Shaken Out of Time: Black Bodies and Movement in Zadie Smith’s Swing Time

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-01-18 21:30Z by Steven

Shaken Out of Time: Black Bodies and Movement in Zadie Smith’s Swing Time

Virginia Quarterly Review
Volume 93, Number 1, Winter 2017
pages 196-199

Kaitlyn Greenidge
Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont

Swing Time By Zadie Smith, Penguin, 2016, 464p. HB, $27.

Midway through Zadie Smith’s new novel, Swing Time, the unnamed narrator watches two girls walk “hand in hand” down a dusty road in an anonymous, fictionalized African country. “They looked like best friends,” she notes—that “looked” suggesting the mysteries of friendship that the novel has been dedicated to up until that point. “They were out at the edge of the world, or of the world I knew, and watching them, I realized it was…almost impossible for me to imagine what time felt like for them, out here.” The girls inevitably remind the narrator of her own lost, best friend, Tracey, who angrily haunts the novel, forever resisting the narrator’s attempts to regulate her to incorporeality. Of their friendship, she notes, “We thought we were products of a particular moment, because as well as our old musicals, we liked things like Ghostbusters and Dallas. We felt we had our place in time. What person on earth doesn’t feel this way?” But the narrator is unable to place the two girls before her in any time. “When I waved at those two girls…I couldn’t rid myself of the idea that they were timeless symbols of girlhood…I knew it couldn’t possibly be the case but I had no other way of thinking of them.”

In an interview in T: The New York Times Style Magazine this past fall, Smith noted, “It just seemed to me that what was done to black people, historically, was to take them out of the time of their life. That’s what fundamentally happened. We had a life in one place and it would have continued and who knows what would have happened—nobody knows. But it would’ve gone a certain way, and we were removed from that timeline, placed somewhere entirely different, and radically disrupted. And the consequences of that are pretty much unending. Every people have their trauma. It’s not a competition of traumas. But they’re different in nature. And this one is about having been removed from time.” Swing Time is a novel that is fundamentally concerned with this question. What do we do, how do we respond, when we are violently shaken out of time, when we lose the thread of our own lives, when we are so certain of the narrative of our life and then are suddenly, jarringly, shaken loose? How do we reconcile, what are the lies and myths we tell ourselves, to try and reclaim our time? And when do those lies hurt us and when do they help us find our footing again?

When we meet the narrator of Swing Time, she is deep in the midst of mysterious disgrace, briefly infamous worldwide for a perceived wrong she’s committed against a Madonna-like global superstar who goes by the single name of Aimee. The narrator is Aimee’s assistant: She has worked tirelessly for the past decade helping Aimee, a white woman, set up a school for girls in that unidentified African country. Aimee is a woman who has created her own myth for herself, using sex and youth and pop music to forge a destiny that would not have been available to any woman a generation before her. The narrator meets her by chance, devotes her life to her, and finds herself unmarried and childless, a cog in the superstar celebrity machine of Aimee’s life. But it becomes clear, even though the narrator has spent her adult life serving Aimee, it’s not the pop star who holds her attention. Instead, she exists in a kind of suspended dream state, reliving her brief friendship with Tracey, the only other mixed-race girl in the narrator’s neighborhood in the early 1980s. The narrator’s parents are genteelly poor, and her mother, in particular, is ambitious: She reads postcolonial theory and takes courses on Marxism, ruthlessly forging her identity as a poor, black woman in Britain into a professional activist and self-conscious, self…

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Meet the Afro-Mexicans connecting to their African roots through dance

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2017-01-16 00:11Z by Steven

Meet the Afro-Mexicans connecting to their African roots through dance

Ventures Africa
2017-01-05

Iroegbu Chinaemerem Oti

“Based on your culture, history, and traditions, do you consider yourself Black, meaning Afro-Mexican or Afro-descendant?” – MEXICO’S 2015 Intercensal Survey

The sound of Bata drums filled the air as girls, with printed scarfs tied around their waists and white or yellow dots painted on their faces, danced to the fervent rhythm, their feet and waists moving vigorously at the same time. As their left legs leave the floor, their right legs replace them, while their waists responding with a seesaw movement. This is an African dance performed by an Afro-Mexican group, the Obatala, for the purpose of connecting with their African roots. They live in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico and tour various regions of the state to create awareness with their energetic and beautiful dance.

