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Still from We Live in Silence (2017). Photo courtesy of Kudzanai Chiurai.

Kudzanai Chiurai's Mixed Media Series Challenges What It Means To Live in a Post-Colonial Society

The Zimbabwean contemporary artist recently showed his thought provoking exhibition, 'We Live in Silence' at this year's Dak'Art Biennale.

Kudzanai Chiurai is a Zimbabwean contemporary artist and activist who addresses issues as colonialism, corruption, xenophobia and democracy through his work.

Chiurai uses such mixed media as drawing, painting, videography and photography to tell his stories. His theatrical pieces reach widespread audiences across the world.


When applauded for being the first black student to graduate from South Africa's University of Pretoria with a bachelor's degree in fine art, he is not content. He says this shouldn't be an accomplishment and is revelatory of a flawed space in which people, resembling him, have seemingly been closed out. "Education should be accessible to all," he adds.

It quickly becomes evident that he possesses a fervor to both question his surroundings and spark conversation. At the onset of his career, Chiurai painted portraits and landscapes. When asked how he became an artistic activist, he laughingly says, "What you think you'll learn in uni never quite ends up that way, it's the best way is to broaden your horizons." While in university, he created works centered around Robert Mugabe, his country's prime minister at the time, that would ruffle feathers and bring about his self-imposed exile. Those works would be the beginning an aesthetic distinguishable by its social commentary.

Today, he's based in his native country and has made the riveting exhibition We Live in Silence (2017), from which a video was displayed at Dak'Art Biennale in L'ancien palais de justice. The exhibition is the culmination of a three-part series beginning with 2011's Revelation and 2016's Genesis focused on alternative "colonial futures."

Still from We Live in Silence (2017). Photo courtesy of Kudzanai Chiurai.

Chiurai stages a colonial history and rejects Africans thinking, speaking and understanding language like their colonizers. He even goes as far as placing women in the forefront of our liberation. Where history is often told from the perspective of the winner, Chiurai reflects on the triumphs of his own with powerful iconography.

The overall series is a response to 1967's French-Mauritanian film Soleil O centered on a black immigrant yearning to find himself and a sense of home in Paris post leaving Senegal. In the film, the main character is so dehumanized by his white counterparts that he goes mad. He faces rejection, humiliation and disinterest. Soleil O fills its viewer with a visceral sense of discomfort and provides a very real look at a reality still experienced by modern day french immigrants.

"We are living in post-colonial societies," Chiurai says. "Afro futures don't exist because of colonialism. We live in colonial futures that are synchronized with capital." African nations, though liberated from the Western world's grip on their land, are still shaped by colonial social and political institutions. These institutions still govern how we live our lives. Currently, we are called "to integrate ourselves in a system that doesn't suit us and abuses us," he says. Chiurai dissects the aforementioned with collages comprised of images from the past, present and future. He places different aspects of our history into one moment in time.

Art provides the rather reclusive Chiurai with a voice. Despite not having social media or a website, he celebrates dwelling in a world where his art is placed alongside that of his peers in places like South Africa's Goodman Gallery. "We no longer have private lives. We don't have 'my,' 'I' [or] 'that.' We have 'we' and 'us,'" he says. "Being on platforms where other artists are is 'us.' Being a part of other conversations. It's not singular, it's plural. In the same way we have not singular identities but plural identities. My work reflects this. It's a shift that is taking place."

If his images have one message, I hold it is this: he is an African championing the continent and propelling its overall culture forward. We'll be sure to follow him as he works on a film and partakes in shows in Sweden and Germany.

Audrey Lang is an alumna of Northeastern University and a Boston-based site merchandiser. A surveyor of life who's enamored with all things fashion, art and Africa, keep up with her on Instagram and Tumblr.

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The 12 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Sarkodie, Cassper Nyovest, Elaine, Darkovibes, Stogie T, Phyno, C Natty, 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.

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Photo courtesy of CNOA

These Colombian Civil Rights Activists Are Fighting to Make Sure Afro-Colombians are Counted in the Census

When 30 percent of Colombia's Black citizens disappeared from the data overnight, a group of Afro-Colombian activists demanded an explanation.

It was the end of 2019 when various Black organizations protested in front of the census bureau—The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (DANE)—in Bogotá, Colombia to show their dissatisfaction about what they called a "statistical genocide" of the black population. The census data, published that year, showed 2.9 million people, only 6 percent of the total population of the country, was counted as "Afro-Colombian," "Raizal," and "Palenquero"—the various terms identifying black Colombians.

For many years, Afro-Colombians have been considered the second largest ethno-racial group in the country. Regionally, Colombia has long been considered the country with the second highest number of Afro-descendants after Brazil, according to a civil society report.

Why did the population of Afro-Colombians drop so drastically?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists protesting erasure of Afro-descendants in front of the census bureau.

Last year, a crowd of activists gathered in Bogota to protest what they saw as erasure of Black communities in the Colombian census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

In the latest national census report from 2018/2019, there appeared to be a 30.8 percent reduction of the overall group of people that identified as Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero, as compared to the 2005. After this controversial report, an Afro-Colombian civil rights organization known as the National Conference of Afro Colombian Organizations (CNOA), officially urged DANE to explain the big undercounting of the black population.

