Wednesday, March 31, 2010

RED CARD CAMPAIGN WORLD CUP 2010: Disqualifying Human Trafficking in Africa

Human trafficking is a big problem in Africa that doesn't get the publicity it deserves. Yvonne Yonas and Free Generation International are embarking on a Red Card Campaign to shed light on this issue.

The symbol of the campaign, a “red card” represents cards shown to soccer players who severely violate the rules of the game, and are disqualified. By using this symbol, we are sending a simple message:“human trafficking has no place at SA 2010.

Free Generation International is an abolitionist organization committed to addressing capacity gaps in the field of human trafficking and its linkages with gender-based violence. We seek to eradicate trafficking through the development of innovative and diverse prevention, protection, prosecution and victim aftercare strategies that are culturally-tailored, relevant and responsive. Recognizing that trafficking manifests in different contexts all over the world, FGI works to understand and respond to the unique and particularized trafficking problems in different areas. We seek to engage all generations to secure the freedom of the next one and those that come after, one continent at a time.

Free Generation’s Africa initiative focuses on the development of innovative and culturally relevant methods of sensitizing the African public about human trafficking, mobilization of a Pan-African youth movement, creation of an African resource collection and referral database, creation of prevention services to improve skills and life conditions of families in order to reduce their vulnerability to traffickers, practical training for the investigation and surveillance of human trafficking activities and development of victim aftercare infrastructure that is almost non-existent on the continent.


International sporting events have become fertile ground for human trafficking. The documented patterns of flagrant trafficking of children and women for forced prostitution during these types of events, create a dire picture. “More than 500,000 international visitors are expected in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, and more than 500 criminal gangs are estimated to be involved in human trafficking for the sex trade in South Africa.”[1]

Made vulnerable by the lack of economic opportunity, political instability, gender inequality and viable migration options, Africans are easy targets for traffickers. “For the past five years, human traffickers have been using the 2010 FIFA World Cup as a ‘bait' to lure people to work in South Africa at construction sites and accommodation establishments, as escorts, stadium marshals and many more … Since 2004, the year SA was chosen to organize the World Cup, human trafficking ‘offices' have been opened at various African countries, where unscrupulous people working as ‘agents' register desperate people dying to get to the ‘final destination' (SA) to seek any form of employment or business opportunities.”[2]

Moreover, the fact that the World Cup will be held within Africa and generate huge profits in the already thriving sex industry will intensify the efforts of the traffickers to recruit from African countries to fill the exponentially increasing demand. Indeed, research shows patterns of human trafficking “from as far afield as Senegal, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda,” although no preventative efforts have been put in place prior to the event, outside of South Africa and its bordering countries.

Another report names South Africa as a destination and transit country for trafficking for sexual exploitation and identifies countries including Angola, Congo (DRC), Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia[3], Burundi and Rwanda[4] as well as various other African countries as recruitment grounds.[5] As a human trafficker recently stated: “This is an African World Cup and every African must somehow benefit from it,”[6] even if that profit is derived from trafficking of other Africans for labor and sexual exploitation.

The “Red Card Campaign World Cup 2010: Disqualifying Human Trafficking in Africa” is a critical awareness strategy with a focus on spreading the message in countries throughout the African continent, not just those bordering South Africa and the host country itself. The symbol of the campaign, a “red card” represents red cards given to soccer players who severely violate the rules of the game, and are disqualified from further participation. By using this symbol, we are sending a simple message, that “human trafficking of Africans has no place at the World Cup 2010 and beyond, and should therefore be disqualified.”

[1] Frederico Links. Southern Africa: Human Trafficking And Prostitution to Surge Ahead of 2010 World Cup. Namibian, 2 September 2008 http://allafrica.com/stories/200809020582.html

[2] Issa Sikiti da Silva. 2010 FIFA World Cup boosts Africa's human trafficking. Bizcommunity.com, 15 Jan 2010. http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/147/43704.html

[3] Susan Jessop. Sex Trafficking in Women and Children Flourishing in South Africa. European and North American Women Action, 29 April 2003. http://www.enawa.org/scripts/wwwopac.exe?database=brief&isutf8=1&%250=130

[4] Counter-Trafficking Information Campaign in South Africa, March 2005, http://www.humantrafficking.org/updates/198

[5] Yazeed Kamaldien. South Africa Linked in the Global Human Trafficking. INT'L WOMEN'S DAY. http://ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=27772

[6] Issa Sikiti da Silva. 2010 FIFA World Cup boosts Africa's human trafficking. Bizcommunity.com, 15 Jan 2010. http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/147/43704.html

Photos fron Facebook Fan Page

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Living an African success story - Eyram Akofa Tawia


When the VentureBeat reporter started getting the hang of iWarrior while playing it and pouring all his efforts into the game, I knew this was a great moment. A Wuzu moment. Eyram Akofa Tawia's game was on the iPhone and a Stanford-educated tech journalist was getting addicted to a computer game Eyram had made. I looked on smiling and thinking, this is the beginning of great things to come. And this was just March 24th. Eyram Akofa Tawia had come very far from the day he fell in love with playing computer games, he now owned his own computer game company, LetiGames, which was going to be the Star of Africa. He was being interviewed by VentureBeat, a blog whose mission is to provide news about innovation for forward-thinking executives. Earlier that week, Eyram had been interviewed by the San Jose Mercury for a feature. He had been spending the better part of March attending the Game Developers' Conference and having business meetings at Google amongst other places in the Silicon Valley. How did he get here? Let's find out. I'm just happy I have been close to the action.

I grew up with Eyram in the same neighbourhood on the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) campus. I don't remember ever being in the same class with him but we interacted many times, playing computer games, playing soccer, etc. Somewhere during middle school, we all started calling him 'Wuzu' - The Great One. That's some nickname for a 12 year-old to have. I don't even remember why we called him that. We all loved to play Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Super Mario, Tetris, etc but Eyram was more interested in how these games were made. He'd make up his own comics and illustrations and with the help of another friend, Godfred (a really good artist), they made a comic book. Eyram's friends were all impressed. Eyram wanted a computer really badly! He didn't ask his parents for clothes, he asked them for a computer. Eventually, he arranged with a seller to bring a computer to his home and 'forced' his father to buy it. Still in middle school (junior secondary school), Eyram started learning how to program, starting with QBasic and VBasic. One day, when he typed, "cd qbasic" at the DOS prompt on his screen, and saw Qbasic in action, his passion was born.

When our class hit 15, most of us left our homes in Kumasi to various senior secondary (high) schools. I left for Presec-Legon, because it was one of the best schools, some of my friends were going there, and I wanted to be near my aunts in Accra. Eyram left for Mawuli School in Ho, alone. His friends went to these other 'bigger' schools in groups, but his father was making him go to his alma-mater. Eyram was not too happy with this but this is the comment he made about it last week, "You should look to brighten the corner where you are at". I will never forget this comment. Eyram took solace in computer programming, and by the time the 21st century hit, he had written a simple computer game using QBasic. He banded with Justin Dakorah and Kofi Opuni Asiama, also good friends of mine, to form TOPSSOFT, and started making software solutions like an Internet Cafe timer, amongst others.

When I finished Presec and came back home to Kumasi, I realised Eyram's love for computer games hadn't died like mine and together with Justin and Opuni, was 'programming'. I was extremely proud of him. I may have left the country to what I thought was the best engineering university in the world, but I kept in touch with the TOPSSOFT crew. They progressed into making a radio program managing software called TopStudio, a deejaying software called Black DJ, etc. They had taught themselves to do all of this! They had gotten jobs as assistants at the neighbourhood internet cafes and 'browsed' even more than the whole of KNUST combined! They started to teach programming classes and were well ahead of their peers who were even studying computer science at KNUST. Eyram was a different breed and he still is. Just this last December, I was in a post BarCamp Ghana 09 radio interview at CITI FM with Eyram and Henry Addo (Ushahidi, Fienipa, Suuch fame) and the radio software used there was TopStudio.

He may have been programming in different softwares during his university days but we all know, his first true love was computer games. So, for his final year project, he embarked on making a 3D game called the Sword of Sygos. His professors discouraged him, saying they didn't have the capability to guide him through this. They had a point, nothing like that had ever been done in Ghana. His advisor had some of the knowledge Eyram needed to pursue this and eventually gave him the greenlight. Eyram finished the game, working with his friend, Francis Dittoh. An NGO I formed with some friends, GhanaThink, had decided to organize an Invitational Programming Contest dubbed 1.GTPC.06. The main aim of the competition was to encourage and motivate graduating seniors of Ghanaian tertiary institutions to design and develop their senior projects for the Ghanaian market which would not be prototypes for their departments only. Eyram and Francis entered the competition in 2006 with a 3D Computer Game called "The Sword of Sygos", a game implemented using the Microsoft® Visual Basic® .NET programming language and utilised the Truevision3D engine. They won. We gave them $300. Eyram and Francis had also worked on another educational game called Tsatsu.

Later, he, Francis, Justin, Opuni, myself and other friends learnt about Wesley Kirinya, a Kenyan, who had claimed to build the first 3D computer game in Africa. Eyram said he learnt about it in his local newspaper. I guess GhanaThink's publicity wasn't that strong :-) Eyram and Wesley put their little 'feud' aside and decided to work together. This led us to 2007 where they, myself, and some other friends embarked on the ambitious project of creating a soccer/football computer game for the African Cup of Nations which was going to be hosted in Ghana in January 2008. Yes, we were going to make a FIFA 08 type game right here in Africa. Eyram, Justin, Opuni, Wesley worked on the game, came up with a model, built the engine and we were pretty much ready to roll. The task of drawing support for it lay largely with Dave Danso, a GhanaThinking friend of mine. We couldn't get the funds to support the project and it went kaput. It was disappointing but Eyram and Wesley kept going.

In 2008, Eyram joined the MeltWater Entrepreneurial School of Technology as a Teaching Fellow. He had been hoping to enter as a trainee but he was so advanced he was made a fellow instead. Wow! He continued working on his passion for computer games and it came to a head in 2009 when he formed LetiGames and was incorporated as a company in April with Meltwater funding. At the first BarCamp Ghana event on December 22, 2008, he was a panelist in the Mobile Technology panel, where he discussed his plans to launch African-made computer games for mobile platforms especially. He was exactly the kind of person I had wanted to bring to the BarCamp, to inspire other young Ghanaians to be innovative and entrepreneurial like him. People like him enriched the experience for us all.

In 2009, he continued working on computer games like iWarrior, Bugzvilla together with Wesley. He contracted different tasks to other young brilliant Africans and people at the Meltwater Incubator. In October 2009, LetiGames released the first African-made game on the iPhone called iWarrior. I've never had an iPhone so I had never played the game but I publicized it here. The game is set in Africa. Your mission is to protect your village, farm, inhabitants, etc from marauding animals. Fun. It's a wholly African-made production with African art and sounds. The game sounds simple and maybe even primitive, but it's awesomely addicting. When the VentureBeat reporter was playing it, you could see it.

Eyram's been working on LetiGames for almost a year now. Earlier this month, he attended the Game Developers' Conference, something he had known about growing up in his passion for computer games. It was a week-long conference, 9 to 5 for a week. He had never imagined he could have attended it and talked to all his role models in the industry. He told me he had grown out of his shyness and now had the confidence to talk to anybody about his passions, interests, ideas and goals. He had come a long way. This trip to San Francisco has opened and will continue to open so many doors for him.

There is more to come from LetiGames' stable. We'll blog about it as it unfolds. We'll be there every step of the way to make sure this African success story continues to have many chapters and opens doors for more African success stories. I saw the potential. I called Eyram 'Big Shot'. He's the prototypical entrepreneur. He is not settling for anything less than the best. He may be a big shot but he's still backpacking. He may be appearing on KSM's TGIF show (see picture above) but he's still the kenkey lover from Buroburo road. He may be interviewed by the San Jose Mercury but he's still the guy dancing in public near the Kumasi Sports' Stadium. He's Wuzu.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Shakira samples Camerounian music, Zangelewa, for her World Cup song

We are only about 73 days to the World Cup in South Africa. Like many other soccer fans, I can't wait. A friend of mine claims to be listening to K'Naan's Waving Flag (the official Mundial song) everyday. Recently, I heard some news about Shakira composing a song for the upcoming World Cup. Of course, many international (non-African) artistes are recording songs for the World Cup, to support their teams, amongst others. Shakira's Colombia won't be at the Mzansi Mundial but I could make an educated guess that she'll be supporting Cameroun. Why? Because, her World Cup song has Camerounian roots. Now, isn't that cool?

Shakira, The Black Eyed Peas, and Alicia Keys will all be performing at a Soweto concert on the eve of the World Cup in South Africa. Shakira's 'Saminamina' samples Zangelewa, an army/marching song popular from the 80's in Cameroon. The song's lyrics are in the Fang language.

Listen to Shakira's Saminamina here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbScYVKhHlc


Watch a video of Zangelewa
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mng0JN-TNRs



To help us understand the Zangelewa song better, here are some lyrics and translations.

Zamina mina hé hé (come come)
Waka waka éé é (Do it do it - as in perform a task. Other websites postulate that this is pidgin so waka as in work)
Zamina mina zaaangaléwa (come come, who dispatched you?)
Ana wam a a (it/he is mine, yes)

yango é é (wait)
yango éé é (wait)
Zamina mina zaaangaléwa (come come, who dispatched you?)
Ana wam a a (it/he is mine, yes)

The group that sang it used to be called Golden Sounds but the song became so popular that the group changed its name to Zangalewa. It crossed the borders of Cameroon because surely the chorus sounds very familiar and I believe some Ghanaian artistes may have even sampled the song. And for the MIT/Boston folks, Lamine Toure from Rambax even sang a Senegalese version during one of their performances.

The Zangelewa song has a very 'jama' like feel. It seems jama/cheer songs/marching songs have the same vibe across the African continent. My Camerounian friend, Julie, mentioned that she thought it was one of these encouragement songs, like when they did sports in high school they jogged to it. Yes. Africans. We are really more or less the same peopel, aren't we? That's why we should band together and support our African teams during the World Cup. The cup should stay at home. Viva Africa!

Thanks to Julie for some extra information.

Here is the lyrics for Shakira's Saminamina (Link here)

Llego el momento, caen las murallas
Va a comenzar la unica justa de la batallas
No duele el golpe, no existe el miedo
Quitate el polvo, ponte de pie y vuelves al ruedo
Y la presion que sientes
Espera en ti, tu gente!
Ahora vamos por todo
y te acompaña la suerte
Samina mina sam ¡aleguah!
Porque esto es Africa
Samina mina ¡eh! ¡eh!
Waka Waka ¡eh! ¡eh!
Samina mina sam ¡aleguah!
Porque esto es Africa

Oye a tu dios
y no estaras solo
llegas aqui para brillar
lo tienes todo
la hora se acerca
es el momento
Vas a ganar cada batalla
ya lo presiento
Hay que empezar de cero
para tocar el cielo
Ahora vamos por todo
Y todos vamos por ellos
Samina mina sam ¡aleguah!
Porque esto es Africa

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tasting the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) in Ghana

Late last year as we were planning BarCamp Ghana 2009, the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) agreed to host our event for free. I was so excited! I was already a big fan of MEST but this made me love them even more. I knew about MEST when it started operating in Ghana through a good friend, Eyram Akofa Tawia. He had been taken as a Teaching Fellow in 2008. MEST is a training program owned by the Meltwater group founded in Norway in 2001 (a firm that provides Software as a Service solutions to over 15,000 clients worldwide. MEST was their social corporate part which they run as a non-profit. I have learnt about MEST throughout the last few months and wanted to show some appreciation for their helping the BarCamp on my blog.

I once asked one of the main MEST gurus why they chose Ghana as the location for their training program. They said they looked at the globe and Ghana looked like it was in the middle of the world. Simply put. Basically MEST is a two-year training program where students with bachelor degrees are trained in software development and entrepreneurship. The idea is for them to be trained and then partner to form teams to start businesses. If their ideas are great, after graduation, they will be funded by Meltwater's investment arm and incubator. If some teams don't make the cut, they can always reapply or just do something else. Though Eyram wasn't a trainee or what they call EIT (Entrepreneur-In-Training), he was funded to start LetiGames, because he was a special case. MEST held their first graduation in February 2010 and you can learn more about that from this Meltwater.com post.

MEST? Do you mean the Ministry of Environmental Science and Technology? This is what Bernard Avle, the host of one of Africa's best morning shows on radio, said when I mentioned MEST to him as the venue for BarCamp Ghana. A lot of people in Ghana don't know about MEST. I hope our BarCamp gave them more publicity because it definitely brought many people to their campus for the first time. It was cool to find MEST's location on Google Maps. Google has been doing an excellent job mapping Ghana, you should check it sometime. MEST's address is 20 Aluguntugui Street in East Legon, Accra. Aluguntugui Street? Pretty ridiculous huh? Well, another street near to this one is called Banana Street. ROFLMAO. Good thing is, MEST is located near the A&C (not the Accra) shopping Mall in East Legon. MEST has to do some work publicizing what they are doing in Ghana, but with alums, bright students and supporters like me :-D, they'll get there.

