Through the African Lens: Cinema of the African Diaspora: Tsotsi (Thief)

Academy Award Winner of Best Foreign Language Film 2005:

An amoral teenager develops an unexpected paternal side in this powerful drama from South Africa. Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae) is the street name used by a young Johannesburg delinquent who has taken to a life of crime in order to support himself. Tsotsi comes from a blighted upbringing – his mother died slowly from AIDS-related illnesses, and his father was torturously abusive – and he has developed a talent for violence borne of necessity as well as taking strange pleasure in hurting other people. One evening, Tsotsi shoots a woman while stealing her car, and only later discovers that her infant son is in the back seat. Uncertain of what to do with the baby, Tsotsi takes the boy home and tries to care for it – going so far as to force Miriam (Terry Pheto), a single mother living nearby, to nurse the baby. With time, Tsotsi learns the basics of child care, and the presence of the baby awakens a sense of humanity in him that life on the street had stripped away. Tsotsi was adapted from a novel by the award-winning South African writer Athol Fugard. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Kwesi Abbensetts is a South American born photographer, hailing from the country of Guyana. In 2006 while in his final year of film school at Brooklyn College, Kwesi purchased a FUJI 5600 digital camera and from thereon his love for photography blossomed. Photography gave him the immediacy that was missing from film. A self taught photographer, Kwesi had no prior formal training. Having traveled around the Caribbean, Kwesi has shot travel photography in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Being self taught has allowed Kwesi to create and shape his own individual template that is identifiably distinct when it comes to creating images.

“When the music changes, so does the dance.”
— African proverb

Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance and music. It was created in Brazil mainly by descendants of African slaves with Brazilian native influences, probably beginning in the 16th century.
Capoeira has a long and controversial history, since historical documentation in Brazil was very scarce in its colonia

l times. Evidences, studies and oral tradition leave little doubt about its Brazilian roots, but it is impossible to precisely identify the exact Brazilian region or time it began to take form. Nowadays, Capoeira is a symbol of the Brazilian culture, symbol of the ethnic amalgam that characterizes Brazil, symbol of resistance to the oppression, Capoeira definitely changed its image and became a source of pride to Brazilian people. It is officially considered intangible cultural heritage of Brazil.
-Black Poem Music

The African Lens: Movies of the Diaspora: The First Grader.

The true story of an 84 year-old Kenyan villager and ex Mau Mau freedom fighter who fights for his right to go to school for the first time to get the education he could never afford.

To win a copy of this movie read our contest rules by clicking  and don’t forget to check out the other fabulous movies in today’s series. SUBSCRIBE TO AFRICLECTIC MAGAZINE FOR MORE POST LIKE THIS.


Sibande is the first in four generations of her family not to be a domestic worker. It was a fourth year varsity project which saw the birth of Sophie. She says she wanted to create a maid who had “stuff - things like her madam did.”

Sibande, a 28 year old artist who grew up in Barberton, Mpumalanga, and graduated in Fine Arts from the University of Johannesburg, has ‘arrived’ in town in every possible meaning of the word. Her life-size sculptures and photographic prints are right now in the process of being bought by the South African National Gallery and an American museum. She was also invited to enter her work in a competition for the United Nation’s headquarters in Bonn, Germany, and three of her print editions (10 to an edition) are already sold out.

In the 18 short months from her first solo show at Gallery Momo in Rosebank, Joburg, Sibande’s art is already fetching double its original price and is predicted to soar even further with the increasing international acclaim - she has been featured in the New York Times, and when we meet, has just touched down from her fourth art residency in Sylt, Germany. The other three have been in Paris, New York and Basel, Switzerland.

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Through the African Lens: Cinema of the Diaspora


Pulled between his strict Muslim upbringing by his father and the normal social life he’s never had, Tariq Mahdi (Evan Ross) enters college in a state of confusion. New relationships with Muslims and non-Muslims alike challenge his already shaken ideals, and the estrangement with his mother (Nia Long) and sister troubles him. Slowly, he begins to find himself with the help of new friends, family and mentors, but when the attacks of 9/11 happen without warning, he is forced to face his past and make the biggest decisions of his life.

“Information about the Black reality and experience must be transmitted as broadly and as intensely as possible. Black singers must sing about it, Black researchers must identify it, Black actors must act it, Black scholars must conceptualize it, Black teachers must teach it, and Black preachers must preach it. From the cradle to the grave, we must submerge ourselves; from books, pictures and whatever source that will bring messages to our minds. Each bit of information helps to mold the keys which will open the chains that remain on our minds.” -Naim Akbar

 Muhammad Ali and Grandson for Louis Vuitton

The three-year-old in the photo, who is often called “C.J.,” is the son of Mr. Ali’s daughter Laila, a retired boxer, and her husband, former National Football League player Curtis Conway.

