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These Young Liberians Are Building an Arthouse Movie Theater

The students behind "Image of Liberia" Film Festival are building a new movie house in Monrovia.

Pandora Hodge, project coordinator of Kriterion, Monrovia Courtesy of Kriterion, Monrovia

Before Liberia's two civil wars its capital city, Monrovia, had a lot more entertainment options for young people. Teenagers learned traditional dance at cultural centers. Reading clubs flourished throughout the city. Families took their kids to two movie theaters on the weekend.

All that disappeared and much of it has yet to return in these peaceful times. A few years ago, a group of young Liberians began showing movies across the country to offer people a cultural leisure activity. Since its beginning in 2012, Kriterion Monrovia has done 40 screenings in more than 20 communities throughout Liberia. These screenings were so successful that the founders organized a film festival in 2014, "Image of Liberia."

Now the founders want to make it official and build an independent arthouse cinema in Monrovia. Over the next month, Kriterion Monrovia is running a crowdfunding campaign to raise 50,000 Euros for a cinema. So far the group has raised almost 12,000 Euros.

The Kriterion, Monrovia team Courtesy of Kriterion, Monrovia

"We want to bring the culture back to Monrovia," says Pandora Hodge, the project coordinator of Kriterion Monrovia. "We want to give a new vibe to these people. For us to start this and have people feel like they can go and relax in a cinema— that's showing development too you know," says Hodge.

A team that includes a program officer, finance officer, supervisor, secretary and more than 70 volunteers are working to raise the funds for the cinema.

The cinema will not only show movies that are financially accessible to local Liberians, but it will also be a place for young Liberians gain work experience and plan the future of Liberia. Kriterion Monrovia will be a cultural center for music, exhibitions and social gatherings.

Kriterion Monrovia is based on a cultural project that originated in Amsterdam after the second World War—Kriterion Amsterdam. Students involved in the anti-Nazi movement in Amsterdam started the cinema to fill the void of culture that the war left. Back then it was run as a cultural foundation that helped university students with living costs. In that vein, Kriterion Monrovia is supported by Young Urban Achievers, a Dutch foundation that helps young people around the world to set up their own business in the cultural sector.


The team on the road Courtesy of Kriterion, Monrovia

Like Kriterion Amsterdam, Kriterion Monrovia cinema will be run entirely by students like Hodge. Liberia's economy is improving but it's difficult for young students to study and earn money at the same. Kriterion Monrovia will provide the opportunity to young Liberians to work on an entrepreneurial project so that they can take those skills and create their own businesses in Liberia.

"The important thing about having space is being able to help young people in Liberia," Hodge says . " We will help them to become good entrepreneurs so they can rebuild Liberia and contribute to society."

Watching quality movies in a comfortable setting is almost impossible for locals in Monrovia. The only movie theatre in the city is in an upscale shopping mall marketed to expats. Another cinema that only showed Bollywood movies recently closed. Men sell DVDs on street corners throughout the city but the visual quality of these movies is often shoddy. They are often in other languages like Russian or Chinese. Tiny movie booths dot the city showing these poor quality films.

"It's so hot," says Hodge when talking about the movie shacks. "Everybody is sweating. You can barely understand or see anything. People are falling asleep on you."

Besides lack of a quality cinema, Monrovia also lacks options for leisure activities for young people. For most, a night out on the town includes stopping at a bar for a drink or a restaurant for a cheap meal.

The first film Kriterion Monrovia showed to a large group was "Life of Pi" at the University of Liberia in 2011. For most attendees, it was their first time seeing a movie with good sound. Hodge took the cinema on the road traveling to villages across Liberia to show movies. The movie gatherings became community events attracting the very young up to the very old. When Ebola hit Liberia, Kriterion had to stop its movie showings but the group had developed such good relationships with villages, that it traveled the country implementing an Ebola awareness campaign.

Kriterion Monrovia has the support of engineers and architects from Engineers Without Borders, who will design the cinema of their dreams for free. Young Urban Achievers and SPARK will support them with their business model and organizational structure.

A poster for their Kriterion, Monrovia's crowdfunding campaign.

MFE Pays Tribute to PRO on The Second Anniversary of The South African Hip-Hop Legend’s Passing

Artists signed to PRO's label MFE commemorate him in new tribute song 'MAWE: VITA24' on the second anniversary of the South African hip-hop pioneer's passing.