“All the dances are from Africa’s northeastern region, we chose this area because after researching on the internet, we realised that that’s where the slaves that came from our town came from. Our dance troupe did the research and we learned those dances,” Anai Herrera, one of the lead dancers, said…

Read the entire article here.

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Race, Identity and the Making of Hashim Amla

Posted in Africa, Articles, Media Archive, South Africa on 2017-01-13 02:15Z by Steven

Race, Identity and the Making of Hashim Amla

Africa Is A Country
2013-07-20

Niren Tolsi

Hashim Amla has arrived. His back-lift to gully now appears the sort of lazy flourish that bored twelve-year-olds develop because they are staggeringly superior to their opposition, rather than the defect that presumed he wouldn’t cut it at international level early on in his career. That twirl of a back-lift is now brought down to defend, flick, drive and reduce Test bowlers into looking like schoolboys. He is silky and elegant in a manner that compelled Richie Benaud, the former Australian captain–and one of the most knowledgeable, and least myopic, of that country’s commentators–-to describe him as “an artist in a team of artisans” during a solid first tour Down Under in 2008.

At the time of writing (after the Wanderers Test match against Pakistan in early February) he was the International Cricket Council’s world number one ranked Test batsman. En-route to overtaking Australian captain Michael Clarke to assume that apex he had struck an unbeaten 311 against England at The Oval–becoming the first South African to score a triple-ton and the 22nd person in the history of Test cricket to do so.

His batting is eye-catching. As is the shaggy square beard that marks him out as a devout Muslim in a team that has traditionally traded on what Jesus would do, Castle Lager, jock-of-the-establishment-school-tie posturing and a gritty approach to the game that melded the conservative, dour and tragic elements that reside inside the Afrikaner and the Rooi-neck. If Jacques Kallis, the darling of the South African (white) cricketing media corps, represents the establishment with his hair implants, demeanor as wooden as his “big bat” and tweets calling for the return of the death penalty, then Amla, all leg-side flicks as luxurious as his beard, imperious punches off the back-foot and mere physical manifestation represents its anathema–almost. In the chaotic, overlapping and contradictory world of South African identity politics even that would be too reductionist. Too simple…

Read the entire article here.

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The World of Zadie Smith: Mixed-Race People and Polychromatic Dreams

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-01-12 03:42Z by Steven

The World of Zadie Smith: Mixed-Race People and Polychromatic Dreams

The Wire
2017-01-11

Radhika Oberoi

Swing Time like its predecessors is intensely curious about race, but it is also curious about so much more than race, such as Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Ali Baba Goes to Town and Michael Jackson.

Cool Britannia, slickly marketed by Tony Blair’s Labour government, was hardly a monochromatic one. The London of Alexander McQueen, Oasis, Blur, Damien Hurst and the Spice Girls was a pastiche of the preceding Conservative regimes and a variegated motif of multiculturalism. White Teeth, that rollicking sketch of the post-colonial migrant experience, that comical world of inter-locking narratives – a genre that James Wood compellingly defined as ‘hysterical realism’ – landed amidst the boisterous icons of Cool Britannia in 2000, announcing the arrival of Zadie Smith – young, black, British, freckled, high cheek-boned.

White Teeth, an ostensibly hilarious examination of the vagaries of racially mixed friendships, is perhaps the loudest testimony to what Smith does best – bring the Joneses, the Iqbals and the Chalfens together in the hybrid topography of Willesden in north-west London. The book is, as described by Smith herself, in an interview, “…a kind of mishmash, as first novels tend to be”. Swing Time, Smith’s newest fiction, published in November 2016, is an evocation of that very universe – a hotchpotch of people and places, a medley of sights and sounds and smells. It is also a deeper and somewhat quieter rumination on race…

Read the entire review here.

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How a mixed-race love affair between an African prince and an Englishwoman caused an international furore

Posted in Africa, Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-12-16 21:28Z by Steven

How a mixed-race love affair between an African prince and an Englishwoman caused an international furore

The Daily Telegraph
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
2016-12-16

Marea Donnelly, History writer


Ruth Williams and her husband Prince Seretse Khama in London in 1949.

