Archive | October, 2017

Breast cancer detection.

16 Oct

In my series dedicated to breast cancer awareness, I would like to focus on the importance of early detection.
In my previous blog on this topic, I honoured my late friend, Karissa Samuel, one of the the most important elements that she always spoke about was early detection. In my research on this topic, the age at which women should test their breast varies from different continents. In South Africa, its common to start from the age of 40, The American Cancer Society, for example, says they’re optional for women starting in their 20s. I simply say we can start as early as possible with the self examination. The sooner breast cancer gets diagnosed, the better your odds of getting a successful treatment for it are.
That’s why it’s important to have regular breast exams by your doctor, mammograms as recommended, and to check your breasts for any suspicious changes.
First and foremost, It’s a good idea to know how your breasts normally look and feel so you can notice any changes. This also starts with self love, looking and appreciating your body. Cherish its curves, lumps, contours and shapes. Spend time alone with yourself, naked in front of the mirror, identifying your unique shape and form and most importantly, love what you see and have.

How Should A Breast Self-Exam Be Performed?
1. In the shower:
Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the centre, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.

2. In front of the mirror;
Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.
Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
3. Lying down.
When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.
Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
It may better to wait 3 to 5 days after your period ends to do your self-exam. That’s because hormonal changes before your period can cause a temporary thickening in your breast that goes away after your period.
If you’re still unsure, your doctor can go over the self-exam with you.

Most women don’t start having mammograms until they’re at least 40. If you’re at higher risk for breast cancer, your doctor may want you to start at a younger age.
A mammogram can show breast lumps up to 2 years before they can be felt. Different tests help determine if a lump may be cancer. Ones that aren’t cancerous tend to have different physical features than ones that are. Imaging tests such as mammograms and ultrasounds can often see the difference.

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I have listed three spaces in Africa, that specialise in breast and gynaecological treatments.
The first is where I did my mammogram in 2015 with Dr. Nadia Jajbhay:

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1. The Women’s health and mammography institution, in Killarney, Johannesburg, South Africa. (WHMI)
WHMI is a breast care institute with a difference. Dedicated exclusively to breast cancer screening and diagnosis, patients can expect unrivalled professionalism and personal care.
WHMI radiologists are experienced in breast imaging, supported by a staff of experienced and committed mammographers all cutting-edge digital technology all under the supervision of a dedicated practice manager.
At WHMI we understand your need for privacy and optimum care under sensitive circumstances such as this. Whether you’re a mother or daughter, wife or sister, home executive or professional
Contact email address is: infodoc@whmi.co.za

2. In West Africa, in Nigeria there is the Reddington Hospital breast and gynaecology centre in Lagos.
“The Breast and Gynaecological centre provides a full range of high quality and personalised healthcare services ranging from women’s health, including a Gynaecology Clinic, a Breast Health Clinic to a Women’s Wellness Clinic.
“Located in the heart of Victoria Island, Lagos, the Centre offers services covering fibroid, infertility care, menopausal health, pelvic health, hysteroscopy, and simple office procedures. Reddington Hospital Group Medical Director, Dr Olutunde Lalude said in keeping with the Reddington’s tradition of being the front runner in medical breakthroughs in the country, the Breast and Gynaecological Centre boasts of cutting-edge technology never seen before in West Africa.
‘’They include a 3D Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (3D Mammography), a 3D Automatic Breast Ultrasound System (3D ABUS), a 3D Digital Breast Streotaxic Biopsy System (3D Stereo), a 3D MRI with 1.5 Tesla GE Explorer Technology.

3. In East Africa: The Mater Hospital, in Nairobi, Kenya.
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The Mater Hospital has installed mammography machines and the price of mammogram was reviewed to an affordable rate. So far mammography is the most reliable method for breast screening and early diagnosis of breast cancer .To allow the service to be accessible to all women, we now accept walk-ins for routine checkup on women above 40 years of age. Privacy of the patient is maintained by having only lady radiographers to perform the examination.
inform@materkenya.com

If you have more information on other regions or countries in Africa, please send through and I will gladly blog about them.

