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Book covers of 'Thomas Sankara Speaks', 'Freedom is a Constant Struggle' and 'Let My People Go'.

Here are 7 Important Books to Read About the Revolution

Here are 7 Important Books to Read About Revolution

Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane hand-picks 7 books written by Black authors reflecting on the revolution. As there is continued political instability across the African continent (and the world), these books put into words the difficult experiences through which many Black people are living.

Black people are thinkers and have been thinking about change and revolution for a long time. I often return to Audre Lorde whose thinking has shaped me in many ways. In February of 1982, she delivered an address titled Learning from the 60s as part of the celebration of the Malcolm X weekend at Harvard University. In her address, she said that, "As Black people, if there is one thing we can learn from the 60s, it is how infinitely complex any move for liberation must be." In this, Lorde urged us to understand that any move for our liberation is one that is complex.

Reflecting on her words now, we see how they ring true when observing large scale global movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, #EndSARS, #EndAnglophoneCrisis, the global pandemic and several others. These movements have reminded us that the quest for liberation itself is undeniably complex and that it requires us to think quite deeply and sincerely about what liberation actually looks like.

As Lorde says in her speech: "[R]evolution is not a one-time event. It is becoming always vigilant for the smallest opportunity to make a genuine change in established and outgrown responses. For instance, it is learning to address each other's difference with respect." Although books will not lead the revolution, they are our tools to begin to concepetualise what others before us have done and how we can improve on what is already there. These books help us to begin to think and to imagine our freedoms particularly as Black people.

Below is a list of 7 important books written by Black authors about the revolution.

Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane is a South African advocate and co-founder of the literature podcast, Cheeky Natives. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


1. 'How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective' by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Image supplied by Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane.

This book is a collection of interviews featuring the founders of the Collective mainly Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, Demita Frazier. It also features Alicia Garza, co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter and as a bonus, a comment by Barbara Ransby, who remarks on the creation of the Collective and how it especially inspires her. The Collective was one of the most important organisations to develop out of the anti-racism and women's liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The conversations in the book are reflections on the legacy of the Collective with regards to Black feminism and its impact on today's struggles. As Frazier says: "the point of talking about the Collective is not to be nostalgic; rather, we talk about it because Black women are still not free."

2. 'Freedom is a Constant Struggle' by Angela Y. Davis

This is a collection of essays, interviews and speeches by the revolutionary Angela Y. Davis. These musings illuminate the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world. They are a reflection on the importance of Black feminism, intersectionality and prison abolitionism. Davis masterfully discusses the legacies of Black freedom movements. Additionally, she says in an interview with Frank Barat that is included in the book: "I would say that our struggles mature, they produce new ideas, new issues and new terrains on which we engage in the quest for freedom. Like Nelson Mandela, we must be willing to embrace the long walk toward freedom."

3. 'The Black Consciousness Reader' by Baldwin Ndaba, Therese Owen, Masego Panyane, Rabbie Serumula and Janet Smith

Image supplied by Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane.

This book was published in the year of the 40th anniversary of Stephen Bantu Biko's murder. The book is an essential collection of history, interviews and opinions about Black Consciousness. It examines how the proper acknowledgement of Blackness brings a greater love, a broader sweep of heroes and a wider understanding of intellectual and political influences. The book shines a spotlight on other significant Black Consciousness personalities such as Vuyelwa Mashalaba, Assata Shakur, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Onkgopotse Tiro, to name but a few. It is a perfect reading companion for both I Write What I Like and The Testimony of Steve Biko.

4. 'Freedom in Our Lifetime: The Collected Writings of Anton Muziwakhe Lembede' edited by Robert R. Edgar and Luyanda ka Msumza

Anton Lembede was the first president of South Africa's African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL). He was known for this sharp intellect, fiery personality and unwavering commitment to the struggles at hand. This book contributes to the liberation canon by acknowledging Lembede's early contribution to the freedom movement and his passionate and eloquent articulation of the African-centred philosophy he called "Africanism".

​5. 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation' by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Image supplied by Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane.

