Tag Archives: Africa

Review: ’42’ photography exhibition

42 is the name of an exhibition featuring photographs of women from Sierra Leone by British photographer Lee Karen Stow currently being exhibited at the Horniman Museum, South London.

The exhibition features women in a range of everyday settings but behind each image is a powerful and extraordinary story. 42 was originally exhibited in 2007, when Stow sought to document the brilliance and resilience of women from this previously war torn nation.

Having recovered from a civil war, the Ebola virus and now flooding, Sierra Leone (which means Lion Mountain in Portuguese), is unsurprisingly one of the poorest countries in the world but ironically one of the richest countries in terms of its natural resources. A decision to re-exhibit the collection, could not have come at a more opportune moment, serving as a reminder of the incredible strength and courage of Sierra Leonean people.

The exhibition’s title is a powerful and poignant statement because 42 was the average life expectancy of women in Sierra Leone when the photos were originally taken. Despite modest improvements, the average life expectancy is still extremely low, making it one of the worst in the world.

The exhibition features a broad spectrum of Sierra Leonian womanhood all within their ‘natural’ habitat: women boxers in action, fashion models striking a pose, agricultural workers tilling the land, faith filled women crying out to God, mothers and children in a variety of settings, nurses caring for those in need, brigadiers exuding power and disrupting traditionally masculine spheres, human rights activists -dignified, powerful and poised- the list is endless. It also managed to feature the First Lady of Sierra Leone – Sia Nyama Koroma.

At first glance, these seem like pretty ordinary images, but what Stow has done is to cleverly encapsulate an extraordinary breadth of women related issues, anchored by the accompanying blurbs. High infant mortality and maternal deaths rates, Female Genital Mutilation, girls education and gender equality, single parent households, women in work, women operating in traditionally male fields (I.e. boxing and the Army),faith as an anchor in everyday life, women pursuing their dreams despite the adversity – all of this and more is brought to life in 42. The photos also subtly promote some of the initiatives providing innovative solutions to these issues whilst also building solidarity and empowering the women.

Strength, perseverance, character, beauty and determination permeate these beautifully vivid and bold images of Sierra Leonean women. What gives this exhibition added poignancy is that a few of the subjects, are now deceased including one of the children photographed as a result of poor health care. Despite some of the grim subject matters covered, 42’s dominant narrative is hope.

The only criticism I have is of the location of 42 within the museum. Even though it is ideally placed on the upper floor (along the main balcony area of the museum) the area is dimly lit and in my view, limits the viewer’s experience. Similarly the exhibition is broken up by the museum’s permanent Romanian heritage collection which is slightly disorientating and disruptive.

42 is running until Sept 27th at the Hornimans Museum in Forest Hill, South London. The exhibition is free.

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Saturday mornings in an ‘old school’ Afropolitan household

Saturday mornings as a child were not what I considered ‘fun’ although looking back it wasn’t mean to be! Yes we had cereal and watched cartoons but I mainly remember the obligatory Saturday morning routine of cleaning, polishing and going food shopping with my parents.

Captain Planet: 'By the Powers combined...'

Captain Planet: ‘By the Powers combined…’

I remember one Saturday morning – that I didn’t want to participate in the normal routine- I wanted to ‘sleep in’. Now to be clear, in our household on Saturday morning everyone knows the deal. My dad was a soldier in the Nigerian Army and ran our household on a fairly tight schedule; you get up, eat breakfast and relax for a short while then you better go and strip the bedding and get assigned your duties for the day. Washing up, polishing, hovering take your pick but everyone has to fall into line. However, on this occasion I continued to ‘sleep’ even though I could hear full well the loud conversations and various activities happening around me and boy did I get a rude awakening!

After our chores, followed by getting washed and dressed, we (my siblings and I) would then have to go food shopping with my mum. The journey was a twenty minute walk to the local shopping area, complete with the shopping trolley and market (aka Ghana must go) bags in tow.

Going shopping with my mum was an experience- entertaining, frustrating and very educational. My mum is a BARGAIN shopper- thrifty Afropolitan defined. She will literally go from shop to shop, stall to stall checking for the best price for items. An item may vary by 10p between two shops within a ten minute walking distance but know that my mum will walk back to the shop where the item is cheapest because – in her own words- ‘It’s the principle’. Similarly don’t ever try to short change my mum- if an item is £1.99- you’d better give her back that penny do not ‘assume’ you don’t have to because she will ask you ‘out of principle’. It’s only a penny- adds up over time!

