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Tanzeela Qambrani is Pakistan's First Lawmaker of African Descent

The politician is bringing hope to the country's marginalized Sidi community.

The Sidi community, is a small ethnic group of African descent concentrated in the mountainous regions of Pakistan. The group has been largely overlooked in social, political and economic life in the country. There are, however, small advancements being made towards representation, and 39-year-old Sidi politicial Tanzeela Qambrani is at the forefront of these changes.

Qambrani, whose ancestors came from Tanzania, has been nominated by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to a women's reserved seat in the regional parliament of southern Sindh province, reports BBC Africa, making her the first person of African descent to hold a seat in Pakistan's parliament.


Sidi people also live in the areas of Karnataka, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh and have been in the country for centuries. They are thought to be the descendants of slaves that were brought to the region by the Portuguese.

"As a tiny minority lost in the midst of local populations, we have struggled to preserve our African roots and cultural expression, but I look forward to the day when the name Sidi will evoke respect, not contempt," she told the BBC.

Qambrani, a computer science postgraduate with three children, is dedicated to preserving the African roots of the Sidi community, which has a population in the tens of thousands in Pakistan.

Though she's held local office in the past, Qambrani is readying herself for the responsibilities that will come with representing her people on a larger political arena.

"I can already feel the weight," she said. "I'm a Sidi, and all these middle class, lower-middle class and working class Sidis know that I'm one of them.

With this post, Qambrani is bringing hope to a community that has dealt with widespread marginalization in Pakistan for centuries. Check out the video below to hear her speak on what this historic role means for her and the Sidi community.

Culture
Image courtesy of the artist

Spotlight: Obou Gbais Is Painting The Story of His Life

The artist is reimagining Cote D'Ivoire's history through modern, contemporary language and his latest project "Man Dan"

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists, and more who are producing vibrant, original work.

In our latest piece, we spotlight Ivorian artist Obou GbaisAKA Peintre Obou. Obou's remarkably detailed style of painting comes after years of training and educating himself in all things Cote D'Ivoire. The artist's work mirrors the society found in the aftermath of the Ivory Coast's political-military unrest, putting paint on the harsh conditions he witnessed in capital city Abidjan. The emotive expressions donned on the Dan masked faces speak to Obou's acknowledgment of his people and the shameful conditions forced upon them due to a war that didn't involve them. As the artist puts it, "The main theme is the human condition, the characteristics, major events, and situations that make up the essence of human existence", and tapping into his ancestry allows the talent to soothe all aspects of his identity, one paint stroke at a time.

We spoke with Obou about the importance of learning from those who are where you wish to be, and finding authenticity.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.


Describe your background as an artist and the journey you've taken to get it to where it is today.

I was born in the West of the Ivory Coast and studied in Abidjan, the capital. My ambition to become an artist started at a young age, and knew that I would pursue it in high school, and then when I went to college. I worked hard at improving myself -- and to form myself as well as my art -- and in 2012, I obtained my BA in Art. Two years later, I attended Abidjan's National School of Fine Art and from that moment, I really started to practice and educated myself in the world of art.

For five years I attended painting workshops with teachers who were also artists and who exposed me to the creation of the "perpetual". I learned a lot from them and it allowed me to open my work up to constructive criticism, which today has given me a certain openness of mind on art and the ability to continuously renew myself.


What are the central themes in your work?

My work is the story of my life -- my environment, my culture, my love stories, my traumas. My daily life. The main theme is the human condition, the characteristics, major events, and situations that make up the essence of human existence. I talk about my life, my city and also the people who live there. The element that defines me today is the Dan Mask. I have reappropriated the mask of my ancestors to create a contemporary language. In my work, I reconcile my contemporaries with their ancestral cultures by writing my story in a series of works. Generally, one sees masked crowds, one finds demoiselles of my city Abidjan. Couples and family scenes are perceived with the Dan mask and take the center of interest.


What is your medium of choice, and why?

I am sensitive to all mediums and supports but generally gravitate towards those that allow me to better transcribe the story I am telling. It's enriching for me to keep experimenting with new materials in order to be able to tell new stories. I work mostly with brushes, acrylics, and collages, but also with my hands and natural materials like earth, which give my artwork even more authenticity.

How has the pandemic affected you creatively?

The pandemic has affected my creativity in a productive and positive way. I suddenly had more time alone at home to concentrate on my work and try out new elements and methods. Many people had to limit themselves to a minimum during this time, which can be inspiring, especially for artists. Already this is a time in our lives when we were condemned to wear masks and my work is about people wearing masks. It allowed for some connections with my outside world. The series of confined people in their homes and on the streets was a testimony to the realities of that period in Abidjan.


Can you describe your artistic relationship with 'Afro-futurism' and 'surrealism'?

I consider myself as an Afro-futurist because I use, like all young people today, new technologies such as social networks to talk about my culture and share my creations with the world. Putting my country on the world stage through my work and especially my history. I would say that I consider myself a realist and not a surrealist, just by what I transcribe in my daily life -- I speak about real facts with real forms.


Can you talk about your use of colors and jewelry in your art?

The colors and jewelry are elements that appear at different times. There have been times when my work was quite dark with minimal color. And also periods when I feel a lot and peace which are symbolized in my work with quite fresh colors which give emotions.



Image courtesy of the artist

"Dan Love" 150x150 cm 2022 by Obou Gbais

Sarkodie Returns With New Single "Labadi"

The Ghanaian rapper features King Promise on his new single, which is expected to be a part of his upcoming album Jamz.


Internationally renowned Ghanaian hip hop artist Sarkodie just released his new single "Labadi" featuring King Promise. The two have frequently collaborated on songs in the past and have recently come together on this dreamy record, which has all of the makings of the soft life and vacation.

"Labadi" opens with Sarkodie's signature rhythmic, yet fast-paced rap and then transcends into King Promise singing the hook and chorus. With light-yet-prominent percussion in the background of the track, the song has all of the makings of a summery Afrobeats production, but is also thoroughly infused with hip-hop, Afropop and Amapiano.

The new single is Sarkodie’s first official single of the year and will be included in his eight studio album Jamz, which will be released on November 11. Although the song is called "Labadi," the music video was shot on the sunny and idyllic shores of Mykonos, Greece and was directed and co-directed by Capone and Babs Direction.

In his own words, the rapper describes the song as a feel-good song inspired by the idea of a boat party and being surrounded by loved ones:

"'Labadi' is a gateway song. It's about fun times with loved ones," Sarkodie mentions. "I was inspired by the idea of a boat party with some good people, just taking time off to enjoy life on the ocean. The melodies in the song are intended to bring out the positive vibrations in us. You just have to put all your worries away for a second and enjoy 'Labadi'."

For over 17 years, Sarkodie has contributed to the landscape of the Ghanaian music industry, and this has earned him national and international recognition. In 2019, he became the first winner of BET's Best International Flow artist at the BET Hip Hop Awards. To many, he is also considered one of the major driving forces of the renowned 'Azonto' dance, as well as one of the godfathers of African Hip-Hop.

Along with his new music ventures and upcoming album, Sarkodie is also expected to perform at the Global Citizen Festival in Accra on September 24 along other global powerhouse artists like Usher, SZA, Tems and Stormzy. Watch the dreamy video for 'Labadi' below.

(YouTube)

The 9 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Sarkodie, Mr Eazi, King Promise, Tiwa Savage, Major League DJz, and more.

Every week, we highlight the top releases through our best music of the week column, Songs You Need to Hear. Here's our round-up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks.

If you like these music lists, you can also check out our Best Songs of the Month columns following Nigerian, Ghanaian, East African and South African music.

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