December 31, 2010

Passing down Zanzibar's Musical Traditions (CNN)

"This music is something that reminds you of a lot of things. To know yourself, where you are coming from, which way you need to behave. For us music is not only for the joy, it is for education, social matters and politics," Matona said.

Taarab's precise origin is often debated but whether it be in Egypt or East Africa, Matona says the island's version is distinct.

"Although we play taarab it is not like the Egyptian because the way we speak is different, the way of our ideas, the way of our teaching. This taarab is from Zanzibar."

Check out the whole story on CNN


December 17, 2010

Swahili Proverb of the Day #11

"Kamba inakatikia pabovu"

This means that there is rottenness in the rope; meaning, that when there is a weakness in the rope, all the blame will go to the weak person.


December 16, 2010

Pambazuka - Kenya’s new port: The end of Lamu's cultural heritage?

Pambazuka - Kenya’s new port: The end of Lamu's cultural heritage?

"Landing on Lamu Island is akin to taking a step back in history. One of the original settlements along the East African coast, the town has retained its rich stone architecture and traditional Swahili culture. Donkeys trot along one of the two main streets of the town, by the water's edge, laden with heavy sacks. In the town square, residents and visitors perch on stone benches drinking tea until late at night and listening to the local news on the radio. The town has few cars, the most prominent being the rusty three-wheel ambulance parked close to the town's donkey hospital. Hundreds of fishermen eke out a living at sea with their traditional boats."


November 29, 2010


From: "Thomas G. Vernet"
Université Paris

Date: Sat, November 27, 2010 4:42 am

MASCARENES 1715-1840

11 April – 13 April 2011

An international conference hosted by the Truth and Justice Commission
and the University of Mauritius, in collaboration with the Centre
d’Études des Mondes Africains (CNRS - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

Location: University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius.

This international conference has been initiated by the Truth and
Justice Commission, Mauritius, with the aim of bringing together
scholars who have undertaken recent research on slave trade and slavery
related to Mauritius and the Mascarenes, as well as members of the Truth
and Justice Commission who have been undertaking an evaluation of the
historiography of slavery and slave trade, in light of the mandate of
the Commission. The United Nations has also declared the year 2011 as
the “International Year for People of African Descent”.

The Conference is particularly interested in papers which shed new light
on the impact of slavery and slave trade on these societies, as well as
papers that use new sources or review the existing historiography. The
Conference would like to promote reflection that emphasizes the place of
the Mascarene in the wider Indian Ocean basin, through links with
Africa, Madagascar, India, South-East Asia, or the Atlantic economy.
Activists and community based organizations based in Mauritius are also

The conference will also reflect on memorial aspects and how the slave
trade should be remembered. The focus of research having been on
neglected aspects of the French slave trade and slavery in Isle de
France/Mauritius, participants whose focus of interest is Mauritius will
be particularly welcome.

Some of the questions we would like papers to discuss include:
Slave Trade: Given that the bulk of our evidences on the French slave
trade are in France and have yet to be fully researched by scholars,
many questions about the slave trade have remained unanswered, the most
important of which is how many slaves actually came to Mauritius? What
was the volume of the slave trade to Mauritius, Réunion and the
Seychelles? What connections existed between slave trading companies and
individual armateurs and relations in Mauritius and the other islands of
the Mascarenes? How far did the profits of the slave trade serve to
boost the economic development of Mauritius (as well as Bourbon and the
Seychelles)? What networks were created in the Indian Ocean as a result
of the slave trade?

Slavery: What was the contribution of slaves to the economic, political
and social life of Mauritius in the French period? Where did slaves
actually come from? What part did ethnicity play in allocation of tasks
in the work place? What were the material, moral and psychological
condition of slaves in Mauritius, Réunion, and Seychelles, during the
French period? What was the legacy of slavery? How should slavery be
remembered today?

Forced labour, unfree labour and indenture What was the situation of
ex-slaves after abolition? Did it bring freedom? How were the new
systems of labour put in place? How did the transition from slave to
‘free’ labour take place? How did the institutions created under slavery
evolve after abolition?

Main themes of the conference

1. Slavery in Ile de France, new directions
2. Converging historiographies: the cases of Bourbon/Réunion and the
3. Slave Trade connections: the Mascarenes at the heart of Indian
Ocean networks
4. Agents and capital in the slave trade
5. From slavery to indentured labour
6. The Legacy of Slavery
Contributors may submit their proposals to be presented in a maximum of
20 minutes. These will be combined into sessions of four papers.
Titles and abstracts are due by 15 December 2010.
To apply, please send the following:
- Title
- Abstract (maximum of 200 words)
- Short, one-page, curriculum vitae.
Conference languages are English and French.
All proposals will be reviewed and decisions will be made by 15 January
According to contributors’ specific situations, travel expenses may
partly be funded.

Please send your participation and abstract as an attached Word file to
both the Conveners:
Vijaya Teelock: and Thomas Vernet:
and/or to the
Research Coordinator, Truth and Justice Commission, at

Conference Coordinators:
Truth and Justice Commission
Vijaya Teelock (Associate Professor, University of Mauritius and
Vice-Chairperson, Truth and Justice Commission)
Thomas Vernet (Associate Professor, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
/ CEMAf)

Colloque international

Traite, esclavage et transition vers l’engagisme à l’Île Maurice et aux

11 Avril – 13 Avril 2011
Commission Vérité et Justice / Truth and Justice Commission
University of Mauritius
Centre d’Études des Mondes Africains (CNRS – Université Paris 1

Lieu : Université de Maurice, Réduit, Île Maurice.

