Politics

Reactions From New Zealand: 'Blatant Racism is Very Much Alive Here'

We spoke to Africans in New Zealand about their reactions to the Christchurch attack.

Just over a week ago, Samantha Kutesera was scrolling through her Facebook feed like many of us do on a daily basis. She was catching up on news and liking a few posts here and there —nothing out of the ordinary—when she came across the news that there had been a mass shooting in two Christchurch mosques. Kutesera, who relocated to New Zealand from South Africa when she was just 7-years-old and has lived there for 16 years, was shocked and angered but not surprised. "This is what happens when we give all those people who discriminate against others and troll on the internet, without consequences, a gun," she says.


On March 15th, Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, who was armed with a semi-automatic rifle, shot and killed 49 Muslims during their prayer session. Among the deceased were women, men, children and even a toddler as young as 3-years-old. Even worse, Tarrant live-streamed his terrorist attack for all to see.

While the Christchurch shooting was horrific and unimaginable, discriminatory and racist attitudes are not uncommon in New Zealand. According to Kutesera, "Casual racism, blatant racism and intolerant attitudes are very much alive here. Some experience this more than others, but everyone has a story. A story that is usually ignored."

Most people are afraid of what they really don't know and understand says Kutesera. Ordinary Muslims especially, have been painted with the same brush used on jihadists, terrorists and extreme Islamists. "With all that has been going on in the world people in most countries have been associating the actions of terrorists and extremists with all Muslims. New Zealand included. Especially those who hold white supremacist and racist views," she adds.

African Communities Forum Incorporated (ACOFI), which is a community of Africans who are part of the broader diaspora, issued a statement where they expressed their grief and condemned the tragic loss of life, especially in a place of worship. They also commented on how encouraging it was to see the overwhelming response to the terrorist attack as well as support from the global community. In a message to their fellow Africans in New Zealand they added, "We know this is a tough time. ACOFI is here for you. If you are concerned about whānau (family) and friends in Christchurch or just feel shaken, please contact us. We will get you help."

In the wake of the attack, ACOFI posted updates on their social media platforms of Africans who had been confirmed dead and of those they were waiting for information on. Three adult Somalis and a child as well as two Ethiopians were killed in the attack. A Somali man who was travelling to support his community after the attack, died in a car accident. The organization subsequently held a vigil for all the victims involved and their families.


Members of the public lay flowers down for victims.Via Wikimedia Commons

While many have been quick to highlight the act of terrorism as "not New Zealand," members of ACOFI disagree. According to them, Tarrant's callous actions are the result of extremist far-right views being allowed to be propagated with reckless, and now lethal, abandon. Kutesera believes that Tarrant was simply a manifestation of what happens when the voices of the people who are being discriminated against are repeatedly not being heard or taken seriously. She adds, "This white-supremacist terror attack was a manifestation of allowing this. Of not listening to people who are being discriminated against and taking them serious or holding them at the same level of respect and importance as everyone else."

In the run-up to the mass shooting, Tarrant was able to express blatant hatred on social media platforms like Twitter, posting several links to his hate-filled manifesto and writing about his reverence for white nationalist terrorists like Anders Breivik. Tarrant's narrative of white victimhood sees "white survival" hinging on the targeting of Brown and Black immigrants. As if that weren't enough Tarrant even likens himself to the anti-Apartheid struggle veteran, Nelson Mandela, who fought for the liberation of Black South Africans.

Shortly after the terrorist attack, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, announced that the country's gun laws would be changing. Following her announcement, assault rifles and military-style automatic firearms were banned entirely. Echoing the belief of many New Zealanders since the attacks, Kutesera believes that the only use for semi-automatic weapons is to kill people. "There is no need for semi-automatic weapons in this country," she says. "Only the military or police should have access to these weapons."

When asked about what needs to drastically change in New Zealand from preventing anyone else from being victimized, Kutesera says the answer, or at least part of it, lies in the world listening to the stories of intolerance and discrimination of so many as well as speaking out against the perpetrators. "The biggest lesson and way to move forward is hold people to account of the words and actions," she says. "Letting these things slide has given birth to these terrorists."

