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'Black Tax' is a New Book Exploring the Toll on Black South Africans Supporting Their Families

Sometimes taking care of our families 'back home' is more a burden than it is a privilege.

When I finished my final year of high school, I was anxious about how I would fund my studies at universities. Fortunately, I received a scholarship which would take care of all my financial needs. This was during the time when I had lost my father and my mother had moved back to my grandmother's house in Zimbabwe with my brothers because we had lost pretty much everything. Part of what excited me about the scholarship was that I'd be getting an allowance to do with as I pleased. It wasn't a lot of money, but it was certainly more than I'd had in years.

I'd had two pairs of shoes over the past few years and the prospect of not struggling so much anymore was both relieving and exciting. That was until my grandmother called me to the kitchen, and explained just how I would spend that money. "You will send half of it to your mother." She added that, "There is electricity to be paid and food to be bought here." It was not a request but rather an instruction. She went on to remind me of her words every day until I felt so burdened by them that I wished I had never received the scholarship in the first place. And that right there, is what we mean when we speak of "black tax".


Black Tax is a collection of contributions by various South African writers including Mohale Mahigo, Fred Khumalo and Angela Makholwa, among several others, and is edited by award-winning author, Niq Mhlongo. The anthology addresses what black tax is, its historical roots and acknowledges the two primary dichotomies that exist within what is still a considerably complex—ubuntu as well as burden. Ubuntu is an African ethos and way of living that says that umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu—a person is who they are because of others. As Black people and as Africans, we are defined by this ethos. It is the rock upon which we have built our families and communities and the reason behind the "warmth" tourists often describe when they visit African countries. However, as great as this ethos is, it does lend itself to abuse and that's where the burden comes in.

In Sibongile Fisher's contribution As We Tithe, she describes black tax as both a virtue and a vice and probes the dichotomy even further by asking these pertinent questions: "Providing for your loved ones is innate but when is it enough? How much is enough? And where does being a provider end and being an enabler begin?" Fisher adds poignantly that, "We break the bank. We break our bodies. We break bread." This is a reality to which many Black Africans can relate.

There's a reason why Black families fuss over first-generation university graduates. Not only does obtaining a degree signify having triumphed in institutions that have historically excluded Black people, but it also represents the hope that Black families often have that their collective lives will now change. A degree means a job which means money and ultimately the opportunity to escape poverty and lack. That first salary and the ones that follow, become a lifeline for the rest of the family "back home".

"So who is supposed to look after your family then?" you're probably asking. "Should we let them starve?" Of course not. I've yet to meet a Black person who doesn't lose sleep thinking about how they can better the lives of those back home or how they can do with less if it means their families can have just enough. I'm not bashing our ability as Black people to take care of our families and the generations of our people who've been trapped in the endless cycle of unemployment and poverty and continue to struggle in a system set up against them.

"Too often we speak of the privilege it is to be in a position to change the circumstances of our families and not enough about the burden that is placed on a single individual."

In Nokubonga Mkhize's contribution The Power of Black Tax, she proposes that the way to overcome the burden of black tax is to practice good financial discipline and wealth goals—something she admits upfront will not happen overnight. While Monde Nkasawe acknowledges the challenges that black tax brings in his contribution A Moment to the Survival of the African Family, he says that it has kept "black familial connections from wholesale colonial destruction" and provided a form of social security. The pervasive sentiment throughout the book is, however, that we should pay our black tax because if not us, then who?

I like how Nelisa Ngqulana once put it. She said that Black parents often see their children as investments that will eventually yield them returns. That needs to change. Children are not investments, they're children. And thinking otherwise is partly what leads to the gross manipulation that then happens when we're adults who are told that we "owe" our parents.

Black tax has become such a norm in Black culture. We're afraid of being accused of casting our beliefs aside as a people and "abandoning" our loved ones. That shouldn't be the case. We're all trying to survive in a system that has robbed the majority and advantaged a select few. The only way we can genuinely get around easing the burden that rests on the shoulders of the (somewhat) privileged, is by constantly talking about the uncomfortable parts too. I think that is true ubuntu.