Ce colloque a été initié par la Commission Vérité et Justice (Île
Maurice), afin de réunir les chercheurs ayant entrepris des travaux
récents sur la traite négrière et l’esclavage liés à l’Île Maurice et
aux Mascareignes, ainsi que les membres de la Commission Vérité et
Justice ayant entrepris une réévaluation de l’historiographie de
l’esclavage et de la traite, en accord avec le mandat de la Commission.
Les Nations-Unies ont aussi déclaré l’année 2011 « Année Internationale
des Personnes d’Ascendance Africaine ».
L’intérêt de cette conférence porte particulièrement sur les
communications offrant un éclairage nouveau sur l’impact de l’esclavage
et de la traite négrière sur ces sociétés, ainsi que sur les
communications reposant sur une documentation nouvelle ou revisitant
l’historiographie existante. Le colloque souhaite également promouvoir
une réflexion soulignant la place des Mascareignes dans le bassin de
l’océan Indien, par le truchement des liens avec l’Afrique, Madagascar,
l’Inde, l’Asie du Sud-Est ou l’économie atlantique. Les Forces Vives ou
les organisations communautaires de Maurice sont également invitées.
En outre, le colloque abordera les questions liées à la mémoire et la
manière dont la traite négrière devrait être remémorée. Les recherches
opérées par la Commission Justice et Vérité s’étant focalisées sur des
aspects négligés de la traite négrière et de l’esclavage à l’Isle de
France/Maurice, toute participation ayant comme centre d’intérêt l’Île
Maurice est particulièrement bienvenue.
Les communications porteront principalement (mais non exclusivement) sur
les problématiques suivantes :
Traite négrière : Étant donné que l’essentiel de la documentation sur la
traite négrière française dans l’océan Indien se trouve en France et
qu’elle demeure encore peu étudiée, de nombreuses zones d’ombre
persistent ; la plus importante étant : combien d’esclaves arrivèrent à
l’Île Maurice ? Quel fut le volume de la traite vers Maurice, la
Réunion/Bourbon et les Seychelles ? Quels liens existèrent entre d’une
part les compagnies engagées dans le trafic d’esclaves et, d’autre part,
les armateurs individuels et les familles établis à l’Isle de France et
dans les autres îles de l’archipel des Mascareignes ? Jusqu'à quel point
les profits émanant de la traite contribuèrent-ils au développement
économique de l’Isle de France (de même qu’à la Réunion/Bourbon et aux
Seychelles) ? Quels réseaux furent créés dans l’océan Indien du fait de
la traite négrière ?
Esclavage : Quelle fut la contribution des esclaves dans la vie
économique, politique et sociale de l’Île Maurice pendant la période
française ? D’où vinrent vraiment les esclaves ? Quel fut le rôle de
l’ethnicité dans l’attribution du travail ? Quelles furent les
conditions matérielles, morales, et psychologiques des esclaves à
Maurice, la Réunion et aux Seychelles durant la période française?
Comment remémorer l’esclavage aujourd’hui ?
Travail forcé, travail non-libre, et engagisme : Quelle fut la situation
des ex-esclaves après l’abolition ? Apporta-t-elle la liberté ? Comment
les nouveaux systèmes de travail furent-ils mis en place ? Comment prit
place la transition entre l’esclavage et le travail « libre » ? Après
l’abolition, comment évoluèrent les institutions mises en place sous
l’esclavage ?

Principaux axes de la conférence
L’esclavage à l’Isle de France : nouvelles directions
Des historiographies convergentes : les cas de Bourbon/La Réunion et des
Les connexions de la traite négrière : les Mascareignes au cœur des
réseaux de l’océan Indien
La traite négrière : agents et capitaux du négoce français
De l’esclavage à l’engagisme
L’héritage de l’esclavage

Procédure de sélection des projets de communications :
Les communications (présentées en 20 mn) seront regroupées en sessions
comportant quatre communications chacune.
Les titres et les résumés sont attendus au plus tard le 15 Décembre 2010.
Merci de bien vouloir envoyer les documents suivants :
- Titre de l’exposé
- Résumé (200 mots maximum)
- Bref Curriculum Vitae (une page maximum).
Les langues utilisées pour la conférence sont l’anglais et le français.
Toutes les propositions seront examinées et les réponses seront envoyées
au plus tard le 15 Janvier 2011.
Une aide au transport et/ou à l’hébergement pourra être accordée en
fonction de la situation personnelle des participants.

Veuillez envoyer votre projet de communication en fichier attaché Word
aux deux responsables :
Vijaya Teelock : et Thomas Vernet :
et/ou à la
Coordinatrice des Recherches, Commission Vérité et Justice :

Coordinateurs de la conférence
Commission Vérité et Justice
Vijaya Teelock (professeur associé, Université de Maurice et
Vice-Présidente, Commission Vérité et Justice)
Thomas Vernet (maître de conférences, Université Paris 1
Panthéon-Sorbonne / CEMAf)


November 17, 2010

Can the Gulf Be Green?

