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Ugandan Transgender Web Series 'The Pearl of Africa' Addresses The Exile Of LGBTQI Africans In Ep. 6

The Pearl of Africa, the web series on Ugandan transgender activist Cleopatra Kambugu, addresses the exile of LGBTQI Africans in episode 6.


Cleopatra Kambugu in Kampala

The Pearl of Africa is a forthcoming documentary feature from Swedish director Jonny von Wallström which focuses on Ugandan transgender activist Cleopatra Kambugu and her life in Kampala after she makes the decision to transition openly. The documentary, which has been rolled out in short preview webisodes over the last few weeks recently released its sixth installment. As the penultimate episode of the seven-part webseries opens, it shows Cleo preparing for a trip which takes her from Entebbe International Airport to Nairobi where she fled after being publicly outed in a Ugandan tabloid. Cleo's forced exile marked a period of indefinite solitude as she was cut off from family, friends and the life she had cultivated for herself back home since coming out. "It was sad," she says of her time in Kenya. "I boarded the plane alone. I had left my boyfriend. It felt final."

The film, which began in an effort to create an impact and raise awareness about the lives of LGBTQI Africans, has also been gaining traction through a crowdfunding campaign meant to raise funds for Cleo's physical transition. With only ten days left to raise just under $4000, Cleo is very close to funding her sex-reassignment surgery in Thailand, which will be documented in the full length future.  Learn more about the campaign via the project's Indiegogo page. Stay tuned for our coverage of the series epilogue and watch the sixth episode of The Pearl of Africa below. For more, follow the project on Facebook and Twitter.

>>>Watch Episode 1 of  The Pearl Of Africa

>>>Watch Episode 2 of  The Pearl Of Africa

>>>Watch Episode 3 of  The Pearl Of Africa

>>>Watch Episode 4 of The Pearl Of Africa

>>> Watch Episode 5 of The Pearl Of Africa

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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