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Photo Credit: From Taamaden

10 Upcoming African Films to Look Forward to in 2022

From Nigerian thrillers to South African documentaries, here are 10 African films we are looking forward to in 2022.

The glitzy and glamorous Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) recently returned for its 43rd edition. The eight day festival, which took place in Durban (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa), featured an embarrassment of riches on the program, from around the world. The festival is a good indicator of what we can expect from African cinema for the rest of 2022.

The 10 films on this list were all screened at the festival. These films managed to stand out for reasons that have been explained below. (One of those films, Robin Odongo's Bangarang from Kenya, won the Best African Feature Film award at DIFF.)

Do not miss these movies when they come to a theater or streaming platform near you.

1960 (South Africa)

This pleasant, King Shaft directed period musical centers a heroine who may have been inspired by the life of the late South African icon Miriam Makeba. 1960 opened the Durban festival this year and set the tone for what would come after. Lindi (played by both Zandile Madliwa and Ivy Nkutha) is a singer who in her twilight days digs back into her past to shed light on the murder of an apartheid-era police officer when his remains turn up in Sharpeville some six decades after the infamous massacre of 1960.

African Moot (South Africa​)

There are plenty reasons to be hopeful for the future of the continent. According to Shameela Seedat’s African Moot, the educated youth are leading the way. This fly-on-the-wall documentary follows a group of bright law students who are participating in the annual African Human Rights Moot Court Competition. Seedat, a human rights law specialist turned filmmaker, heads to the University of Botswana with her subjects. Her film details the interesting ways the students approach the fictional case of a people crossing fictional African borders to escape oppression.

​Bangarang (Kenya)

Inspired by true events, Robin Odongo’s chaotic feature expounds on an earlier short film. Bangarang’s protagonist, Otile (David Weda) is a graduate of engineering who has failed to secure decent employment a decade after university. He makes a meagre living as a bike rider instead. When election violence erupts after the disputed Kenyan presidential elections of 2007, an embittered Otile leads rioters on the streets of Kisumu. Before long, he is on the run from the law, accused of murder.

Collision Course (Nigeria)

A frustrated young man collides with the brutal power of the police force. Can a tormented official stop the descent into carnage? The third feature length title from Nigerian director Bolanle Austen-Peters (The Bling Lagosians, The Man of God) is a propulsive thriller set over the course of 24-hours. Starring Daniel Etim Effiong and Kelechi Udegbe, Collision Course digs into the underbelly of urban crime, law enforcement gone rogue, and the desperate victims that suffer the consequences.

The Crossing (La Traversee) (Burkina Faso)

After years in Italy, Djibi returns to his native Burkina Faso and begins to mentor a group of young people whose sole purpose is to leave for Europe. Djibi prepares them for this crossing through a tasking physical and intellectual program that helps bring them personal achievement and may end up neutering their resolve to migrate. Can he make this difference? Irène Tassembédo’s social drama embraces the complicated nature of the immigration experience.

Lesotho, the Weeping Motherland (South Africa)

Told interchangeably between South Africa and Lesotho, this Lwazi Duma-directed documentary engages with the effects of climate change on the agricultural sector, a key income earner in the region. Duma follows Khethisa Mabata as he attempts to revive his father’s farm. The film uses Mabata’s personal story as an entry point into the larger national crisis that has taken Lesotho from a thriving food basket to one suffering extreme drought.

Skeletons (South Africa)

Conceived as an experiment in theatre-making during the COVID-19 lockdowns, this magical realist expression was re-written for film and now sits somewhere as a hybrid between theatre and film. Set in the heart of the Maluti mountains, Skeletons grapples with the issue of land and ownership as told through the lives of four characters. In an environment of scarcity, these four people wrestle to break free from the vicious cycle of oppression. Skeletons confronts notions of home, belonging, and identity.

Streams (Tunisia)

Amel, a married Tunis factory worker is imprisoned on charges of adultery and prostitution following an assault. Upon release, she attempts to put back the pieces of her life and reconnect with her teenage son whose life was derailed by the scandal. Director Mehdi Hmili comments on the decay, contradictions, and hypocrisies of contemporary Tunisian society with this engaging drama about the breakdown of a working-class family and the state’s unwillingness to protect the vulnerable.

