Canary Islands

“If you could sit back and watch clouds and the sky move all night and day, what might you see? This video was shot in the Teide National Park on Tenerife in the Canary Islands of Spain, attached to the northwest coast of Africa. The scenes were captured over the course of the year and include breathtaking views — clouds that seem to flow like water — a setting sun that shows numerous green flashers — the Milky Way Galaxy rising behind towering plants — a colorful double fogbow — lenticular clouds that appear stationary near their mountains peaks — and colorful moon coronas.

David Kagan

inspirational blog

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The Real History of Kwanzaa

Many believe that Maulana Karenga, professor of Africana Studies, scholar/activist and author is the creator of Kwanzaa. Mr. Karenga was able to codify the holiday with African references and influences but the spirit of the holiday originated with Julius Kambarage Nyerere. Though he was a suspicious of capitalism, his aim politically and culturally was to improve his country and all of Africa.

Julius Kambarage Nyerere (13 April 1922 – 14 October 1999) was a Tanzanian politician who served as the first President of Tanzania and previously Tanganyika, from the country’s founding in 1961 until his retirement in 1985.

Born in Tanganyika to Nyerere Burito (1860–1942), Chief of the Zanaki, Nyerere was known by the Swahili name Mwalimu or ‘teacher’, his profession prior to politics. He was also referred to as Baba wa Taifa (Father of the Nation). Nyerere received his higher education at Makerere University in Kampala and the University of Edinburgh. After he returned to Tanganyika, he worked as a teacher. In 1954, he helped form the Tanganyika African National Union.

In 1961, Nyerere was elected Tanganyika’s first Prime
Minister, and following independence, in 1962, the country’s first President. In 1964, Tanganyika became politically united with Zanzibar and was renamed to Tanzania. In 1965, a one-party election returned Nyerere to power. Two years later, he issued the Arusha Declaration, which outlined his socialist vision of ujamaa that came to dominate his policies.

Nyerere retired in 1985, while remaining the chairman of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi. He died of leukemia in London in 1999. In 2009, Nyerere was named “World Hero of Social Justice” by the president of the United Nations General Assembly.

Cultural Influence

Nyerere continued to influence the people of Tanzania in the years following his presidency. His broader ideas of socialism live on in the rap and hip hop artists of Tanzania. Nyerere believed socialism was an attitude of mind that barred discrimination and entailed equality of all human beings. Therefore, ujamaa can be said to have created the social environment for the development of hip hop culture. Like in other countries, hip hop emerged in post-colonial Tanzania when divisions among the population were prominent, whether by class, ethnicity or gender. Rappers’ broadcast messages of freedom, unity, and family, topics that are all reminiscent of the spirit Nyerere put forth in ujamaa. In addition, Nyerere supported the presence of foreign cultures in Tanzania saying, “a nation which refuses to learn from foreign cultures is nothing but a nation of idiots and lunatics…[but] to learn from other cultures does not mean we should abandon our own.” Under his leadership, the Ministry of National Culture and Youth was created in order to allow Tanzanian popular culture, in this case hip hop, to develop and flower. As a result of Nyerere’s presence in Tanzania, the genre of hip hop was welcomed from overseas in Tanzania and melded with the spirit of ujamaa.

To learn more about the Arusha Declaration, go to the Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arusha_Declaration

African metalworks

Background to metalworking in Africa

There is enormous variety in African metalworking, in terms of the metals used, the techniques employed, and the objects produced.
Historically, the metals used most in Sub-Saharan Africa were iron, copper, bronze (alloy of copper and tin), brass (alloy of copper and zinc), and gold. There was also some localized use of lead, tin, silver, and more recently, aluminium.

There are substantial gold deposits in Africa, as well as a range of iron ores. Copper is sparse in west Africa, but is plentiful in parts of southern and central Africa.

History

In ancient Egypt, metal was smelted from the time of the Old Kingdom (2686–2181 BC). In Sub-Saharan Africa, it is not known precisely when native metals were first worked, but in parts of Niger and Mauritania, copper was smelted from the early first millennium BC. By AD 1000 metal use was almost universal in Africa. The ‘Three Age System’ of stone-use, followed first by bronze, and then by iron, does not apply to the history of metals in Africa. Almost everywhere, iron, copper, bronze, and brass were introduced at virtually the same time.

Techniques

    Smelting

involves extracting a metal from its ore (a mineral containing the metal) by heating the metal ore in a furnace to a very high temperature. During the smelting process, oxygen in the ore combines with carbon in the fuel, escaping as carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide, leaving the metal in liquid form. Other impurities are also removed during the smelting process. During smelting, the temperature in the furnace is raised and maintained using bellows.

    Forging metal

is a method of shaping metal by hammering. Cold forging is generally limited to relatively soft metals including gold, silver, and copper alloys. Most metals are hot forged. A metal object produced by hot forging tends to be stronger and less brittle than metal cast in a mould. In addition to hammering, the metal is also shaped by chisels, and by punching tools.

This heavy brass torque from Tanzania was shaped by hammering. The incised patterning was then produced using a sharp tool. It is thought to have been excavated from a Pare grave in the mid-twentieth century, and to have been made some time before 1892. It probably belonged to a woman. Amongst the Pare in the precolonial period, torques like these were made by members of the metalworking clan. They were usually purchased by a girl’s parents and given to her to mark her adulthood and the fact that she was ready to
marry.

