Politics
Photo by Victor Ehikhamenor

25 Years After Liberation, Rwanda Wants the World to See How Far It's Come

Rwanda is on a mission to sell a new story about itself, and for a week, it enlisted a group of "foreign influencers" to help tell it.

On July 4, 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by a 36-year-old Paul Kagame, stormed the streets of Kigali, effectually putting an end to 100 days of genocide against the country's Tutsi minority.

It's an unambiguous story of triumph after turmoil, and it's this precise narrative of radical reconstruction that the government sought to display to the group of artists, photographers, filmmakers and fellow journalists from across the continent who I traveled with for a week-long press tour of the country in observance of the 25th anniversary of that very day.

Kigali's physical beauty is unmistakable. The city's cleanliness is noteworthy, even for a capital city with a population of just under a million people—the litter, street hawkers and homeless population characteristic of most urban capitals were nowhere to be found. We began our week at an achingly early 5:30 am, embarking on a Liberation Tour of the northeastern part of the country via military helicopter, which took us to the various sites where the RPF carried out its various missions to transform the country—starting as a rebel group in 1990 with a mission of reinstating Rwandan Tutsis who had been forced into exile in neighboring countries, before becoming the genocide-ending rebel group it's known as today. It was the first time that I, and most of the group, had flown in a helicopter. Deemed "foreign influencers" by our hosts—a title we all found quite amusing—we held our phones up to the helicopter's circular windows to capture precious aerial footage of the lush, hilly scenery. The clips quickly and enthusiastically landed on my Instagram story.

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Travel
Photo by Audrey Lang.

Travel Diary: Audrey Lang Connects To a New Home Away from Home—Côte d'Ivoire

An OkayAfrica contributor captures her vibrant and on-the-go experience in Côte d'Ivoire's Abidjan and neighboring cities.

In OkayAfrica's latest Travel Diary, our contributor Audrey Lang shares her musings while exploring Côte d'Ivoire for the first time.

During a visit to Dakar, Senegal for the Biennale last summer, I met an advertiser and DJ named Lio. He excitedly described his impending move to Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire and implored I make it my next stop on the African continent. Lio spoke of an invigorating creative scene in which he would thrive and I yearned to interact with the creatives telling its story so I could do the same. With little convincing, I obliged.

My desire to travel around the African continent is aimed at being able to refute a common media narrative that is often detrimental to its creatives and locals. Luckily, we are living in times where Africans far and wide are at the helm of a change in tide. Our stories are being told the right way—raw and unapologetically. They are as diverse as they are expansive. What is manifesting is nothing short of extraordinary.

Furthermore, because I am a second generation Cameroonian-American, travel is also aimed at connecting to a home I've never had the chance to live in, yet feels very much like it is mine. I am a product of an environment in which I was consistently reminded that despite the fact I live here, I am not from here. With time, I have learned that trips such as these are critical to forging a path in a world that so often attempts to dictate how you should identify and how this identity should make you feel. More often than not, my connection with heritage drives me.

Côte d'Ivoire is a West African country with idyllic beaches, a French-colonial legacy and a people who are friendly and warm. This country is honestly a gem that's heavily slept on.

From the moment I hop off the plane, I am moved by an ease. There is an air of not taking things too seriously. The doctors who administer my yellow fever shot jokingly offer to take me to get attiéké, alloco and garba (notable local dishes). The immigration agent who stamps my passport happily speaks on her phone about what appears to be a matter of no importance to her work.

Abidjan is a refreshing mix of post-colonial France and traditional culture. It's a sprawling metropolis with people very much on the go. I caught myself smiling at the locals' take on urban attire that reminds me of America.

The images I took engaging with the local landscape of Abidjan and some neighboring cities and towns do the best job of conveying just how lively the country is—check them out below.

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Courtesy of Lerato Mogoatlhe

Lerato Mogoatlhe on Her New Travel Memoir, 'Vagabond': "I was accused of being a spy."

The South African writer traveled to 21 African countries over the span of 5 years and says that Mali, Rwanda and Sudan were by far her favorite places.

Eleven years ago, Lerato Mogoatlhe decided that it was time to leave South Africa so she quit her job as an entertainment and lifestyle journalist and flew to Senegal to begin what she thought would be a three month trip. She had always dreamed of traveling Africa, and after an earlier work trip to Ghana, she realized she could not put off her dreams any longer. The three month stint would turn into five years. Her new memoir, Vagabond: Travelling Through Africa on Faith is a chronicle of that trip and the 21 African countries she experienced along the way.

But this is no comfortable travel read. When Mogoatlhe first steps off the plane in Senegal, she has made no plans whatsoever, not even accommodation. What she does have is the unshakable certainty that she is home. Mogoatlhe starts her journey with the strong belief that every other African country, flaws and all, will make her feel just as home as she felt in South Africa.

And so she trusts that everything would eventually figure itself out. From sitting on piers and waiting for someone, anyone, to ask if she needed a place to stay, to running out of cash, Mogoatlhe's written account of her spirited country hopping (as well as the characters she met along the way) is filed with numerous "laugh out loud" moments and leaves one with the burning conviction to go to the places that she has gone and truly experience the unimaginable for oneself.

We sat down with Mogoatlhe to discuss her new travel memoir Vagabond: Travelling Through Africa on Faith and found out why she would rather visit Bujumbura than New York or Paris on any given day.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Photo by Amarachi Nwosu.

In Conversation: Ebonee Davis on Going to Ghana To Reconnect with Her History and Her Greater Sense of Self

"From this trip I have a more expanded idea of who I am, who I can be and what is possible for me."

The internet has played a huge role as a space for the narrative and perceptions of Africa to transform and has allowed people to see the perspectives of the continent directly from Africans. While this has sparked interest in African music, dance and food to name a few, not many folks within the diaspora have returned to see it for themselves due to negative stereotypes often perpetuated in western society. While this could deter many from going, model, author and actor Ebonee Davis saw this as a prime opportunity to lead by example and visit Ghana for the first time to reconnect with her roots.

A force in entertainment and fashion with campaigns for brands including Calvin Klein to Fendi under her belt, Davis understands the power of media and how it plays a major role in how we see our identity and how we connect with places outside of our comfort zone. This has been a major reason why she's used her voice to spread messages bigger than herself and to be part of the dialogue on diversity and even mental health. For Davis, visiting Ghana on the anniversary marking the start of 400 years of slavery was important to not only understand herself and her connection to the motherland—but to also show others that they too can come to Africa and feel right at home.

I spoke with Ebonee Davis about her trip to Ghana, her initial reactions and how she feels the fashion and entertainment industries can play a role in transforming narratives on the continent. Here's our conversation below.

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