News Brief

The UN has Declared the Airstrike on Migrants in Libya a War Crime

It is reported that 44 migrants have been killed while 130 injured after an airstrike on a detention center outside of Libya's capital city.

Tajoura Detention Center, which houses approximately 600 migrants, lies just outside of Libya's capital city, Tripoli. The BBC reports that women and children as well as a UN official were among those hit during an airstrike on the detention center which occurred on Tuesday evening.


Libya has been ravaged by war since President Muammar Gaddafi was ousted back in 2011 after a bloody coup. Currently, there are several military and political factions, two of which are led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and General Khalifa Haftar.

Africans from the Sub-Saharan region are constantly attempting to flee from their respective countries into Europe through Libya. The resulting migrant crisis has led to numerous detention centers being established as the European Union works with the Libyan coastguard to intercept boats ferrying migrants across treacherous seas.

The United Nations has since described the attack as "amounting to a war crime". Describing the aftermath of the airstrike, an official from Libya's Health Ministry, Dr Khalid Bin Attia, said, "People were everywhere, the camp was destroyed, people are crying here, there is psychological trauma, the lights cut off. We couldn't see the area very clear but just when the ambulance came, it was horrible, blood is everywhere, somebody's guts in pieces."

According to Al Jazeera, whilst not as yet confirmed, General Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) are reportedly behind the attack as part of their continued attempt to seize Tripoli.

Popular
Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Bobi Wine Takes His Fight to Venice

Hoping to attract a broader interest in his mission to end dictatorial rule, the Ugandan musician and politician features in a buzzed-about documentary screening at this year’s Venice International Film Festival.


“I had almost forgotten how to be among stars,” tweeted Bobi Wine, tongue-in-cheek, as he posted pictures of his arrival on the red carpet at the Venice International Film Festival for the premiere of Bobi Wine: Ghetto President. Billed as an ‘observational documentary,’ the film brings Wine’s story – how he rose from the informal settlement of Kamwokya and became a star himself – together with his pursuit of justice and democracy in his homeland of Uganda, to an international audience.

Bobi Wine: Ghetto President is showing out of competition and so isn’t up for the festival’s main prize, the Golden Lion. But that’s not why Wine, aka Robert Kyagulanyi, traveled to Italy, wearing the trademark red beret symbol of his People Power movement. Instead, he’s hoping the film draws attention to a cause he’s been championing for the last 5 years.

“I want the people in the international community to know that somewhere in the world, somewhere in Africa, in a country called Uganda, people are being massacred for what they think,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. Above that, Wine is calling for an end to the support President Yoweri Museveni has received, and wants the international community – specifically the US, which provides aid to Uganda – to be aware of how that money is being used to “undermine human rights and democracy in Uganda.”

Taking the film to a prestigious international festival such as Venice presents Wine with a global platform. In a tweet posted by the Venice Film Festival, he’s quoted as saying, “What is happening in Uganda is terrible. I am glad #BobiWineGhettoPresident will bring it to light. People are voiceless there: they need someone to speak for them.”

The film shows how Wine has endeavored to be that voice, both in song and in speech. It traces the start of his grassroots political campaign in 2017 up to 2021, when he ran against Museveni in the presidential elections, and lost, in what many international organizations deemed was a questionable outcome, with claims of vote tampering and fraud.

Ghetto President is directed by Christopher Sharp, who was born in Uganda, and Moses Buyo, an activist who took over camera duties when the film’s previous camera people left the production. Both Sharp and Buyo knew of Wine through his music and had been fans of the messages he sought to share in his music. Following Wine and his wife, Barbie, with fly-on-the-wall footage, the film immerses the audience in their relationship and the trials its undergone as a result of Wine's political activities. One such attack left Wine seeking treatment from the US for his injuries. Indeed, Buyo, too, has suffered his share of assault in making the film, having been shot in the face with a rubber bullet, and also arrested numerous times, while filming.