Popular
Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Bobi Wine Takes His Fight to Venice

Hoping to attract a broader interest in his mission to end dictatorial rule, the Ugandan musician and politician features in a buzzed-about documentary screening at this year’s Venice International Film Festival.


“I had almost forgotten how to be among stars,” tweeted Bobi Wine, tongue-in-cheek, as he posted pictures of his arrival on the red carpet at the Venice International Film Festival for the premiere of Bobi Wine: Ghetto President. Billed as an ‘observational documentary,’ the film brings Wine’s story – how he rose from the informal settlement of Kamwokya and became a star himself – together with his pursuit of justice and democracy in his homeland of Uganda, to an international audience.

Bobi Wine: Ghetto President is showing out of competition and so isn’t up for the festival’s main prize, the Golden Lion. But that’s not why Wine, aka Robert Kyagulanyi, traveled to Italy, wearing the trademark red beret symbol of his People Power movement. Instead, he’s hoping the film draws attention to a cause he’s been championing for the last 5 years.

“I want the people in the international community to know that somewhere in the world, somewhere in Africa, in a country called Uganda, people are being massacred for what they think,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. Above that, Wine is calling for an end to the support President Yoweri Museveni has received, and wants the international community – specifically the US, which provides aid to Uganda – to be aware of how that money is being used to “undermine human rights and democracy in Uganda.”

Taking the film to a prestigious international festival such as Venice presents Wine with a global platform. In a tweet posted by the Venice Film Festival, he’s quoted as saying, “What is happening in Uganda is terrible. I am glad #BobiWineGhettoPresident will bring it to light. People are voiceless there: they need someone to speak for them.”

The film shows how Wine has endeavored to be that voice, both in song and in speech. It traces the start of his grassroots political campaign in 2017 up to 2021, when he ran against Museveni in the presidential elections, and lost, in what many international organizations deemed was a questionable outcome, with claims of vote tampering and fraud.

Ghetto President is directed by Christopher Sharp, who was born in Uganda, and Moses Buyo, an activist who took over camera duties when the film’s previous camera people left the production. Both Sharp and Buyo knew of Wine through his music and had been fans of the messages he sought to share in his music. Following Wine and his wife, Barbie, with fly-on-the-wall footage, the film immerses the audience in their relationship and the trials its undergone as a result of Wine's political activities. One such attack left Wine seeking treatment from the US for his injuries. Indeed, Buyo, too, has suffered his share of assault in making the film, having been shot in the face with a rubber bullet, and also arrested numerous times, while filming.

A still from the documentary Bobi Wine:

A still from the documentary Bobi Wine: Ghetto President, which is currently playing at this year's Venice Film Festival.

Photo: La Biennale Di Venezia

Festival director Alberto Barbera called the documentary “powerful” and “unbelievable,” and it’s received positive reviews so far, with Deadline lauding its ‘stirring’ scenes and message of hope. Similar to Sam Soko’s documentary, Softie, which followed Kenyan photographer-turned-politician Boniface Mwangi, the film is also being heralded for the love story at the center of it, between Wine and Barbie, and how they've persisted in the face of numerous violent actions.

While Ghetto President details Uganda and Wine's specific struggle to fight for democracy, some reviewers have noted it holds a message for governments further afield too. The Hollywood Reporter's Daniel Feinberg says its call to action to hold Museveni accountable speaks to the West's need to 'keep an eye on its own democratic virtues too.' In bringing his message to the world, through the form of a documentary that gets people talking, Wine may also find it resonates far beyond Uganda in ways he could not have imagined.

Literature
Photo: Ruvimbo Muchenje

Despite Persecution, Tsitsi Dangarembga Writes On

The award-winning novelist is awaiting judgment, slated for the end of September, on charges of inciting public violence.

Zimbabwean filmmaker, activist and author Tsitsi Dangarembga remains defiant, continuing to write, despite ongoing persecution from the government. She was arrested in 2020 along with another activist, Julie Barnes, while holding placards calling for reform and the release of investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono, in the leafy suburb of Borrowdale, Harare.

