See what’s been happening this past week:
Have you heard?
Zoe Saldana and Nina Simone Biopic Controversy
Social media has been extremely vocal concerning Zoe Saldana’s role in “Nina”, a biographical film on the influential singer and activist Nina Simone’s life.
An official poster for Nina was recently released starring Zoe Saldana, to much of the public’s disapproval The role involves Saldana wearing a prosthetic nose and darkening her skin to match Nina Simone’s tone. In the years since the casting was announced, there’s been vast criticism (including from Simone’s family), many expressing that this is the equivalent of “blackface” for Zoe, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent – therefore in playing the roll she effectively undermines Simone’s legacy.
Nina Simone’s daughter has been the vocal with disapproval from the start, telling The New York Times in 2012, “My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise this is not the best choice.” She also told Ebony, “I love Zoe Saldana’s work. I’ve seen some of her movies more than once and really enjoy what she brings to the screen. As an actress I respect her process, but I also know that there are many actresses out there, known or not, who would be great as my mother.”
However, amidst the sensitive discussion of race Zoe has spoken out in defense of the role to Allure in 2013 saying, “It doesn’t matter how much backlash I will get for it, I will honor and respect my black community because that’s who I am.”
In another interview with HipHollywood.com that year, Saldana said, “I don’t care who tells me that I am not this and I am not that. I know who I am and I know what Nina Simone means to me. So that is my truth and that set me free.” Despite Zoe’s opinion of herself in relation to the film there is still a wave of criticism, many pointing out that there are many talented actresses closer to Simone’s skin colour. Many have rejected Zoe as being right for the part due to the significance Nina’s colour played in her life at a time where darker skinned women were far from welcome in society. The matter of race was prominent in the singers life, accounting for much of her experience making it far more significant in her life than pigmentation.
Backlash has also come from the public when the cast and crew were revealed as being majority white. David Oyelowo has been casted as Nina Simone’s manager.
Can Zoe’s connection and identification with her blackness be disregarded, rendering her as not black enough? Or as vocalised by the late singer’s daughter, is Nina’s Legacy linked so deeply to her skin tone that misrepresentation of this results in Nina being misportrayed. Those against Saldana playing the role state that the matter of who is cast is not only political but crucial to the immortalisation of Nina’s reality. What do you think?
Vogue Loves Amaal Said
If you are unfamiliar with 20-year-old Danish – Somali poet and photographer Amaal Said, now is the time to meet the London based talent. She has gained a faithful following across major social media platforms such as Tumblr and Instagram and if it’s not for her honest and thought provoking poetry, it is for her unique and distinct photography where she uses her creative eye to encapsulate women against visually stunning backdrops with the aim of “documenting small beauties”.
Amaal, also takes stunning photos of her self and has started to become recognised for “creating a powerful collision of tradition and modernity” according to the prestigious fashion and lifestyle magazine Vogue that recently approached the young creative for an interview entitled “A London Instagram Star on What It Means to Wear the Hijab” stating that “Amaal is changing the face of Muslim Girls on Instagram”.
Throughout the interview she discusses her own aesthetic, why she sources all of her hijabs from her mother’s closet, what it means to put on a red lip, and why color is such a huge presence in her work. However, it should be noted that Amaal is more than the star of an electronic app, but a true visionary in the ways in which she documents women and landscape (she has taken her work to many places including Kenya where her parents spent many years).
Her purposes behind her extremely attentive visual eye, surrounds women and the telling of their stories in a narrative true to their identity, whilst appreciating their natural beauty. Those lucky enough to have worked with Amaal during her shoots have expressed how comfortable they’ve felt in the space she creates. Amaal told What’s On “I really care about the work of representing women of colour and I love connecting with women and making them feel beautiful”
Former Barbican Young Poet, Amaal recently won the Wasifiri New Writing Prize where two of her poems made it to the shortlist. The Girl Grew has been published in the Wasifiri publication. Read the full interview with Vogue here. Amaal’s photography work can be found on her website as well as her beautifully arranged Instagram @amaalsaid.
South Africa’s First Solar Powered Airport
George Airport is only the second in the world that uses solar energy, following Cochin International Airport in India. The first phase of this revolutionary George solar project, officially opened by the Department of Transport and the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa), is part of a R16-million plant that converts solar energy into direct current electricity using solar panels.