ONE can only surmise as to whether bank clerk Ruth Williams and her Bechuanaland prince Seretse Khama ever shuffled around the dance floor to The Ink Spots’ hit Prisoner Of Love. United in their affection for the harmonising American doo-wop band, within a year of their meeting at a post-war London dance hall the Ink Spots’ 1946 hit could have been their anthem.

Their black-white romance offended not only their families, but the British and South African governments and the Church of England, which all aggressively opposed their 1948 marriage. Already the subject of a book A Marriage Of Inconvenience, and a film of the same name released in 1990, a new British film about the Khama marriage, A United Kingdom, opens in Sydney on Boxing Day

Read the entire article here.

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Uganda is worried about the number of Chinese men marrying their women

Posted in Africa, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Economics, Media Archive on 2016-12-12 21:33Z by Steven

Uganda is worried about the number of Chinese men marrying their women

Quartz Africa
2016-12-09

Lily Kuo

Contractors, petty traders, investors, and entrepreneurs from China have been pouring into Uganda for the past decade. China is a top investor in the east African country, accounting for as much as half of total foreign investment between 2014 and 2015, according to the Uganda Investment Authority.

But according to Ugandan immigration officials, there’s one major downside: an increasing number of Chinese men are marrying Ugandan women to gain residency and continue their business interests in the country.

Officials told a parliamentary committee in late November that they are seeing more and more Chinese-Ugandan couples, often in sham unions. Couples are normally interviewed before spousal status is granted and Chinese men involved in sham marriages are deported.

“But we have many who are marrying and even producing… Even our Ugandan women are accepting to [reproduce] with these men,”an official from Uganda’s directorate of citizenship and immigration control told the committee.

Read the entire article here.

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Word of Honour: Reclaiming Mandela’s Promise

Posted in Africa, Census/Demographics, Economics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, South Africa, Videos on 2016-12-12 19:59Z by Steven

Word of Honour: Reclaiming Mandela’s Promise

Chace Studios
South Africa
2016
Color
Running Time: 01:13:00

Kiersten Dunbar Chace, Producer, Director, Editor

David Grant, Consultant/Writer

In 1997, just prior to his departure from politics, President Nelson Mandela delivered an informal speech to a predominately mixed-race Coloured community in the Western Cape. He reassured them they had nothing to fear from the ANC government once he left office… that his dream of a free and equal society for all South Africa’s citizens would continue in the hearts and minds of his successors. Now, twenty years later, with discriminatory practices affecting their economic, social and cultural rights, Word of Honour: Reclaiming Mandela’s Promise, illuminates the story of a people questioning the fate of their Coloured identity in the new South Africa.

From the Director of the award winning historical documentary, I’m Not Black, I’m Coloured: Identity Crisis at the Cape of Good Hope, Kiersten Dunbar Chace blends poetry, landscape imagery, and rare archive footage with a collection of powerful, indigenous voices who share their insight and experience regarding the issues facing their respective communities. Presented as regional vignettes, Word of Honour is an introspective look into South Africa’s young democracy as well as a meditation on what may be looming on the horizon. In order to weave this rich tapestry of post-apartheid conversations, Chace traveled 5,000 miles across South Africa with an all-South African crew to the townships of Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg and the rural desert village of Riemvasmaak. Cast members include retired High Court Judge Chris Greenland, photojournalist and HipHop promoter Rushay Booysen, former ANC freedom fighter Danny Brown, poet Khadijah Heeger, comedian and founder of Bruin-Ou.com Charles Ash, elder Anna Davids, community activist Jerome Lottering, and Elsie’s River resident Chantay Haynes.

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What is the Black Atlantic? My Comparative Perspective

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2016-12-11 22:08Z by Steven

What is the Black Atlantic? My Comparative Perspective

Afro-Europe International Blog
2011-01-09

Sibo Kano

Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic (1994) is a difficult read but it’s a very influential book. An author who builds further on Gilroy’s work and who writes very accessible books about blackness is Livio Sansone (professor of anthropology at the University of Bahia, Brazil). His book ‘Blackness Without Ethnicity’ (2003) was a very insightful read that I recommend to anyone interested in the subject. In this book he compares black Brazilian experience and cultural production with the African American experience (check this blog www.afrobrazilamerica.com on the difference between black US and black Brazil experiences). One of the chapters of the book even goes further and is based on his research among black youth in Amsterdam compared to black youth in Bahia and Rio. Generally Sansone has written interesting articles about blackness and Western Afro cultures (check this article) . Below I will give my understandings and perspectives on the Black Atlantic, as an inherent part of the broad social and cultural entity called ‘The West’.