Ghana Must Go: The original shopping bag

Ghana Must Go: The original shopping bag

First stop was the market- to the fruit and veg stall, to the man selling fresh eggs and then to the African Caribbean shops to buy what my Caribbean friends would call ‘hard food’; the yams, sack of rice, Gari (ground Cassava) and plantain (who remember the days of when you could buy five or even six for a £1?).

For the occasional treat we might pop into the local clothes shop. But woe to any store that gets into my mum’s bad books! I recall on one occasion, she bought an item of clothing which ended up being faulty when she got home. But because of the returns policy they wouldn’t acknowledge this nor exchange the item despite her loyal custom. So my mum the campaigner (her mantra-‘know your rights’), stands outside the shop- on a busy Saturday- telling people to boycott the shop (so embarrassing!). Shortly afterwards, they call her inside and settle the matter. The next week everything returns to normal as if nothing has happened- best friends again!

My mum's favourite mantra: Ingrained from an early age

My mum’s favourite mantra: Ingrained from an early age

Next stop was the Butchers, which I am not a fan of for obvious reasons (body parts and the stench of blood not for me), but found it fascinating because of the banter, the haggling along with the percussive sounds of meat being manually and mechanically chopped.

The Look: No it's not one of love it's the 'have you lost your mind' look

The Look: No it’s not one of love it’s the ‘I am going to count to ten, you better take that out of the basket before I do something’ look

The trip always ended at the big supermarket. And if you were lucky enough to be selected to accompany mum to push the trolley – thumbs up. But to be clear- you are literally just pushing the trolley. Don’t ever for one second think this entitles you to select items from the shelf to put to into the trolley because you will be greeted with the speechless stare communicating the  ‘have you lost your mind’ message;  the lecture- ‘So you have money?’ ‘You go to work?’ ‘Whose paying for this?’ (Word to the wise, it’s a rhetorical question DO NOT ANSWER!) ’. Or worse still- the lecture PLUS the walk of shame where you are made to take the item back to the exact place where you took it from. My mum has a shopping list and best believe we are not veering off course. She has accounted for every single penny and nothing over what she has put on that piece of paper is going into the trolley unless she authorises it.

If you weren’t lucky enough to be selected for the supermarket sweep it felt like an eternity of waiting at the set of chairs by the tills lumbered with the market shopping. Why? Because you know approaching early afternoon- it’s prime time for playing out with friends and you are ‘missing out’ (whatever that means). What seems like hours later but probably no more than one, mum would finally emerge at one of the checkouts.

But before you start getting excited, you are not home and dry yet because now comes the ‘packing’ issue. If your mum is anything like mine it’s never just straightforward packing- there is a strategy. My default position is to always help with packing because if you don’t you get in trouble, but as soon as you help for every bag you have arranged my mum is there rearranging- so why bother!?

Waiting for mum: How I felt when lumbered with the shopping

Waiting for mum: How I felt when lumbered with the shopping.

More often not, we would get a cab home or dad would come and collect us. But if my mum is feeling particularly thrifty and she doesn’t ‘think’ there is much to carry be prepared to walk it!
How many of you can relate? What is your favourite childhood memories of Saturday morning shopping with the family?

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‘What’s going on?’ 5 situations on the continent which break my heart

As an Afropolitan I cannot ignore recent events happening on the continent; some of which have been afforded the privilege of mainstream media attention and high profile political engagement, others not so. Admittedly there are moments when I have become increasingly desensitised to yet another story pertaining to disease, conflict, death and famine in Africa. This is just one of many narratives (albeit a dominant one favoured by mainstream media) which seem to strengthen the misrepresentation of Africa as a hopeless, perpetually conflicted, ‘dark’ continent-one that I am loathe to endorse. That’s when I have to remind myself that Africa’s story is as rich, varied, colourful and multifaceted as the countries which dwell within her borders. However I do want to raise awareness of five situations in five countries on the continent, which are pretty devastating and has been laid on my heart to share. Some you will be very familiar with and others not so but all deserve recognition.

