Film Review: Death Metal Angola

After a fourteen-year struggle for independence, followed by a more than quarter-century long civil war, Angola is a country sunken in devastation. With healing and reconciliation still far in the distance, wounds and destruction are clearly visible throughout the landscape — a vast territory crying to awaken from a long dark night.  In this situation, a group of rock fans and musicians persist in organizing the first national rock concert, an event to be remembered in the future as a milestone in the struggle for freedom and peace.

In a country considered the “epicenter of the African hardcore music scene,” to bring together the best in Angolan death and thrash metal and melodic deathcore may seem an easy task. We discover what an odyssey it turns out to be. The site chosen for this raucous undertaking is Huambo, a place charged with symbolism: the center of the Angolan civil war for almost three decades (1975-2002), the second biggest city in the country after the capital (Luanda) and nowadays a desolate nowhere of ruins and mines fields.  Nevertheless, thanks to its central geographical position, it is envisioned as the focal point from which Angolan rock will radiate beyond its borders.

Huambo is also home to the Okutiuka Orphanage, an institution run by Sonia Ferreira and Wilker Flores, two loyal rock fans determined to bring together the best local rock bands and inspire hope and a sense of future in the Okutiuka’s 56 residents and the entire nation.  In a country with the lowest life expectancy in the world (2010: 38,48 years), a new wave of rock musicians is making a point about the immense possibilities of music in the reconstruction of a damaged country. With the advent of peace, rock has become one of the most significant weapons in a young Angolan revolution working to salvage a national identity lost through years of internecine conflicts.

Jeremy Xido’s Death Metal Angola documentary follows the concert from its preparatory stages through to its end, shining a light on the stars of the country’s vibrant hardcore underworld and reflecting, at the same time, on the changing realities and expectations of present-day Angola. Rehearsals, interviews, and shooting with the protagonists bridge the distance between the audience and an unknown chapter in the life of a forgotten region in a misrepresented continent, all the while accompanying musicians, technicians and organizers in the long and arduous quest to make the rock concert become a reality.

The organizers and musicians face obstacles at every step: failed calls to apathetic public and private institutions for help and funding, continuous blackouts, lack of good roads connecting Luanda with other cities, and so on. Almost anywhere else, these setbacks would have killed the project, but the unyielding personal engagement of the indigenous hardcore community—as well as the possibilities for communication and collaboration opened up by new technologies—manage to save the day. This becomes clear in two poignant instances: when Wilker Flores pays 2,000 dollars of his own money to save the concert and in the devotion of Yuri Almeida, technical director of a satellite telecommunications company who uses the instruments in his reach to spread the news about the concert.

Co-organizers Sonia Ferreira and Wilker Flores work hand-in-hand with members of the Association of Angolan Rock, headed by the above mentioned Yuri Almeida, to bring to Huambo the most outstanding bands from the capital and Bengela, the main port of slave trade during the colonial rule and now a fertile breeding ground for new groups. Dor Fantasma, Before Crush, Black Soul, Instinto Primario, Café Negro are all different groups with a single interest: conquering freedom of speech through musical extremism. Their music represents a cri de coeur against the brutal effects of war and at the same time reaffirms the African roots of rock.

The concert finally takes place as planned on May 21st, with a five hour delay due to technical difficulties, terrible audio and low attendance. But it is a great victory nevertheless; we see how a growing community of rock lovers has combined their forces to create a major musical event without any thought of remuneration. And yet the reward they get is priceless: looking at the astonished faces of the orphans attending the concert, a singular moment in their lives, they see that it has all been worth it, because, as Wilker says: “rock means poetry, love, song, lifestyle, joy and happiness”, all simple things that have been stolen from too many generations of Angolan children...

At Okayafrica we had the privilege of watching this piece, presently in post-production; we hope it will reach American screens soon.

Photo: courtesy of Natsai Audrey Chieza

100 Women: Natsai Audrey Chieza is Changing the World One Petri Dish at a Time

Her interdisciplinary approach to biology and fashion has sparked conversation about the future of sustainability and pollution in textile manufacturing.

The bold jewel tones of OkayAfrica 100 Women honoree Natsai Audrey Chieza's silk scarves aren't the product of hazardous chemicals or silkscreen printing. Instead, they are the product of bacteria. Specifically coelicolor, a strain of bacteria found in soil that happens to excellently synthesize organic chemical compounds. Working in the trade for six years, the Zimbabwean materials designer quickly came to understand why the textile industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Knowing that the most harm occurs during the process of dyeing fabrics, she decided to take action.

Chieza has worked with leading brands such as Microsoft, Nissan, and Unilever to usher in a new approach to science and design. Through her creative R&D; studio Faber Futures, the design innovator uses the process of creating with bacteria to assist in moving mankind away from our fossil fuel dependency. As the biopigment expert put it [last year during her TED talk "Fashion has a pollution problem—can biology fix it?"], in the future we must make sure that we are not "mirroring the destructive legacies of the oil age."

Her interdisciplinary approach to biology and fashion has sparked spirited conversation about the future of sustainability and pollution in textiles. Here, Chieza expounds on her start, the pros and cons of creating something new and the urgency of change.

