Tuesday 29 June 2010

African heads

The most estimable Neil MacGregor will be discussing an Ife head in his History of the World in 100 Objects on Radio 4 tomorrow. I have looked at it and it is a very fine piece. Not, though, as starkly beautiful as mine

Popobawa's work done?

Well we hope so. We will have to see in club football next season whether the popobawa stayed in South Africa, slunk back to Zanzibar or became so addicted to the rear ends of the hapless England team that he followed them home. He certainly had a good run.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Tuesday 22 June 2010

World Cup

What's the French for schadenfreud ?

Saturday 19 June 2010

An explanation for England

The boys in Zanzibar -- whose football expertise was celebrated in the Zanzibar Beach Boys film premiered at Lusaka -- have come up with an explanation for England's dimsal World Cup performances so far.

They are convinced that a popobawa has somehow made its way from Zanzibar down to South Africa and has taken up residence in the England team hotel.

A popobawa for the uninitiated is a particularly rapacious Swahili vampire. Assuming the form of a bat it enters houses at night and then transforms into a devilish humanoid form and proceeds to sodomise its victim -nearly always male. The victim is badly affected -- experiencing a trance like state, lethargy and often appearing mentally unbalanced. Popobawas like to perform repeat attacks condemning their victims to a fate of nightly rapes.

In Zanzibar and other Swahili areas the appearance of a popobawa can lead to mass hysteria. The only protection against the night-time attacks is to sleep in groups out of doors hoping that the shy popobawa will stay away. The nights usually pass sleepless in an orgy of speculation about the various traits and behaviours of the popobawa. The peculiar forms of his genitalia are one of the hottest, and most exaggerated, subjects for debate.

If we hear of the England team being ordered out of their five star suites and onto chilly camp beds in the hotel grounds we will know that Fabio has taken action. It may of course be too late. By the standards of last night's performance the squad appears well under the popobawa's spell.       

Saturday 12 June 2010

The Call of the Hills

A lovely day in the Towy Valley. We are off to the Carmarthen Vans for a hike. Last time the intrepid trio attempted these forgotten mountains of Wales we got horrendously lost. As a chill October night fell we were still stumbling around on the hills. Eventually we spotted distant lights and made our way to a village. Our incompetent navigational efforts had deposited us over ten miles from our cars. A taxi was called.

Better luck today.

Thursday 10 June 2010

African Head

I have finally got my West African sculpture home. I love it.

Sadly it is not an original Benin bronze -- were it so I would not be writing this but sipping vintage Krug on my yacht moored off Cap d'Antibes. However it is a very good replica. It was reportedly made for the British Museum in the 1930s and as such has been done to the highest archival standard. The bust shows a young Oba (king) from Ife, an ancient Yaruba city. There is currently an exhibition of the genuine articles at the British Museum, which I must get to before it finishes. However I can't believe there is anything more beautiful than mine. 

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Behind the Scenes

There's a good behind the scenes account of production of the Zanzibar Beach Boys film on the Zanzibits blog here.

More publicity for African Digital Diaries

A nice piece from the United Nations Media Global news service on African Digital Diaries and focusing on Bishop Tilewa's keynote speech.

Sunday 6 June 2010


The day after the launch of African Digital Diaries I presented at the football and learning session and showed the Zanzibar Beach Boys film again. It went down very well. Expertly chaired by Harold Elletson from the UK and Mor Seck from Senegal it was a lively, varied and interesting forum. I was very impressed with the work of the Zambian EduSport Foundation described by its marketing officer Patrick Mweshi. And the session also gave me the chance to learn about iSchools Africa from the irrepressible Michelle Lissoos. I hope we will be able to collaborate in the future it was a serendipitous meeting.

Lusaka Conference

I think the trip to Lusaka can be counted a success. First the conference itself. Rebecca and the team from ICWE did a great job getting nearly 2000 delegates to Zambia from all over Africa. The conference had a really African feel and I was most refreshed that the usual poverty industry crowd had stayed away leaving the stage clear for constructive ideas and hope for the future. That is after all what the digital universe can offer.      

The launch of African Digital Diaries went very well. There was definitely a buzz around the project. Particularly after Bishop Tilewa Johnson gave us a cracking plug in his opening plenary address. His speech about the need for an African approach to social networking was the most memorable and reported of the conference. He is a class act.


We had been worried about filling our 90 minute slot but in the end we ran out of time. Our co-presenters -- Themba from Zimbabwe, Billy from Zambia and the Bishop from Gambia -- gave a really textured mix of viewpoints, styles and stories. The proof of it all came from the lively discussion that followed each presentation. We connected with other enthusiasts and that is what really matters. 

Now the challenge is for African Digital Diaries to build on this momentum and enthusiasm.

Paje Boys on Film

Gerrardi, Ahmedi, Zaharani and Maasai Juma worked wth Zanzibits and Stone Town director Ibrahim Matukuta to make "Zanzibar Beach Boys" which you can now see here along with all the other African Digital Diaries we launched with in Lusaka.

The little film shows how a passion for football can be a real driver to informal learning. The boys have taught themselves how to use computers, find a wifi signal and connect with other football fans worldwide. It's a great African Digital Diaries story and the team made a really special film. We presented it at two ELA 2010 sessions and it went down a storm both times.

I am very proud of them all. 

Thursday 3 June 2010


Kassim proudly wore the new Chelsea away shirt that Alison gave him and was very reluctant to take it off...

Rodent Cuisine

With the Lebanese restaurant, conference lunches and even the mini safari park we visited on Saturday for lunch I didn't manage a particular Zambian speciality that has been causing hilarity in Zanzibar. I speak of rats -- either skewered and barbecued or served in a stew with the local maize porridge, nshima. I think they are a regional, and a rural regional at that, speciality. Unlikely then that we found them in the smarter distructs of Lusaka. This hasn't stopped a stream of text messages from Zanzibar asking about my rat dinners.

Poor old Kassim was convinced nefarious Zambians would try to secretly feed him "panya" (Swahili for rat). On his Zambezi Airlines flight from Dar he was offered a beef dinner. He questioned the cabin crew member closely on what type of beef it was. When she was unable to be specific enough Kassim was convinced it was in-flight rodent and refused the meal. By the time he reacehd Lusaka and had come through his altercation with Zambian Immigration he was starving.