Lonnie Ali, the fighter’s wife, says Mr. Ali requested that his grandson be photographed with him. “The two share a special bond. "Of all the grandchildren, C.J. looks the most like Muhammad. And he even acts like him,” Mrs. Ali said. “That child—I’ll tell you!"

I Like to Buy My Hair  

By Mpho Mosia for Africlectic Lifestyle


One black woman after the next, came into the smoky, chemical infused haven that women call the salon, some even to my shock were children that looked like they were 7 or 8 years old- all wanting to either straighten their hair with a relaxer or sew in a new stylish weave. Not to be biased, I really felt special amongst these women and wondered why- Is it because I have natural hair and they don’t? Or is it because I felt special in a negative sense, in that I am not in the in crowd? I guess whether black, white, or Asian, hair is a central aspect of a woman’s life and our continuous questioning of it is part of our daily lives. Yet more and more increasingly the idea of black women keeping their frizzy, nappy, afro hair, freaks them out or is not even something to consider. I wonder why?

While I was observing my surroundings I found myself philosophising about the whole phenomena of the weave and straightening one’s hair and it lead me to compare and contrast the ideas around hair and identity. It is a subject matter that people want to explore, but many fear criticism or feel they may be subjected to “no comment” responses, yet it is a fundamental part of a woman’s identity, because it revolves around self-image. Black women in particular see hair as a statement, whether it is propelled by status, fashion, the desire to be different, or the desire to fit in, it all represents an ideology of how you see yourself and more specifically how you want the world to see you.

The debate concerning black women and hair is further emphasised in a documentary done by the famous American comedian Chris Rock called Good Hair. In Good Hair Rock explores the question ‘what is all the fuss with black women, weaves, and straightening ones hair?

I guess through Rock’s male perspective it seems overrated, costly and unnatural, not recognising the importance for his own two young daughters to feel happy and content with their own natural hair. He suggests that the more unnatural your hair is, the less black you should claim to be, considering that weaves and relaxers requires chemicals and fake hair that has travelled from either India or Indonesia and is applied to a black woman’s natural hair.

Does it make a woman less African and in touch with her natural roots?

Does it emphasize a foreign concept of beauty that has been imported- literally- from the West and East and adopted into the community of black women, and in this context, particularly South African black women? It can be argued that as much as the media, social cultures, and celebrities are feeding children and women of all ages, images of Beyonce, Bonang Matheba, Rihanna, Oprah and Winnie Madikizela Mandela with weaves in their hair, that they are painting a picture of what is conceived as beautiful and acceptable.

The buying of hair itself is a costly business, when I ask women who have weaves, they openly tell me it can cost anything from R300 to R5000 (approx. $40 to $600 US dollars), all depending on the quality of the hair. On the contrary the 100% natural hair, meaning the weave is taken straight from women’s heads that have really great hair- from Brazil or India- can cost from R2000-R5000 (approx. $250 to $600 US dollars). It is truly amazing the pride that goes into buying the more expensive weave, even men share this sentiment of good versus bad weaves. I approached 2 young black students and asked them their thoughts about weaves and straight hair on black women and the answers were certainly shocking, as they both agreed that 95% of the time they would choose a woman who had natural hair over a woman who had a weave or straight hair. They continued to say that there is nothing worse than a bad weave or one that looks cheap and those black girls who use blonde, red and other colours in the weaves are especially a turn off. They also mentioned how ironic it is that “how come if a guy pays for their girlfriend’s weave, which is so expensive, they are not allowed to touch it and if you suggest going for a swim it means war or death!

It is quite interesting when speaking to women who have dreadlocks or an afro or who merely have no interest in weaves but will do braids because they all have different opinions; some don’t have issues with it but as a preference have no desire to buy or wear a weave. A particular lady said that she used to straighten her hair but because of the damage the chemicals did to her hair, she chose to keep her hair natural. A Rastafarian woman enforced the notion of it being against her religion and culture and that black women must take pride in their hair because it has been given as a blessing from a higher power. But the one conversation that was intriguing was a young lady who has a fake or synthetic afro and has dreadlocks underneath the afro, explained,

‘My hair doesn’t define who I am, I am more than my hair, my clothes and yes I used to be Rastafarian, but realised that boxing myself and criticizing others because of the way they look makes me fake and unholy.’

The point was made, so what if ‘I Like to Buy My Hair’, it is a preference. Hair shouldn’t be a platform used to judge or criticise people. Identity is complex and is not merely rooted to a woman’s hair.

Afri-Art: Tired Nanny by Joseph Eze: 

“Tired Nanny, revisits the safety of babies in the temporary custody of day care culture in most urban areas. Most families, according to him, consider the nanny alternative as necessary. But Eze asked: “Is the nanny really indispensable in stressful city like Lagos?” The answer, he argued, could be found in the fact that “some families cope without the nanny, anyway. The nanny culture, he warned, could be a sign of the failure in parental responsibility.”


