Africa’s textile heritage is key to a sustainable future

A tailor shows his work to a potential customer at his clothes shop in Accra. Image Courtesy: Getty Images

Recently hosted and curated by Twyg and Imiloa Collective, the inaugural Africa Textile Talks 2023 gathered over 150 people to witness presentations, discussions and exhibition of sustainable textiles from across the continent, to map the way forward in practical and poetic steps.

A purpose-drive Pan African conversation

Attendees came from Mauritius, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa representing roles all along the value chain. Merging the worlds of fashion and artisanal craft, with textiles being the middle ground, Africa Textile Talks 2023 celebrated and demonstrated support for the growing African textile ecosystem that acts with care for people and the planet.

In the opening address, Kenyan creative director and cultural producer, Sunny Dolat, referred to Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui, who once said, “Cloth is to the African what monuments are to Westerners.”

This set the tone for Dolat’s keynote on African textiles as vessels of memory, identities, and heritage. Dolat is the co-founder of The Nest Collective, a multidisciplinary collective living and working in Nairobi, Kenya.

Yvette Tetteh, Sammy Oteng and Kennie MacCarthy from The Or Foundation – a pioneering Ghanaian organisation – spoke about the need for a new justice-led and circular textile economy, based on their research into the international secondhand clothing market and work supporting circular textile solutions in one of the biggest secondhand markets in the world, the Kantamanto Market in Accra.

Tetteh recently completed the Agbetsi Living Water Expedition – a 450km swim down the Volta River System in Ghana. During the swim, Tetteh and the research team collected water samples every day for their scientific research on microplastic and water pollution from fashion waste.

A deep dive into traditional and next gen textiles

On exhibit at Africa Textile Talks was a curation of textiles that are slow, considered, natural and kind to the environment. In many cases, these textiles can become pathways to a more circular, kinder world. The exhibition included innovative and age-old materials from industrially woven fabrics, hand woven fabrics from Sabahar in Ethiopia, recycled denim from Mauritius, upcycled textile waste from Madagascar and Nigeria, banana fibre from Madagascar, wild silk, ShweShwe, Kuba cloth, to Bògòlanfini (mud cloth).

Sappi showcased their climate-positive forest to (viscose) fashion process – from saplings to finished Tshepo Jeans garments. On showcase, too, was a visual farm-to-fashion display from Cape Wools, with samples of processed wool.

Included was a newly developed future-fit fabric made from pineapple waste brought along by Kenyan speaker and entrepreneur, Noreen Mwancha from Rethread Africa. Garments from Uni Form, Viviers, and Lukhanyo Mdingi were on show as examples of what the outcomes of caring, considered textile processes can be.

The Lukhanyo Mdingi spring / summer 2023 collection pays homage to the CABES Textile community in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. A short film screened at the Talks showcased this community’s work and the connection to the Lukhanyo Mdingi brand.

“Our collective future depends on our ability to dissolve barriers and create shared solutions. Textiles are a medium for social change,” says Jackie May of Twyg. The Africa Textile Talks 2023 was a catalyst in this movement.

In summary, Imiloa Collective’s Priya Ramkissoon says, “The Africa Textile Talks truly showcased our commitment and vision to build a brighter and connected future. Our event was not only a celebration of the continent’s achievements, but it also created a pan African platform for fostering sustainability, cross-cultural exchange, and the sharing of invaluable knowledge.”

Uganda: 30th anniversary celebration of the coronation of King of Buganda

People cheer during Kabaka (King) Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II’s 30th year coronation celebration at his palace in Mengo, Kampala, on July 31, 2023.   –   Copyright © africanews
BADRU KATUMBA/AFP or licensors

By Rédaction Africanews and AFP

Thousands of Ugandans on Monday thronged the palace grounds of the country’s largest kingdom Buganda, defying rain as they danced and ululated to mark 30 years since the coronation of King Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II.

Dressed in traditional attire — with men wearing a white tunic called a “kanzu’ and women donning “bitenge” dresses — the revellers prayed for the 68-year-old monarch, whose ancestors ruled a region that includes Uganda’s modern-day capital Kampala.

As the sound of royal drums reverberated, the king, wearing the customary ceremonial attire of a leopard skin and cloth made from tree bark, waved to the crowd while a supporter hoisted him onto his shoulders.

“This is a joyous moment”, said Charles Peter Mayiga, prime minister of Buganda, which is a constitutional monarchy within Uganda.

“We are here to celebrate the coronation but also to pray for the good health of our king and (that) he continues to lead his kingdom,” said shop attendant Annet Nakafeero, 34, who brought her four-year-old daughter to the festivities.