A still from the documentary Bobi Wine:

A still from the documentary Bobi Wine: Ghetto President, which is currently playing at this year's Venice Film Festival.

Photo: La Biennale Di Venezia

Festival director Alberto Barbera called the documentary “powerful” and “unbelievable,” and it’s received positive reviews so far, with Deadline lauding its ‘stirring’ scenes and message of hope. Similar to Sam Soko’s documentary, Softie, which followed Kenyan photographer-turned-politician Boniface Mwangi, the film is also being heralded for the love story at the center of it, between Wine and Barbie, and how they've persisted in the face of numerous violent actions.

While Ghetto President details Uganda and Wine's specific struggle to fight for democracy, some reviewers have noted it holds a message for governments further afield too. The Hollywood Reporter's Daniel Feinberg says its call to action to hold Museveni accountable speaks to the West's need to 'keep an eye on its own democratic virtues too.' In bringing his message to the world, through the form of a documentary that gets people talking, Wine may also find it resonates far beyond Uganda in ways he could not have imagined.

Literature
Photo: Ruvimbo Muchenje

Despite Persecution, Tsitsi Dangarembga Writes On

The award-winning novelist is awaiting judgment, slated for the end of September, on charges of inciting public violence.

Zimbabwean filmmaker, activist and author Tsitsi Dangarembga remains defiant, continuing to write, despite ongoing persecution from the government. She was arrested in 2020 along with another activist, Julie Barnes, while holding placards calling for reform and the release of investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono, in the leafy suburb of Borrowdale, Harare.

The President Emmerson Mnangagwa-led regime arrested several prominent activists and opposition party figures to allegedly thwart planned mass demonstrations over poor governance and state-security brutality during the COVID 19 era, in mid-2020. Chin'ono, one of the country’s most prominent journalists, was arrested for exposing a corruption scandal during the pandemic.

Dangarembga, who became the first Black woman winner of the 2021 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade for her creative work and social engagement, has had numerous work opportunities affected by the ongoing trial against her. Although she has been able to go to the UK to attend the Edinburgh International Book Festival and promote her latest publication – Faber and Faber recently released a book of her essays, titled Black and Female, there – she has missed other chances to travel.

As in most developing nations, the arts sector in Zimbabwe does not pay much and most creatives look out for various opportunities for survival in a country hit by economic malaise, shortages of basic commodities and currency crisis. When Dangarembga was released on bail in 2020, surrendering her passport to the police to ensure she would not flee the country was part of her bail condition.

“In the beginning, I was very optimistic that the case would be dealt with speedily,” she says, adding that in December 2020 when she received her passport back to attend her fellowship at the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study in Cape Town, in neighboring South Africa, she did not think the case would have much impact on her work.

The magistrate who ruled in the matter even told her that the charges were not grave. “I received my passport back and no longer reported weekly from December 2020, which was a relief,” says Dangarembga. But she realized her predicament at the hands of the regime in her homeland was far from over when the state took a long time to prepare for trial and kept changing dates.

“It was difficult to adjust my schedule to the court dates. With the creative economy in Zimbabwe being as depressed and specific as it is, I cannot afford to miss any opportunity to earn a living,” she says. “I missed an important teaching job in Johannesburg that I still think about with regret to this day. I love mentoring young African people to tell their stories, whether it be on screen or on paper.”

It is now more than two years since Dangarembga was placed on remand, waiting and going through trials for a case that has yet to be finalized. If convicted, she faces several years in prison. The judgment was due to be delivered on the 26th of August but it was postponed to September 29 because Dangarembga's co-accused did not attend court that day as she was outside the country.

Still, she continues to work on the projects that fuel her fire and further her message. Dangarembga is currently writing a young adult speculative dystopian fiction called Sai-Sai and the Great Ancestor of Fire. “This is the work that has suffered the most from the events of the last two years,” she says. Dangarembga says her concentration on fiction has been affected because the place she writes from is occupied with turmoil about the trial. “However, I was able to work on some screenplays,” she says.

