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kampala city                            Evening view of Kampala city (credits: Joel Nsadha Isababi)

Uganda is commonly referred to as the Pearl of Africa which is not far from the truth considering her natural resources combined with a very hospitable population. Here are some crazy facts about her;

  1. Caesarian sections were being performed in Uganda way before 1879 when R.W. Felkin observed his first successful operation by indigenous healers in Kahura. (reference: Notes on Labour in Central Africa” published in the Edinburgh Medical Journal, volume 20, April 1884, pages 922-930.)
  1. There are about 880 mountain gorillas in the whole world and half of them are found in Uganda.
  1. Ranked as the world’s most entrepreneurial country with a rate of 28.1%. This means that 28.1% of Uganda’s population own or co-own a business that has paid salaries for more than 3 months but less than 42.
  1. Lakes and rivers cover 26% of Uganda which is 91,136 mi² (241,038 km²) making her the 81st largest country in the world by area. You could say Uganda and Oregon are roughly the same sizes.
  1. The preservation of the umbilical cord and the jawbone among the Ganda and Nyoro ethnicities is similar to the customs of the ancient Egyptian kings.
  1. Mountain Rwenzori (Margherita peak) is the 4th highest in Africa and reaches 5109m (16, 761ft). Interesting to note is it’s covered by snow throughout the year!
  1. Uganda is among the top ten coffee growers/ producers in the world as well as the world’s 4th largest exporter of Robusta coffee (2015).
  1. Grasshoppers are an important and popular seasonal delicacy!
    grasshoppers
                                             Pan fried grasshoppers (credits: Pinterest)
  1. Ranked as the world’s most ethnically diverse country (2013), in other words, if you randomly picked any two people from any part of Uganda, they would be of different ethnicities.
  1. Uganda is among the top 16 holiday destinations for 2016 by CNN. Also ranked as a top tourist destination for 2012 by lonely planet.
  1. Unbelievably true is the fact that Ugandans enjoy their alcohol (2013 study). Uganda ranks as number 1 in Africa and number 8 in the world.
  1. Lake Nalubaale (a.k.a Lake Victoria) found in Uganda is the source of the Nile and is the largest tropical lake in the world. The lake is also considered the second largest freshwater lake.
  1. The British christened Uganda its name, which is a Swahili word meaning land of the Ganda. (1900 Buganda agreement.)
  1. The Batwa, one of the endangered ethnicities, is believed to have lived for close to 60,000 years in the forests of southwest Uganda.
  1. Uganda is UNESCO’s sole representative of Barkcloth. It used to be common in Indonesia, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Important to note is, Uganda’s one of the countries that have preserved the custom of bark cloth making.
  1. Is home to rare earth minerals (REE- aluminous clays, yttrium, gallium & scandium) valued to be as much as 300 million tonnages. These minerals can be used in the manufacture of cars, airplane parts, and electronics. Other deposits can be found in China and Canada.
  1. The Luzira head that was discovered at the prisons in Luzira dates back to AD 1000. It is one of the oldest Sub-saharan sculptures yet discovered in Africa. It has been part of the British Museum’s ethnographic collection since 1931.
    luzira head
                                              The Luzira head (credits: britishmuseum.org)
  1. Mutesa II, the first president of independent Uganda, was instrumental in funding the Mau-Mau rebellion against the British rule in Kenya.
  1. The story of the Uganda martyrs and their shrine built at Namugongo is a fascinating one. Thousands of people from East and Central Africa flock the shrine on 3rd June every year to honor the martyrs.
  1. Uganda is known as Africa’s premier birding destination. There are over 1000 bird species recorded in Uganda. It is even believed that some of the birds living in Uganda’s forests may not be classified as yet.
  1. The Kasubi tombs, in the central region, are a classic site of 13th-century architecture in Africa.
    kasubi tombs
    Kasubi tombs (credits:http://www.buganda.com)
  1. There are about 150,000 chimpanzees in Africa and a third of them are found in Uganda. In fact, a significant number of chimpazees across Africa are found in only 4 countries.
  1. The Nile perch is not indigenous to Uganda and was introduced into Lake Naluubale (a.k.a Lake Victoria) round about the 1950s.
  1. Uganda has huge deposits of over 50 precious minerals and most of them have not even been mined or refined.
  1. Uganda is one of the few countries in Africa to design her own car, the Kiira that was unveiled in 2011. The prototype was first designed by students at Makerere University and has since then undergone a couple of improvements and modifications.
    kiira ev
                                        The Kiira (credits: evbud.com)
  1. Misaki Wayengera, a Ugandan, developed a 5-minute Ebola test kit. This fantastic breakthrough is expected to reduce the Ebola death rate through quicker diagnosis.
  2. Uganda is the second youngest country in the world with about 70% of the population below the age of 25.
  3. Bazilio Olara Okello was Uganda’s president (de facto head of state) for two days from 27th July to 29th July 1985.
Flag 3d map of Uganda, physical outside.
                            Flag 3d map of Uganda, physical outside. (credits: map hill)