The best part about MEST are the facilities they provide for the EITs. The EITs do not pay tuition and they are fed three times a day at the MEST premises. They have free housing in a hostel and a bus that takes them to and fro. They are all given computers and MEST has great learning facilities. You get free education for two years, all your expenses are covered, you enjoy free internet and free food, while you are trained to be an entrepreneur AND you will be funded to start your business if it's great. Can you believe a 'school' like this exists in Ghana? Well, some will claim it's not a school and I will address that in the next paragraph. Think about the benefits! Obviously, Meltwater can't offer this for every Ghanaian and their studying partner so they take in less than 30 students a year. It's very competitive to get into the program and very competitive to stay in it.

So it's not a school. Meltwater calls it a two-year entrepreneurial training program. MEST doesn't provide a degree after the two years. If you are scoring at home, our EIT friends have just spent 2 years learning to be an entrepreneur, going to classes, doing homework, working hard, with no degree to show for their efforts. How do you explain that to your friends? You tell them the 'free things' I mentioned earlier. So this is the dilemma MEST EITs battle with. The program is not easy, so some may fall out and some may have a job opportunity come along that they undertake. And if you graduate and your business is not funded, even more trouble. The MEST model is a work in progress, so some of these kinks have to be ironed out, and you can reapply for funding, etc. Just like a big family. Whether this is a good dilemma to be in is something we can debate, but I think it's a good one. Meltwater provides you tools for you to be successful and you maximise those resources at your disposal.

I don't know if I am allowed to discuss the kinds of businesses coming out of MEST because of intellectual property issues. I am excited about the ones I have heard so far. The graduating team that got funding will be a running a business called - Streemio - which has components of streaming and selling music. From what I heard from Eyram and others, it seems like it has a lot of potential. There are also plans for a conferencing service, amongst others. Eyram's LetiGames is already on the roll, having released its iWarrior game for the iPhone market in October last year. There are even more computer games to come from Eyram and Wesley Kirinya. They were just in San Francisco for the Game Developer Conference which sent them places they never really imagined and will continue to open different doors for them. A full post on Eyram and Leti Games will be coming soon.

I was at the MeltWater head office in San Francisco yesterday and got to talk to some of the MEST employees. I have also spoken with various EITs (some of whom helped organize BarCamp Ghana 2009) and some teaching fellows. I really love the work MEST is doing and hope we can even have more programs like what they have. If you are interested in software, entrepreneurship and business and you are done with university, consider applying to MEST. The deadline is April 18th. You can find more info on the MEST website http://meltwater.org.

King Ampaw's No Time To Die: a review

Have I become a movie critic? Maybe. I am just spreading the good news about some great Ghanaian movies you should see. One of those is King Ampaw's "No Time To Die" (NTTD). It has a star-studded cast and it is an African romantic comedy. I had been seeking to watch this movie since 2007 and finally early this year, I got the chance to watch it. I loved it and those I watched it with loved it too. I talk about that experience in this previous post. Also known as L'ultime hommage (Ghanaian-German production), NTTD is a great Ghanaian movie. It was partly founded by Germans but the whole movie is set in Ghana with a star-studded Ghanaian movie cast. Let's delve a little bit more into NTTD.

"No Time To Die" is a two-hour full length feature film which portrays love and comedy, directed by Ampaw, a renowned Ghanaian film maker. It was produced by Wolfgang Panzer, a German. It is supported financially by the European Union, the French government and Afro Movies Limited, King Ampaw's film production "Nana Akoto" and "Kukurantumi," two of King Ampaw's feature films. The movie is set in Ghana and seeks to portray love the Ghanaian way while providing some comic relief. The cast includes David Dontoh (the host of Agoro and also known as GhanaMan), Kofi Bucknor, Kofi Middleton Mends, Fritz Baffuor (a comedian who's now an Honourable Member of Parliament), Agnes Dapaah, Agartha Ofori, Kwesi France, Evants Hunter, Amartey Hedzoleh Laryea, etc. The synopis: "A hearse driver meets and falls in love with a young, beautiful dancer who is planning an elaborate homegoing celebration for her mother. This love and comedy feature length film follows David Dontoh, the hearse driver (known in the movie as Asare), as he does everything to win her affection." It's a great movie because it shows the funny side of Ghanaians, and doesn't touch HIV/AIDS, or war type African movies or even the home 'drama' movies we've been seeing from Africa lately.

The movie is truly a romantic comedy. Even people who don't know jack about Ghana would laugh. The lines sounded very theatre like though, felt like the viewer was watching a play.

I love the role of the 'blind soothsayer'. We see him playing a percussion instrument and when he receives a visitor, he says, "I see a lot more than you can see, I see luck for you today". Note here that he is blind. Asare is told he will meet the lady of his dreams who will trust him. He meets a lady who's selling her food and shows interest but then says, "I have lost appetite" when he sees her bad teeth. She responds, "Please, bra, where you dey go? LMAO. Asare's boss is even funnier. He works for the "Dead on wheels enterprise" and his mantra is "People are dying like flies". "More dead people, more funerals, more business, more money!". They have some interesting conversations.

When Asare meets Esi, the lady he ends up falling in love with, he expresses interest with this weird kissing sound which is the most hilarious thing ever. The first time he does, you are like, "WednesdayThursdayFriday". The third time, you are loving it and then with the sixth time, it gets a little redundant and annoying. Asare's assistant is played by one of these popular Ghanaian 'midget' actors. Our answer to Aki and Porpor. One of the kids in Asare's house is played by a 'midget' too.

I really loved how the coffin business tied into the movie. We see a scene at a coffin makers' shop where Esi buys one shaped like a plane called 'Heaven Airlines' for her dead mother. She says, "My mother always wished to fly in an aeroplane, she should get to the ancestors in one". Asare's car had the inscription, "No Time To Die", which was sarcastic given the business he was into. The movie was set in a time where the cedi denomination hadn't been done so it was cool to see 'plenty cash - many 5000 cedi notes'.

Throughout the movie, we see how Asare does everything in his power to make Esi like him. "For you, i will drive anywhere". Some people will say, those kinds of men are few and far between today. Discuss. King Ampaw shows so much in the movie that it is 'really' Ghana. The movie just screams 'Authenticity and Realness'. In one scene, we see our main characters get into traffic and then they have to bypass it.

There is a funeral scene in the movie, where we see some 'jama' action and dirges being sang. It was kind of disgusting to see dead bodies in the mortuary. Amakye Dede's music is almost perfect for funeral times and we hear it blaring on the radio played. The Ramblers' Swinging Safari is one of the most popular Ghanaian songs ever and it was played during a scene which had people eating fufu at a chop bar. We even see Fritz's character pass a comment about a young girl (you know how old Ghanaian men prey on young damsels style). "Some slim lovely thing like that - slim things are dangerous o!". Esi goes to see a traditional priest to see how the mother died and we hear more Abrantie Amakye Dede music - "M'awerEkyekyere ei Ene Awurade o". The traditional priest works his magic and unlike other Ghanaian movies, we don't see interesting camera effects. Yes, because in real life, you won't see lightning striking, and all those magical things. Funny thing is, after all his ntoatoa, after all the magic he worked, he simply tells Esi, "she died a natural death". Bummer.

I thought it was interesting that Esi danced Adowa while her mother was laid in state. I see a "Kyeiwaa" sighting too. Asare, however, is so much in love. Esi ties a red cloth on his hand, but he sees red, not as death but as love. The scene where the body is buried was even better. It just looked so authentic. Esi's mother joins her ancestors in flight. The airplane coffin goes down a runway into the grave, classic! While people are mourning, Asare is loving. He ends up not charging Esi's family nothing for his services (sure to piss off his boss). "We are not running a charity organization, you know". This gesture ""is something that has never happened in this town". Someone quibs, "even with her passing, she's still making money".

Asare goes back to soothsayer for more luck. He tells him, "don't give her bread, give her grasscutter. One of the funniest scenes in the movie is where Asare goes on a grasscutter hunt and asks, "Do u have grasscutter?". "Yes, I got one." And she brings out a lawn mower! I'm talking about bush meat grasscutter!". And then he goes somewhere and asks of lawn mower lol!. "you know what our elders say - if a man gives the woman he wants to marry grasscutter then the woman will have to be faithful to him
"
. We see Asare admiring Esi dancing at Kokrobite, booty shaking and all. We actually see a German in the movie eventually. Except, he's dead. He rode his bicycle into a village, sat under a tree, stiff, and died. Asare needed an excuse to go to Kokrobite to go see Esi dance, he lied that he was going for a corpse. He chanced upon one and better still, it was an 'obroni'. Oh, Asare and Esi? They get 'busy' in the coffin truck, shaking it in the process! If you thought some of the sex scenes in Ghanaian movies were tasteless, this particular one would have you laughing. This happens after Esi figures out that kissing sound and they do a series of those and get it on. Nice segue if you ask me.

