Kalamu ya Salaam's information blog


May 11, 2016

May 11, 2016









This is the story of three young girls.
Two are my relatives; the third is the
relative of a family friend. Each girl
was stolen from Africa and sold into
slavery in the Americas.

I consider the kidnapping and sale of children into slavery the most sinister side of slavery, if the evil of slavery itself can have a more sinister side. The reasons for kidnapping children are simple and fiendish. Children were easier to capture, kidnap and control than full-grown adults. Economically, kidnapping children and selling them into slavery made sense. Because it is so profitable this sinister practice continues even today.

All three girls survived the Middle Passage, a voyage that claimed the lives of up to 50% of the slaves taken from Africa. Enslaved as young girls, they were subjected to atrocities difficult to fully imagine. J.B. Roudanez was an eyewitness to the atrocities committed against slave girls and women when he worked as a mechanic on sugar plantations in Louisiana. Roudanez and his brother Charles founded L’Union in 1862, the first black bi-weekly newspaper in the South. J.B Roudanez provided written reports of slavery to Lincoln’s cabinet. Roudanez was cited by blacks and whites for his honesty. His accounts of girls and women’s treatment during slavery helped me understand the lives of these three girls.


By Nick Douglas, AFROPUNK contributor

Kidnapped when she was ten, my 7th—great-grandmother Nanette was born around 1715 in what is now Senegal. The French controlled the port of St. Louis, Senegal which they used as a departure point for transporting slaves captured in the area to the Americas. 

Nanette was taken to New Orleans and purchased by Claude Dubreuil. Dubreuil was one of the wealthiest men in New Orleans who at times held up to 500 slaves. Many of New Orleans’, first levees and canals were built by Dubreuil’s slaves.

Nanette had five children with Dubreuil, who also had a white family. Claude Dubreuil died in 1757. In 1763 Nanette was able to purchase her freedom from Claude Dubreuil’s son, probably through a new way out of slavery provided by Spanish law. 

In 1763 the Spanish gained control over the Louisiana Territory through the Treaty of Paris and the official end of the Seven Year War. Spanish rule included a new method for slaves to achieve freedom called coartación. Coartación established a legally binding court, arbitrated price at which slaves could purchase their freedom. 

Academics have tried to couch Nanette’s relationship with Claude Dubreuil as a continuation of the types of relationships that developed in her native Senegal. In Senegal, African women had relationships with French traders and created a class of people called signares. These signares became a class of wealthy landowners and slaveholders. Their society had liberal manumission laws, much like Louisiana’s. 

The difference was that Nanette Dubreuil was a slave and a child, not a free woman who had some choice about whom she had a relationship with. I consider her relationship with Claude Dubreuil to be an example of what newspaperman J.B. Roudanez described. Nanette had no choice but to obey Claude Dubreuil. His failure to free her upon his death in 1757 speaks volumes about their relationship. As a blood relative we need to speak plainly about our ancestors, in my opinion Claude Dubreuil, my 7th -great-grandfather, was not only a slaveholder, but a rapist.

One of Nanette’s children was Fanchonette, my 6th -great-grandmother, born in 1737. Fanchonette had a relationship with a French military officer named Charles Decoudreau in the 1770s. During her lifetime, Fanchonette Decoudreau accumulated significant wealth and property. Two of the New Orleans properties she owned are pictured in this article. She was also a slaveholder.

Pictured: Decoudreau House Today

Pictured: Decoudreau House Today

Her great-grandson was Paul Trevigne. Trevigne was an editor at J.B. Roudanez’s newspaper L’ Union, an educator at the Marie Couvent School, anti-slavery activist and Union soldier. He also signed the 1,000-man petition for black suffrage presented to Lincoln and Congress by J.B. Roudanez and Arnold Bertonneau in 1864. In 1877 Paul Trevigne sued the New Orleans School Board to stop plans to segregate New Orleans schools. He lost his appeal in the Louisiana State Supreme Court but his suit was one of the many precursors to Brown v Board of Education.

Nanette’s other daughter Cecile was the great-grandmother of Henrietta Delille. Delille, born in 1812, was the founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family, a Catholic order of free women of color. Delille was a fervent abolitionist, spoke out against plaçage relationships (contractual relationships between white men and women of color) because it was a relationship between men and women that was not sanctified by the church, and established a school and shelter for black orphans and aged slaves. Her home for aged slave women was the first old-age home in the U.S. Delille’s work continues: today the Sisters of the Holy Family are an international recognized organization that helps the needy. Delille has been venerated by the Vatican and is in the process of becoming a recognized saint.