This book is about the historical and contemporary ravages of racism and the persistence of structural inequality including mass incarceration and Black unemployment. Taylor argues that this new struggle against police violence holds the potential to reignite a broader push for Black liberation. Robin D.G Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, said of the book: "Class Matters! In this clear-eyed, historically informed account of the latest wave of resistance to state violence, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor not only exposes the canard of color-blindness but reveals how structural racism and class oppression are joined at the hip. If today's rebels ever expect to end inequality and racialized state violence, she warns, then capitalism must also end. And that requires forging new solidarities, envisioning a new social and economic order, and pushing a struggle to protect Black lives to its logical conclusion: a revolution capable of transforming the entire nation."

​6. Thomas Sankara Speaks - A collection of selected writings

Sankara says that, "We must dare to invent the future. Everything man is capable of imagining, he can create." It is this call that we must heed––the invention of the future. This requires imagination and as South African Professor Pumla Gqola encourages, it requires that we must do some "dream work". This book brings us Thomas Sankara in his own words. It is a careful selection of his writings and interviews from 1983 until his tragic and untimely assassination in 1987.

​7. 'Let My People Go' by Albert Luthuli

Image supplied by Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane.

Luthuli writes in the preface of the book: "This book is the outcome, after long hesitation on my part, of the urging of my friends. It is true that in the last thirty years I have been increasingly identified with the movement of resistance against oppression by white supremacy in South Africa, until now, I find myself at its head. Nevertheless, I regard my life as one among many, and my role in the resistance as one among many." Luthuli tells the story of the repression and resistance that were to shape the South African political landscape forever: the Defiance Campaign. This was the first mass challenge to the Apartheid regime. he also speaks about the drafting of the Freedom Charter, the infamous Treason Trial and the tragedies of the Sharpville and Langa massacres.

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Photo Credit: Patrick Quarm

How Patrick Quarm Uses African Textile to Tell Stories About Identity

Ghanaian Artist Patrick Quarm speaks to OkayAfrica about his mixed media process and his avant-garde approach with African print fabrics.

Growing up in the residential area of Takoradi, Ghana, artist Patrick Quarm had a fascinating thrill for drawing the everyday. His major inspiration was spending the day outside, walking to town, and watching people making do with their routines. As a curious teen, he would sketch and take photographs of them.

After leaving Ghana in 2015 to obtain a master’s degree at Texas Tech, Quarm’s artistic perception took a different leap. He had experienced an identity crisis. He started to question his artistic intelligence and what it was communicating in respect to his identity. In response, he adopted the African fabric to fluidly express that notion of identity in his work.

Quarm’s art is bold, aesthetically African, and possesses a gritty ideology that is just as rare in the art world. With his arts, he is keen to unmask history and how it shapes us in the present. Intuitively, Quarm’s art isn’t what it appears to be from a first glance. He operates with several portrait layerings to express his multidimensional ideas, using shapes like circles to tell the tales of loopholes that rest within African history with colonialism.

OkayAfrica spoke with Quarm about his avant-garde approach and more.

Patrick Quarm painting

Photo Credit: Patrick Quarm

When did your journey as an artist begin?

I would say I was born an artist. As a child, I would pick up my pencil and begin to draw anything I found of interest. I remember in elementary school, I was so good at drawing and it came naturally cause I never took a class in it at that time. I think high school was when I decided to study visual art; the Ghanaian education system gave us the opportunity to pick what we wanted to do. I majored in picture-making which was what it was called then. From there, I did my undergrad at Kwame Nkrumah University of science and technology, I majored in painting. During that time, I used to paint fine realistic art and I did a lot of portrait commissioning but when I looked at the international art world, there was something so interesting about them, they were very simple but possessed so much value, I wanted to be part of that. So that motivated me to apply for a master’s program in Texas Tech which I got into with a full scholarship. The best thing about the program was it gave me a space to isolate myself and meditate on what I wanted to create and how I could polish my skill. That’s when I started working with African print fabric and right after my MFA in 2018, my career as an artist emerged fully, collectors and galleries were so interested in what I was doing because there was a different idea and niche to my art.

Who and what were your biggest inspirations when you started making art?

