west africa

Goddess of the Day: August 29

Odudua - also Odua.  Yoruban Goddess of Love.  Odudua is worshiped in West Africa as the mother of love and childrearing.  Her name means Black One, and She is pictured as a great beauty with skin like obsidian stone.  She rules directional and elemental south, unity, creativity, community, love, fertility, and devotion in romantic relationships.  Women celebrate Odudua’s feast days by offering themselves with abandon to male worshipers.

(text from Brandi Auset, The Goddess Guide. Art by Maratamara)

Nigerian-born scientist wins award for his cancer-seeing glasses

Samuel Achilefu, has won the prestigious St. Louis Award for 2014 for creating cancer-visualizing glasses.

Dr. Achilefu, a professor of radiology and biomedical engineering, and his team developed the imaging technology in cancer diagnosis into a wearable night vision-like goggles so surgeons could see the cancer cells while operating.

“They basically have to operate in the dark,” Bloomberg Businessweek quoted Dr. Achilefu, 52, as saying.

“I thought, what if we create something that let’s you see things that aren’t available to the ordinary human eye.”

Ed’s Note: “What if” are the two most powerful words in creation.

Last Known Ebola Patient in Liberia Is Discharged

Liberia’s last Ebola patient was discharged on Thursday after a ceremony in the capital, Monrovia, bringing to zero the number of known cases in the country and marking a milestone in West Africa’s battle against the disease.

Officials in Monrovia, the city where the raging epidemic littered the streets with bodies only five months ago, celebrated even as they warned that Liberia was at least weeks away from being officially declared free of Ebola. They also noted that the disease had flared up recently in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea, the two other countries hardest hit by it.

“It was touching, it was pleasing,” Tolbert Nyenswah, the deputy health minister in charge of Liberia’s fight against Ebola, said in a telephone interview about the ceremony. “There was a lot of excitement because we feel that this is a victory.”

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Photo credit: ©Pius Utomi Ekpei (AFP)

Nigeria’s Cafe Neo: hoping to become the African Starbucks

The bright young things and senior managers were in Cafe Neo, on Victoria Island in Lagos, which has been specifically designed to cater to the tastes of “repats”.

Ngozi Dozie and his brother Chijoke created the chain with returning Nigerians in mind, in the full knowledge that years spent abroad alter views, tastes and expectations.

Now the brothers hope to conquer Africa’s major cities with 100 percent African coffee before giants of the business such as Starbucks try to capture the market.

“The demand (in Lagos) is very high. There’s a significant minority of people who love coffee and want to drink coffee but haven’t had access to coffee,” Ngozi told AFP.

The “significant minority” have studied and worked abroad, coming back in their thousands from the United States or Europe as austerity measures kicked in after the global financial crisis.

While they were away, Nigeria – already Africa’s most populous nation with some 170 million people – became the continent’s leading economy – and a country ripe with opportunity.

With economic growth has come an emerging middle class, which has increased six fold to 4.1 million households between 2000 and 2014, according to a recent study by Standard Bank.



 Ayo is a traditional Yoruba board game, however It is widely played throughout West Africa and the Caribbean. Among its many names are Awalé (Côte d'Ivoire), Wari (Mali), Ouri, Ouril or Uril (Cape Verde), Warri (Caribbean), Wali (Dagbani), Adji (Ewe), Nchọ (Igbo) and Awélé (Ga). A common name in English is Awari or Wari.


Ebola vaccine shows 100 percent success rate in clinical trial

Lancet study says new vaccine, in trial funded by World Health Organization, could stop Ebola outbreak in West Africa

An experimental vaccine tested on thousands of people in Guinea who were exposed to Ebolahas shown promising results, and could help end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, according to interim results from a study published Friday in the Lancet.

The rVSV-vectored Ebola vaccine had a 100 percent success rate in a clinical trial involving a total 7,651 people, according to a report on the vaccine published in the medical journal The Lancet on Friday.

There is no licensed treatment or vaccine for Ebola, which has killed more than 11,200 people, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, since the outbreak began in December 2013.

If proven effective, the vaccine could be “a game-changer,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, which sponsored the trial.