Pictured: Henrietta

Pictured: Henrietta

The second young girl, my 6th-great-grandmother Marie was taken from Senegal about the same time as Nanette Dubreuil. She was taken to Sante Domingue, present-day Haiti. In the 1720s Sante Domingue was becoming the economic engine of colonial France. Huge fortunes were made in the lucrative sugar and coffee businesses there. Work in the sugar and coffee fields was extremely difficult. Indian slaves from the Americas were exiled to Sante Domingue as a form of capital punishment, because work there usually meant death. But Marie survived.

In 1759 Marie was a free woman of color and gave birth to a daughter, Marie Magdeleine Marcoux (aka Olibet), fathered by French planter Jean Marcoux. Their relationship was different than Nanette Dubreuil’s relationship with Claude Dubreuil. First, Marie was free. Secondly, Jean Marcoux acknowledged his daughter in her baptism record and appointed a trustee for her. 

Making a friend a trustee of an illegitimate black child was unusual for the time. Marcoux wanted to be certain his daughter did well, even if he did not live to see it. Jean Marcoux died in 1760. The trustee, Jean Louis Lefevre, another French planter, was present at her marriage to my 5th-great-grandfather Guillaume Jasmin some 20 years later.

Marie (Olibet) and Guillaume’s child Rose Coralie Jasmin would become the common-law wife of Antoine Pavageau. They settled in New Orleans around 1810 after fleeing the Revolution in Haiti and being refugees in Cuba and Jamaica for nearly 20 years. Rose and Antoine’s daughter Adele Pavageau became a property owner in the French Quarter, where she owned blocks of property before the Civil War. Adele was also an international businesswoman with interests in Haiti, Cuba and Mexico. Their son Nelson Pavageau was a property owner, tailor and chairman of the committee of 1,000 prominent Creoles and free men of color who petitioned Lincoln and Congress for black suffrage in 1864. (This was the same petition signed by Nanette Dubreuil’s descendant Paul Trevigne.) Nelson was also a slaveholder. The third young girl stolen from Africa and sold into slavery is Marie Couvent. Most of her story is recounted in her last will and testament. 

Marie Couvent was born in 1757 in Bight of Benin in Africa, or in her own words “Guinea.” She was transported to Sante Domingue as a seven-year-old. Like the second young girl in this article, my ancestor Marie, she grew to adulthood in Sante Domingue, a place known for its harshness and brutality.

Marie Couvent was the slave of François Moreau and had a child named Celestin Moreau in 1782. He was left behind when she and François fled Sante Domingue during the Haitian Revolution. In her will she calls on François and his son Jean to continue to look for Celestin. 

By 1806 Marie Couvent was in New Orleans. She was not only free, but she owned a house on Dauphine St. and Touro Street. Marie Couvent became wealthy, buying and selling properties in Faubourg Marigny, an early suburb of New Orleans. In 1811 she bought a slave named Gabriel Bernard from the Ursuline Nuns, whom she freed and then married in 1812. Gabriel went on to be a successful builder in New Orleans. During Marie Couvent’s life she bought, held and sold 23 slaves. She freed three of her slaves and left them houses and properties in her will. Marie Couvent died at the age of 80, never finding out what happened to her only natural child Celestin Moreau.

In Marie Couvent’s will she made a contribution to New Orleans that would help people of color for generations. She donated and designated a piece of property she owned on Grand Hommes and Union Street for the establishment of a free school for orphans of color in 1837. Her trust was contested by white inhabitants of New Orleans, who opposed education for people of color. After prevailing in an extended court battle, in 1848 L’Institution Catholique des Orphelins Indigents opened up. It provided free education for orphans, charged 25 cents tuition for children with one parent and 50 cents for children with both parents. It later became known as the Couvent School. 

Pictured: Marie Couvent School c 1924. Courtesy of the Office of Archives and Records of Archdiocese of New Orleans

Pictured: Marie Couvent School c 1924. Courtesy of the Office of Archives and Records of Archdiocese of New Orleans

The school quickly became the center of education for children of color in New Orleans. The school served as an educational oasis for people of color as restrictions against them increased before the Civil War. Although Marie Couvent could not read or write she helped generations of people of color in New Orleans get educations they would have otherwise been denied. 

The Couvent School was a New Orleans institution for nearly a hundred years. It was considered an incubator of civil rights activism. Paul Trevigne, early New Orleans civil rights activist and descendant of Nanette Dubreuil, was one of the teachers there. Members of the Comité des Citoyens, the group who brought Plessy v Ferguson to the Supreme Court, attended, and taught at the Couvent School and served on its Board of Trustees including J.B. Joubet and Arthur Esteves. Armand Lanusse, the Creole poet and publisher of a book of poetry by Afro-Creole writers entitled Les Cenelles served as the headmaster of the school from 1852 until his death in 1867.Their students went on to have a positive impact throughout New Orleans and the country, like the first African-American (Afro-Creole) mayor of New Orleans, Ernest “Dutch” Morial.