There are black people living in all countries of the Americas, in Europe and of course in Africa. The history of all these black populations is interrelated and all in reference to their relation to white European culture. African nations are (unfortunately) a consequence of European history and international affairs. African elites have often Europe and European languages as a reference point for culture, knowledge and social emancipation. The same thing can be said in an even more thorough sense of Latin America. All these cultures, or at least its elites and urban populations are therefore according to me part of the same Western world.

But the black populations of these nations are not all the same, just as all these countries differ from each other although being interrelated in history. Black Brazilians experience race in a very different way than African Americans. Black Britons do not express their identity within the UK in the same way as Black French communities in France. Each country has its own dynamics, history, culture and identity. Still there is also much in common which is all centered around three elements: history, race and Africa…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Born a Crime,’ Trevor Noah’s Raw Account of Life Under Apartheid

Posted in Africa, Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, South Africa on 2016-12-07 02:43Z by Steven

‘Born a Crime,’ Trevor Noah’s Raw Account of Life Under Apartheid

The New York Times
2016-11-28

Michiko Kakutani, Chief Book Critic


Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show,” in 2015. His memoir provides a harrowing look at life in South Africa under apartheid and then after that era.
Credit Chad Batka for The New York Times

As host of “The Daily Show,” Trevor Noah comes across as a wry, startled and sometimes outraged outsider, commenting on the absurdities of American life. During the presidential campaign, the South African-born comic remarked that Donald J. Trump reminded him of an African dictator, mused over the mystifying complexities of the Electoral College system and pointed out the weirdness of states voting on recreational marijuana.

In the countdown to and aftermath of the election, Mr. Noah has grown more comfortable at moving back and forth between jokes and earnest insights, between humor and serious asides — the way he’s done in his stand-up act, and now, in his compelling new memoir, “Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood.”…

Read the entire review here.

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Trevor Noah on Growing Up in South Africa Under Apartheid

Posted in Africa, Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, South Africa on 2016-12-03 23:22Z by Steven

Trevor Noah on Growing Up in South Africa Under Apartheid

Literary Hub
2016-12-02

Trevor Noah

“Where most children are proof of their parents’ love, I was the proof of their criminality.”

When the doctors pulled me out there was an awkward moment where they said, “Huh. That’s a very light-skinned baby.” A quick scan of the delivery room revealed no man standing around to take credit.

“Who is the father?” they asked.

“His father is from Swaziland,” my mother said, referring to the tiny, landlocked kingdom in the west of South Africa.

They probably knew she was lying, but they accepted it because they needed an explanation. Under apartheid, the government labeled everything on your birth certificate: race, tribe, nationality. Everything had to be categorized. My mother lied and said I was born in KaNgwane, the semi-sovereign homeland for Swazi people living in South Africa. So my birth certificate doesn’t say that I’m Xhosa, which technically I am. And it doesn’t say that I’m Swiss, which the government wouldn’t allow. It just says that I’m from another country.

My father isn’t on my birth certificate. Officially, he’s never been my father. And my mother, true to her word, was prepared for him not to be involved. She ’d rented a new flat for herself in Joubert Park, the neighborhood adjacent to Hillbrow, and that’s where she took me when she left the hospital. The next week she went to visit him, with no baby. To her surprise, he asked where I was. “You said that you didn’t want to be involved,” she said. And he hadn’t, but once I existed he realized he couldn’t have a son living around the corner and not be a part of my life. So the three of us formed a kind of family, as much as our peculiar situation would allow. I lived with my mom. We ’d sneak around and visit my dad when we could.

Where most children are proof of their parents’ love, I was the proof of their criminality. The only time I could be with my father was indoors. If we left the house, he ’d have to walk across the street from us. My mom and I used to go to Joubert Park all the time. It’s the Central Park of Johannesburg—beautiful gardens, a zoo, a giant chessboard with human-sized pieces that people would play. My mother tells me that once, when I was a toddler, my dad tried to go with us. We were in the park, he was walking a good bit away from us, and I ran after him, screaming, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” People started looking. He panicked and ran away. I thought it was a game and kept chasing him…

Read the entire excerpt from Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood here.

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