My inspiration comes generally from living. So I grew up in Takoradi— a small town in Ghana compared to Accra. I grew up in a very residential private area so whenever I went to the town,I would see an influx of people doing a lot of activities, trade, buying stuff and I really took that as inspiring because at an early age, I realized I just enjoyed seeing people in their daily activity and routine. I remember I would walk around with a sketch book and camera, drawing and taking pictures. Just everyday life is my inspiration but looking at my work, I’m more inspired by history, the evolution of Africa within contemporary spaces, thinking of it in terms of past, present and how modern Africa is continually evolving within these spaces.

Patrick Quarm close up painting

Photo Credit: Patrick Quarm

What were your parents' remarks when you chose art as a career?

My parents were very supportive, they weren’t typical African parents that were like, “what are you doing with art?” My mother was very inspirational, she gave me my first studio when I was in high school in Ghana. She really didn’t get what I was doing but she liked the idea that I was doing something and she wanted to support me without questions. I remember my father asking me where I had gotten my talent from because, for generations, there weren’t any artists in our family. One of the profound questions my father asked me when I was young was, “Why is it with everything you do, art is what interests you?” And I told him I loved it, that I couldn’t see myself doing anything else and his response to me was to keep doing it but make sure I got good at it. Those words come to me as comforting when I hit dead ends in my studio.

Why did you decide to use African textile in the development of your work?

It didn’t happen by accident, it’s a matter of choice. I came to the U.S. in 2015 for my master’s program. Before that, I used to paint so realistic but painting to me after that point wasn’t about skill, it was about ideas, conversations, dialogues, experimentations and other things. I kept asking myself what I wanted to say in my work— what should I communicate with my work, what I wanted people to get off my work. So I started thinking about my identity and how fluid I was between all these cultures, and that began my basic concept. The African print fabric was one of the most culturally significant materials I could use to tell that story of identity and knowing its history, I was aware that it was something I could use. Though the African print fabric wasn’t originally from Africa, it came from Indonesia through colonial trade but I wanted to communicate that concept of dual-identity, to establish a conversation around culture and hybridity.

Patrick Quarm artwork

Photo Credit: Patrick Quarm

Did moving to America change something about you and your artistic prowess?

Of course, something changed especially in my artistic style. I used to paint hyper-realistic portraits before I came to the U.S, but immediately I began to establish a language in my work, it took a different style. I went through a lot of thought processes of what my art should communicate and so a lot of processes started sipping into my work like glueing, cutting and other things— but they were very intentional and that helped in the expansion of my ideologies. My studio is like a laboratory to me, I always confront myself with questions and ideas. I just love the concepts I have created and when I look at my work, I recognize an evolution.

Why were you so keen to highlight African identity in your art?

To me, it was always like taking it from the personal and making it universal. Coming to the U.S, I went through the process of merging a new culture to mine. During that time, I questioned my Africanness, who I was and why I was pictured a certain way, and what had shaped me. It became a quest to understand these questions so I started using a visual language to communicate that. Why I highlight African identity is to look at things from a different perspective especially from an African eye, there is no one way of defining things within the world we live today; things are always evolving and taking other forms. When I talk about Africanness and identity in general, I want to visualize it from the new point of view because there is always a different definition of the new from the old. After being in the U.S for six years, I went back to Ghana and I realized that things have taken a new look, people were doing things I had seen folks in the U.S do and it struck me how fluid things could be.

Patrick Quarm textiles

Photo Credit: Patrick Quarm

Aside identity, what other themes do your work as an artist communicate?

My work spans across several ideas and theories. I talk about history in my works interweaving it with our identity as Africans. My works aren’t analyzed by what is on the surface or what people see, there is always an extension to it. This idea comes from my trying to talk about colonialism. Our history from a colonial lens is segmentational. For me, when we talk about African identity, we don’t have to talk about it from now, we have to look at it from the past. My works have layers that slice through history, to analyze the nuances from a complex entity that sprouted out. My works are multi-dimensional, I use circles to illustrate that, circles which signify loopholes or viewpoints through time, where we can have access to the past whilst dwelling in the present, just like saying remnants of the past dwell in the present.

How has your life in the studio been?

