July 30, 2018

Africa Fashion Week Houston is set to bring back the sizzle this Fall.

Magic takes over African Fashion Week Houston’s Fifth Season this Fall


HOUSTON— If the third time's a charm, just call the fifth time magic! The world of fashion and culture will soon collide on the runway in Houston as African Fashion Week Houston, one of the world’s most exclusive cultural fashion week series, celebrates five years of showcasing the very best of African inspired works from around the world. The stunning fashion affair will take place October 22nd through October 27th, 2018 at various locations throughout the greater Houston area.

Many of AFW Houston’s signature events, runway shows, beauty demos and marketplaces will make a grand return this year, including the socially savvy ​Art, Wine & Culture ​series​, the colorful and electric Ankara-4-Seasons ​runway showcase​, ​social media favorite Bosses-in-Heels ​Marketplace​, ​and the high-anticipated Kitoko Fashion Show​. A pairing of exciting performances, VIP events and after parties will also add to the flare of this very exhilarating week! A full list of events and locations will be announced beginning in mid April.

Furthermore, AFW Houston will continue to support the advancement of aspiring fashion designers, stylist and runway production professionals through notable partnership programs, including ​Project AI(in partnership with the Art Institute of Houston). The fashion week series will utilize its platform to support the opportunity for future fashion industry protégés to gain direct experience into the world of the fashion.

Tickets for African Fashion Week Houston 2018 will go on sale beginning April 1st online at www.AFWHouston.com and at selected locations across the state of Texas. AFW Houston is now accepting inquiries for event sponsors, fashion designers, vendors, volunteers and community partnerships. For information on this year’s fashion week series, please visit our website online, or contact us directly at ​1(800) 920-4655 and ​info@afwhouston.com​.

About African Fashion Week Houston


African Fashion Week Houston (AFWH) is the city's premier international fashion experience, highlighting the essence of African culture and aesthetics through a series of fashion shows, networking and social events, seminars, and industry-focused workshops. Our annual week-long experience aims to promote world-class designers & labels that push the envelope, while staying true to the traditions and inspiration of the African continent and diaspora.


July 28, 2018

Who is Fela Durotoye?

Fela Durotoye speaks in an open town hall in Houston Texas, images by Msada's Creative Studio
You may refer to him as a consultant, motivational speaker, in some cases an untraditional pastor. He's also the 2019 Nigerian presidential candidate aspirant. Many have lost faith in Nigerian politics, thought of as an institution that has abandoned Nigerian citizens, fraught with corruption, enriches the lives of those that choose it while leaving the country in abject poverty, in decayed infrastructures, high inflation, high unemployment rates, encourages crime and more corruption.

"It's time to arise and build a new Nigeria."
Mr. Durotoye vows to change all of that.

" The time has come for our generation to build a coalition of ideas around a strong ideology of a New Nigeria where things work and everyone is working to make things work. A new Nigeria is every country that we're currently struggling to get Visas to... where things work, and people are able to find opportunity to dream and to pursue their dreams." Fela Durotoye aspires to build a new Nigeria that can compete with countries like Dubai, the USA or Singapore, the Nigeria that its founding fathers had in mind post independence. Asked about his ongoing campaign through Alliance for A New Nigeria (ANN) his chosen party, he states that his party is involved and arousing constituents at the grassroots with no government or god-father funding. Mr. Durotoye is actively rounding up different regions of Nigeria and the diaspora, holding open town halls where many are invited to meet him, hear him speak and are free to ask him questions. His recent visit to Houston Texas was met with a decent turn out by many that were at least curious.