Taamaden (Cameroon)

In Taamaden, Mali-born filmmaker Seydou Cissé paints a uniquely intimate portrait of immigration and zeroes in on spirituality. Taamaden, which is the Bambara word for traveler or adventurer, presents two different points of view. The first is that of Bakary, a young Malian preparing for yet another attempt at crossing over to Europe. The other is a motley crew of West African immigrants struggling to survive in Spain. They are united by their ties to their spiritual clairvoyant.

You’re My Favorite Place (South Africa)

Jahmil X.T. Qubeka (Of Good Report, Knuckle City) is one of the most exciting and original cinematic voices on the continent. His latest, which closed the Durban film festival, is a change of pace attempt that also carries some of Qubeka’s slick imprint. On the last day of high school, the young heroine of You’re My Favorite Place and her three friends embark on an unforgettable road trip. They steal a car and head to the remote Hole in the Wall, a landmark that according to Xhosa legend, enables communication with the dead.

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Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

An Inside Look Into the Underground Queer Party Scene in Nigeria

As a result of the laws and law enforcement bodies in the country, queer nightlife in Nigeria is shrouded in secrecy and has been forced to go underground.

A few minutes before midnight on a June evening, there was a line of people attempting to gain access to an unmarked apartment block in Lekki Phase 1 — a suburban neighborhood in Lagos State. To the uninitiated, it was a regular house party in the heart of Lagos Island, which is populated with young people in their 20s. For the attendees who had a flier on their phones and a passcode on their lips, this was an event they had looked forward to for weeks. When they arrived at the doors, they were all asked for a passcode which transported them into a vibrant pulsing party which had drag queens walking across the room and men in shorts that barely went past their crutches gyrating on other men while afrobeats blared. Welcome to queer nightlife in Nigeria where, on weekends, apartments turn into gay clubs, barred with passcode-guarding doors to protect against homophobes.

Party people hugging each other

Secret house parties, discrete raves, and clubs are now becoming increasingly popular amongst young queer Nigerians.

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

Across the country, especially in the big cities like Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, lounges, clubs, and bars dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community have started sprouting despite legislation that makes it illegal for them to exist. In 2014, the Nigerian government passed the highly controversial and homophobic Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. Despite the name, the law would go on to criminalize many other aspects of queer existence and not just marriage between people of the same sex. The far-reaching law criminalized queer social spaces, groups that advocate for queer rights, and even individuals advocating and supporting queer rights. The law also went on to prescribe a prison term that could go up to 14 years for those who were found guilty of these crimes in southern Nigeria. However, in Northern and mostly Muslim Nigeria, where Shariah law takes pre-eminence, these crimes could lead to death by stoning. While there isn’t an extensive record of people being found guilty for these crimes in Nigeria, these laws emboldened many homophobic mobs who took the laws into their hands and would beat individuals who they identified as queer and destroy spaces and parties that they suspected were hosted by or for queer people. One of the most infamous instances was a 2018 case where 57 men were arrested at a party in Lagos under the suspicion of being initiated into a gay club. While this particular case garnered significant press coverage as the men were made to go to trial, it is far from being the only case of its kind. It is fairly common for the police to raid suspected queer parties to arrest everyone in sight — often with little to no proof of the suspects being gay.

As a result of the laws and law enforcement bodies in the country, queer nightlife in Nigeria has been forced to go underground. Bars and clubs are left behind for parties in apartments. Recent years have seen a resurgence in the public profile of queer nightlife in Nigeria — partly thanks to a rise of resistance against oppressive systems within Nigeria that have been supported and have originated on social media, more queer people are becoming brave and open about queer nightlife in Nigeria. Secret house parties, discrete raves and clubs are now becoming increasingly popular, especially amongst young queer Nigerians. Creative collectives like hFactor and Pride in Lagos have pushed the narrative even further by organizing pride-specific events and raves in Lagos over the last few years.

