Arts + Culture

The Ted Talk Questionnaire: Zimbabwean Comedian Carl Ncube is So Nervous It's Shocking

Zimbabwean comedian Carl Ncube shares how much TED means to him and how nervous he is to present at the TEDGlobal 2017 Conference.

This August, Arusha, Tanzania will be the setting of TEDGlobal 2017 Conference where 21 innovators will come to spread worthy ideas. 10 are from Africa. As part of our focus on African Futures, this month we wrote to this year’s African Fellows to ask them questions about themselves and their work. TED recently announced that applications to be a 2018 TED Fellow are now open.

Find out more information about the program and how to apply, here.

Our ninth interview is with  Zimbabwean comedian Carl Ncube. He talks to us about how much TED means to him and about what he learnt being on the opposite side of the screen.

How did you first find out you were selected?

So I got this amazing email that said you have been selected. I didn’t even read the rest because the SUBJECT said TED Fellows. I think until now I still haven’t read the whole email.

What was your reaction when you got the word?

I literally stopped everything I was doing and sat in a corner because I knew life was about to change—I would never ever be the same. That’s such a sobering feeling considering I was hungover from the night out before.

Was it difficult coming up with the concept for your talk/project?

That is one of the hardest things is to think about. Every amazing TED talk that has inspired me to break down barriers in my life and my career, incisive presentations that have inspired me before and now I have to come up with a single idea to share with the world in 4 minutes? What pressure!

At what point did you finally say: "yes—I feel good about what I am about to present?"

I will have to get back to you about that. I think even as a performer I have never felt ready or felt good about what I am going to present. I always feel nervous but the nice thing about being nervous is that you outperform yourself. Like a gazelle being chased by a cheetah the gazelle has no idea how fast it can run until that moment.

What did you learn about yourself through the process?

I learnt to appreciate all the things I have done that I have played down in an effort to be humble. I haven’t taken the time to celebrate myself and now this process has made me look back at some amazing highlights in my life.

Are you nervous about your presentation?

I am so nervous its shocking. Every time I think about that RED DOT and that big TED SIGN behind me that’s pressure.

Any particular things you are doing by way of preparation?

I just finished a 30 day stint working on my cookbook in a luxury tented safari in a beautiful place called Mana Pools with a company called African Bush Safaris. I find cooking therapeutic and the preparation helps me focus on things I find difficult as a comedian.

What do you anticipate the world's response will be?

I hope the WORLD will finally know my story and laugh at my jokes

What made you passionate about your subject?

Without saying much my passion is based on the fact that my topic is that it is a bad thing that has had a grip on the people of Zimbabwe for the longest time. That in itself will be a surprise when you see how I have packaged it.

To the next generation of intellectuals who are reading about you and inspired by you right now—what would you say?

I would quote one of my favourite professors called Prof MK Asante who said “don’t let school get in the way of your education.” For me it has empowered me to learn so many amazing things informally and to go after my dreams using my plan and my execution.

Personally, what does it mean to you to be selected as a TED fellow?


Where do you hope to go to from here?

I hope to continue seeing more of the world, sharing my thoughts and showing people that Zimbabwe has so many amazing things, most important of which are its people.

News Brief

4 Days of Bold Ideas: Here's What Went Down at TEDGlobal 2017 in Tanzania

We were in the mix at the TEDGlobal Conference in Arusha, Tanzania. Here's our recap on the 4-day gathering of brilliant minds.

A tense on-stage debate about the role of faith on the African continent, a former Kenyan death-row inmate on his path to freedom and a mosquito researcher who would catch the malarial pests using his own ankles as bait—despite the slick feel of TED's online videos, the real thing is far less predictable and far more exciting.

OkayAfrica was at this year's TEDGlobal Conference in Arusha, Tanzania alongside some fascinating artists, makers and doers most of whom are from the African continent and its diaspora. On the program were many of our favorite artists like Blinky Bill, Alsarah & the Nubatones and Kenyan superstars Sauti Sol.

