It’s a long ride from the swanky swag of Cape Town’s Convention Centre to the gritty unaffectedness of the township of Philippi. We are in town for a conference on inequality. Thousands of words of analyses, mind-bending philosophies, but inequality doesn’t get much clearer than the trip to Philippi.
I am in the networking zone, surfing a sea of intellectual encounters, when I encounter Tunisian graffiti artist eL Seed. He’s carrying bags full of canisters, on his way to Philippi to do some street art. “We’re leaving right now, come!” eL Seed’s got this lightning-and-rainbows enthusiasm about his art. It’s contagious. I grab my bag.
The mood is edgy on the drive. The anti-gravitational thrill of sharing beauty, grounded by a discomfiting self-awareness steeped in the pungent scent of privilege, the space from which we operate. eL Seed is grappling with the contradiction. “Do you think they’ll be offended?” He asks me. “Like, who does this guy think he is, that he can just walk into our community and do his art?”
I want to say no. No, of course not, a thing of art is a thing of beauty, a gift from the heart is never misplaced. But who am I to say? We are bringing art and asking nothing in return except that most sacred incorporeal asset – personal space.
“I don’t know,” I tell him. “You’ve linked up with people in the hood; I think that’s the important thing… ?” The question mark. It lingers uncomfortably through the rest of the drive. The politics of ‘giving’ are not for the ‘giver’ to decide.
The township of Philippi was established as a residential zone by South Africa’s apartheid government in the 80s. It was one of the final mass relocations of black people to the distant outskirts of Cape Town. Three decades later, government policies have shifted, but foundational geopolitics remain cemented in the country’s economic and social architecture. The place we are going today used to be a rubble dump for the Philippi area. Now twenty thousand people call it home – Sweet Home, to be precise, is its name.
The Open Forum 2012 has come to an end in Cape Town, South Africa, with Day three putting a spotlight on Money, Power and Sex: The paradox of unequal growth, where the need for effective sex education was stressed.
There were lively and witty discussions on issues surrounding sex, with some strong argument focused on inequalities and homophobia as well as policies and legislation relative to women’s rights to sexual pleasure.
One of those sitting on the panel at a plenary session on The Politics of Sexual Pleasure was Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah of the African Women’s Development Fund, who runs a blog called Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women.
“Growing up, I had very little sex education, which was basically limited to…you watch TV programs and that teenage girl gets pregnant and she gets thrown out of school, that’s all I knew—those sad stories,” Sekyiamah told West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR) at the recent Cape Town forum.
Seyyiamah explained that this was what led her to start her blog.
“I didn’t know you can have safe sex, you can use contraceptions, sex should be pleasurable, I din’t know all of these issues,” the Ghanaian blogger added.
OpenForum 2012 was organized by four Open Society foundations in Africa convening in Cape Town from 22-24 May to discuss Africa’s future, in the face of present day realities.
WADR’s Peter Kahler caught up with the Ghanaian blogger and Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah explains her motivation.
In May 2012 the OpenForum took place in Cape Town, South Africa. The gathering brought together activists, artists, academics, policy-makers and business people to discuss the factors that will influence the African continent over the next decade. Leading up to the OpenForum, our partner website This Is Africa organized radio debates with Bush Radio in Cape Town, Ghetto Radio in Nairobi, XFM and YFM in Accra around the themes of the Forum. Altogether, 12 guests representing community based youth projects, media, literary publications and musical groups exchanged thoughts about the promises and challenges of democracy in Africa.
The Cape Town debate was hosted by SA hip hop legend Shamiel X and Bassie Montewa, the Bush Radio presenter who’s a legend in the field of talk radio in the Cape. The panel was made up of a diverse group:
The recording of the discussion has been re-edited by host Shamiel X into a podcast featuring 19 South African hip hop tracks, most of which are not available anywhere else. Another Africanhiphop.com exclusive!
A blog post by Youth Summit and Open Forum participant, Minna Salami (aka Ms Afropolitan).
