Back for the first timeI’m the worst blogger ever. I admit it.

I can’t believe my last entry on this blog was 9 months ago.

I got sidetracked by Real Life. Lots of interesting stuff happening in the Real World…

Besides, there are days where being on the World Wide Web is more trouble than it’s worth.

The main reason for my disappearance, though, is my peculiar relationship with internet. There are times where I’m all over the net, browsing through websites, posting on forums and comment sections of blogs, or downloading softwares, music and videogames like there is no tomorrow. Then, for some reason, I lose interest. Or I get distracted by real life. It’s some kind of cycle. I just forget the World Wide Web exists, sometimes for months.

So, expect to see me disappear again, every now and then.

In the meantime… I’ll be around.

The house where I live has a large courtyard.

It is quite unkempt. Most of it, the part we do not use, is overrun by vegetation. With time, and despite the place being located in a medium-sized town, numerous critters have made it their dwelling place.

The good side: lots of birds.

The bad side: a bunch of insects I could do without. And a few other unpleasant critters.

Here are some pictures of the more common dwellers of my courtyard:

IMG_0001 IMG_0002 IMG_0003 IMG_0001

I’m considering turning this into a series. I can’t promise anything though, most of these creatures (the birds especially) being quite difficult to photograph.

Pumzi

Pumzi

The future. 35 years after World War III, nicknamed “the Water War”. The surface of the Earth is but a radioactive desert. Flora and fauna are long dead. The remnants of humanity survive in small indoor communities scattered across the globe.

Asha is a scientist living in the Maitu, a complex located somewhere under the barren desert that once was East Africa. In this self-sufficient society, electricity is produced by hard labour and everything, up to body fluids, is recycled. Everything is rationed, especially water.

One day, Asha’s daily routine is interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious parcel on her desk at the Virtual Natural History Museum. No delivery note, no sender name, no instruction. Just some topographic coordinates handwritten on the box. Inside, Asha finds a sample of soil. Assuming it is sent by her superiors of the Museum, she analyses the sample. Surprise: the analysis returns unusually high water content and no trace of radioactivity. On a hunch, Asha plants a seed in the soil. It instantly germinates! This does not make sense. The coordinates on the box locate the area of origin on the surface, but everyone knows that the surface is not fit for life, be it human, animal or vegetal. The outside is dead.

A mysterious box

Asha requests an exit visa to go investigate. The Council denies it. Not only that but Asha is ordered to drop any further investigation and to surrender the sample to the Maitu security.

Bad move. Any African husband will tell you that African women do not like to be told what they should do. Quite expectedly, Asha disobeys. Thus she triggers a chain of events which will force her to leave the Maitu and begin her journey on the surface.

Outside

Pumzi is a short film by Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu. It was released in 2009 and features Kudzani Moswela in the role of Asha. It won several awards, including the Best Short Film award at the Cannes Independent Film Festival in 2010 and the Special Jury Prize at the 2010 Zanzibar International Film Festival. It is considered one of the first african Science-Fiction movies.

Director Wanuri KahiuThere are a lot of reasons why I love this movie so much. The efficiency and sobriety of Wanuri Kahiu’s story-telling, to begin with. In less than 21 minutes (the length of the movie), and with little exposition, she makes us care for the heroine. We feel immediately unsettled by the sanitized, secluded Maitu whose totalitarian functioning is subtly hinted. Then, as Asha reaches the surface, we are overwhelmed by the scorched, barren desolation which engulfs her…

Kudzani Moswela as AshaKudzani Moswela is the second reason why I love Pumzi. She mesmerized me the whole 21 minutes: slender and graceful, dark-skinned and just plain beautiful. She looks too fragile for this harsh world, yet she has that determination that keeps her going…

Pumzi is a great movie. Its writing, direction and acting make it worthy of the attention of any cinema enthusiast. However I will especially recommend it to the African SciFi lovers like me, who too rarely have the occasion to appreciate heroes and heroines who look like us, and who can’t get enough of hearing them speak their lines with an African accent.

Yesterday while hunting for a picture to illustrate a future post, I stumbled upon this on Google Image:

Mystery Woman, front Mystery Woman, back

I do not know the name of the statue, who made it, where it is located… I spent some time on Google trying to find some info – or at least better pictures – but so far no luck.

My search only yielded one more picture:

The same, but different

It looks like the same statue, but judging by the background and slight differences on the face, it’s probably not. Also, this one has a more polished look. This may be because of the lighting or the weather though, or even the quality/settings of the camera used to take the photograph.

