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Google Honors Late South African Child Activist, Nkosi Johnson, With Doodle

Today's Google Doodle celebrates the life and work of Nkosi Johnson, a child HIV/AIDS activist, who passed away at the age of 12.

Today marks what would have been the 31st birthday of South African child activist Nkosi Johnson.

Johnson, whose work focused on raising awareness around HIV/AIDs in the early 2000s, at a time when the disease was still incredibly stigmatised and seen as a "death sentence", passed away from complications related to AIDS at the age of 12.

He was the longest-surviving HIV-positive born child at that time.


Johnson received international attention following his address to thousands of delegates at the 13th International Aids Conference in Durban back in 2001. There, his heartfelt words which centred on dispelling the stigma and superstitions around the illness captured the world. "Hi, my name is Nkosi Johnson," He began. "I am 11 years old and I have full-blown Aids. I was born HIV-positive...Care for us and accept us – we are all human beings. We are normal. We have hands. We have feet. We can walk, we can talk, we have needs just like everyone else. Don't be afraid of us – we are all the same."

He took his message across the world, travelling to an AIDS conference held in Atlanta, Georgia in the US at one point. Following his death, his adopted mother, Gail Johnson, established Nkosi's Haven, a non-profit organisation (NPO) which has carried on his legacy through providing a sanctuary for mothers and children affected by HIV/AIDS.

OkayAfrica spoke briefly to Johnson who, while delighted by Google honoring her son, paints a grim picture not only for the future of Nkosi's Haven, but for NPOs in general based in South Africa. "Where we're at with [Nkosi's] legacy is exhaustion, running out of money...but we're coping."

Tasked with answering what South Africans could do to better the situation, she says, "Non-profits just do such necessary work because they've been established because there's a gap in the community. Every one of the non-profits that I deal with or know of—everyone needs help. While AIDS is now a chronic, manageable disease and people might not think that it's urgent, there are children who are suffering. There are children who are in need and still you have to beg for support. That's a bitter pill to swallow."

Describing her biggest hope for Nkosi's legacy, Johnson concludes by saying, "I hope that we survive...that I can retire in peace. Whoever takes over from me and keeps Nkosi's legacy going, [I hope] that they have the same passion and energy to keep it going because he stood for so much."

To learn more about Nkosi's Haven and how you can support their work, click here.

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Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Interview
Photo by Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images via Getty Images.

How a Global Pandemic Has Failed to Stop South Africa's Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Crisis

We speak to women in key positions about the state of gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa during the continued national lockdown.

Recently, South African women were outraged by the horrific murder of 28-year-old Tshego Pule. She was found hanging from a tree with stab wounds to her chest after she went missing at the beginning of June. Pule was also reportedly heavily pregnant at the time of her death. And while her perpetrator, 31 year-old Mzikayise Malephane, was charged with pre-meditated murder not long afterwards, this is not the universal experience of South African women when it comes to obtaining justice.

There is no other subject, save for governmental corruption and state capture perhaps, that receives as much attention in the media as gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide in South Africa. And despite the alarming statistics which are well above the global average and frighteningly so, there is a glaring lack of political will by the ANC-led government to bring about any actual change. President Cyril Ramaphosa has made promises about perpetrators of violence against women being charged with harsher sentences. This has still not come to fruition. There is radio silence from the numerous task forces set up to develop various approaches in addressing the crisis. And still, women continue to die, the daily online hashtags demanding justice for them falling on deaf ears.

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Interview
Photo: Shawn Theodore via Schure Media Group/Roc Nation

Interview: Buju Banton Is a Lyrical Purveyor of African Truth

A candid conversation with the Jamaican icon about his new album, Upside Down 2020, his influence on afrobeats, and the new generation of dancehall.

Devout fans of reggae music have been longing for new musical offerings from Mark Anthony Myrie, widely-known as the iconic reggae superstar Buju Banton. A shining son of Jamaican soil, with humble beginnings as one of 15 siblings in the close-knit community of Salt Lane, Kingston, the 46-year-old musician is now a legend in his own right.

Buju Banton has 12 albums under his belt, one Grammy Award win for Best Reggae Album, numerous classic hits and a 30-year domination of the industry. His larger-than-life persona, however, is more than just the string of accolades that follow in the shadows of his career. It is his dutiful, authentic style of Caribbean storytelling that has captured the minds and hearts of those who have joined him on this long career ride.

The current socio-economic climate of uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrusted onto the world, coupled with the intensified fight against racism throughout the diaspora, have taken centre stage within the last few months. Indubitably, this makes Buju—and by extension, his new album—a timely and familiar voice of reason in a revolution that has called for creative evolution.

With his highly-anticipated album, Upside Down 2020, the stage is set for Gargamel. The title of this latest discography feels nothing short of serendipitous, and with tracks such as "Memories" featuring John Legend and the follow-up dancehall single "Blessed," it's clear that this latest body of work is a rare gem that speaks truth to vision and celebrates our polylithic African heritage in its rich fullness and complexities.

Having had an exclusive listen to some other tracks on the album back in April, our candid one-on-one conversation with Buju Banton journeys through his inspiration, collaboration and direction for Upside Down 2020, African cultural linkages and the next generational wave of dancehall and reggae.

This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.

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[Op-Ed] Speeka: “‘Dankie San’ brought me closer to kasi rap”

A personal reflection on one of South Africa's most influential hip-hop albums, 'Dankie San' by PRO.