in the 1460s and by 1500s, it had risen to stretch from Cameroon to the Maghreb. In 1360, disputes over succession weakened the Mali Empire, and in the 1430s, Songhai, previously a Mali dependency, gained independence under the Sonni Dynasty. Around thirty years later, Sonni Sulayman Dama attacked Mema, the Mali province west of Timbuktu, paving the way for his successor, Sonni Ali, to turn his country into one of the greatest empires sub-Saharan Africa has ever seen.
Perhaps, it’s most popular leader was Muhammad Askia the Great. At its peak, the Songhai city of Timbuktu became a thriving cultural and commercial center. Arab, Italian and Jewish merchants all gathered for trade. By 1500, the Songhai Empire covered over 1.4 million square kilometers.
The Ethiopian Empire
The Ethiopian Empire also known as Abyssinia, covered a geographical area that the present-day northern half of Ethiopia covers. It existed from approximately 1137 (beginning of Zagwe Dynasty) until 1975 when the monarchy was overthrown in a coup d’état. In 1270, the Zagwe dynasty was overthrown by a king claiming lineage from the Aksumite emperors and, hence, Solomon. The thus-named Solomonic Dynasty was founded and ruled by the Habesha, from whom Abyssinia gets its name.
The Habesha reigned with only a few interruptions from 1270 until the late 20th century. It was under this dynasty that most of Ethiopia’s modern history occurred. During this time, the empire conquered and incorporated virtually all the peoples within modern Ethiopia. They successfully fought off Italian, Arab and Turkish armies and made fruitful contacts with some European powers, especially the Portuguese, with whom they allied in battle against the latter two invaders.
The Mossi Kingdoms were a number of different powerful kingdoms in modern-day Burkina Faso which dominated the region of the Upper Volta River for hundreds of years. Increasing power of the Mossi kingdoms resulted in larger conflicts with regional powers. The Kingdom of Yatenga became a key power attacking the Songhai Empire between 1328 and 1477, taking over Timbuktu and sacked the important trading post of Macina.
When Askia Mohammad I became the leader of the Songhai Empire with the desire to spread Islam, he waged a Holy war against the Mossi kingdoms in 1497. Although the Mossi forces were defeated in this effort, they resisted attempts to impose Islam. Although there were a number of jihad states in the region trying to forcibly spread Islam, namely the Massina Empire and the Sokoto Caliphate, the Mossi kingdoms largely retained their traditional religious and ritual practices. Being located near many of the main Islamic states of West Africa, the Mossi kingdoms developed a mixed religious system recognizing some authority for Islam while retaining earlier African spiritual belief systems.
Once a powerful city-state, Benin exists today as a modern African city in what is now south-central Nigeria. The present-day oba (King) of Benin traces the founding of his dynasty to A.D. 1300. The Benin Empire was a pre-colonial Edo state. Until the late 19th century, it was one of the major powers in West Africa. According to one eye witness report written by Olfert Dapper, “The King of Benin can in a single day make 20,000 men ready for war, and, if need be, 180,000, and because of this he has great influence among all the surrounding peoples… . His authority stretches over many cities, towns and villages. There is no King thereabouts who, in the possession of so many beautiful cities and towns, is his equal.”
When European merchant ships began to visit West Africa from the 15th century onwards, Benin came to control the trade between the inland peoples and the Europeans on the coast. When the British tried to expand their own trade in the 19th century, the Benin warriors killed their envoys.
Greek Gold ‘Pontic Aristocratic’ Diadem, Late 4th-Late 3rd Century BC
A gold diadem consisting of a twisted rope border with a series of heart shaped scrolls with applied acanthus leaves and flowers with gold wire detail and tear drop shaped settings with blue enamel, flowers recessed for red enamel inlay; central wire motif in the form of a Hercules knot with applied flowers and acanthus leaves with tear drop shaped setting with blue enamel; in the center an amethyst cameo with the bust of a woman wearing a diadem and robes held at the shoulder by a brooch; one small flower element present but detached.
Girma Berta (Ethiopian, born 1990), Moving Shadows V, 2015 and Moving Shadows VIII, 2016,Both edition 5/7 photographic print on textured archival paper
Girma Berta is an award-winning young artist based in Addis Ababa, whose work fuses street photography with fine art.
In Berta’s Moving Shadows series, solitary figures are juxtaposed against vibrant backgrounds, creating unique artworks which exemplify the contrasting colours and personalities on the street of his home town. Berta’s use of the digital medium to produce and present his artworks is a commentary on the digital revolution which is underway across Africa. Berta describes the motivation behind his work as a wish to capture “the beautiful, the ugly and all that is in between”. His images delve deep into the inhabitants of the city, offering his remarkable interpretation.
Berta’s Moving Shadows series received the 2016 Getty Images Instagram Award and his work has been featured in The Guardian, Okay Africa, Design Indaba and Art Africa and exhibited at Bamako Photo Fest, 2015, PhotoVille NY, 2015 and 2016, Look Festival NY, 2016, 1:54 Contemporary Art Fair, London, 2016 and AKAA Art Fair Paris, 2016.