My studio is my escape, it’s the one place I run to when there is a lot of chaos around me, it just consumes me. Sometimes when I have so much on my mind, I just pick a chair and stare at my art, it helps me reflect on what to create next. The studio is my lab, it’s a place where I bring in all these ideas. Sometimes when I stroll out and I find an idea, I either have to come and sketch it out or take a picture of it— I just love the space.












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Photo Credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Woolmark International Pty Ltd

Mmuso Maxwell Designers on Winning the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation

We met up with Mmuso Potsane and Maxwell Boko, the duo behind South African brand Mmuso Maxwell. We spoke about their upbringing, winning the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, and more.

After a two year internship with veteran South African designer David Tlale, Mmuso Maxwell was born. The brand, founded by the young duo Mmuso Potsane and Maxwell Boko, has since established a name for themselves in the African fashion industry. With successful works with A-list artists like Beyoncé — on her Black is King album — they continue to set the bar on what it means to be a successful emerging designer brand.

The duo first started to make noise in 2017, when they won the South Africa’s Fashion Week’s Sunglass Hut New Talent Search. Two years later, they came second at the 30 Under 30: The New Stars Arise Fashion Show competition held in Lagos, Nigeria. The duo walked home with $50,000, helping them establish their presence on a global landscape.

Last month, Potsane and Boko won the biggest award of their career: beating out 200 designers throughout the world, they took home the The Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, after presenting a Merino wool collection for their Autumn/Winter 2022 line.

After their big win, OkayAfrica was able to meet up with the duo and chat about their upbringing, winning the Lagerfeld Award, and more.

How would you describe your Mmuso Maxwell brand?

Maxwell Boko: I think that the perfect description of our brand is that it is inspired by African heritage, but, the most important part is that it is mixed with contemporary culture. It’s basically our point of view of our heritage. We’re modern young people who are living with technology and science, and are influenced by those things. So even if it’s still our African heritage, it’s still our own interpretation.

Mmuso Potsane: Our brand is a modern interpretation of who an African woman is. Our brand sees itself as a global brand, and we do not want to limit it to look like an ordinary African brand, but it is positioned to be like a global brand, while maintaining our African roots, interpretations and experiences.

How did the collaboration between the both of you start?

Potsane: We met during the internship from 2015-2017. At the end of the internship, we decided to bring our pieces together to make one collection because we had similar aesthetics. From there, we just decided to continue onwards as a brand.

That’s interesting. You know, the fashion industry can most times be more competition than collaboration. How are you navigating the times you might have contrasting ideas?

Boko: I think that the reason why we joined forces together is because we had similar tastes in general. What has worked for us over the five years is that we’re not dramatic about our approach to things. It’s not “this or nothing." We’re always open to each other's critiques. We also do not question our individual strengths at all.

Potsane: Yeah, we’ve sort of found a way to agree to disagree. We have somehow found a way to come together to have one vision and objection. So for us, if any of us feels strongly about something, we just give it a chance to see how it plays out. If it doesn’t, we find a way to navigate it.

Mmuso Maxwell designers with Saul Nash

Saul Nash, winner of the International Woolmark Prize, and Mmuso Potsane and Maxwell Boko of Mmuso Maxwell, winners of the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, celebrate with models wearing their designs.

Photo Credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Woolmark International Pty Ltd

How about winning the Woolmark Karl Lagerfeld Innovation Award? How did that happen?

Boko: I mean, we applied, even though I said to Mmuso that Woolmark is something that’ll happen to us, maybe two, three years down the line, and that’s because it’s generally for established designers. I always figured that it’ll happen at a later date for us. So when they reached us to inform us that we were finalists, I thought, “that’s crazy.”

When I saw the other finalists, I thought that there was no chance to win; But as we progressed in the program, I saw why it was the right time for us. It helped us as a brand in terms of making our products. The eight months were very challenging, but the thing that I enjoyed the most was working with local artisans. I think that it’s even one of the reasons we won.

And just on the side, I think it’s very hard for us to see from inside how much of a big deal winning the award is. It’s always our loyal people who help us see and understand it.

How has winning this prize influenced your brand? I mean, how important do you think platforms like this are?