If you are in DC tomorrow, you'll want to check this out:

Can the Gulf be Green?

Environmental Challenges and Opportunities in the Arabian Gulf


Dr. Mohamed Raouf
Gulf Research Center

Thursday, 18 November 2010, 3:00-4:30pm

The Arabian Gulf countries face an array of environmental problems ranging from chronic air pollution to increasing water scarcity. The petroleum production that has fuelled their phenomenal economic growth also damages their marine ecosystems and contributes to climate changes that threaten the region with stronger storms and higher seas. One meter of sea-level rise could submerge 14% of Bahrain. Can the Gulf countries move towards more sustainable development patterns? Could Islam provide them with ethical guidance toward a more sustainable future? Please join us for a discussion with Dr. Mohamed Raouf of the Gulf Research Center.

Dr. Mohamed Raouf is Program Manager and Senior Environment Researcher at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. Dr. Raouf has been a lecturer of Environmental Accounting and Economics and a consultant for the World Bank, the Ministry of Industry in Egypt, and the Ministry of Planning in Yemen. He helped formulate the National Environmental Action Plan of Egypt as well as Egypt’s Clean Development Mechanism Strategy and the Red Sea Sustainable Tourism Initiative. In addition, he served on the project team that prepared the Green Gulf Report (2006) and was a Bapetco-Shell Egypt Sustainable Development Team Member. He received his PhD in environmental sciences from Ain Shams University in Egypt.

Please RSVP to Mr. Corey Sobel at

The Stimson Center is located at
1111 19th St NW, 12th Floor
Washington DC, 20036
P: 202-223-5956


November 15, 2010

Stereo feat. Goapele and Grace Matatu

Good morning AzanianSea readers! Ralph over at BabKubwa just dropped this in my maibox this morning: A remix of Goapele's Closer with lyrics in Kiswahili and a chorus sung by Grace Matatu. Big up Ralph! Listen. Enjoy. Peace.


November 12, 2010

East African Hip Hop and Black Internationalism

Mwenda Ntarnagwi’s talk at Northwestern University on Monday Oct. 25, 2010 reminded me of another similarly engaged work of scholarship: Gerald Horne’s book “Mau Mau in Harlem”. Horne devotes a significant section of the book to Malcolm’s linkage of the revolutionary black struggle in America during the 1960s with the Land and Freedom Armies of Kenya (the so-called “Mau Mau”) who retreated into the highland forests and engaged in guerilla warfare against white settlers and their black collaborators. The ideological nodes connecting these diverse expressions of liberation have given birth to the term “black internationalism” in the extant historical literature.

Ntarangwi drew our attention to other points on this node in his talk on “Globalization, Hip Hop and Youth Agency in East Africa”. Drawing on stories of survival and livelihood amidst the fallout from World Bank and IMF programs of neo-liberal structural adjustment, Ntarangwi detailed how economic liberalization in East Africa created both severe socio-economic dislocation and the opportunity to access Western pop culture on newly unprecedented levels through circulated tapes and videos of hip hop films such as “Breaking 2” and the music of Michael Jackson and other eighties and nineties African American pop stars. Hip hop was part of a whole generation of youths’ attempts to craft an East African modernity in response to chronic underemployment, the movement of immigrants into new economic niches, and newly available communication technologies—a situation, Ntarangwi pointed out, not unlike the conditions which gave birth to hip hop in the South Bronx.

Ntarangwi played samples of the song “Uhiki” or “Wedding” by the Kenyan artist Hardstone, featuring rapping in Kikuyu over a sample of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and Swaleh Jay’s remix of “Ice Ice Baby” in Swahili, which itself infamously sampled Queen and “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen. “Under Pressure” was released only a year before “Sexual Healing”, thus revealing some of the hybrid geneaologies of hip hop in East Africa and its emergence out of 80s and 90s American popular cultural forms.

Hip hop in East Africa, according to Ntarangwi, is a particular mode of youth political expression that emerged to allow African youth to become more active participants in culture making and astute critics of the political order by making sounds and messages from global black culture part of their local cultural repertoires. For example, in crafting a political approach to their music, groups like Kalamashaka in Kenya explicitly reappropriated the sights and sounds of African liberationists through the lens of black internationalism.
In their song “Ni Wakati” Kalamashaka sample Malcolm’s famous speech “Message to the Grassroots”, which speaks of Mau Mau as “black revolutionaries in Africa”. In Kenya, where the Mau Mau fighters were not even acknowledged as part of the force which helped to liberate Kenya after independence, and where their protests over land were met with silence and marginalization, Kalamashaka’s songs and messages were an important part of rehabilitating the image and message of Mau Mau fighters. In contrast to the neocolonial collaboration of Kenya’s ruling class, the Mau Mau symbolized to Kalamashaka the same values that politically conscious East African hip hop embodied—speaking from the margins, witnessing truth to power, and calling for a radical return to social justice and redistribution of wealth as well as access to education.

