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Halloween Tales of Africa

It gets spookier; the rituals go as far as families opening up their loved ones’ resting places, and wrapping the remains in new cloth.

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Halloween Tales of Africa Asante Afrika
Halloween Tales of Africa
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Rorisang Moyo

Hear me out… Halloween in Africa… A concept.

First things first, before we go forward with letting kids in Africa move around knocking door to door and trick-or-treating, one wonders how this would even play out… Imagine when you are expecting little children to collect sweets at your door; in comes Sbu from next door dressed in a superman costume, refuses to take some candy, and pulls out a gun. Boom! You’ve been mugged!

Not to say that getting mugged is a strictly African occurrence, but I would not recommend it in South Africa, for example. Imagine trying to explain to African aunties why you are wearing horns, or why you are wearing fangs. A headache!

Anyways, on to expanding the concept of Halloween through our African cultural practices, which are very real by the way, and would make for some interesting Halloween concepts… Here are a few bizarre African practices that would make an interesting horror movie:

The leopard society existed in Africa in the 18th century. These were a group of African men who practiced cannibalism, as they believed that it was a source of securing their power. They would kill westerners and slave traders, and eventually, they would also murder locals. They would dress up as leopards when they were killing people.

Halloween Tales of Africa Asante Afrika
The Leopard Society of West Africa

In South Sudan and Ethiopia, young girls stretch their lips. The process involves knocking out the bottom teeth to make space for a lip plate. In some societies, the size of the lip plate indicates the woman’s place in the societal hierarchy.

Halloween Tales of Africa Asante Afrika
Ataye Eligidagne, 20, dons a hardened clay lip disc, the largest in the world.

It is not all doom and bodily harm though. The African horror stories would make for a good laugh when it is time to tell spooky stories.

Legend has it that in some Zimbabwean neighbourhood, someone moved out of the neighbourhood with their house. Hear me out… the man packed his house in a suitcase, and went off to Malawi. Imagine the house next to yours disappearing! Your neighbour tells you that they are moving out tomorrow, then tomorrow comes and the house has completely disappeared as well. I don’t know if this is supposed to be a scary story, but it does make for some spooky content!

Mount Nyangani in Zimbabwe is a place that is viewed as sacred, and a place that harbours evil. When one goes hiking there, they are advised not to go to the sacred parts of the mountain. One is told that when they see a colourful snake, or a brick of gold, they should walk past and mind their own business. One is told not to wear red, or have any sexual activity, as to not anger the spirits. People report seeing trees with human faces. Some say that when they try to take pictures of certain objects, the pictures either aren’t processed, or some objects are absent from the picture. People are said to disappear on the mountain, like the two sisters who disappeared in 1981.

Similar to the celebration of Halloween is the Famadihana Festival, which is known as the turning of bones festival celebrated in Madagascar. The festival is referred to as a time to dance with the dead. Traditional healers and heads of families lead rituals to honour loved ones who have passed on. It gets spookier; the rituals go as far as families opening up their loved ones’ resting places, and wrapping the remains in new cloth. This is believed to be a method of keeping the house of the dead clean, and reconnecting with them.

Halloween Tales of Africa Asante Afrika
Famadihana Festival in Madagascar

Another story from the Matabeleland North Region of Zimbabwe is about a guy who was walking home at night. Despite him taking a familiar route, he felt as if the journey was getting longer and longer. He was found the next morning walking around a tree. He had been doing that for hours. Legend has it that you do not walk past that tree at night, or you will find yourself trapped under it all night.

Whereas Europe is filled with stories about Bigfoot and games like Bloody Mary and an Ouija board, we have stories like the cat that drives a taxi in Johannesburg, and the baboons that drive trucks for tired drivers over long distances. Let’s not even get started on Bulawayo’s “Jane the Ghost.” Africa is also host to an array of legendary monsters like Bigfoot; take Inkanyamba for instance; a huge carnivorous, eel-like creature, which originates from the Zulu and Xhosa people of South Africa. The creature controls the weather; talk about swag hey! Some might say all these stories have a rational explanation, but one thing remains true; they bring communities together, and people have stories to entertain themselves at night.

To those who celebrate Halloween in Africa, have a happy one and “Boo” to you and yours.

Lip Disc Image Source: https://julianafrancis.blogspot.com/2014/10/an-ancient-sign-of-beauty-designed-to.html

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Art

Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe

Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe

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Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe Asante Afrika
Miranda Mathe Art
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Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe Asante Afrika
Miranda Mathe

For many growing up in Africa, having aspirations to do anything artistic for a living isn’t considered practical. You can aspire to be a doctor, teacher or a business owner; “practical”, is what many parents push their children towards. Artist, Miranda Mathe, is one child who wasn’t detoured from following her passion. The Bulawayo based fine art creative, who is also the founder of Kopano, a Trust that helps people living with disabilities by empowering them through Art lessons, had a normal upbringing in Luveve – attending Josiah Chinamano Primary School and Sikhulile High School. Born to Nelson Mathe, a mechanic and stay at home mother, Nokuthula, Miranda’s choice to do art was considered to have come from nowhere.

