I will not make the argument that Columbus's arrival in the New World was insignificant merely because he was an absolutely awful person or because he didn't actually discover anything (which he himself maintained, claiming until his death that he'd merely found a different route to Asia). But think about this before you dismiss -- before Columbus, avocado, bell peppers, blueberries, cashews, cassava root, chili peppers, chocolate, cocaine, gourds, maize, peanuts, pecans pineapples, pumpkins, squash, tobacco, tomatoes, and vanilla were all unknown in the Old World and alcohol, apples, bananas, barley, cheese, coffee, mango, onions, rice, tea, and turnips, and wheat were unknown in the Americas. Imagine an existence without any of those and you can hopefully begin to get a taste of the importance of the Columbian Exchange. Imagine Italian cuisine without tomato sauce or gnocchi and you can't help but wonder if this is why Columbus is so dear to many Italians. Imagine, on the other hand, genocide, slavery, and old world diseases and you'll understand why he's even more hated by many others.
Prudence Mabhena "Ipi Ntombi"
Ever since I was ten years old I wanted to visit South Africa. I was involved in the anti-apartheid movement in the US and always thought about my brothers and sisters with disabilities who lived under apartheid and even wrote a paper in high school but back then and even now there is very little information here in the US about South Africans with disabilities. Now I’m an adult in my forties and still haven’t made that trip to South Africa, however nowadays because of the internet, my journalism and the creation of Krip-Hop Nation, I’m getting closer to finally making that trip to South Africa. My interest now is connecting disabled artists/activists/poets/musicians who are African Americans to our brothers and sisters who share the same talents and identities in South Africa under Krip-Hop Nation and an organization in South Africa. The bigger picture/plan is to have an event and networking session in South Africa between Krip-Hop Nation and South African organizations that share our mission.
As a journalist, I kept in contact with some musicians/poets/activists in South Africa by interviewing them for my columns. In 2009 I interviewed South African Disabled Musician's Association and in 2010 I interviewed South African Deejay Kabila, and recently I interviewed poet Mak Manaka. I was one of the first journalists with a disability in the USA to write about the now famous African musicians with disabilities like Oscar winner Prudence Mabhena (see video above) and award winning Staff Benda Bilili of the Congo. Mabhena is even writing for my Krip-Hop book. Krip-Hop Nation’s internet radio started by Binki Woi of Germany has played the music of musicians with disabilities in South Africa. We are excited about these connections and with our new partnership with G-Tazz Records and the Zululand Gospel Choir of South Africa (as seen in video below).
Dusty Bushmen toddlers
I'm not a big spectator of sports (or player of them, for that matter) but it seems that events like The World Cup and The Olympics are often used to spotlight various aspects of the host country's culture. I did read one such article about South Africa in National Geographic but I haven't seen anything during the current cup about the indigenous population. OK, so maybe there aren't any bushmen on the pitch or in the stands but... well, I don't care... I started the blog entry a while ago and I'm just trying to make it relevant whilst South Africa's on our collective minds -- especially since Bafana Bafana appear to be on their way out of the cup (except as hosts) unless something miraculous happens.
A BIT ABOUT TERMINOLOGY
Los Angeles’s Pan-African Film Festival is currently in effect (February 10-17). I have a long-lasting love-hate relationship with it. On the one hand, their website (despite improvements this year) remains hard to navigate, is rife with typos, incomplete information and omissions. In other words, it’s inexcusably bad. How about a calendar, folks?
In addition, every year I take issue with the selection of films. The programmers have a very odd definition of “Pan-African.” Last year was the worst, with the focus on the African diaspora coming at the expense of even a single African feature. Thankfully, this year there are several African features but still some questionable choices. It’s nice to see films about Africa’s many-but-usually-ignored non-black people, such as Finemachiyamoché, about Moroccan Jews, and Florida Road, starring members of South Africa’s sizable south Asian population. On the other hand, Forgotten Bird of Paradise, about Papua is, regardless of its possible merits, an embarrassing example of the organizers' colorist, transracialist equation of African-ness with pigmentation rather than actual African ancestry. The inclusion of an Iranian film, The Stoning of Soraya M., is a real head-scratcher. Are they equating Islam with African-ness now? Another odd choice is Darfur, directed by German hack Uwe Boll (BloodRayne 3, House of the Dead, Postal Zombie Massacre and other garbage).
Ever heard the song "Shackles on My Feet" by RJ’s Latest Arrival? There’s a famous line in that song that goes, “I wanna hit the DJ with a baseball bat.” The truth is, we’ve all been there, we’ve all at some point or another, maybe even for just a millisecond expressed similar sentiments towards a loathsome music selector. Every once in a leap year the very opposite happens-- something new raises my hair, slaps me upside the head and forces me to pay attention. It’s tough to be original when everything has already been done. I’m so thankful DJ is what I write on the line next to the question, “What do you do for a living?” It’s completely unrestricting; I’m the driver of this ship, I can explore whatever I want. Recently, like an hour ago, I discovered Die Antwoord. Are you familiar? Let me just tell you the story gets tricky somewhere in the middle, but basically the Ali G of South Africa started a group with some of his cronies, and, as you can probably imagine, it’s brilliant, like sucking on a lollipop and finally making it to the gooey center.
Die Antwoord is a “white-trash” personified, 90’s coat tailing, self proclaimed “zef” rap trio consisting of Front man Ninja aka Max Normal, DJ Hi-Tek and then there’s Yo-landi Vi$$er. If Peaches and Bjork married and had a little blonde rapping baby girl, Yo-landi Vi$$er would be it. Together the ‘three-piece rap-rave’ is like The Three Stooges meets Napoleon Dynamite meets Dirt Nasty. It’s good, damn good, but...there’s always a but: “Amy Winehouse can sing and write, but…” “R Kelly is one of the greatest R&B producers of our generation, but…” and the list goes on and on. Die Antwoord is one big walking farce and folks don’t really know how to take to it. I say to that, it’s not Calculus people. Just look at the success of already establish tongue-in-cheek groups like Lonely Island and Flight of The Concords, Genius! If there’s one thing we’ve learned as a culture in the history of everything, it’s that good things always come with an abundance of haters.