Schoolchildren performed songs during the celebration at the hilltop palace in Kampala, as officials from the kingdom and the central government watched.

The king, known as the Kabaka, occupies a largely ceremonial role, but has previously had run-ins with the government of President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled over Uganda with an iron fist.

In 2009, the authorities closed down the Buganda-run radio station CBS for a year, accusing its broadcasters of “inciting hatred” after people loyal to the monarch began rioting in Kampala over the government’s decision to restrict his movements within the kingdom.

At least 27 people died during the anti-riot operations conducted by the security services.

The bush war that brought Museveni to power in 1986 was successful largely due to Buganda’s support.

Many in Buganda despised Museveni’s rival, former president Milton Obote, because he outlawed tribal kingdoms and forced the Kabaka into exile.

Cameroonian sculptor transforming wastes into arts

Joseph Francis Sumegne with his sculptures   –   Copyright © africanews

By Rédaction Africanews

In Yaoundé, Cameroon, a painter and sculptor Joseph Francis Sumegne presents his exhibition “La citadelle des anciens” (“The citadel of the elders”). Half-man, half-animal sculpture made from objects of all kinds. The result is an impressive display of creations from another world.

“The artist uses what I’d call banal materials to sublimate them. And when you look at them, you’re really amazed by the details; and it also contributes to preserving the environment,” asserts a visitor to the exhibition.

A work that protects the environment, since the raw material comes from garbage dumps. Waste that the artist sees in a different light.

“It’s not the rubbish, nor the salvaged material, it’s the utensils of creation” declares Joseph Francis Sumegne.

The heart of his work is the “9 Notables”, a collection of giant mannequins that began in 1988. Arranged here in the image of a conclave of dignitaries from the traditional Bamilékés societies of West Cameroon, they challenge modern society.

“It’s to draw attention to the rupture between the two societies. To enable Man to assess which of the two societies is favorable to his happiness, the old one and the new one that manages us today,” explained the artist.

It’s the sculptor’s life’s work. And to get to the cradle of his work, you have to go to Yaoundé’s 6th arrondissement. SUMEGNE defines himself as a sculptor of “Jala’a”, a philosophy that deals with surpassing oneself. His work (the 9 notables) began at a workshop similar to a rubbish dump, which he calls the mediatory.

“It’s here that the 9 Notables were born, because at the time I was working on an experiment with motor oil cans, and this experiment lead me into a direction of research that resulted in what today we call the Notables,” revealed the visual artist.

This self-taught artist’s work has already been shown at the Dak’art biennial in Senegal, in the Netherlands and in Osaka, Japan.

Additional sources • Anatole Malong

Reviving Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum: Ghana’s Founding Father Honored

Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park   –   Copyright © africanews
@motac_gh – @motac_gh

By Rédaction Africanews and Peter Quao Adattor

In the heart of Ghana’s capital, Accra, stands a symbol of national pride and historical significance – the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, dedicated to the country’s first prime minister and President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

Recently, this prestigious memorial has undergone a remarkable renovation, ensuring its enduring legacy and cultural significance for generations to come.

As the sun rises over Accra, the renovated Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum gleams with newfound splendour. The mausoleum, a tribute to Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, now stands tall with grand design and a serene ambience, offering visitors a glimpse into the life and achievements of this pan-Africanist leader.

Cecilia Antwi Kyem, a local tourist, expressed her admiration for Dr Kwame Nkrumah, describing him as a visionary leader whose memorial park is a fitting gesture to appreciate the vision he had for the country.

For international tourists like Melissa Myles, the mausoleum is a “beautiful dedication to a great man.” Carefully curated artifacts, photographs, and exhibits now showcase Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s life and his important contributions to Ghana’s independence movement, providing visitors with a comprehensive understanding of his remarkable journey.

As visitors explore the mausoleum, they find themselves immersed in Ghana’s rich history and are encouraged to embrace the vision of a united, prosperous, and progressive nation. Talisha Walker, a tourist from New York, described the experience of seeing Dr. Kwame Nkrumah lying in the mausoleum as “powerful and emotional.”

With its grand architecture and meticulously curated exhibits, the mausoleum has become a place of reverence, commemorating the visionary leader who played a pivotal role in shaping Ghana’s history.

As Ghana continues to progress and grow, the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum remains a beacon of inspiration, reminding the nation of its roots and the path paved by its founding father.

For anyone with an appreciation for history, culture, and the vision of a better future, the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in Accra is a must-visit destination.