One aspect of PRO(Kid)'s legacy that rarely gets mentioned is his label. As head of Money First Entertainment, the label he founded, PRO played roles in the trajectories and craft of artists such as Red Button, Captian_fs, sFs 5 Star and TeePee among others. The former three were official members of MFE with Red Button, PRO's protégé, being the first artist to be signed to the label.

PRO who passed away exactly two years ago today gets a tribute from his label's roster. "MAWE: VITA24" is a remix of an sFs 5 Star song titled "Mawe" that the artist released in February.

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Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

The 10 Best PRO(Kid) Songs Ranked

SPeeka ranks his favourite PRO songs of all time on the second anniversary of the kasi rap legend's death.

Editor's note: Today (August 8) marks the second year since the passing of PRO (who was known as Pro Kid earlier in his career). The legendary South African lyricist is credited with being the father of kasi rap—a subgenre of South African hip-hop characterised by a heavy use of punchlines and storytelling in mostly IsiZulu and tsotsitaal (Gauteng township slang).

Pro inspired a generation of kasi rappers and his impact and influence are still felt to this day. The prolific rapper's catalog consists of two classics namely Heads & Tales and Dankie San which sit comfortably alongside other notable releases.

We reached out to the South African hip-hop producer and kasi rap aficionado SPeeka to rank PRO's best 10 songs from good to great.

"Linda PRO Mkhize left a permanent mark in our hearts," says SPeeka. "I for one will continue to appreciate his artistry and celebrate his legacy by simply pressing play on the countless gems he contributed to the culture we all love. Dankie san!"

Below is the list compiled and broken down by SPeeka himself.

10. “Pressa, Pusha, Phanda”

Producer: Luddha

Album: Snakes & Ladders (2009)

"Ngiya understand mawuz'shay' isfuba, i-pride uyigwine wrong."

One of PRO's greatest strengths was his ability to use his gift to uplift listeners. It's widely known he was lethal lyrically. He was a product of an unforgiving underground rap scene that helped shape his skills as an MC. This track, which is from his fourth studio album Snakes & Ladders (2009), is just another shining example of how he was able to use those same raw skills to deliver a message of hope and encouragement over a beautifully crafted instrumental. It resonated with all of us and will forever remain a go-to joint for young adults from the hood who tend to feel like the hustle of trying to get your life together is too much.

9. “Sekele”

Producer: Dome

Album: Snakes & Ladders (2009)

"Ngiku PSL, ukuMvela and i-bench usal'freyifa/ Ngiya pensela, I touch lines njalo mang'skryf-a."
Being the Soccer crazy country that South Africa is, it was only natural that everyone became overly excited at the realisation that in 2010 SA would be hosting the FIFA World Cup. Just a year prior to the football legends coming over to the country for what became one of the best FIFA World Cup events ever, the Number 1 Soweto boy released the first single from his fourth studio album (Snakes & Ladders) titled "Sekele". The Dome-produced banger had a football theme, with clever wordplay and punchlines that fans had grown to appreciate PRO for. One could argue that the excitement for the tournament grew when PRO dropped this gem – the kasi rap fraternity would probably agree with me.

8. “Umfutho” (featuring Brickz)

Producer: Spikiri

Album: Continua (2012)

"Nom'ungas'bheka wena, angek'usenze lutho!"
PRO's love for kwaito music was evident in his brand of hip-hop music. He wore that love on his sleeve proudly. One can only imagine the excitement he must have felt when he was in the studio with the legendary kwaito pioneer Spikiri cooking up this joint. A rapper jumping on a straight-up kwaito beat was unheard of in the early 2000s. This collaboration was clear proof that the feud between the two genres was absolutely ridiculous. It ended up opening the floodgates for South African rappers finally fully embracing their kwaito roots, which resulted in what I believe to be the peak of South African hip-hop that immediately followed. This joint is South African to the core, and it left me day dreaming of an entirely Spikiri-produced PRO album.

7. “The General”

Producer: by I.V. League

Album: Dankie San ( 2007)

"Uphush' ub'celeb and siyabazi, ungazos'chomela/ Mawulele thina siya ndlula nje nge truck ye nzomela…"
Vintage PRO. The General is a more-than-fitting title for both the joint and the man himself. We are treated to an epic display of flow-flexing, which at first listen sounds as though may have been easy to write until you realise that PRO only made it seem that way. I.V. League came through with a fresh production that had a hint of that dancehall flavour.