The President Emmerson Mnangagwa-led regime arrested several prominent activists and opposition party figures to allegedly thwart planned mass demonstrations over poor governance and state-security brutality during the COVID 19 era, in mid-2020. Chin'ono, one of the country’s most prominent journalists, was arrested for exposing a corruption scandal during the pandemic.

Dangarembga, who became the first Black woman winner of the 2021 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade for her creative work and social engagement, has had numerous work opportunities affected by the ongoing trial against her. Although she has been able to go to the UK to attend the Edinburgh International Book Festival and promote her latest publication – Faber and Faber recently released a book of her essays, titled Black and Female, there – she has missed other chances to travel.

As in most developing nations, the arts sector in Zimbabwe does not pay much and most creatives look out for various opportunities for survival in a country hit by economic malaise, shortages of basic commodities and currency crisis. When Dangarembga was released on bail in 2020, surrendering her passport to the police to ensure she would not flee the country was part of her bail condition.

“In the beginning, I was very optimistic that the case would be dealt with speedily,” she says, adding that in December 2020 when she received her passport back to attend her fellowship at the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study in Cape Town, in neighboring South Africa, she did not think the case would have much impact on her work.

The magistrate who ruled in the matter even told her that the charges were not grave. “I received my passport back and no longer reported weekly from December 2020, which was a relief,” says Dangarembga. But she realized her predicament at the hands of the regime in her homeland was far from over when the state took a long time to prepare for trial and kept changing dates.

“It was difficult to adjust my schedule to the court dates. With the creative economy in Zimbabwe being as depressed and specific as it is, I cannot afford to miss any opportunity to earn a living,” she says. “I missed an important teaching job in Johannesburg that I still think about with regret to this day. I love mentoring young African people to tell their stories, whether it be on screen or on paper.”

It is now more than two years since Dangarembga was placed on remand, waiting and going through trials for a case that has yet to be finalized. If convicted, she faces several years in prison. The judgment was due to be delivered on the 26th of August but it was postponed to September 29 because Dangarembga's co-accused did not attend court that day as she was outside the country.

Still, she continues to work on the projects that fuel her fire and further her message. Dangarembga is currently writing a young adult speculative dystopian fiction called Sai-Sai and the Great Ancestor of Fire. “This is the work that has suffered the most from the events of the last two years,” she says. Dangarembga says her concentration on fiction has been affected because the place she writes from is occupied with turmoil about the trial. “However, I was able to work on some screenplays,” she says.

“When the trial began in earnest I did not manage much work at all,” she says. “All my work is generated from my own internal environment as a writer, so the last five months or so have been very difficult for me.”

The 63-year-old writer, born in Mutoko, a town 143 kilometers northeast of Harare, moved to the UK at the age of two. She returned in 1980, before Zimbabwe gained independence from British colonialists. Her first novel, Nervous Conditions, won a Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1989. She is also credited for writing the story that was turned into Zimbabwe’s highest grossing film in 1993, Neria, and three years later, she became the first Black Zimbabwean woman to direct a feature film, Everyone’s Child. Just days before she was arrested in 2020, Dangarembga’s novel This Mournable Body, which is part of a series, was nominated for the prestigious Booker Prize.

Regarding Dangarembga’s case, Beatrice Mtetwa, a human rights lawyer, says there can be no doubt that it is persecution under the guise of prosecution. “The constitution provides for the freedom to demonstrate and to petition peacefully and there can be no doubt that a two-women protest could not have been anything but peaceful,” she says. “Dangarembga’s prosecution is, sadly, one of the many cases of abuse using the criminal justice system.”

Kenyan-based award-winning writer, editor and publisher Zukiswa Wanner says the state does not have a viable case. “It is tragic that Zimbabwean authorities are so full of fear that something as simple as a woman marching alone with a placard is seen as inciting public violence instead of it being seen as a request for them to do better by citizens,” Wanner, who's co-facilitated training workshops with Dangarembga around the continent, tells OkayAfrica.