“When the trial began in earnest I did not manage much work at all,” she says. “All my work is generated from my own internal environment as a writer, so the last five months or so have been very difficult for me.”

The 63-year-old writer, born in Mutoko, a town 143 kilometers northeast of Harare, moved to the UK at the age of two. She returned in 1980, before Zimbabwe gained independence from British colonialists. Her first novel, Nervous Conditions, won a Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1989. She is also credited for writing the story that was turned into Zimbabwe’s highest grossing film in 1993, Neria, and three years later, she became the first Black Zimbabwean woman to direct a feature film, Everyone’s Child. Just days before she was arrested in 2020, Dangarembga’s novel This Mournable Body, which is part of a series, was nominated for the prestigious Booker Prize.

Regarding Dangarembga’s case, Beatrice Mtetwa, a human rights lawyer, says there can be no doubt that it is persecution under the guise of prosecution. “The constitution provides for the freedom to demonstrate and to petition peacefully and there can be no doubt that a two-women protest could not have been anything but peaceful,” she says. “Dangarembga’s prosecution is, sadly, one of the many cases of abuse using the criminal justice system.”

Kenyan-based award-winning writer, editor and publisher Zukiswa Wanner says the state does not have a viable case. “It is tragic that Zimbabwean authorities are so full of fear that something as simple as a woman marching alone with a placard is seen as inciting public violence instead of it being seen as a request for them to do better by citizens,” Wanner, who's co-facilitated training workshops with Dangarembga around the continent, tells OkayAfrica.

Wanner, who was born in Zambia but raised in Zimbabwe, believes it’s the top government officials who've destroyed the country that should be in prison, not critics like Dangarembga. Upholding human rights, along with drawing attention to women and gender issues, has long been central to the work that has earned Dangarembga praise.

“I think the state targets dissenting voices. Some of those dissenting voices are women’s voices,” Dangarembga says. “I think the effect of taking action against women is particularly shocking because women’s dissident voices are usually not violent. Peaceful protest is a constitutional right in Zimbabwe.” And Dangarembga intends to exercise that right as much as she can.

Music
(Youtube)

Watch Burna Boy's Down-to-Earth Video For "Common Person"

The Nigerian superstar shares a memorable video for "Common Person," a creative visual presentation of Nigerian humanity amid the ebbs and flows of day-to-day life.


In Burna Boy's heart-warming music video for "Common Person," he shares a more vulnerable, likable version of himself that is often overshadowed by the limelight. The music video for the track off his critically acclaimed album, Love, Damini, showcases the global artist in an extremely down-to-earth and heart-warming manner.

Burna's new video further pushes the message of the song "Common Person": that one person is not better than the next, and despite his superstardom, he is a common person who has never forgotten his roots. In the music video, Burna can be seen interacting with residents of a working-class neighborhood, and partaking in every-day things that happen in several Nigerian working-class neighborhoods, including cooking and carrying buckets of water into the home. In several shots, the superstar is captured helping residents with car trouble kickstart their vehicle.

Ever since the release of Love, Damini, Burna Boy has continued to garner more success and international acclaim. Recently, he was nominated for Best Global Music Performance for the Gold RIAA certified hit, “Last, Last” and “Best Global Music Album” for his sixth studio album, Love, Damini at the upcoming 65th Annual Grammy Awards. Love, Damini, was also selected as a The New York Times’ Critics Pick , and described by OkayAfrica as "a story of victory, love, loss, pain and strength over a number of colorful musical influences." The music video for "Common Person" is a continuation of that story. Watch the video below.

Watch Burna Boy's music video for "Common Person"

Spotlight
Image courtesy of Umaimah

Spotlight: Animator Umaimah Is Here To Romanticize Your Life

We spoke with the Nigerian digital visual artist about inspiration being everywhere, and in every thing.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists, and more who are producing vibrant, original work.