Another important node in East African hip hop’s links to black internationalism and the black diaspora goes through the Black Panthers. In 1969, Pete O’Neal, the chairman of the Kansas City Chapter of the Black Panther Party was arrested for allegedly transporting a gun across state lines. O’Neal resolved not to become another victim of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s covert and illegal war against the Panthers and fled to Algeria and then Tanzania with his wife Charlotte. In Arusha, Tanzania, they founded the United African Alliance Community Center in the spirit of Black Panther activism, offering food, education and services to the community free of charge. In 2008, while visiting with a group of students from Howard University, we recorded a song in UAACC’s homemade studio with a producer/emcee who Pete and Charlotte have helped to nurture. The Center, I learned, also has a close relationship with Kalamashaka (now known as Ukoo Flani), and has nurtured the talent of Tanzanian singer Nakaaya Sumari, who was at one point married to M1 (they have since separated). Nakaaya met M1 while working on “Mr. Politician”, her popular critique of vote-seeking vultures in East Africa.

Ntarangwi played several other hip hop critiques of corrupt politicians. In Tanzania, where President Jakaya Kikwete also appears poised to win re-election despite critiques that he made extravagant campaign promises, the relevance of Tanzanian rapper Profesa Jay’s critique of Tanzanian politics is especially germane. In “Ndio Mzee” (Yes Sir) and its follow up “Kikao Cha Dharura” (Emergency Meeting) Profesa Jay sketches a political speech made by an aspiring office-seeker in which he promises, among other things, to end poverty, establish schools on the moon, and give every member of the police force a helicopter. In the followup song, the politician finds himself confronted by his constituents post-election and is forced to back track on many of his promises. For instance, he has done research he says, and “its quite cold on the moon, and plus I hear Osama bin Laden has camps there.” He ends by promising to fix everything, if only his constituents will elect him again.

The conversation after the talk ranged far and wide. Professor D, a Ph.D. student in African American studies at Northwestern, and a member of the African hip hop working group, asked Ntarangwi to clarify his use of the term ‘youth’ and his use of the term ‘hip hop.’ From there, discussion ranged over East African b-boys and b-girls, how to model being a ‘hip hop scholar’ on the continent, and the various local genres of hip hop expression in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Fittingly, the night ended with a two hour knowledge cipher at Giordanos with two young Chicago emcee/poets, myself, Professor D and Ntarangwi. The conversation ranged from Kanye’s latest release to Illuminati and the New World Order. In convening these spaces at Northwestern throughout the year, under the auspices of the African hip hop project, our goal more than anything is to create the energy and impetus for these kinds of dialogues that give young people a chance to see themselves as nodes on this transnational network of the “global hip hop imaginary”. I appreciate Professor Ntarangwi for making it possible through his scholarship. If you’re interested in reading more, you can buy the book here.


Mapinduzi ya Zanzibar

Interesting documentary. Basically just video of the Chief Justice of Zanzibar and his wife recounting their remembrances of the Zanzibar Revolution.


Colorful Ports of Call 1934: Seychelles, Mombasa and Zanzibar

An innacurate portrayal of African society, Islam, Arab slavery, etc. not to mention extremely racist! Interesting and rare footage nonetheless.


November 4, 2010

A Talk and a Reading from Abdul Rahzak Gurnah

In two fascinating talks over this past week, the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University was treated to the prose and reflection of Abdul Rahzak Gurnah, one of the foremost writers in the United Kingdom as well as a Zanzibari exile who writes about East African history, migration, and postcolonial identities in Zanzibar and the UK. In his talks, Gurnah emphasized how two of his major books--Paradise and Admiring Silencewere written after traveling. Traveling, according to Gurnah, unlocks a kind of knowledge different from other kinds of knowledge. In Paradise, which Gurnah wrote the ending to first and then finally finished ten years (and one other novel) later, he wanted to understand what had been lost on the Swahili coast through colonialism, and how his parents' generation might have experienced it. This becomes especially pertinent to Gurnah as a Zanzibari because of the kinds of connections the Zanzibar Revolution celebrated (inter-African). The Revolutionary discourse consigned Zanzibar’s ‘Indian Ocean’ history (its ‘outside’ history) to forgetfulness and shame.

Gurnah, on the other hand, wants neither to celebrate the Omani presence in Zanzibar nor to set it aside, but to see it through the historical framework in which it emerged: the Indian Ocean. What was it like to be young at the end of the nineteenth/beginning of the twentieth century in East Africa? It was to be part of an Indian Ocean world. Gurnah's novel Paradise is a vivid work of historical imagination which is remarkable not only for its intimate portrait of coastal culture but for the silences it acknowledges--the characters on the caravan trail in the interior, speak openly about the barbarism of those they encounter. The main character is a slave of a coastal merchant, and Gurnah writes about slavery on the coast with great subtlety--showing its various hierarchies and subtle gradations of subservience.

Gurnah's characters are not helpless but often powerless. Their way of moving through the world is a different style than open resistance. It is a kind of stoicism, a gracious accepting, a recognition that your way of living is itself a kind of integrity, even in passivity.

Scholars of Kiswahili debate whether a novel like
Paradise is properly an English or a Swahili novel, and this is high praise in its own way, because it shows the degree to which Gurnah is able to use English with the rhythm of Swahili, to transform English into something suiting the picture he is trying to paint. The art of storytelling...and reading a Gurnah novel, you are in the hands of a master.


October 26, 2010

"A Panther in Africa"

Coming soon: some notes on the importance of the United African Alliance Community Center in the burgeoning hiphop music movement in East Africa...for now check this dope documentary out about Pete and Charlotte O'Neal, who run the UAAC near Arusha, Tanzania.