    Lost Wax Casting

An alternative method of shaping metal is by lost wax casting, or cire perdue. This method was used to produce some of the most famous African metalworks, including the Benin brasses (or ‘bronzes’), and Asante weights. It is not known exactly how lost wax casting was developed or introduced to Africa, but it was being practised by West African brass sculptors for several centuries before the arrival of the first Portuguese explorers in the late fifteenth century. Lost wax casting allows hollow metal objects to be produced. A clay or plaster model is made of the desired object. This clay mould is then covered with a layer of wax (or a similar material with a low melting point). The thickness of the wax layer is important, as it determines the eventual thickness of the metal. A second layer of clay is then formed over the wax. Ducts are left in the clay for drainage. The entire mould is then heated so that the wax melts and drains away through the ducts. Molten metal is then poured into the resulting cavity. Once the metal has cooled and hardened, the clay is chipped off, leaving the metal object.

    Direct Cast Method

This is another method used to shape metal. It produces a metal model of small, organic objects such as seeds or insects. The seed or insect is covered in a thick layer of clay. The clay is then heated so that the organic material is burned away. Molten metal is poured into the cavity through specially prepared ducts. Once cold, the clay cast is then broken off revealing the metal object which is then filed and polished.

Compiled by:
Bryony Reid, Senior Project Assistant (Interpretation)
DCF What’s Upstairs?
October 2005

For more information — please read Kola Adekola’s research paper
http://www.diaspora.uiuc.edu/news0311/news0311-5.pdf

The Banjo’s African Roots

The Banjo originated in Africa and African slaves brought it to America in the 17th century.

It is the only Western stringed instrument with a vellum belly. African stringed instruments commonly include the musical bow, lute, lyre, harp, and zither. Professional musicians among the people of Gambia play the kora, a 21-string harp-lute. The xalam, a plucked lute, is a close relative of the African-American banjo. It is used in Senegal by Wolof praise singers, whose songs revere important people.

From various historical references, however, it can be deduced that the banjar, or bangie, or banjer, or banza, or banjo was played in early 17th century America by Africans in slavery who constructed their instruments from gourds, wood, and tanned skins, using hemp or gut for strings. The banjo was similar to instruments made by the Moors north of the Sahara. It is a stringed instrument of the lute family, with an open-backed round body consisting of a circular wood hoop over which is stretched a vellum belly, a long, narrow, fretted neck, and metal or metal-wound gut strings.

The strings run from a tail piece, over a bridge held in place by their pressure, up the neck to rear tuning pegs. Five strings are typical: four full-length strings and a shorter fifth “thumb” string running to a tuning screw halfway up the neck. Often a five-string banjo body is suspended in a metal or wood resonator. Early banjos had fretless necks, a varying number of strings, and, sometimes, gourd bodies. Thomas Jefferson, in his 1785 notes on the State of Virginia, aptly remarked that the slave instrument of choice, “is the Bonjar which they brought hither from Africa.”

Adopted by white musicians in 19th-century minstrel-show troupes, the banjo gained frets and metal strings. The five-string banjo, plucked with the fingers, is common in folk music and commercial bluegrass bands. The plectrum-plucked four-string banjo was popular about 1900 in vaudeville bands. What brought the instrument to the attention of the nation, however, was a grotesque representation of Black culture by white performers in minstrel shows.

Reference:
The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage
by Susan Altman

Below is an article by the group Carolina Chocolate Drop. Formed in 2005, the group members wanted to keep a Black tradition alive by learning the Banjo. Now, they have created a formidable music group that performs nationally. The banjo was viewed as a slave instrument and technically it was but it roots goes back to Africa and it needs to be reclaimed here among African Americans. Slavery made African Americans ashamed of traditions that others now celebrate in the open and with joy. It’s our time to celebrate our ancestry and enjoy its wealth.

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Interior Tour of The African Burial Ground

WNET reflects on the African Burial Ground at the Outdoor Memorial

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the discovery of the African Burial Ground, NY Daily News experienced a tour with National Park Service Ranger Cyrus Forman.

The significance of the color blue for Africans


Indigo in Africa

“Indigo grows wild in almost every part of the African Coast … Besides the Indigo, there is another plant which the natives use as a blue dye, which appears to impart a more indelible color, and which, should it stand the test of experiment, might also be cultivated.”

–British Report of the Committee of the African Institution: West African Produce, 25 March 1808
Africans have used indigo for centuries as symbol of wealth and fertility. Indigo-dyed cotton cloth excavated from caves in Mali date to the 11th century and many of the designs are still used by modern West Africans. The Tauregs, “blue men” of the Sahara, are famous for their indigo robes, turbans, and veils that rub blue pigment into their skin. Yoruba dyers of Nigeria produce indigo cloth called adire alesso using both tie-and-dye and resist dye techniques, while honoring Iya Mapo, as the patron god of their exacting craft. Dyers of the Kanuri (Cameroon and Nigeria) and Fulani (modern Niger and Burkina-Faso) ethnic groups popularized indigo near Lake Chad and through portions of West Africa.

Most African dyers are women including among the Yoruba, the Malike and Dogan of Mali, and the Soninke of Senegal. Dyeing is also performed by men among the Mossi (Burkina-Faso) and the Hausa, who have produced indigo-dyed textiles in the ancient city of Kano (Northern Nigeria) since the 15th century.

— Content from Slaves in America