Courtesy: Oneafricangirl.com

‘It’s great, it’s colorful and very soft. You can make any design out of it, you slay in it whenever and in whatever style you make out of it’. – The African print.

This is the best design that has ever and will ever happen to the fashion industry. It is everywhere. The beauty of the print is in it different design and dimension. Right from Ankara, Kente, Adire and Bogolan in West Africa to Kikoy. Shuka and Kanga in east Africa down to Shweshwe in South Africa.

African Prints has always been a fabric of elegance close to the heart of Africans. It is a colorful fabric with a lot of tribal patterns printed on it.

We going to be exploring the different types of the African fabric and various trendy designs that have been made out of it.

 

Kikoy

Kikoys are a traditional garment unique to the coast of East Africa. A kikoy/ kikoi is traditionally a male garment worn like a sarong, however the dyes have got better and the colours evolved so that now both modern day men and women use kikoys. Kikoys have been woven with 100% combed cotton using traditional methods. The common and striking thing about kikoy fabric is that it is almost always bright, bold and colourful.

In recent years Kikoys are worn by men, women and children alike and it has adapted to the modern style and fashion. So versatile, they can be used as beach towels, towels for the sauna, beach wraps, picnic blankets, scarves, shawls, table cloths, wall hangings, baby wraps, skirts, shorts, bags and curtains.

 

 

Kente

One of the most sumptuously coloured textiles used for clothing is Ghanaian kente cloth, made by Asante and Ewe weavers using specially designed looms. Kente was probably introduced from the western Sudan during the 16th century, when heavy, elaborate, labour-intensive versions of this fabric were designed for wealthy tribal chiefs and simpler designs became available for the general citizenry. Kente is woven in four-inch (9.5 cm) narrow strips that are sewn together. A characteristic Asante’s kente has geometric shapes woven in bright colours along the entire length of the strip, while Ewe kente often displays a tweed effect by plying together different coloured threads in many of the warps. Ewe kente may also incorporate pictorial symbols.

 

Adire

Adire is the name given to indigo dyed cloth produced by Yoruba women of south western Nigeria using a variety of resist dye techniques. Adire translates as tie and dye, and the earliest cloths were probably simple tied designs on locally-woven hand-spun cotton cloth much like those still produced in Mali. In the early decades of the twentieth century however, the new access to large quantities of imported shirting material made possible by the spread of European textile merchants in certain Yoruba towns, notably Abeokuta, enabled women dyers to become both artists and entrepreneurs in a booming new medium. New techniques of resist dyeing were developed, most notably the practice of hand-painting designs on the cloth with a cassava starch paste prior to dyeing. This was known as adire eleko. Alongside these a new style was soon developed that speeded up decoration by using metal stencils cut from the sheets of tin that lined tea-chests.

 

 

BoGoLan

Bogolan is the quintessential West African textile, also called mud-cloth, made in a large part of sub Saharan West Africa, although particularly associated with Mali and above all the river Niger. Traditionally the textile is made using narrow strips of cotton cloth woven on looms in the villages producing ca 15 cm wide cloth, which is then sewn together by hand to produce a fabric wide enough to make into clothing etc.

 

 

Kanga

Kanga originated on the coast of East Africa in the mid-19th century. Kanga designs have evolved over the years, from simple spots and borders to a huge variety of elaborate patterns of every conceivable motif and colour. The kanga is a 1.5 piece of printed cotton fabric and it often has a border along all sides. In the eastern region the border is printed with phrases, traditionally in Kiswahili and in central areas phrases in Lingala and Kiswahili are popular. On a longer border there is often a message in Swahili. The message is called the jiina (‘name”) of the kanga and messages are often riddles or proverbs.

 

 

Shuka

The Shuka is a very colorful and fine Fabric. The Maasai are an ethnic group of semi-nomadic people inhabiting southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. One of the traditional forms of clothing chosen by the Maasai is the Shuka. It was initially made out of animal skins, mostly cowhide but never elephant skin, but cotton is now the main material. Maasai shuka is a protective and decorative fabric made of hand woven cotton, belonging to Kenya. Shuka woven in bright colours and plaid, is an accessory used in fashion for men and women at the present time. Shuka a beautiful example of African handicrafts, basically used as safari blanket due to the feature of keeping warm. Maasai shuka is always woven in vivid red by blending with black, blue or another main color.

It is also used as bath towel, scarf or home decoration accessory. Also top designer Louis Vuitton has a Shuka creation.

 

Shweshwe Fabric

 

Bangles made out of Ankara.

 

Feel free to add other types of African prints out there. Proudly African

 

Chaka is a profound historical fiction of the life of the founder of the Zulu Kingdom, Chaka, (sometimes spelt Shaka) who built a mighty empire during the first quarter of the 19th century. As an epic tragedy, the story’s arc followed the normal curve or the inverted ‘U’, where events are built up to the peak and begin to descend uncontrollably ending in the demise of the main character, Chaka.

 
In this novel, Mofolo mixes facts with fiction to recreate the legendary and wondrous life of one of Africa’s most mysterious and highly enigmatic figures. The eventful reign of Chaka (Shaka) became the epic tragedy of a heroic figure whose overweening ambition drove him to insane cruelty and ultimate ruin.

 
“I do not believe,” Mofolo writes, “that there was ever a human being whose life was as full of mystery as that of Chaka.” An attempt to capture this mystery led Mofolo to write Chaka in 1910. But his missionary publishers were so freaked out by the novel that they refused to publish it until 1925.

 
Chaka, born out of wedlock, became the first male child of Senzangakhona, the tribal king, who was previously without male children. He decided to marry again so that he can have a male offspring for the kingship. He became attracted to Nandi and, overcame by her beauty, took her when they were yet to be married, in violation of tribal law. She became pregnant, whereupon the two got married secretly. Chaka was born afterwards.

 
His position, however, became precarious after Senzangakhona’s senior wives began to bear him male children. The other wives were jealous of Nandi and her son Chaka, conspiring and imposing on Senzangakhona to send Chaka and Nandi away from the palace. They threatened to expose Senzangakhona for impregnating Nandi before marriage. Fearing that his tabooed deed might be found out, Senzangakhona acceded to his wives’ demands. In spite of this, and perhaps exacerbated by it, the news of Chaka’s rejection and his illegitimacy spread through the villages, making him object of ridicule and persecution.

 
Like any oppressed soul, Chaka believed that things would change since right and justice was on his side. That illusion however faded away when he heard his father order his death, even as he stared Chaka in the eye.

 
Chaka was on the run from assassins when he met one of the most ruthless witchdoctors that ever graced the pages of an African novel, Isanusi. Isanusi, who liked the young man and promised him that if he will obey in all things, he will one day inherit his father’s kingship, which was rightfully his by birth. Isanusi was the guy who made things happen. He was the magician, the sorcerer, the therapist, the priest, the conman, the strategist, the visionary, the confidante, the doctor, the hit-man, the fixer—the everything man— that every great empire-builder in history has had by his side.

 
He was the one who “inoculated” Chaka with the “medicine of blood.” “If you do not spill blood,” Isanusi explains to Chaka, “it will turn against you and kill you instead. Your sole purpose should be to kill without mercy, and thus clear the path that leads to the glory of your kingship.”

 
Isanusi turned Chaka into a killing machine. A man who had been hunted all his life had returned to bring the world to its knees.

 
By living up to this mandate to kill or be killed, Chaka instituted a political order never before imagined in his part of the world. But the blood on which his beautiful empire was built did not stay still forever. Chaka was eventually consumed by the violence that made him king and lived out the rest of his days in what can be described as schizophrenia.

 
The story of great emperors gone mad is old and familiar, but Mofolo tells it with all the dark, romantic flair of an African storyteller—sorcery, the supernatural, graphic violence, and tragic love. According to Mofolo himself
“The events in Chaka’s life were overwhelming because they were so numerous and of such tremendous import; they were like great mysteries which were beyond the people’s understanding.”

 
Mofolo’s novel is a dark, mysterious, and poetic critique of the principle of violence that defines all empires. There are novelists in Africa—a multitude of novelists. But there’s only a handful of storytellers. Mofolo was one.

 

Chaka
This book was listed as one of the best African books of the twentieth century. I recommend it for all those who love historical fiction and who want to know more about different cultures.

The Africa Utopia is back for a third year celebrating the act and culture of one of the world’s most beautiful, dynamic and fast-growing continent. The festival looks at how Africa can lead the way in think about culture, community, business and technology and includes topics ranging from fashion, gender and power to politics, sustainability and activism.

 
This year’s festival features some of Africa’s greatest artistes across music, dance, literature and art. The three day event held at London’s Southbank centre features fascinating and exciting events that reflect the richness of African culture and heritage and in some cases, what to expect from African creatives’ based at home and in the diaspora.
The Festival features also interrogate key themes attributed to the narratives of the continent such as migration, and displacement through visual art and theatre.

 
There were lots of events lined up at Africa Utopia. Some of the features from the 3 day festival:
Through Dance, music, art and literature the festival showcased appearances from Tavaziva Dance-when king Gogo met the chameleon,

legendary drummer Tony Allen, one of the acknowledged co-founders of Afrobeat,

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Senegalese super group Orchestra Baobab;

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Phoebe Boswell’s Transit Terminal,

Photo: Africa Utopia

Funmi Adewole,

Diene 'waaw waaw' Sagna, one of the performers at the opening of Africa Utopia, Southbank Centre, 11 September 2014. event. Photo: Carole Edrich

Maia Von Lekow,

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powerfully soulful West African(Mali) singer Kassé Mady Diabaté;

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Europe’s first Black and Minority Ethnic classical symphony orchestra, Chineke! and lots of others.

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Fashion and food lovers were not left out as there was an African-inspired fashion, a buzzing marketplace and delicious African street food to enjoy.

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Eritrean Food

Africa Utopia Friday Day Pass was an opportunity for people to participate in panel discussion, exploring African politics, technology, education and trade. Everything from disruptive innovation to the power and politics of data in Africa were discussed. A panel of writers with African roots explores migrations real and imagined, asking if we inevitably circle back to where we came from.

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It was a great and colorful festival.

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy: AfricaUtopia

What makes me African?
What makes you African?
What makes us Africans?
What have we become?

 
Many questions yet few answers
We crave for much yet less is worked for.
We talk more than we act
We have become enemies of work.
We have become copy cats
We are about to die
For;
“Curiosity killed the cat.”

 
We have grown a hopeless desire
For things from the west
We claim to be modern
Yet the ways of modernization don’t depict ours.

 
Did our great grand fathers and mothers fight for nothing?
Did our ancestors pray to their gods for nothing
What of the manners they instilled and so much preached,
They would strike us if they had a chance.

 
We are a shame to our own kind,
We fight each other instead of creating bonds,
We have become hurtless monsters,
Not different from the lion that hunts other animals.

 
Our values are diminishing,
Just like our dishes,
Just like our ancient hobbies,
Hide and seek and Omweso.

 
We live by stereotypes,
They define us completely,
And we fight men,
Instead of ideas.
Greed defines our path,
Africans and greed,
We are one.
Our ancestors are all together angry.

 
The lovely night bonfire’s
The awesome beer parties,
The games and hunting of game,
The energy that flowed all day long.

 
We have become servants,
Of western interests.
We are still slaves
Neo-colonialism does that.

 
We have forgotten our music
Our lovely beats,
Even our dances that many pay for to watch,
We call all of it ATS.

 
We have become prisoners
We have imprisoned ourselves,
We believe in the white man,
More than in our selves.

 
We are Africans
Behaving like slaves and servants.
We are Africans
That have forgotten their roots.

 
We teach our children western ways
We teach them how to use these instruments
Of mass destruction and hate.
Socializing avoided.

 
Social media and laziness,
Unemployment and poverty,
If only we knew our worth,
The whites would want to know our secrets.

 

#IAmAfrican

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