Congo celebrates the 11th edition of the Pan-African Music Festival

Cleared   –   Copyright © africanews

By Rédaction Africanews

20 years ago, at the 2003 edition, the Alphonse Massamba-Débat stadium was chosen as the venue for the largest stage of the Pan-African Music Festival, which the Congo has not hosted since 2015 due to the economic crisis and the Coronavirus.

“We’re really delighted that Fespam is coming back. Because we participated in previous editions. We’re very happy that it’s coming back. We’ve created new dances and new scenes, and it’s a brand-new show,” he says.

Talented artists such as Ferré Gola from the Democratic Republic of Congo and rumba champions Roga-Roga from Congo-Brazzaville are among the performers. They are joined by Malian Sidiki Diabaté.

Music lovers can also enjoy performances by Gospel choirs, who are also delighted to be back at Fespam.

“By the way, Fespam is like a mother who has traveled so much and left her children behind. The children have complained so much. The children’s hearts hurt. When we see Fespam again, we embrace it. It’s like children who see their mother come back and embrace them,” says Louange Magnifique Makosso, Gospel guitarist.

The Palais du Parlement in Brazzaville is the venue for the symposium and exhibition of traditional musical instruments.

These include the royal drums of Ghana, the traditional violin of Togo, the musical bow of Angola and the emblematic cordophone of the tales and legends of the Congo Basin.

Senegalese cultural expert Alioune Diop fully appreciates the value of these instruments.

“It’s something fundamental. I see traditional instruments as a basis of identity, a strong, lively expression. Everything starts from the traditional aspect. Traditional instruments play the role of guiding us towards other horizons, other nations and other cultures for exchange,” he says.

Fespam shows run until July 22.

For this year’s relaunch, Fespam organizers have set up entertainment sites in working-class neighborhoods, like this one in Mayanga on the other side of the Djoué River. Rumba is certainly celebrated, but Gospel also has its place .

South Africa: uncertainty surrounding Zulu king’s health

King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini, centre, flanked by fellow warriors in traditional dress at the KwaKhangelamankengane Royal Palace, during a ceremony, in Nongoma, May 7, 2021.   –   Copyright © africanews
AP/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

By Rédaction Africanews

Uncertainty reigned on Sunday over the health of South Africa’s Zulu king, the head of the country’s most influential traditional monarchy, with his spokesman denying reports he had been hospitalised.

Misuzulu Zulu, 48, ascended the throne last year after the death of his father, Goodwill Zwelithini, amid a bitter feud over the royal succession.

Overnight on Saturday, the influential Zulu prime minister, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, said in a press release that the monarch had been hospitalised in the neighbouring country of Eswatini after falling ill.

The king believe he was being poisoned, after the sudden and unexpected death of one of his close advisers on Saturday, he said.

Although the title of king of the Zulu nation does not bestow executive power, the monarchs wield great moral influence over more than 11 million Zulus, who make up nearly a fifth of South Africa’s population of 60 million people.

King Zwelithini, who died after more than 50 years in charge, left six wives and at least 28 children.

Misuzulu is the first son of Zwelithini’s third wife, who he designated as regent in his will.

The queen however died suddenly a month after Zwelithini, leaving a will naming Misuzulu as the next king, a development that did not go down well with other family members.

S.A: Exhibition confronts destruction of African wildlife

Lion’s Revenge, an installation by artist and photographer Roger Ballen is displayed at Inside Out Centre for the Arts in Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, May 31, 2023.   –   Copyright © africanews
Themba Hadebe/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

By Rédaction Africanews and AP

Africa’s fauna is at the heart of Roger Ballen’s latest exhibition. The artist explores through installations and multimedia works the troubled relationship between humans and nature.

The exhibition titled End of The Game has drawn crowds to Johannesburg’s Inside Out Centre for the Arts since March 28.

“There are a lot of people who grew up in the cities in Africa and other places in the world who have no relationship to nature. They spend their lives in a city. They don’t hardly know what a tree looks like anymore. Their whole life is virtual,” the artist argues.

“…they have no relationship to nature itself. This exhibition also wanted to also make people familiar that there is a natural world out there and there is a crisis going on.”

From the killing of elephants in the 18th century that began the ivory trade to the decimation of the rhino population from animal hunting, Ballen argues through his provocative art installations and multimedia artworks that humans remain at the forefront of the destruction of African wildlife.

The 73-year-old American-born photographer used artefacts collected from metal scrap yards, hunting farms, pawn shops and roadsides during his local and international travels over a career of more than 40 years.

“What you find here are artistic installations, and artistic installations are, in a way, putting things together in such a way that they were never seen that way before.”

