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Courtesy of saanrize

'Thoko Vuka! Thoko Muka!' is the Children's Book Helping Zimbabweans Preserve their Native Languages

Written in both Shona and Ndebele, the colorful children's book is based on a popular Ndebele nursery rhyme.

When her nephews and nieces were born, Nomusa Ndebele was eager to purchase them books that would teach them their native tongue and culture. It's a language that she shares a name with—Ndebele. But she struggled to find many Ndebele children's books and the ones she could find were Eurocentric books whose images, characters and languages did not reflect the realities of her nieces and nephews. It was that experience that led her to establishing the media and entertainment company called saanrize with her friend, Carol Dzingai who also shared her frustrations.


Ndebele recently penned Thoko Vuka! Thoko Muka! which was published by saanrize. The book, which is the first of a series, tells the story of a little Zimbabwean girl named Thoko is living in the diaspora with her trusted sidekick "Zou-Zou", a stuffed elephant that represents her family's totem. Thoko goes on a myriad of adventures with her stuffed elephant and both learn about Zimbabwean culture and African heritage in a fun-filled way.


Courtesy of saanrize

Speaking about her children's book, Ndebele says, "We believe that our African languages matter, our African heritage is worth preserving, our stories are worth telling. So we should tell them, especially to our children and in our vernacular." Ndebele went on to add that, "This is why Thoko Vuka! Thoko Muka! matters. It is the first step in realizing our dream of seeing entire shops—physical and online—filled with children's books, movies, toys and games made for Africans by Africans and featuring African vernacular languages."

Courtesy of saanrize

Thoko Vuka! Thoko Muka! is written in both of Zimbabwe's widely spoken languages—Ndebele and Shona. It is particularly important for Zimbabweans living in the diaspora and often have a difficult time keeping their children rooted in their Zimbabwean heritage, especially when their kids are born outside of the country.

Order the book or request that it be printed in your own language here.

Featured

The 'Silverton Siege' Soundtrack is the Sound of Resistance

Netflix's new film Silverton Siege features a varied and impressive soundtrack that grounds the film with tone and character.

At the end of Silverton Siege, Netflix's new original movie, the gun-toting duo of Calvin (Thabo Rametsi) and Terra (Noxolo Dlamini) walk fearlessly towards the open bank doors for another standoff with the police. They knew their fate was death.

The scene drowns in alarming red lights, then cuts to black with the sound of gunfire. Zamo Mbutho’s "Asimbonanaga" plays next; the song is a mournful acapella invoking the mood of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.


Directed by South African filmmaker Mandla Dube, Silverton Siege features a soundtrack that grounds the film with tone and character. These songs are forged in an African revolutionary consciousness. From Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat anthem "Zombie" to Philip Miller’s "Hamba Kahle Umkhonto." In the case of South Africa, they re-enchant the role songs played in galvanizing people against apartheid.

The Silverton siege was a flashpoint in the movement for Nelson Mandela’s release. In 1980s South Africa, anti-apartheid freedom fighters — Wilfred Madela, Humphrey Makhubu, Stephen Mafoko — aborted their planned sabotage mission at Watloo’s petrol depots and were on the run from the police. They hunkered down at Volkskas Bank in Silverton, Pretoria, where they held 25 civilians hostage.

In the film, Calvin is the de facto leader of the group, negotiating for safe passage out of the bank. The officer in charge, Langerman (Arnold Vosloo), reluctantly agrees to the demand and sends a helicopter manned by a solo driver. It’s a trap, though. Without their knowledge, the pilot Sechaba (Tumisho Masha) is going to deliver the group to the police once he’s been informed of their destination.

Fela’s "Zombie" starts to play when the trio, with a hostage taken along, leave the bank and head for the chopper. What transpires afterwards is the group knowing they have been set up. Sechaba is pulling out a gun when he’s preempted by Calvin. He’s disarmed, struck in the face and forced out of the chopper, then manhandled back to the bank along with the group.

Released in 1976, "Zombie" criticizes the military as tools of oppression by the Nigerian government. It strikes a parallel to the helicopter scene. Sechaba, a Black South African, is an asset of the police. By extension, he’s in service for the white ruling class aiding the capture of the freedom fighters. What’s teachable here is that in the process of fighting oppression, the enemy doesn’t always look like those in power, but could be anyone from the grass-root.

Although they look like the oppressed, these people aren’t committed to revolutionary warfare or liberation. Their orders come from above. The next time we hear another song in the background, it is Chicco Twala’s "I Need Some Money." The scene finds Calvin and Aldo pushing out trolleys stacked with cash in the bank’s main hall. Soundtracking the scene with this song diffuses the tension, inverting the serious stakes with its shangaan-disco liveliness.

"I Need Some Money" was released in 1986, and it was the first hit from the South African artist and producer. What does it mean to need money during this time? The global economic crisis didn’t spare South Africa, with rising inflation, unemployment and weakening of its currency. But Calvin isn’t interested in the money. This is another inversion that occurs. An economic downturn in the country where seeking material provisions would be justified is juxtaposed with the revolutionary mindset of his group.

