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Photo by Ciku Kimeria

Who Are the Black-Painted Mandinga Warriors of São Vicente's Carnival?

We explore the fascinating history behind a curious carnival tradition in Sao Vicente, Cape Verde.

Tens of thousands of people gather in early March every year in the island of Sao Vicente for Carnival. As one of Cape Verde's 10 islands, its major claim to fame is as the home of the legendary singer Cesaria Evora who was known as "The Barefoot Diva" and almost always performed with a bottle of Cognac on stage and a cigarette in her hand. Though it is now the second largest island in the country in terms of population and the unrivaled capital of culture in the country, it was mostly uninhabited until the mid to late 19th century.

One of the most breathtaking sights from the Sao Vicente Carnival is that of The Mandingas. While they are a common sight throughout the festival, the day fully dedicated to them is the final day of Carnival known as The Mandinga Funeral/Carnival Funeral. The carnival funeral is an occasion for people to honor their black ancestors while also mourning the end of the festival. Greased completely in oil and tar, donning sisal skirts and carrying spears, they are a sight to behold as they transform themselves into Mandinga warriors. Everyone follows them from the relatively poor neighborhood of Ribeira Bote as they carry two black coffins with some in the crowd donning similar attire. The crowd chants, sings and dances while the Mandingas call out, "Harrrrrrryaa!" The parade through the streets lasts all day culminating in the sunset burial of the coffins in the ocean. The crowd is worked into a frenzy as the drums beat louder and a sort of orgiastic, other-worldly energy takes hold of the crowd. Some people jump into the ocean following the coffins.

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Photo via TONL

Seven Things You Need to Know About Traveling in Africa on an African Passport

The dream of visa-free travel in Africa for Africans is still a dream, but it's changing. Here's what you should know.

If you've ever tried to travel around the continent on an African visa, you know that it can be quite confusing. From having to contact embassies in third countries to obtuse rules at customs. A few years back when I was backpacking through Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin, I was asked to provide various documentation from my hosts. This documentation had to be stamped by a high ranking police officer in their countries of residency.

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"Thought Straighterner" by Cuban art collective The Merger Photo: Ciku Kimeria

In Conversation: The Director of The Museum of Black Civilizations

Hamady Boucoum talks about the return of Africa's looted treasures and how the museum is subverting expectations

In his novel Foreign Gods, Inc., critically acclaimed Nigerian novelist, Okey Ndibe, tells the story of Ike, a New York-based Nigerian cab driver who sets out to steal the statue of an ancient war deity from his home village and sell it to a New York gallery. Driven to this point of desperation by a series of unfortunate events in his life as a migrant, Ike hatches a plan to steal this statue that, in modern times, he believes, means little to his people—but one that could fetch him a pretty penny if it gets into the hands of collectors in the West.

I could not help but contrast this image with that of me walking into the new Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar, flanked by busloads of Senegalese school children eager and excited to see artifacts from around their continent, in their own continent. The fact that African art did not have to leave the continent to be valued is perhaps the most vital aspect of this fabulous new museum.

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