Feeding the Flamingoes leaded-glass window, c. 1892
Louis Comfort Tiffany Living room, Laurelton Hall, Long Island, New York, 1902–57
Exhibited: World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893
Maiden feeding flamingoes in the court of a Roman house Leaded glass Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, New York City, 1892–1900 Marks, lower right: Tiffany Glass & Dec. Co. 333–341 Fourth Ave N.Y. 60 x 43 in. (U-072) The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
Description and image from: Morse Museum “Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933) casts the flamingo in at least four
works in the Museum’s collection, but the most prominent are the Feeding
the Flamingoes leaded-glass window, c. 1892, and a watercolor that preceded it in 1888.
A virtuoso glass performance, the Feeding the Flamingoes window depicts
materials from hard stone and tile to spouting water and soft fabric
(folded, so-called “drapery” glass). Its ambitious design includes
plating (multiple layers of glass) and hundreds of extremely small,
hard-to-handle bits of glass, particularly in the flowers behind the
flamingoes. In the two related works—composed on a diagonal axis to
create shadow and even a hint of mystery—Tiffany is clearly telling us
that the virginal young lady he has placed in this picturesque scene is,
like the flamingo, beautiful, balanced, and graceful. The pink in her
cheeks reveals her health just as the pink of flamingoes reflects
theirs. The well-traveled Tiffany was understandably enamored of this
elegant wading bird he no doubt knew from parts of Africa, southern
Asia, and southern Europe—exotic places that inspired the artist
throughout his life. He even kept stuffed flamingoes in his studio in
New York City. Both the window and watercolor were exhibited at the
world’s fair in Chicago in 1893 and eventually came home to the artist’s
country estate, Laurelton Hall.” (morse museum)
#Fez has been called the “Mecca of the West” and the “Athens of #Africa.” Once you go there, you’ll see why. Known as the cultural capital of #Morocco, Fez is an incredibly popular tourist destination, mostly on account of its thriving medina, artistic flair and stunning architecture. There are not only a boatload of museums here, but also tanneries, artisanal craftsmen, art galleries galore, and creative cuisine in the many chic restaurants. Life today still goes on in Fez much the way it did 1,300 years ago; the city is one of the largest car-free urban areas in the world.
In the eighteenth century, Salem developed into a major fishing, shipbuilding and maritime trade center. Thanks to its burgeoning codfish trade with the West Indies and Europe, the town grew and prospered. As Salem grew, so too did the power struggle between the colonies and England. In 1774, a Provincial Congress was organized in Salem and the political revolution began. Two months before the battles in Lexington and Concord, skirmishes broke out in Salem. Salem’s fleet contributed mightily to the war effort, capturing or sinking 455 British vessels.
By 1790, Salem was the sixth largest city in the country, and the richest per capita. International trade with Europe, the West Indies, China, Africa and Russia produced great wealth and prosperity in Salem. Entrepreneurial spirit and unflappable courage among Salem’s sea captains enhanced Salem’s success as a dominant seaport. Salem merchants built magnificent homes, established museums and other cultural institutions.
Salem architect and wood carver Samuel McIntire (1757-1811) was employed by many of the sea captains and is responsible for stunning Federal-style architecture and ornamental carving throughout Salem. McIntire’s peak years as an artist coincided with Salem’s peak years as a successful shipping port. This combination has left Salem with one of the grandest collections of Federal style architecture in the world.
In addition to the legacy of homes and buildings, Salem’s sea captains left behind a museum through which to share their exploration with Salem residents and visitors to the city. The Peabody Essex Museum is the oldest continually operated museum in the country and was founded by sea captains in 1799. In addition to collections from around the globe, visitors to the Peabody Essex Museum can see the model of the Friendship used to recreate the ship.
1922 - Singer Charles Brown, known for his hits “Driftin’ Blues” and “Merry Christmas Baby”, is born in Texas City, Texas
1970 - Diana Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” replaces Edwin Starr’s “War” and begins a three week run at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100
1975 - “The Heat Is On”, the twelfth studio album by The Isley Brothers, becomes the group’s first number one album.
1985 - Tina Turner wins Best Female Video for “What’s Love Got to Do with It” and USA for Africa wins Best Group Video and the Viewer’s Choice Awards for “We Are The World” at the 1985 MTV Video Music Awards
1996 - Tupac Shakur, one of the biggest selling and most influential rap artists of all time, dies in Las Vegas, Nevada, six days after being shot four times on Las Vega Blvd. following the Mike Tyson - Bruce Seldon fight at the age of 25
Out Of This World, a new i-D documentary series, journeys with American rapper and activist Mykki Blanco as he explores queer culture in Johannesburg. Captured intimately in an experimental hybrid-documentary by director Matt Lambert, Mykki meets boundary pushing artists Umilio and FAKA, designer Rich Mnisi and Bradley and Nkulsey, a model and dancer of the ‘Born Free’ generation - all using their platforms to give a voice to issues surrounding the politics of their sexuality, gender, identity and humanity. As we make our way through the creative epicentre that is South Africa’s biggest city, join us in celebrating the thriving alternative queer scene.
