African Artists Reclaim Homeland With Touring Exhibition

Berlin, Paris and London are common destinations for African artists seeking to establish their careers and build name recognition. But as they focus their attention on the West, they risk being forgotten at home. Such was the inspiration behind a traveling exhibition making its way across Africa.An oil on canvas painting by Senegalese artist Soly Cissé titled “Comme des héros” is displayed at Dakar’s Museum of Black Civilizations. (Photo: A. Hammerschlag/VOA)Hundreds of people from around the world are gathered in Dakar’s Museum of Black Civilizations for the grand opening of a contemporary art exhibition called “Prête-moi ton rêve” or “Lend me your dream.” Guests draped in elaborate African robes admire an array of intricate sculptures, striking photographs and textured paintings. There are more than 100 works by 30 artists from 15 African countries, including Ivory Coast, Congo, Morocco and Mali.An untitled wax and pigment on wood by Moroccan artist Mahi Binebine is displayed at Dakar’s Museum of Black Civilizations. (Photo: A. Hammerschlag/VOA)For many of the artists, the opportunity to show their work to other Africans is a rare occasion.Fihr Kettani is the secretary general of the Foundation for the Development of Contemporary African Culture, which organized the exhibit. He said the goal of the exhibition is to assemble the best in contemporary African art and display the work for an African audience.He says they realized these artists had been successful in Paris, Italy, London and New York, yet they had not achieved the same recognition in their home countries. So they came up with the idea to bring them together on African soil … the idea is to reconcile the market value of Africa, so that Africans can, in a way, share in their success.A sculpture by Moroccan artist Fathiya Tahiri titled “La Fourmi” is displayed at Dakar’s Museum of Black Civilizations. (Photo: A. Hammerschlag/VOA)The exhibit will travel to seven African cities over the course of one year, including Casablanca, Abidjan, Lagos, Addis Ababa, Cape Town and Marrakech. In doing so, the exhibit seeks to unite the continent’s web of cultures and ethnic traditions while celebrating African art in its place of origin.Yacouba Konate is one of the exhibit’s curators. He said he hopes the show will help internationally renowned African artists forge a relationship with their neighbors at home.Photographs by Cameroonian artist Angèle Etoundi Essamba titled “Rêve brisé” are displayed at Dakar’s Museum of Black Civilizations. (Photo: A. Hammerschlag/VOA)He says Africa was often forgotten by exhibition organizers. Their exhibits toured Paris, Dusseldorf and London, but no one thought about the necessity or the interest there would be to show African works in Africa.Even when organizers do consider touring Africa, Konate said they give up easily and claim it’s impossible due to inadequate facilities and insufficient funding.He says they wanted to take on these problems and constraints together, and then see, little by little, that they can remove these obstacles and show that it’s possible.A bronze sculpture by Ivorian artist Siriki Ky titled “Têtes précieuses” is displayed at Dakar’s Museum of Black Civilizations. It is part of the exhibition “Prête-moi ton rêve,” which is touring Africa over the course of one year. (A.Hammerschlag)One of the featured artists is Ivorian sculptor Siriki Ky. He said it was important for him and the other artists to have their work considered by fellow Africans.He says they work much more in the West, outside of Africa. That’s why they wanted to participate in this exhibit – so that their neighbors and parents can see their work, interpret it, and decide whether or not they like it. But at least they’ll know that they’re doing this work.
The exhibition will remain on display at Dakar’s Musee des Civilisations Noires through January 28.

‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ and ‘Joker’ Invoke Opposing Sides of the Human Psyche

The recent film release, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” by Marielle Heller, is based on the Esquire magazine article, “Can you say..Hero?” that award-winning journalist Tom Junod wrote in 1998 about Fred Rogers. Rogers is an American TV personality who spoke to children and advocated empathy, understanding and reconciliation. The newly released films shows how two polar opposites, an empathic Mister Rogers and a cynical writer, become friends. Some have said the movie makes them “want to be better people.” Conversely, Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” a billion-dollar box office hit, offers a dark portrait of Batman’s nemesis, thriving on rancor, revenge and social chaos. VOA’s Penelope Poulou looks at the two films’ contrasting messages