A tribute to our warrior princess: Karissa Samuel

13 Oct

In 2015 after I had to undergo an excisional breast biopsy, I made a promise to myself and my creator that I would do as much as I can to support the breast cancer cause. When the lump was initially located and the doctor could not perform a regular biopsy, it was decided that since it had been growing at a rapid rate, that I have it surgically removed. That way if it was cancer, I would have caught it early and would then have the opportunity to make the necessary decisions regarding the treatment and my healing. After the diagnosis, I called on a number of friends for support and guidance. Karissa Samuel was one of them.

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I met Karissa a few years back after she had watched me act on stage during a performance of The Vagina Monologues. A few years later we reconnected through mutual friends within the entrepreneurial space. Like many I was drawn to her phenomenal insight, intelligence and passion to life and well to be honest, to her ‘fuck off attitude’ to any form of discrimination, ignorance and racism. Karissa at the time had been diagnosed with breast cancer and made the brave decision to not let that dominate her life. She educated herself on the disease, the medication, she spoke and wrote honestly about the emotions attached to it and she turned any negativity into positivity. She continued with her entrepreneurial and philanthropic work through her TNF foundation, motivational talks and my absolute favourite, her laughing session that she did whilst doing her chemotherapy. Karissa was an absolute force to be reckoned with. She was definitely the change that was needed in the world. Unfortunately, Karissa passed away this year.

So, as we have moved into ‘Breast awareness month or Pinktober’ I dedicate this blog to the spirit of Karissa Samuel who ignited love, light, laughter and positive energy, wherever she went. She had an infectious smile, with piercing dimples. I thought it would be best to actually quote her from one of her thought provoking blogs: This picture also accompanied the blog post.

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‘Two years ago today I shaved my head on National television in solidarity with many who were facing the diagnosis of Breast Cancer & the journey towards remission. I was also in the middle of chemotherapy at the time, so my baldness was inevitable. I wanted to say out loud that when it comes to health, my beauty or lack thereof meant nothing to me.
I was determined to do whatever I needed to, embrace the present reality to get to my end goal of remission.
For many of us, Pinktober is the least restful time of the year, a time when our personal, daily, pervasive awareness of breast cancer is not even remotely represented by the bright, bouncy public face of pink fundraisers and the ubiquitous evidence of corporate merchandising that surrounds us.
I’ve researched the legitimacy of countless breast cancer organizations, including those who offer financial help. There’s no doubt that many suffer financially having cancer and could use some cash while we’re waiting for a cure. The last time I googled ‘breast cancer organizations,’ I got ten million hits. When I googled ‘breast cancer charity organizations list’ just now, I got three-and-a-half million hits.
In South Africa, there is no one who is monitoring these organisations effectiveness or activities.
Please let me not get started on these ridiculous challenges. How does wearing pink lipstick on a Wednesday or posting a no-make up selfie:
Spread awareness of Breast Cancer
Explain the warning signs
Teach about the importance of self breast checks
Offer time, energy or effort to the patients
Do anything of value towards the cause
I’m over the explosion of corporate merchandising known as ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’ — aka Pinktober.
Breast Cancer doesn’t only exist once a year. But I’ll force myself to engage as a survivor, post a few facts, some links and grab all opportunities in the Pinktober to speak publicly and educate as many as possible while we have the platform.
This October, my own awareness campaign is far too personal to be represented by a ribbon, a colour or a sash. My personal awareness campaign is about getting my life back, supporting my family and friends, remembering those I have lost, reclaiming my body as my own, finding joy and fulfillment daily. It’s about choosing a path that is not saturated in a color that infantilizes and trivialises the depth of the disease, but one that is spent with those in need, surrounded by spring reminding them that no matter where they are now, they aren’t alone. And I’m taking it one step at a time. Feel free to join me.
Its about how we thrive after we survive that matters.’

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To keep her work and spirit alive please support Rockstart.
Rockstart is a minimum of 24 months nose-dive into the creative economy. Combining formal education with hands-on engagements, with product developers, writers, innovators and designers. Rockstart tackles the problem of developing a hugely underserved talent pipeline.
Rockstart partners with education institutions serving one creative economy and all businesses to develop a cohort of next- generation creative leaders, who are committed to giving back using their talent.
Rockstart sources and provides talented young people with access to quality and relevant education for careers in creativity. Rockstart meets the skills and the educational needs of South Africa’s rapidly growing youth population.
Rockstart improves students’ core competency skills, social competency and work place readiness using meaningful, culturally appropriate and transferable accredited qualification from Vega School of Brand Leadership, AAA School of advertising, Lisof and Boston Media House.
If your business has a brand, product or marketing department, Rockstart is your opportunity too.
http://www.rockstart.org.za

Love and miss you always, Karissa!!!!

International Day of The Girl Child.

11 Oct

Today is The International Day of the Girl child.

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Every single girl from across the world deserves equal opportunities, respect, dignity and the right to live a life without fear or having to deal with abuse. Girls are one of the greatest gifts to earth, they are a source of energy, power and creativity. They can drive change and help build a better future for all. Yet, most girls face disadvantage and discrimination on a daily basis, and those living through crises are suffering even more. There are many communities where girls are forced to miss school during their menstrual cycles, as they cannot afford sanitary products and there is still a huge stigma around menstruation.

On December 19, 2011, United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. The International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
If girls are effectively supported during their adolescent years, they have the potential to change the world – both as the empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, and political leaders. An investment in realising the power of adolescent girls upholds their rights today and promises a more equitable and prosperous future, one in which half of humanity is an equal partner in solving the problems of climate change, political conflict, economic growth, disease prevention, and global sustainability.

This year, International Day of the Girl (11 October) will focus on the theme, “EmPOWER girls: Before, during and after conflict”.

Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence. In humanitarian emergencies, gender-based violence often increases, subjecting girls to sexual and physical violence, child marriage, exploitation
and trafficking. Adolescent girls in conflict zones are 90 per cent more likely to be out of school when compared to girls in conflict-free countries, compromising their future prospects for work and financial independence as adults.

Across the world, empowered girls are raising their voices to fight for their rights and protection in all contexts. They are working to end violence against women and girls, to recognize indigenous rights, and to build peaceful and cohesive communities.

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Support your local community of women’s organizations in promoting the wellbeing of the girl child. There are great initiatives or campaigns such as:

http://www.unwomen.org – UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide.

https://www.cellc.co.za/cellc/girl-child – Cell C’s Take a Girl Child to Work Day® is a respected movement that affords grade 10 to 12 girl learners, from all walks of life, the chance to experience a day in the workplace first-hand. For many, the day spent in the working world, shadowing top executives and entrepreneurs opens up a world of hope and dreams. It inspires girls to work hard to achieve what they want to attain in life and contributes towards making their dreams tangible. First introduced to the South African business community on 8 May 2003.

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http://v-girls.org – V-Girls is a global network of girl activists and advocates empowering themselves and one another to change the world, one girl at a time. Inspired by Eve Ensler’s best selling book I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls, V-Girls is a platform for girls to amplify their voices and ignite their activism. V-Girls is rooted in youth-driven activism and led by the vision and strategy of the V-Girls Action Team, a dynamic of girl activists from around the world, and supported by mentors, parents, educators, and girl advocates.

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http://gracevillauganda.weebly.com/ – Grace Villa is a loving sanctuary for orphaned and vulnerable girls. Our girls were rescued from the streets, child headed households and abusive homes. We exist to ensure that these girls and many more out there are safe, cared for, empowered and given an opportunity to thrive.

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https://minacup.org – The MINA MENSTRUAL CUP is especially designed for teenage girls and first time users.
By buying MINA for yourself, you automatically donate one to a MINA champion.
MINA has a life span of five years, she is cheap, safe, environmentally-friendly and she is a girl’s best friend. Mina is small, soft and re-usable. The Mina Cup can be worn between six to twelve hours and collects up to three times more fluid than tampons.

“If you think that educating your girl is enough for her to tackle the boundaries of tradition, then you are wrong. You have to ensure that not only you empower her with education, but also make her strong enough to resist the evils of societal pressure under which she often buckles. Her life and honour are far more important than “What will people say?” A little emotional support from the parents can make the life of a daughter abused by her in-laws beautiful.”
― Neelam Saxena Chandra

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Rosie Motene
rosie@rosiemotene.biz

Happy Independence Day to Uganda.

9 Oct

Happy Independence Day to Uganda.
Anybody who knows me or who follows my work knows that I have a great love for our continent and a special deep rooted love for Uganda. So it is no surprise that I along with my Ugandan family, will be celebrating its independence. As much as the country boasts beauty, tranquility and splendour, like every other county it has its problems and areas that need attention. I will address all of these in this blog.

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Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa whose diverse landscape encompasses the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains and immense Lake Victoria. Its abundant wildlife includes chimpanzees as well as rare birds. Remote Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a renowned mountain gorilla sanctuary. Murchison Falls National Park in the northwest is known for its 43m-tall waterfall and wildlife such as hippos.It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south-west by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda is in the African Great Lakes region. Uganda also lies within the Nile basin, and has a varied but generally a modified equatorial climate.
Uganda takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a large portion of the south of the country, including the capital Kampala. The people of Uganda were hunter-gatherers until 1,700 to 2,300 years ago, when Bantu-speaking populations migrated to the southern parts of the country.
Luganda, a central language, is widely spoken across the country, and several other languages are also spoken including Runyoro, Runyankole, Rukiga, and Luo.
According to oral tradition, the Empire of Kitara covered an important part of the great lakes area, from the northern lakes Albert and Kyoga to the southern lakes Victoria and Tanganyika. Bunyoro-Kitara is claimed as the antecedent of the Buganda, Toro, Ankole, and Busoga kingdoms.
The culture of Uganda is made up of a diverse range of ethnic groups. Lake Kyoga forms the northern boundary for the Bantu-speaking people, who dominate much of East, Central, and Southern Africa. In Uganda, they include the Baganda and several other tribes. In the north, the Lango and the Acholi peoples predominate, who speak Nilotic languages. To the east are the Iteso and Karamojong, who speak a Nilotic language, whereas the Gishu are part of the Bantu and live mainly on the slopes of Mt. Elgon. They speak Lumasaba, which is closely related to the Luhya of Kenya. A few Pygmies live isolated in the rainforests of western Uganda.
The geography of this beautiful country are marked by mountains on its eastern and western borders. In the east, there are a number of volcanic mountains, Mount Elgon the highest at 4,321m. In the west, the Ruwenzori mountains run down much of the border (with Uganda’s highest peak at 5,109m) and in the south are the northernmost of the Virunga range. Lake Victoria is sometimes said to be the source of the Nile. But really, this huge lake has many rivers which feed into it. The Ruvubu and Ruvyironza rivers (in Burundi) are regarded as the ultimate source of the Nile; these are upper branches of the Kagera River (in Rwanda) which flows into Lake Victoria
The Nile is the longest river in the world (at 6,695km). It has many different stretches and flows through a number of east African countries. Uganda’s rivers are mainly seasonal and can be slow and swampy in stretches. Uganda is rich in wildlife and habitats. The country has semi-desert areas in the north-east, swampland along the Albert Nile in the northwest and savannah across some regions. The country also has areas of forest, including the tropical montane forests of the southwest. However, much of southern Uganda’s natural rainforest has been cleared.