Science fiction author du jour, Nnedi Okorafor read from her book Lagoon, and discussed her vision for speculative fiction writing from an African perspective. Niti Bhan discussed her research on how East African market traders run complicated and successful retail businesses that don't deserve the “informal" label.

One of the highlights from Wednesday morning—a last minute addition to the lineup—was Peter Ouko from the African Prisons Project. He described his path from being a death row inmate to becoming a law school graduate and prison reform advocate. Probably the most mind-blowing moment—quite literally—was a talk from Nigerian tech entrepreneur Oshiorenoya Agabi about his company that is using living neurons to help computers interpret the world.

One of the more fraught moments was an interview with Rwandan President Paul Kagame—about as polarizing a figure as it gets, and a major draw for many conference participants. Many told us that they left frustrated by a lack of hard questions from Zimbabwean journalist, Vimbayi Kajese, who interviewed the President via video conference.

Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women and a much less controversial figure than Kagame, described her entrance into politics as stemming from her own TED talk in 2014, where she appeared in her previous role as a biologist talking about rare plant species.

Sauti Sol were Kagame's opposite—the Kenyan band united the 700-person crowd with their rich harmonies and their talk about the rise of African pop music. Fifteen years ago, said singer Bien-Aimé Baraza, they were a teenage vocal group imitating Boyz II Men with Mariah Carey and 50 Cent posters on their wall—today's African teens have posters of Tiwa Savage and, well, Sauti Sol.

Arts + Culture

The Ted Talk Questionnaire: Robert Hakiza on Using His Story to Empower Refugees

Robert Hakiza, the Congolese co-founder of the Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID) talks to us about the TED process.

This August, Arusha, Tanzania will be the setting of TEDGlobal 2017 Conference where 21 innovators will come to spread worthy ideas. 10 are from Africa. As part of our focus on African Futures, this month we wrote to this year’s African Fellows to ask them questions about themselves and their work. TED recently announced that applications to be a 2018 TED Fellow are now open.

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Courtesy of Universal Music Group.

In Conversation with Daniel Kaluuya and Melina Matsoukas: 'This isn't a Black Bonnie and Clyde film—our stories are singular, they're ours.'

'Queen and Slim' lands in South Africa.

Melina Matsoukas and Daniel Kaluuya are everything their surroundings at the opulent Saxon Hotel are not—down-to-earth and even comedic at times. Despite the harsh lights and cameras constantly in their faces, they joke around and make the space inviting. They're also eager to know and pronounce the names of everyone they meet correctly. "It's Rufaro with an 'R'? Is that how you say it?" Kaluuya asks me as he shakes my hand.

Matsoukas, a two-time Grammy award winning director and Kaluuya, an A-list actor who's starred in massive titles including Black Panther and Get Out, have every reason to be boastful about their achievements and yet instead, they're relatable.

The duo is in South Africa to promote their recent film Queen Slim which is hitting theaters today and follows the eventful lives of a Black couple on the run after killing a police officer. It's a film steeped in complexity and layered themes to do with racism, police brutality and of course Black love.

We caught up with both of them to talk about just what it took from each of them to bring the powerful story to the big screen.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Installation view of Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara © The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2020, photography by Anna-Marie Kellen.

The Met's New Exhibition Celebrates the Rich Artistic History of the Sahel Region

'Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara' is an enxtensive look into the artistic past of the West African region.

West Africa's Sahel region has a long and rich history of artistic expression. In fact, pieces from the area, which spans present-day Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, date all the way back to the first millennium. Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara, a new exhibition showing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, dives into this history to share an expansive introduction to those who might be unfamiliar with the Sahel's artistic traditions.

"The Western Sahel has always been a part of the history of African art that has been especially rich, and one of the things that I wanted to do with this exhibition, that hasn't done before, is show one of the works of visual art...and present them within the framework of the great states that historians have written about that developed in this region," curator Alisa LaGamma tells Okayafrica. She worked with an extensive team of researchers and curators from across the globe, including Yaëlle Biro, to bring the collection of over 200 pieces to one of New York City's most prestigious art institutions.

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