Film

Okayafrica's Top Films of 2014

Okayafrica selects the best African films of 2014, featuring 'Afronauts,' 'Finding Fela,' 'Timbuktu,' 'Miners Shot Down' and more.


Afronauts (dir. Frances Bodomo, Ghana)

Kicking off our list is Afronauts, a project we’ve been fans of since its world premiere at Sundance earlier this year. Directed by Ghanaian writer and filmmaker Frances Bodomo, this short film was inspired by the true story of Zambian schoolteacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso, who dreamed of achieving interstellar travel ahead of the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the 1960's Space Race. Nkoloso’s Zambia Space Academy consisted of a ragtag team of astronauts--led by a 17-year old girl named Matha Mwambwa--who received makeshift pre-flight training at a secret location a few miles outside of Lusaka. Sadly, the space program never soared higher than a few mentions in old news clippings, but it garnered enough notoriety to become the stuff of legend, piquing the interest of Bodomo five decades later. Bodomo’s adaptation of Nkoloso's story is a visually stunning affair shot in black and white that situates the efforts of his retro-Afrofuturism a few days ahead of Apollo 11’s successful lunar mission. Afronauts is as political as it is otherworldly and at various points throughout the film, Bodomo touches on issues of empire and colonialism without losing focus on the story of human desire and ambition at the film’s core. Bodomo artfully reconfigures the ahistorical narrative surrounding African ingenuity by showcasing Nkoloso's audacious, albeit far-fetched, rebuttal to the inaccurately held notion of the continent’s stunted technological imagination. Albino model Diandra Forrest shines in the lead role of Matha, the pensive yet intrepid teen on whose shoulders Nkoloso’s (played by Angolan actor Hoji Fortuna) astral odyssey rests. After garnering a slew of accolades on the local and international film festival circuits this year, Bodomo is currently in the process of turning her space age short into a full-length feature film.- Jennifer Sefa-Boakye

>>>Read:Frances Bodomo’s Afronauts: What Became of the Zambian Space Program?

>>>Read: African Space Programs Aren't Science Fiction

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Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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