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The Side Eye: Reliving The Colonial Past


Big thanks to the blog Africa is a Country for tuning us into these two side eye stories of folks rehashing colonial fantasies. The first is a temporary hotel in London modeled after Joseph Conrad's boat in his novel "Heart of Darkness." You know, the novel that has eternally coined The Congo as the 'dark heart of Africa' in the popular imagination - "Dr. Livingstone, I presume," and all that. The story on Blackbookmag.com says the design was one of 500 submitted for a contest by Living Architecture... which raises the question: really? There wasn't one other design in 500 with a more progressive politics than effing 1903?

The second story is about a dude, DeWet Du Toit, in the Western Cape in South Africa who lives out his fantasy in a loin cloth, claiming to be the real life Tarzan. He cares for wild animals, and judging from the picture, has a few black servants, we mean 'employees.' These romanticizations of a colonial past are so whack! They definitely speak to a gross desire still present in the world for 'adventure' in the 'exotic' lands of Africa.Read the full story here.

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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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