      This Is My Africa is an award-winning documentary film. Directed and produced by Zina Saro-Wiwa, this quirky and unique film is a journey into an Africa that many may not know about. Created to reveal a more personal vision of the continent  by weaving together the personal memories, tastes and experiences of 21 Africans and Africaphiles, This Is My Africa has been described as a 50-minute crash course in African culture.

The film features: contemporary artist Yinka Shonibare MBE; actor Colin Firth; filmmaker John Akomfrah OBE; Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow; actor Chiwetel Ejiofor; singer Mpho Skeef; author Biyi Bandele; travel writer Noo Saro-Wiwa; opera singer Josephine Amankwah; fashion designer Bayo Oduwole; playwright Dipo Agboluaje; writer Mazzi Binaisa; DJ Duncan Brooker; politician and lawyer Paul Boateng; restaurateur Mourad Mazouz; actress and film-maker Lupita Nyong'o; writer and curator Nana O. Ayim; magazine publishers Njide and Nneka Ugboma; DJ/Producer Tony Nwachukwu and contemporary artist Mustafa Maluka. 


The Full CNN produced series, BLACK IN AMERICA


There’s a subtle kind of racial overtone in any drugstore you visit: It’s found in “skin-tone” band-aids, for example, or “nude” nail polish. We tend not to dwell on the shade of pantyhose; but in truth, the way commercial colors and products are named can be really restrictive.

A few years ago, French artist Pierre David was invited by the Museum of Modern Art Brazil to create an installation that addressed identity and diversity in the South American country. Hoping to involve Brazilians directly in the project, Pierre asked 40 museum employees and art students to pose shirtless in a series of portraits. He organized the shots into a Pantone-inspired swatch library, and asked an industrial paint company to mix 40 cans of paint to match the participants. The final exhibit featured a “swatch” library of colors designed by Superscript studio, and a lineup of paint cans labeled with the features of each model.

“Reducing an individual to a color poses the issue of racism in an immediate way,” explains David on his website. “Is it harmless to say, ‘I like (or I do not like) your color?‘” Human Pantone responds to the history of slavery in Brazil, as well as questions about France’s legacy as a colonial power. At the same time as it foregrounds the banality of tone-based racism, Human Pantone is meant to celebrate the remarkable diversity of skin colors. Because, David notes, just as flesh-toned band-aids don’t match anyone’s real skin, no one will ever exactly match up to a single swatch in his library. Which is actually really cool.

[Images courtesy of Superscript and Pierre David]

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Dear Africlectists, for your viewing pleasure this Saturday, why not sit back and relax to a very cool South African movie called ‘Jerusalema.’ In this movie, 'A young hoodlum rises from a small-time criminal to a powerful crime entrepreneur during the turbulent years before and after the fall of apartheid’ in South Africa.

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You have got to see this wonderful video by film maker, Zina Saro-Wiwa, daughter of the great late Ken Saro-Wiwa. It’s featured on the NY & documents her natural hair journey. All the ladies on the Africlectic staff are naptural so you know we just had to post this. PLEASE SHARE, & keep recommending us to friends. THANKS.



QUESTION OF THE DAY: Obama’s foreign policy towards Africa has been marked by strong undercover military operations rather than sound economic policies, despite the fact that China continues to solidify its position as Africa’s leading commercial partner. Has Africa’s distant son turned out to be a nightmare in African Foreign policy, that’s if at all he has one? Has he met your expectations? As it stands continuing the PEPFAR program instituted by President Bush before living office  has been one of the administration’s top points when it comes to Africanbut as someone with close link to the continent as himself, should he be sailing on Bush’s Africa legacy or setting his own.

 A Newsweek  article reads, “President George W. Bush’s administration, for all its flaws, truly brought to change to Africa through its PEPFAR program, which injected billions of dollars of money into nearly every aspect of the fight against HIV/AIDS, from prevention to critical antiretroviral (ARV) treatment programs. Outside of the war on terrorism, Bush made it the centerpiece of his foreign policy, and it animated a great deal of time and attention from the executive branch. Projects like PEPFAR take years to show results and a steady influx of billions to maintain. But they pay off. Last month, South Africa began clinical trials in the first-ever AIDS vaccine on the continent. That never would have been possible without PEPFAR. Admittedly, it’s early, but for now it’s clear that Bush was better than Obama for Africa.” In the US, he does not want to be seen as the “black people only president” while across the Sahara he does not want to be seen as doing Africa special favors. But Africa does not want disfavors either, so as he seeks reelection, we want to know, if re-elected what is your opinion on Obama-Africa Relations?