southern africa

‘Black Graphics International’, Detroit, 1974. International Women’s Day tribute to Frelimo, the revolutionary movement fighting to free Mozambique from Portuguese colonialism.

Within days of news breaking of the murder of Cecil the lion, a global petition calling for justice for the cat – said to be the largest lion in Hwange National Park– has garnered over 300 000 signatures. International media has diligently reported the latest news on the situation with updates on the American dentist, Walter Palmer, who is responsible for the trophy hunt coming in thick and fast. Additionally, #CeciltheLion has trended on Twitter, with #JeSuisCecil also featuring prominently.For many Zimbabweans, international focus on Cecil stands in stark contrast to the barely audible attention paid to Itai Dzamara, a local anti-state activist who has been missing for over four months. Or to the precarious status of unregulated local street vendors as police mount a crackdown on their activities. Or to Sangulani Chikumbutso, a high-school dropout who has become the first Zimbabwean to design and manufacture a hybrid helicopter and electric vehicle. It is the deepest irony that in a time when the #BlackLivesMatter movement continues to gain traction in highlighting the differential scales used to value human lives, the world should cast its eye on Zimbabwe for its wildlife, with no thought or concern for its people.

Himba Hairstyles

The Himba women are famous for their coating their bodies and hair with a red paste called otjize.

In Himba culture there is a close tie between marriage and hairstyles.


As children, girls wear two plaits called ozondato, unless they are one of a set of twins.

Once reaching puberty, they are ready to wear their famous red locks of hair.

To create this elaborate hairstyle, their hair must be lengthened by weaving hay, goat hair, or Indian hair extensions. Then the hair is coated with a mixture of clay and red ochre, an earth pigment.

It is important that the the hair is not groomed back, so to let the hair act as a veil, hiding the face from unwanted male attention.

After marriage, the hair can be groomed away revealing the face.


Boys and men wear only a single plait throughout their lives as bachelors. It is when they are finally married that a head-covering is placed. The head-covering is to only be taken off in the even of a death, and/or being windowed. After a death, the men shave their heads.

In the unfortunate event that a man is widowed, his hair returns to being uncovered.

Source: [DailyMail]

Mozambican Odete Muximpua recently became the country’s first woman engineer with a Master’s degree

Odete Muximpua is used to being a trailblazer. Raised in the small coastal city of Quelimane by her mother and grandmother, she is the first person in her family to have gone to college. This year, she also became Mozambique’s first homegrown woman engineer with a Master’s degree.

Women disproportionately lack access to higher education in Mozambique. UNESCO reports that in 2011, the country’s female gross enrolment ratio in tertiary education was just 3.73%. While this situation is mirrored across sub-Saharan African countries, Mozambique especially lags behind when it comes to women’s as well as overall youth enrollment in sciences, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

Muximpua graduated her secondary school with outstanding grades. After graduation, she remembers being torn about choosing engineering until the last day to apply for university.

“Here in Mozambique, we have very few girls going into engineering. Most who attend university study social sciences or medicine,” she said.

With encouragement from her school math teacher, Muximpua decided to study civil engineering, and applied to Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique’s oldest and largest university. She topped the national entry exam, and in 2000, became one of just five women in a class of 55 students.

She ended up being the only girl in her class by the time she graduated, the others dropping out or unable to graduate in time.

“The boys respected me a lot,” she said. “I became head of the class, which gave me a lot of power!”

In her third year at university, Muximpua had a choice to study hydraulics or construction, a more popular choice among engineering students. She became the only one in class to specialize in hydraulics.

“I felt that water management was a challenge in my country and worldwide,” Muximpua  said. “I understood that it was a scarce resource, and I thought that’s where I could make a difference.”
Zeroes to heroes: Madonna's defunct school in Malawi to become cemetery

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Madonna at a ceremony to mark the start of construction of the Raising Malawi Girls’ Academy in Chinkhota in 2010. it never got built. Photograph: Nick Obank/Barcroft Media

When Madonna came here to cut a ribbon and plant a tree at a groundbreaking ceremony in 2009, hopes were high for her $15m (£9.4m) elite academy for girls. Three years later, the site looks like a quarried mine, with little activity beyond footballers kicking a ball around.

Madonna’s plan was scrapped last year without a brick being laid. Now Malawi has come up with an alternative plan for the eyesore. It will build a monument to national heroes on the spot where the singer once promised to change hundreds of young lives.


Herero People of Namibia: Photographed by Jim Naughten

The Herero people are a Bantu ethnic group found in Southern Africa. The majority of them reside in Namibia while the remainder live in Botswana and Angola. Their language is Otjiherero which is a Bantu language and forms part of the Niger-Congo family.

The Herero people are pastoral cattle breeding nation. They are believed to have immigrated from east Africa about 350 years ago. They can be divided into several subgroups which include the Tjimba, Ndamuranda, Mahereo, Zeraua, and Mbandero who are found in Namibia. The Mucubal Kuvale, Zemba, Hakawona, Tjavikwa, and Himba are found mainly in Angola. 

 In 1903, the Herero in Namibia learned that they were to be put in reservations to make room for more German colonisers to prosper. Their culture and freedom was already being heavily restricted. This led to them joining with the Nama in a rebellion that began in 1904 and ended in 1907. The rebellion led to a devastating genocide in which between 75% and 80% of the Herero population was exterminated. German troops used tactics such as driving men, women, and children into the desert to perish as well as poisoning watering holes. In a period of four years, approximately 65,000 Herero people perished. 

The Herero people today are famous for their traditional dress. The women’s dress derives from Victorian women’s fashion and includes crinolines worn over petticoats as well as a horn shaped hat which is said to represent the horn of the bull. Their traditional festival is held in Okahandja on Maherero day, which falls on the last weekend in August. This includes paramilitary groups parading for their chiefs while the women line the streets in their dresses.

Sources: one, two, three, four


Irma Stern

Country: Republic of South Africa

Style: Portraiture/ Impressionism

Medium: Oil, Gouache, Watercolour

Fun Fact: her work was unappreciated at first in South Africa where critics derided her early exhibitionsin the 1920s with reviews titled “Art of Miss Irma Stern - Ugliness as a cult”.  On her return to South Africa, equipped with influences from German expressionism she had her first exhibition but that was dismissed as “immoral” and became subject to police investigation.

Quote: It was a shock to me to see how the natural picturesqueness of the native in his kraal had almost disappeared … Today he has submitted to civilization … he wears Everyman’s clothes and boots. He looks odd and drab in this garb … to those of us who saw the beauty of the native in his natural state the change is sad.


1. Portrait of a Young Girl

2. Bahora Girl

3. Woman Sewing Karos

4. Portrait of a Young Malay Girl

5.  Mangbetu woman

6. Portrait of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher

7. African Woman

8. Zanzibar

9. Malay GIrl

10. Woman with a Jug