News

Yale Hosts Its Very First 'Africa Salon' With Angélique Kidjo, Just A Band, Jean Grae, Shingai Shoniwa & More

In March, Yale University hosted its very first 'AFRICA SALON' with Just A Band, Angélique Kidjo, Jean Grae, Shingai Shoniwa and more.

Last month Yale hosted its very first AFRICA SALON, a two-day event produced by the Yale Africa Initiative that featured a series of panels, readings, screenings, and performances by the likes of Just A Band, Jean Grae, 54 Kingdoms, Kae SunBibi Bakare-Yusuf, special guests Angélique Kidjo, The Noisettes' Shingai Shoniwa and others. Below, AFRICA SALON curator Ifeanyi Awachie shares her full recap from the weekend.


The SALON packed Yale’s Afro-American Cultural Center for two days of conversations with emerging and established artists from the continent and diaspora, topped off with a concert and after party. Attendees heard thinkers and practicing artists go head-to-head on topics like “The African Imagination and the Western Market,” a discussion on the role of Western validation in the production of contemporary African literature. Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, founder of progressive Nigerian publishing house Cassava Republic Press and a 2012 Yale World Fellow, led the discussion joined by Commonwealth Prize-winning writer and columnist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani and Kenyan writer Ivy Nyayieka, who was one of several "Yale Artists to Watch" (a distinction we created for the salon).

Brooklyn’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts produced a panel on contemporary African visual art. MoCADA Exhibitions Director Isissa Komada-John led the conversation “In Search of an African Aesthetic” featuring Zimbabwean multimedia artist Rebecca Aston (another Yale Artist to Watch), Nigerian visual artist ruby amanze, and photographer Laylah Amatullah Barrayn. We also partnered with the Johannesburg Pavilion Film Programme, a new platform by the FNB Johannesburg Art Fair, to screen four South African films in advance of their showing at this May’s Venice Biennale. New Haven-based Pan-African fashion house and six-time Africa Fashion Week participants 54 Kingdoms took a break from creating their distinctive luxury and casual pieces to talk about the inspiration and practicalities involved in producing modern African fashion.

More than 200 people filled Yale’s grand and cavernous Battell Chapel for the main concert. Ghanaian-Canadian musician Kae Sun opened the show and had the crowd on its feet with his most recent song “l o n g w a l k” and a few older favorites. Next up was FELA aKUsTIc, the new project from Fela! star Sahr Ngaujah and Ricky Quinones, who delivered stripped-down yet fervent reinterpretation of classic Kuti. South African-born rapper Jean Grae had the audience joining in on perhaps the first soul train line the chapel had ever seen. Kenyan headliners Just A Band brought Grae’s house party energy to the next level with their signature blend of house, funk and disco. Their set also included a brand new track, “Ambapo,” which may have hinted a new sound for the band.

The show ended with a surprise superwoman-powered finale featuring two unexpected guests: Angeliqué Kidjo and Shingai Shoniwa, the Zimbabwean-British frontwoman of rock outfit The Noisettes. The two joined Just A Band, Jean Grae, Sahr, and Kae Sun on stage for a cover of Fela’s “Lady.”

AFRICA SALON will be back at Yale in 2016. Find out more over here.

Culture

The Best African Memes of 2018

Laugh with us into 2019 with OkayAfrica's best African memes of 2018.

Meme culture has become a mainstay on these internet streets. It's essentially an alternate form of communicating, of commentary and of simple laughter. 2018 had its fair share of highs and lows, and young Africans continue to utilize memes to celebrate or to cope with the nonsense.

To reflect on the African memes that broke the internet this year, we tapped contributors and African meme tastemakers to list the best African memes of 2018.

Laugh away below.