Palestinian Museum Designed to Highlight Palestinian Culture

Most Americans understand the Palestinian people in context of their decades long conflict with Israel. To provide more context, a museum in Washington D.C. is shining a light on its culture and heritage; one artifact at a time. More on this museum from VOA’s Imron Jadoon

Jerry Garcia’s Alligator Guitar up for Auction in LA

A battered Fender Stratocaster played by the late Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia could fetch up to $400,000 at an auction in Los Angeles next week.The guitar, nicknamed Alligator because of the distinctive green alligator sticker on the front, was played by Garcia on the Grateful Dead’s 1972 European tour and other live performances between 1971-1973, auctioneers Bonhams said Thursday.“It is very special because it was the first guitar that (he) ever named. He had a reputation for naming his guitars,” Giles Moon, director of music memorabilia at Bonhams, told Reuters.First named guitarThe guitar, made in 1955, is believed to have been given to Garcia by British musician Graham Nash.“Jerry played guitar on one of his albums and as a thank-you present Graham bought the guitar. Supposedly, he found it in a pawn shop in Texas and gifted it to Jerry in 1970 and then it was Jerry’s favorite guitar for about three years,” Moon said.Moon said the $250,000-$400,000 estimate was on the conservative side and that the guitar could sell for much more given Garcia’s skills as a guitar player and the fervent Deadhead fan base.The musician’s custom-made Wolf guitar, which he played for more than two decades, sold for $1.9 million at a charity auction in 2017.FILE – Late Grateful Dead front man Jerry Garcia’s custom-made “Wolf” guitar sold for $1.9 million at auction in 2017 to benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center.Other items for saleThe Alligator guitar is one of 70 lots up for sale on Dec. 10 from the personal collection of Garcia, the founder and driving force of the California counter culture band who died of a heart attack in 1995 at age 53.Garcia’s Martin D-28 acoustic guitar, played while the band toured Canada in 1970, carries a pre-sale estimate of $30,000-$50,000, while a watercolor of an alligator painted and signed by Garcia in 1992 has a high estimate of $6,000.Garcia’s collection of EC Comics Crime SuspenStories from the 1950s are also being auctioned.Rock guitars are among some of the most-coveted and collectible items at auction. A black Fender Stratocaster owned by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour set a world record of $3.9 million at auction in New York in June 2019.

When Did You Last See an African Video Game Hero? 

What’s wrong with being a plucky hero running from demon monkeys or a glamorous model in dress up games? Players too often get sucked into worlds full of violence and unhealthy body images, according to Jay Shapiro, co-founder of Kenya-based Usiku Games.The Canadian entrepreneur hopes to shake up the games market in Kenya — and Africa — by offering not only the “adrenaline rush” of competing to win, but also subtle messaging on relatable themes like conservation, climate change and culture.“When was the last time you saw an African hero in a video game?” Shapiro asked ahead of the Dec. 14 official opening of Usiku Games offices and the Nairobi Game Development Center, a high-tech co-working space also created by Shapiro.“We looked at how can we make games that are unlike what’s out there at the moment. That are made in Africa, for Africa, with African heroes in African environments … so that when somebody plays it, they see themselves reflected in the game.””Turkana,” a video game by Usiku Games, allows players to direct water from Kawalasee River to a farm.10 games so farUsiku Games has so far developed 10 brain-teasing and trivia games for Africa’s mobile phone users aimed at fostering a #GamingForGood culture, with scenarios where the player has to save lions from poachers or solve traffic congestion.The game “Turkana” — named after Kenya’s arid northwestern county — allows players to direct water from the Kawalasee River to a farm while in “Jam Noma” they get to drive a local matatu minibus and navigate congestion to complete the journey.The company, which has 16 staff, also employs youths from Nairobi’s Kibera, a sprawling informal settlement housing more than 200,000 people, to provide the voices and produce the rap music for the games in English, Swahili and local slang, Sheng.”Jam Noma,” a video game from Usiku Games allows players to drive a local matatu minibus and navigate congestion.Positive messagesOther games the company is developing including “Seedballs” a reforestation game where the player has to drop seeds at targets on the ground, and “BeYOUtiful,” which is a dress up game for girls with African characters.“These dress up games for preteen girls are very popular, but everyone in them has a white woman in her 20s with ‘Barbiesque’ curves that are impossible to attain,” said Shapiro.“If I’m a little Kenyan girl playing this game, the game is subliminally telling me that the standard for beauty is this blonde, white, skinny woman. We think that’s wrong.”The games are currently free but Usiku Games plans to charge users about 10 shillings ($0.10) to play a game in future, with the winner earning coins, some of which can be converted to cash in a mobile savings account to pay school or medical fees.“It’s great Usiku Games is focusing on socially responsible bite-sized games,” said Gautam Shah, founder of Internet of Elephants, which makes conservation games, adding that most popular games focus on subject matter that is far from Africa.“I think their success will rely on how relatable these games are to local users.”