Man making out with man

"‘‘I had been to clubs before but this was different. There was a freedom I didn’t feel in other parties."

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

‘‘My first time at a queer party in Nigeria was in 2021. A friend invited me to a hFactor event and It was such an experience,’ Peju, a 23-year-old bisexual man tells OkayAfrica. ‘‘I had been to clubs before but this was different. There was a freedom I didn’t feel in other parties. Guys were grinding on guys, girls were flirting with girls. There wasn’t a need to pretend to be something I’m not.’’

However, attending these events comes with specific risks. Guests often took precautions — attending the parties with friends, letting their friends who weren’t there know where they were at and confirming there were accessible exits at all times. For many of these attendees, they may have never had to use those themselves but they know of people or at least have heard of people who have had to. Tamuno, a 31-year-old gay man, tells me of a near-capture experience when he had gone to a party in Port Harcourt in 2020.

‘‘There was this party that happened weekly. It became kind of popular and more queer people started coming. What we didn’t account for was that neighbors had realized it was full of queer people,’ Tamuno said. ‘‘One day, we were all at the party and they surrounded the house. Some of us managed to escape, others weren’t as lucky. I wasn't lucky.’’ Tamuno recounts that after being taunted and shamed and then stripped to their boxers for a relatively long time, the police then came. ‘‘The police coming to carry us was what saved us because then my brother, who I called, was able to bribe them to let us go. Whenever I think about what would happen if the police hadn’t come, I experience a full body shudder.’’

a group of people taking photos

Organizers have to find ways to limit people who can gain access to these parties.

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

To help combat this, organizers of these events prioritize security and the safety of their guests. It is important that attendees feel safe from homophobic attacks from civilians and the armed forces. To achieve this, organizers have learned to deploy multiple guards.

‘‘Everyone’s safety is a priority to me and this means that multiple channels of security are constantly put in place to help safeguard our guests.’’ Kayode Timileyin, one of the organizers of Pride In Lagos tells OkayAfrica. ‘‘The first of which is the fact that all our events are only by a registration and verification process. Also, external security guards are made available. Lastly, we go all out to look for a real safe space.’’

It doesn’t end at just verifying the identities of the guests. Organizers have to find ways to limit people who can gain access to the location. This might mean generating a password only verified guests are given or keeping the exact location — and sometimes even date — a secret and only given to the verified guests. For these organizers, these security measures are put in place, not against potential miscreants or robbers but instead to keep off the police force and homophobes.

woman wearing black smiling

Despite dangers, the queer nightlife scene is bustling and thriving.

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

The underground nightlife scene in Lagos is bustling and thriving — despite the laws that criminalize it and the constant danger. This illustrates the spirit of resilience amongst queer Nigerians who choose to reach for any semblance of freedom they can find even if it is on the dance floor for just a night.

‘‘My experience getting arrested traumatized me. It scared me. I was getting beaten, and paraded and I was so scared that they would kill me. But they didn’t so of course, I’ll party again," Tamuno said. ‘‘I still go to these parties and I’ll still keep going. It’s not that I’m scared. It’s just that when I’m on the dance floor surrounded by other queer men, I feel like my true self. I feel happy. I feel content. And that’s what I want out of life. If I die because I am seeking that, that’s fine.’’

a group of friends taking a photo

More queer people are becoming brave and open about queer nightlife in Nigeria.

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

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Photo Credit: Adayliving

Chopstix on Crafting Burna Boy’s Biggest Hit "Last Last"

We spoke with Chopstix, one of Nigeria’s most in-demand producers, about his career and working on Burna Boy's smash 'Love, Damini' album.

Much of the credit for Afropop's rise over the last decade is usually credited to its artists. Thanks to their chart-topping singles, propulsive personalities, and swell catalogues, these acts are bringing popular African music to the attention of a global audience. The hyperfocus on these musicians often means that other participants in the music creation process are overlooked.

The rise of super-producers like Sarz, LONDON, P.Priime, and Chopstixis quickly refining the future of the genre as they receive more attention for their critical role in shaping the direction of our contemporary pop sound.