1.South Sudan- Conflict, Famine and Water Lilies

The world’s newest nation has had a turbulent genesis since it’s emergence in 2011, due to internal conflict between the Government and opposition forces. Thousands have died, millions have been left displaced and the country is on the brink of famine. And although it is no longer on the mainstream news agenda it is still happening. I saw this photo a few months ago which both mesmerises and horrifies me – leaving a lingering sadness that won’t go away. A beautiful little girl reduced to eating water lilies – which I am certain has no nutritional value- because it is the only root that is edible and available in the region.

Young Sudanese girl eating water lilies  Photo credit (c) BBC

Young Sudanese girl eating water lilies Photo credit (c) BBC

2. Sierra Leone and the Ebola Effect

Every week I speak with a gentleman who works in the local supermarket and is of Sierra Leonean descent. Most times our conversations are light-hearted and brief but this one was different. He shared that he had been working 6 days a week- 16 hours each day (2 jobs), for the past year in order to save money to reinvest ‘back home’ and to provide for his family. However, his plans to travel home have been left in tatters because of the restrictions on travelling to the country. A gentleman normally so calm and composed was clearly distressed when relaying the situation:

“I have been building back home, I have my family back home but I can’t go and it hurts me. Every time I get a phone call, I am fearful of bad news.  My family were telling me of people being afraid to leave their homes and if they are sick, they are afraid to go to the hospital because they feel they will be wrongly judged to have Ebola. Schools have closed down, hospitals left abandoned because some workers are not wanting to come in and risk being infected.  People are languishing like prisoners in their homes- not able to work and their children not able to go to school. Even communities where neighbours who related well to one another no longer communicate, everyone keeps to themselves.  I don’t know what is happening to my country.”

3. Nigeria- 2,000 reasons and counting

This can pretty much be summed up by the following hashtags #JesuisNigerian #Nigeria2000 #BringBackourGirls and I propose another ahead of the General Elections next month #GetGoodluckOut.  There is so much I could say but here is an article which comes very closes to articulating my exact thoughts on the matter.

No introduction needed

No introduction needed

4. Malawi- the Floods

Malawi is not one of those countries you hear of often-whether in the news or in daily conversation (unless of course you are from there or have connections to it). I have long been intrigued by this relatively peaceful, small, landlocked nation since I had a primary school friend who was of Asian Malawian descent. However the country is now back on the news agenda due to the recent flooding which at last count has killed almost 200 people and left over 200,000 people homeless. There is great concern re. ensuring clean water, proper sanitation and food can be distributed to those who need it. This is further compounded by the fact Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Next door neighbours, Mozambique have also been affected by the floods.

5.Congo- Panzi Hospital

In the words of Tatiana Giraud- a Congolese Activist ‘How can it be right that a public general hospital that has helped 30,000 rape victims and continuously helps the local community even by providing meals for the poor is taxed?’  The Panzi hospital recently had their bank accounts seized by the Congolese Government. This means it cannot pay staff, buy medical equipment and is in a state of deadlock. Congo was once dubbed the rape capital of the world by a UN Official because of the extensive use of rape as a weapon of warfare in the conflict-ridden eastern part of the country. This makes the work of the hospital even more vital as it is based in Bukavu in the same region. This vital, life giving, service could now be at risk unless action is taken.

Created by award-winning copywriter and blogger Magnus Shaw

Created by award-winning copywriter and blogger Magnus Shaw

How can you get involved?

Sign the petition here 

Join in the social media campaign by: tweeting foreign secretary, William Hague @WilliamJHague and include the following hashtags  #Panzi #FreePanzi

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Happy New Year! Plans for 2015- Coming soon!

***HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE*** 

May 2015 be your year to aspire to greatness and the fulfilment of your heart’s desires!

I am very excited about the New Year for a number of reasons one of which includes this blog! There are some wonderful things happening this year at the Thrifty Afropolitan and here is just a little glimpse into the goodies I have in store for you.

Clothes Swap event– Stop press! If you are having a good old new year’s clear out and donating clothes to charity please consider keeping hold of a few choice items for a clothes swapping happening in London in the next few months in conjunction with the Style Closet! Good, quality clothes and shoes will be accepted with no more than five items per person. More information to follow soon.

Say cheese! And bring your top quality items to our event this Spring in 2015 please!

Clothes Swap: Say cheese! And bring your top quality items to our event this Spring in 2015 please.

