Notes from the Now

Posts Tagged ‘africa’

#10Readings – April 3, 2016

In Africa, Art, Books, Chicago, Education, History, literature, news on April 3, 2016 at 4:46 pm

Things I have Written

1. Not A Diarist – March 31, 2016. #marooned

Books I have read recently

2.  March: Book 2 by  John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

Things Read on the internet

3. Can $86 Million Save a Neighborhood? | On the Comer Foundation, Pocket-Town, and Chicago

4. Liberia outsources entire education system to a private American firm. Why all should pay attention |  On outsourcing a national education system

5. The changing rules of segregation in Chicago: or, a Chinatown grows in Bronzeville | On the mechanics of segregation, population shift, and change in Chicago

6.  College endowments under scrutiny | What requirements should there be for tax-exempt institutions with significant (>$1B) endowments?

7. The Journalist and the Troll: This Man Spent Two Years Trying to Destroy Me Online  | What a horror-show the Internet can be.

8.  Death by gentrification: the killing that shamed San Francisco | Rebecca Solnit

9.  The Republican Party Must Answer for What It Did to Kansas and Louisiana  | When do experiments get termed failures?

10.   McSweeney’s List: The Basic Types of Literary Conflict.  | Pants vs. Everything.





Cover Art for African Books – h/t @africasacountry

In Africa, Art, Books on May 26, 2014 at 4:00 am

One of the great twitter observations of the week came from @africasacountry (and was picked up by the Atlantic) that there seem to be a very limited palette of images/colors/designs that the publishing industry chooses to employ when dealing w/ literature from Africa.  Articles are worth reading.


Review — After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa

In Africa, Books on December 8, 2012 at 11:44 am


After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa
After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa by Douglas Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had the opportunity to hear Douglas Foster give a particularly fascinating multimedia talk about “After Mandela…”, so I’m not entirely sure how well the book’s unorthodox structure – part high-level political reportage, part youth ethnography, part
part personal reflection — would hold together without that kind of forewarning.

What Foster does that’s remarkable is two-fold: 1) He gets access to Jacob Zuma in a way that to date no one else really has, and 2) he reaches out to a younger generation of political families and gets ten on the record in a way that will certainly be fascinating to look back upon. Arguably the third thing he does that’s remarkable is telling stories of ordinary South Africans in conjunction with these other two pieces, and there’s certainly an importance to that.

I’d say this one is great for those who have a solid understanding of the modern South African history already and can then really appreciate the nuance and these additional layers that Foster brings into the discussion.

Review — Zwelethu Mthethwa

In Africa, Art, Books on December 2, 2012 at 10:25 am

Zwelethu Mthethwa
Zwelethu Mthethwa by Isolde Brielmaier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Magnificent Portraiture!

The sections on South Africa very much reminded me of the homes in the squatter camps – with newspaper or magazine inserts decorating the insides – that I saw during my time in the Peace Corps.

“After Mandela” – Doug Foster @UCHICAGOCIS (10/17/2012)

In Africa, Books, History, University of Chicago on October 17, 2012 at 10:35 pm

I’m at about page 80 of Doug Foster’s “After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa“, so I jumped at the opportunity to hear him speak at the IHOUSE as part of the Global Voices series.

I walked in with some trepidation about another foreign writer writing about South Africa, which has been the subject of so much schlock journalism over the years. While I’m not entirely sure that the book is entirely divorced of the lazy writing that categorizes everything South African as Miracle or Tragedy, I’m at least pleased that Foster addressed it in his comments and then moreso during the Q&A.

Looking forward to finishing the book!


  • He referred to the book as having an “Upstairs / downstairs setup” where in one stream he talks to political leaders (most notably Jacob Zuma) about South Africa from their perspective, and in the other stream he talks to youngsters and a cross section of the society.
  • Heavy emphasis on the “Born free generation”. Note: 40% of South Africans are under the age of 18.
  • He eagerly shared his first “Mlungu” moment, where he confidently declared that yes, he knows eminem.
  • Very conscientious that “As an outsider you have to struggle to avoid falling into tropes” and stressed that as a journalist his number 1 goal was fidelity to the story
  • 6 featured stories, lots of group interviews. 1000s of people covered in the group interviews.
  • I asked a question about Zuma’s assuming a more leftist stance that Mbeki during the election, and then reverting to form, and what that means for Malema who is also trying to outflank Zuma on the left. Foster’s answer was interesting — that Zuma didn’t do as much posturing as we’d think and that for the most part he just let people create the persona (the non-Mbeki persona) that they were comfortable voting for
  • He didn’t take my question about Malema, but he took the next person’s — basically he thinks Malema learned quite a bit from following zuma around in ’07, but that he will most likely end up in jail.
  • He thinks the move to oust Zuma is coming from a cadre of core ANC loyalists who feel like Zuma has strayed too far in many directions — not from folks to “the left” who want most socialist land/economic policies.
  • Neatest part of the talk was that he played some of the audio from the actual interviews so you could hear the voices of some of the featured subjects. Very nice touch.