Blessol Gathoni, Jan Moolman, Minna Salami, Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah and Spectra
I got back in to London this morning from the YouthSummit and the OpenForum 2012 in Cape Town, a very relevant conference that brought together African thinkers from creative, activist, scholarly, political and technocratic backgrounds. It was expertly put together by OSISA, who as promised created a truly “unapologetic space for reflection and debate”. From Femi Kuti to Mona El Tahawy to Pettina Gappah, the panels consisted of game changers from diverse professional backgrounds as well as age group and regions. I’m confident that the result will be fruitful exchanges in terms of future agendas and plans to promote African interests and I’m still buzzing from all the knowledge and ideas I acquired. Apart from the key themes–Money, Power & Sex–the following, although by no means an exhaustive list,were in my opinion seven key concepts that African thinkers are chewing on.
The Aid industry
The role and relevance of global institutions was widely discussed. Are global institutions beneficial or harmful to Africans? Should they be entirely de-associated from future development work? What can be done about the hypocrisy involved in global institutions’ policies? And what are the consequences of relying on the aid industry for development? Personally, I believe that the next step in the aid industry dialogue is to cease to question whether it is beneficial or harmful for Africans and to proceed with addressing its negative sides. The aid industry is the primary area of west/Africa relations that imports undermining and racist legacies of the past into our present day. I say this for several reasons. For example, in report after report concerning poverty in Africa it neglects to situate poverty also in its historical causes. Also, the aid industry isn’t accountable to anyone. It alleviates ‘white guilt’ through what has been called the White Saviour Industrial Complex. It creates imagery that depicts Africans as sub-humans. Basically, whilst on the one hand working towards justice, on the other hand, much of the aid industry is structured to rely on the very same pillars that upholds racial injustice. This cycle needs an overhaul if it is to create change rather than empower the status quo.
Aid, as in to give support, is of course something humanity needs to engage with more, not less. I am referring here to the aid “industry”, which as the name implies is woven together with other industries that are part of the world order we find ourselves in.
Values and Frames has some insightful material on how not to reinforce supremacist thinking in campaigns and War on Want is an example of an alternative type of NGO.
Over the past year or two the issue of homosexuality in particular has been creating much controversy in Africa. The west has threatened to withdraw aid from states that legislate homophobia, which although in this case has an important cause at the forefront, is another indicator of the master/servant nature of the aid industry. Perhaps the one good outcome of these events is that it has mobilized LGBTI activists and allies.There is an urgent need to understand that much of the resentment does not have to do with historical traditions, as many precolonial African societies were accepting of same-sex relationships (I’ve written about that here) but with a much more deep-rooted belief in homogeneity. Although cultures and traditions have shifted from century to century, an element that seems to have remained quite constant are ‘absolutes’. I think that we need to find ways in which we can maintain strong ideas of community whilst being critical of ideas within the community that ostracizes members or that function from a desire to assert ourselves in opposition to the west.
The OpenForum 2012 proved that contrary to what international mainstream media would have us believe, Africa is well equipped with activists who are using powerful, Africa-centered and effective ways to dismantle the mindset that fails to allow people the primordial human right of ownership over ones body.
In the last two decades, the most successful social movement in Africa has been the women’s movement, particularly in policy and legislation. Yet disproportionate amounts of women are still terribly marginalized and unable to exercise their rights, a predicament which I’d argue has much to do with African feminist ideas not being sufficiently merged with Gender and Development (GAD) work, which again has much to do with NGO-ization of this segment. Questions were posed around the politics of sexual pleasure, of how patriarchy and media interact, of how women are occupying political movements, of how traditional gender roles cause violence against women and in a session that I participated in (pictured), we discussed how African feminists are combining online with offline work.
I must say, it was African feminist-heaven! Many of the sisters who use the #AfriFem hashtag to share information on twitter were present, as were African feminists scholars, activists, artists and politicians. Those who believe that feminism is unAfrican would have seen something different at this conference.
Although African economies are growing, inequality remains a major problem bringing the need to question how civil society and the state can better work together. Questions were raised on the role of citizens, on holding south-south dialogue and on building policies and justice systems that reflect African societies to name only a few. Central to these discussions are finding the ways in which we can create synergies between tradition and modernity, a threshold many of us stand before, and one which simultaneously is exciting and daunting.
There could have been room to include more broad discussions on creativity. But maybe this is my bias! I think that creative arts plays a fundamental role in shaping society, identity, modernity and could inform even more greatly the looking inwards process that we are undertaking. However, although I would have wished for even more discussions on creative arts, there was indeed a juicy discussion on a panel which included personalities such as Femi Kuti, Simphiwe Dana and Binyavanga Wainana to name a few. Outside of the conference schedule participants were spoilt with poetry by Stacey-Ann Chin amongst others and Afrobeat with Femi Kuti. The above mentioned was the most energetic panel discussion by far, and the heated debates had to do with whether the use of indigenous language would be less unifying than that of colonial languages, with patriarchal values and the history of women in Africa and with tradition vs. modernity, revealing in my opinion a need to discuss more of these key themes through the prism of the arts.
Especially on the day of the YouthSummit, we discussed technology and how online tools can be used to create change. However, there wasn’t a plenary on technology in the OpenForum programme, which I think would have been rewarding. Technology is playing such a key role in shaping African spaces and in building cultural identities, so a prioritized discussion on for example developing African apps, social media, on its effects and uses towards environmentally-friendly practices and on how the continent is leading the way in mobile technology are platforms that are very much connected to money, sex and power.
If there was one thing that was present in every plenary, panel discussion, lunch discussion or workshop session, it was revolution. And furthermore, it was largely about a revolution that takes place within. Mona El Tahawy put it best when she spoke of the Egyptian protests and concluded by saying that now that Egyptians had succeeded in removing Mubarak from office, the next critical step was to remove “Mubarak” from their heads and bedrooms.
Revolution as “a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it”, is the type of change that is necessary not only in Africa, but all across our world.
What themes would you add? Any other thoughts? Respond, here.
MAZUBA HAANYAMA SPEAKS ON HOW PEOPLE OF AFRICAN-DESCENT ARE LEADING THE CHARGE FOR GLOBAL CHANGE
Beginning with the Youth Summit on May 21, 2012 and ending with the OpenForum Summit May 22-24, 2012, the African Foundation of the Open Society will welcome activists, businesspeople, academics, and policymakers from throughout the African continent and around the world will convene for an unprecedented conference about “Money, Power, Sex and the Paradox of Unequal Growth” in Cape Town, South Africa. Ebony talks with Mazuba Haanyama a Program Associate for Special Projects with the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) about this historic event and how Africa and people of African-descent are leading the charge for global change.
EBONY: Could you tell us about OSISA and the four Open Society foundations?
MH: The Open Society has many foundations around the world including the Open Society Institute in the United States, but there are four African foundations. OSF SA (Open Society Foundation for South Africa) was the first African Open Society foundation and then OSISA (Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa), OSIEA (Open Society Initiative for East Africa), and OSIWA (Open Society Initiative for West Africa) soon followed.
We, OSISA, do not conduct operations in South Africa as there is already the South African foundation (OSF SA) instead we focus our efforts in 10 countries in southern Africa: Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In addition to coordinating the Open Forum 2012, we have several programs, such as HIV and AIDS, Language Rights, Education, Gender/Women’s Right, LGBTI Initiative and more that our websitewww.osisa.org details.
With a female majority in parliament, women at all levels of government and equal literacy rates for boys and girls, Rwanda looks to be a model of equality.
The country made history in 2008, when 45 women were elected out of 80 members of parliament. At 56%, this is by far the highest percentage of women MPs in any government in the world. The constitution of Rwanda, adopted in 2003, states that at least 30% of posts in “decision-making organs” must go to women across the country.
In elections for district and sector council officials last year, women won 43.2% of district and Kigali City advisory posts. Women lead a third of Rwanda’s ministries, including foreign affairs, agriculture and health, and every police office in Rwanda has a “gender desk” to take reports of violence against women, as does the national Army.
