Africa Fashion

I’m offering a critique on the Africa in Fashion project. I was intrigued with the use of the homepage to bring each group member’s ideas together under one broad theme. The clickable pictures were very user-friendly and gave the project a professional feel. Great job!

In the Magazine, the pictures were attractive and complemented the theme of this sub-section. I understood what was being presented without having to use the text to deconstruct the underlying message. There was excellent use of text and image to make the theme resonate. The analysis of each picture is not only well done, but the questions raised were very thought-provoking. Continue reading


Dave Chappelle and Africa

As many of you may know, Dave Chappelle disappeared to Africa a few years ago to escape the pressures of the entertainment industry. I watched this interview on “Inside the Actor’s Studio” recently in which Chappelle talks about some of his reasons for going to Africa. It almost reminded me of Dr. Garrigan in “Last King of Scotland” who went to Uganda parlty in search of adventure, but also to escape the pressure of having to practice medicine with his father. We critized Garrigan and white figures like him to go to Africa to explore and somehow find some missing part of them. Do we criticize Chappelle as well, who has roots tracing back to Democratic Republic of the Congo?

Here’s a clip of the “Actor’s Studio” episode. Chappelle talks about Africa (he went to South Africa) from about 3:30-8:00.

Here’s a link to an MTV interview with Chappelle:

Black Hair

Someone posted on Tyra and African American hair and reminded me of a documentary I watched on Black hair and Koreans in the black hair idustry. The documentary points out that almost 90% of black hair beauty supply stores are owned and operated by Koreans, but supported 100% by African Americans. Do you think there’s a problem with this?

The Tyra post also reminded me of this book I have called “Queens.” Simply, it’s about black women and their hair, as the title points out. It’s mostly made up of pictures, but it also has articles that accompany the pictures. In the article women talk about     made the change from chemically processed to natural hair, the relationship some women have with their ‘fro, and how a woman’s hair style can completely build up or break down her confidence. The articles also talk about the issue of “good” and “bad” hair that the Tyra post did.

Here’s a link to an NPR audio interview with the author.

Saviors and Survivors

In his book “Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politcs, and the War on Terror,” author Mahmood Mamdani criticizes Western response to and interpreatation of the crisis in Darfur. Mamdani points out how slow/non-responsive the West (the US in particular) has been in dealing with crisis in Africa in general. He writes that more than 5 million people have died in Congo since 1998. This, he says, is like an Asian tsunami hitting every six months. However, the situation in Congo has not stirred out diplomats to act.

Mamdani also points out that many people now justify non-interferenc in Darfur becuase the conflict is racial, between Arabs and black Africans. Mamandi points out though that “At no point has this been a war between ‘Africans’ and ‘Arabs.'” Mamandi also writes about how the current conflict in Sudan is mostly due to the racial divisions created by the British during the colonial days. Just like the Belgians rigidified the difference between Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda, so did the British between Arab and African. Mamandi’s general argument with this book is that without a greater understanding of Africa’s history, there is “little hope of achieving real good in Africa’s shattered lands.”

Mamandi questions people who “shout” slogans like these without having a real understanding of the historical background of the conflict in Darfur.

More Artistic Appreciation for Brazza

Here’s an affiliated exhibit with the one in honor of Pietro Brazza. This is an exhibit of three painted panels that are meant to represent the vibrant culture and life in the Congo. The panels are also in honor of Brazza, whom many in Congo-Brazzaville consider “a benevolent ancestor.” Many consider his interactions with the native Beteke people of the Congo as the ideal meeting of two different cultures. The paintings were done by students at the School of Painters of Poto Poto in Brazzaville, Congo.

Critique on “Performance in Africa”

The main message I got from this group’s project was that it could be problematic when we look at certain cultural performances as merely spectacles. The film presentation on various dances in Ghana did a good job of showing that these dances mean nothing to a viewer outside of the culture when there’s no information provided. The video presented all different kinds of dances, some with only men, only women, or both, some with elaborate costumes, other not so elaborate, some slow dances, some fast. Unless were provided with some sort of context, these differences mean nothing to us. The dance just becomes a spectacle, something we observe and either like or dislike based on our aesthetic tastes. And the dancers, the movie says, become “exoticized others.” Exotic because these dances are coming from foreign countries, foreign cultures, others because there seems to be no point of intersection with our culture and theirs. I felt like the movie’s tone was very critical of this point of making the dancers “exoticized others.” However, I’m not so sure how to deal with this problem of the “exoticized other.” Yes, when I watched these dance clips, I was thinking, “Wow, these dances are very different from anything I see here in the US” and I had no idea about the significance behind any of the dances. But was I wrong for thinking this? By definition, these dances/dancers are exotic (foreign) and “other” (different). I guess “other” has a negative connotation, as “otherness” is often used as justification for different treatments/mistreatment.

This project relates to the bigger issue of how meaning is produced by visual interpretation. Without any context, we’re left to our own devices and experience to create meaning. And as we know, this can have disastrous effects. In the future, I could see this project leading to some sort of production/film/documentary that shows how visual misinterpretations can end up skewing meaning, or completely distorting meaning from its original truth.

The presentation on dance in Morocco also did a good job of showing how it might be a problem when we watch certain things without any contextual information. I think the scrapblog slides of dances from Togo, Benin, Nigeria, etc. did a good job of giving an example of how the dances would be presented in an ideal world: with some sort of information on history, context, and significance.

Magazines Critique

Africa Magazines Critique

The Magazines Group succeeded in creating a project where content and style remained balance. This equilibrium allowed the group to deliver specific information within a very broad topic. The group decided to focus on representations of Africans in beauty and fashion magazines. All members fit within this theme, but at the same times produced diverse projects. This diversity worked very well because it reflected the scope of issues that magazines deal with. The project touched upon consumerism, perceptions of beauty, representations of Africans through time, and the impact of form (illustration vs photography). These topics highlighted many of the important implications of images that we discussed throughout the semester. Because of this I found that, while I was still learning, I was well versed in the subject matter. I think they pinpointed their audience pretty well. The transmission of information did not require previous knowledge, and was very accessible.

I think the project could have benefited from more African voices. The perceptions of beauty had many African students speaking, and I think that made the stakes clearer for me. I would have enjoyed reading/hearing from Africans about the real affects of magazines on everyday life. That would make the implications a bit more clear. I think that would have helped viewers who did not take an entire class on media/pop culture. But I think the group understood their audience and succeeded in getting us to ask ourselves the important questions.

Overall I think the project is fantastic. The information streamed well, the balance between text and images made the scrapblogs move by seamlessly. The group did just the right amount of work, I did not feel overwhelmed with information and pictures. The topics discussed fit perfectly with what we talked about in class, and in fact, pushed the conversation further–asking more questions. Fantastic!