Kenya’s World Heritage Town Worries Development Will Dilute Culture

Kenya’s island of Lamu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is under threat, activists say. Authorities are constructing major projects on the mainland, including a port and an oil pipeline. They also hope to build the region’s first coal-fired power plant. While the infrastructure is likely to boost the local economy, some Lamu residents worry the development and a flood of outsiders will affect the local culture — and the architecture, which some say is already falling apart.”We are doing our best to prevent that kind of intervention and new developments, so that we can preserve the Lamu,” said Abu Bakr Badawi, who is with the century-old Riyadha Mosque.The remoteness of the island, where cars don’t fit on the narrow streets and donkeys are the main mode of transport, has helped maintain its 650-year-old Swahili culture and traditions.But authorities say the $26 billion group of projects will improve economic links between Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia, and create thousands of jobs.A Kenyan court in June, however, halted construction of a coal-fired power plant that was to help fuel the projects, encouraging opponents.”We as Lamu people are afraid because when people come from other areas, they come with many things,” said Raya Famau Ahmed, an activist opposed to the coal plant. “Their own language, their own culture, their own way of living. And this might alter the cultural way people have been living.”Lamu authorities vow to protect the island’s world heritage status from the development projects.FILE – People walk along the streets in Kenya’s resort town of Lamu.However, activists worry the changes could affect the town’s unique, antique character. More than a third of Lamu’s historic buildings are already falling apart, says Athman Hussein of the National Museums of Kenya.”Some of the owners don’t want any kind of intervention,” Hussein said. “They think perhaps by putting money into their building, you are actually owning it; you are taking over a particular building. So, it’s a complex kind of thing.”Lamu authorities say they are raising funds to help renovate historic buildings and develop the economy, with tourism as a major pillar. At the risk of commercializing their culture, some argue that bringing in more tourists may actually help keep Lamu’s unique traditions alive.

‘It’s Bittersweet’: Leia has Key Role As ‘Star Wars’ Wraps Skywalker Saga

The highly anticipated final chapter in the Skywalker film saga will feature a significant role for Princess Leia, the beloved “Star Wars” character played by late actress Carrie Fisher.Writer and director J.J. Abrams said he had enough unused footage of Fisher from the filming of 2015 movie “The Force Awakens” to make Leia a key player in “The Rise of Skywalker,” the “Star Wars” film that debuts in theaters on Dec. 20.Fisher died in 2016 at age 60.”We couldn’t tell the story without Leia,” Abrams said in an interview on Wednesday. “She’s the mother of the villain of the piece. She’s in a sense the mother of the resistance, the rebellion, the leader, the general.””Her role is, I would say, integral,” he added. “This is not just a cosmetic thing where we’re sort of inserting Leia.””The Rise of Skywalker” is the ninth movie in the celebrated space franchise that debuted in 1977 and is now owned by Walt Disney Co.In recent films, Leia had risen to general leading the fight against the evil First Order in the galaxy far, far away. Her son is Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the warrior who took over as ruler of the First Order at the end of 2017 film “The Last Jedi.”If Fisher had been alive, “there is no question we would have done, I’m sure, additional and other things,” Abrams said. “But the fact we had the material to do what we did is incredibly gratifying.”Daisy Ridley, who portrays resistance fighter Rey, recorded scenes for “Rise of Skywalker” in which her character interacted with the previously recorded images of Fisher.”I was basically reacting to footage I had seen of her, so it was quite emotional, very strange,” Ridley said. “But I do think you feel a real sense of love between Leia and Rey in this one, and Leia is a big part of the story.”Pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and maintenance worker Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) also have scenes that include dialogue with Leia, cast members said.Abrams said Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, who will appear for the third time as a lieutenant in the resistance forces, also will be seen on screen with her mother.Anthony Daniels, who plays the droid C-3PO, said the scenes with Fisher looked “totally believable, quite wonderful, quite respectful” in the final cut of the film, which was shown to some cast members this week.Isaac said he felt “a real melancholy” when he watched Fisher on screen in “Rise of Skywalker.””You see her right there, and she’s so vital and alive, and to think she’s not there anymore, and she won’t get to see how we say goodbye to Princess Leia,” he said. “It’s bittersweet.”