In some 4,000 people who received the vaccine within 10 days of being identified as an Ebola contact, there were no cases of the disease. That compared with 16 cases in more than 3,500 people who only got the shot after 10 days.

Liberia, worst hit by the outbreak last year, was declared Ebola free on May 9, even as new cases emerged in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea.

But it reported one new case nearly two months later, on June 30, and five more cases since.Two patients died but the four others recovered, meaning there are no more confirmed carriers of the deadly virus in Liberia.

At least 100 people who came into contact with the six cases and are at risk of developing symptoms will remain under surveillance through August.

Al Jazeera and wire services

 All photographs by Sean Hawkey


Self-Taught Nigerian Photographer Zamani Istifanus Captures Everyday Nigerians in Portrait Series.

“Through The Eyes Of An Ordinary Nigerian” is a series of photographic portraits conceptualized by Nigerian 19-year-old photographer Zamani Istifanus of Xamani Studios, a photography and cinematography studio based in Abuja that he launched in September, 2014. 

The series is an attempt by Zamani to capture the struggles of ordinary Nigerians whose realities do not mirror the fact that Nigeria currently has the largest economy in Africa. 

Aside from from the call to attention of the plight and existence of Nigerians who toil day and night, and either live on less than 2 dollars a day or perhaps “never get to eat on some days”, Zamani seeks to use these photographs as manner of dignifying the trades and occupations that fall far out of the glitz and glamour associated with the lives of those who have managed, in whatever way, to gain access to the country’s vast wealth. 

Although Zamani initially began his foray into the arts with graphic design, he gradually began to develop an interest in photography and cinematography. In 2013 he gained admission to study photography at CRAFT film school, Delhi, but was unable to attend due to financial constraints and lack of support from his father. Despite this setback, Zamani was not deterred in pursuing his love of photography and took to the internet to learn this craft, along with cinematography. In doing so, Zamani has manged to both empower himself and create an opportunity for himself to have realize his passion. His self-taught, and self-reliability, approach is an important trait that is also mirrored in many of the trades that Nigerians engage in by means of self-employment, another characteristic represented in this project.

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Lady Oyinkansola Abayomi (also known as Oyinkan) born March 6, 1897 – March 19, 1990, was a Nigerian nationalist and feminist. She is the former head of the Nigerian Girl Guides and founder of the Nigerian Women’s Party.

She went to school at the Anglican Girls’ Seminary in Lagos. She graduated in 1909. She then went to school at the Young Ladies Academy at Ryford Hall, located in Gloucestershire, England. She joined the Girl Guides. In 1917 she attended the Royal Academy of Music in London. She moved back to Lagos in 1920. She became a music teacher at the Anglican Girls’ Seminary. When she returned to Nigeria, she connected with the local Lagos Nigerian Girl Guides Association. Abayomi joined the group and was the first Nigerian woman to serve as a supervisor. She also became active in the education of women and girls in Nigeria, which was not equal to that of men and boys. She joined the Lagos Women’s Organization. She did fundraising and promoting for Queen’s College through the West African Educated Girls’ Club, an organization she founded. It opened in 1927. She was a founding teacher at Queens College. She was the only Nigerian to work there. Around this time she became one of the first women in Lagos to drive a car.
In 1931 the Girl Guides was recognized and given support by the Nigerian government. Abayomi became the chief commissioner for the Girl Guides. She joined the Nigerian Youth Movement in 1935. She wrote an article in the organization’s journal that year, demanding that wealthy women of Nigeria needed to fight for women’s rights and willing to work with women of middle and lower classes for those rights. On May 10, 1944 she founded the Nigerian Women’s Party, at a meeting at her home with twelve women. The organization sought equal rights for women. When Kofo Abayomi was knighted in 1954, Abayomi became known as Lady Oyinkan.

Nigeria will be Africa’s first global superpower

If Nigeria plays its cards right, it could become Africa’s only global superpower. It already has the continent’s biggest economy, a huge military budget and a fair record of regional engagement. By 2040 it will also be the fourth largest country in the world after India, China and the United States.

New research by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) shows that out of Africa’s “Big Five” powerful countries – Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria and Ethiopia – Nigeria is “the African country with by far the greatest capabilities” to play a global role.

Image: Eko Atlantic City artists impression