In 1915 the original school was destroyed in a hurricane. It was replaced by the St. Louis of the Holy Redeemer School that same year, which operated until 1993. In the 1960s and 1970s controversy engulfed the Couvent School. Many New Orleans residents, offended by Marie Couvent’s slaveholding, demanded the name of the school be changed. Today the school continues as the Bishop Perry Middle School providing free education to New Orleans needy students.

As an American who has both slaves and slaveholders in his family ancestry, I cannot deny any aspect of the history I have uncovered. Each of these three girls was stolen from Africa, survived the Middle Passage and lived as a slaves while still children. I had one grandmother who was delivered to a place where death was a near certainty; one was raped by her master. And Marie Couvent was subjected to the same treatment. Marie Couvent fled and survived the chaos of the Haitian Revolution, but lost contact with her only child. All three women survived, won their freedom and improved their lives. Two held slaves themselves, but each left a legacy that championed the anti-slavery movement. I do not know how these three girls managed to survive their ordeals. I know in the 1700s kindness, goodwill and truth did exist. And as a living descendant I can only hope and believe that they were somehow buoyed and protected by these virtues. 

These are just three of the many stories that are out there to be told and discovered. We need to look beyond the teachings of current historians that only profile the same few black Americans as examples of success and determination. These three stories should be held up, especially to young black women as a source of the powerful history that women of color have here in the United States. Each of these three girls survived the unthinkable, and created a positive legacy out of the most sinister side of slavery.

Slaves In a Cane field

Slaves In a Cane field

To learn more about people in this article …. …see
Finding Octave: The Untold Story of Two Creole Families and Slavery in Louisiana…
Marie Couvent—
J.B. Roudanez Report on Slavery—;size=1…
Free Women in Senegal— 

*Nick Douglas is author of: Finding Octave: The Untold Story of Two Creole Families and Slavery in Louisiana. Available on He also can be contacted on his blog:





 MAY 23, 2016

MAY 23, 2016




A Young

South African

Sangoma Talks

Beyoncé and

Balancing Life

as a Healer






sangoma 01

When I first asked Gogo* about the spiritual imagery in Beyoncé’s Lemonade, I got an answer unlike anything else I knew I was going to read. Firstly because it was passionate, lovely writing and secondly it was exactly like going to the source. I thought here at least is an African traditional healer who is accessible and who could make sense of some of the imagery in the visual album. When I read Nokulinda’s blog post I understood the imagery much more. I asked this young, hip sangoma, who is a former model and is now a wife and mother as well, a few questions about ubungoma* and her life and loves.

LM: What was it like when you went for ukuthwasa* and how did your family react to your calling?

NM: The practice of ubungoma has been eroded and compromised by the colonial gaze that’s forced practitioners into the shadows where things aren’t as regulated and respected as they once were. Ubungoma is also a very dynamic yet guarded practice so it’s not an easy place for a parent of a young womyn to just let their child “go”. There are many dangers and risks in the process and also in trying to reintegrate into your community and society in general. Despite all their fears for me, my whole family came together to support my intwaso*. They visited, brought water, firewood, etc. They paid for all the ceremonies and attended them (some travelling long distances to be there with me)
 My parents both are doctors and come from a long line of healers so it wasn’t a total surprise that they gave birth to sangoma.

LM: In one of your videos you have a lovely explainer about how you are this normal Joburg ghel, married, a mommy and also isangoma. It was a good way for me to see how you blend the complexities of a modern sangoma. It was a window for me to see how shamanic culture (is that the right word?) is in the every day and though extraordinary, shouldn’t be seen as so outside every day lived experiences.

NM: It would just be ubungoma – shamanic has those problematic anthropological tentacles attached to it.


LM: How does being isangoma affect your every day life as wife and mother, and how do your persinal pesin and your little ones react or not to your being isangoma?

NM: Being isangoma is a trip. Every day I encounter ascended beings, ancestral spirits and I am affected by the force of life in daily things but I have been walking this path for so long (since my teens even though I was only initiated at 23) that it’s second nature to me. I asked my husband what he thinks and his view is that all the aspects of my spiritual calling are so integrated into the rest of my flesh-life that there’s nothing unusual or difficult to it.

My kids play in our msamo (sacred family space, altar) my husband burns impepho*, we make offerings, and commune with amadlozi* (it’s called ukuphahla). Tim’s also quite intuitive and attuned  – it’s great because we connect really deeply and he’s an intuitive and supportive partner – so necessary for my path.

He says at first there were things that were initially outside of his realm of experience like me seeing spirits or channeling ancestral energies and seeing the physical impact of that, but he’s used to it now.

LM: In your blog post about Lemonade, so aptly entitled This Lemonade Tastes Like Medicine, you said we’re entering a time of healing as black women. What is this time called, according to the spirit world?

