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Nigeria’s Hope

 

Over the past week, the Nigerian military has rescued over 700 captives in its advances against Boko Haram.   Although there are many captives yet to be rescued, many hope that the recent efforts are indicators of future victories. As Nigeria and the world celebrate this victory, it is also imperative to honor the bravery and resilience of the captives rescued, and those who continue to fight for their freedom.

On May 29, 2015, president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari will be taking power as Nigeria’s president.  His election was a historical moment for Nigerian democracy, and a monumental indicator for Nigeria’s future. To get a better idea of the implications of this election, and what Nigeria’s future may hold, we interviewed Chime Asonye, a recent graduate of Northwestern University School of Law, and a leader within the Nigerian diaspora. He gave valuable insight into the implications of Buhari’s election for Nigeria’s future diplomacy, economy, and security.

In your opinion, what are some common misconceptions people have about Nigeria?

When people think about Nigeria, they don’t think about the fact that it is the largest economy in Africa. They don’t understand that it is a MINT economy. Also, people do not think about the amazing youth population in terms of demographics that is within the country. There is an amazing mix of opportunities in the country that people should explore. With that said, there are also huge issues with how federal structure works, and issues with people being in poverty. In countries where there was the most democratic resistance, there was the economic power to do so. It is not a question of people not wanting to change, but rather having to survive. And a lot of people are just surviving. The people who need to get involved can help the entire population grow. When people have a certain baseline of security, they will be able to revolt. Nigeria revolted at the ballot box and will continue to do so.  Nigeria was thought to be on the brink of annihilation. Nigeria proved to the whole world that we understand the promise of democracy, and we are willing to do what it takes to hold politicians, accountable, and we did that. Nigeria is not the stereotype, and you should not just think about bombings, Boko Haram, and killings. It is a nation of promise, new democracy. Nigeria is continuing on path of excellence and just demonstrated that to the world.

What is most important to understand about the past election, and Nigeria’s future?

This election marked a number of firsts. Nigeria has never had ruling party lose since Nigeria’s return to democracy. Furthermore, a sitting President had never been voted out of power through the ballot box. We’ve never had a sitting President concede defeat.  There are a number of historic firsts that are the subtexts for the election. The major implication is that now there is an opposition party that is going to have the helm of government. Because of the way of democracy and federal system, a lot of power is centralized. Nigeria is going to have an opposition party control the majority of power.This trend has also been noted in several other countries on the continent. For example, 2012 in Senegal, the president was looking at taking 3rd term, people took to the streets and defeated him in the poll. In Burkina Faso the leader also tried to amend constitution to extend his rule, and citizens took to the streets. Nigeria is extending the legacy of rulers not being able to extend their power, and citizens coming out and voting for change. From now to 2017 there will be elections in several countries, which will continue the Africa rising story. The culture of true democracy is grabbing hold and beginning to spread.

What does Buhari’s election mean for Nigeria’s young adults and at-risk groups?

In 2011, a lot of people considered that election the election of the youth.  A lot of young people got involved in the electoral cycle after the instability in the country. Young people became interested in what was going on and got involved in the elections. People got involved by monitoring and protecting votes, because 2003 & 2007 were historically poor elections. Building on that progress, young people were more proactive about current election. Now that we’ve monitored this, we need to start holding people accountable, getting invested in the electoral cycle. A lot of young people were involved in the campaign, and moderated debates during the campaign. During the election, the opposition raised several core issues, including corruption, and the economy. In regard to Nigeria’s young population, the issue of the economy is huge because of unemployment rates. Buhari’s claims about potential progress in economy pulled young people’s votes in his favor. Additionally, his promise of security: bring back our girls – pulled young people in. Getting young people feeling safer in their country, and promising access to basic things such as social services was important as we think about what we want in our country.

How confident are you in Buhari’s ability to address Boko Haram?

During Obama’s election in 2008, he ran on platform of change. In Nigeria’s recent election, the opposition’s slogan of change was significant. The slogan was so embedded in minds of populus, that as the current President’s first lady was talking, she said “anyone who is voting for change, you should stone them.” Subsequently, the ICC began investigating this and other hate statements.  In some sense, not everyone who was voting because they liked the opposition, but they were voting against the president’s administration. People began exercising their civil right to address what was going on.  A sovereign nation had territory size of Belgium taken over by group. Suicide bombings were increasing, and suicide bombings involving young people, and girls were on the uprise. When the opposition said change, that was what many were thinking about. Additionally, many people decried was corruption in the military sector. Buhari talked about adequately supplying military to carry out their duties. Being a former officer, he knew how to operate security apparatus. Many believed that his past military experience would be valuable in advancing country forward, and combating Boko Haram.