The following has been edited for length and clarity

Akinyi Ochieng for OkayAfrica: STEM and the arts are often conceptualized as separate worlds. However, in your career, you've managed to find the overlap. How did you, a materials designer, end up dabbling in biotechnology?

Natsai Audrey Chieza: I've always really wanted to work within the creative field. I used to work in architecture where I really enjoyed my education in a systems approach to designs and designing for multiple contexts. But I wanted to explore a different side of the design world, so I began exploring the skill and context of material flows, and how technology and futures fits within this framework of how we design.

For my own work and my practice, not having a scientific background made me try things based on what I understood about materials and what I understood about the interactions in which those materials existed in society. I'm interested in a political lens, an economic lens, and how textiles perform in reality. That's not necessarily the approach that a scientist would have taken. Now that's not to say that science isn't important—it's vital. But innovation can occur in that intersection.

Did you go into this thinking, "Oh, I'll figure it out. There must be a path to make this work"?

To be honest, when I started off, the field was not defined. I think I found something really interesting, which was about how biology was becoming a realm of design, and I just explored that as best as I knew how as a designer and non-scientist. It just so happened that around me there was a context that was imagined but enabled me six years later to say, "That's the industry where this work belongs" and stakeholders who give me a space to further my work in a creative and experimental. The path was never anything clear at all. I learned as I grew.

There's a phrase that is often repeated today: "You can't be what you can't see." But you have really created a niche for yourself. What are the benefits of entering an emerging space?

I think what's amazing is not having anyone or anything telling you that what you think is impossible. If you're carving a new territory then you must trust in your instinct and vision to effectively push where the work can be and where it exists. You're not asking permission to do anything. Of course the flip side of that is you have to bring people with you, and so part of you being able to do the work is convincing people that your vision has legitimacy and it's worth exploring, worth taking a risk to look outside of that box.

It's often quite challenging to figure out how to find the strength to push something that hasn't been done before. There's no precedent or rulebook to my work, but sometimes it's really nice to have a rulebook. [Laughs] However, I think it's made me a person who doesn't see challenges as obstacles that are in the way, but more as problems that can be solved. And I think that's the good thing.

Much of your work is about biopigments. What color excites you?

It's not really the colors that excite me. It's color as a cultural context that really fascinates me. I'm really interested in if a microbe is almost like this living factory that produces this pigment, and the technology can be shared and deployed with people as to how you work with it across the world, then what are the cultural interventions that can happen in South Africa versus in Argentina versus in the United Kingdom, based on this common microbe. I think that's always been what interests me the most, the context in which our materials exist. I think a really good example is indigo, and how from Japan to West Africa, indigo is just this really, really rich material, and the process and the craftsmanship that goes into it. I'm interested to see how the future ecology of making arises in response to biotechnologies across the world.

Where do you see yourself and your work evolving in the near or long term?

I'm sort of going through that growth moment where you've been working toward something and then you've arrived at that and you're like, "Right, what's next?" I think I'm fundamentally somebody that wants to use design as a discursive tool to understand how our technologies proliferate. My focus is really on the imagined life sciences and how they're going to become very much a part of all of our lived experiences, and particularly in the context of really urgent changes that are happening from a local level to a global level. From global warming and climate change to resource scarcity across regions, our response to what I think being able to design with living systems, can afford us in the future. So my work really is about understanding how to engage stakeholders across different sectors to grow a consensus around how we're going to leverage these sorts of technologies so that they can be technologies for good. That's really where this is going.

This article appears as part of OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2018—a project highlighting the impactful work done by African women across the globe. Throughout March, we will be publishing a series of profiles, videos, interviews and feature stories on these inspirational women.

Click here to see the entire list of 2018 honorees.

Maia & The Big Sky LP cover.

Start Your Week Off Right With This Soulful Kenyan Collaboration

Maia & the Big Sky connect with Blinky Bill for "Pawa."

Maia & the Big Sky's music routinely blends soul and funk influences with the coastal rhythms of Kenya and features singing in both English and Kiswahili.

Maia's recently tapped into the vinyl revival wave as her 11-song Maia & the Big Sky LP is reportedly the first Kenyan album released on vinyl since the 1970s.

The Nairobi-based artist is now sharing the new music video for "Pawa," the album's leading track, which we're premiering here today. Directed by Chris King, the beautiful new clip sees Maia & the Big Sky taking over the TV airwaves and minds of all of those watching, freeing them from the "power" that controls them.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo: Mídia NINJA

The Assassination of Marielle Franco and the Dawn of Brazil's New Civil Rights Movement

Marielle Franco was one of a new generation of black activists trying to overturn Brazil's entrenched and violent racism

The violence in Rio de Janeiro right now is akin to a war zone, with per capita death tolls resembling those from Afghanistan and Syria. Two weeks ago I traveled there for business and stayed in the relatively safe and trendy neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Each night of my stay, was abruptly awaken by long streams of gunshots and also fireworks from the nearby favela of Falett. The fireworks—as I learned from my local friends—were not a result of any celebration, rather a signal that either drugs, guns, or the police have arrived. This is the norm for many of the 763 favelas in Rio which houses nearly 25 percent of the city's population.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox