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    A good read: African writers we’re loving

    After the unusually long hot British summer, the nights are drawing in and the temperature is dropping down to single figures. What a great time to curl up on the sofa with a blanket and a good book. Right?

    Some really fresh and inspiring voices from Africa and the diaspora are emerging onto the British and international literary scene.

    Three writers who have been receiving some well-deserved attention and a clutch of prestigious awards are Diana Evans, Chibundu Onuzo and Michael Donkor.

     

    Diana Evans

     I write from inside blackness, from inside black experience…..I don’t think you can write about black characters without writing about race, it’s so deeply engrained

    Books:

    • 26a (2005)
    • The Wonder (2009)
    • Ordinary People (2018)
    Diane Evans and the cover of 'Ordinary People'

    Diane Evans and the cover of ‘Ordinary People’

    Diana Evans, of Nigerian and British descent was born and raised in northwest London with her 5 sisters, one of whom was her twin. Sadly, it was the suicide of her twin sister at the age of 26 which prompted her to write her first novel, 26a. It is the strongly autobiographical story of identical Nigeria-British twins growing up in Neasden, London. Tragedy, fantasy, secrecy and humour are all there in this page turning debut novel. It won the Orange Award for New Writers and Betty Trask Award, Society of Authors.

    The Wonder explores in lyrical prose the life of a dancer – before becoming a journalist and writer, Diana Evans was herself a dancer. The novel, a ‘dance mystery’ is currently being considered for TV dramatization.

    In her most recent novel, Ordinary People, Diana Evans tracks the troubled relationship between Melissa and Michael, a couple in their thirteenth year of being together. In an interview with the Guardian, Diana Evans explains,

    “I wanted to write a book about contemporary London,” she says. “Black people, thirtysomethings, couples. Part of what I’m trying to do is to make us visible, because we aren’t visible in imagery.”

    The novel explores the impact of Barack Obama’s election as President of USA in 2008 and Michael Jackson’s death the following year on her characters’ lives.

    After the publication of each novel, Diana Evans rewards herself by buying a chair for her home! That’s three so far!

     

    Chibundu Onuzo

    Books:

    • The Spider King’s Daughter (2012)
    • Welcome to Lagos (2017)

    Chibundu Onuzo and 'The Spider King's Daughter' cover

    No doubt about it, Chibundu Onuzo is a literary phenomenon and prodigy. By the ripe age of 26, she already had two published novels under her belt. In fact, she began her first novel when she was just 10 years old! At 19, she was the youngest ever writer to be signed by publishers Faber and Faber and in 2018 was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Quite an achievement, right!

    Born in Nigeria, Chibundu Onuzo was exposed to storytelling at a young age. Her father was an oral storyteller whereas her mother passed on her love of 19th century British literature to Chibundu.

    She is currently studying for a PhD in history at Kings College London – somehow, she also manages to write novels, produce and perform in a spectacular musical autobiography and fit in publicity tours! What a superwoman!

     

    The Spider King’s Daughter is a ‘forbidden love’ story. A tumultuous relationship develops between Abike, the pampered but often lonely daughter of a wealthy, corrupt Lagos businessman and an impoverished street hawker whose family have lost everything. Many strange and uncomfortable truths about the two families and about Nigerian society come to light in the course of the book.

    The novel was the winner of a Betty Trask Award, shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Commonwealth Book Prize

    Welcome to Lagos is a very different kind of book and arose from a dream Chibundu had about two soldiers. In contrast to The Spider King’s Daughter which focuses on its two principal characters, Welcome to Lagos is an ambitious ensemble piece involving a whole cast of people from very different walks of life thrown together by chance with often surprising alliances and hilarious results.

    Michael Donkor

    Book:

    Hold (2018)

    Michael Donkor and 'Hold' book cover

    Michael Donkor, a secondary school teacher turned novelist was born to Ghanaian parents and grew up in London. The Observer referred to him as a new face of fiction and named him as one of the best debut novelists of 2018.

    Hold, a coming of age story and Michael Donkor’s first novel was inspired by the numerous silent housemaids he saw on childhood visits to his extended family in Ghana. Set in 2002 and moving between Ghana and South London, the story revolves around 17year old Belinda, a housemaid sent from Ghana to tend to Amma, a challenging London born teenager who lives with her Ghanaian family. In the novel, Donkor tackles female friendship and sexuality, generational and class differences and the taboos around homosexuality in the Ghanaian community. A riveting thought-provoking read.

     

    So, you’re probably already rushing out to your local bookstore to buy one or other of these inspiring books to immerse yourself in on chilly days and evenings.

    And what awesome gifts for friends and family on the Christmas present list!

     

    Author: Yvonne Lloyd

    BHM Profile: Princess Elizabeth of Toro

    Welcome to our Black History Month 2018 profile. With the often negative narrative Africa has experienced through the years, the ranks of African royalty have not only been overlooked, but have also produced some remarkable figures with diverse backgrounds. One such individual is Princess Elizabeth Bagaaya of Toro, a woman who has rightly gained a reputation for her dedication to her nation, kindness, beauty and exceptional intellect. Elizabeth’s story is one of style, beauty, honour, dedication, intrigue, danger, love and loss.

    The daughter of the Omukama (King) George D. Rukiidi III, Elizabeth was born in Toro, Uganda in 1936. Toro became an independent state in the 18th century when it seceded from the ancient empire of Bunyoro-Kitara, which covered parts of present-day Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zaire, and Uganda. Toro lost its kingdom status in 1967 when President Milton Obote’s government abolished monarchs in Uganda.

    Princess Elizabeth with her father George Rukidi, the Omukama of the Toro Kingdom of Uganda

    Princess Elizabeth with her father George Rukidi, the Omukama of the Toro Kingdom of Uganda

    Elizabeth went to school in Uganda but completed high school at Sherborne, an exclusive English all-girls’ school. This presented new challenges: the young princess had to adjust not only to a new culture, but also to what it meant to be the only African student among white aristocrats.elizabeth of toro at party

    “I felt that I was on trial and that my failure to excel would reflect badly on the entire black race,” she later wrote. After one year, she was accepted into the University of Cambridge, only the third African woman in the institution’s history. In 1962, she graduated from Cambridge. Three years later the princess became a barrister-at-law, becoming the first woman from East Africa to be admitted to the English Bar.

    elizabeth of toro blog 3

    Following the death of her father in 1965 Elizabeth returned to Uganda and received the title of Batebe (Princess Royal), making her the most powerful woman in the Toro Kingdom as advisor to her brother the new King. Barely one year later, political turmoil ensued in Uganda under Milton Obote, and Elizabeth escaped to London where Princess Margaret invited her to model in a charity fashion show where she was immediately a hit. She took to modelling like a duck to water.

    The future Ugandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Princess Elizabeth of Toro posing in her New York apartment, 1969

    The future Ugandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Princess Elizabeth of Toro posing in her New York apartment, 1969

    Elizabeth featured in Vogue, Look, LIFE, Ebony and Queen magazines. She continued her modelling career in New York. She became the first Black woman to appear on the cover of a top fashion magazine (Harper’s Bazaar). Elizabeth also dabbled in acting and had a role in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease among others.

    Princess Elizabeth of Toro photo by Gianni Penati-1966

    Princess Elizabeth of Toro photo by Gianni Penati-1966

    Political changes in Uganda in 1971 interrupted her career. Obote was overthrown by General Idi Amin who invited Elizabeth back to Uganda. Prompted by the desire to serve her country and caught up in the euphoria that followed the military takeover, Elizabeth served Amin’s government, acting as Uganda’s Roving Ambassador. But Amin’s rule was arguably even more repressive than Obote’s.

    Elizabeth-of-Toro-blog 4

    As part of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Elizabeth participated in a campaign to dispel the prevailing international skepticism around Amin. By 1972 it was becoming increasingly difficult for Elizabeth to use her exceptional diplomatic skills to formulate a coordinated foreign policy as Amin’s actions became erratic, confrontational and murderous, with several international incidents being sparked by his actions.

    23 Aug 1974 --- Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger chats with Elizabeth, Foreign Minister of Uganda, during a luncheon hosted by Kissinger at the U.S. Missions. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

    23 Aug 1974 — Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger chats with Elizabeth, Foreign Minister of Uganda, during a luncheon hosted by Kissinger at the U.S. Missions. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

    It was during this explosive time that Elizabeth was appointed Foreign Minister in 1974. A short as her tenure was (less than a year), Elizabeth revived Uganda’s tarnished image abroad, tried to soothe hostilities, and encouraged heads of state to visit the country and mend broken relationships. Ironically, her success as an advocate for Uganda helped Uganda but was one of the causes for her downfall. Amin became envious. It was under this illusion that Amin unsuccessfully proposed marriage to Bagaaya on her return from overseas.

    After a brief arrest Elizabeth fled Uganda, taking up political asylum in Britain. Four years later, Elizabeth returned to Uganda to help with the country’s first free national elections, which were won by Obote, who continued killing his enemies. Elizabeth and her fiancé Prince Wilberforce Nyabongo, an aviation engineer, escaped to London in 1980 and married in 1981.

    Princess Elizabeth at a Ugandan fashion event in 2015

    Princess Elizabeth at a Ugandan fashion event in 2015

    Finally in 1985, Obote was overthrown and following a brief period of military rule, was replaced by Yoweri Museveni. In 1986, Elizabeth was appointed ambassador to the United States, a job she held until 1988. Later that year, Nyabongo was killed in a plane crash.

    After to the death of her husband, Elizabeth decided to focus on charitable activities and became the official guardian of her nephew, the King of Toro who was crowned at the age of 3. Following a period of service as Uganda’s Ambassador to Germany and the Vatican, Elizabeth accepted an appointment as Uganda’s High Commissioner to Nigeria.

    Princess Elizabeth of Toro in ceremonial attire

    Princess Elizabeth of Toro in ceremonial attire

    The restoration of cultural leaders by President Museveni’s government in 1993 beckoned Princess Bagaya to return and serve her people as Princess Royale to her brother, King Patrick Kaboyo Olimi VII. She was one of the key players in restarting the kingdom as most of the elders who knew all the rituals and protocol were dead or scattered all over the world. Upon the untimely death of King Olimi VII, she was named as one of the guardians to her nephew, the  three-and-one half years old infant king, His Royal Highness Omukama Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV. She is, today, one of the key players in the kingdom reconstruction activities of The Batebe of Toro Foundation, to which she devotes most of her time.

    The story of Princess Elizabeth of Toro relates the highs and lows in the life of a living legend, a fairy tale princess.

    Further Reading:

    African Princess: The Story of Elizabeth of Toro (London: 1983)

    Elizabeth of Toro: The Odyssey of an African Princess (1989)

    A State of Blood: The Inside Story of Idi Amin (1977) by Henry Kyemba

    A Season of African Cinema – Film Africa

    If like us you’re interested in African cinema, you’ll be looking forward to the eighth Film Africa, the annual London-based film festival hosted by the Royal African Society. The film extravaganza showcases the best films from across the continent and the diaspora from both established and brand new directors from 2 to 11 November 2018. Since its launch in 2011, more than 22,000 people have watched 388 diverse films from directors across Africa.

    Yes Film Africa is about bringing a mouthwatering buffet of African films to audiences in UK, but it’s also so much more than that: Director Q&As, talks, debates, school outreach programmes, family events, live music shows, professional workshops and a selection of master classes are all on offer during the festival.

    What’s on at Film Africa 2018?

    Not that we’re biased, but this year’s festival line-up is looking awesome. Shorts, documentaries and feature films – take your pick or better still mix and match! The opening gala which takes place at BFI Southbank is the UK premiere of The Burial of Kojo by Ghanaian musician and film director Blitz Bazawule.

    The closing gala on November 11th, at Rich Mix, will feature Kasala by Nigerian director Ema Edosio. In between, a trawl through the eclectic selection reveals films by directors from countries as diverse as South Africa, Tunisia, Kenya, Egypt, Sudan, Gabon, Burundi and Somalia.

    For more information on this year’s programme, go to http://www.filmafrica.org/full-programme/

    Whether you’re in London or not, you can still get involved in upgarding your African cinema repertoire. Thanks to global streaming sites and online DVD sellers, we’ve found more (not enough!) African cinema available for global viewing.

    We’re making this our season of African cinema, and this is our top 10 to watch – from across the continent and covering different genres. Join us!

    1. I Am Not A Witch (Zambia, 2017) – “Approaches real-life injustices with a beguiling blend of sorrow, anger, and humour, marking debuting writer-director Rungano Nyoni as an exciting new talent.” (Rotten Tomatoes, 97%)

    Image result for i am not a witch7

    2. Moolaade (Senegal, 2004) – From legendary author and film director Ousmane Sembene, “A vibrant, powerful, and poignant glimpse into the struggles of women in modern Africa.” (Rotten Tomatoes, 99%)

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    3. Tsotsi (South Africa, 2006) – Directed by Gavin Hood. With Presley Chweneyagae, Mothusi Magano, Israel Makoe, Terry Pheto. Six days in the violent life of a young Johannesburg gang member who is beyond redemption…or is he?

    Image result for tsotsi

    4. Yeelen (Mali, 1987) – (Bambara for “brightness”/”light”) It is filmed in the Bambara and Fula languages, and is based on a legend told by the Bambara people. Cissé presents a thirteenth-century legend seemingly from the perspective of its characters, for whom the supernatural realm, the domain of divine powers realized concretely on earth, is demonstrable, evident, and visible.

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    5. Waiting for Happiness (Mauritania, 2002) – The film pictures Mauritania as a kind of limbo, where everyone is waiting, watching, dreaming of going to France or elsewhere. A boy tries to install an electric light. A rootless man’s shirt is the exact same material as his curtains and sofa. As these people drift and dream we see, through their eyes, street scenes of utter beauty, and we hear, through their ears, Malian Oumou Sangaré’s gorgeous score.

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    6. Touki Bouki (Senegal, 1973) – Directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty, the film tells the story of Mory a cowherd who rides a motorcycle mounted with a cow’s skull, and Anta, a university student as they try to make money in order to go to Paris and leave their boring past behind.

    7. The Gods Must Be Crazy (South Africa, 1980) – Written and directed by Jamie Uys. Financed only from local sources, it is the most commercially successful release in the history of South Africa’s film industry. Set in Botswana, the poignantly insightful comedy follows the story of Xi, a San of the Kalahari Desert whose tribe has no knowledge of the world beyond, Andrew, a biologist who analyzes manure samples for his PhD dissertation, and Kate, a newly hired village school teacher.

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    8. Hyenas (Senegal, 1993) – A quirky but visually decadent film from director Djibril Diop Mambéty. After being banished from her village three decades earlier for getting pregnant out of wedlock, and finding great fortune on her travels, Linguere has returned home intent on punishing Dramaan the man who made her pregnant.

    Image result for hyenas film

    9. Teza (Ethiopia, 2008) – Intellectual Anberber returns to his native country after several years spent studying medicine abroad, he finds the country of his youth replaced by turmoil. Seeking the comfort of his countryside home, Anberber finds no refuge from violence.  Anberber needs to decide whether he wants to bear the strain or piece together a life from the fragments that lie around him.

    10. Half of a Yellow Sun (Nigeria, 2013) – Based on the novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and directed by Biyi Bandele. Sisters Olanna and Kainene return home to 1960s Nigeria, where they soon diverge on different paths. As civil war breaks out, political events loom larger than their differences as they join the fight to establish an independent republic.

    Image result for half of a yellow sun movie

    Why is Film Africa and contemporary African cinema such a big deal?

    To fully appreciate the significance of Film Africa, one needs to look at the history of film-making. At best, most films about Africa in colonial times (and beyond) showed Africans as exotic, living in outlandish places. At worst, they were depicted as savage, primitive, or as submissive and childlike, with little to no agency, dependent on the mercy of western masters for their survival.

    Post independence, African filmmakers started to emerge, vigorously challenging the narrow portrayals of the continent and its inhabitants. The themes were overtly political and social in nature, representing characters as dignified, intelligent, articulate people who felt love, hatred, greed, ambition, fear and joy as deeply as all humanity. These films show Africa unapologetically, threading cultural context and music, costume, ritual into the telling of the stories.

    Sembène Ousmane, the Senegalese director is widely regarded as the founding father of African cinema – an ever-growing list of directors, both men and women have been inspired by him and followed in his pioneering footsteps.

    Hence the massive importance of Film Africa to set the records straight and help give African cinema a platform – African culture, African history, African stories related by African directors.

    Words: Yvonne Lloyd & Daphne Kasambala

     

     

    Countdown: CALLEFI Premium Lifestyle Event 20-22 July

    CALLEFI SAVE THE DATECounting down to London’s CALLEFI Lux Weekend & Investment Forum on 20-22 July, 2018, supporting Premium and Luxury Lifestyle Brands of African & Caribbean heritage for tangible social impact.

    Come and enjoy art, fashion, dining, music & culture.

    Sapelle will be showcasing our new ‘Sapelle x Adire’ fashion collection.

    Venue: One Horseguards, London SW1

    Click here for details and tickets: https://www.callefi.com/

     

     

     

     

     

    7 Sizzlers for your Summer Wardrobe

    Sapelle African Print Ankara Top Yellow

    ‘BANANA’ PRINT TOP Pair with: skinny jean, wide leg pants, print-clashed skirt, denim shorts

    Sapelle African Print Ankara Skirt Yellow Blue

    FLIRTY WRAP SKIRT Fun, flirty and timeless. An adjustable tie waistband and neutral colourway make this a wardrobe essential

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    SILVER LEATHER SANDALS Beautifully hand-made by our partners in Nigeria

    Sapelle Adire African Print Blue Dress

    ‘FEATHERS’ HAND-DYED ADIRE SHIFT TUNIC The perfect fusion of heritage textile and contemporary design. Hand-made by Adire artisans in Nigeria

    Sapelle Ankara African Print Skirt Blue

    ‘SWALLOWS’ PRINT PLEATED SKIRT A well-loved classic wax print on an easy-to wear skirt that works well for may occasions

    Sapelle Ankara African Print Summer Dress Orange

    ‘TANGERINE & LIME’ PRINT DRESS One of our favourite prints combining easy fit, cool cotton and a bold statement print for vacation, party or weekend chilling

    Sapelle Ethnik by Tunde Aso Oke Handwoven Hand Bag Pink

    ASO OKE HAND-WOVEN & LEATHER HANDBAG Ethically hand-made by weaving artisans in Nigeria, a fusion of tradition and modern design and function