What are the implications of this election for public diplomacy in Nigeria?

In terms of bordering countries, Chad & Niger have gotten most involved in the fight against Boko Haram. Chadian president was vocal about how Nigerian forces were not doing that much to fight. He called out the government publicly for lack of involvement in addressing Boko Haram. A dysfunctional military, corruption-led security lapses, and lack of collaboration with neighbors resulted in mistrust of the Nigerian military.  Consequently, many did not trust the Nigerian government to allocate military funds appropriately. For example, during the bring Bring Back our Girls movement, the US was doing sweeps of where girls were suspected to be, but could not tell Nigerian security personnel because of lack the of trust. In an effort to improve diplomatic relations with other countries, and to address issues within Nigeria, Buhari has proposed the following:

  1.       Nigerian soldiers should handle Nigerian problems, and fewer foreign mercenaries should be in Nigeria. For example, during postponement of election, regional security forces made advances on Boko Haram. Nigerian forces were  partially involved, but not to the extent that they should have been. The African Union wants to send multinational force to region to combat Boko Haram. However, Buhari is not in support of the use of multinational forces because he would want to train Nigerian military and combat Boko Haram with the nation’s own troops. Regional forces (from bordering nations) would want that too. Although Chad has re-occupied towns in Borno State, they want to be able to leave conflict areas and have those towns held by Nigerian troops.
  2.       To rid security forces of corruption, and improve relationships with western world. In doing so, his hope is that western allies would be more willing to work  with Nigerian government.

How do you think Buhari will fare against the oil pirates in Nigeria?

A lot of the groundwork has been done before the election. A lot of piracy in the Niger Delta happened with an organization called MEND. Right after the election, MEND released a statement congratulating Buhari on electoral victory. One of the main leaders of MEND is leading peace efforts in the Niger Delta. There is piracy and there has been piracy, but the election has positive implications. Main Niger Delta leaders are working to promote peace. All stakeholders realize that this is important and people don’t want to go back to a life of piracy. Because Buhari has the motif of being anti-corruption leader, all levels of corruption are likely to decrease. Niger Delta militants have been supporting president-elect, and the accepted amnesty they were given. The President elect’s anti-corruption promise is going to work to check abuses in the oil sector.

 

 

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Recap: Art Class

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On March 25th, Afrika Fifty6 hosted “Art Class” at Mars Gallery in Chicago, Illinois. The event was designed to raise awareness and funds for Afrika Fifty6’s continuation of Project Tanzania, and to showcase talented artists around Chicago.  The fundraiser was extremely successful, with over 200 people in attendance. All the proceeds raised from Art Class will go to purchase beds, mosquito nets, and kitchen essentials for the Ijango Zaidia Orphanage. In April, Sam Desalu will be returning to Dar es Salaam to distribute these and other essential items to the children at the orphanage.

Afrika Fifty6 would like to thank everyone who worked to make this event a success. First, thank you to Mars Gallery for the wonderful space. Next, thank you to the following artists who showcased their talent:  Solomon Adufah, Mike Winn, Ashley Dowdy, Ron Bass, Hugo Garcia,  Nina Palumbo, Michael Nauert, Barrett Keezy, Maxwell Dickson , John Bambino , Ahmad Lee, and Femiola. Furthermore, the event would not have been possible without the generosity of these wonderful sponsors:  du’sse, Bombay Sapphire , Mastermind Management, Mars Gallery, Urban Fetes, and Angie Grozdic. Lastly, and most importantly, thank you to the faithful supporters of Afrika Fifty6 and Project Tanzania who have supported through donations, raising awareness, and attendance at events like Art Class. Your generosity is working to improve the lives of children in need, and to allow Afrika Fifty6 to take on more projects in the future.

Maxwell Dickson x Sam Desalu: Princess Rashidat

Maxwell Dickson x Sam Desalu: Princess Rashidat

Ron Bass x Sam Desalu: We are Royal

Ron Bass x Sam Desalu: We are Royal

Ahmad Lee

Ahmad Lee

Ron Bass x Sam Desalu: We are Royal

Ron Bass x Sam Desalu: We are Royal

Femolart: O.Y.O.

Femiolart: O.Y.O.

