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Veteran Ethiopian Political Activist Mesfin Woldemariam Has Died

The founder of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, has died from COVID-19 complications at age 90.

Ethiopian activist Professor Mesfin Woldemariam and founder of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council has passed away. Woldemariam reportedly passed away on Tuesday in the capital city Addis Ababa reportedly from coronavirus-induced complications. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has since expressed his grief upon hearing the news and extended his condolences to Woldemariam's family and all Ethiopians at large.


Read: South Africans Pay Tribute to Veteran Anti-Apartheid Lawyer George Bizos

Professor Woldemariam was a humanitarian, renowned activist and academic who studied in the USA and India. A propellant of law and order through politics, he critiqued Ethiopia's tradition of ethnic appointments for government officials. In 2005, he played a crucial role in the formation of the "Coalition for Unity and Democracy" (CUD) which opposed the TPLF-led government and defeated the ruling party at the ballot box.

Woldemariam endeavored scholarship and continued to offer philosophical and political critique on Ethiopia throughout his career. He was the voice of the country in 1990 when Ethiopia was going through socio-political upheaval. When blogging gained popularity, Woldemariam seemlessly transitioned to the online world. In the past ten years alone, he published several books in Amharic on Ethiopian politics including Mekshef ende Ethiopia.

Ethiopia continues to face political unrest as ethnicity still remains a factor for government appointments. Internet shutdowns have been constantly used to diffuse social demonstrations and protests. Oromo musician Hachula Hundessa was allegedly shot and killed in public in an alleged government-ordered assassination. Hundessa's music criticised the government and allegedly roused Ethiopians to challenge the ruling party.

Professor Woldemariam of having tested positive for the coronavirus emerged only eleven days ago. He was 90-years-old and served as a geography professor at Addis Ababa University.

Those on social media reacted to news of Woldemariam's passing below:





Interview

Interview: The Awakening of Bas

We talk to Bas about The Messenger, Bobi Wine, Sudan, and the globalized body of Black pain.

The first thing you notice when you begin to listen to The Messenger—the new investigative documentary podcast following the rise of Ugandan singer, businessman and revolutionary political figure Bobi Wine—is Bas' rich, paced, and deeply-affecting storytelling voice.

Whether he is talking about Uganda's political landscape, painting a picture of Bobi Wine's childhood, or drawing parallels between the violence Black bodies face in America and the structural oppression Africans on the continent continue to endure at the hands of corrupt government administrations, there is no doubt that Bas (real name Abbas Hamad) has an intimate understanding of what he's talking about.

We speak via Zoom, myself in Lagos, and him in his home studio in Los Angeles where he spends most of his time writing as he cools off from recording the last episode of The Messenger. It's evident that the subject matter means a great deal to the 33-year-old Sudanese-American rapper, both as a Black man living in America and one with an African heritage he continues to maintain deep ties with. The conversation around Black bodies enduring various levels of violence is too urgent and present to ignore and this is why The Messenger is a timely and necessary cultural work.

Below, we talk with Bas aboutThe Messenger podcast, Black activism, growing up with parents who helped shape his political consciousness and the globalized body of Black pain.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Interview

Ayra Starr Is Ready to Take Off

We talk to the rising Nigerian star about growing up between Cotonou & Lagos, meeting Don Jazzy and how she made her explosive debut EP.

When Oyinkansola Sarah Aderibigbe—now better known as Ayra Starrwas in university, she was often complimented for her vocal skills. "I would just be singing and people would be like you have such a great voice,'' she tells OkayAfrica over a Zoom conversation. Because of this, her friends kept telling her to consider recording covers of songs to share on social media. Ayra refused—not to make the videos, but to post them—because she was shy.

Eventually, she allowed her friends to share her covers on their own social media channels. Ayra would try to stay away and not keep track of people's reactions to them, but each time she would fail and end up going to the comments section, she'd be surprised at the overwhelming support. ''The first time I did a cover it was crazy, people just went mad. I was shocked, like 'wow, people really like the music.'''

The support that helped her the most in deciding to pursue music full-time, however, was that of her mother. ''My mum would call me from home and be like 'Oyinkansola, do music''' Ayra remembers. ''She would say, 'music is for you', 'God wants you to do music.' She would even check up on me to ask if I had posted on social media.''

Arya Starr's childhood was soundtracked by the musical greats of the time—Tuface, Wande Coal, Tope Alabi. Being born into a musical family also helped. ''Everybody loved music. It was a musical home, and I listened to a lot of different types of sounds. From there I joined the choir when I was like eight or ten," Ayra says.

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Loyiso Gola Details His Upcoming Netflix Special in New Interview

Loyiso Gola details 'Unlearning', his upcoming debut Netflix Special, a first for an African comedian, in new interview with GQ South Africa. "I consider 'Unlearning' a special piece art," he says.

Accomplished South African comedian Loyiso Gola's Unlearning is coming on Netflix on the 23rd of March. The stand-up comedy special is the seasoned comic's first on the streaming platform. It will also be the first solo stand-up Netflix Special. Gola made his first appearance on Netflix in 2018 on the streaming platform's Comedians of the World series alongside fellow South African comedians Tumi Morake, Loyiso Madinga and Riaad Moosa.

Gola recently detailed the special in his GQ South Africa covert story. The special was recorded in one of the country's grandest art galleries, Cape Town's Zeitz MOCAA. He shared his reasons in the interview:

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David Oyelowo's Directorial Debut 'The Water Man' is Heading to Netflix

David Oyelowo's first directed fantasy movie, 'The Water Man', has been picked up by Netflix for worldwide distribution.