Click for more images of Fela Durotoye in Houston

A gifted motivational speaker that he is, his audience soaked his words up. "I came to take sleep away from you, even though you have constant power; I came to put the pain in your heart, for every life that is lost in Nigeria even though you feel safe where you sleep in Houston." He is appealing that Nigerians in the diaspora take responsibility for the new Nigeria, we should all own this cause, for it's not just his cause, but ours. Asked how Nigerians in the diaspora can contribute or become part of his campaign, he states that it starts by first taking ownership of it, even though they cannot vote, they have the power to influence those that can. Since this is a grassroots effort, donations are essential. "He who pays the piper dictates the tune." The the people at the top have always influenced Nigerian elections with their large donations and they expect a return on their investment, with an agenda that would not benefit the country. He also notes that the majority of educated Nigerians do not vote, the less educated could be swayed with a few Naira, as a result, Nigeria is left with career politicians with no interest in the country. A GoFundMe has been set up for donations and can be accessed here
Conversing with the man who wants to make a new Nigeria a reality, photo by Msada's Creative Studio

He realizes there are skeptics out there that would question his intentions for wanting to run for president. "So what if I don't run for president? Does that make you feel better? I lose nothing, I'm living a great life." He decided to run because if he had done much of the things that he had been known for  - a sought-after business strategist with the exceptional ability to transform big corporations' leadership structure and culture, then with position and authority, this impact can be multiplied. 

Asked about the position of women if he were to win and assume the presidency, he believes the role of women to be vital, he's a champion for women empowerment. "Women empowerment is not a nice thing to do, it is a great thing to do, when we do it, the nation gets the benefit of it. Women are equal value creators, deserve equal seat at the table with men." He is willing to run with a woman vice president. In his administration, women and men would have a 50% seat at the table, not 35%.

Fela Durotoye is from Ile Ife from SouthWest Nigeria, part of Obafemi Awolowo university alumni as well as Harvard, Yale and the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia. Wife is famed Nigerian cosmetics mogul Tara Fela Durotoye. 

More on Fela Durotoye can be found here.


IT IS TIME TO ARISE AND BUILD A NEW NIGERIA
IT IS TIME TO ARISE AND BUILD A NEW NIGERIA

April 3, 2018

The lost African tribe

King T'Challa and Killmonger battle for the throne of Wakanda. Courtesy Matt Kennedy - Marvel Studios
What comes to mind when you try to describe the Black narrative? Sure you can come up with a number of things. Matter of fact you can spend days exploring just one aspect of it. For one reason, it is so layered. Do you think there are disparities in the Black culture? What about the seeming divide between different Black peoples, specifically the one that exists as a privilege of knowing one's heritage vs. losing such heritage over time? Are we (Black folks) as they say  "all brothers"?

I had the privilege of attending and filming a symposium of said topic recently. Mending the Bridge™ between Africans and African Americans attempted to address the issue head on, no holds barred, with no one feeling out of place in the conversation. This is a start of such series as curated by the event host, Christiana Thompson whose goal is to keep such conversations going from now on as she plans more events like this in the future. The first attempt as a start showed promise, although it could have used more balance between the two different groups being the topic of discussion, as it seemed African immigrants outnumbered African Americans in attendance. This topic became more poignant on the heels of "Black Panther" - a movie grossing over 1 billion in sales till date, becoming Marvel Studios' #1 best selling blockbuster of all time. The film barely touches the surface of the disparities between Africans and African Americans. Folks left the theaters either really overjoyed or very perplexed. For once, Hollywood tells the African narrative from a different lens, showcasing fictional Africa as a giant with rich resources and advanced technology as opposed to painting with the usual brush stroke of strife and poverty. For once as an African, it was gratifying to see the continent portrayed in this light. Some believed that it totally missed the point and may have fueled many misconceptions.