“So, you create a greater impact because it’s not just putting things together in a way that everybody knows they should go together. It’s putting things together in an imaginative, creative way that still has an impact and challenges the viewer in all sorts of ways…”

One of the centerpieces of the exhibition is the documentary section, which includes objects, texts, photographs and books documenting early years of hunting expeditions in Africa.

The section deals with the initial destruction of African wildlife around 1890, 1900 and 1910, says Ballen.

A curated display with early versions of weapons and ammunition used to kill bigger animals leads into the “Hunter’s Room” a staged installation depicting archival photographs and items in a staged safari setting.

A hunter figure made from wax is the main character in the room, surrounded by his hunting memorabilia and collectibles.

Publicized hunting expeditions

Some of the photographs include archive pictures of former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt’s much publicized hunting expeditions in Kenya and Winston Churchill’s east African safari, both in the early 1900s.

Hunters can be seen on films towering victoriously over their trophies, mostly dead giraffes, elephants and rhino.

Others depict Africans having conquered elephants, lions and leopards.

Items on display include animal skins, rusted metal and steel beds, thick halyards and dilapidated wooden furniture.

The exhibit will remain on display indefinitely.

A typical Saturday morning at the gallery is a hive of activity as visitors come in to see what some have described as a “thought-provoking” body of work.

“I think people will walk away from here thinking about their relationship with animals and how they feel about conservation and hunting and things like that,” says Shelley Drynan, a visitor to the gallery.

Sarah Wilding, another visitor who says she was familiar with Ballen’s earlier works, says she is stirred by the exhibition’s varied depiction of African wildlife and its destruction over many years.

“To just be here and feel the melancholy and the mystery, there are just so many emotions swelling, it is truly a fantastic experience to be here,” she says.

Voters await results in Guinea-Bissau

A voter casts her ballot at a polling station in Bissau on June 04, 2023   –   Copyright © africanews
SAMBA BALDE/AFP or licensors

By Africanews

Votes are being counted in Guinea-Bissau following Sunday’s legislative elections.

Around 600 soldiers were deployed to ensure security during the electoral process.

Voters are seeking to end instability after a coup attempt in February 2022 led to the dissolution of the National Assembly.

“There were no problems and voting took place peacefully. No arguments or fights were reported. The atmosphere was good. People came out to vote in droves. Everyone had their say on who would represent them for the next four years. In any case, everyone voted as they saw fit”, said voting bureau member, Barros Pesse.

Some 200 international observers were on hand to monitor the elections.

President Embaló’s Madem G15 party and the African Party for Independence of Guinea and Cape Vert (PAIGC) are the two largest parties.

Results are expected on Tuesday.

The balafon, an ancient African instrument

Paukum Bassi, a Cameroonian balafon musician.   –   Copyright © africanews
Cleared / Anadolu

By Rédaction Africanews and Anadolu

Paukum Bassi is a Cameroonian balafon musician.

He plays an instrument that is a type of struck idiophone. Known as balafon, the sort of xylophone can be constructed of animal hors, skins and wood.

It is believed to have been crafted in 12th century in the Sosso Kingdom, located in present-day Mali.

“Balafon is really not constrained within particular borders”, Bassi says. “People in Africa, Asia and South America have this balafon culture.”

This percussion instrument, played with two drumsticks, gives the desired note and timbre thanks to resonators made of gourds on the underside.

It is composed of keys of varying lengths.

“The balafon has multiple uses within the community. You’ll see it in church, in bars, there, cabarets play nothing but balafon. You’ll find balafon orchestras at wedding parties, christenings and even burials.”

The instrument generally contains 16 to 27 notes. Its use is widespread in ceremonies and festivities across central Africa and west Africa.

Balafon is probably made of the Mandinka name Bala with the Greek root phono.

Ama Ata Aidoo: Ghana’s famous author and feminist dies

Ama Ata Aidoo won many literary awards including the 1992 Commonwealth Writers Prize for her book Changes

One of Africa’s most-celebrated authors and playwrights, Ghanaian Ama Ata Aidoo, has died aged 81.

A renowned feminist, she depicted and celebrated the condition of African women in works such as The Dilemma of a Ghost, Our Sister Killjoy and Changes.

She opposed what she described as a “Western perception that the African female is a downtrodden wretch”.

She also served as education minister in the early 1980s but resigned when she could not make education free.

    In a statement, her family said “our beloved relative and writer” passed away after a short illness, requesting privacy to allow them to grieve.

    A university professor, Ata Aidoo won many literary awards including the 1992 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Changes, a love story about a statistician who divorces her first husband and enters into a polygamist marriage.

    Her work, including plays like Anowa, have been read in schools across West Africa, along with works of other greats like Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe.