São Tomé and Príncipe are two small islands in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Central Africa. Geologically, the oldest dated rock dates to 31 million years ago. Until the Portuguese landed on the islands around 1470, they were uninhabited. Today, nearly 200,000 people who call themselves Santomean, but where did these people come from?
I’ve seen in some rankings and lists that Ghana is often among the most religious countries in the world. Living here, it’s not that difficult to believe. Many shop names mention God or Allah or reference a Bible passage. One of the first questions I get asked when I meet new people is often, “What religion are you?” And on Sunday mornings, life slows down considerably and the air is filled with the singing and preaching from the dozens of churches. Religious beliefs are very much a part of life here, and there’s an interesting break-down.
Just a few days ago, “First They Killed My Father” began streaming on Netflix. The movie, based on the book with the same name, follows the story of a girl who is forced to become a child solider while her family is sent to labor camps under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. The other famous film about this time in Cambodian history is “The Killing Fields,” that tells the true story of a journalist and his interpreter. While the genocide in Cambodia that occurred from 1975 to 1979 under the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge may be generally known, the legacy of that time that stretches into the present is much less so.
A few weeks ago, my friend and co-worker gave birth to her first child – a baby girl. This was pretty exciting, as it is culturally a good sign for her to have a baby so soon after her wedding, and I was excited because it meant I had a chance to take part in some of the cultural practices around welcoming a new baby. These traditions are commonly called naming ceremonies.
The heat of the Sinai bears down from the cloudless sky all around me while the Red Sea glitters. I drop my bag on the ground and sink into the low cushions underneath a palm frond canopy. “Would you like some tea?” a man in a white jelabaya offers me. Normally, the heat would put me off from a hot drink, however I take him up on his offer. It’s the first of many cups I will drink over the coming days.
High Street is filled with rivers of people, shoulder to shoulder, flowing in competing directions. From Usher Fort at one end to the Jamestown Lighthouse at the other, the road has been blocked off and foot traffic has taken over, supplemented by street performers, muralists, artists, vendors and the ubiquitous women and children selling water from atop their heads. It’s Chale Wote, Accra’s annual street art festival breaking down the conceptions of West African art.
A friend once told me, “You can tell that God loves Scotland, because he cut off all the tops of the best mountains, and put them there.” At the time, I was living in Michigan, decidedly devoid of anything close to mountains. Since then, I’ve lived in the Cascades, hiked in the Himalayas and Rockies, and wondered at the Alps. I can say that the Scottish Highlands can hold their own against these majestic ranges.
In Ghana, May 25th is a national holiday, with offices closed and a day off from school. It’s called African Unity Day and celebrates the founding of what is now known as the African Union.
If your only exposure to Africa is through the main news media, you probably imagine the continent as being populated with lots of charismatic megafauna (think elephants, giraffes and rhinos) and a few inspirational individuals who managed to climb out of the poverty and war that is rampant across the continent. But what if I told you that income inequality in Ghana was similar to that in the United States?
While not making major International news, there have been recent splashes of Cameroon making headlines in the past few months. A very simplified explanation is that Cameroon has two official languages, French and English. The majority of the country is francophone, and the capital is solidly in the francophone area. This had lead to discrimination against the anglophones in the country, particularly when it comes to dealing with government bureaucracies that may refuse to accommodate them. But where did this language divide come from in the first place?