The trolley is now outside the bank, where Terra and Calvin hold a Black American man at gunpoint. While Langerman tries to reason with them, the American pours fuel all over the trolley on orders from the duo. Engulfed with fire, Johnny Clegg and Juluka’s "Impi" comes on. Calvin walks sideways towards the press with their cameras and shouts, “Free Nelson Mandela!”

This shifts the trajectory of the story. Nelson Mandela was sent to prison in 1964 for treason and opposing the apartheid regime. The clamor for his release in the film is underscored by the sheer stature of Johnny Clegg, who wasn’t just a singer and songwriter but a huge figure in the fight against apartheid.

Silverton Siege woman gun

Photo Credit: Neo Baepi/Netflix

His band, Julukua, was one of his successful racially mixed groups. Off their second album, African Litany, which was released in 1981, Impi is Zulu for ‘’war.’’ His version of "Asimbonanaga" was made with his other band Savuka from their album Third World Child and was dedicated to political prisoners, especially Mandela.

Silverton Siege isn’t a film without a body count. Outside the bank demanding for the release of Mandela, Calvin and the bank supervisor Christine (Elaine Dekker) have put away their differences. Unfortunately, she’s shot by a rooftop sniper from the SWAT team.

"Hamba Khale Umkhonto" permeates this scene where she dies. It’s forlorn and mournful. When Silverton Siege —which was released on Freedom Day last month — ends, the sacrifice of the trio becomes symbolic for what comes later: freedom.


Interview

How Women Are Becoming Decision Makers In Nigerian Music

We speak to five Nigerian music executives who are showing the way forward for women in the industry.

I’m about thirty minutes deep into my conversation with Tosin Sorinola on a Tuesday night in March when the Boomplay Director of Artist & Media Relations tells me something that spikes our conversation.

“Back then you could walk into a meeting with a male colleague and everyone there only wants to talk to the guy. They would ignore you and shelve you aside. The meeting starts and, as a lady, when you speak, the men in the room are shocked, nodding their heads like ‘oh, she’s smart’.”

She’s not the only one saying that. Days later that same week, while speaking to Osagie Osarenz, Director of A&R/Operations (Africa) at ONErpm, she mentions a similar thing. Osagie alludes to making suggestions in a meeting and nobody paying attention.

Talking to Mavin Records’ Director of A&R Rima Tahini, lawyer and entertainment executive Oyinkansola "Foza" Fawehinmi, and Chocolate City Music’s Executive Vice President Aibee Abidoye—they all signal towards a lack of recognition for women in the Nigerian music industry.

What went wrong a decade ago?

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Music
Photo: Jamie Kelter Davis.

Mdou Moctar Treads Lightly On 'Afrique Refait' Remix Album

The Niger guitarist and songwriter gets remixed by many of Africa's cutting-edge electronic producers in Afrique Refait.

Mdou Moctar, Niger's maverick songwriter, puts down his guitar and lets others have a go on the release of Afrique Refait—a remix of last year's outstanding Afrique Victime LP on US imprint Matador Records.

An album that blazes with the crystallized energy of the Sahara: Afrique Victime stands up as a furious attack on the French military's presence in his home region of the Sahel and takes the listener on a psychedelic death trip—from fury to genuine sorrow and back again.

Moctar has gone from local hero in his city of Agadez to international acclaim; having his music widely shared on Bluetooth from one cellphone to another in Niger, to being constantly on the road across the U.S. and the rest of the world. His 2015 Rain the Color of Blue with A Little Red In It, a remake of Prince's Purple Rain movie, set in the desert rather than in Minneapolis was outrageously inspiring and demonstrated that he could more than live up to the bill as a challenging artist with universal appeal.

Afrique Refait, which seems to be driven by Moctar's producer and bassist Mikey Coltun, takes the album away from the infinite cosmos and into the studios of many of Africa's cutting-edge electronic producers. As a means to support and bring attention to African artists as well as keeping Afrique Victime in the spotlight, it manages to largely offer only a spotty take on the original songs and damp evidence to what these artists are capable of when creating music from scratch.

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Arts + Culture
Photo: Brice Esso

Ivorian Sculptor Brice Esso On Using African Tradition To Create ‘Baby Heads’

The artist speaks to us about how his move to the United States provided him the experiential learning he needed to pivot to from economics to sculpting.

Born in 1991 in Dabou, Côte D’Ivoire, Brice Esso, was almost destined to sculpt—with a father who was a geologist and an upbringing in a country in which he was surrounded by terracotta objects, pots, plates, and homes. After acquiring a bachelor’s in economics from Georgia State University, where he had honed his skills as a photographer and craftsman, he enrolled in the New York Academy of Art in 2015, to pursue a masters in drawing, and then transferred to sculpture.

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