Potsane: I think it’s important because it allows you access to spaces in the industry that are very out of reach for a lot of African brands. It influences and helps us to think more/differently, and just on that level, play by the rules. You’re no longer thinking locally, but internationally. It’s made us more serious about our business and how to run it. People take your work more seriously, so that makes you take it more seriously too.

In terms of funding, it’s something that’s been a struggle. I mean, as a designer, you have to showcase your work and that requires a lot of money for stuff like shows, showrooms, and so on. With the help that we’re getting from the people like Birimian — some sort of investment group for African brands — it helps you ease the stress this induces.

And what are some of the challenges you’ve faced during this? Are there ways you’re now navigating it?

Boko: When we started our brand, there was no initial capital for us to start our brand. But we got a little support, and that made our next challenge be sustaining our coming collections; but recently, our major challenge has been fabric sourcing and production. There are no facilities to produce the quality we aspire to.

Potsane: To navigate these challenges, we really just go with it one step at a time, and also speak with those who can assist with things like this, such as Birimian. In terms of production, we have to come to a compromise to ensure getting the quality we want.

You're a sustainable brand. What are some of the practices you’re doing that makes it sustainable?

Potsane: We utilize local crafts and local artisans. It’s something we’ve always been passionate about since we started our brand. We use homegrown yarns for production, and working with artisans makes us follow the route of slow fashion.

Boko: We’ve always had an affinity for natural fibers since we started. As an African creative, you’re inherently sustainable because we’re not prone to waste. It’s not something we can afford. When we buy fabrics, we buy exactly what we need, and all the things we’ve done so far have been in pre-orders. We do not produce with hopes that someone will buy what we’ve made. All pieces go to our clients.

Are there creatives that inspire the work that you do?

Potsane: The people that inspire our brand, we already currently work with. So people like Tatenda Chidora, a photographer. We also love Tony Gum. She’s an amazing artist. Same as Chloe Andrea and Daniel Obasi. We totally love these people, and are highly inspired by them.

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Rwanda's Salima Mukansanga Sets Historic Sights On FIFA World Cup 2022

The Rwandan official has been named as one of the first female referees in history to officiate at the men's FIFA World Cup.

For the first time in history, a select group of female referees has been chosen to officiate matches at a FIFA Soccer World Cup. This year's international sporting event will be hosted by the Middle Eastern country Qatar and runs from November 21st to December 18 later this year. Among the history-making female cohort is Rwandan referee Salima Mukansanga, who made headlines earlier this year after becoming the first female referee to a match in the African Cup of Nations.

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Interview

It’s A New Dawn for Young Jonn

Young Jonn tells us why he switched to singing, dishes on his relationship with Olamide and provides all the details about his debut project Love Is Not Enough.

For years, Young Jonn crafted several of the ear-gripping tracks that dominated music-consuming hubs across Nigeria. His potent beats, manufactured and readymade for Olamide, saw the Nigerian star rapper unleash neck craning flows over them, painting real life scenes. The two became an errorless combo, making tracks certain to transform into monster hits. Young Jonn’s production handiwork includes the snappy drums and twinkling synths of Lil Kesh’s “Gbese,” the booming percussion of Olamide’s “Science Student” and the blend of muffled drums and keyboard drones on Olamide’s behemoth hit, “Wo.”

But in the last two years, Young Jonn’s production credits slowed as he focused on honing a different part of his artistry: singing. The evolution was complete this year as the sonic polymath unveiled his debut project, Love Is Not Enough. At just five tracks and less than 15 minutes in length, the record is skinny, but it provides Young Jonn ample time to brood about his own delicate feelings. All five tracks share the same sonic fingerprint of chilly vocals, sticky hooks and melodic, gummy beats. “Dada” shines as a favorite, with Young Jonn lacing the track with calmly measured verses, and the chanting hook, the highlight of the song.

Love Is Not Enough in all its dimension is filled and padded with layers of expressions about how doubtful love can be, how much we want to relive those blissful memories and about how attached we can be to someone. Young Jonn seems to have gone round those stages and becomes vulnerable in his songs, his creations revolving around these relatable experiences.

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