The operation produces 680 kilowatts a day and powers 41% of the airport, with the aim to convert to 100% function by the end of the year. Energy and transport were two crucial government portfolios in fulfilling the goals of the National Development Plan’s own Vision 2030 for the development of the country as a whole, she added. Acsa describes the new project as the best way to reduce energy demand from the national grid and harness solar power to power smaller airports around the country. The initiative is part of the company’s Vision 2030.
It plans to open two more solar plants to serve Kimberley and Upington over the next two years. The project falls under Acsa’s strategic environmental objectives which, in addition to reducing energy consumption, include minimising water consumption, increasing waste recycling, eradicating noise pollution and using energy efficient materials in all airports.
“Sustainability, in terms of our environment, means that we need to over time be very careful about how we use any form of energy and then also other natural resources, like water,” says Acsa group executive, Andre Vermeulen. “As a company, we have got a plan in terms of our footprint, in terms of how we are going to consume electricity and water – especially electricity. It is about reducing our carbon footprint and becoming a carbon neutral company.”
George Airport manager Brenda Vorster welcomed the project, which currently powers the airport’s car rental area, cargo warehousing, flight schools and airline offices, adding that “our second phase will be starting within the next year“. Congratulations South Africa!
The rising wave of Diaspora artists – meet Olivia Twist
Amaal Said is not the only young creative making waves in London from an African background- Olivia Twist is the up and coming artist and graphic designer of St Lucian and Ghanaian descent. Based in East London, the recent University of the Arts London graduate studies her Masters in Visual Communication where she specialises in Illustration at the Royal College of Art.
Olivia Twist states she has a definite interest in marrying collective memory and oral history as well as exploring the idea of home and the possibilities of identity. Her desires as an Illustrator are to spark new and on-going conversation amongst her audience and to encourage the sharing of previously untold narratives. Olivia’s work is unrepentantly raw, genuine and transparent as she puts her colloquial knowledge and her love for mass observation into practice during every project.
Her favourite parts of the design process are research and experimentation where she draws on a rich range of contributors from multiple disciplines and works very closely with her audience. Olivia’s spontaneous energy partners seamlessly with her free-styling forms which are unequivocally bold and evocative.
Come and see my new work at Rivington place as part of Autograph ABP’s The Missing Chapter exhibition from the 14th-30th. What a juicy way to start the year! 🙌🏾 A photo posted by Olivia Twist (@yesoliviatwist) on
Much of her work depicts the lives of Londoners belonging to the African and Caribbean diaspora and the impact this has on the individual. Some of her most notable work has seen her illustrations projected on the Royal Festival Hall Building at Africa Utopia, Acts of Looking as well as Diaspora Britain where Rapper and Historian Akala performed against the backdrop of her inimitable work. Twist is also a member of The Black British Girlhood Project which held a successful exhibition in 2015 where the opening night saw it filled to capacity.
The illustrator designed the identity for the exhibition, curated and exhibited work in the space stating the purpose for the project as being one to “celebrate, represent and reaffirm” Upon interaction with Olivia’s work you will see flashes of individuality in her bold and colourful illustrations.
You will also feel a sense of familiarity as you connect with the subjects in her work that invoke a feeling of childhood. The artist is steadily making waves in London’s art scene and tells What’s on Africa that she has a collaborative exhibition coming up on the 14th of April with three other talented individuals from RCA. It is advisable to go and see Olivia’s work for yourself as she continues to wave her creative wand across London. Olivias work can be found on her website here.
App of the Week
We’re loving Afrinolly, the mobile application enabling African entertainment enthusiasts to watch African movies, movie trailers, short films and music videos that have been made public by content owners especially from the Nollywood film industry. Afrinolly is available for free on Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Nokia, Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Java-enabled phones. Afrinolly (Android version) was developed in 2011 in Nigeria and submitted for the Google Android Developers Challenge, Sub-Saharan Africa. After winning the competition, Afrinolly has been downloaded by over 4 million users and has grown to be the most downloaded Entertainment app, designed and developed in Africa.
Music of the Week
As always our music of the week, because we know how much better things seem with the right song. This week we have Nigerian artist Moelogo gracing us with the beautifully produced “Penkele’. If you are someone interested in the science of music often paying attention to what you’re hearing, you will find it easy to hear the subtle live instruments effortlessly blend with electronic sounds to produce this slow tempo, bass filled track described as song encouraging us to be ourselves, “no longer sweating the small things”. Music with a message never fails to please. Visuals for this strong release from Moelogo have been directed by Kevin Hudson.
Photo Credit @Amaal Said