The great things aside, there were obvious problems highlighted in the film's narrative. African Americans have long had a chip on their shoulder—the trauma they'd endured in the hands of colonial masters as a result of the slave trade, the resultant slavery, segregation, discrimination and still on-going prejudice, making African Americans today feel like second class. The average African American feels like forever, he'd have to make up for heritage lost; he doesn't quite feel at home in America, but then, he doesn't know where he comes from. That's enough to arouse some animosity towards other groups, especially the African immigrants, whose lives have not be irreparably altered in such manner. They come to America knowing fully well that they can always go home. The Africans immigrants on the other hand have a natural bias towards others like them. An average African in America would rather do business with fellow Africans than with African Americans. They regard AAs as the lost tribe  or "Akata," giving into the notion that the AAs are without direction or real purpose, perpetuated by the high numbers of those that come from broken homes, dropped out of school, often caught up on the wrong side of the law or incarcerated.

What it means to be "African"


Misconceptions abound between the two groups towards one another, causing an unspoken divide between them as Dr. Malachi Crawford, Assistant Director of African American Studies at the University of Houston would point out. Not so long ago being a Black American was cool, almost a badge of honor amongst the African immigrants who often fantasize the Hip Hop culture, many quickly shed their cultural identities in other to blend into the American culture. The paradigm has shifted in the time of increased racial tension and divide, many African immigrants want to distance themselves from the African American label, that's assuming this would protect them from racial profiling or being lumped into the general negative African American narrative. African immigrants have long drilled into their offspring that AAs are not the people you bring home to marry. They must marry their own kind so as not to have the culture infiltrated, or perhaps lost. Extra pressures mount upon the children to focus on education, attain the highest levels of learning and marry within the culture. AAs feel African immigrants come to usurp all of the opportunities America offers, African immigrants blame AAs for remaining in a slave mentality, embodying the very label that they reject. As a result there's only so much openness with one another. Social media and technology culture has created an open conversation on who's the gatekeeper to the African culture. The divide has become more pronounced, cuts across not just cultural lines, but also color lines. It's now particularly difficult for those that pass the brown paperbag test. African Americans feel like they are the gatekeepers to the African culture in America, can dictate who's allowed to celebrate it while African immigrants feel like they are the true gatekeepers.
Where do you draw the line on cultural appropriation?


The obvious divide

As problematic the divide is between Blacks and Whites, even more pervasive is the divide between factions of the African culture, as brought out by Aisha Koroma, founder of Lift-a-Village. There's an inherent fear that dwells within Africans that prevent them from finding out who they really are as peoples, they might just find out that after all everyone's connected in some way. It's easier to ascribe labels that either include or exclude groups. The divide is mild enough to cause a debate on who made the better Jollof rice between a Ghanian and a Nigerian, or serious enough to cause ethnic genocides. More than ever, African immigrants hold on to their culture and regard African Americans as "Akata," African Americans in turn resent African immigrants for the same reasons.

There isn't a "come to Jesus" moment that happens in Africa, most African immigrants learn about colonialism and slavery when they land on American soil, as brought out by panelist Ayo Shittu. This leads to an initial culture shock experienced when they journey into the diaspora. Even then, American History, a general course offered in American colleges merely glaze over the topic, relegated to an option in African/African American studies.  The African immigrant quickly learns that he is different in a new environment surrounded by different people and culture. This, if not properly managed can lead to insecurities brought on by isolation and not fitting in. The shock quickly turns to disillusionment.

Where does it leave the "hybrids" —first generation African Americans by birth, offspring of African immigrants? A very peculiar place. To instill the culture, African immigrants have gone as far as expatriating their children to Africa, where they get a crash course on the differences between both worlds. This in turn has its challenges, as they try to blend in with their new peers and risk a unique isolation and ridicule for not being "African" enough. "Oyinbo" is a term ascribed to expats denoting "foreigner" a label that can easily create its own divide and stereotype. "Yankee" is another. Diaspora children find themselves having to prove how "African" they are as they are often viewed as "soft" and not good with "hard work." They must overcome language barriers, observe cultural constructs, perform manual labor, endure corporal punishment from time to time. The challenges faced with this kind of reverse culture shock is enough to send the children running, however it sets a solid cultural foundation. Many of them as adults become well adjusted and more capable to deal with life in both worlds, they are thankful for such an education.

