Amoeblog

South(ern) Africa's Indigenous People and their Culture Presented in Music and Film

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 19, 2010 12:16pm | Post a Comment


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

Many object to the use of the term "Bushmen," which I understand. Saying Bushmen women certainly seems odd. It's imperfect but widely accepted and used among the people it describes, just like black, white, Asian or Indian (for Native Americans). The ancient common culture of all Bushmen groups is retroactively known as Sangoan, although we have no idea what they called themselves. Capoid is a term used by some... chiefly people who throw around words like Negroid, Caucasoid and Mongoloid in polite conversation. Khoisan is often used but "san" means "outsider" in the Khoi language and is therefore considered offensive by the very people it's meant to describe. Khoi Khoi is literally, "People People." The Dutch called the Khoi "Hottentots," meaning "stutterer" or "stammerer" -- a reference to the array of clicks in their language. The so-called San were generally distinguished by whites as bushmen, although now "Bushmen" is the most commonly used generic term for the entire group, so for lack of a better word, Bushmen it is.          

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Coachella 2009 30/30 Initiative: Tinariwen

Posted by Amoebite, April 13, 2009 11:43pm | Post a Comment
127 Bands, 5 Stages, 3 Days and 1 Mean Sunburn.

"Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - April 17-19th, 2009 or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Find 30 Reasons To Love a Weekend in the Desert."

- By Scott Butterworth


Coachella Lineup     Tinariwen

Day #24 - Artist #24 - Tinariwen:

It doesn't fail! Tonight is the second night in a row that I have been in bad mood, or a stressed mood or an exhausted mood or any combination of undesirable moods. And as soon as I press play on Tinariwen's recent album, Aman Iman: Water Is Life, my mood instantly takes a 180 degree turn. I have plenty of go-to albums to put me in a good mood or get me excited or motivate me, but this album physically woke me up...instantly! What normally takes a cup of coffee an hour or
Tinariwenso to do, Aman Iman: Water Is Life does in a matter of seconds.

"Tinariwen is a Tuareg group that performs in the Middle Eastern/African style Tishoumaren, similar to artists like Ali Farka Toure or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; [they] sing mostly in the French and Tamashek languages." I consider myself to be a pretty cultured person...but I'm going to be honest; I have no idea what that description means. But what I do know is that they formed in Mali in 1982 and have released music for 18 years, circulating locally in Africa. The music had a political soul of rebellion and became a voice for the Taureg people, eventually becoming banned in Algeria and Mali. It wasn't until 2001 that Tinariwen gained attention from the Western world with the release of The Radio Tisdas Sessions (2001). Their most recent album, Aman Iman: Water Is Life, released in 2007, introduces us to songs that were actually written as far back as the band's origins in the early '80s, but still sound as if they were born yesterday.
Tinariwen - Aman Iman: Water Is Life
There's just something different about this band's music than what I'm used to with Western popular music (and I would put almost every other band at Coachella into that category). They are a magical band, from a magical land. Tinariwen's music feels like it's made because it has to be, and for no other reason. The album title Water Is Life alludes to the band's foundation of necessity and Tinariwen is the water that their Saharan Desert lacks. If the Sahara Desert is a metaphor for my night, coffee is not the "water" that my soil needs...I think it needs Tinariwen.

Who's black and whose black?

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 17, 2009 12:00am | Post a Comment

As Black History Month rolls on, I asked myself a question that may seem stupid to most people: Who exactly is black and who is not? And how is it decided? Does the individual or society determine what we are or is it a combination of both? Are there other factors? Is this the Family Feud or actual objective science?
 

In 2009, all rational and educated people now accept that race is a human construct, which isn't to say that it's meaningless. As long as people are treated differently (preferentially, discriminatorily or just differently based on presupposed differences) on the basis of race, how society constructs and applies that race is worth thinking about. And, ideally, there shouldn't be any shame in recognizing broad cultural differences either. Why should "white pride" be offensive? Pride in er-one, I say. Minor caveat: to even assume that American society has reached a consensus on race defies reality – that's why Dave Chappelle instituted the racial draft. So step with me into a blog of shadows and substance, things and ideas into, to coin a phrase, The Twilight Zone.

 

Cinema of Burkina Faso

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 1, 2009 01:27pm | Post a Comment

Background on Burkina Faso

What is now Burkina Faso has been continuously inhabited for at least 14,000 years. The main indigenous population of this Sahelian region were the Yonyonse, who remained for thousands of years until they were displaced by the Mossi people of what is now Ghana only a thousand years ago. The Mossi established several kingdoms; the first, Tenkodogo, was founded in 1120 and ruled by Naaba. The Dogon, who'd inhabited areas in the north, left between the 15th and 16h centuries. Two more Mossi Kingdoms followed and dominated the area for about 800 years until 1896 when France invaded and established a colonial occupation. Upper Volta, as it was then known, gained independence from the French in 1960. As is the case with most post-Colonial countries, the years since have been dominated by dictatorships, wars and coups.


Yet despite being plagued by poverty, unemployment and strife, Burkina Faso inarguably has one of West Africa's most vibrant cultures. Literature, primarily transmitted orally until collected in the 1930s, has long been a central part of Burkina Faso's culture. A strong theater tradition owing to both Burkinabé traditions and French influences has also been a major aspect of Burkinabé's cultural life. With over 60 ethnic groups, no one sort of music has yet dominated Burkina Faso's musical scene, although American and European pop are the most popular. Since 1969, Burkina Faso has been one of, if not the, dominant powers in Africa's film industry.

 
History of film in Burkina Faso
Although Burkina Faso’s film output is relatively small, their role in African film is large and they’re arguably central to the West African Film Industry. Burkina Faso are co-hosts of the Pan-African FESPACO film festival (alternating with Tunisia), which largely determines the few African movies that get distributed in the US and released on DVD. Even before Burkina Faso had produced any films, the status-conferring festival was established in Ougadougou in 1969.

Cinema of Mali

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 22, 2008 08:36pm | Post a Comment
Backrground of Mali

 

            750 - 1076                                   1230 - 1600                                              1340 - 1591

Historically Mali was part of three Sahelian Kingdoms. The Soninke-dominated Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (which established Timbuktu and Djenne as major cities) and the Songhai Empire. These kingdoms controlled Trans-Saharan trade of gold, salt and other precious comodities. It collapsed following an Imazighen (aka Berber) invasion. When the European nations established sea routes for trade, the Trans-Saharan trade economy collapsed. To make things worse, the region grew increasingly desertified. France invaded the weakened nation and occupied Mali from the early 1800s until independence in 1959. Today, Mali is economically one of the poorest countries in the world.


Malians outside a cinema

Culturally, however, it's quite rich. Like its West African neighbors, it's also highly diverse. Most of its people are Bamana. There are also large populations of Soninke, Khassonke and Malink are all Mandé. There are smaller numbers of Peul, Voltaic, Songhai, Taureg, Bozo, Dogon, and Moor.  Altogether, more than 40 languages are spoken. 

 
                                Tellem (Mali)                                                                 Hohokam (Arizona)

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