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Due to restructuring at the Mail & Guardian, Voices of Africa will no longer be active from September 18. We will not be updating this blog anymore, but all our content will remain on it.

Over the past few years, Voices bloggers have covered a wide range of issues: race, religion, culture, women’s rights, language, education, relationships, governance, technology and activism. We’ve shared the good, bad, strange and inspirational news from across the continent,  and told heartfelt stories of Africans who are fiercely proud of their identities. From the comments we’ve received, we know readers have enjoyed them as much as we have.

Thank you to our contributors and readers for your support. We’ll be sure to update you if there any changes to this blog in the future.


Poverty is sexist, sing seven African performers in protest

Vanessa Mdee, Victoria Kimani, Waje and Judith Sephuma sing their hearts out in a song that addresses gender inequality and poverty. (Pic: Supplied)
Vanessa Mdee, Victoria Kimani, Waje and Judith Sephuma sing their hearts out in a song that addresses gender inequality and poverty. (Pic: Supplied)

Singers Victoria Kimani from Kenya, South African Judith Sephuma, Waje from Nigeria, Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania, Arielle T from Gabon, Gabriela from Mozambique and Selomor Mtukudzi from Zimbabwe have now recorded Strong Girl to address the gender inequality that they believe goes hand-in-hand with poverty.

The song is inspired by a recently released report by ONE, an advocacy organisation that aims to fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases – particularly in Africa – titled Poverty is Sexist: Why girls and women must be at the heart of the fight to end extreme poverty.

Gender gap and vicious cycles
The campaign’s tagline, according to Sipho Moyo, ONE Africa’s executive director, is a reflection of the reality of our society. “What we have found is that the barriers that disadvantaged women and girls [face] are essentially structural, whether you are talking from a political point of view or economic one.”

ONE’s research shows that working women in the least developed countries are three times more likely to be in vulnerable employment than women elsewhere, and that in every country on the continent there are more girls than boys who are not attending school.

According to ONE’s research, only a little more than 20% of poor rural girls in Africa complete primary education, while fewer than 10% finish lower secondary school.

“In agriculture, female farmers are more likely to produce much less, acre to acre, compared to men, which is what we call the gender gap in agriculture.

“Why is that? It’s because they don’t have access to financial resources or credit, and in order to get credit you need collateral and women often don’t have the titles for the land they are farming on. So it becomes a vicious cycle of impoverishment.”

Together, an African sound
Selomor Mtukudzi, Harare-based singer and daughter of the respected musician Oliver Mtukudzi, echoed Moyo: “As women our gender already puts us at a disadvantage and we are forced to work harder. Women back home in Zimbabwe are hard-working but don’t get as much as they deserve. Women reap half of what their male counterparts are reaping.”

Mtukudzi believes Strong Girl and the ONE campaign will draw attention to the voices of women and persuade African leaders to empower women.

ONE chose to work with female musicians who have a notable influence in their respective African countries, and who would help popularise the Poverty is Sexist campaign at grassroots level.

Strong Girl is produced by Nigerian songwriter and musician Cobhams Asuquo. The music video, which features Nigerian actress Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, was recorded last month and shot at the University of Johannesburg campus. Asuquo is known for his work with Nigerian singer Asa on her hit songs Jailer and Fire on the Mountain.

“Each singer wrote her own verse in the song,” says Sephuma. “The sound is very West African but we each added a different feel to the song, which in the end brought out an African sound.”

The song will be used to promote the Poverty is Sexist campaign globally, and will be officially launched in Nigeria, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa during the World Economic Forum for Africa and the African Union Heads of State Summit in June. This year marks the AU’s Year of Women’s Empowerment.

Petition for the world to invest more in women
Strong Girl, however, is just one facet of the campaign. Moyo says the plan is to lobby policymakers so that when the AU leaders meet in June, they’ll be able to come up with a strong declaration against gender discrimination.

Policy forums around the continent will be held, where civil society organisations, women’s groups and members of parliament will hold discussions about polices that are in favour of women, and the real challenges on our continent. Policy recommendations will be made based on the major issues that arise from the discussions and will be sent to the AU.

There will also be a petition that people can sign online, that will call on world leaders to fast-track the fight against inequality and injustice by investing more in women and girls if the world is to end extreme poverty by 2030.

For more information on the campaign visit

Katlego Mkhwanazi for the Mail & Guardian

Lifaqane music festival: Harmony out of chaos

Hip Hop Pantsula. (Pic: Supplied)
South African rap icon Hip Hop Pantsula. (Pic: Supplied)

The logo wrapped around the stage pillars at the Lifaqane-Mfecane Music Festival – the inaugural traditional music event in Maseru, Lesotho, hosted against a mountainous backdrop at the Thaba Basiou Cultural Village on May 2 – read “1815 was chaos, 2015 is collective.”