In our latest piece, we spotlight Nigerian digital visual artist and designer Umaimah. The animator spent her childhood enveloped in the colorful, effervescent world of female-centered fantasy shows, and now uses her craft to recapture the very essence. With a strong emphasis on her identity as a Black African woman and the romanticization of the mundane, Umaimah has manifested the dreams of her younger self as she weaves little Black girls into her narrative animations. The artist's fascination with blending African fashion with ballerina attire has created a beautiful example of the 'Black girl joy' that many young African girls could only dream of. Staying true to her visions has boded well, as Umaimah's career has taken her to animation studios for Disney, Cartoon Network, Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, and more.

We spoke with Umaimah about making your art understood without dialogue and the power that comes in "looking at the world through rose-colored glasses".

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Can you tell us about the project that first inspired you to create?

There wasn't a particular project that inspired me to start creating, but rather a specific type of animated content I grew up watching that featured fantastic female characters. Stuff like Totally Spies, Winx, and Barbie movies heavily pushed me towards animation. Their influence is clear in my art, with how I use colors and draw my characters.

What are the central themes in your work?

When I look at my work as a singular piece, two things that stick out to me are the importance of identity and the romanticization of everyday life.

Usually, when people hear romance, they think of romantic relationships, but I'm talking about romance as an idealistic way of living. It's about the beauty in everyday things like getting coffee, taking a bath, or wearing your favorite outfit. These moments can be romantic to me; I show that in my work with my use of colors, lighting, or with the expression and pose of my subject. A quote similar to this theme is, "looking at the world through rose-colored glasses." Identity has also been a central theme in my art, where I specifically want my subjects to be Black African girls. Our families didn't raise many of us to see that we can live our lives in a 'romantic' way; instead, there is a constant emphasis on being tough and struggling. While that's OK for some, I want more African girls to know it's not our only option and we can live life like a movie's main character.

Where do you seek inspiration, and how does it find you?

One thing about being an artist is finding inspiration all around you, even when you're not looking for it. I've found inspiration in burnout or during a creative block. Everything around me has inspired me, like nature (especially flowers), my culture, books I've read, the music I love, and the relationships in my life. Recently, I've been inspired by both African and ballerina fashion. The juxtaposition of tulles and soft hues in ballet and the intricate geometric designs from Africa create visually exciting pieces and compositions in my art.

What do you believe sets African artists apart from the rest of the world?

A lot separates us from other artists; apart from being the only ones who can authentically capture the African experience in our work, we also carry the responsibility of presenting Africa to the world. As more African countries develop, more Africans can see art as a realistic career, which means that we get to have the chance to control our narratives more than we could in the past. With some of us coming from communities that hardly encourage artistic skills, we have no option but to mentor and teach ourselves everything about art, design, and creative thinking. I think that's pretty remarkable and resilient.

Can you talk about your use of colors and accessories?

Colors and accessories play a huge role in my work. They both serve as storytelling tools. As an artist and designer in animation, people should be able to interpret the story of any piece you create by just looking at it. "Story is king," as many animation professionals say. Color plays a role here because specific colors portray certain moods, which tells you half the story. It's why I prioritize it in my work. I need my art to be understood even without dialogue. Props and accessories do the same thing, but specifically for the characters in my art, I make it so anyone can quickly tell their personalities from their accessories.

What's something you wish someone told you at the beginning of your journey?

There's so much I wish I had known when I started chasing art and design as a career. I'll share two to start:

I wish I knew that it was okay not to be perfect while starting out and that it's okay to ask for help from your peers. I also wish I had been more patient with my artistic growth. I used to beat myself up for not being as good as people who had been in the animation field for five years. I still catch myself slipping down that path, and now can consciously talk myself out of it. I was rushing to find my style and voice because I felt I needed to do that to be as good as other artists who had established careers and seemed to have it together. Now, being friends with some of those artists, I've learned they've had their hard times too. Comparing myself at that point didn't benefit me or my work, but it slowed me down.

Image courtesy of the artist

Artwork by Umaimah

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C.J. Obasi On Bringing the Legend of Mami Wata to the Big Screen

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