The history:
Beginning in 1894, the area was ruled as a protectorate by the British, who established administrative law across the territory. Uganda gained independence from Britain on 9 October 1962. The period since then has been marked by intermittent conflicts, including a lengthy civil war against the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Northern Region, which has caused hundreds of thousands of casualties. Uganda gained independence from Britain on 9 October 1962 as a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. In October 1963, Uganda became a republic but maintained its membership in the Commonwealth of Nations.

The first post-independence election, held in 1962, was won by an alliance between the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and Kabaka Yekka (KY). UPC and KY formed the first post-independence government with Milton Obote as executive prime minister, with the Buganda Kabaka (King) Edward Muteesa II holding the largely ceremonial position of president.

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Uganda came into the spotlight for its laws against LGBT rights in 2007, a Ugandan newspaper, the Red Pepper, published a list of allegedly gay men, many of whom suffered harassment as a result. On 9 October 2010, the Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone published a front-page article titled “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak” that listed the names, addresses, and photographs of 100 homosexuals alongside a yellow banner that read “Hang Them”. The paper also alleged that homosexuals aimed to recruit Ugandan children. This publication attracted international attention and criticism from human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, No Peace Without Justice and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. According to gay rights activists, many Ugandans have been attacked since the publication. On 27 January 2011, gay rights activist David Kato was murdered.
In 2009, the Ugandan parliament considered an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would have broadened the criminalisation of homosexuality by introducing the death penalty for people who have previous convictions, or are HIV-positive, and engage in same-sex sexual acts. The bill also included provisions for Ugandans who engage in same-sex sexual relations outside of Uganda, asserting that they may be extradited back to Uganda for punishment, and included penalties for individuals, companies, media organisations, or non-governmental organisations that support legal protection for homosexuality or sodomy. The private member’s bill was submitted by MP David Bahati in Uganda on 14 October 2009, and was believed to have had widespread support in the Uganda parliament. The hacktivist group Anonymous hacked into Ugandan government websites in protest of the bill. The debate of the bill was delayed in response to global condemnation but was eventually passed on 20 December 2013 and signed by President Yoweri Museveni on 24 February 2014. The death penalty was dropped in the final legislation. The law was widely condemned by the international community. Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden said they would withhold aid. The World Bank on 28 February 2014 said it would postpone a US$90 million loan, while the United States said it was reviewing ties with Uganda. On 1 August 2014, the Constitutional Court of Uganda ruled the bill invalid as it was not passed with the required quorum. A 13 August 2014 news report said that the Ugandan attorney general had dropped all plans to appeal, per a directive from President Museveni who was concerned about foreign reaction to the bill and who also said that any newly introduced bill should not criminalise same-sex relationships between consenting adults.

Ugandan Cuisine:

Ugandan cuisine consists of traditional and modern cooking styles, practices, foods and dishes in Uganda, with English, Arab, and Asian (especially Indian) influences. Like the cuisines of most countries, it varies in complexity, from the most basic, a starchy filler with a sauce of beans or meat, to several-course meals served in upper-class homes and high-end restaurants. Most tribes in Uganda have their own speciality dish or delicacy. Many dishes include various vegetables, potatoes, yams, bananas and other tropical fruits. Chicken, pork, fish (usually fresh, but there is also a dried variety, reconstituted for stewing), beef, goat and mutton are all commonly eaten, although among the rural poor, meats are consumed less than in other areas, and mostly eaten in the form of bushmeat.
My absolute favourite dish is Matooke and ground Peanut sauce. Matoke, is the fruit of a variety of starchy banana, commonly referred to as cooking/green bananas. The fruit is harvested green, carefully peeled and then cooked and often mashed or pounded into a meal. The fruit is steam-cooked, and the mashed meal is considered a national dish in both countries. The Buganda tribe of Uganda do however pride themselves in making the best matooke dishes. Matooke are peeled using a knife, wrapped in the plant’s leaves (or plastic bags), and set in a cooking pot atop the banana stalks. The pot is then placed on a charcoal or wood fire and the matooke is steamed for a couple of hours, water is poured into the bottom of the cooking pot multiple times. The stalks in the bottom of the pot serve to keep the leaf-wrapped fruits above the level of the hot water. While uncooked, the matooke is white and fairly hard; cooking turns it soft and yellow. The matooke is then mashed while still wrapped in the leaves or bags and often served on a fresh banana leaf. It is typically eaten with a sauce made of vegetables, ground peanut, or some type of meat (goat or beef).
Ugandan traditional meal with Matooke steamed and served with luwombo, meat or gnuts steamed in banana leaves. Matoke are also used to make a popular breakfast dish called Katogo in Uganda. Katogo is commonly cooked as a combination of the peeled bananas and peanuts or beef, though offal or goats meat are also common.