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The Black Women Who Made Big Strides in France in 2018

Yes, this was a bad year for many reasons, but we can still celebrate the black women who rose to prominence

Back in 2015, a group of Black women activists appeared in the French media: les afrofems. They were and still are, fighting against police brutality, for better inclusion in the media and to destroy harmful sexual stereotypes surrounding black women among other worthy goals. Since then, more influential Black women have gained a bigger representation in the media. And, even better, some of the afrofems activists, like Laura Nsafou and Amandine Gay, have made films and written books to bring more diversity to the entertainment industry.

2018 has, in many ways, been a year where black women made strides in France, at least in terms of culture. From winning Nobel prizes, to having best selling books and being on top of the charts, Black French women have showed that, no matter how much France wants to keep them under the radar, they're making moves. And, no matter the tragedies and terrible events that have shaped the year, it is something worth celebrating.

France's New Queen of Pop Music

We begin with Aya Nakamura, France's new queen of pop music. Her song Djadja was a summer hit. Everyone from Rihanna, to the French football team who successfully won their second world cup, sang it. Her sophomore album "Nakamura" has been certified gold in France and is still on top of the charts. She is the first French singer to have a number one album in the Netherlands since Edith Piaf in 1961. The last time a black woman was as visible in pop music was in 2004, with Lynsha's single "Hommes...Femmes".

Nakamura has received a huge backlash, mostly due to misogynoir—misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles. From a French presenter butchering her African first name despite the fact that he can easily pronounce words like "Aliagas", to online trolls calling her ugly and manly when a picture of her wearing no makeup surfaced, to people complaining that she is bringing down the quality of the entire French pop music industry, Nakamura responds to her critics gracefully. Her music is not groundbreaking but her album is full of catchy songs with lyrics using French slang she masters so well that she came up with her own words like "en catchana" (aka doggy style sex). And most importantly, many black girls and women can finally see someone like them in the media getting the success she deserves.

The Nobel Prize Winner

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Another Black French woman has broken records this year: the Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé who won the Alternative Nobel Prize, a prize meant to replace the Nobel Prize in Literature, after the scandal that the Swedish Academy of Literature faced last year. Condé wrote her first novel at only 11 years old and has been prolific ever since. A former professor of French literature at Columbia University, she has published more than 20 books since the 1970s, exploring the complex relationships within the African diaspora. "Segu", her most famous novel, is about the impact of the slave trade and Abrahamic religion on the Bambara empire in Mali in the 19th century. Condé's work is radical and she remains committed to writing feminist texts exploring the link between gender, race and class, as well as exploring the impact of colonialism. Condé is a pillar of Caribbean literature and it's taken long enough for her work has been acknowledged by the Nobel prize committee.

The Children's Books Writers

From Comme un Million de Papillon Noir

And finally, 2018 has been the year where France's children's literature industry has finally understood how important, for the public, writers and publishers, being inclusive and diverse was. From Laura Nsafou's Comme un Million de Papillon Noir, a best selling book about a young black girl learning to love her natural hair which sold more than 6000 copies, to Neiba Je-sais-tout: Un Portable dans le Cartable, the second book of Madina Guissé published this year after a successful crowdfunding campaign, there are more and more children's and young adult books with non white protagonists. In France, there are still no stats about how diversity is doing, but in America, in 2017, only 7 percent of writers of children's literature were either Black, Latino or Native American.

There's still much to accomplish in France for the Black community to have better representation in the media, politics and all walks of life, but important strides have been accomplished this year, and it make me hopeful for what 2019 and the following years have in store.

News

J Hus Has Been Sentenced to Eight Months in Jail for Knife Possession

The rapper has been convicted following an arrest in June.

Gambian-Biritish grime rapper J Hus has been sentenced to eight months in prison for knife possesion, reports BBC News.

The artist, neé Momodou Jallow, was arrested in Stratford London in June when police pulled him over near a shopping center, claming that they smelled cannabis. Police officers asked Hus if he was carrying anything illegal, to which the rapper admitted that he had a 10cm folding knife in his possession. When asked why, he responded: "You know, it's Westfield."

Hus pleaded guilty at a hearing in October after initially pleading not guilty.

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