Usta Kaitesi, a teacher of gender and law and vice-dean of post-graduate research in Rwanda University’s Faculty of Law, says political will was lacking in the years up to the genocide even though the country had already signed the 1978 UN Convention prohibiting all discrimination against women.
“Generally, there was an environment of tolerating discrimination” she says, regarding ethnicity, religion and gender.
Nowadays, she says, “There is political will to avoid discrimination in Rwanda, and that will gives a legal direction.”
“Most countries do have good laws, laws that don’t have any form of injustice but the application of such laws is another issue altogether,” she adds. “So in Rwanda there is a political will to empower women and women are quite aware of their role to play in society.”
An award winning photographer who has devoted her working life to documenting the lives of black lesbians has had five years worth of her work stolen.
Zanele Muholi, described by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa as “one of the country’s foremost artists”, had more than 20 external hard drives stolen from her flat in Vredehoek, Cape Town on April 20.
The hard drives contain stills and video footage, including photos from the funerals of victims of homophobic hate crimes. It is thought that the burglars were targeting Muholi’s work, as little else was taken from her flat, and back up hard drives were also taken.
Muholi’s partner Liesl Theron, with whom she shares the flat, said that her possessions were left untouched, except for a laptop which was stolen, further fuelling belief that Muholi was the intended target of the crime.
The work taken had been captured across South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Malawi, according to the Cape Times. Also stolen was work due to be shown at an exhibition in July, which Muholi believes she will now have to cancel.
Despite the volume of work stolen and the imminence of the planned exhibition, Muholi’s plight has been largely ignored by the media. It is believed that the lack of publicity is due to the nature of her work, which shows a different side to the black lesbian community than that usually represented in the mainstream media.
“I’m not myself. I can’t even sleep at night since I’ve heard about the burglary,” the devastated Muholi told DIVA. She has appealed for anyone who knows the whereabouts of the hard drives to return them.
Queer photographer Del LaGrace Volcano said of the theft; “Zanele’s work is, in my not so humble opinion, some of the most important work being produced, not just in Africa, but anywhere. I consider her a dear friend and mourn the loss of her archive as if it were my own.”
Zanele’s supporters are fundraising to help her replace the stolen equipment. Donations can be made online at IndieGoGo.
The investigation into the burglary is ongoing, according to a police spokesperson.
Twelve years ago, the influential Economist magazine described Africa as “the hopeless continent”. Last year the same publication ran the headline: “Africa rising: the hopeful continent”, noting that some of the fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa.
According to the 2012 Africa Progress Report, seven in every 10 people on the continent live in countries that have enjoyed an economic boom – growth rates averaging in excess of four percent for the past decade. From 2005 to 2009, Ethiopia recorded higher growth than China, and Uganda outperformed India.
The World Bank’s most recent estimates suggest that the number of poor people in the sub-Sahara region fell by around nine million between 2005 and 2008.
While there is clear evidence that in the past decade the continent has made significant gains in areas such as reducing infant mortality, curbing the spread of HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, and promoting economic growth, the findings of the report show that for the vast majority of Africans, life on the “hopeful continent” remains a daily challenge.
Entitled, “Jobs Justice And Equity – Seizing Opportunities in Times of Global Change”, the 2012 Africa Progress Report (APR) says that after a decade of “buoyant growth”, wealth disparities within and across African countries are “increasingly visible”, with almost half of Africans still living on less than U.S.$1.25 a day.
“The current pattern of trickle-down growth is leaving too many people in poverty, too many children hungry and too many young people without jobs,” says the APR. It notes that governments are “failing to convert the rising tide of wealth into opportunities for their most marginalised citizens” and that unequal access to health, education, water and sanitation is “reinforcing wider inequalities”.
The report also finds that smallholder agriculture has not been part of the growth surge, leaving rural populations trapped in poverty and thus vulnerable to disease and marginalisation.
The Africa Progress Panel – a group of 10 individuals chaired by the former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan, publishes the APR. Other members include Mozambique humanitarian and former South African first lady Graca Machel, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, Ivorian businessman Tidjane Thiam, Bangladesh Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, French economist Michel Camdessus and musician and activist Bob Geldof.