I don't want to give the whole movie away but it's absolutely hilarious. You should definitely see it. I promise to find an avenue for you to watch it. Google around in the meantime. There are dame/draught scenes, etc. There are too many good quotes and lines to put in this movie. The ending is also great with a little twist and an unexplained scene. The movie ends with a wedding :-) and that their stupid sound!

Watching and fanning the flames of African movies

Sometime in 2007, I heard about a Ghanaian movie called 'No Time to die' (NTTD). It had been directed by one King Ampaw (the same man behind Road to Kukurantumi) and starred David Dontoh. Now, the Agoro w'aso twann man is one of Ghana's foremost actors and hadn't been in a movie in awhile. For him to be cast in a leading role had to be a big deal. Big deal it was, because 'No Time to Die' won international awards. The movie went under the radar, was not unable on Youtube or the many websites to watch Ghanaian movies for free. I sought an opportunity to see it. Sometime at the end of January, I saw the movie. It was a surprise. The movie was awesome. So awesome that my other African friends ended up talking about it like I had never heard them talk about another Ghanaian movie. Kudos, King Ampaw!

Sometime last summer, I was appalled at the number of African movies available to be borrowed from the Stanford Libraries' movie collection. I decided to right this. I was going to pimp the system. I searched for all the recent African movies I wanted to watch, made a list and sent the appropriate folks a nice email saying, 'get them'. Yes, get the movies so I don't have to pay to watch them. Obviously, I didn't bother with the Nollywood and (Ghallywood) ones, apart from them being free bonto online, I wasn't a very big fan. Sadly, most of the movies I requested were not on DVD yet, or were still being in shown in international film festivals. I had to wait. Luckily, some were available and Stanford bought the ones they could find. They are still buying them, unless they come and read this blog post and take offence. :-D

When it was announced, we'll be watching an African movie at the Stanford African Students' Association (SASA) meeting circa January 2010, I was excited. It didn't matter if I'd seen the movie before or if it was bad. I wanted 'us' to watch an African movie, together. Lambast it after. Praise it after. Make fun of ourselves after. I mean, whatever. When we assembled for the meeting, and the movie was 'No Time to Die', I was visibly excited! Because I was concentrating on getting some food, I didn't get to see the start of the movie. I must say that the food we were having was a little interesting. We had jollof rice, veggies, fried plantain and chicken. And then we had emotuo (rice balls), for which I was truly impressed. My Ghanaian brother had made them himself. I claim to be a cook but I haven't experimented making emotuo before. The interesting part was, there was no soup to eat the rice balls with. Erm, maybe be it's because we are in the 21st century. Changing times allowed us to have emotuo with baked beans. You could read this and say 'Tofiakwa', 'Not my portion', 'God forbid', etc but these are those times. Get it.

I settled into my chair and started watching the movie. The movie screamed 'Real'. The scenes looked real, the conversations felt real, and the characters felt real. The movie was well-made, it showed a great part of Ghana that many Ghanaians don't appreciate and many non-Ghanaians are unaware of - the coffin business. Ghanaian coffin makers are probably the most creative in the world. They make coffins that look like coca-cola bottles, shoes, benzes, pineapples, 'fishes', sewing machines' etc. See more pictures here. Our main character in NOTD was a hearse driver who drove dead people in coffins between locations. The primary dead person in the movie was the mother of one Esi. Esi bought a coffin that was shaped like a plane for her dead mother because she had always wanted to ride in one. How cute! And the plane was called 'Heaven Airlines'! Esi said, "My mother always wished to fly in an aeroplane, she should get to the ancestors in one".

The movie itself was great. It was an African romantic comedy. It's always interesting how Africans find it funny, strange or interesting when there are romantic scenes in African movies. Like we all don't get busy :-) Like it's almost okay for Hollywood movies to have them but strange to see them in African cinema. I know sometimes it gets overdone like in some movies I will not name, but African cinema is trying, and we should appreciate their efforts, even when they are making mistakes. They need our criticisms and feedback to grow. I feel too many times, we criticize African movies more harshly than we do Hollywood movies. The African ones may not be as good but I guess we are also able to be more critical because we feel we know what African 'life' is like, should be like, can do better, etc. There's a little of PHD (Pull him/her downness) in there. We should support African cinema but we should uplift, champion, publicize, encourage excellence in African cinema. The movie industry needs us to grow and improve.

Anyway, how many African romantic comedies have you heard about? South Africa's White Wedding is one. I don't know of any Nollywood ones. Kenya's Malooned was kinda nice too. NTTD may be the best. In fact, it's right up there with all the best Ghanaian movies. The synopsis for NTTD is: "A hearse driver meets and falls in love with a young, beautiful dancer who is planning an elaborate homegoing celebration for her mother. This love and comedy feature length film follows David as he does everything to win her affection." I strongly recommend it, seek it somewhere or google around to find it to buy. Couldn't find places to buy the movie other than Africanfilm.com. That one sef says $245 so maybe it's for distribution? Will keep y'all posted.

I'll round off this post with an email my friend from Botswana sent to the SASA list titled "Thank you SASA exec for a great movie". She continued
"I just wanted to say thanks to SASA exec for picking such an awesome movie. If you missed the movie for some reason, you have to make sure you see it some time soon. My review: The movie starts off slow and a bit aimless but when it picks up it grips you up until the end. This is an African Romantic Comedy (yes, I said romantic) done really well complete with a kissing scene and a happy ending. For me it is up there with Love Actually and White Wedding. We laughed so hard we nearly fell off our seats and our hearts were warmed by the love story unfolding in front of our very eyes. A bit R-rated at times, a little morbid here and there but none the less a great testament that football is not the only thing Ghana is good at. Watch out South Africa and Nollywood, Ghana (Golliwood, I hear but I am not sure) is teaming with potential. I would say this is a must see for anyone who wants a fun African movie to watch. We must give credit where its due, so big up to Ghana!"

Friday, March 19, 2010

K'Naan's Waving Flag "Coca Cola Celebration mix" - official World Cup 2010 anthem + lyrics

The Dusty Foot Philosopher and Troubadour man, @iamknaan, is the singer behind the official anthem for the Mzansi Mundial in June this year. Waving Flag, probably K'Naan's most popular song to date, is undoubtedly an African song and calls on us to "release our African rhythm all over the world".

The Somalian rapper, K'Naan Warsame, is based in Toronto, Canada and Los Angeles, USA. The video is directed by Nabil Elderkin and produced by Sol Guy. There is a cameo by Damian Marley. The original lyrics for Waving Flag can be found here. Here are the lyrics for the remix.

Ooooooh Wooooooh, Ooooooh Wooooooh

Give me freedom, give me fire, give me reason, take me higher
See the champions, take the field now, you define us, make us feel proud
In the streets our heads are lifting, as we lose our inhibition,
Celebration, its around us, every nations, all around us

Singing forever young, singing songs underneath that sun
Lets rejoice in the beautiful game,
And together at the end of the day.
We all say

When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
So wave your flag, now wave your flag, now wave your flag

Oooohhh, Oooooooooh wooooohh, Oooooooooh wooooohh

Give you freedom, give you fire, give you reason, take you higher
See the champions, take the field now, you define us, make us feel proud
In the streets our heads are lifting, as we lose our inhibition,
Celebration, its around us, every nations, all around us

Singing forever young, singing songs underneath that sun
Lets rejoice in the beautiful game,
And together at the end of the day.
We all say

When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
So wave your flag, now wave your flag, now wave your flag
Now wave your flag (4x)

Oohhoooohh Woooh Ohohooooh Wooohoooh

We all say
When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
So wave your flag, now wave your flag, now wave your flag
Now wave your flag (4x)

Oooooh woowoo ooh Wooo ooohh ooohoh
And everybody will be singing it
Oooooh woowoo ooh Wooo ooohh ooohoh
And we all will be singing it

Watch the music video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyYSsNPSmtQ

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kojo Antwi features Yvonne Nelson in his Adiepena video (Museke)

Mr. Music man, Kwadwo Antwi, has always had great music videos. In the first music video from his latest Mwaah album, Adiepena, he features renowned Ghanaian actress, Yvonne Nelson, in it.

