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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.

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A person holds an umbrella bearing the colors of the rainbow flag as others wave flags during a gay pride rally in Entebbe, Uganda. August 09, 2014. (Photo: ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

A Lesbian Woman, Who Fled Uganda for the US After a Homophobic Attack, Is Now Facing Deportation

The Trump administration does not believe she faces a threat in Uganda, despite the country recently threatening to re-introduce its "Kill the Gays" bill.

A lesbian woman who fled Uganda in the face of homophobic violence, now faces being deported from the US by the Trump administration.

According to a recent report published in Rolling Stone magazine, a Ugandan woman by the name of Margaret sought asylum in the US after being beaten and raped at a festival in Uganda known as a gathering place for the country's LGBTQ community. Following the attack, she entered the country through the US-Mexico border—a dangerous, yet increasingly common route for migrants coming from the continent.

In the Rolling Stone article, she recounts several of the hardships she faced as a lesbian woman coming of age in Uganda and as an African migrant seeking refuge in the US. "I pray that everything works out," Margaret told Rolling Stone. "Because it has been so tough. Ever since I was 13, I just wanted to be free, instead of hiding who I am. I just want to be free, that's all. And happy."

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Davido. (Photo: Coming to America Music Festival)

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The couple, who got engaged last month, shared the arrival of their newborn son, who they named David Adedeji Adeleke Jr., according to Pulse Nigeria, on Sunday via social media, with a happy Davido writing "OMOBA TI DE!!! DAVID ADEDEJI IFEANYI ADELEKE Jr I !! D PRINCE IS HERE!!!! 20 - 10 - 2019 !!! Love you my STRONG WIFE!!! @thechefchi I LOVE YOU!!!!!"

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6 Things We Learned About African Migration to Europe in 2019 From a New UN Report

UNDP representatives presented their "Scaling Fences: Voices of Irregular African Migrants to Europe" report last night at Okay Space. Here's what we found out.

Yesterday, Okay Space hosted a discussion between UN luminaries Ahunna Eziakonwa, Mohamed Yahya and OkayAfrica CEO, Abiola Oke about the new UNDP report, Scaling Fences: Voices of Irregular African Migrants to Europe. The report examines young Africans who are leaving their homes to make the dangerous journey to Europe for economic opportunities—not solely for asylum or to escape persecution. The evening was both enlightening and sobering, and the main findings may be a little different than what you might expect.

Immigration to Europe from Africa is roughly 90 percent lower than what it was in 2015.

In 2015, slightly over 1 million Africans left for Europe. In 2018, it was just over 100,000. However, the percentage of those who drown on the journey has increased. In 2015, it was 1.6 percent of that million, while it grew to 2 percent in 2018. Meaning just over 2,000 people died enroute in 2018 alone. It is a disturbing factor that, four years on, more people are dying proportionately than when the large migrations began.

Even though most of Africa is rural, most of the youth leaving the continent for economic reasons are from the urban areas.


85 percent of those who the report identified came from urban cities or towns, though only 45 percent of Africans overall live in those urban areas. This means that most of them are coming from regions with "relatively low levels of deprivation." Analysts believe the rapid urbanization of many African cities could be a contributing factor. Benin City, Nigeria, for instance, has urbanized 122 percent in only ten years. These cities cannot actually support the people—and their ambitions and talents—who live there. It plateaus and does not allow for further upward mobility.

Only 2 percent of those who left say knowing the dangers would have deterred them.

This means 98 percent would do it again, despite the knowledge of fatalities and difficulties in crossing. The appeal of elsewhere is greater than death. This realization is crucial for all nations to better comprehend the true elements belying migration, particularly for those that this report is concerned with. Of the 1,970 migrants from 39 African countries interviewed for the report, almost all of them are willing to face death for economic opportunities abroad than stay home. As most of the migrants had relatively comfortable lives at home, they are not migrating to flee death or persecution as with asylum seekers. This prompts great questions and led the report to look at the issue from four angles: home life in Africa, motivations for leaving, life in Europe, motivations for returning.

58 percent of those who left were employed or in school in their home country.

Not only that, in almost every demographic and country, those who left had a considerably higher amount of education than their peers. From Malu, those leaving had an average of five years of education, compared to one year with peers in their age group and two years for the national average. In Cameroon, those leaving had an average 12 years, their peers had seven and the national average of six. Even when broken down by gender, both men and women who leave have about nine years of education while the national average is five and three, respectively.

Though the average African family size is five, most of those who leave have an average family size of 10.

When asked, migrants said their main motivation to leave is to send money home. This information is important as it may impact the motivations for needing to leave. The report reasons that an increase in population may also be playing a role in the motivations to leave. It was also reported that those who go abroad and find work send an average 90 percent of their earnings to their families. Essentially, they are leaving existing jobs to live on 10 percent of their new wage, highlighting that working below minimum wage in Europe is more prosperous.

Though 70 percent of those in Europe said they wanted to stay permanently, those who were working were more likely to want to return to their home country.

Conversely, the majority of those who did want to stay in Europe were not earning anything, 64 percent of them, and 67 percent did not have a legal right to work. Over half of those who did want to return home had a legal right to work. Analysts reason that those who did want to stay would likely change their mind once they had an income. This correlation speaks to a significant relationship between work and migration permanence. It also underlines the claim that migration for this group is focused solely on economic results as opposed to social factors.


***

What was most striking about the event, however, was the strong feeling communicated in the space about exchanges between Africans regarding what needs to be done. The discussion did not only surround the facts and figures alone, but also the humanity behind understanding why people migrate. At one point, when addressing the crowd of various influential people on the continent and in the diaspora, Eziakonwa said "What are we missing here? What are we doing by leaving young Africans out of the development discussion? Our programs are clearly failing our African youth."

Later, Yahya responded to a question by stating there was certainly a cultural barrier in which Africans do not often address, listen to or respect the youth. "I can say by looking at you that no one in this room would be given a true say," he said. "This is clearly part of the issue." When asked what can be done by others, the response was to work to change the narrative, to focus on prosperity rather than charity and to provide better access and platforms for African youth to share their stories so that the idea of who migrants are shifts. And so we, as Africans, can better know ourselves.

Check out some photos from last night below with photos from Polly Irungu. Follow and share in the changing of that narrative via #ScalingFencesUNDP and #MyJourney.

Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu

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Anjel Boris, Question Mark, 2019, Acrylic and posca on canvas, 133 by 7cm. Image courtesy of Out Of Africa and @artxlagos

What You Need to Know About ArtXLagos 2019

We talked to artistic director of ArtXLagos, Tayo Ogunbiyi, about Lagos's unique art scene and what's to expect from West Africa's biggest art party.

OkayAfrica is a media partner of ArtXLagos 2019.

In three years, ArtXLagos has successfully established itself as West Africa's premier art fair, cementing its reputation as a center of culture for the entire region. Since its founding by Tokoni Peterside in 2016, the art fair has attracted exhibitors, art buyers and members of the West African art scene and beyond—providing a platform for both emerging and established artists and playing a notable role in the global art ecosystem.

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