African Voices and Visions

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Voodoo New Year

The Guen people originally came down from the Nile River from what is today known as Egypt. They brought with them their voodoo beliefs and practices. In 1663 they settled in Glidji which is on the border of Benin in Togo. Every year at the same time of their arrival, which is around September, they celebrate their new year known as Epe Ekpe. Epe means year and Ekpe means close or stone, the latter relating to it also being the day of the sacred stone. It involves the voodoo priest and his initiatives going into the sacred forest to find the sacred stone. The colour of the stone will tell them what the year will manifest. If it is red then many ceremonies will have to take place to try and prevent the danger. If it is blue then there will be lots of rain. For 2006 they found a white stone with green spots. That means that while there is potential for peace and prosperity they must look after nature and beware of it [especially the lakes and seas] for peace to manifest. I asked a local priest that represents one of their deities, Tetekpoe Folly Azonsu, about his expectations for this year and he said, “This is going to be a great year that is what I am praying it will be: towards the good of human kind. I look forward to us all learning more from each other.”

Friday, February 03, 2006

Hard Rock Cafe in Rural South Africa

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Kenya

Mombasa is a place that connects all continents. The Arabs, the Portuguese and the Bristish tried to claim a part of it. If you are ever there Fort Jesus is a must see. It has been standing for almost five hundred years and remains a fine example of 16th century military architecture. It was designed by an Italian and built by the Portuguese in 1583 who wanted to secure their position on the best harbour on the coast of East Africa. There were countless battles as the local Swahili people refused to accept foreign rule which led to Mombassa becoming known Vita or a place of war. Alaway Abzein, the Administrative Officer of the Fort, tells you about how his heroic grandfather was imprisoned in the Fort for standing up against colonial rule. He is one of many heroes in Africa says Alaway, "Africa is full of heroes this is as a result of the continuous struggle for freedom from the South of Africa to the North of Africa. There are a lot of unsung heroes who stood very strongly and firmly against harsh laws that were introduced by foreign forces. I am proud of my people. I am proud of my culture. I am proud of my heritage."

Monday, January 30, 2006

Interesting Signs in Nigeria

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Nana Benz in West Africa

Thirty years before Independence, in the 1930’s, the women of Togo made their mark internationally by trading in wax printed cloth called Avo. They did not manufacture the fabric but imported it from Dutch companies based in their former Asian colonies, especially Indonesia. From there the material arrived on Togo shores and the women distributed it throughout the continent. They became known as Nana Benz's beacause in the mid-50’s they had made so much money that they were the only people who could afford Mercedes Benz cars, so much so that the President hired them when he had important guests. If you are ever in Lome, whether it is the market or a fancy shop make sure you buy the right fabric known as Vlisco that made these women famous. It is the best quality and you can get it at 35000 francs or seventy dollars for six yards.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Professor Paul Ahyi in Togo

Professor Paul Ahyi is Togolese and is one of Africa's most renowned creators. He has been living and creating in Togo for the last forty years as a painter, sculpture, developer of new types of clay and techniques like Zota and an author of twenty books on ancient African symbols, hairstyles and wisdom. His work have been displayed in Lome and around the world in places like the White House and the Vatican. He has also received endless awards. While he continues to create in his seventies his real passion is to teach young people to think for themselves. He has established an artists research centre where that is happening. His message to young African artists is: "They need to be original there is too much copying. There is enough potential and enough to be talked about. So be original!"

Bruce Onobrakpeya in Nigeria

Bruce Onobrakpeya is a living legend as a Nigerian printmaker, painter and sculptor and the main custodian of Urhobo folklore and culture. As a founding member of the Zaria rebels, he is responsible for the renaissance in contemporary art in Nigeria and extended his vision to St. Gregory's College [Lagos] where he taught for many years. Through his various workshops and  symposia, Bruce has influenced generations of young artists and is today respected as one of the leading print makers in the world.

Bruce has been honoured with the Fellowship of the Society of Nigerian Artists; the Pope John Paul II award; the Fellowship of Asele Institute award; the Sadam Hussein award; the Solidra Circle award; the Fulbright Exchange Scholar award and he has been listed in International WHO IS WHO in Art and Antique.

Extracts taken from

Nel Oliver in Benin

Nel Oliver has run a music recording studio in Benin for the last fifteen years. Before that he was the first black African to open a recording studio called Spade Music in Paris as early as the 1980’s. Artists from across the continent and Caribbean were able to launch their careers because of this great man – in fact he helped create legends.

Nel returned to Benin to build the local music industry. He produces young performers and most of Benin’s established artists, including Anna Teko, Castella Ayilo, Amagnon Koumagnon, Kinmagnon Agberhounkpan, Adjassa, Sagbohan Danialou, Prince Ade Oye, Gankpon Gbesse, Anafila Alao, Madou, Abdallah and Nel Oliver.

Nel is also the head of a group that is trying to stop piracy. He believes that Benin is one of the few countries where the country has taken a stand to stop a criminal practice that is going to lead to the death of Africa’s music industry. He says, "If it doesn’t stop then 20 years down the line it will be owned by the Europeans".

The Voodoo Pope in Benin

Voodoo means god creator or great spirit, it is a religious and cultural practice that has been around since the beginning of time. It is a life affirming practice that’s aim is to heal and is followed by 50 million people worldwide. This is the Pope of the Voodoo religion, SOSSA (Chairman of Chief) Houngwe Towakon Guedehoungu, he also became the President of Global Traditional Religions in July 2005. He says that the Voodoo religion is as old as Africa and that his children and their children will teach the world about peace.