September 29, 2010

Call For Papers: Reframing Knowledge Production on 1970s Uganda*

Edgar Curtis Taylor

*CFP: Reframing Knowledge Production on 1970s Uganda*
February 5, 2011; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Hosted by the African History and Anthropology Workshop

Scholars of Africa regularly cast Uganda in the 1970s as a
transitional period in the country's history as well as a symbol of
Africa's postcolonial ruination and failed struggle for cultural and
economic independence. Transnational mythologies of Idi Amin in film,
music, and literature have produced a rich, if highly questionable,
body of knowledge on his rule. However, the 1970s have produced
remarkably little scholarly consensus. Scholars struggle to move
beyond worn-out chronologies and seemingly contradictory
generalizations of social fragmentation, state collapse, and economic
decline alongside cultural self-assertion, national pride, and
economic empowerment. This state of affairs can be partly attributed
to the assumed dearth of written sources for this period (though the
recent openings of personal and government records in Uganda and Great
Britain are exciting developments). It may also be related to
scholars' difficulty reckoning with the ideological potency of the
1970s in contemporary political discourse, as activists of all sorts
seek to draw contrasts or parallels between their situation and a
constructed past.

However, Ugandans had remarkably diverse experiences in and of the
1970s that they have documented, commemorated, and remembered in
different ways. Recent work has shown that the 1970s saw novel
opportunities for Ugandans to re-imagine gender relations, conjure
political constituencies, develop trading networks, and reframe racial
knowledge. These works have equally shown the challenges Ugandans
faced toward such ends as well as the violence that characterized so
many spheres of social life during these years. Likewise, Ugandans
have constructed the 1970s as an object of knowledge through a
multiplicity of forms that contribute to an array of competing
historical projects.

This conference will consider creative work Ugandans have pursued in
and on the 1970s. We welcome papers from faculty and graduate
students that examine issues pertinent to this important period,
including those that may not be strictly bounded temporally or
geographically to 1970s Uganda but that consider how we have come to
know about this decade. Scholars from all disciplines and those
working across disciplinary boundaries are encouraged to apply.

Please submit a one page abstract by November 8th to
. (Include your name, email, and institutional
affiliation). We may have funds available to assist graduate student
presenters with travel expenses. Please indicate whether you would
like to be considered for travel assistance.


International Conference on India's Investment in Agriculture in Africa

sudha tiwari

International Conference on India's Investment in Agriculture in Africa
University of Mumbai, on 10-11 January 2011.*

*South- South Cooperation*
*India**, Africa and Food Security: Between the Summits*

Abstracts of about 500 words and a CV of two pages with contact details
should be sent as a single word file to: **

*Funding*: Local hospitality will be provided to all the participants for
the duration of the conference. Limited amount of travel grants will be made
available on request.

*Important dates*
Submission of abstracts - 15 October 2010
Notification of acceptance- 17 October 2010
Submission of completed papers – 10 December 2010
All queries should be addressed to Ms. Sudha Tiwari, Research Investigator,
at: **

*Overview and Topics*
In his closing remarks during India-Africa Summit in April 2008, the
President of United Republic of Tanzania and Chairperson of the African
Union Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete said one of the major concerns for Africa is
food security and urged India to invest in capacity building in the
agricultural sector. He stated, “Currently Africa's agriculture is peasant
agriculture, traditional, plagued with low levels of production. If we are
able to increase productivity in African agriculture, Africa would not only
be able to feed itself, but have huge surpluses to sell to the world. India
has the technology and the skills, which if made available to Africa;
certainly it will help implement the African Green Revolution” (India-
Africa Summit, 2008).

The widening levels of inequality and poverty globally, coupled with sharp
increases in the prices of agricultural products have aggravated the
challenges of food security. Moreover, the diversion of land for the
production of fuels (bio-fuel) in the face of environmental degradation as a
result of climate change has aggravated the food crisis The recent
debilitating economic slowdown has adversely impacted the situation on the
African continent that is faced with a largely unsuccessful approach to
agricultural production and food security and thus heavily reliant on
imports and aid to meet its food requirements.

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has identified
agriculture as a ‘sustainable solution to hunger and poverty in Africa’ and
emphasized the role of agriculture as an ‘engine of growth.’ African
countries are thereby seeking to become self sufficient in food grain
production by 2015. The continent has vast stretches of cultivable lands
that can collectively cater to local and global demands. Indian engagement
in Africa is significant in this context, particularly in the area of
capacity building of the agricultural sector in Africa. The Indian green
revolution in 1960s made her a food-surplus country and can be adapted on
the continent. Given its good track record India can provide low cost
appropriate technology to increase agricultural productivity for food and
raw materials in Africa.