6. “Ungaphel’ Umoya”

Producer: Beat Maker

Album: Heads & Tales (2005)

"...Cut the flossin'/ or else uzohlangana namahlany'aphum'estoksini/ abo thathazonke nalez'ez'fak'ipilis' e-socksini."
I know what you're thinking: "This track should be higher on this list". Another joint that perfectly embodies the artistry of Linda PRO Mkhize. He managed to take what is essentially a dark production and used it to convey a message of hope. He did this while also managing to point out the darkness and acknowledged that it's where he's from, but since he was able to escape and so can you.

5. “Fede Fokol”

Producer: Omen

Album: Heads & Tales (2005)

"Easy, son/ Mamel' iikhokho z'gibel' i-beat, son…"
Omen was completely in his bag when he made the beat for this joint. A neck snapping boom bap gem that PRO took and molded into a hood banger. He effortlessly switches between English and tsotsitaal, while keeping it kasi to the core. He strikes a perfect balance between appealing to "hip-hop purists" and the ordinary guy in the hood hustling in street corners. I can't remember a time this joint was played at a hip-hop session and I didn't lose my mind.

4. “Soweto”

Producer:Omen

Album: Heads & Tales (2005)

"Ghetto like kids on the corner playing Ludo/ with little pieces of stones and bottles wherever you go…"

If you don't consider this track as the official anthem of the South Western Townships, then you're playing. PRO had people from outside Soweto proudly chanting "SOWETOOOO!!!" Enough said.

3. “Wild West”

Producer: Dome

Album: DNA (2006)

"You saw the poster, vele angihleki mang'bhala/ Tight grips on the pen and angiyeki mang'bhala!"
Dome and PRO did something so special on this one. They took the theme song to the classic western film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) composed by Ennio Morricone, and brought it straight to Soweto. It's one of my all-time favourite sample flips. As usual, PRO kept the lyricism flawless while continuing to unapologetically display his trademark hood pride.

2. “Wozobona”

Producer: Omen

Album: Heads & Tales (2005)

"Never ngiyekele le-rap mina sbali, no ways/ Ngihlala ngikhiph' i-number number mawungaqgcwali, always/ Ngeke ngihlukane ne kasi noma ngingaya e-Fourways…"

During the early days of the legendary Slaghuis movement, PRO's name was an urban legend. Unfortunately for my 15-year-old self, I never got the opportunity to watch him perform at the session because he always came on later in the evening and I had a curfew. By then, the only PRO song I knew was "Soweto". One Friday evening, the music video for "Wozobona" debuted on the SABC 1 music show One. This was my introduction to PRO rapping in vernac. I was completely blown away. Even though I was already a fan of "Soweto", I believe hearing "Wozobona" for the first time officially turned me into a PRO fan.

1. “Bhampa”

Producer: I.V. League

Album: Dankie San (2007)

"To all the crooks abaz' shaya ngama Pro Ink boots/ Sengisho na laba abakhule nge beer ne loose/ Ngoba i-culture yase loxion is part of your roots/ Bathi thina senza kakhulu, kanti abazi sisa toets-a…"
To keep it 100, choosing between "Bhampa" and "Wozobona" as my all-time PRO joint is one of the toughest choices I've ever had to make. Both tracks represent everything I love about the late great artist. After years of long debates with fellow PRO stans about which joint is better, I finally came to the conclusion that it was "Bhampa" by a nose. The production, the catchy hook, the unparalleled penmanship, the kwaito flair... everything. I also felt that it had slightly more commercial appeal therefore was able to reach more people. The fact that PRO was able to have such a great impact commercially without feeling the need to dumb down his lyricism is just one of the reasons why he will forever be the greatest to ever do it.

Honourable mention: “Living The Way I Should” (featuring Nothende)

Producer: Amu

Album: Heads & Tale (2005)

(Youtube)

The 7 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Beyoncé x Shatta Wale, Major League DJz, Alsarah, Skales, Burna Boy and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our best music of the week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Nasty C: ‘I want the world to know there’s more than just Afrobeats in Africa’

Nasty C is under no pressure to fit the confines of what an African artist is supposed to sound like.