NM: There is no specific name for this time I speak of, I think it’s something that is constantly occurring, and each generation has this experience. Black womynhood is constantly being tested and undermined and every generation lives to fight and overcome in overt and subversive ways. What’s interesting for me is that black womyn are more acutely aware of this because we have sharing mechanisms and access to resources to disseminate information and our experiences at will.

LM: What is the best thing about being isangoma?

NM: The best thing about me being isangoma right now is entering a new phase of initiating other izangoma. I just got my first thwasana a few weeks ago. It’s surreal and humbling. Otherwise, I love the gifts I have – connecting with the spirit world, the gift of divination and clairvoyance. The gift of medicinal healing. It’s all amazing, being a bridge for people to access higher realms and healing.


Amadlozi – ancestors

Gogo – grandmother

Imphepho – a sacred, fragrant medicinal herb from the Asteraceae (sunflower) plant family, genus Helichrysum, species odoratissimum

Intwaso – the process of training a twasa or trainee sangoma goes through to become isangoma (healer)

Ubungoma – divination and traditional Zulu (isintu) healing practice

Ukuthwasa – the period of initiation that one undergoes in order to become a sangoma

Gogo is on a break right now and is not open for consultation at the moment.

She can normally be reached on Twitter @noksangoma, on YouTube  as well as Instagram and her website.





MAY 20, 2016

MAY 20, 2016







Khiet, who died at the age of forty-five, and who leaves behind a wife and two sons, was an expert on the unexploded ordnance, or U.X.O., left over from the Vietnam War. He was particularly skilled at locating, removing, and safely destroying cluster bombs found in the farm fields of Quang Tri, an impoverished agricultural province that straddles the old Demilitarized Zone, or D.M.Z., which once divided North and South Vietnam.

Quang Tri is a place of great natural beauty, a narrow strip of land that stretches from the curving beaches and breakers of the South China Sea, in the east, to the misty, forested mountains along the border with Laos, in the west. Perhaps no other part of the country suffered more grievously during the Vietnam War. More ordnance was dropped on Quang Tri than was dropped on all of Germany during the Second World War. The province was also sprayed with more than seven hundred thousand gallons of herbicide, mainly Agent Orange. The names of battlefields like Cam Lo, Con Thien, Mutter’s Ridge, and the Rockpile still give American veterans nightmares. The seventy-seven-day siege of the Marine base of Khe Sanh, in Quang Tri, so obsessed Lyndon Johnson that he kept a scale model of the base in the White House, and demanded daily updates on the course of the battle.

For the eight years before his death, Khiet worked for a nongovernmental organization called Project renew, which is based in the provincial capital, Dong Ha. The organization was founded fifteen years ago by a group of foreigners, including an American veteran named Chuck Searcy, who served in Saigon during the 1968 Tet Offensive. The group’s mission is to help clear the countryside of leftover U.X.O., and it has grown to employ an all-Vietnamese staff of a hundred and sixty people.

Since the end of the war, in 1975, more than forty thousand Vietnamese have been killed by U.X.O. About three and a half thousand of these deaths have occurred in Quang Tri. But thanks in large measure to the work of Project renew, the numbers of fatalities in the province have been in steady decline. While most of the victims used to be farmers working their fields, these days, with more of the countryside cleared, those most at risk are scrap-metal scavengers, who cut up rusted bombs and shells in the hope of earning a few dollars.

One day last year, I went out to a village in Quang Tri with an emergency crew from Project renew. The crew was following up on a call to the project’s hotline—some unexploded munitions had been found at the edge of a school soccer field. Such calls come in, on average, between three and five times a day. A naval shell turns up in an irrigation ditch, or a couple of hand grenades are found at the edge of a rice paddy. Perhaps an artillery round gets unearthed by a construction crew digging the foundations for a new house. Just this past week, a gigantic thousand-pound bomb, almost seven feet long, was discovered by workers digging a drainage tunnel in Quang Tri township.

On the day I went out with the emergency response team, villagers had found a white phosphorus bomb, three shoulder-fired M-79 grenades, and a 37-mm. projectile. An advance team from Project renew had carefully scooped out small holes in the dirt to expose the rusted munitions, marking the spot with colorful warning flags and surrounding it with sandbags. It was time for the demolition crew to move in. We retreated to a safe distance, someone started a countdown, a technician hit a remote switch, and then there was a dull boom. The kids were safe to go back out and play.

A couple of days later, I met Ngo Thien Khiet. He was a quiet man, with a sober but friendly demeanor. He was dressed in military-style khakis, with his name stitched in red above his breast pocket. A floppy hat on his head bore the Project renew logo. As I reported in a story for The Nation, I’d been invited to join him on a survey of a village called Tan Dinh. Surveying for cluster bombs is slow, painstaking work. Before we set out, Khiet showed me a map that represented his prior work in the area. The map was divided into grid sections, each representing a square kilometre. The sections that had already been combed over were color coded according to the findings of the survey team. Green meant all clear. Red meant cluster bombs. Blue meant other kinds of munitions.