Review: Cry for Help: 36 Scam E-Mails from Africa

In Africa, Books on October 4, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Cry for Help: 36 Scam E-Mails from Africa
Cry for Help: 36 Scam E-Mails from Africa by Henning Wagenbreth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well illustrated compliation of scam emails from africa in all the major categories — relative of deposed authoritarian ruler, displaced zimbabwean, foreign aid project gone wrong, etc.

Perhaps a fun book to give as a gift. Clearly only for those with an affinity for the genre.

Powell’s Midnight Madness Sale (September 2012)

In Books on September 30, 2012 at 10:16 am


My favorite consumer event is the annual Powell’s on 57th Street Midnight Madness Sale, where every item (under $50) is half-off between 9pm and Midnight (if you own or buy a Powell’s T-shirt or tote bag).  I sat out last year’s sale, mostly because I felt like I was running out of space for books, but I’ve moved since then, and space is the least of my concerns.  The key is to get to the store early, maybe 8pm, while you can still move around freely.  Alternately, showing up around 11-11:30 is ok, even if not quite as easy as earlier.



Highly Recommended: “Have you heard from Johannesburg?” #PBS

In Africa, Film on January 18, 2012 at 1:00 am

In no uncertain terms, the documentary “Have You Heard from Johannesburg” is worth watching for anyone interested in South Africa, History, Human Rights, International Movements, Mandela, etc.

Parts One and Two aired this past week but can be found online *in their entirety* on PBS!

Part 1: “Road to Resistance” –  History, Oliver tambo, setting up the ANC abroad, Sharpeville

Part 2: “The New Generation” the Dutch, Steve Biko, Black Consciousness, Soweto

SoundtrackAvailable on Spotify

Random Screen Caps:

Netflix Streaming: Fela – Music is the Weapon, Konkombe – The Nigerian Pop Music Scene

In Africa, Film on January 2, 2012 at 8:56 am


Some 70s African Music Recommendations from the Netflix Streaming Catalog:

Fela Kuti:  Music is the Weapon

Fela is at his charismatic talented best in this short documentary highlighting his rise, situation, and talents.

Konkombe:  The Nigerian Music Scene

Another short documentary on African musicians that highlights the 70s in all their glory and the variety of the Nigerian music scene in particular.  Interesting enough on it’s own, it’s particularly good as a compliment to “Fela Kuti:  Music is the Weapon” to see Fela in context.

My March 2010 In Books

In Africa, History, literature on April 4, 2010 at 9:27 am

Here’s what March 2010 looked like for me reading-wise:

  • Jackie McMullen w/ Larry Bird & Magic JohnsonWhen the Game was Ours” : I’m a sucker for 80s hoops stories. The sports media reported on all the big “reveals” before the book was released, but the stories were still engaging. It turns out I didn’t know as much about Larry Bird as I thought I did!
  • David CohenNelson Mandela A Life in Pictures” : Nice general history of South Africa & Mandela, with excellent photographs and excerpts of speeches.
  • Fried & Hannsson (of “REWORK” : I don’t read many of these web2.0-style business books, but the hype around REWORK (and the interestingness of 37Signals) made me give this one a try.  It’s a little too slogan-y (but that might just be the genre), but they give anyone who’s trying to run a small organization some ideas and ways to think about priorities.
  • Vaclav HavelDisturbing the Peace” : Probably read this out of order, should have read a solid “standard” biography first.  Havel fascinates me.
  • Chinua AchebeThe Education of a British-Protected Child” : The essays/speeches are a little uneven, until Achebe starts talking about Joseph Conrad’s “the Heart of Darkness” and it’s legacy.  Worth reading those if you are interested in the post-colonial interplay between the West & Africa (you’ll probably learn something about Biafra along the way).
  • Cormac McCarthyThe Road” : An artful modern classic worthy of acclaim.  I started reading this in the Winter, but had to put it down until the Spring.  It’s too bleak a story to read when your own personal environment feels bleak, but when the sun comes out, you can appreciate McCarthy’s triumph.