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A robot directs traffic in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Last month, a Guardian article on the value of “Afrofuturist” art started making the rounds on the web’s myriad African news and culture forums. Usually the term, coined in the 1990s, refers mainly to innovative or progressive material coming out of the African American creative community—works which often fall into the category of science-fiction or fantasy categories and are thus brushed off as genre art. But the Guardian pieces did two great services to the term, by using it to draw our attention to lesser-known and underappreciated works coming out of continental Africa, and sparking discussion about Afrofuturism’s merits as a social phenomenon.

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Chibok Girls Who Escaped Boko Haram Return to School

Their return to school is a brave act of defiance against the militants who are terrorizing Nigeria

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Boko Haram’s war against education was horrifyingly illustrated last April when the Islamic militant group kidnapped nearly 300 girls from their secondary school in Chibok.

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In the Midst of the Boko Haram Crisis, Where are Nigeria’s Neighbors?

Politics and regional resentments prevail, even as the militant group becomes everbody’s problem.

Cameroonian Navy Sailors in 2006. Photo by USAF Staff Sgt. Jason T. Bailey

Almost three weeks after Boko Haram’s (belatedly) notorious massacre at Baga, Nigeria, which escalated their five-year insurgency to new levels of boldness and brutality, the Nigerian military has finally announced a massive counter-offensive against the militants’ northern strongholds. This new push by the nation’s beleaguered military will involve support and coordination with forces from neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. This cooperation is a welcome development, given widespread acknowledgement that the Nigerian military lacks the skills and resources to address Boko Haram on their own. Yet it raises serious questions as to why, despite all the global platitudes about the transnational threat of Nigeria’s foes and recognition of the state’s troubles confronting them, we’re only seeing regional support materialize now.

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Witches of the World Unite!

Witches and wizards from Nigeria to Nicaragua are forming local unions to gain political legitimacy.

Illustration by Josh Covarrubias

This summer, the beleaguered Nigerian military gained an unexpected ally in their fight against the repugnant terrorist organization Boko Haram: witches and wizards. In July, a body called the Association of Nigerian Witches & Wizards called an emergency meeting in the little town of Afuze to pledge their aid in the fight against terror, and to predict the (always uncertain) death of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau by the end of the year. This wasn’t the first time the Association, which has been active since at least 2011 and holds bi-annual national convocations, has offered their powers to the nation as a collective. And they’re not alone—all across the world, witches and wizards have joined together, not in covens or under the same teachings, but in collective action groups, promoting their own safety, resisting discrimination, and sometimes offering their united powers to the service of their nations.

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Access Nollywood, Nigeria’s Booming Film Industry

This West African nation already beats the U.S. in film production quantity, and is aggressively improving quality and global distribution, too.

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

Many people now know that Bollywood, India’s 101-year-old cinematic tradition, is the world’s largest film industry. But surprisingly, Hollywood is not even the second largest—as of 2009, that honor arguably goes to Nollywood, Nigeria’s 2,500-movie, $600-million-per-year powerhouse, the nation’s second-largest employer after agriculture. Because Nollywood has traditionally had trouble finding markets and distribution networks for its films, it’s mostly been limited to cheap, locally-distributed fare. Over the past couple of years, though, all of that’s started to change. New Nigerian entertainment firms like iROKO have bypassed the need for DVD distribution and theatres, bringing Nollywood directly to the web and making it easier for more and higher quality Nigerian cinema to reach the world.

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