Some other traditional and historic Ugandan foods include:

Posho or Kawunga – called Ugali in Kenya, it is usually made from maize but also other starches, regional names include kwon. Ugandan expatriates make posho from cornmeal, masa harina or grits. Kwon is a type of ugali made from millet (called kalo in western Uganda) but in other regions like eastern Uganda they include cassava flour.
Groundnuts (peanuts) – groundnuts are a vital staple and groundnut sauce is probably the most commonly eaten one. They are eaten plain or mixed with smoked fish, smoked meat or mushrooms, and can also be mixed with greens such as borr.
Sim-sim (sesame) – A staple particularly in the north, roasted sesame paste is mixed into a stew of beans or greens and served as a side dish, though sesame paste may also be served as a condiment; a candy is made from roasted sesame seeds with sugar or honey.
Luwombo – A traditional dish from Uganda, in which a stew of either chicken, beef, mushrooms or fish is steamed in banana leaves
Malewa – A traditional dish from eastern Uganda (Bugisu), made from bamboo shoots
Kikomando – A chapati that is cut into pieces and served with fried beans
Uganda is also know as the La Vegas of Africa as it sports a wild and vibrant entertainment scene. In certain parts of Kampala, there are bars and restaurants that operate 24 hours, whether its a quiet drink with friends and dancing to Uganda’s favourite po artists, there is a place that will suit your requirement.

My favourite dinning spots are:
Zone 7, which is co-owned by Gaetano Kagwa. The restaurant/bar is the perfect location for a lunch or dinner or after work drinks session. The establishment hosts a number of of events from sporting to live bands and the well know School party, where revellers are invited to wear their school uniforms and party down to the past decades top 40 hits.

I discovered a great eclectic bar for The Embers, run by two amazingly crazy New Zealanders, who like me fell in love with the country.

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Their speciality are their infused cocktails and shoots. My favourite is the chilli tequila.

They also have live events and I was able to catch the performance of ‘Young Cardamom & HAB’. These artists are both Ugandans with roots that reach far beyond their borders.Though they represent the sound of their city, Kampala, the duo’s tracks also blend several influences from South Sudan, India, Atlanta, and Lahore. Cardamom’s parents are actually Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani and filmmaker Mira Nair (Mississippi Masala, Monsoon Wedding). Their song, #1 Spice features in the Disney film: Queen of Katwe.
A lot of their specialised cocktails are made from the world famous Ugandan Waragi.

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My favourite chilling to spots include the cocktail bar or poolside at the Serena Hotel, as well as The Royal Suites. I have had the opportunity of living at both 5-star residence. Both boast comfort, safety and true East African hospitality.

The Ugandans entertainment industry is growing at a great speed, with the rise of some of Africa’s most celebrated stars such as Flavia Tumusimme, Gaetano Kagwa, Brian Mulondo, Cedric Ndilima and Sheilah Gashumba. Of course all of these artists are represented by Waka talent Agency, http://www.wakaagency.biz
There has been an emergence of powerful channels being broadcast from Kampala, including the establishment of Kwese TV.

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Pan African Heritage: Kenya

3 Oct

In my Pan African heritage series, today, I honour our brothers and sisters from Kenya.

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Kenya, is an East African country. Its capital and largest city is Nairobi. Kenya’s territory lies on the equator and overlies the East African Rift covering a diverse and expansive terrain that extends roughly from Lake Victoria to Lake Turkana and further south-east to the Indian Ocean. It is bordered by Tanzania to the south and southwest, Uganda to the west, South Sudan to the north-west, Ethiopia to the north and Somalia to the north-east.
Kenya has a warm and humid tropical climate on its Indian Ocean coastline. The climate is cooler in the savannah grasslands around the capital city, Nairobi, and especially closer to Mount Kenya, which has snow permanently on its peaks. Further inland are highlands in Central and Rift Valley regions where tea and coffee are grown as cash crops which are major foreign revenue earners. In the West are Nyanza and Western regions, there is an equatorial, hot and dry climate which becomes humid around Lake Victoria, the largest tropical fresh-water lake in the world. This gives way to temperate and forested hilly areas in the neighbouring western region. The north-eastern regions along the border with Somalia and Ethiopia are arid and semi-arid areas with near-desert landscapes. Kenya is known for its world class athletes in track and field and rugby. Thanks to its diverse climate and geography, expansive wildlife reserves and national parks such as the East and West Tsavo National Park, Amboseli National Park, Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru National Park, Aberdares National Park and white sand beaches at the Coastal region, Kenya is home to the modern safari and has several world heritage sites such as Lamu and numerous beaches, including in Diani, Bamburi and Kilifi, where international yachting competitions are held every year.

The country has at least 40 different ethnic African groups (including the Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin tribes, Luo, Kamba, Somali, Kisii, Meru & Embu, Mijikenda, Turkana and Maasai) who speak a variety of mother tongues.
The different languages in Kenya fall into three categories – Bantu (Niger-Congo) languages which are spoken by around 65% of people, the Nilo-Saharan group of languages spoken among another third of the population and the Cushitic language, an Afro-Asian tongue spoken in the north by around 3% of the population.

One of the most popular forms of pop music is Benga, which combines traditional African drum and dance rhythms with modern electrical sounds and melodies.

The undeniable most common Kenyan food staple is ugali – usually made from cornmeal that is added to boiling water and heated until it turns into a dense block of cornmeal paste. Ugali has the consistency of a grainy dough and the heaviness of a brick. For many Kenyans, ugali along with a small amount of cooked vegetables or saucy stew is a normal meal.

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Irio is one of the most famous dishes in Kenya, a food that originated as a Kikuyu staple and spread throughout the country.
Green peas and potatoes are boiled and then mashed up before whole kernels of maize (corn) are added to give the mash some extra starch and texture. This hearty and heavy Kenyan food is famous to eat with roasted nyama choma meat (nyama na irio) or just some Kenyan style stew.

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It’s not too complicated, a Kenyan dish that consists of boiled beans, corn kernels, and possibly mixed in with a little bit of vegetables. The combination of Githeri is a filling, highly nutritious, and can be quite good when complimented with salt, pepper, chilies, and even a chapati. One of the most popular vegetable Kenyan dishes is sukuma wiki (known as collard greens or a form of kale in English). The nutritious green leafy vegetable is often cooked in oil with a few diced tomatoes, onions, and flavored with a sprinkle of mchuzi mix (Kenyan food secret flavoring salt – MSG) or stock cube flavoring.

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A few tribes have largely kept their traditional dress and life style. The Masai Maria are the most famous, but this also goes for the Samburu (which are closely related to the Masai) and the Turkana peoples, who live in the north.

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Masai women typically wear vast plate-like bead necklaces, and colourful wraps called kanga. The men are famous for wearing a red-checked shuka (Maasai blanket) and carry a distinctive ball-ended club. For Masai, red clothing stands for power. Many Masai wear simple sandals, sometimes soled with pieces of motorcycle tires. When males become ‘morans’ (warriors), around age 14, they traditionally dye their hair red with ochre and fat.

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Pan African Heritage: Botswana

2 Oct

In continuation with my series on Pan African heritage, today I turn to our family on the North West region of our border, Botswana.