“Times are changing, before now producers didn’t have access to all the tools we have now,” Chopstix told OkayAfrica during a Zoom early in in August. “We’re receiving more recognition for our work and that’s a great thing.” At the moment, Chopstix is one of Nigeria’s most in-demand record producers, serving as a link between the heady rush of the hip-hop-inflected sound of early 2010s Afropop and its more recent iteration.

Born as Malcolm Kolade Olagundoye, Chopstix got his start in music production as a student attending St. Murumba College in Jos, the alma mater of iconic Nigerian pop duo P-Square. The music-loving principal of St. Murumba had set up a studio in the school and established a music and drama club to get students engaged. “We had a live session part and a recording session where computers and software were set up to record and produce music but I didn’t know about that session for a while, I only knew about the live session part,” Chopstix said. “One day, while rehearsing, I was hearing music from the other room and I found an older guy producing music all by himself. That was my lightbulb moment and I just knew it was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life because he looked so good and was so in his zone.”

Introduced by a friend to music production software FruityLoops (now known as FL Studio), Chopstix dove head-on into music production, experimenting widely with the tools at his disposal. Those early days spent sleuthing around in FL Studios also helped crystallize his affinity for the innovative sampling technique that gave birth to his producer tag. “When I first got my FruityLoops installed, it was just a couple of sounds that came with it but I didn’t want to use those stock sounds because everybody had them and I wanted my music to sound different,” he said. “So, what I’ll do is listen to songs by [hip-hop producers] Kanye West, DJ Premier, and Timbaland and listen for places where a kick or snare stands out and chop it. I spent hours of my time chopping up those samples and stacking them up. At the end of the day, I had tons of samples that I had taken from different places. Those were the samples I was using to produce at the time and when people heard my beats they were always asking where they came from because it didn’t sound like the usual stuff people used.”

Chopstix wearing a suit

Photo Credit: Adayliving

Around 2009, Chopstix met fellow Jos-based musicians Ice Prince, Yung L, and Endia, coming together with the latter two to form the music collective, GRIP Muzik, that helped to refine an era of Jos’ music scene. “At the time, we were just remaking global hit songs,” Chopstix said. “We would go on radio and have people request that we remake a song and we remade it. We were mostly remaking music and putting out our original songs occasionally. When we saw the traction we were getting, we figured that we could do it bigger than we were doing it and that’s when we moved from Jos to Lagos.”

The move to Lagos came with its unique challenges as the rising producer had to face the unrelenting pace of life in Nigeria’s entertainment capital. He took time out to understand the pulse of the city’s entertainment structure and the industry that had grown around it, taking a backseat from active production for close to a year. In Lagos, his relationship with Ice Prince metamorphosed into a full-blown creative partnership that saw him produce hit singles like "Aboki" and "Gimme Dat" while helping Ice Prince complete his sophomore album, Fire Of Zamani.

“At the time, we made 'Aboki,' we were trying to experiment with the traditional sound because I always like to push people out of their comfort zones," Chopstix said. "The first few days after the song dropped, it got a lot of backlash on blogs but a week after that, it just switched. The reactions were great and the song just went viral and blew up... That was my first hit single after coming to Lagos. It introduced me officially as Chopstix.”

Working with Ice Prince meant that Chopstix was always collaborating with some of Nigeria’s biggest stars. He remembers officially meeting Burna Boy, when the Port Harcourt-born star came to record his verse for "Gimme Dat." That meeting started off a working relationship that continues to this day. “The first song I did with Burna was 'Rockstar.' it was the first time I recorded one-on-one with him after 'Gimme That,'" Chopstix said. “I think we connected instantly from the first time we met and it’s still the same to date. It hasn’t shifted and it’s only become stronger. There’s always been an understanding between both of us of what type of musicians we are and the connection just happened seamlessly.”

The connection between both musicians has deepened as they have ascended to new levels over the last five years with Chopstix being a part of the four-album run — from Outsideto Love, Damini — that has catapulted Burna Boy to international fame. (Another album, Gaddafi, which Chopstix worked heavily on was put on hold. “It’s probably one of the hardest projects I’ve worked on sonically but I don’t think it’s something that the world is ready for now because he was talking about a lot of real facts and global political stuff that I’m not sure people are ready for,” Chopstix said of that project.)