Femiolart: Orisha Series

Ron Bass x Sam Desalu: We are Royal

Ron Bass x Sam Desalu: We are Royal

Solomon Adufah: Homeland Series

Solomon Adufah: Homeland Series

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Art Class: Meet The Artists

On March 25th, 2015  Afrika Fifty6 will be hosting an art show entitled “Art Class.” This event will be held at Mars Gallery, located at 1139 W. Fulton market, and will begin at 7pm. The aim of this event is to showcase talented artists within Chicago, and to further Afrika Fifty6’s latest philanthropic effort, Project Tanzania. This project benefits the Ijango Zaidia Orphanage Center located in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Over the last year, many artists have donated their talent to raise funds for Project Tanzania.  This February, Sam Desalu conducted a successful mission trip to the orphanage and with the help of generous donations, provided essential materials, and sustainable methods of income generation. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. The children are in need of beds, mosquito nets, and kitchen essentials. In April, Sam will be returning to Dar es Salaam to bring the orphanage a step closer to meeting their needs, and realizing their full potential. Proceeds raised from the Art Class event and Afrika Fifty6’s GoFundMe Campaign will go to meet the orphanage’s critical needs.

Art Class will feature the works of many talented artists. Ron Bass, a visual artist originally from Brooklyn, will be showcasing his talents. Ron draws inspiration from Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Mark McNairy and Jeremy Scott. His works are noted to be incredibly vibrant, using mixed media to recreate familiar scenes. In addition to artwork, Ron Bass also expresses his art through clothing design. His unique design resulted in the Ron Bass Collection, which is in collaboration with Forever 21. Below are some of his creations:

Art Class will also feature the works of Maxwell Dickson’s Bart Cooper. Cooper, who is a co-founder of Maxwell Dickson, is originally from Liberia. His works are extremely variant, and include abstract, figurative, portrait, and lifestyle. Staying true to Maxwell Dickson’s motto, “art-driven lifestyle,” his works are also available in many forms, including throw pillows, coasters, phone cases, wall clocks, and more. His works are also incredibly vibrant. Check them out below:

Femiolart is a Chicago-based artist originally from Ghana. His influences include.  His works include portraits, abstracts, and digital art. This past summer, he showcased a series entitled “African Horror Story: The Orishas.” This series was centered on the gods and goddesses of Yoruba religion, and their existence within the diaspora. The corresponding exhibit raised funds to promote art within disadvantaged communities in Acrra, Ghana. His works are incredibly versatile, and feature a wide variety of subjects. See them below:

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Solomon Adufah is a self-taught artist originally from Ghana, and now based in Chicago. His works are mostly portraits, and noted for its vibrant colors. His Homeland Series includes several representations of culture across the African continent.  He recently completed a service trip to Ghana, in which he volunteered at a school, and helped teach art. Below are just a few of his beautiful works:

 

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This will be a great night of fundraising and networking. For entry, please email info@afrikafifty6.com

 

 

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Designer: Loza Maléombho

Loza Maléombho, who was recently featured on Saint Heron’s Black Designer Spotlight, is a Cote-d’Ivoire-based designer who draws on the fusion of cultures, sub-cultures and contemporary fashion. She describes her AW/15 collection as the merging of the “contemporary streets of New York and the traditional culture of Cote-d’Ivoire.” Loza, who was born Brazil and grew up in the United States, relocated her production to Cote-d’Ivoire in an effort to empower women. According to her website, she hires young women from disadvantaged backgrounds, and works closely with local artisans in her production of fabric, jewelry, shoes and accessories. The beauty of her work is only surpassed by the generous architecture of her production. It is incredibly inspiring to see a designer using their craft to promote economic opportunity for people in poverty. Below are some of her pieces from the most recent collection:

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Photos by Daniel Sery

In addition to her clothing design, Loza is also engaging in a social movement  on Instagram she’s entitled #alienedits. In her interview with Africa is a Country, she describes how “alien edits are socially conscious selfies expressed through style, pride, grace, and cultural awareness and against racial, class, cultural, religious and sexuality stereotypes, all of which cause a state of alienation on its victims.” She also shares how the influence for this series came from a series of injustices, ranging from the Darren Wilson verdict in the United States to Boko Haram in Nigeria. She goes on to describe how the feelings that followed these events were those of alienation, and of self-devaluation. #Alienedits became a means through which she found pride, self-validation, and a way to respond to current events and celebrate cultural diversity.

The beauty of this series lies in the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of her pictures. On  Instagram, each picture is accompanied by a simple caption, giving brief insight into the thought process behind the picture, but leaving much of the interpretation up to the viewer.On occasion,  she does provide an explanation of her artistic process. For example,  in her interview she with Africa is a Country she explained how the first picture below, entitled “Helmet of Grace” is meant to represent the version of herself she aspires to be: someone who is led by grace. From her pictures, to her designs everything about Loza Maleombho is an exquisite piece of art. Her activism and intentionality make her work exciting to digest.The growth of this series, as well as her artistic commentary on current events, will definitely be something to look forward to.

 

Below are a few of the pictures from the #alienedits series:

 

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Project Tanzania’s Success

Over the last week, Afrika Fifty6’s founder, Sam Desalu has been in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania at the Ijango Zaidia Orphanage Center. During his time there, he met with the children and staff at the orphanage, while providing extremely necessary items for sustenance and cultivating great relationships.  On the first day, Sam met the children, all of whom were extremely welcoming and excited to meet him.

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Over the next few days, Sam distributed much-needed school supplies to the children. including pencils, pens, erasers, notebooks, folders, etc. The supplies were collected over the last year through generous donations to Afrika Fifty6. The children were extremely excited to receive their supplies, and will have enough not only for this year, but also for several years going forward.  These donations will greatly impact the children’s organization. This would not be possible without the generosity of those who support Afrika Fifty6, and have supported Project Tanzania over the last year.

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In addition to school supplies, Afrika Fifty6 was also able to  provide the orphanage with opportunities for sustainable growth. This began with a luxury they have not had in a while: meat. Because the price of meat is often high, eating meat is a luxury the orphanage cannot afford to provide to its children. Sam provided enough meat to last the orphanage a month, and also provided the orphanage with goats to breed to provide a sustainable means of having meat over time. This is to ensure that once the month’s supply runs out, the children and staff at the orphanage will still have a way of enjoying meat in the future. In addition to the goats, Sam also built at chicken coop for the orphanage and equipped it with three hens and a rooster to generate income in the future. Because eggs are often pricey in Dar Es Salaam, selling eggs can be a profitable business for the orphanage. The plan is to breed the chickens, and sell eggs to local stores in the area.

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In addition to sustenance items and school supplies, Afrika Fifty6 also received valuable donations to provide the children at the orphanage with even more to enjoy. First, MyVice Sweats clothing line donated t-shirts and more to the children at the orphanage. Furthermore, talented artist John Born donated paintings to the orphanage that will be hung in the orphanage’s common area, where the children do their homework and play.  Last but not least, The Praduc Group generously donated speakers, which the energetic children greatly enjoyed, as they love to dance. These donations were immeasurably appreciated by the orphanage, and brought smiles to the children’s faces.

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The success of Project Tanzania would not have been possible without all of those who support Afrika Fifty6. Thank you to all who attended the Project Tanzania Fundraiser last year, those who donated items for the children, and all those who sent kind words and encouragement. Is is through your support that Afrika Fifty6 is able to assist organizations in great need, raise awareness, and conduct service trips.  Afrika Fifty6 also sends a huge thank you to the children and the staff at the Ijango Zaidia Orphanage Center for their hospitality, positivity, and beautiful spirits.

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Project Tanzania – Afrika Fifty6 is Headed to Dar es Salaam

Last year, Afrika Fifty6 launched Project Tanzania, aimed to support the Ijango Zaidia Orphanage Center located in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. On August 16, 2014, Afrika Fifty6 partnered with critically acclaimed photographer Shamayim to raise proceeds for Ijango Zaidia. As a continued effort of the ongoing Project Tanzania, Afrika Fifty6 will be traveling to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania  on February 1, 2015 to provide the Ijango Zaidia Orphanage Center with essential materials to improve the lives of the orphans the organization supports.

Ijango Zaidia was officially founded in 1996 by Zaidia Nuru Hassan Ijango  as the result of a Lake Victoria ferry accident. On May 21, 1996, the MV Bukoba capsized, killing more than 1,000 people, many of whom were parents. As a result, many children were left without families. Zaidia Nuru Hassan Ijango took it upon herself to take care of the children affected by the tragedy, and children who lost their parents in other ways.  The word “Zaidia”, which coincidentally loosely translates to “support”, is a fitting name not only for the organization itself, but for its leader’s generous heart. In addition to her providing the children with shelter and family, she also uses her earnings from informal jobs to purchase materials for the benefit of the orphanage.