Immersive Movie Technology Gets US Debut with New ‘Jumanji’ Adventure

Moviegoers have been offered rolling seats, 3D glasses and even rain and smells in recent years as theater chains seek to fill seats.Now comes an immersive experience that gets its U.S. launch in Los Angeles next week. It features laser projection and giant LED panels that line each side of the auditorium and fill a moviegoer’s peripheral vision.The panels extract colors from the screen and project them around the audience.”It gives you a feeling of being immersed in the film,” said Shelby Russell, senior vice president of marketing at AEG and the LA Live entertainment district in downtown Los Angeles.”It makes you more engaged in the film in a very immersive way so it sets the mood throughout the entire auditorium,” Russell told Reuters Television.The Immersive Cinema Experience (ICE), first launched in France two years ago by movie chain CGR Cinemas, will make its U.S. debut on Dec. 12 at a single venue in Los Angeles for adventure movie “Jumanji: The Next Level,” starring Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Kevin Hart.Moviegoers will be charged an additional $6 for the experience, which CGR Cinemas plans to expand to other theaters around the United States.It takes a swift three weeks to convert a feature film into an immersive experience, with action films working best.”The films on ICE must be the films that have action, color and movement,” said Jocelyn Bouyssy, managing director of CGR Cinemas. “It really needs movement of the camera – ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Jumanji,’ films like that.”The technology is coming to the United States as movie theaters face increasing competition for audiences from streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+.”We do believe that providing unique experiences is a way to draw moviegoers to movie theaters, and ICE is a great example of that, and this is an experience you can’t get at home,” said Shelby.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lights Up Season

One of the brightest signs of the holiday season has come to light. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was officially turned on Wednesday night, at an event featuring celebrities including Idina Menzel, Lea Michele and Ne-Yo among the performers.The tree, a Norway spruce that’s more than 60 years old, stands 77 feet (23.5 meters) tall and was lit up in colorful Christmas lights before 10 p.m. local time.It was on the property of Carol Schultz in the village of Florida, New York, and was cut down last month.The tree was decorated with miles of lights, with a huge Swarovski crystal star at the top.It stays in place until Jan. 17, when it will be taken down and donated to Habitat for Humanity to help build homes.There’s been a tree in Rockefeller Center since 1931. The holiday lighting has been broadcast since 1951.

Tenor Domingo Blames Accusations on Cultural Differences

Placido Domingo has sought to blame the allegations of sexual harassment against him on cultural differences between countries, adding that there are places nowadays where “one can’t say anything to a woman.”In an interview published Wednesday in Spanish leading daily El Pais, the Madrid-born tenor said “here (in Spain) it’s not like that but in other places, and specifically in those groups from where the accusations come, it is.”The Associated Press reported earlier this year allegations in the United States by more than 20 women of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior. Some claimed that rejecting his advances hurt their musical careers.Domingo, 78, denies the allegations.While most of his U.S. dates were canceled in the wake of the reports and an investigation is under way at the Los Angeles Opera, European venues have supported Domingo and he has been greeted with ovations.FILE – Placido Domingo poses for selfies at the Festspielhaus opera house after he performed “Luisa Miller” by Giuseppe Verdi in Salzburg, Austria, Aug. 25, 2019.Some opera managers, notably at the Salzburg Festival and the Vienna State Opera, countered the reports by saying that the opera star had always behaved well in their venues.Domingo told El Pais he believed harassment “should be punished in every moment and in all periods” but felt rules and standards had changed.”What I meant, as a Spaniard, is that the use of the compliment, for example ‘what a nice suit you have, how well you look,’ that was something you could say 30 years ago, even two years ago.”Domingo initially responded to the allegations, saying they were “in many ways, simply incorrect” and that at the time he believed his “interactions and relationships were always welcomed and consensual.”Domingo told El Pais that he wanted to continue singing and did not rule out performing again in the U.S.”If the opportunity arises, of course,” he said. “There are some offers. Not everywhere is (like) the Los Angeles or the Metropolitan (in New York).”No ‘reprisals’ plannedHe ruled out taking legal action in the matter.”You know it’s useless. Against a media outlet you have everything to lose, and as regards the accusers, I don’t intend taking reprisals against anybody.”As I have said, I have not been accused of any crime and I don’t intend taking a case against anybody,” said Domingo.Domingo has given several interviews recently in Europe.”The accusations they make against me make no sense,” he said. “What I want is to stop talking about all of this.”