Wanner, who was born in Zambia but raised in Zimbabwe, believes it’s the top government officials who've destroyed the country that should be in prison, not critics like Dangarembga. Upholding human rights, along with drawing attention to women and gender issues, has long been central to the work that has earned Dangarembga praise.

“I think the state targets dissenting voices. Some of those dissenting voices are women’s voices,” Dangarembga says. “I think the effect of taking action against women is particularly shocking because women’s dissident voices are usually not violent. Peaceful protest is a constitutional right in Zimbabwe.” And Dangarembga intends to exercise that right as much as she can.

News Brief
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Nomcebo Zikode, Zakes Bantwini & Wouter Kellerman Win Grammy Award For Best Global Music Performance

The South African artists won for their song "Bayethe" award at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony.


South African artists Nomcebo Zikode, Zakes Bantwini, and Wouter Kellerman, and scored a win for their hit song "Bayethe" at this year's Grammy Awards ceremony.

The three SA artists won over Nigeria’s Burna Boy, Uganda’s Eddy Kenzo, USA’s Matt B, Ghana's Rocky Dawuni, and Pakistan's Arooj Aftab in theBest Global Music Performance category at the Grammy Awards.

The South African winning trio consists of Nomcebo Zikode, who is renowned as the singer in "Jerusalema," singer, record producer and singer Zakes Bantwini, and celebrated flutist, producer and composerWouter Kellerman.

According to ZALebs, during a prestigious Grammy's brunch dedicated to African nominees a day before the award show, both Zikode and Bantwini expressed excitement about the potential win. According to the publication Zikode had stated that she felt like she had already won the award.

“I’m hoping that South African people are going to be proud of me, we’re hoping to take this one but hey, if we don’t take it, it’s OK, I feel like I’m a winner already,” Zikode said at the time.

This is the first time Zikode and Bantwini win a Grammy. Kellerman won the award in 2015 for his album Winds of Samsara.

Previously, some controversy surrounded the song "Bayethe," with OkayAfrica reporting reporting that Zikode would be taking Open Mic Records to court after the singer alleged that the South African record label had told Spotify to take down the song over an intellectual property dispute. It is unclear where the lawsuit currently lies.

Several fans of the record took to social media to gleefully congratulate the South African artists for the accolade.

Watch the music video for the Grammy-winning "Bayethe" below.

“Nomcebo & Zakes just won a GRAMMY for Bayethe 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎 #Grammys2023 #Nomcebo #Zakes #Bayethe”

Watch the music video for the Grammy-Winning "Bayethe" below.

News Brief
Photo by Manny Carabel/Getty Images.

Tems Becomes the First Female Nigerian Artist to Win a Grammy Award

Nigerian star Temshas won her first Grammy Award—and it's only up from here for her.


Temsjust added "Grammy Award Winner" to her teeming list of accolades. During the 65th Annual Grammy Awards, the Nigerian singer, whose full name is Temilade Openiyi, earned her first Grammy for her contribution to Future's ‘Wait For U,' which also features Drake.

The musical bombshell won in the category of Best Melodic Rap Performance over artists like Latto (“Big Energy (Live)”, Jack Harlow (“First Class”), Kendrick Lamar (“Die Hard”), and DJ Khaled (“Beautiful”). With this win, the 27-year-old fan-favorite just made history as the first female Nigerian artist to win a Grammy.

Tems, who has made a big impression with her music over the past few years is also up for Album of the Year for her contribution to Beyoncé’s Renaissance. Earlier this year, the "Higher" Singer scored an Oscar nomination at the 2023 Oscars for co-writing "Lift Me Up’, one of the songs on 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."

"Wait For U" sampled Tems' song "Higher," which was a record off of her 2020 debut album For Broken Ears. "Wait For U'" was released on May 3, 2022, and was released as the second single from Future's ninth studio album, I Never Liked You.

Shortly after the record was released, Future took to social media to praise Tems' vocal ability. The rest of 2022 would involve Tems getting praise and international recognition for her artistry, and a fleet of projects, including notable collaborations with mega stars like Beyoncé and Rihanna.

Ever since news of the Tems' win broke, several fans took to social media to excitedly congratulate the Lagos-born mega star.

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