Meet the Thrifty Afropolitan series…. I will be interviewing a number of inspiring and creative people over the course of the year who are real life thrifty Afropolitans. (Definition of a Thrifty Afropolitan: Roots ‘back home’, raised in ‘the West’ and living in a resourceful and creative way, all whilst making the world a better place in the process. Phew- not much to ask there then!) What are your plans for 2015? Would love to hear from you! x

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5 things I love about Nigerians (in honour of Nigerian ‘Independence’)

Nigeria is no stranger to negative publicity; from the corruption in Government, a reputation for fraud (419), the on-going oil crisis in the Delta Region, Boko Haram’s merciless slaying of Christians to the unresolved abduction of the 200+ Muslim girls, the list is endless. However I want to celebrate some of the fantastic things about the nation affectionately dubbed the ‘Sleeping Giant of West Africa’; so to celebrate 54 years of ‘independence’ I want to share with you five reasons why I am proud to be an Afropolitan of Nigerian descent.  (Disclaimer:  Nigeria is a culturally diverse nation with a rich heritage and numerous languages and ethnic groups so excuse the generalisation as I know not all Nigerians are the same! However this is based on my observation as a Nigerian from two tribal groups with Sierra Leonean heritage.)

  1. The Hustle- Entrepreneurialism is in our DNA. My younger brother who has never stepped foot on Nigerian soil, was selling the latest gadgets to his peers in school from day dot- it’s as if he possessed an innate ability to sniff out where the money was and find a way to go get it! From London to Lagos, we are passionate about business whether it is our main area of work or our side hustle. When I visited Nigeria almost every street corner was occupied by someone selling something and likewise in the UK every other Nigerian I know is setting up a new venture, often alongside their full time employment.  Industrious, ambitious and driven – Nigerians entrepreneurial spirit is a cut above the rest.

    The Hustle: Not just a programme on the BBC- its in Nigeria's DNA.

    The Hustle: Not just a programme on the BBC- its in Nigeria’s DNA.

  2. Our bold, fearless nature– Nigeria is known as the ‘Sleeping Giant of West Africa’ but that couldn’t be more far from the truth- I think it is well and truly awake! My dad always use to say ‘fear no man but your maker’ and this to me sums up Nigerians- we are not afraid to express ourselves and make our presence known wherever we are. I mean Nigerians are the only Black people I know that will go to places like Russia and Poland to live because they see potential to make money- often in the face of racism and hostility.

    Fearless and bold: How I see Nigerians- perhaps I am bit bias?

    Fearless and bold: How I see Nigerians- perhaps I am bit bias?

  3. Our vibrant faith– Nigeria is known for its vibrant Christian faith and  according to research has the highest population of Christians in Africa. Similarly,irrespective of whether we believe in Jesus or Allah or in the Yoruba deities – our faith is deep rooted and is an integral part of our lives. I will never forget when I visited Nigeria being awoken by the early morning prayers of an Imam at 5am or being impacted by the commitment and passion of Christians attending an epic church service which seemed to go on for the best part of the day!

    Nigerian christianity

    Our faith: Whatever it is we believe, our faith is a deeply important part of our daily lives.

  4. Our love of education and personal advancement– ‘Education, education, education’ is something that is of upmost importance to Nigerians. I will never forget when I told my dad that I was planning to take a ‘Gap Year’- (which was almost unheard of from a person of African descent 10 years ago); I just remember my dad- who is one of the most liberal, loving, open-minded people on the planet -repeatedly saying ‘so you are not going to University?’ He couldn’t take it in and I think it took him at least a month for him to speak to me without complete disdain. For Nigerians, as for many, education is seen as the key way to advancing yourself and your family.

    Gap Year? This is not in an African parents vocabulary! You better go and read your books my friend!

    Gap Year? This is not in an African parents vocabulary- you better go and find yourself at University!

  5. Our hospitality– If you have never been to a Nigerian party I urge you to take yourself to one! Whether its a wedding, a funeral, christening or an anniversary we know how to throw a good party. We love to be extravagant often leading to excessive amounts of food (Jollof rice, coleslaw fried fish, moi moi etc) and drinks (Supermalt and Nigerian Guinness are standard) being on offer. Not only that, depending on the party, you might even find yourself taking away some goodies like Tupperware, a commemorative calendar or salt (that’s another blog post altogether), We know how to have a good time and make almost anyone feel welcome and this isn’t just limited to big occasions!
Nigerian party time

Nigerian party time: We know how to have a good time- Go Grandma!!

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