This wasn't a small fight. Representatives who hold the special seats of Afro-Colombians in Colombia's congress asked the census bureau to attend a political control debate at the House of Representatives in November 2019 to deliver an accountability report. "The main goal of doing a political debate was to demand DANE to give us a strong reason about the mistaken data in the last census in regard to the Afro population," said Ariel Palacios, an activist and a member of CNOA.

At the debate, the state released an updated census data report saying that, almost 10 percent of the Colombian population—4.6 million people out of 50.3 million—considers themselves Afro-Colombians or other ethnicities (like Raizal, and Palenquero). But despite DANE trying to confirm the accuracy and reliability on the latest census report it was clear that, for a variety of reasons, Black people were missed by the census. The state argued that their main obstacles with data collection were related to the difficulties of the self-recognition question, as well as security reasons that didn't allow them to access certain regions. They also admitted to a lack of training, logistics and an overall lack of success in the way the data collectors conducted the census.

How could they have counted Black populations better?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists playing drums in front of the census bureau.

Drummers performing during a protest against the Colombian census bureau's erasure of Afro-Colombians from the 2018 census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

These arguments were not reasonable for the civil rights activists, partially because the state failed to properly partner with Afro-organizations like CNOA to conduct or facilitate extensive informational campaigns about the self-identification questions.

"CNOA has worked on self-recognition and visibility campaigns among the Afro community and this census ignored our work," says priest Emigdio Cuesta-Pino, the executive secretary of CNOA. Palacios also thinks that the majority of Afro-Colombians are aware of their identity "we self-identify because we know there is a public political debate and we know that there is a lack of investment on public policies."

That's why it is not enough to leave the statistical data to the official census bureau to ensure that Afro-Colombian communities are fully counted in the country. And the civil rights activists knows that. They made a big splash in the national media and achieved visibility in the international community.

Thanks to The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights organization, Palacios traveled to D.C to meet with Race and Equality institution and a Democratic Congressman. "We called for a meeting with representative Hank Johnson to talk about the implementation of Colombia's peace accords from an Afro-Colombian perspective but also to address the gross undercounts of its black population," says Palacios.

For the activists at CNOA, the statistical visibility of the Black population is one of their battles. They have fought for Afro population recognition for almost two decades. "Since the very beginning CNOA has worked on the census issue as one of our main commitments within the statistical visibility of the Afro-Colombian people," says priest Cuesta-Pina. Behind this civil organization are 270 local associations, who work for their rights and collective interests.

The activists want to raise awareness on identity. Because according to Palacios, "In Colombia, there is missing an identity debate—we don't know what we are. They [the census bureau] ask if we are black, or if we are Afro-Colombians. But what are the others being asked? If they are white, mestizo or indigenous?" Palacios believes that for "CNOA this debate is pending, and also it is relevant to know which is the character of this nation."

Afro-Colombian Populations and the Coronavirus

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists use mock coffins and statistics to protest erasure of Afro-descendants

Colombian civil-rights activist insist that undercounting Afro-descendants can have a real impact on the health of Afro-Colombian communities, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

Even though the state recently "agreed with to give us a detailed census report" and make a different projection with the micro data, says Palacios, now with the Covid-19 emergency, CNOA and the government has suspended all meetings with them, including cancelling a second congressional debate and the expert round table meeting to analyze the data.

Unfortunately, it is exactly in situations like the Covid-19 emergency where data analysis and an accurate census report would have been useful. According to the professor and PhD in Sociology Edgar Benítez from Center for Afro Diasporic Studies—CEAF, "Now it is required to provide a reliable and timely information on how the contagion pattern will spread in those predominantly Afro regions in the country and what is the institutional capacity in those places to face it," says Benítez.

He adds that this information is "critical at the moment because the institutional capacity is not up to provide it at the current situation". That's why the Center for Afro Diasporic Studies plans to work with DANE information from the last census. According to Benítez, "We are thinking of making comparisons at the municipal level with the information reported in the 2018 Quality of Life Survey, in order to have a robust and extensive database as possible on the demographic, economic and social conditions of the black, afro, Raizal and Palenquera population in Colombia."









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The initiative is part of the music streaming platform's efforts to support South African musicians amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Apple Music has launched a new initiative dubbed "Stream Local" which is set to launch on April 11th. The initiative forms part of the music streaming giant's efforts to support South African musicians as the industry is increasingly negatively impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Playlists across genres as well as the albums of several chart-topping South African artists will be featured in addition to newly-released music.

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Nigerian Officials Drop Charges Against Naira Marley for Violating Coronavirus Lockdown Order

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According to a report from Pulse Nigeria, the "Soapy" singer and two other defendants—politician Babatunde Gbadamosi and his wife—were ordered to write formal apologies to the Government of Lagos, give written assurance that he will follow the ordinance going forward, and go into self-isolation for 14 days.

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