Kojo Antwi features Ghanaian actress, Yvonne Nelson in his newest video, Adiepena. This is not the first time Ghanaian actresses have played major roles in Ghanaian music videos. The late Suzzy Williams featured in VIP's continental hit, Ahomka womu as well as Reggie Rockstone's Channel O award-winning video for Fame bone kye me (Ah) featuring K. K. Fosu. I'll like to see more of these where Ghanaian music and movies combine. We've seen the musicians contributing greatly to soundtracks and it would be great to see the actors and actresses play important roles in the music videos. It will go hand in hand to make both industries more popular in Africa and beyond.

In the video, Yvonne plays Kojo's love interest. The storyline follows most of the song's lyrics, which you can find at this link. The video looks like a mini-movie. We see Yvonne shouting like she normally does in various Ghanaian movies, we see her seducing and 'dancing sexy' in front of Kojo. If you've followed her recent movies, it's not far from some of her roles. This makes Yvonne almost an automatic choice for what Kojo wanted to do in the music video. Yvonne ends up getting hurt in the video and we see blood. That's not a marked departure from Ghanaian movie scenes these days as well.

I love how she's 'wearing' the Ghana flag in the video. Awesome. How lovely! Isn't a girl blowing a whistle kinda sexy? And she's handling one of the most beautiful footballs known to mankind - a Wawaba!

Yvonne Nelson must be loving this one, haven't seen any of the other major Ghanaian actresses in music videos. I wonder how much she was paid to be in this video. Or maybe with Kojo Antwi's popularity and pull, Yvonne didn't even get paid anything. It's a nice gesture for both Kojo and Yvonne, and it will endear them to each other's fans. The video is from Kojo's Quajo-Quajo stable. I think he's been directing his own music videos for a while now.

Watch the video here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eb-QH1nLrMY


Nice video! I love it. It may end up winning a few awards. What do you think of it?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sparrow Productions' back with CheckMate; trailer inside

Sparrow Productions is back with another movie called 'Checkmate'. And this time, they feature Nadia Buari for the first time. The movie's tag line is "play smart or lose everything". The movie seems to be centered around a 'chess game' which is nice. "Life is like a big game of chess, it really depends on the move you make". In the trailer, we hear KSM say "One more catch like this and your promotion is sealed!" How about that for encouraging the Ghanaian police force?

The movie stars Nadia Buari, Ekow Blankson, Naa Ashorkor Mensah Doku, KSM and introducing Khareema Aguiar, Kwaku Boateng and Senanu Gbedawo. I'm excited to see KSM in this movie as well. Which reminds me, is 'Double' out on DVD yet? In ASIAT, we saw Shirley Frimpong-Manso in a cameo which came as a surprise. Are we going to be surprised again with another famous Ghanaian actor? Actually, that surprise is Veeda. Yes, I saw her in one of the Checkmate photos. In fact, Veeda alone, is one reason to watch this movie. Why? Her music video on Youtube still probably has the most views of any Ghanaian musician. For real. I no dey joke. Real talk. Check this

After Life and Living it, Scorned, The Perfect Picture, and A Sting in a Tale (ASIAT), this is the fifth movie from Shirley Frimpong-Manso's stable.


A SHIRLEY FRIMPONG MANSO FILM...."CHECKMATE"....play smart or loose everything. This movie is starring Nadia Buari, Ekow Blankson, Naa Ashorkor Mensah Doku and introducing Senanu Gbedawo. Grand Premiere @ the National Theatre on the 1st of April @ 6:30pm and 9:00pm & @ the Silverbird on the 2nd of April.

Here's the movie's synopsis or story

Kwame has made all the right moves in his life; a good job, a beautiful devoted wife, an adorable child, and an impending promotion as a senior customs officer at the airport.

But what seems like a typical guys hang out on a weekend away from home in the company of his new friend and mentor, Kiki, turns out to be the one wrong move Kwame makes. After losing a game of Chess, he succumbs to a bet to seduce the attractive, sexy Caroline.

A few weeks later, the consequences of a dirty forgotten weekend pops up in Kwame’s life threatening to destroy everything he so dearly loves. But the games are just beginning when he realizes that Caroline’s demand for his love is nothing compared to the demands of a drug lord who will do anything to get Kwame’s assistance in smuggling drugs out of the country.

With his entire life hanging on a thread, Kwame must try to win the game or risk losing everything.


So you think you know the story. Good. Even if you do, you still should watch the movie to see Shirley's directorial brilliance at display. Watch it to see if Senanu is going to be a force to reckon with. Watch it to see if Nadia can really act. Watch it to see if Ghana's dondology crew are spearheading Ghana's movie industry to be a force to reckon with. Watch it.

The movie will be showing from Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 6:30pm to Friday, April 30, 2010 at 12:30pm at the National Theatre & Silverbird Cinemas Accra Mall. It's interesting that it's starting on April Fools' Day, are we going to be fooled in the movie? Is the trailer not really the trailer? I heard you are NOT allowed to pull April Fool's pranks after 12pm on April 1st so maybe that confirms that THIS is no prank. If you will be in Accra around then, go and watch folks, and come back and tell us what you thought.

Watch the trailer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THm5CXZiTV8

TEDxYouthInspire 2010 Press Release

Am excited about this event though I won't be in Ghana to attend. Will try and follow it on Twitter and through live streaming. You should also follow it on April 10. Ever heard of TED conferences? Now think of African youth. Bulls eye! :-)

Here's a press release from the organising team of TEDxYouthInspire 2010. Take time to read and enjoy, as you brace yourselves for this exciting African youth-focused conference

YOUNG SPEAKERS TAKE CENTER STAGE AT FIRST TEDx CONFERENCE EXCLUSIVELY FOR AFRICAN YOUTH

Inaugural TEDxYouthInspire will bring together those with "A Good Head & a Good Heart"

Accra, Ghana, March 15, 2010 – On Saturday, April 10, 2010, from 8:00AM – 6PM GMT, the inaugural TEDxYouthInspire conference will be held at the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of
Excellence in ICT in Accra, Ghana. The free one-day event, a first for young African visionaries ages 14-25, will welcome a host of youth speakers, a Ghanaian dance ensemble and an Academy Award-nominated short film.

Organized along the theme "A Good Head & a Good Heart", taken from Nelson Mandela's 1995 autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, TEDxYouthInspire will exhibit how radical thought and integrity of spirit combine to create unlimited possibilities for a brighter future. "The outpouring of support for TEDxYouthInspire exemplifies the need for more events like this for young people," says Raquel Wilson, event curator, "As our speaker line-up suggests, youth everywhere are ready to solidify their contributions towards making the world a better place." TEDxYouthInspire welcomes the following speakers to give the talks of their lives:

Iyinoluwa E. Aboyeji, 18, a Nigerian teenager with a passion for philosophy, global politics and economics, is President of the Board for University of Waterloo publication Imprint. Using his weekly column "E is for Error" to discuss development and post secondary education, he aspires to be a tenured professor by age 25.

The Asanti Dance Theatre is a dynamic ensemble that combines traditional, contemporary and freestyle dancing along with drumming. Founded in 2003, the group raises awareness of prominent issues facing West Africa and is dedicated to developing and preserving the cultural heritage of Ghana.

Yawa Hansen-Quao, 26, is a women's empowerment activist and firmly advocates that "one cannot love an Africa one does not know." Believing that women must play a central role in spurring economic and social advancement in Africa, Yawa supports travel as a tool to "transform people without permission".

Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah is the host of radio station Joy FM's Super Morning Show.

Mac-Jordan Holdbrookes-Degadjor, 25, a social media activist, is passionate about Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D), youth empowerment and ending poverty through education. With three blogs to his credit, he often writes about global events, social entrepreneurship, traveling and how it feels to be a geek in Ghana.

Shirley Osei-Mensah, 18, is an Internet entrepreneur and student at Keystone National High School. Unable to attend a regular classroom, she takes all coursework online and uses her web exposure to inspire others, provide tips about entrepreneurship and advise on earning an income online.

Esi Yankah, 25, is founder and president of The Africa Mentor Network and creative director for Yankah and Associates. Cautious to always live a life that is cheerful and purposeful, she does not believe that entrepreneurs are an extraordinary breed of people; rather, as she explains, "We just back our faith with action."

Google Ghana Country Manager Estelle Akofio-Sowah will host TEDxYouthInspire.

TEDxYouthInspire is sold out; however, a live web steam of the event will be available online at www.tedxyouthinspire.org. Individual and corporate sponsorship packages are still available. Additional information about TEDxYouthInspire can be found by visiting www.tedxyouthinspire.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tedxyouthinspir
or Facebook at www.facebook.com/tedxyouthinspire.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My predictions for the Ghana Music Awards 2010 (Museke)

The nominees for the #GhanaMusicAwards 2010 are out and Sarkodie, Ayigbe Edem, Wutah, 4x4, Bradez, Becca, Ohemaa Mercy and Obrafour lead the number of nominations for the awards ceremony slated for April 10. Music fans have asked many questions about them and asked why artistes like Samini, Ofori Amponsah and Kwabena Kwabena missed out. CharterHouse, the organizers, released a press statement responding to various criticisms as well. In this post, I'll offer thoughts on who should win or who would win when the winners are announced next month.

