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Systema Solar: 10 Things I Love About Afro-Colombia

The collective Systema Solar, musical ambassadors to Colombia's Caribbean coast, share the 10 things they love most about Afro-Colombia.

In our “10 Things I Love” series we ask our favorite musicians, artists & personalities to tell us what they like the most about their home country.


In this new installment, the dynamic collective Systema Solar, musical ambassadors to Colombia's Caribbean coast, share the 10 things they love most about Afro-Colombia. The group's new album 'Rumbo a Tierra' is available now.

Sound Systems in Barranquilla

KZ Son Palenque in the city of Barranquilla is excellent. KZ is the place where the verbena, or sound system parties take place, and where you can enjoy dancing to a Picó. While there you'll probably hear Congolese music, like classic tunes from the master, Lokassa Ya Mbongo.

Eating Rondón while listening to friends' music

Rondón is a typical islander dish from the Afro-Raizal (the creole-English-speaking inhabitants) population. Rondón’s pronunciation is derived from the English “RUN DOWN.” It's a coconut milk-based stew with fish, snail, pigtail, accompanied with yam, cassava, plantain, bread fruit and dumpling. We love listening to our friend Elkin Robinson’s music while a delicious Rondón is being prepared.

Rafael Cassiani at Festival de Tambores. Image by Simón Sánchez Sotomayor via Fickr (under Creative Commons License)

Festival De Tambores

We once played the Festival De Tambores (drum festival) in San Basilio de Palenke. Whoever visits can be easily captivated by its beauty, musical power, and in general, by the cultural practices of the wonderful people from that place. They're truly a part of Africa in Colombia.

Cultural Preservation

Check out Kuagro collective and Kombilesa Mi (our friends) who aim to safeguard their language, the Palenkera tongue from San Basilio de Palenke. On top of preserving their own culture, they're an example of resistance and dignity from the Afro-Colombian community.

Carnaval del Suroccidente

Afro-Colombian communities contribute a lot to the Carnaval Del Suroccidente in Barranquilla, which takes place in February, through troupes, cumbiambas (cumbia dancing), masks, various ancestral dances, and valuable expressions rich in their own oral traditions, braiding arts and various hair designs.

The master, Candelario Obeso

You have to look up the master Candelario Obeso’s work, which has always stood for the contribution African cultures have had on Colombia. He wrote dramas, comedies, pedagogical texts and two novels, as well as articles related to Colombian politics of his time. He also translated Shakespeare’s Othelo and numerous plays by Victor Hugo, Byron, Must, and Longfellow among others.

The diffusion of Afro-Colombian thought

Angel Perea Escobar analyses and diffuses African thought and beauty through powerful writing that's full of flavor, without being condescending to its reader. Escobar is a true sweetheart, with him, the reviews and contexts of all the constellations of Afro-Colombian art and life are always backed by effective data. Recommended for anyone who’s interested in learning about the stellar Afro-Colombian universe.

Petronio Alvarez Festival. Photo by Sol Robayo via Flickr (under Creative Commons License).

The Pacific Coast

It’s impossible to go to Colombia and not experience the display of strength, power, and great Afro-Colombian cultural vibrations from the Pacific coast. The yearly Petronio Alvarez Festival in Cali is the best manifestation of the culture from that coast, whose seas, rivers and jungles irradiate wisdom and dignity year after year.

El Palenke de San Jose De Uré

El Palenke de San Jose De Uré, an hour apart from Montelibano in the county of Córdoba, has an Afro-Colombian community that is known for protecting its memory and looks to project itself to the world.

Manuel Zapata Olivella

The legacy of the doctor, anthropologist, writer and researcher Manuel Zapata Olivella, is key to knowing the history of African people and cultures in Colombia. Changó, El Gran Putas, Chambacú Corral De Negros and La Rebelión De Los Genes are part of his work.

Systema Solar.

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Courtesy of Cimarrón Productions

Cimarrón Is the Women-Led Film Production Company Empowering Afro-Colombians to Tell Their Own Stories

The "first Afro-Colombian film production company," is teaching filmmaking in Colombia's black communities in order to combat the lack of representation.