Currently, the orphanage provides several services to its constituents, including basic necessities such as food, shelter, school fees, and health care. Additionally, Ijango Zaidia provides orphans with personal guidance, and general emotional support. Like any other nonprofit, the organization is in continuous need of resources to sustain its growing needs. As Ijango Zaidia’s website indicates, they are in continuous need of financial support to rent facilities, and basic amenities such as beds, mattresses, mosquito nets, and school supplies.  As Project Tanzania continues, Afrika Fifty6 hopes to be able to meet some of these needs, and improve the lives of the organization’s leaders, the orphans supported by the center, and the community at large.

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Americanah: Why You Should be Watching (& Reading)

David Oleyowo & Lupita Nyong’o (variety.com)

In 2013, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie changed the literary scene with the release of her novel Americanah. Although she had several books published before this time, this novel has been the most popular. On its surface, Americanah is a love story, where two people separated by distance, culture, and time struggle to maintain their relationship. Looking deeper, the novel tells a much bigger story about the struggles that many immigrants face: identity management, culture shock and loneliness. Each perspective tells stories that so many of us, particularly in the African Diaspora, know too well. The book also explores the unique identity challenge that so many of us face: the heightened awareness of blackness that comes from moving into a society where race is often the focal point of differentiation between groups. This heightened awareness brings forth a lot of questions about who we are, and how we fit into our new environment. If you haven’t read the novel, you must. It’s a moving, and very insightful experience.

Although the film adaptation is still in its infancy stages, recent developments have some profound implications. Lupita Nyong’o and David Oleyowo have signed on to star in the film, and bring exposure to the African immigrant experience. The simple association of these names with the film makes me optimistic that new audiences will gain insight into the African immigrant experience, and see the beauty of our similarities and our differences. As excitement for the film grows, we as consumers and as community members have a responsibility to follow through. The media has very little representation of the vast experiences of people of color. By supporting this film (and the novel), we have the opportunity for us to demand greater representation of our experiences, our struggles, and our triumphs. Furthermore, it gives us the opportunity to create dialogue surrounding issues of identity, and the relationship between Africans and African-Americans.  And most importantly, it gives way for other contemporary writers, filmmakers, and artists whose exposure is contingent on the growing demand of their art.

As we wait for the film, I would encourage you to read the novel (and Adichie’s other novels). I would also encourage you to take time to find the writers, actors, and artists that you haven’t heard of.  We have the opportunity to uplift them, and provide visibility to the breadth of our own experiences, and the experiences of others who don’t have a platform, or a voice. We have that power, and we have the responsibility to use it.

Afrika Fifty6 X Tyrese For Our Girls of Nigeria Benefit Concert!

May 30th, 2014 Afrika Fifty6 presents a red carpet charity event hosted by singer/actor Tyrese Gibson and friends at 1Oak Los Angeles.

Proceeds raised from the benefit concert will go directly to benefit UNICEF’s programs that help protect children in Nigeria. UNICEF is dedicated to providing children and their families affected by the crisis with essential services.

To purchase a ticket, click the image below!

If you would like to make a donation, visit the Donate tab above!

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The Bashada Tribe

Bashada means poor. The name comes from a time when the tribe was the poorest of the region, but that time has long gone. These people now earn good money with their pottery.

The Bashada are a small agro-pastoralist indigenous ethnic group living in the Southwest of Ethiopia. The Bashada live in close neighborhoods with 15 other ethnic groups in Ethiopia.

The fashion of the Bashada tribe is very inspiring, bold coloring and body paint.

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We Are

The “We Are” collaboration by Afrika Fifty6 X Ron Bass, is a collection of one of a kind wearable art.

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Ron Bass is a spirited individual by ways of Brooklyn, NY who is inspired by all things emitting love. A new student to the creative world who found his passion and peace of mind in the wake to the loss of his beloved parents. With his distinct love for DIY (Do It Yourself), Pop Art and Fashion, Ron has created pieces inspired by many but his core inspiration draws from the work by legendary Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Mark McNairy and Jeremy Scott. Ron’s latest work has made its way to the likes of Jay-Z, Beyonce, Swizz Beatz, Rita Ora and Victoria Secret Model Cara D to name a few. His goal is to one day leave a mark on art and fashion culture by showcasing love for thyself and others while creating pieces that will inspire the masses.

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