You can click the songs and artistes below to learn more about them.

Artist of the year
This is a very closely contested one. I am not sure of the best way to judge this category. Sarkodie will win because he has the biggest following these days this but I think the winner should be 4x4. They had two surefire hits and featured on other big songs as well. I'll like to see Bradez win it too. I was surprised Samini wasn't nominated. Surely, his nationwide tour had to count for something?

Most popular song of the year
Kotosa proved Wutah came back really strong after a hiatus. People think it's their best song ever. However, I think the winner here will be and should be Simple by Bradez. It was huge in Liberia as well and ruled the charts in Ghana as long as some of the other nominees.

Discovery of the year
Sarkodie will surely win this one, though the feel-good choice would be Ayigbe Edem. Mimi may end up being the most successful of them all

Hip hop /hiplife song of the year
Kasiebo and The Game both nominated? Who would have thought? This category is probably a popularity contest. I hope Kasiebo wins but I think You Dey Craze by Ayigbe Edem will win. The synergy and energy on that song is simply super.

Hip hop/hiplife artist of the year
I believe Sarkodie would and should win this one. Ayigbe Edem did release 3 music videos though.

Gospel Song of the year
It was surprising to see Ohemaa Mercy get these many nominations when her album arrived late. I believe Aseda by Ernest Opoku will and should win this award.

Gospel Artist of the year
Why only three nominees? And none for Ernest Opoku? Celestine Donkor had a good year but I don't see her beating Ohemaa Mercy.

Highlife song of the year
Never heard King David's Born to Win but if this Ghanaian song's not on Youtube, it probably wasn't that popular. Kotosa was a huge hit and would/should win this award.

Highlife artist of the year
How wasn't Kojo Antwi nominated here? Is he now a reggae artist? What about Kwabena Kwabena? I think Kofi B would win, he had the biggest hits amongst the bunch.

Afro-pop Song of the year
This is where the awards get weird. VIP, 4x4 & Bradez nominated for Afro-pop song? Isn't Run away by Irene Logan an R&B song? I suppose they adjudged these songs to be here because it's mostly singing than rapping. I think World Trade Center by 4x4 should win and probably would win.

Reggae Song of the year
How wasn't Wutah's Burning Desire nominated instead of Jah will be there? Adiepena as a reggae song? I'm not sure Kojo Antwi is too happy about that. Funny thing is I'll like to see Adiepena win an award and this probably will be it.

Best Collaboration of the year
This category is tough! You dey Craze by Edem/Sarkodie/Kwaw Kesse would probably win but I think the creativity with Kasiebo should see Obrafour and Guru carry this gong.

Best Rapper of the year
Like many others, am wondering why this category has been introduced while we have the hiplife artiste of the year. Sarkodie's seen as the best rapper today and will win. Bradez also have some sick flows.

African artiste of the year
This may look like a straight contest between Bracket and Wande Coal but I think Midnight Crew should win. Their gospel song, Igwe, has been so popular that it's played in the night clubs. Imagine that for a second. Haven't heard of performing in Ghana and that may work against them. I think Wande Coal will win though.

Record of the year
I love this category because it allows a song that wasn't that popular but just really well-done to be honoured. I never heard Love Zone but I really like Nyonorvidade by Ayigbe Edem. I hope it wins but I have a feeling Run Away by Irene Logan and Asem will win.

Album of the Year
I also love this new category since it honours our musicians for putting in the work to produce albums and sell CDs. Makye is already one of the best hiplife albums to date and it would and should win this award. Also loved Ayigbe Edem's Volta Regime.

Song writer of the year
Obrafour should win this award for Kasiebo and I believe he will win it. Dark horse will be Asem for writing Run Away.

Best Male Vocal performance
The kind of year Wutah had should ensure PV wins this category though Ernest Opoku could steal it (gospel musicians hardly ever beat out their secular counterparts for awards anyway).

Best Female Vocal Performance
It's interesting to see how Becca released one song and it carried her to multiple nominations. I'll like to see her win this but I believe Irene Logan will win. Speaking of Irene, has anyone seen her lately?

Who do you think should win the awards?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A selection of Africa Movie Academy Award nominee trailers

We've been having some discussions about some of the tasteless trailers for some Ghanaian movies recently. It's sad that that's the way some movie producers are choosing to sell their movies. It's almost like we have to get it wrong before we can get it right or the industry is just not that mature. Watching trailers for some of the other African movies nominated for the Africa Movie Academy Awards, you can see the best ways to sell movies can be the trailers and they can be done in tasteful ways. See what award winning movie trailers look like. Watch some of these below.

See info about Perfect Picture, I Sing Of a Well (ISOAW), A Sting In a Tale" (ASIAT), Heart of Men (HOM), Sin of the Soul (SOTS), reviewed on this blog.

Figurine aka Araromire (Nigeria) directed by Kunle Afolayan
From IMDB - "The synopsis of Figurine (Araromire) shows that it is a story of two buddies and a girl...all down on their luck have their lives changed when one of them discovers 'Araromire' a mysterious figurine in an abandoned shrine which, according to legend bestows seven years of good luck. But no one told them about the next seven years." Movie website
Trailer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ym2XtmMaCQ


Imani (Uganda) directed by Caroline Kamya
"In the course of just one day, we venture into the lives of three characters within the diverse landscape of contemporary Uganda. Imani provides a refreshing look at Uganda post Idi Amin, post LRA (Lords Resistance Army). A fresh new talent, director Caroline Kamya, gives us an intimate portrait of the lives of a child soldier, a maid and a hip hop dancer living in Uganda today." Movie website
Trailer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOAgCebSrVE


Seasons of a Life (Malawi) directed by Shemu Joyah
"This is a moving story about sexual abuse; the rights of women; the triumph of hope over despair; and the enduring spirit of motherhood." Movie website
Here's a scene from the movie
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CW6esRJCYU4


The Tenant (Nigeria) directed by Lucky Ejim
"The Tenant is a multi award winning and critically acclaimed film, written and produced by Jude Idada and directed by Lucky Ejim. Shot in Nigeria and Canada, it explores the issues of immigration, socio-political ethos and economic justice."
Movie website
Trailer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMcz06dZq8s


Togetherness Supreme (Kenya) directed by Nathan Collett
"TOGETHERNESS SUPREME is the story of Kamau, an artist, Otieno, a hustler, and their shared love interest for Alice, a preacher’s daughter. All three live in Kibera, east Africa’s largest shantytown, home to a million people in Nairobi, Kenya. All three are from different tribes but are searching for tribal unity. The film follows these three characters in their quest for change in the community they live in, their fights, challenges and victories. After the 2007 Kenya presidential elections, Kibera is torn apart by conflicting tribal loyalties and so are the three characters." Movie website
Trailer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ8m7TZts58

Monday, March 8, 2010

My 23 man Black Stars squad for the South Africa 2010 World Cup


I'm on a roll, I've already published three blog posts today. Let's talk about sports for a bit. Last week, with little publicity, the Black Stars of Ghana faced Bosnia-Herzegovina in a friendly in Sarajevo. The Black Stars lost 2-1. As usual, while some fingers were pointed, some fingers were crossed, some toes were crossed and some toes were giddy. It's about 3 months to the start of this year's World Cup in South Africa and I can't wait. I am fully confident that the Black Stars team will get their act together before the World Cup and make Ghanaians and Africans proud. A few things need to be done and I want to offer a few thoughts and suggestions.

Goalkeeping
Richard Olele Kingston may be warming the bench at Wigan Athletic in cold England but he's still the undisputed number one Ghanaian goalie. In fact, he's right up there with all African goalkeepers. He's lost some of his agility but a goalkeeper must command respect and he does this best amongst all available options. I'll love to see Daniel Adjei make the final squad alongside George Owu. Owu has been solid everywhere he's been, he's not spectacular but he's also not flawed.

Central defence
John Mensah the Rock of Gibraltar has had so many problems staying fit that now he's been simply christened 'Glass'. I hope he stays in shape and is fit for the mundial and leaves his tendencies to set high lines and offside traps at home when he gets to South Africa. Alongside John in central defence has to be Isaac Vorsah. He proved his worth at the Nations Cup but he must also learn to score a few goals from set-pieces. He must make adequate use of his height. We know, unlike me, he's not afraid to head the ball. Lee Addy's name was mentioned so much by commentators at the African Cup that that alone should guarantee him a ticket to South Africa. He's still raw but he'll get smarter hanging around the other professionals. Eric Addo must be retired from Black Star service and Francis Dickoh should take his place ahead of Jonathan Mensah. He's tried and tested at higher levels than both Addy and Jonathan, and would be a great insurance with the fragility of John Mensah looming.

