Beasts of No Nation on Netflix + Biyi Bandele’s film on Netflix
2015 was a good year for films about and from the continent – with the emergence of Netflix as a new platform for African films to reach a wider audience – a number of films by African directors have made it on to the platform, though the most high-profile title relating to the continent was ‘Beasts of No Nation’. It was made by the Hollywood machine, albeit with some heavy-weight African talent, including Idris Elba. By the way also on our list was the great moment during our sister film festival, Film Africa – when Idris Elba graced the screening of his own documentary. The festival formed a partnership this year with the African Union foundation and brought over 60 of the best African films to London
Okwui Enwezor heading up the Venice Biennale
Okwui Enwezor is already a living legend in the arts, as a writer, thinker and curator – but his reputation was firmly cemented this year when he became the first African to curate the Venice Biennale – one of the Art world’s biggest platforms for the promotion and exhibition of Art. Enwezor delivered a tour de force show, which underscored the point – if it wasn’t obvious already – that African artists, art, and curators have well and truly arrived to shake up the global scene.
Mabati-Kiswahili prize awarded for the first time
Prizes for African literature that are not for works written in the former colonial languages – are few and far between, hence why the Mabati-Kiswahili Prize is so exciting. The prize announced its first winners this year. Founded by the novelist and academic, Mukoma Wa Ngugi and Lizzy Attree, director of the Caine Prize, and supported by The Prize is primarily supported by Mabati Rolling Mills of Kenya (a subsidiary of the Safal Group), The Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs at Cornell University and the Africana Studies Center at Cornell University. The prize provides a $5000 first prize for two winners in the categories of fiction and poetry.
British Library’s West Africa exhibition
Over four years in the making, this major exhibition focusing on the literary heritage and present of West Africa is spectacular. Spanning over 17 countries, the exhibition is the first by the British Library that profiles its extensive Africa collections. The exhibition is accompanied by a season of live events that continue until February 2016. You can read our interview with Gus Casely-Hayford, Chair of the Advisory Panel that support the exhibition’s curators.
Cassava Republic announces launches in the UK
One of our favourite publishers, Cassava Republic Press announced that they would be launching in the UK; it’s been a year of furious debate about diversity in publishing in the UK – and many have welcomed the presence of an African publisher in the UK. For our part we’re excited by the ground-breaking fact of an African publisher bringing literature from the continent to the UK.
Trevor Noah became host of the Daily Show – Need we say more?
Lamb – Ethiopia’s first film selected at Cannes Film Festival
Ethiopian filmmaker Yared Zeleke’s film “Lamb” made history by being the first Ethiopian movie to be officially selected to play at the Cannes Film Festival. The film follows the story of Ephraim is the young son of a farmer whose father leaves him and his sheep, from which he is inseparable, to be looked after by distant relatives. Ephraim isn’t very good at farming, but he has a hidden talent: he is an excellent cook. One day, his uncle tells him that they have to sacrifice his sheep for the next religious feast. Ephraim is ready to do anything to save his only friend and return home with him by his side. Handsomely shot in Ethiopia’s beautiful, mountainous countryside, this multi-layered first feature from Yared Zeleke adds depth to its characters and places depictions of everyday Ethiopian life centre stage.
Pioneering Muslim feminist writer Fatima Mernissi dies
A pioneering and uncompromising voice in the feminist movement who wrote ‘Beyond the Veil’ – a book that examined Islam from a feminist and critical perspective passed away. Her legacy is evident in the many intellectual heirs who took to newspapers, and social media to mourn her loss including the writer Mona El-tahawy.
The Nest Collective’s ‘Stories of our Lives’
The subject of controversy and acclaim this year when it launched; banned in Kenya, with some of its producers arrested – the film brought attention to the lives of LGBT people in Kenya and Africa. Featuring eight distinct stories of gay life in Kenya, the film was the first production from the nest collective, a group of Kenya artists. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stories_of_Our_Lives
Sindika Dokolo – returning objects to museum in AngolaIn what could be a ground–breaking move for the movement to repatriate museum treasures to their places of origin, Sindika Dokolo, the Angolan businessman and art collector, announced that his foundation has acquired and will be returning two signifivant works of art to Angola’s Dundo Museum. The pieces belonged to the museum which used to feature one of the most distinguished collections of ethnographic art from wooden traditional masks of the Chokwe people to the recordings of local folk music and a photographic collection dating to the 1880s. Sadly, the museum saw much of its art work ‘disappear’ during the Angolan civil war (1975-2002). The Fundacao Sindika Dokolo has acquired two ancestral female Pwo masks and a rare statue representative of the male figure of the Chokwe people, and they will be repatriated to the Dundo Museum. During the press event to announce the acquisition, Sindika Dokolo indicated he was looking to build a broad coalition to ensure more works from the continent are repatriated to their original cultures and collections.