The Indian engagement for capacity building in the agriculture and related
sectors is perceptible. The 2008 India-Africa summit facilitated this
engagement at multi- levels- government to government, public-private
partnerships and at the level of civil society and academia. In the
aftermath of the summit, India has become a key source of financing and
concessional lines of credit for agricultural projects in Africa. Instance
may be cited of Tanzania that received a line of credit of US $40 million
for financing the export of agricultural equipments in 2008-2009. Building
close institutional links and developing a process to share the knowledge in
agro-processing and related sectors will also help add value to agricultural

While analyzing the current scenario prospects of closer interactions and
related challenges too need to be looked at. How can we strengthen genuine
attempts to promote South-South Cooperation and avoid neo-colonial
maneuvers for exploiting African resources for India’s own benefits? How
can we strengthen a new and different cooperation model for South-South
cooperation and avoid repeating the same mistakes of traditional

The interregnum period between the 2008 India-Africa Summit and forthcoming
2011 Summit provides us with an opportunity to deliberate on all these

Within this broad remit we expect papers that will explore key areas related
to Indian engagement in African agricultural and related sectors. The themes

- Indian private companies (case studies)
- Exim Bank’s engagement
- Indian public sector engagement
- Food security, democracy and good governance
- Role of civil society and media
- Role of regional organizations
- Food security and gender
- Food security and conflict
- Importing Green Revolution
- Bio-fuels and Food security
- Need for a legal framework
- Capacity building and technology transfer
- India-Africa South-South Cooperation framework

The conference will be of an interdisciplinary nature.
Empirical case studies are particularly welcome.

*Conference coordinator*
Renu Modi (Director), Centre for African Studies
University of Mumbai, India


September 19, 2010

Conference: Islam in Contemporary Ethiopia

Won't be able to make this, but it looks interesting!

Transforming Identities and New Representations of Muslims in Contemporary Ethiopia

Date: 22-23 September 2010
Venue: UiB Global (University of Bergen), Jekteviksbakken 31

This workshop aims to analyse the transformation of Muslim identities and the production of new representations and imaginations of Islam and Muslims in Ethiopia. Integrated in the research questions are how recent socio-political dynamics have shaped new patterns of integration and translocal entanglements, while at the same time contributing to new practices of boundary-making. Such reciprocal and dynamic processes explain how new trajectories of communications may trigger old as well as new possible lines of conflict. Overall, the workshop seeks to fill a neglected aspect of Ethiopian Studies. It intends to collocate recent research on Islam in contemporary Ethiopia, as well as to identify areas in need for further investigations. Current trends within the Muslim community will be treated in relation to contemporary political, economical, social and cultural developments. This is both related to discourses within the Muslim community and with reference to the wider Ethiopian society.

The workshop is organized by Patrick Desplat (University of Cologne) and Terje Ostebo (University of Florida), and is co-sponsored by the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida, Zentrum Moderner Orient, Christian Michelsen Institute, University of Bergen, and NLA University college.

September 22:

A. Ethiopian Muslims and the Horn of Africa
(Discussant: Dr. Nefissa Naguib)

"Genealogies of Somali Islamic Politics: The contribution of 'Ethiopian' Somalis" (Dr. Cedric Barnes)
"Islam, War and Peace in the Horn of Africa" (Dr. Haggai Erlich)
"The ideologies of Al-Shabaab" (Dr. Stig Jarle Hansen)
"Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama'a and Somali Sufism in the Horn of Africa" (Dr. Roland Marchal)

B. Capacities and Constrains: Muslim Representations in the Ethiopian Public Sphere
(Discussant: Dr. Lovise Aalen)

"Islam in Contemporary Ethiopia: New Possibilities and Enduring constraints" (Dr. Dereje Fayissa)
"Living Across Digital Landscapes: Indian Guru, Hadrami Diaspora and Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia" (Samson A. Bezabeh)
"The production of social and territorial boundaries in a context of increasing external influences: Adaptation and resistance to change among Muslim Afar pastoralists" (Dr. Simone Rettberg)
"Youth, Islam, and Ethno-nationalism in contemporary Bale" (Dr. Terje Østebø)

C. Transforming Muslim Identities: Reform, Appropriation and Resistance
(Discussant: Dr. Benjamin Soares)

"The Sacralization of Space: Islamic Shrines, Place-Making and the Heritage Industry in Harar" (Dr. Patrick Desplat)
"Identity, Islam and Ethnic Politics among the Siltie of Ethiopia" (Zerihun A. Woldesellassie)
"The Formation of a Muslim Regional Cult in Eastern Ethiopia - Sitti Momina and the Faraqasa Connection" (Dr. Minako Ishihara)
"Islamic Literary Heritage in Ethiopia: Change and Continuity" (Hassan Muhammed Kawo)


September 16, 2010

Swahili Proverb of the Day

"Ungeenda juu, kiboko, makazi yako ni pwani"

("Even though you go up-country hippopotamus, your real habitation is the coast")

This proverb has a connotation of reminding coastal people of their true identity. Lyndon Harries cites it in "The Arabs and Swahili Culture" in relation to a discussion of Swahili language and its transistion from being the language of Islam and coastal culture to being a national lingua franca.


September 13, 2010

Mawlid al-Habshi Mambrui, Kenya 2006

More people need to see this! SubhanAllah, so beautiful.


Eid al-Fitr in Doha

Qatar is making moves to be the major cultural, economic and educational destination in the Gulf. They're no Dubai (which is a good thing) but they are poised to be a major player and a destination for job-seekers in the education sector. Northwestern University recently expanded here and other universities are following suit. Georgetown is already established here. Qatar Foundation's vision is to bring the best departments and schools from a diverse group of American universities, and since this is a growth industry, American universities struggling at home are only too happy to expand into a market thirsty for the skills and expertise of job-hungry American academics. So Doha is an interesting place for these and other reasons. I.M. Pei designed the Islamic Art Museum here, chock full of paintings, tiles, carpet, Quranic inscriptions, glass lamps, illuminated books, carved doors and thousands of items from the Mughals, the Safavids, the Fatimids, the Mamluks, Timurlane's empire, and more.


