I was saddened by the loss of Democracy in the African nation of Mali, between the radical Islamists and the military dictators, how can we maintain the amazing democracy that Mali was known for?
In honor of Mali and hoping for peace in Mali:
The Putumayo collections of music are a wonderful way of discovering new music from parts of the world you have never thought of. I was introduced to them, interestingly, by my son back when he was 3 and 4 years old. When we visited California we would always visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. And we would always stop at the gift shop and my son would consider whether he would spend his souvenir option there or somewhere else. More recently he has moved on to other sources of souvenirs (always interesting) but initially he was always interested in listening to the various samples of Putumayo CD collections and he would pick one for his souvenir.
During his excursions into the Putumauyo CD collection, the African selection, the Women of Africa selection and the Mali selection each caught his attention, and I tip my hat to his choices because they all are amazing collections. One artist from the Women of Africa collection I have highlighted before is Afia Mala, a Royal Princess of Togo and Benin. All three are fantastic...but today I want to highlight music from Mali. read more »
Some time back I wrote about a fellow Culture Kitchen blogger, Leo Igwe, whose blogging has gotten him and his family beaten up repeatedly. He is a Nigerian who stands up against both Christian and Muslim fundamentalism in Africa and stands up for reason and science. His main crusades have been fighting against child abuse in the name of religion. For his efforts he has been harassed by the police and beaten by mobs. But he keeps fighting even as the attempts to silence him have escalated.
The latest attack was a couple of weeks ago when his mother and father were beaten in their own house. His father lost an eye. I am on vacation now so not blogging so much, but I have to post the latest from Leo: despite these repeated attacks, he has vowed to keep fighting. The latest Culture Kitchen diary by Leo Igwe is reposted below with further background on Leo and his efforts.
The recent attack on my family which led to my father's loss of one eye was an unfortunate development. It was yet another attempt to intimidate us and undermine our campaign for justice.
To any intelligent observer of the trends in Nigeria, this incident would not have come as a surprise. Because Nigeria has practically been taken over by thugs, hoodlums, kidnappers and bandits.
Nigeria is held hostage by forces of dark age and barbarism. Anything that appears to be civil or enlightened about Nigeria is mainly on the surface. Since independence Nigeria has been descending gradually into anomie, anarchy and criminality. Nigeria has derailed and deteriorated due to misrule, bad governance, collective irresponsibility and insensitivity, lack of vision and thoughtfulness, selfishness, greed, ignorance, hypocrisy and self deceit. Nigeria has failed to put in place institutions that treat the people in a fair, just and dignified manner. Nigeria has failed to adopt effective mechanisms to reward those who want to live honest, decent, diligent and dignified lives. Nigeria has failed to cultivate and institutionalize those values that make a nation great, relevant and prosperous.
At best, Nigeria pays lip service to these values. The government is irresponsive and irresponsible. The educational system is in shambles. The justice system is nothing to write home about. The value system has collapsed. The greatest tragedy is that most Nigerians have resigned to this ‘fate’. They think that nothing can be done to change or improve the situation; that no radical or reasonable change can be realized. Most Nigerians have given up hope- hope of realizing a decent and dignified life; hope for justice and fairness for all; hope for recognition and respect for their rights. Fear, despair, gloom, pessimism and cynicism loom throughout the country.
The public institutions are used to oppress and exploit the public. The power of the people is used to abuse, enslave and maltreat the people. read more »
Leo Igwe should be an inspiration to us all. He is a Nigerian Humanist who stands up to religious extremism (both Muslim and Christian) and tries to protect children from religious-inspired child abuse...and for his pains he has been beaten, harrassed by police and frivolous lawsuits, and now his family has been attacked.
I am proud to have recruited Leo as a regular blogger on Culture Kitchen where he has written many fascinating pieces on religious extremism and superstition in Africa and how they impede African progress. I read all his pieces and learn a great deal from them. But I also worry about him. Most of us can blog all we want without endangering ourselves or our families. Leo cannot. He has chosen to speak truth to power at the risk of himself and his family. Would I be so brave in his shoes?
My high school friends have begun to suspect I haven't told them the full story of my life.
"Why did you leave Sierra Leone?"
"Because of the war."
"Did you witness some fighting?"
Everyone in the country did.
"You mean you saw people running around with guns and shooting each other?"
"Yes, all the time."
I smile a little.
"You should tell us about it sometime."
A Long Way Gone is an autobiographical book written by Ishmael Beah who spent several years caught in the middle of the civil war in Sierra Leone. It spans pretty much exactly the period of his exposure to the war, starting with the day before the fighting first impacted his life in 1993 and ending with his eventual escape from Sierra Leone into neighboring Guinea in 1997. Only glimpses of his life both before and after this appear as flashbacks or flash forwards in the story.
As Zimbabwe rapidly slips into chaos, we do well to remember what is sadly common in modern African history: well-armed and ill disciplined gangs, often mostly children who should be in Middle School or High School, led by violent strongmen locked in brutal and prolonged wars over who gets to loot a given country. Sometimes there are religious overtones. Sometimes racial/ethnic/tribal overtones. Often economic conflicts are also involved. But generally no one benefits from these conflicts except a handful of top men who squirrel away as much wealth as they can for their own benefit. read more »