Khiet told me that, of all the types of ordnance that still lie buried in the fields of Vietnam, cluster bombs are the most dangerous. They are a particularly devious invention, designed to inflict maximum, indiscriminate harm, and so abhorred that their use, transfer, and stockpiling is prohibited by an international treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions. More than a hundred nations have signed or ratified the treaty; the United States is not one of them.

A cluster bomb is made up of as many as six hundred individual bombs, each about the size of a baseball, which are packed into a mother pod. The pod is designed to open several feet above the ground, unloading the bomblets in all directions and shredding anything in their path. Because cluster bombs were dropped by aircraft on fixed flight paths, sometimes clearing the way for Agent Orange spraying runs, unexploded bombs tend to be found in groups. If you find one, you’re likely to find more. After so many years, they are usually heavily pitted with rust and highly unstable.

Before going out in the field with Khiet, I had to sign a waiver giving my blood type and accepting full responsibility for any harm that might come to me. A young female paramedic stood in attendance nearby as I signed. There was some gentle teasing. Khiet told me I had nothing to worry about, because in fifteen years of work Project renew had never had a single accident.

Later, squelching around a large cassava and sweet-potato field, I followed in the footsteps—exactly in the footsteps, as Khiet had carefully instructed me—of a team of half a dozen men sweeping mine detectors from side to side. Once or twice there was a loud, high-pitched squawk. Khiet would then walk over, examine the spot, and have his men flag it for examination.

On Thursday, Chuck Searcy sent me an e-mail from Hanoi to tell me what had happened to Khiet. The previous day, Searcy wrote, Khiet had received a call from one of his team members, who told him that a cluster bomb had been found. Following his usual protocol, Khiet proceeded to the site to determine how to dispose of the bomb. What happened next is unclear, but there was an explosion, and Khiet was wounded. He was rushed to the Hai Lang District Hospital, and died shortly thereafter. The colleague who had called him, a man named Nguyen Van Hao, was wounded by shrapnel but survived.

Khiet had the resources to do his work, Searcy wrote to me in his e-mail, thanks in part to a more enlightened attitude toward humanitarian aid on the part of the U.S. government, which has in recent years, with much prodding from Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, recognized a growing moral obligation to help deal with the U.X.O. problem in Vietnam. As a result, groups like Project renew no longer have to rely so heavily on donations from private funders.

It’s unlikely that Ngo Thien Khiet’s death will be discussed during President Obama’s brief stay in Vietnam. Khiet was just one man in an obscure place, a delayed casualty of something that happened a long time ago. Obama’s visit will be about the President’s “pivot to Asia,” about the new twelve-nation trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, about building up Vietnam’s role as a means of countering China’s regional dominance. The U.S. Navy wants more access to Cam Ranh Bay, which served as a major supply base during the Vietnam War, and it seems likely that Obama will lift an arms embargo that has been in place since the fall of Saigon. Some day soon, U.S. weapons may be sent to Vietnam for the first time in forty years. In light of Khiet’s death this week, it seems worth noting that they never really left.









May 25, 2016

May 25, 2016







Vietnamese woman

raps for

President Obama at

town hall meeting.

And he did beat box.


President Obama broke out his best beat box to persuade
a Vietnamese rapper to perform at a question-and-answer
session with young people in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam,
May 25. (AP)

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — People want to know what President Obama will do after his presidency. Perhaps host of Rap City?

The president was answering questions at a town-hall-style meeting here Wednesday when a young woman told him she was a rapper before asking a question. Obama asked her to perform a few bars and did a brief beat-box rhythm.

“Do you need a little beat?” Obama asked her. “Go ahead, c’mon.”

“Vietnam or English?” she asked.

“In Vietnamese, of course, but I won’t know what it means,” the president replied.

The woman complied and busted out a few bars, getting the audience of 800 young people to clap along with her. She later told the president that the rap was about people with money and big houses not being happy.

The rapper was later revealed to be 26-year-old Hàng Lâm Trang Anh, a performer known here by her stage name Suboi and considered by some to be the nation’s “queen of hip hop.”










Chris De La Rosa

Chris De La Rosa

Dry Pigeon Peas And

Rice (vegetarian)



Learn how to make pigeon peas and rice (vegetarian and gluten free) in this episode of #TastyTuesdayswith Chris De La Rosa of A classic rice dish made with dried pigeon peas, simmered in herb infused coconut milk, it’s a delightful one-pot dish.

Based on a traditional rice and peas rice my grandmother would make, but we’re doing it fully vegetarian as her recipe would include salted meats. 