More of Cairo: Taha Hussein's grave, the Maqam of Imam Shafi'i, and Ibn Ata Illah

"I arrived at length at Cairo, mother of cities and seat of Pharaoh the tyrant, mistress of broad regions and fruitful lands, boundless in multitude of buildings, peerless in beauty and splendour, the meeting-place of comer and goer, the halting-place of feeble and mighty, whose throngs surge as the waves of the sea, and can scarce be contained in her for all her size and capacity." -Ibn Battuta


September 12, 2010

The Pyramids

On a hot dusty day in Cairo, I jumped on a bus heading west to the suburb of Giza and the pyramids. Its quite a revelation to find that the Pyramids are smack in the middle of a bustling suburban area of Cairo, even more so when you encounter their stark beauty and sheer size. As for the relentless atmosphere of tourism, the scantily clad Italian and German tour package retirees...well it doesn't take away from the silent beauty of these monuments to the afterlife.

I also had the opportunity to see a much smaller less spectacular pyramid called the Step Pyramid. It is the oldest stone monument in existence, designed by the legendary architect, doctor and sage Imhotep. As always, enjoy the pictures!


August 31, 2010

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Book Review)

Mohsin Hamid's second book after the critically acclaimed "Moth Smoke", "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" follows a young Pakistani-American named Changez who gains entry into the elite world of Princeton University and corporate America and then gradually becomes disillusioned with his life. An outsider to the world of the rich American elite, he nevertheless excels in it. His efforts lead him to work for a top firm called Underwood Samson, doing business analysis and profit forecasting jobs around the world. He remains absorbed in his work, although never fully absorbed into the lives and attitudes of his colleagues, until the events of September 11th, 2001 propel some intense soul-searching, causing him to wake up to the life he had been living. Even as Changez is waking up, the girl he has been pursuing the whole novel--the beautiful Erica--is slipping deeper into a nostalgia for her dead lover Chris. These two parts of the narrative work quite beautifully together. The book would be another (beautiful) coming of age story but for the unique voice of the narrator, who tells his whole story to "you", a mysterious American stranger and also the reader. We shall return to this shortly, but first a word about the meaning of Erica.

Many reviewers have commented that Erica and her "nostalgia" are a thinly veiled metaphor for post-9/11 America (One reviewer suggested that Chris meant Christopher Columbus, in which case Erica's malaise is symptomatic of America's longing for the beauty of its founding myth). Indeed the narrator's name is a not so subtle riff on those Muslim Western-educated young people from India, Pakistan and elsewhere whose lives were changed by 9/11 and the discrimination they faced in its wake. However the changes Changez undergoes feel forced and compressed at times--he seems like a man too immured of Western comforts and ideals to abandon them as quickly as he does. No doubt Erica's fate prompted some of his alienation. But all-together his transformation feels too compressed; this sabatoges the novel's otherwise uncanny realism and subtle emotional depth (especially the passages dealing with the emotions and betrayal of relationships).

Still this is a strongly written book overall. When Changez is fired from his prestigious job and returns to Pakistan, he does not become the radical mullah or Islamist leader one would expect from the title. More true to his character, he begins teaching at a university, becoming more radicalized through his contact with the students there. Although he is thrown in jail for organizing protests at the embassy, it is not until he makes statements about the USA in response to what he believes is an unjust detainment of one of his students that he comes to the attention of the American government. The reluctant fundamentalist then, refers not to the aspects of his life in Pakistan, but to the corporate persona he assumes at Underwood Samson, where he is trained to always "focus on fundamentals". This inversion of the reader's expectation is brilliantly executed and makes the final scenes all the more ambigous--we wonder if Changez is executing a brilliant plan of attack or attempting to save his own life.

From a stylistic point of view, this novel is a unique achievement. From a moral point of view it offers a strong critique of US foreign policy and the dangers of intervention and playing "world policeman". All told it is the emotional investment in the central character--his compassion, his ambition, his gentility and his disillusioned break with complacency--that makes the moral impact of the novel so resonant in these times.


Islamic Cairo part One

Cairo, the city victorious; what can one say? Too many layers of history to sum up neatly. The people the buildings/ dusty apartment balconies, a millenia of handworked stone on minarets and domes/ the magnificent crumbling of old homes. Tables spread in the street for millions. The adhan comes, the adhan goes/the faithful bow in calm repose. I blow black snot from my nose. Cairo is beautiful, pulsing, polluted and home to the hardest hustlers anywhere, cats who can look at you, assess your nationality, and pitch their sale in your native language without missing a beat. My first night here I sat playing backgammon at a cafe with some friends and the subject turned to wheat, the commodity that is apparently bleeding Egyptian coffers dry as they try to buy it on the open market after their main suppliers--Australia and Russia--suffered severe shortages of export due to drought and (in Russia's case) massive fires. This bread called "aish" (Arabic meaning life), is an Egyptian staple and attempted substitutes have not been popular. The next day another friend related that much of Islamic Cairo lay under a giant accumulating pool of sewage, which was styming some restoration efforts. How long can 20 million people beat a living from the desert here? But yet they do, day after day. For now I'm the tourist just soaking in the incredible pace and feel of life here. Yesterday at an Indian restaurant in Zamalek for iftar, we ran into Gamal Nkrumah, Kwame Nkrumah's son who was offered asylum in Egypt after his father was deposed in Ghana. He works for Al-Ahram Weekly. Other than iftars and internet cafes, my main activity has been visiting shrines and masjids and buying gifts for the family. I present to you the results of my visits around Islamic Cairo. If anyone remembers my photos from Damascus, they will notice that Cairo also has a Seyyid Hussein maqam (allegedly also his head) and a Seyyida Zeinab maqam. Enjoy!


