Posts

LONDON–**For Olivia Matabata, 2007 was a devastating year.     Her middle son was sick at home with AIDS, and Ms. Matabata, who has five grandchildren, was desperate for information on how to help him.    A neighbor encouraged her to attend a four-day workshop at Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS (GAPA), a local community and education center in the Khayelitsha Township near Cape Town. Read more

africa

There is a fantastic show on BBC2 about space, “The Wonders of Space”, which reminded me of a story I had been commissioned to write for Newsweek two years ago but it never ended up being published…

Meet Mary Phoolo, Lesotho’s first cosmologist. The 30 year-old mother of one is finishing up her Masters’ degree at South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal and will begin a PhD later in the year looking into how future cosmic microwave background datasets may be used to probe the early universe. It’s an amazing feat that Phoolo wants to focus on the study of the universe; there are no courses in astrophysics taught in her country and she never had any introduction to the field until her late 20s. Growing up under the wide-open skies of southern Africa, Phoolo knew there was something that intrigued her about the universe; she just never knew how to explore it. “I remember I used to wonder how the universe was [created], how the structures like planets and stars formed and so many other questions,” Phoolo recalls. “However I was not aware that there were people [actually] studying the universe.” But Cape Town’s African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) changed all that. She entered the postgraduate program planning to focus on epidemiology in order to help her nation control its booming HIV/AIDS problem. But taking a three-week module in astrophysics, she fell in love with cosmology. Her goal now is go home to Lesotho to teach university students the wonders of the universe. “I want to go back there and motivate them, get kids interested in this field that I love,” says Phoolo. Read more

IMG_26311

For the past 20 years, Rwanda’s image has been dominated by scenes of genocide and civil war. However, with its tourism sector now thriving, and areas such as ICT, banking and energy set to follow suit, Rwanda is poised to become Africa’s newest success story. Ginanne Brownell reports.

It is the smell that hits you first – a pungent, gamey combination of wet fur, urine and dead cedar – and about five beats afterwards, they materialise out of the dense jungle greenery, munching and plodding along over the muddied underbrush, swinging from the vines and tumbling over each other in careless abandon. Read more

IMG_2495

The three young boys and the older man are standing around, looking awkward but fierce at the same time–their eyes  tough as nails. “Who are those men,” I ask as we head into the main building at the Mutobo Demobilization Center. “They have just been brought in today from the jungle,” said the head of the center, which is located  near Rwanda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s a strange surreal thing to come face to face with men–and a few women–who have been living in the jungle for 15 years, eeking out a living as members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and fighting against the Congolese army, the UN peacekeepers and theCongolese Tutsi rebels. Read more

knaan

If anybody has a story to rap about, it’s hip-hop artist K’Naan. Born in Mogadishu, the Somali rapper (real name: Kanaan Warsame) fired his first AK-47 at the age of 8; at 11 he blew up half his school when he accidentally detonated a hand grenade. By the time he and his mother fled Somalia in 1991, he had already seen three of his friends shot dead. The family settled in Toronto, where the young refugee learned English partially through rap songs. He released his first album in 2002, and his follow-up, Troubadour, to wide acclaim last year; its single “Wavin’ Flag” has been chosen as the official anthem of this year’s World Cup, to be held in June in South Africa, and will be featured in Coca-Cola ads that will play in 150 countries. Addressing the issues of poverty and political freedom, the song blends African and Western pop with rock and rap, in the style known as Afropop. “With my experiences and where I come from, the sounds and melodies that speak to me, I could not possibly put all that into the narrow idea of music popular in the West,” says K’Naan. “I felt I needed to bring all my experiences together, put them in a pot and serve them like that.” Read more