Wing defence
John Paintsil had been the most consistent Black Stars player before he got injured last Christmas but some naysayers will point to his lack of concentration as a defender. He and Samuel Inkoom stand above right-backs in Ghana but the man who once tried to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestine at a football match should win out. Inkoom's been a winner but Paintsil has the versatility to change a game, as well as the experience. Thank God for Hans Adu Sarpei. The left-back position has been a problem since Isaac Asare's age caught up with him. Hans is not flashy or fast but is a very solid defender and is very technical. David Addy, the World Youth cup winner should be taken as his backup. This is a young lad with so much promise and I think is a joy to watch. These guys must learn to put in decent crosses though and should consult Bukom Banku for diets that will make them Energizer Bunnies.

Central midfield
The strength of the Black Stars' team is the midfield as it is blessed with arguably the best defensive midfielder in the game - Michael Essien. The Bison has been injury prone but he should be fit as a fiddle by the time June rolls around. One big debate in Ghanaian football circles is whether Anthony Annan should start for Ghana so he can do the dirty work while Essien ventures up front to help our toothless strikeforce. I believe Essien should play the defensive midfield position with Pokinho Annan relegated to the bench. Essien plays this position excellently for Chelsea and before that, he marvelled with Lyon. He can produce a moment of attacking magic no matter where he plays so he should play at his natural position. Ahead of him in attacking midfield should be Kwadwo Asamoah. Kwadwo is the closest Black Star to Abedi Pele I've seen in the last 10 years. Spelling him on the bench comes down to Prince Buaben, and Emmanuel Agyemang Badu. I've not seen the former play much but I think he should get the nod here for his performances in the Scottish Premier League. In order to win the World Cup, you must have a world-class team. We are not going to the World Cup for our players to be scouted, we are going there to win.

Wing midfield
Sulley Muntari owns the left winger position and proved his worth when he returned from his 'indisciplinary' suspension from the Black Stars to score our only goal in a freezing Sarajevo. He must learn to control his aggressiveness since we can't afford to have him pick silly yellow and red cards. On the right, I am excited about Kevin Prince-Boateng. It's taking an eternity to get his paperwork through but once he's done, Ghanaians will see how good he is and how great he can be. He has skill, technique and a shot. Hey, our strikers don't have all three, do they? On the bench, I'll go for Quincy Owusu-Abeyie and Andre Ayew. Quincy can change a game with his pace and skill, he just can't play 90 minutes. We remember Dede Ayew losing possession often when we see him play but he has a knack for fishing a goal and eye for creating some magic.

Attack
This is where I wish French Togo had joined Ghana in the 50's. Or Burkina Faso when they were still known as Upper Volta. Or the Ivory Coast when we discovered they could also speak some form of Twi. But when I think of the strikers they have I wish Ghana has, then I am reminding of Eric Bekoe. To me, Eric is our next Tony Yeboah. Eric who? Yes, that's the sad part, you haven't seen him play because for reasons known to Antoa Nyanma, he's not had a solid run playing for the Black Stars. This guy is a goal scorer, period. He was the goal king in Ghana for Kotoko and he's the goal king in Egypt right now. I've seen him play for Kotoko and he's the kind of guy who used to strike fear into his opponents. In Bekoe I trust, and I don't lose sleep over Mario Barwuah Balotelli. I'll like to see Bekoe start our next World Cup match with Asamoah Gyan alongside him. Coach Milovan Rajevac can keep his 4-2-3-1 foromation if he wants, he should just shift Gyan into the midfield and play Bekoe anyway. I can't think of a single flaw for Bekoe but we all know Gyan needs to exercise more composure when he gets a scoring opportunity. Junior Agogo comes with a different dimension as a striker and I am tempted to have him selected. Maybe he'll get a few fickle fans to support us, we all know, the Ghanaian girls are crazy over him. Till I see him play again, I vouch for Matthew Amoah and Dominic Adiyiah as subs.

So there is my tentative 23 man squad for the Black Stars

Winning eleven - Kingston; Paintsil, John Mensah, Vorsah, Sarpei; Kevin Boateng, Essien, Kwadwo Asamoah, Muntari; Bekoe, Asamoah Gyan.

Training eleven - Owu; Inkoom, Dickoh, Lee Addy, David Addy; Quincy, Annan, Buaben, Dede Ayew; Amoah, Adiyiah.

23rd man - Daniel Adjei.

Osee, osee, Black Stars ei, forward ever!

Ghanaian movies earn many 2010 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) nominations

Two of my favorite movies ever, Shirley Frimpong-Manso's Perfect Picture and Leila Djansi's I Sing Of a Well (ISOAW) have been nominated for multiple categories at the 2010 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). The nominations party was held in Accra, Ghana on March 6th. I have been a huge fan of (great) African movies recently and can't wait to see some of these movies. It's great to see the African movie industry blossoming, with actors and actresses acting in different countries, African cinema spreading to different nations, burgeoning sales in African film and respectable awards ceremonies.

Shirley had two movies nominated, Perfect Picture and "A Sting In a Tale" (ASIAT). Perfect Picture is still one of the best Ghanaian movies ever made imho and deserves to win a couple of awards. It's funny how the three leading ladies in the movie, Jackie, Lydia and Naa all got nominated for Best Actress - together. Who does that? This would surely lower the reputation of the AMAA's. They couldn't adjudge the best actress and had to divide a single nomination amongst three ladies? Adjetey Anang is one of the best actors in Ghana and I don't see how Naa gets a nomination for Best Actress and he gets a nomination for best supporting actor. #FAIL. Doris Sackitey was nominated for best supporting actress for her role in ASIAT. For those of you who taught it was a bad movie, think again!

In spite of all the controversy Heart of Men (HOM) generated, I thought it was a great movie when I watched it and it gained some nominations as well. Majid Michel declared it was his best movie, but I think he acted even better in Sin of the Soul (SOTS), and surely he won a best actor nomination for his work in there. John Dumelo (for his role in HOM) and Martha Ankomah (for hers in SOTS) were both nominated for most promising actor (and actress). I surely agree with Martha's nomination but I don't think Dumelo was that awesome in HOM. What about our favorite Ghanaian English movies from Venus Films? A single nomination for "The King is Mine" in the Best Make-Up category. This nomination makes too much sense. :-)

ISOAW is arguably better than The Perfect Picture. Many Africans have not seen the movie but now they will pay attention. Akofa Adjeani-Asiedu and JOT Agyeman earned nominations for Best Actress and Actor respectively and Godwin Kotey earned one for Best Supporting Actor. Thorougly deserved. That movie was directed so well and scored! I can't wait for it to be on VCD DVD so African movie lovers can own it and see the difference. You should read my interview with the director, Leila, here. She's awesome. I guess King Ampaw's No Time to Die was ineligible this year. That movie is one of the best from Ghana in recent years. I've seen it and once I see it again the review will be on this blog.

For the non-Ghanaian movies, I really want to see Figurine from Nigeria and Imani from Uganda. Someone please make it happen. I wonder why District 9 and White Wedding from South Africa didn't get any nominations, because they are as good as some of the movies I've watched. Well, guess what, while people were partying in Accra waiting for AMAA nominations, District 9 was busy looking forward to winning Oscars. "Datsramete". "That's right". Maybe next time.

Here is the full list of nominees; and in bold is who I hope would/should win since I haven't seen all the movies.