The Who Plans 1st Cincinnati Area Concert Since ’79 Tragedy

The rock band The Who announced Tuesday night it will play its first Cincinnati area concert since 11 fans died 40 years ago in a pre-show stampede.The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band will play April 23 at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena, across the Ohio River 7 miles south of the Dec. 3, 1979, concert site, where another two dozen people were injured Dec. 3, 1979, amid confusion and lack of preparation for thousands of fans lined up for hours for first-come seats.The announcement came after WCPO-TV in Cincinnati aired a Tuesday night documentary featuring interviews with lead singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend, the remaining original members of the British band that emerged in the 1960s featuring songs of youthful rebellion such as “My Generation” and its “Summertime Blues” cover.Both have said they’ve been haunted by the tragedy. Townshend recently told The Associated Press he was looking forward to discussing it in Cincinnati.“Now we can have a conversation about it when we go back,” Townshend said.“We will meet people and we’ll be there. We’ll be there. That’s what’s important,” he said. “I’m so glad that we’ve got this opportunity to go back.” The band is adding the concert to its “Moving On!” tour 2020 dates.The Who said it will donate a portion of proceeds from the Cincinnati area concert to a memorial scholarship fund benefiting students in the Cincinnati suburb of Finneytown. Daltrey visited a Finneytown High School memorial site in 2018 and the band has for years supported the scholarship effort there. Three of the 11 killed, including two 15-year-old girls who were the youngest victims, had attended Finneytown High.The band didn’t know about the tragedy until the concert was ending. Longtime manager Bill Curbishley had made the decision to have the show go on, warning Cincinnati authorities that they wouldn’t be able to control the crowd if the concert was called off.“Despite everything, I still feel inadequate,” he told WCPO. “I don’t know about the guys, but for me, I left a little bit of my soul in Cincinnati.”

South Korean Actor Cha In-ha Found Dead in Latest K-pop Tragedy

South Korean actor Cha In-ha was found dead in his home, police said on Wednesday, the country’s third young celebrity to die in the past two months amid growing debate about the intense social pressures artists face.While South Korea’s pop culture mostly projects a wholesome image on stage and screen, it has recently been marred by a series of untimely deaths and criminal cases that revealed a darker side of the industry.A police official told Reuters Cha, 27, was found dead on Tuesday and that the cause of the death was not immediately known.Cha, whose real name is Lee Jae-ho, made his film debut in 2017 and was previously a member of the five-member boy band Surprise U, which released two albums.The singer-actor had left an Instagram post the day before he was found dead, telling his fans to take care in the cold winter.His talent agency Fantagio in a statement expressed “the deepest mourning for his passing” and asked the public and the media to refrain from spreading stories about his death.Cha’s death comes after a K-pop singer, Koo Hara, 28, was found dead at her home last month. She had been subjected to personal attacks on social media.Her death followed the apparent suicide of a fellow K-pop idol star, Sulli, a former member of girl group f(x), in October. Sulli, 25, had spoken out against cyber bullying.The cases have cast a dark cloud over the K-pop craze, one of South Korea’s most successful soft power exports, and brought a renewed focus on personal attacks and cyber bullying of young stars that goes largely unpunished.The industry has also been hit by a series of sex scandals.Last week, two male former K-pop band members were convicted of sexual assaults and sentenced to prison terms.