The logo compares a “collective” 2015 to the “chaos” of 1815, the year that marked the start of almost three decades of turmoil and wars between Southern African ethnic groups. This period in history is known as the Mfecane in isiZulu, Lifeqane in Sesotho or the “Wars of Calamity” by the English, which effectively led to the creation of the Lesotho kingdom.

And yes, following last year’s political upheaval in the country, which saw an alleged botched coup and the subsequent suspension of Parliament, a sense of ­political calmness prevailed at the February general elections, according to the Southern African Development Community Electoral Observation Mission. The elections were called following the unrest and resulted in the current coalition government.

But implying that 2015, by way of the music festival, is a “collective” would be fairly presumptuous of Ancestral Collective, the nonprofit organisation that presented the spectacle. With a late start to the music event and some no shows, a sense of chaos pervaded the poorly attended event.

Hit and miss
Due to the late start, South African musician Thandiswa Mazwai’s pre-headliner performance was cut to 30 minutes. But in that limited time, the award-winning singer gave a rousing show and sang extended renditions of hits such as “Ingoma” to an enamoured audience wrapped in blankets and thick coats to ward off the autumn night’s chill.

As the dwindling crowd patiently waited for the final act, South African rap icon Hip Hop Pantsula, an unfamiliar face – not the festival emcee – took to the stage to snappishly announce the closure of the concert in Sesotho. With a few boos and cries of disappointment from the crowd, the first Lifaqane-Mfecane Music Festival unexpectedly shut down just after midnight.

“Police closed it down after midnight,” read the WhatsApp response from the organisers to my questions on reasons the show was cut short. If this message was broadcasted clearly to those who paid from R150 for a ticket, there would have been less anger and confusion at the event.

But with firsts, obstacles are likely to surface; making it easy to forgive the glitches that arose at Saturday’s showcase. The atmosphere at the cultural village was upbeat and performances from the musicians who did play were captivating.

Highlighting traditional music from Lesotho and South Africa, artists like maskandi heroes Phuzekhemisi and Ntombe Thongo and Lesotho-born vocalist Tsepo Tshola had audiences on a high. While local saxophonist and singer Bhudaza led his band and the crowd on a soulful jazz and gospel journey through the evening.

Heritage remembered
Lifaqane-Mfecane Music Festival is funded by Ancestral Collective. It is a new organisation “developed and structured to create platforms to create and send a strong message to our people, in particular Africans, to remember and know their history, know who they really are, be proud of and celebrate their cultures, customs and traditions”, writes the organisation’s Lekhooe Isaac Khothatso Moletsane who, according to him, is “direct descendant of the great Makgothi Moletsane”.

Makgothi Moletsane was a revered ally of the 19th century BaSotho king, Moshoeshoe I, who is buried in the area where the festival took place, Thaba Basiou, which was also his headquarters during part of his reign.

“The main focus of the show is Sesotho traditional music, with 74% of the artists being Basotho,” reads the Ancestral Collective website’s write-up on the event, as it names musicians such as Mantsa, Puseletso Seema and Rabotso le Semanyane. Using local and international music acts, the festival’s aim seems clear: to “pay tribute to a forgotten but very important time in our history, to pay homage to those who fought and died trying to protect our people and our land, and to get people to think about, research, and learn about this time in our history. Once we truly know who we are and where we come from, then we will know where we are going”.

Africa is one
And at a time where widespread ethnic violence or xenophobia recently erupted in the country surrounding Lesotho, it is this last sentence by the organisation that South Africans could take away and utilise it as a way of respecting foreign nationals as fellow Africans and nothing less.

In an interview with Hip Hop Pantsula ahead of his performance at the festival, he spoke at length about this topic to the Mail & Guardian.

“Part of the reasons why these attacks are happening is that we don’t know any better. We don’t know the true history of the origins of many of our ethnic groups here at home; and half of our families are made up of foreigners who adopted local surnames to acculturate.”

And with the festival’s intention to raise awareness around historical events of Lesotho and South Africa, it is a platform for greatness. With a rigorous marketing strategy in future and smooth-running programme on the day, the show might live beyond its pilot status.

Stefanie Jason is a senior content producer for the Mail & Guardian Friday.

Tanzanian women marry each other to escape domestic violence

Safety: Mtongori Chacha (left) and her wife, Gati Buraya, with their children. The women say their union saves them from abuse by men. (Pic: AFP)
Safety: Mtongori Chacha (left) and her wife, Gati Buraya, with their children. The women say their union saves them from abuse by men. (Pic: AFP)

It is 12.30pm and an older woman emerges from her tiny mud house. A younger woman is making some porridge outside.