You’ll Need…

1 cup dried pigeon peas
3 cups parboil brown rice (washed)
1 tablespoon olive oil (coconut oil works great)
1/2 medium onion diced
4 sprigs thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 scallions (chopped)
1/4 scotch bonnet pepper (see note below)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cups water (divided)
3/4 teaspoon salt (adjust)

Optional ingredients
2 cloves garlic
slice of ginger

More Caribbean recipes can be found at

Get my Gourmand Award winning cookbook, The Vibrant Caribbean Pot – 100 Traditional And Fusion Recipes Vol 2 @

Connect with Chris De La Rosa

Instagram: caribbeanpot

To learn more about Chris De La Rosa, you can visit











CfP: African and Diasporan

African Literature:

Imaginings, Modernities

and Visions


5-6 October 2016, Pretoria,
Deadline: 30 May 2016

Call for Papers

Tydskrif vir Letterkunde and the Southern Modernities Project

present a conference on

“African and Diasporan African Literature:

Imaginings, Modernities and Visions”

5-6 October 2016

University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Deadline for Proposals: 30 May 2016


Tydskrif vir Letterkunde (TL), a journal for African Literature, celebrates its 80th anniversary in September 2016. The editorial collective in conjunction with the Southern Modernities Project at the University of Pretoria issue the following Call for Papers: “African and Diasporan African Literature: Imaginings, Modernities and Visions”.


At the turn of the century, the former South African President Thabo Mbeki promoted the 21st century as the “African century”, a grand vision based inter alia on the prospects of Pan-Africanism, modernising (even globalising) African economies, and the homogenisation of African cultures. Fifteen years into the new century, little is heard of Mbeki’s envisaged African Renaissance, and in the contemporary imagination the African continent remains characterised by images of horror, disease, poverty and corruption. These dystopian visions are often juxtaposed with the stereotypes of the continent’s natural beauty, political dissidence and courage. Amidst it all, are the social, cultural, political and economic endeavours of Africans who are changing their societies in ways that could not have been conceived eighty years ago, when the immediate predecessor of Tydskrif vir Letterkunde was established. This Call for Papers is kept deliberately broad to allow participants to reflect critically on the various journeys African writers and cultural practitioners on the continent and in the Diaspora have travelled, and the ways in which they imagined their futures.

The broad themes of the conference entail the following:


  • Indigeneity, modernity, hybridity, diversity: e.g. the relationship of indigenous language writers to metropolitan language production practices; orality and contemporary modes of transmission and recording; genre adaptation and innovation in African literature.
  • Gender: e.g. the emergence of women writers in contemporary African literature; the thematics of gender relationships; the place of gay, transsexual and gender politics in African literature.
  • Dissidence, resistance, justice and freedom: e.g. have the abiding themes of justice and freedom evolved since the mid-twentieth century and what are the future social, economic and political struggles foreshadowed in African literature?; the rewriting of older themes of leadership and corruption, authenticity and foreignness, genocide, violence, etc.
  • States of dystopia, utopia, transformation: e.g. the politics and practices of representation in African literature; politics, war, disaster and disease; travel writing; eco and geo literary consciousness; modernity and the environment;
  • Nation, transnationalism, globalism: e.g. nation-building; myth and nation; continental and global integration, etc.
  • Imagination, desire, ethics: e.g. the shaping of imagination in Africa; is there a failure of moral imagination in African letters?; the ethics and aesthetics of interacting with African locales, people and the environment; personal and communal imaginations.
  • Themes of comparison between regional literatures, literary traditions, genre and literary expression.


  • Paper proposals for this conference of no longer than 300 words are hereby invited. The allotted time for an individual presentation is 20 minutes with a 10 minute period set aside for questions and discussion. DUE DATE FOR 2ND ROUND OF PROPOSALS: 30 May 2016.
  • Please note that the working language of the conference will be English. Articles accepted for publication in the subsequent conference issue of Tydskrif vir Letterkundemay be submitted in Afrikaans, Dutch, English or French.
  • Updates on the conference will be posted on our Facebook page , and participants are invited to follow us #TLSM2016 on Twitter.
  • Prospective participants should submit their proposals on any of these themes by March 31, 2016 to Ms Tercia Klopper at
  • Accommodation and travel: A list of guesthouses close to the University of Pretoria is available for Ms Tercia Klopper

Contact particulars:



Twitter: @tydskrif1936


The Editorial Committee

Tydskrif vir Letterkunde 


Tydskrif vir Letterkunde Editorial Committee: Chiji Akoma (Villanova U), Willie Burger (U Pretoria), Magreet de Lange (U Urecht), Isidore Diala (Imo State U), Muhammed Haron (U Botswana), Kasongo Kapanga (Richmond U), Tercia Klopper (U Pretoria), Lesibana Rafapa (Unisa), Jessica Murray (Unisa), Antoinette Tidjani Alou (U Abdou Moumoni), Jacomien van Niekerk (U Pretoria), Andries Visagie (U Stellenbosch), Alex Wanjala (U Kenya), Hein Willemse (U Pretoria).












room logo

Room’s Contest


Fiction & Poetry Contests

Open April 15 – July 15

Our 2016 Fiction and Poetry Contest is now open! Contest winners will be published in Room 40.2. The judges are Marilyn Dumont (poetry) and Doretta Lau (fiction).