Yesterday Alicia Keys and husband Swizz Beatz got Wizkid fans buzzing
after posting 15 second video clips of themselves on Instagram dancing to Wizkid’s
hit songs “Ojuelegba” and “Caro”.
Swizz Beatz also informed his 1 million
followers, that Wizkid is currently
his favourite artist.
I think it’s fair to
say that 2015 is definitely looking like a massive year for Wizkid and with his international album
set to drop later this year, we are excited to see what the future holds for
Follow @Afrobeatscity on Facebook |
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Taming the Flamingo (also known as Feeding the Flamingoes), 1888 Art gallery, Laurelton Hall, Long Island, New York, 1902–57
Exhibited: World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893 Watercolor on paper Louis Comfort Tiffany, American, 1848–1933 Signed, lower left: Louis C. Tiffany 88 35 ½ x 23 in. Morse Museum, (85-011)
Description and image from the Morse Museum: “Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933) casts the flamingo in at least four
works in the Museum’s collection, but the most prominent are the Feeding the Flamingoes leaded-glass window,
c. 1892, and a watercolor that preceded it in 1888. A virtuoso glass
performance, the Feeding the Flamingoes window depicts materials from
hard stone and tile to spouting water and soft fabric (folded, so-called
“drapery” glass). Its ambitious design includes plating (multiple
layers of glass) and hundreds of extremely small, hard-to-handle bits of
glass, particularly in the flowers behind the flamingoes. In the two
related works—composed on a diagonal axis to create shadow and even a
hint of mystery—Tiffany is clearly telling us that the virginal young
lady he has placed in this picturesque scene is, like the flamingo,
beautiful, balanced, and graceful. The pink in her cheeks reveals her
health just as the pink of flamingoes reflects theirs. The well-traveled
Tiffany was understandably enamored of this elegant wading bird he no
doubt knew from parts of Africa, southern Asia, and southern
Europe—exotic places that inspired the artist throughout his life. He
even kept stuffed flamingoes in his studio in New York City. Both the
window and watercolor were exhibited at the world’s fair in Chicago in
1893 and eventually came home to the artist’s country estate, Laurelton
Hall” (via: morse museum)
“I believe that when you wrestle with your demons in public, they cease to haunt you in private,” says Kenyan born writer, producer and director Peres Owino well known for the documentary Bound: Africans vs. African Americans, Indeed, It would be ridiculous and ignorant to say that there exists no chasm or rift between Africans, African-Americans, Afro-Latinos, Afro-Caribbeans and Afro-Europeans. The conversation about the state of the black race within the context of the larger human family is one that is very necessary to have.
Why do Africans and people of African descent hailing from elsewhere appear to hate each other? Good question. There are several reasons why. The following will provide a good summary.
· Misconceptions among African Diaspora that Africans are tree climbing, starving naked monkeys that can be saved by donating one dollar a month.
· Misconceptions among African Diaspora that Africans did not contribute to the overall struggle for the race and that they somehow ‘suffered less’.
· Belief that Africans cruelly sold the African Diaspora as slaves.
· Belief that Africans are arrogant and disrespectful to African Diaspora.
· Belief that Africans just love licking the white man’s foot.
· Misconceptions among Africans that African Diaspora are uncultured and not purely African
· Belief among Africans that African Diaspora are lazy and useless to the economies of the countries they reside in.
· Belief among Africans that African Diaspora are unconcerned about Africa’s future and therefore irrelevant to the African story.
Now onto my favorite part of this article where we debunk all this crazy and childish (If I may say) myths that so effortlessly make a fool out of the hope of total Pan-African unity. Firstly, it is ludicrous for anyone let alone people of African descent to be in the 21st century and still believe that Africans are primitive nude apes dying of Aids and Ebola. Anybody that still holds on to that belief should do some research and stop leisurely displaying their ignorance and gobbling down what the media shows them and taking it as gospel truth. I even once read a comment on snap chat from an American shocked beyond measure by the site of thousands of snaps from Nairobi (the Kenyan capital) while he thought there were only three phones in the whole country. Another posted that he couldn’t believe the people “whose drinking water he was paying for” had smart phones. The reason all this is laughable is because Nairobi is just one city in a country that has several and there are 54 independent states in Africa and years of information, cultural exchange and knowledge about the state of Africa. Talk about ignorance by choice.
Keith Haring photographed by Janette Beckman, 1985.
“In 1985 I was working for the New York Daily News magazine when they asked me to shoot Keith Haring for a cover story – I was already a big fan, I knew Keith’s work from the subway and my friend Kim (Paper mag) who’s home phone was decorated by Keith. So one afternoon I went to his studio on LaGuardia place. It was was packed with paintings, and things Keith had covered in his signature style. There were tags from friends all over the walls, art from the likes of Warhol, paint pots, a Mickey Mouse phone, his bike, a decorated boom box, stuff everywhere. He was a lovely man, he posed for me and we chatted all afternoon. He gave me a massive ‘Free South Africa’ signed poster which I treasure, it hangs over my desk today.”