I sat down with Miranda to get to know more about this defying artist.

When did you know you wanted to do art?

After my O’ levels… I was passionate about Art since primary school, so I decided to pursue the dream after my O’ levels.

 How did your parents feel about your choice, did they have other ideas for your future?

They always wanted me to be a journalist so they never liked the idea, because it’s a field that people don’t understand and think one can’t make a living out of.

How did you start on your artistic journey, what was your first piece?

After 2 years of mentorship, I applied for a studio at the Zimbabwe National Art Gallery of Bulawayo and my first piece was batik (designs on fabric).

Did you attend school to learn or better your art, and if so which one, and how was the experience?

Not really, I had a personal mentor, Bhekitshe Ntshali, who was with me from the beginning of my journey.

How has the art scene in Bulawayo been for you so far?

 The art scene is a bit depressed because of society’s financial issues. Most locals don’t have money to spend on art.

When you create, what is in your artistic process?

 It’s always the available materials, visualisation, and putting what is in my mind on canvas with the available materials… and refinement of the address as the work takes shape.

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you be doing instead?

I can’t imagine myself doing anything else, but maybe I would’ve become a mechanic, as I am so close to my dad.

Most African people don’t see art as a reliable way of making a living. Have you experienced some negative reactions from people?

Yes definitely. Like I said, my parents wanted me to be a journalist. Art has been associated with anti-social behaviour and I want to change that perception. I am up to making people understand that art is a profession and someone can make a decent living out of it.

If so can you elaborate on the encounters?

That’s a story for another day, as I will try and write a book about my life, and I will include my challenges and victories in Art.

Which artist do you look up to?

I look up to Bhekitshe Ntshali and Charlie Bhebhe.

What inspires your work?

Mostly nature, and I really love to work with children and the disabled.

What are some of the issues you face in your profession?

Lack of proper material in our local art suppliers, and the few you can get are very pricey. As a fraternity, the arts industry is not united as most people do their things individually, and as such, there is very little sharing of ideas. Art is not seen as an industry, yet it can be a major foreign currency earner and people should just know that people can be talented differently. Some are academics and some are artists, yet the school system just grades us the same academically.

Miranda shared some of her pieces with us:

Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe Asante Afrika
Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe Asante Afrika
Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe Asante Afrika
Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe Asante Afrika
Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe Asante Afrika

Connect with Miranda via Instagram: @mirandamathe8

lnterviewed by Hazel Lifa

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Creative Outlet

Dear Girl Child – A Poem Celebrating International Day of the Girl

Sunday 11th October was International Day of the Girl, with this year’s theme being “Girls Get Equal”.

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Dear Girl Child - A Poem Celebrating International Day of the Girl Asante Afrika
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Tarisai Krystal Mhishi

Dear girl child, it’s your day today.

Yes, they finally decided to celebrate you; guess who finally decided to show up to the party?

It’s only a token of appreciation that doesn’t go beyond that though.

Dear girl child, I’d advise you to build your armour, for the world is a war zone that doesn’t stop to give you a break, or cut you some slack; especially for someone in a skirt, because honey, they really weren’t kidding when they said, “It’s a man’s world.”

Man was created equal they say;

But even between two halves, there’s always a better half, a bigger half; for no two things are truly ever the same.

Dear girl child, the very same sons that you bear, are the very same ones that will break your heart.

Dear girl child, yes, it’s your day, but it’s only a day.

What good is milk and honey, if it only comes per annum?

What good is a per diem, if it doesn’t even feed your soul?

How do you carpe diem, when your per diem isn’t even enough to feed your mind?

As if that isn’t even enough to put a pregnant cloud over your head,

They break your heart too, simply because they like the sound.

They like to hear the sound of your ego break and shatter, reduced to nothing, but just another female who needs to bow and kiss their feet, because, it’s a man’s world!

So, hush little one, for the road doesn’t get any smoother than this!

Dear girl child…

Your day or not, they still treat you the same.

Dear girl child…

You needed to hear this, from one sister to another, for it’s a cold world.

And you will need this blanket of wisdom.

In frame : @marievictoirekobo 👗: @dumela.clothing.co Stylist: @_leche.co @leche.welthagen MUA🎨: @leche.welthagen: Zweli Bukhwele Photography

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Careers

Struggles of an African University Student During the Covid-19 Pandemic

For African students in foreign universities, never has it been clearer that they were indeed in foreign lands.