August 29, 2010

The Standard | Online Edition :: Kiswahili becomes Kenya official language

The Standard | Online Edition :: Kiswahili becomes Kenya official language


August 28, 2010

Ramadan Kareem 2010

Ramadan Greetings in Kiswahili from Tanzanians, Kenyans and the Swahili diaspora


Amman to Aqaba to Nuweiba to Cairo

So I started out taking a bus to Aqaba from Amman. The bus was air conditioned, I slept most of the way, and arrived in Aqaba to ridiculious heat and a bunch of crabby taxi drivers. 5 JD (Jordanian dinars) one says, and starts to pick up one of my bags before I assent. Then another guy swoops in, picks up another bag and yells "3 JD!" I move to go with him and a huge tug of war ensues with the first guy cursing the second profusely and then trying to wrench my bag from his hands. I finally get in the second taxi and we go to the ticket office and then to the port. There were no tickets at the port, which I think, in retrospect, he knew, so we go to the main ticket office and I buy a ferry ticket. He then drops off his other passenger and ends up by taking me to a nearby lodge for the night, as the fast ferry has already left for the day. Meanwhile he is smoking (claiming he can't stop because too many "beautiful ladies at the beach") and blaring Ciara and some Arab disco-trance monstrosities over the sound system. He charges me 11, yes 11 JD for the ride, claiming each trip back and forth cost 3 JD plus 2 JD to the lodge. Sigh. I gave in.
At the lodge, the price/per night the driver quoted me of 15 JD has gone up to 45 JD. The manager is trying to claim its because it "includes breakfast". When I say I won't be eating breakfast because of fasting, he gets interested. "Are you Muslim?" "Do you swear on your God that you are Muslim?" I decline to swear but offer to recite al-Fatiha, which he accepts. He lowers the price to 20 JD and invites me for iftar.

After a beautiful air-conditioned sleep, I wake up for iftar. At iftar, one of the guys asks me if I know of Hamza Yusuf! LOL....the world is getting smaller everyday.

The beach at Aqaba is quiet and beautiful and the stars had started to come out, so I went and sat and watched the waves for about an hour. Very restful. Went to sleep early after swimming some laps in the pool.

The next morning I get up and go to the ferry. In the customs line, I speak a little Arabic to the officer, telling him I was studying Arabic in Amman. The guy next to me is tall, bald, and diesel in the extreme...looks like Israeli army off duty. They question him a bit longer than me, as he went through Israel. Outside, attempting to strike up conversation, he asks me: "Are you actually Muslim or do you just dress like that for protection?" (I happen to be wearing a kufi). Sigh....its Ramadan so I humor him. "Yep I'm really Muslim"....Turns out he is some Italian businessman on holiday. He spends most of the boat ride trying to chat up two striking Afghani girls from Germany.

On the boat, an Egyptian guy, his sister and her four kids sit near me. The kids are hilarious...we have a good time messing around. The guy's name is Mahmoud. "Will you be my friend?" he asks. This happens a lot to me actually...random strangers desiring to be my friend. It takes some getting used to. When he finds out I'm from Chicago he asks, "How is Chicago? kweis? (good?)" When I answer in the affirmative, he continues, "but Chicago...niggers." Its a one word statement of his twisted view of reality, a depressing distillation of white supremacist ideology...writ global. So many things go through my head...Dubois, pan-Africanism, Arab racism, American tv...where the hell did he even learn that word with his halting English?
And finally we arrive in Nuweiba on the Sinai Peninsula. From there I buy a bus ticket to Cairo, for a bus "leaving in half an hour". 2 hours later we finally depart. The air conditioning creaks and barely works, the dust on the seats fills my lungs and the world outside as we move from the port becomes like the landscape of an ancient planet...rock formations with geological time mapped onto their contoured layers, walls of sand blown against the rocks, red and black and brown earth stretching for miles without any sign of human habitation.

We stop for iftar at some highway restaurant. I eat kifta which tastes like it has rocks in it and go to the bathroom to wash my hands for prayer. As I come out a kid is collecting money at the door. Everyone in front of me gives, so I feel compelled as well...but what am I paying for? I give him a 5 pound note and change is not forthcoming until I demand it. Welcome to Egypt.

At 11pm we arrive in Cairo and its a different world....overpasses and billboards and wall to wall traffic. Again I manage to negotiate a decent taxi price (although the first driver pawns me off on a second one who tries to ask for a higher fare) the driver, although he protests, is relatively straight up once I make it clear what the deal is.

And just like that I'm in Garden City...a beautiful neighborhood of gates and walls and trees and long curving avenues. Its so quiet and peaceful at night. My friend comes and scoops me and my looong journey is over.


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