BEST DOCUMENTARY
1. Wanba Ngoma (Tanzania)
2. Peace Wanted Alive (Kenya)
3. Bariga Boys(Nigeria)
4. En quette d'identite (Burkina Faso)
5. Innovating for Africa (Nigeria)

BEST SHORT FILM
1. Mahala -(Mozambique)
2. The Abbys Boys -(South Africa)
3. The Painter - (Uganda)
4. Suara La - (Nigeria)
5. The Camera -(Nigeria)

BEST ANIMATION
1. Hanayns Shoe (Egypt)
2. Adventure of Alayo (Nigeria)
3. Zoodo (Burkina Faso)
4. Lyrics (Algeria)
5. One Step of Love (Algeria)

BEST FILM BY AN AFRICAN FILMMAKER IN DIASPORA
1. Soul Diaspora
2. Okra Principle
3. China Wahala
4. Crunch

BEST FILM IN AFRICAN LANGUAGE
1. Omo Iya Kan (Nigeria)
2. Aldeweden (Ethiopia)
3. Togetherness Supreme (Kenya)
4. Imani (Uganda)
5. Game of my life (South Africa)

HEART OF AFRICA AWARD FOR BEST FILM FROM NIGERIA
1. Nnenda by Izu Ojukwu
2. Freedom in Chain by Bond Emeruwa and Fred Amata
3. The Child by Izu Ojukwu
4. Figurine by Kunle Afolayan
5. High Blood Pressure by Teco Benson

AMAA ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND
1. The Tenant
2. Season of a life
3. Perfect Picture
4. I sing of a well
5. Soul Diaspora

AMAA ACHIEVEMENT IN EDITING
1. Season of a life
2. The Child
3. Perfect Picture
4. Heart of Men
5. Lilies of the Ghetto

AMAA ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION
1. I sing of a well
2. Fulani
3. The Child
4. Figurine
5. Imani

AMAA ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKE-UP
1. Heart of Men
2. The Child
3. The King is Mine
4. I sing of a well
5. Fulani

AMAA ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME
1. Perfect Picture
2. Prince's bride
3. The Child
4. I sing of a well
5. Lilies of the Ghetto

AMAA ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECT
1. The Child
2. Figurine
3. A sting in a tale
4. Fulani
5. Heart of Men

Best ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
1. Seasons of a life
2. Imani
3. A sting in a tale
4. The Child
5. Figurine

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A CHILD ACTOR
1. Teddy Onyago and Bill Oloo- Togetherness Supreme
2. Tobi Oboli - The Figurine
3. Feyisola Ewulomi - Champions of our Time
4. Treasure Obasi - Champions of our Time
5. Mfanafuthi Magudulela - Game of my life

MOST PROMISING ACTRESS
1. Martha Kisaka - Togetherness Supreme
2. Chelsea Eze - Silent Scandal
3. Martha Ankomah - Sins of the Soul
4. Ashionye Michelle Ugboh- Jungle Ride
5. Rahema Nanfuka - Imani

MOST PROMISING ACTOR
1. Wilson Maina - Togetherness Supreme (Kenya)
2. Wale Ojo - The Child (Nigeria)
3. John Dumelo - Heart of men (Ghana)
4. Pethro Tumba Mbole - A game of my life (South Africa)
5. Sunny Chikezie - Lilies of the Ghetto (Nigeria)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
1. Godwin Kotey- I sing of a well
2. Francis Duru - Nnenda
3. Yemi Blaq - High Blood Pressure
4. Adjetey Anang - The Perfect Picture

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
1. Doris Sackitey - A sting in a Tale
2. Funlola Aoifeyebi-Raimi - Figurine
3. Tapiwa Gwaza - Seasons of a life
4. Yvonne Nelson - Heart of Men

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
1. Bimbo Akintola- Freedom in Chains
2. Jackie Appiah, Lydia Forson and Naa Ashorkor Mensah-Doku - The Perfect Picture
3. Stephanie Okereke- Nnenda
4. Flora Suya - Season of a life
5. Akofa Edjeani Asiedu - I sing of a well

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
1. Lucky Ejim - The Tenant
2. Majid Michael - Sin of a soul
3. Ramsey Noah - The Figurine
4. Odera Ozoka - Soul Diaspora
5. John Osei Tutu Agyeman - I Sing of a well

BEST SCREENPLAY
1. Season of a life
2. The Tenant
3. Freedom In chains
4. Guilty Pleasure
5. I sing of a well

AMAA ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
1. The Perfect Picture
2. Figurine
3. I sing of a well
4. The Child
5. The Tenant

BEST PICTURE
1. Seasons of a life (Malawi)
2. The tenant (Nigeria)
3. The Perfect Picture (Ghana)
4. The Figurine (Nigeria)
5. I sing of a well (Ghana)

BEST DIRECTOR
1. Shemu Joyah - Seasons of a life
2. Shirley Frimpong-Manso - The Perfect Picture
3. Kunle Afolayan - Figurine
4. Leila Jewel Djansi - I sing of a well

Happy International Women's day!

I woke up to mentions of Happy Women's Day all over the internet and thought to myself, "What a coincidence?" The first ever woman nominee for Best Director at the Oscars had just won it last night for 'Hurt Locker', a movie which is a masculine as they come. What men can do, women can do better. It really is a woman's world, :-) Happy Women's Day!

International Women's Day (IWD) is not about firsts for women, it's about a celebration of women. From its Wiki page, the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women's economic, political and social achievements. It's a day for YOU (not just men) to let that those women know how much you adore them and cherish them for all they do for YOU.

The Wiki page also states that this 'day' was started as a Socialist event. I learnt this from a friend of mine when we had texted back and forth about the issue. I called my mother (in Ghana) to wish her 'Happy Women's Day' and thank her for all she'd done for me and she knew nothing of this International Women's Day. Hmm. My friend had figured Ghana probably wasn't celebrating the 'Day'. She mentioned it was originally a Socialist thing and that in her home country (which shares a border with Ghana by the way), it's an official holiday. But how did '233' miss out? We may not be a 'socialist' country but we do have the more socialist party in power now in the form of the NDC. Needless to say, I decided not to call my sisters in Ghana about IWD, and sent them texts instead.

Today was a holiday in Ghana though. Since Ghanaians couldn't get off work on March 6th (a Saturday), Asumasi and Rakia got to sleep in. You could say Ghana's 53rd birthday overshadowed IWD even if some of the news media reported it. IWD came at a time unlike Valentine's Day, it had to compete with Mama Ghana's "Ahofadi" celebration. Valentine's Day was competing with National Chocolate Day, big difference there. Apparently, Ghanaians are more excited celebrating 'love' and 'Valentine' than celebrating 'women'. No, they are not the same thing.

IWD is used to call attention to some women's rights issues and some of the major social, political and economic crises affecting women and girls. Ghana has never been known to be an activist country. Though we enjoy our democrazy democracy, we are too much in love with peace to take stringent measures to get different things done. Take hiplife for instance. It's probably the least socially conscious form of African hip-hop. So maybe, we shouldn't be surprised Ghana's not celebrating International Women's Day. How did Flavour's Ashawo become a major hit in Ghana? When was the last time you heard a song about Trokosi?

Naturally, I was thinking of ways to celebrate the day. The popular choice is to buy gifts and presents for different women. I thought that was for Valentine's Day? I know I haven't seen any major media blitz for March 8th but I doubt International Women's Day is another day for 'plenty spending'. I am on a "chiselling,don't spend if you can get it free" spree so this was out of the question. The gifts will go, but later. Another friend suggested offering smiles for all women I saw. Now that's a good one. I don't have any interesting stories to report as a result of doing so so maybe simply saying "Happy Women's Day" to random women would be a more dramatic way of celebrating IWD.

On the real though, we should really begin to take celebrating women more seriously. A wise man called James Kwegyir Aggrey once said, "If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation". People who've studied some sort of developmental economics would tell you that to enrich a nation, the women must be empowered. We must begin to empower more women with education and resources because unlike men, they care much about "us" collectively, our communities and our societies. Men are messes, if you've been to a college guy's room and a college girl's room, it will tell you all you need to know. I say, we begin to allow women to run the 'show' more and see how the world will begin to turn.

In fact, when you think about some of the reasons behind IWD, it's a little tough to go around saying Happy Women's Day. We must start doing our little contributions to stop the injustices that women and girls face all around the world and encourage the celebration of more achievements. But when you think about women do well, and how they make our families tick, our communities build, our societies flourish and our world prosper, we must join in a single voice and chorus, "Happy Women's Day".

"Happy Women's Day".

African language translations gadget for iGoogle

Recently, a friend asked me how to say Independence in Akan Twi. I didn't know the word so I sought my favorite source for such matters Kasahorow's Akan dictionary on Fienipa.com. Found out the word was 'Ahofadi'. A friend on Facebook mentioned it may have been 'fawohodi' instead. Ahofadi is a noun, fawohodi or 'fa wo ho di' is more like a sentence, as so nicely put by one of the Kasahorow gurus. It's great to know this translation service is around. That's why you should help publicize it.

Publish this widget on your homepage or blog that allows people to translate amongst English, Akan, Ewegbe, Hausa, Yoruba, Swahili, and Kinyarwanda.

Brought to you by the awesome folks at Fienipa.com and Kasahorow.com




You can get the code from here:

http://www.gmodules.com/ig/creator?synd=open&url=http%3A//apps.fienipa.com/igoogle.xml&pt=%26context%3Dd%26type%3Dgadgets%26synd%3Dig%26lang%3Den%26.lang%3Den%26country%3Dus%26.country%3Dus%26start%3D0%26num%3D1%26objs%3D&sn=&lang=en

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