The panel says it chose to highlight justice and equity in the 2012 report because “they are missing from the lives of too many Africans, making the present growth socially unsustainable”.
Nonetheless, the continent’s economic growth has helped it make significant progress towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets. In the past decade, the number of children who die before their fifth birthday has fallen by half from the number who died before the age of five in the decade from 1990 to 2000.
MoneyPowerSex Radio Debates - Accra Cape Town Nairobi
Money Power Sex Debate Series: Has Democracy Brought Blind Hope?
All over the world, democracy is pitched as the ultimate salvation of the state. It is the panacea for political problems; the benchmark for social progress; the pathway to economic success. In African countries, the notion of democracy rode the high-spirited coattails of independence. With national government structures freed from the heavy presence of colonial masters, democracy promised an era of state-sanctioned freedom: one in which citizens could claim their power to get what they need, from governments that they want – governments that were answerable to people, not the other way around.
But today, this hopefulness has been replaced by frustration with leadership that is anything but answerable. Seun Kuti, Nigerian musician and son of the late Fela Kuti, references this disenchantment when explaining the inspiration behind his latest album, ‘From Africa with Fury’ – a title he chose to convey the building frustration of young African people with a system that has failed them at all levels. Kuti says, “In Africa we do not have leaders, we have rulers. These rulers first serve the interest of multinational corporations and western powers before they consider the welfare of their people. People had forgotten this. Democracy brought some blind hope…”
The #moneypowersex radio debates will explore the questions: has democracy brought blind hope? How do the triumphs and failures of democracy manifest around the axes of money, power and sex? Do deeper problems with global economic dynamics get overshadowed by the hyped-up pursuit of national ‘democracies’?
The questions are not just public, but also profoundly personal. How does the idea of ‘democracy’ interact with more deeply-rooted prejudices, such as patriarchy or homophobia? What is the role of the individual in sustaining political systems, for better or worse?
Most importantly, if democracy has brought real hope, how can this be strengthened to redress inequalities? But if it has brought blind hope, where is the real hope to be found? These questions and more will be examined in light of current affairs in each of the countries where debates will be taking place, all of which are identified as leading democracies in the continent: Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.
The debates are being organised by ThisIsAfrica (www.thisisafrica.me) in collaboration with OSISA. Podcasts of the debates will also be available on the OpenForum and TIA websiteS within a week, as well as at the forum itself.
CAPE TOWN DEBATE
Monday 14 May
Bush Radio 89.5fm
Hemel Besem – Hip-hop artist and activist
Ncebalaza Manzi – September National Imbizo coordinator Rebecca Davis – Daily Maverick journalist Marion Wanza – Occupy Cape Town organiser
Tuesday 15 May
Vibe FM 91.9
Rebroadcast Wednesday 16 May
Bridget Babiee Dappah – News Anchor and social commentator
Nana Oye Lithur – Director, Human Rights Advocacy Centre Tic Tac – Hip-Life Musician and producer
Agyeman Badu Akosa – leading member, Convention People’s Party
Democrazy Poll! TEXT: "Democratic" elections exist to give citizens the illusion of control. #TRUTH or #FAIL?
“Everything is argued over in this world. Apart from only one thing that is not argued over. Nobody argues about democracy. Democracy is there as if it was some sort of saint in the altar from whom miracles are no longer expected. But it’s there as a reference. A reference. Democracy. And no-one attends to the matter that the democracy in which we live is a democracy taken captive, conditioned, amputated. Because the power..the power of the citizen, the power of each one of us, is limited, in the political sphere, I repeat, in the political sphere, to remove a government that we do not like and replace it with another one that perhaps we might like in the future. Nothing else. But the big decisions are taken in a different sphere, and we all know which one that is. The big international financial organisations, the IMFs, the World Trade Organisations, the World Banks, the OECDs. All..not one of these entities is democratic. And so, how can we keep talking about democracy, if those who effectively govern the world are not chosen democratically by the people? Who chooses the representatives of each country in those organisations? Your respective peoples? No. Where then is the democracy?”