FIRST PRIZE: $1,000 + publication in Room
SECOND PRIZE: $250 + publication in Room
HONOURABLE MENTION: $50 publication on Room’s website


Judge: Marilyn Dumont

Marilyn Dumont’s A Really Good Brown Girl won the 1997 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. This collection is now a Brick Books Classic and in French translation from Les editions Hannenorak Press. Her second collection, green girl dreams Mountains, won the 2001 Stephan G. Stephansson Award from the Writer’s Guild of Alberta. Her third collection, that tongued belonging, won the 2007 McNally Robinson Aboriginal Poetry and Aboriginal Book of the Year. The Pemmican Eaters was published by ECW Press, 2015. Marilyn has been the Writer-in-Residence at the Edmonton Public Library, the Universities of Alberta, Brandon, Grant MacEwan, Toronto-Massey College, and Windsor.  She has been faculty at the Banff Centre – Writing with Style and Wired Writing and advised and mentored in the Aboriginal Emerging Writers’ Program.

Read our interview with Dumont, or one of her poems here.






Compass Rose



Award-winning literary travel magazine, Nowhere, is accepting submissions for the 2016 Spring Travel Writing Contest.

We are looking for young, old, novice and veteran writers to send us stories that possess a powerful sense of place. Stories can be fiction, nonfiction or essay, but please indicate which genre at the top of your manuscript. Entries should be between 800-5,000 words and must not have been previously chosen as a winner in another contest. Previously published work is accepted, but again, please indicate this. Every submission will be read blind, so anyone can win…

The winner will receive $1,000 and publication in Nowhere Magazine. Up to ten finalists will also be published. Brush off your manuscripts or write something new and send it to the only literary travel magazine going… We look forward to reading your work!










24 January, 2016






11 Music Videos We

Can’t Stop Watching.



Blitz the Ambassador – “Running”

Ending his Diasporadical‬ Trilogía project that took us from a love chase in 1960s Accra, to a journey of magical surrealism through the ins and outs of Brooklyn, New York, the final installment of the series sees rapper and filmmaker Blitz the Ambassador in Salvador, the capital of Brazil’s coastal state of Bahia – a place with a long history of African presence and cultural influences. 

One such tradition that has been passed down through generations is that of the Yoruba-informed religion of Candomblé which plays a central role in the Blitz-directed video that takes on interconnected issues linked to race, history, spirituality, and more. “Running”, he explains, “is a story of community in Salvador, Bahia threatened by gentrification. As the demolition team make their way to an old woman’s house to tear it down, she is protected by her Orisha’s.”

Khuli Chana – “Money”

Aside from being one of the most distinct voices in South African hip-hop, with incredible staying power, Khuli Chana has recently released a string of visually stimulating music videos for songs such as Never Grow Up9 Shots, and Mahamba Yedwa/Mo Tsipe. His latest, Money, is a ridiculously catchy infectious horn-laden hyped up track with fun and playful gold soaked scenes in the accompanying video.

Kiss Daniel  – “Good Time”


Upon first listen, the direction of this song had me certain it was a Patorankingtrack…until I came across the video. A fan of both artists, I was pleasantly surprised and a little shocked that the Woju and Laye singer had not only released a song that had a title that was more than one word long, but that his husky voice had found a pleasant and vibrant home amongst a serious horn section, produced by DJ Coublon, but that he’d been just as experimental with the accompanying video. Song is so good Wizkid released his own version.

Branko – “Let Me Go”

(feat. Nonku Phiri & Mr. Carmack)

Lisbon-born artist João Barbosa aka Branko, founder of Kuduro group Buraka Som Sistema, laid down this soothing electronic experimental jam with South African vocalist Nonku Phiri and fellow producer Mr. Carmack, and shot the accompanying video in Johannesburg. 

Taken off his ATLAS project, the Francisco Neffe directed video features the glitter and glam-styled Nonku, dancers from Soweto’s Skeleton Pantsula and Orange Farm’s RealAction dance crews, and a young drag-racing carefree couple weaving through parts of the Johannesburg suburbs of Vrededorp, Old Park Station and Yeoville Ridge. 