When filmmaker, activist, and cultural agent Heny Cuesta first started her career in Colombia, she noticed a severe lack of black creators in the industry. Cuesta, an Afro-Colombian originally from Cali, was the only Black woman in a room full of mestizo directors at a panel discussion at the International Film Festival in Cartagena de Indias (FICCI) in 2013.

"None of the filmmakers were black, but they were talking about ethnic content despite the fact that they didn't know the territory," says Cuesta. That scene shocked her, but it reflected the low number of movies directed by black directors in Colombia. In 2018, Colombia's film industry premiered 37 feature films and only one of them –Candelaria– was directed by a black director. It received many international awards.

The lack of blackness in Colombia's film industry goes far beyond studios, film festivals and production companies. Afro-Colombians make up almost 20 percent of the population but historically have had few opportunities to access education. Most black Colombians, who come from cities and towns along the Pacific and the Caribbean coasts, have been neglected and isolated due to a lack of infrastructure, as well as a lack of education and job opportunities.

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Photo courtesy of Chontudas.

This Black Hairstyle Collective Is Embracing the Beauty of Natural Hair in Colombia

Chontudas wants to strengthen natural hair knowledge among young black girls in Colombia.

In 2012, a champeta duo from Santa Marta, a Caribbean town in Colombia, dedicated their song "Pelo Malo" to all women that have a "bad," "weird" or "disorganized" hair. The song suggested that all these women have to use "liser" – a product to straighten their hair to make it look cool. The song neatly illustrates the stigma of wearing natural hair in Afro-Colombian communities. But these offensive categories don't represent the growing movement of Afro-Colombian women who are embracing their natural hair and all of its beautiful complexity.

During the American Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the 60s and 70s, there was a revolt in favor of wearing natural hair. The second wave of the natural hair movement has reached a global audience through social media and Colombia is not an exception. It's been five years since Mallé Beleño, an educator, and other black women created a hair collective called Chontudas—the name refers to a kind of palm tree whose presence evokes the hair of black women. The group was initially founded to discuss how to wear natural black hairstyles as well as to spread ancestral traditional hair knowledge.

This collective came to life as a Facebook group with 70 black women in 2014. Since then, it has become a place to share the experiences of making the transition to natural hair, and a place to showcase a more diverse standard of beauty as well as a place to trade hair care advice.

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Stormzy, Ed Sheeran and Burna Boy in "Own It" (Youtube)

Stormzy Recruits Burna Boy & Ed Sheeran For 'Own It'

Watch the new music video from Stormzy's upcoming new album.

Stormzy is readying the release of his second album, Heavy Is the Head, due December 13.

He's now come through with the new music video and single for "Own It," an electronic head-nodder collaboration with the Burna Boy and Ed Sheeran.

The addictive new song is accompanied by a new music video, directed by Nathan James Tettey. It follows Stormzy, Burna Boy, and Ed Sheeran as they perform on rainy London rooftops, warehouses and club dance floors—simply put, it looks like a fun time.

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(Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images)

#SayNoToSocialMediaBill: Nigerians Protest Proposed Law Allowing Government to Block the Internet

Nigerians are saying no to the 'Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill' that they say will give the government the power to silence them.

A bill that could limit democratic expression amongst social media users in Nigeria, has been proposed in the senate for the second time this year, Techcabal reports. Several Nigerians are now speaking out against it.

The bill, called the "Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019 (SB 132)," would essentially allow the government to shutdown the internet whenever it sees fit. It was proposed by Senator Muhammadu Sani Musa of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who claimed that the measure was necessary to prevent the spread of "hate speech" and extremist ideologies through online channels. "Individuals and groups influenced by ideologies and deep-seated prejudices in different countries are using internet falsehood to surreptitiously promote their causes, as we have seen in Nigeria with the insurgency of Boko haram," he said.

A clip of Senator Elisha Abbo another vocal supporter of the bill, who is currently under investigation for an alleged assault after being caught on video slapping a woman at a sex shop in July—shows him passionately defending the bill on the floor and condemning what he calls "fake news" from being spread to different countries. "It is a cancer waiting to consume all of us," said Abbo.

A similar bill was proposed back in 2015, but was widely criticized and never passed.

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