In July, Burna Boy released Love, Damini with "Last Last" as its lead singles. The song, which samples Toni Braxton’s "He Wasn’t Man Enough," was recorded one month before its official release and has become the most commercially successful song of Burna Boy’s career, peaking at No. 70 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 4 on the UK Top 40 Chart. Despite the heavy thematic references of the song, Chopstix says he was sure it was going to be a global hit record.

“Bro, as soon as this song was done — as soon as I hit export — Burna and I had a moment where we looked at each other and we knew that we had caused trouble,” Chopstix said. “He knew instantly and we were already talking about how he was going to perform it and what the performances would look like on stage. That’s how much he is into his craft. When he says he put his life into his job, it’s not just lyrics — it’s facts. That’s why I enjoy working with people that take their work seriously because I take my work seriously. He called up the video director that same night, the director pulled up at his place the next day and the video was shot there.”

According to Chopstix, the decision to sample "He Wasn’t Man Enough" wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision; both he and Burna were huge fans of the song. “[The sample] was specifically picked out by Burna Boy himself," he said. "And it happens that I've always wanted to sample that particular song as well so the stars basically aligned in our favor.” A lot of the recent online chatter around “Last Last” has focused on Burna Boy’s comment about Toni Braxton receiving about 60% of the royalties on “Last Last” but Chopstix insists that this is the way such collaborations work.

“Sampling is a culture in music that has been around for decades,” said. “After 'Last Last' was done, the rest were label and management talks and Toni Braxton's team had been contacted for clearance. When a song is sampled and done right, it is indirectly a feature or collaboration. This automatically bridges gaps between the artists involved. It will introduce African artists to new territories and also their music is not completely alien. This means more listeners, and African artists can easily tour the new areas and further spread our music and culture.”

While still basking in the success of Last Last, Chopstix is working on bigger projects, viewing the success of the single as a portal for the next phase of his career. “I’m just super excited because 'Last Last' has just opened a door for the journey to start," Chopstix said. "I feel like I’m just starting right now. All I’ve experienced till this moment has just been preparation, this is just the starting point. I can’t wait for the next record and the next record and on and on.”

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Photo by TONY KARUMBA/AFP via Getty Images

William Ruto's Presidential Win Clouded by Odinga's Rejection

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is struggling to deal with his loss to current Deputy President Ruto, and may influence civil unrest.

East African nation Kenya has long been considered one of Africa's most beautiful examples of a stable, democratically led country. But, as we know, all good things must eventually come to an end.

This year's presidential election proved to be the most tumultuous in the country's recent history, as current Deputy President-turned-President elect William Ruto was announced as the victor earlier this week. His opposition, however, is having a hard time adjusting. After news of his loss came out, Kenyan politician and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga declared the election results "null and void", and decided to challenge them in court.

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Kelvyn Boy On Becoming One of Afrobeats’ Leading Stars

The Ghanaian singer narrates how his latest single "Down Flat" has accelerated the trajectory of his career.

Interview: Director K Is Making Historic Music Videos For Afrobeats & Beyond

The 28-year-old director behind the "Essence" music video (and many more) tells us about his come-up, inspirations and working with the biggest stars in the game like Wizkid, Burna Boy, Davido, and more.

Moroccan-Belgian Photographer Mous Lamrabat’s New Exhibition Captures the Necessity Of Peace

We spoke to Moroccan-Belgian photographer Mous Lamrabat about his new exhibition, "Blessing from Mousganistan," and the themes within his work.

Interview: Ajebo Hustlers Are Port Harcourt’s Latest Cherished Export

We talk to the rising duo about breaking into the Nigerian mainstream with hit tracks like "Symbiosis," "Barawo," and "Loyalty," and their upcoming project, Bad Boy Etiquette 101.

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Listen: Mádé Kuti Pleas For 'No More Wars' In Latest Single

The Grammy nominated singer-songwriter blends easy listening with a powerful message in his first drop of 2022 so far.