Appropriate or Exchange?

The debate can become heated around the topic of cultural appropriation. It is ever okay for people of other cultures to adopt the African culture in dress, hair styles or language? Hollywood starlet Amandla Sandberg, has become a champion for this cause in her own way, famously calling out social media and reality tv star Kendall Jenner for donning cornrows. It was also recently reported that she dropped out of Black Panther because she felt she didn't fit in to be cast and thought a more "deserving" actor should take on the role, in other words, an actor with a darker skinned actor. No doubt she faced her share of criticisms for her stand, however it does beg the question, where do we draw the line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange? Are we now perpetuating the idea that the continent of Africa can only be one color?

Erik Killmonger felt the need to revenge his homeland because to him there was no love lost. His love and allegiance was stolen from him. He wanted to take back what was stolen not only by invading Wakanda, but opening this secretly uncolonized African territory to the rest of the world and disrupting its peaceful and advanced technological ambiance to predators that might seek to pillage and take over the territory and steal it's prized resource and source of power - the vibranium. It is easy to argue that Killmonger represents the sentiments of AAs today. The need to try to preserve what's left of the natural resources in a lot of African countries, Africans parents wanting to preserve their culture in the diaspora, the ardent need they place on their children not to try to "act like the Romans" when it comes to the culture can be understood, even if mildly by King T'Chaka's resolve to keep Wakanda secret.

Is this what prominent black pioneers like Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkurumah and Nnamdi Azikiwe had in mind when they pioneered Pan-Africanism? These leaders where not seen in the diaspora simply as Jamaican, Ghanian or Nigerian, but as Negroes, as one tribe - Black, they had larger perspectives of what it means to be African, this in turn led them to being able to become pioneer leaders of their era, as Dr. Crawford would argue. It would not be enough to simply identify oneself as a member of one group or the other, one should be able to have knowledge of the history behind each group. African American history is by extension, African history and vise versa.

How we define what constitutes an "African American" is changing

The world has become smaller with the advent of the internet and its offshoot - the social media. Folks have become more in tune with the world around them. Today's generation are more vocal than ever, calling out the many biases and prejudices that have long plagued our predecessors. African Americans are now actively tracing their roots to reconnect with their origins. They are now more open to identifying themselves as they ought to have. More are celebrating the culture proudly, identifying with it in the way they adorn themselves, learning an African language. Record numbers have made the brave move to an African country. Many seek to redefine societal labels, reclaim their rightful place in the world as opposed to feeling less than, or a minority. The Black Panther premiere saw record numbers of folks adorned in traditional wear for the screening. Folks of African decent are seeing a possibility of Africa returning to its glory.

There's an increasing need to mend the divide between Africans and African Americans now more than ever, as they realize there's much more that unites them than divide them. It is not just the African Americans that need to trace back their roots, many that identify with a certain cultural group in Africa would be disillusioned to find out origins that pins them to another part of the continent. People are now starting to educate themselves on this fact and a panel discussion such as Mending the Bridge ™series is a step in the right direction.

October 28, 2017

The Festival of Exodus

Image: Travel with April
Hogbetsotso festival takes place on the first Saturday of November each year, commemorating the migration of the Anlo Ewe people from Notsé town in Togo to Anloga town in Ghana. Legend has it that these folks escaped a wicked king back in the day by traversing backwards, so their footprints would be deceptive to observers that would only conclude that the people were going into town.
Image: Vindice 101
Image: N D C
Agbadza, also known as "the chicken dance." Image: JY Midey
Celebrations are marked by a peace making period, marking a new beginning and a time of harmony for the Anlo's; a purification of ceremonial stools, a general cleaning of the villages, a pageantry display by the village chiefs in colorful regalia, with villagers paying homage to them. This is also a time to see the Agbadza at its best—a music and dance routine popularized and trademarked by this group, seen in parts of Ghana, Togo and Benin.

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