Film

'The Pearl Of Africa,' A Documentary About Love, Hate & Being Transgender In Uganda, Debuts Powerful Trailer

Watch the trailer for 'The Pearl of Africa,' a forthcoming documentary about love, hate and being transgender in Uganda.

Cleo and Nelson in Thailand. Photo: Jonny von Wallström. Courtesy of The Pearl of Africa.


The Pearl of Africa tells the radical story of a 28-year-old transgender Ugandan woman, Cleopatra Kambugu, and her fiancé, Nelson. Director Jonny Von Wallström takes viewers inside their fight for love and acceptance in one of the most transphobic countries in the world.

The project began as a web series in late 2014, which Okayafrica closely followed. At the time, the filmmakers launched an indiegogo campaign to raise funds for Cleo’s sex reassignment surgery. The campaign was successful–in February 2015, they raised $14,000–and the couple traveled to Thailand for Cleo’s surgery. The full-length documentary continues to follow Cleo and Nelson after the surgery.

The film will soon make its world premiere at Hot Docs (April 28 - May 8) in Toronto, where it’s competing in the festival’s International Spectrum. Today, the filmmakers share the powerful first trailer for The Pearl of Africa. Watch below.

For more, read our interview with Cleo and Nelson.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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