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Botswana is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. The citizens refer to themselves as Batswana. The Tswana are the majority ethnic group in Botswana, making up 79% of the population. The largest minority ethnic groups are the BaKalanga, and San or AbaThwa, also known as Basarwa. Other tribes are Bayei, Bambukushu, Basubia, Baherero and Bakgalagadi.
Formerly Bechuanaland Protectorate under the British, Botswana became independent in 1966. Botswana means “place of Tswana” in the dominant national language ( Set swana), and the citizenry are called Bat swana, or Tswana people. The official language of Botswana is English although Setswana is widely spoken across the country. In Setswana, prefixes are more important than they are in many other languages, since Setswana is a Bantu language and has noun classes denoted by these prefixes. They include Bo, which refers to the country, Ba, which refers to the people, Mo, which is one person, and Se which is the language. For example, the main ethnic group of Botswana is the Tswana people, hence the name Botswana for its country. The people as a whole are Batswana, one person is a Motswana, and the language they speak is Setswana. Other languages spoken in Botswana include Kalanga (sekalanga), Sarwa (sesarwa), Ndebele, !Xóõ.

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Botswana music is mostly vocal and performed, sometimes without drums depending on the occasion; it also makes heavy use of string instruments. Botswana folk music has instruments such as Setinkane (a Botswana version of miniature piano), Segankure/Segaba (a Botswana version of the Chinese instrument Erhu), Moropa (Meropa -plural) (a Botswana version of the many varieties of drums), phala (a Botswana version of a whistle used mostly during celebrations, which comes in a variety of forms). Botswana cultural musical instruments are not confined only to the strings or drums. The hands are used as musical instruments too, by either clapping them together or against phathisi (goat skin turned inside out wrapped around the calf area; it is only used by men) to create music and rhythm.
The national anthem is Fatshe leno la rona. Written and composed by Kgalemang Tumediso Motsete, it was adopted upon independence in 1966.

In the northern part of Botswana, women in the villages of Etsha and Gumare are noted for their skill at crafting baskets from Mokola Palm and local dyes. The baskets are generally woven into three types: large, lidded baskets used for storage, large, open baskets for carrying objects on the head or for winnowing threshed grain, and smaller plates for winnowing pounded grain. The artistry of these baskets is being steadily enhanced through colour use and improved designs as they are increasingly produced for international markets. Other notable artistic communities include Thamaga Pottery and Oodi Weavers, both located in the south-eastern part of Botswana.

The oldest paintings from both Botswana and South Africa depict hunting, animal and human figures, and were made by the Khoisan (!Kung San/Bushmen) over twenty thousand years ago within the Kalahari desert.

The cuisine of Botswana is unique but also shares some characteristics with other cuisine of Southern Africa. Examples of Botswana food are pap (maize porridge), boerewors, samp, vetkoek (fried dough bread) and mopani worms. Foods unique to Botswana include seswaa, heavily salted mashed-up meat.

Our wakstars from Botswana are Donald Molois and Tumelo Johwa.

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Donald Molosi, is an actor, writer and playwright. Molosi debuted off-Broadway in 2010 as Philly Lutaaya in Today It’s Me making him the first Motswana to perform off-Broadway. In 2011, Molosi won the Best Short Solo Award at United Solo Theatre Festival for his performance as Seretse Khama in Blue, Black and White. In 2013, Molosi returned off-Broadway to perform Motswana: Africa, Dream Again. He played supporting roles in the following historic films; A United Kingdom 2016 and Given 2009. As a playwright, Molosi has published a collection of his original off-Broadway plays, which include We Are All Blue, Blue, Black and White and Motswana: Africa, Dream Again in 2016.

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Tumelo Johwa is an accomplished TV presenter, emcee and actor. His Pan African claim to fame is presenting inserts for Good Morning Africa, that was aired on The Africa Magic channel. He is an award winning musician and TV producer.

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