Laura Mvula – “Overcome”

Adorned with lustrous gold jewelry contrasting beautifully with the powerful black and brown hues that fill up the screen, the video for Laura Mvula’s incredibly uplifting harmonious new song Overcome - which features stunning choreography and costuming - is just as inspiring and breathtaking as the song itself.

Jojo Abot – “Pi Lo Lo”


In her own words, the Ghanaian singer described her directed-video as “ a woman, fully alive and blossoming. Free to make her own mistakes and find her own path. She exercises her right to be Queen and assert her rull especially when it relates to her body, her temple and her soul.”

“This video for me was about expressing the intricacies of being a woman, a truly perplexing subject”, she continues. “ Perplexing in the sense that she constantly finds herself having to choose between what her wants and the expectations of the society she lives in. In Pi lo Lo, FYFYA WOTO finds herself both conflicted, but also in a space of peace in her resolve to live. In this series she takes the form of a woman but I think and hope this is something humanity as a whole can relate to. These alternating characters represent our “good” vs “evil”, “rebellious” vs “conforming” , “spiritual” vs “fleshly” sides and the continual moment of choice knowing fully well that there are repercussions to bear. The domino effect of choices against the firm resolve to defend the ones freedom to choose. 

Little Simz – “Gratitude” ft. The Hics


In the wake of the #FeesMustFall protests that brought to light the injustices and exploitation of staff and students at various South African tertiary institutions this year, British-Nigerian rapper Little Simz headed to the city of Cape Town where she teamed up with local artists and activists to both lend her support to the movement and use her platform to continue the spread of the struggle.

Juxtaposing images of Cape Town’s street youth culture with the street youth protests, photographed by Imraan Christian, scenes swing back and forth between Khayelitsha and Cape Town’s inner city, with an appearance from members of Jarrel Mathebula’s Indigenous Dance Academy that also appeared in this video.

NOMISUPASTA – “#Summerbutterflies”


Carefree and full of renewed summertime vigor, the honey sweet-sounding whispery voice of South Africa’s Nomisupasta is accompanied by visuals that perfectly embody the playfulness of this song.

Ibeyi – “Stranger / Lover”


Tussled and tugged at by body-less arms, the two sisters sing solemnly and poetically about the peculiar bittersweet mixture of loss and relief that come with the ending of a doomed relationship. As the unknown hands explore every inch of their faces, there’s a shocking intimacy in the careless feelings of these mysterious fingers.

Tekno – “Wash”

2015 was the year of Tekno. The Nigerian crooner blew up major thanks to his hit song Duro that I’m still yet to retire from overplaying. Following it up is Wash, another romantic Afropop jam slightly remiscent of Michael Jackson’s chases in The Way You Make Me Feel and You Rock My World.

Sauti Sol – “Live and Die in Afrika”


In what may seem to some of us like an overnight success story, Sauti Sol, in the span of a few short years, have gone from being one of Kenya’s most popular acts to arguably the most popular Kenyan act currently making waves around the continent. Now a household name thanks to songs and videos like NishikeSura YakoShake Yo Bam Bam and throwback hits Still the One and Lazizi, they recently released their third album, Live and Die in Afrika with the title track video filmed in their hometown of Nairobi.

Watch all 11 videos here:

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Fantastic Negrito 01



Fantastic Negrito 02



Fantastic Negrito

Made The Video

That Won The Last

Tiny Desk Contest

Before he entered last year’s Tiny Desk Contest, Fantastic Negrito was trying out his songs on the unforgiving audiences at BART train stations in Oakland, Calif. 

“I was basically a busker,” he says by phone. It was around that time that Blackball Universe, the art collective with which he still works, heard about the Tiny Desk Contest. He wasn’t keen on entering, but the other members of the collective outvoted him. He agreed to sing a song — a raw, rootsy blues number called “Lost In A Crowd.” They went to their basement with an iPad to shoot video and a Shure 57 and iPhone to capture the sound.

They filmed one take, and his videographer ended the session.

“He was like, ‘That’s it! I’m telling you, you just won,’” the musician says. “I don’t know why he was so sure even before we did it that we were going to win the Tiny Desk.”

“He just leapt off the screen,” Bob Boilen, the co-host and creator of All Songs Considered, said after the contest. “The raw and sheer power of his voice was unlike any other contestant we had.”

Since winning, Fantastic Negrito’s career has taken a leap, too. He’s played the Tiny Desk at NPR headquarters in D.C., as well as festival shows for thousands of people. He’s back in Oakland now, working on a new LP called The Last Days of Oakland.

“It just changed everything. It put what I was doing on steroids, and really shined a light on myself and the Bay Area,” he says. “Tiny Desk. There’s no way I’d be where I am right now.”

Learn how you can enter the 2016 Tiny Desk Contest at Official rules here. Happy music making, and congratulations again to Fantastic Negrito!