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Struggles of an African University Student During the Covid-19 Pandemic Asante Afrika

Rorisang Moyo

It is no coincidence that systematic inequalities reared their ugly head when our tertiary institutions were put to the test. For less privileged institutions, the Covid-19 pandemic confirmed that the institutions were on crutches and the pandemic basically took those crutches away. They were left with no leg to stand on. For various African students scattered all over the world, life touched them differently. Some encountered nuisances at close proximity with some people protesting a virus. In the same world where others could do this, some were begging to return to contact learning where online learning systems were nonexistent.

The elitism in tertiary education became clearer when universities that were historically privileged/ formally white institutions managed to transition easily from hybrid learning to online learning. This was a result of years of more allocation of resources being directed towards financing more privileged race groups. This is not an incident of history in the South African context, which means that at any given point pre-pandemic, students at historically white institutions had more resources.

When it became clear that students were not going to be having any contact lectures, the more privileged universities managed to loan laptops to students who did not have access to them. For countries that had more money to spare, data was provided for students to enable them to continue with online learning. This model of assisting the student assumed that if the student did not have a gadget for online learning, once they had it, they would be in a place with good network and electricity to power those gadgets. It assumed that a student had a smart phone to be able to use the free data that they received.

For African students in foreign universities, never has it been clearer that they were indeed in foreign lands. In cases where aid was available to them, for example, data allocation, for those who had returned to their home countries, such amenities were no longer available to them. For some students who are doing post-graduate studies, more time at home meant that they managed to think about what they could do with their degrees. It was a time to work on the hobbies that they took for granted that presented financial gain. This was particularly useful in fields like content creation where experience gained from practicing one’s craft is essential. Understand that while African students go to foreign universities for better employment prospects, legislation in those places is set up in a way that jobs prioritise locals. One has to be the best of the best to justify being chosen over a local. This pandemic frustrated students in their path of achieving greatness as many on-campus opportunities were paused, for example, societies that could have been valid work experience for their résumés.

In the haste to move out of university residences where many assumed that they were just leaving for two weeks and returning, many left their academic resources. Learning became difficult when they could not access these resources. Some had to rely on online library resources which had a time limit and some did not have access to online library resources at all.

For historically privileged universities where the poorest student would be in close proximity to wealth, they returned home to be reminded of all that they did not have. Back at the university, the access gap could be bridged through the use of on-site resources. However, when they returned home, the future was bleak once again. “No student will be left behind”, it was claimed. The truth is that despite all these efforts to equalise students, it was not easy.

For countries with less to no money at all, learning stopped indefinitely. For countries like Zimbabwe where the rural areas are places where there is no internet connection whatsoever and even where there is access to the internet, one would need to sell an organ to buy data. The online learning model itself being something that was created mid-pandemic, still a work in progress. No one was prepared for it; not the students who had to absorb the information, nor the lecturers who had to learn to teach using online resources. This is a time where tertiary institutions learnt that they were ill equipped for a pandemic. Who can blame them, considering they are located in Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs), where a vast majority of the population is living on less than a dollar a day? The situation was hopeless and all they could do was fold their arms and hope that people live through the pandemic to tell the tale.

“Even if it was baking banana bread for 100 days and having a sudden interest in colouring books – if you found something to do with yourself, that was a win.”

Amidst all this stress and confusion as to when the academic calendar would start and end, a lot of people’s mental health was on a downward spiral. The acknowledgement of their mental state and what they are feeling was dependent on their surrounding environments being conducive for them to express their feelings. Amidst financial stresses and the sense of uncertainty that came with not knowing what the future held, while faced with death and Zoom funerals amongst other tragedies, a lot of people felt as if their lives were falling apart. It took awareness to acknowledge how and what they were feeling. For some universities, mental health support was accessible through dialing in to 24-hour hotlines. While this was good in maintaining the functionality of the system virtually, it is sad to note that this wasn’t something that most institutions could provide.

What is the future of prioritising mental health in our institutions? Is mental health treated as urgently as other sicknesses that people can see like a bruise? It might look like institutions are failing students in this regard, but the fact on the ground is that there is still a lot of stigma surrounding the subject of mental health itself. There is a lack of understanding around why taking care of one’s mind is important.

It was not all doom though, many people had time to broaden their horizons in terms of reconnecting with old hobbies and starting new ones. Even if it was baking banana bread for 100 days and having a sudden interest in coloring books – if you found something to do with yourself, that was a win. Even if all you did was manage to get up, take a shower and look out the window, that is still fine. You do not have to change the world every day.

In this phase of our lives where nothing is in our hands, we learnt that tomorrow was not promised. We slowed down – and it might have come at a large financial and emotional cost, but we were lucky to survive it all.

Struggles of an African University Student During the Covid-19 Pandemic Asante Afrika

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