Whether one is a copy of the other or they are the same statue moved from one spot to another is only one of the questions the pictures arouse.

Who is this Black woman? Why is she standing, naked, her eyes shut, her hands frozen in this position? What is her story?

The artist did a very good job rendering her body. The strength here is in the proportions, and details such as the (suggested) bone structure of the legs. The statue looks like a real woman. The author did not aim for an artificial perfection.

I wish I had a closer shot of the head, especially the features of her face and the texture of the hair.

When/if I find more info (or better pictures) I will post them.

Like the Man said.

Like the Man said.

My interest for African history dates back to the middle of the ’80s, when I was about 10, 11 years old. It was ignited by 3 factors.

Les Deux Princes

Les Deux Princes

The 1rst one was a comic book series titled “Les Deux Princes” (in English: “The 2 princes”). It was published in Calao, a magazine quite popular among francophone West African schoolchildren of the time. “Les Deux Princes” was inspired by the true story of Ali Kolen and Selman Nar, the sons of the king of Gao who freed their kingdom from the domination of Mali, thus inaugurating the rise of the Songhai Empire in the XIVth century. This story motivated me to do some research, mostly out of curiosity, to know how true to the historical facts the plot was.

Afrique Histoire

Afrique Histoire

The 2nd factor was the magazine Afrique Histoire, which provided me the first answers.  Afrique Histoire, published in Dakar, Senegal, introduced me to the great African historians from all over the continent. By the time I bought my first issue the magazine was not in print anymore, but in these waning days of the first reign of the Chameleon, Benin was like frozen in time. It was not unusual to find years-old books and magazines in our poorly stocked bookshops. This was especially true for us living inland, hundreds of kilometers away from Cotonou, the economic capital.

 

The 3rd factor was the General History of Africa.

Our small municipal library – my second home – owned all the volume released at the time. The General History of Africa was a project initiated in the late ‘60s by newly independent African states, with technical assistance from UNESCO. Encompassing the continent as a whole, this was an ambitious attempt at decolonizing the writing of African history. It was groundbreaking in many ways.

First and foremost, a majority of the historians involved were Africans (2/3 of the contributors). The credit list includes all the big names of the African historiography: Ali Mazrui, Amadou Mahtar M’Bow, Cheikh Anta Diop, Djibril Tamsir Niane, Elikia Mbokolo, Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Théophile Obenga, Amadou Hampaté Bâ, Walter Rodney and many others …

Second, the General History of Africa was, to the best of my knowledge, the first work of this scope to propose a global history of our continent, including the Diaspora, North Africa and Madagascar. It shed light on the interactions within the continent and its relations with other parts of the world (the Middle East, Asia and Europe) throughout time.

The General History of Africa counts 8 volumes published from 1979 to 1999:

Volume I : Methodology and African Prehistory
Volume II : Ancient Civilizations of Africa
Volume III : Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century
Volume IV : Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century
Volume V : Africa from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century
Volume VI : Africa in the Nineteenth Century until the 1880s
Volume VII : Africa under Colonial Domination 1880-1935
Volume VIII : Africa since 1935

And the best part? The whole collection is available online in several languages and can be downloaded for free as PDF files from the site of the UNESCO.

So, what are you waiting for? Download The General History of Africa. NOW.

Welcome to my little piece of the internet.

I’m your host, Dahoman X. You can call me DX.

“Dahoman/Dahomean” refers to the former name of my country, which accessed to independence as the Republic of Dahomey in 1960. We became the People’s Republic of Benin in 1975, then the Republic of Benin in 1990.

The “X” has nothing to do with the Nation of Islam nor any deep meaning. Understand it as in the phrases “individual X”, “individual Y”. Actually, I could have called myself “Beninese #101” but Dahoman X sounds much cooler.

As for this blog, it will be about whatever I decide to ramble on. Most posts will be about popular culture, things I like/dislike or stuff I want you to know about, or even some random thoughts about whatever I decide to bore you with. Hey, I may even address some serious issues every now and then.

Some posts will be in English, some posts will be in French. Not that I have any sentimental attachment to said languages, mind you. Accidents of history – and life – just make it that I’m semi-illiterate in the languages I actually care about. Beside, the readership for African languages is quite limited on the web.

And for those wondering, Kúabɔ̀ means welcome in Fongbe.

Stay tuned. I will be back soon.