Tinariwen - a Tuareg (Amazigh) band from Mali, formed in a refugee camp. Internationally renowned since the 2000’s, they won the Grammy in 2012 for their album Tassilli. Very guitar driven, stirring music, take a listen to their track Tiwayyen -
Ali Farka Toure - the most renowned musician out of West Africa and the grand old man of the desert blues, can’t not include him! He was the first musician to popularise Malian music across the world. Read more about him here.
Tourism. Triggers. Trophies.
International tourism is a significant contributor to several economies in Africa. Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Kenya and South Africa have long-established tourism industries, and the sector generates jobs and national income. In all, tourism keeps 21 million people in employment in Africa, that translates to 1 in 7 jobs. Over the last two decades, tourist arrivals have shown a steady growth of 6% and revenues have grown by 9% per year. Terrorism and political instability have been the two main things keeping tourists away in recent years. However, from data released by UNWTO, 2017 has been a record, tourists are back bigtime in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa isn’t doing badly either. In all, there were 57 million international tourist arrivals in Africa in 2017 till October, and the annual figures will probably be 65+ million. But numbers always tell only a part of the story.
Like many other things, Africa has the firsts in this too. Egypt has always been a magnet for travellers, people have travelled to the most cosmopolitan city Alexandria and to see the pyramids from all over the ancient world for millennia. Herodotus travelled to Egypt sometime in the 5th century BCE, that’s two and a half thousand years ago!
And not just North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa has mesmerised visitors for centuries too. The first safari by William Harris Cornwallis happened in 1836 in South Africa. Those early safaris were characterised by fairly ruthless animal hunting, especially of the so called ‘big 5,’ rising to unconscionable levels in 1960’s and 70’s, so that many of the wildlife species were hunted to near extinction. Trophy hunting is now a hot button topic among the African conservationists, activists and tourism pros, with arguments for and against being traded by both sides.
There are 23 African countries in all which permit trophy hunting. Obviously for a very steep fee – a lion hunting fee can vary from USD 10,000 to 35,000, and fees for elephants, leopards and the endangered black rhino can be even steeper. A white rhino involves a trophy fee of USD 125,000, and a foreign hunter paid USD 350,000 in 2014 to kill a black rhino, a severely endangered species. Not all countries will permit every Big 5 species to be taken, most countries decide on a case to case basis, for instance, Namibia permitted the black bull rhino to be hunted because the older male was likely to be aggressive towards the younger ones needed to increase the population.
South Africa is the most popular destination for international trophy hunters, followed by Tanzania. Kenya is the only African country which has banned trophy hunting in any form. Uhuru Kenyatta, the President, set fire to stockpiles of ivory amounting to some 100+ Tonnes in 2016, which was again extremely controversial among the conservation community. Some said the act conveyed an impression of placing little value on elephants, others said it was the right thing to do to stop the ivory trade and poaching. Destroying the supply may or may not impact the demand, but China, the largest world consumer of ivory, has now banned the trade in it.
Trophy hunting exponents claim that banning hunts has harmed the Kenyan animal populations rather than help them, as hunters have taken their megadollars over the border to Tanzania instead, and Kenyan populations have suffered as a result. I am not in a position to compare as I have not visited the game parks before the hunting ban, but there were ample sightings of elephants and felines in Kenya on my recent trip. However, the herbivore populations were sparser, but that was probably due more to the season (the herbivores migrate to Serengeti during the drier season) and a three-year drought situation which has decimated the populations, especially in Amboseli – I saw the plains dotted with animal skeletons there. I’m not sure how hunting fees would have avoided this situation.
According to champions of hunting, the dollars go towards conservation and the trophy tourism industry ensures that local people have an interest in preserving the animal populations. On the other side are the animal rights activists and conservationists who argue that hunting is morally wrong and ecologically damaging. Given the corruption and lack of transparency, trophy hunting continues to provide anything from a cover to a loophole for poachers. As with all things African, it’s fifty shades of grey, there are no simple black and white answers.
And my own outsider view in all this? Abhor the wanton killing of any animal to display its body parts! Killing respectfully for food by local communities or culling agricultural threats is something else – but then, that should be left strictly to local authorities and local hunters. It would avoid debacles like the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe by a foreign trophy hunter, who was duped into violating the local laws and claims he didn’t even know that Cecil was a tagged animal being used for research, apart from being a firm favourite with the tourists. Cecil was shot first with an arrow, he survived for nearly 31/2 days before he was tracked and brought down by a rifle. Imagine the agony!
I wonder what the laws permit in that tourist hunter’s home country, whether he’d be allowed to hunt/kill an animal in this inhumane manner at home, and if he isn’t, then what makes him feel it’s okay to do so in another continent? How is it okay to do anywhere, regardless of what laws permit? If you have USD xyz,000 to spare then, for goodness’ sake, give it to World Wildlife Fund or African Wildlife Foundation or any of the most excellent conservation organisations near you! Or go on a shopping spree or set up a library or blow it up however you wish, just please don’t fund wanton destruction of lifeforms is all I am saying.
From the Safaris
Books n Stuff
From the Safaris
~ Thank you for watching! ~
Books n Stuff
Ngugi wa Thiong’o (1938-) – is a much revered as well as controversial Kenyan author, a post-colonial East African writer and social critic who chose to write in English initially but reverted back to his traditional name (he was earlier called James Ngugi) and his native Kikuyu language and Swahili as he became aware of the injustices of colonialism. He argued that African-language literature was the only possible authentic route to freeing the African psyche from the legacy of colonialism.
His prizewinning novel Weep Not, Child was released in 1964 and remains popular even now. It is the story of a family drawn into the Mau Mau uprising and the struggle for Kenyan independence. Thiong’o was born in Kenya and got his first degree in Makerere University in Uganda, then went to Leeds, UK for further studies, subsequently gaining a professorship in the University of Nairobi. He was also involved with theatre and activism, heavily critical of both the colonial British and Kenyan regimes. He was consequently imprisoned and held without charge/trial for a year in the 1970’s by the then President Daniel Arap Moi. Upon his release, he did not regain his position at the University and went into self-imposed exile in UK.
Thiong’o went back in the 2000’s after 22 years to promote his book in Kenya and was received rapturously by fans, but the tour was suspended after he was assaulted by gunmen. His most famous books, apart from Weep Not, Child include A Grain of Wheat and The River Between. In addition there are several books in the African languages some of which are available in translation. Many of his lectures and opinions have been also collected into books. And he wrote a memoir based on his childhood in 2010. He currently teaches at a US university. Definitely an author on my TBR. Read more here.
Ahmed Tidjani-Cissé (1947-2015) – was a poet from Guinea in West Africa, he was educated, and lived, in France. An excerpt from his poem called Home News, written as a series of paragraphs extracted from letter from various family members and friends.
‘My dear friend, your brother was arrested
last week in reprisal
for your political work against the government
Your family is left without a head
Send me a shirt and a neck tie.’
Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2018