Stories from Quick Reads and South Africa
Don Osborne discusses a news feature on the Olivet Nazarene University website showing a map of “The Second Most Spoken Languages Around the World.” He points out key problems from the map:
The first issue is assuming that “The most spoken language in any country is often obvious; usually, it’s the official language of the country.” In Africa this often is not the case, if by “most spoken” one counts number of speakers. An example is Mali, whose linguistic profile was explored on this blog in discussing the long-tail of languages – Bambara is certainly more used than the official French.
Official language is a category that doesn't lend itself to ranking use of languages in Africa, beyond the (admittedly important) context of official use and its spillover to popular use. In the case of two countries at least, this runs into additional problems:
•South Africa has 11 official languages (the Olivet site incorrectly lists only one of them – Zulu – as official). So one of the official languages will be second most spoken. Perhaps that is Xhosa as indicated, but the model focusing on official languages hasn't worked here.
•Rwanda has three official languages (Kinyarwanda, French, and English), and Central African Republic two (Sango and French). Since the site doesn't consider these official languages in discussing second most widely spoken, it is reduced to stating that Swahili is “second” most used in Rwanda, and that indigenous languages are used in CAR – which doesn't tell us much.
Read part 2 of his discussion here.
Last March was the inaugural White History Month here on Africa is a Country, and without tooting too loudly on our own vuvuzela, it was kind of brilliant. So we’re going to do it again.
We featured stuff like Kathleen Bomani’s Leather from Human Skin in 1880s Philadelphia and pulled together a wide range of material, from Britain’s mass torture regime in 1950s Kenya to that time the South African government sent a delegation to the USA to find out how “reservations” worked.
If you would like to participate, you should:
Get in touch using editorial [at] africasacountry [dot] com and let us know what you want to write about. Take a look at what was featured last year to get an idea of what we’re looking for.
Nicknamed “Prime Evil”, Eugene de Kock was the commanding officer a counter-insurgency unit of the South African Police that kidnapped, tortured, and murdered numerous anti-apartheid activists during apartheid era. He was recently granted parole after serving 20 years of his 212 prison sentence.
Pierre de Vos reacts to his release by arguing that it is time to confront the evil of apartheid, not only of De Kock who defended it:
What De Kock did was monstrous – far more monstrous than anything an ordinary beneficiary of apartheid did. Whether he deserves to be granted parole is, therefore, at the very least, debatable. But singling out De Kock as particularly evil is also comforting for those of us who benefited from apartheid and continue to do so because of its lingering effects.
It’s an archetypal example of “Othering”. We pinpoint one wrongdoer (the torturer in the attic) in order to obscure our own complicity in upholding and benefiting from the system in whose name De Kock committed his crimes.
Supporting the prosecution and conviction of De Kock and his continued incarceration, and insisting on depicting him as uniquely evil, allow us to avoid having to confront the fact that the system itself was evil through and through.
It helps us white South Africans who lived through apartheid (or whose parents did) to retain the idea that we were, for the most part, “decent” people – lawyers, accountants, government clerks, railway workers, doctors, school teachers, insurance brokers – who read and discussed the merits of good books and movies with friends, who went to the opera and the symphony concert, who swooned over the yodelling Briels, who cried when that dog was killed in that children’s movie, who treated our servants with condescending kindness. In our own minds we would never, ever deliberately endorse cruelty and violence towards others.
Yet, we benefited from the system whose very raison d’être was to oppress and exploit others and to uphold and defend the sham superiority of whites and what is ironically termed “Western civilisation” – the same “civilisation” that produced Hitler, Stalin, Vietnam and Iraq, and embraced and benefited from slavery and colonial oppression.
Talking Heads is a project of the Africa Centre, a non-profit cultural organisation based in Cape Town, South Africa. Talking Heads produces audio casts and short films, which are freely available on YouTube and iTunes:
The Africa Centre has designed an approach that identifies, showcases and creates opportunities for African “Thought Leaders”. Talking Heads profiles some of the extraordinary Africans making a meaningful and affirmative contribution to their communities, cities, countries, to the Continent and the world. Our approach provides a model that can be easily replicated anywhere in Africa and, with scale, may offer an alternative narrative of who and what we know about our Continent.
What better than the seventh art to mobilize? In another effort to push for Elections in Lebanon and prevent an extension of the Parliamentary term #NoToExtension, Lebanese NGO Nahwa Al Muwatiniya (meaning Towards Citizenship) held an “Election Film Week”.
Six works from Chile, Iran, China, Ghana and the US, varying between documentaries and fiction are being screened between August 28 to September 2 at Cinema Metropolis (a theater promoting indie movies) in collaboration with the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE).
On the Facebook Page of the event, where the programme is listed, the organisers note:
We have been struggling with a fragile democracy in Lebanon, ever since its independence. Today, more than in the darkest days of the civil war, the foundations of our democracy are at risk. But we’re not alone in this. The world is full of stories about the human struggle for self-determination and democratic participation. Broadening our perspective serves our effort to improve the quality of the political system in Lebanon.
The films we picked share stories from different countries, all which portray the election process. Collectively, they reveal a combination of human values and ideals and the efforts politicians make to win an election.
To see a glimpse of the movies, check out the trailer posted on Nahwa Al Muwatiniya Youtube Page.
The current parliament extended its four-year stay for the first time in May 2013. And like a year before, various parties are supporting the move this time around under the pretext of security conditions.
The end of the parliamentary term comes amidst a period of turmoil in Lebanon. The country has lacked a president since May 25 after parliament failed to elect a new head of state and top officials could not reach political consensus. A general strike by syndicates demanding to approve a new enhanced wage scale for civil servants has threatened to paralyze the entire country. Lebanon has experience instability on both Syrian and Israeli borders after soldiers were kidnapped by members of Islamic militant organization ISIS.
Artist and social entrepreneur Nomsa Mazwai (Nomisupasta) and some friends got together to collect signatures for a petition to stop the sale of Steve Biko‘s autopsy report. Watch the YouTube video of the campaign:
Late last year Ghana-based pan-African literary organization Golden Baobab introduced us to a shortlist of talented illustrators, whose work ranged from 3-D Ashanti folktales to intricately drawn Moroccan cityscapes and African barbershop-inspired murals in Durban. Awarded in November, the inaugural Golden Baobab Prize for African Illustrators was one of the foundation’s six prizes recognizing the year’s best African writers and illustrators of children’s stories.
According to MTN, ” MTN FrontRow, is a premium entertainment network that brings you all the TV series and movies you love, even if you’re not an MTN subscriber – and you could get the first month FREE.You won’t even have to install a dish, buy a box or take out a bank loan. From only R179 a month, you can sign up to MTN FrontRow Club and play our content instantly at any time via your browser on your computer or mobile device, or on our Android app (an iOS version is coming soon!). You can even stream to your TV via your devices, of course.”
Highway Africa organisers have announced that Dan Gilmor will be the keynote speaker for the 18th edition of the conference which takes place from 7-8 September, 2014 in at Rhodes University, South Africa:
The theme of the conference is Social Media – from the margins to the mainstream and Gillmor, who wrote the seminal book on citizen journalism, “We the Media” (2004), will revisit his initial optimism on the potential of the internet.
Gillmor teaches digital media literacy at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Over 400 delegates from 36 African countries are expected to attend including others from the United States of America, Bolivia, the Netherlands and Germany.