These two women are husband and wife: they are traditionally married and they have children.

This practice is called nyumba ntobhu in western Tanzania. It is a traditional form of same-sex marriage. The two women share a bed as a couple, they live together, bear children in their union; they do everything a married couple would, except have sex.

In the Mara region, nyumba ntobhu allows older women to marry younger women in order to have children of their own and assist with the household chores. Women say nyumba ntobhu also helps them overcome problems of gender-based domestic violence.

Mtongori Chacha (56), who is married to a woman, Gati Buraya (30), says the traditional practice arose as a result of male violence against women.

It is also an alternative family structure for older women who do not have sons to inherit their property and whose daughters have moved away to their husbands’ villages. It offers a form of security for elderly women so they do not live on their own.

Chacha and Buraya have three children. Chacha says she decided to marry Buraya because she was unable to have children in her previous marriage to a man, who she says physically abused and tortured her.

To bear children, women who are married under nyumba ntobhu usually hire a man and pay him when the younger woman falls pregnant.

The hired man will also enter into an agreement with both women that he will not demand paternal rights to any children born out of the agreement.

The older woman is the guardian of the children and they usually take her surname.

Chacha says the man who impregnates the younger woman is paid with food or a goat.

In some rare cases, a man may return to claim a child, but Chacha says this can be avoided by choosing a man who is not known in the village or who is known to be irresponsible. These men are known as “street men”.

“I decided to run away from my marriage as I was humiliated and sometimes beaten nearly dead. At 45 I was not able to have children and I had to look for a new family to give me an heir to my property,” Chacha says while she feeds two of her children.

She says she could not accept the fact that she would die without children of her own. Her parents were rich and had many cattle so she chose to marry another woman who would give her children.

“Here, a woman will pay a lobola like any system of marriage in African culture, and the ‘wife’ is supposed to obey and live under the rules of her ‘husband’. Nyumba ntobhu is blessed by all the family members and accepted by the society,” says Chacha.

Agnes Robi (61) says she decided to pay six cattle to marry Sophia Bhoke Alex (25) after her six daughters moved away.

“She has given me one baby girl already, while we are still praying for her to get a baby boy who would take over this compound when I die,” Robi says.

It’s not uncommon for women to be prohibited from inheriting property in Tanzania. Initially, the culture of women marrying women was practised as an option for barren women. It enabled them to claim the children borne by the other woman as their own. This was a way of providing security for their old age.

But now it’s not only for those unable to have children. Some women choose not to marry a man because they say they want to avoid domestic violence.

Bupe Matambalya says she witnessed her older sisters “beaten nearly dead” by their husbands and decided that she would never marry a man.

Some villagers discourage the practice, saying it leads to an increase in the spread of HIV.

In some cases, nyumba ntobhu can be a polygamous marriage. The older woman will marry two younger women, who will both bear her children.

But nyumba ntobhu does not always save women from domestic violence. Take the case of Jesca Peter (25). She experienced domestic violence and humiliation even from her nyumba ntobhu husband.

“I was married to Nyambura, a 63-year-old woman. She had paid a dowry of six cattle and I moved into her compound. Within a few years of that marriage, Nyambura demanded that I have to look for my own food,” she says.

She says her union with Nyambura was unhappy and she was used “as a slave to just work and produce on her farm and look after her cattle”.

“She wanted children from me, which I bore her, but the relationship was unfriendly.

“We lived like a cat and dog. I was simply a slave for her,” says Peter.

She fled from the marriage and her parents had to return the cattle paid as a dowry.

Tanzania’s Minister of Information and Culture Fenela Mukandara says gender violence is prevalent in the Mara region, which is why nyumba ntobhu is becoming more common.

“When women decide to marry each other and live by themselves, it means there are extremely violent acts in that place.”

Florence Majani for the Mail & Guardian.

Channel O Africa announces Music Video Awards nominees

Cassper Nyovest is nominated for five Channel O Music Video Awards. (Pic: Supplied)
Cassper Nyovest is nominated for five Channel O Music Video Awards. (Pic: Supplied)

Nominees for the 2014 Channel O Africa Music Video Awards were announced in Johannesburg last Thursday.

Dominating the nominations this year are South African rappers Cassper Nyovest and K.O, as well as Nigeria’s Davido with five nominations each.

Nyovest is nominated for most gifted male video, most gifted newcomer video, most gifted hip-hop video, most gifted southern video as well most gifted video of the year categories for Doc Shebeleza.

Davido represents West Africa with nominations for Aye in the categories of most gifted male video, most gifted afro pop video, most gifted west video and most gifted video of the year, while Skelewu earned him the most gifted dance video nomination.

Teargas’s Caracara starring K.O is currently one of the most popular songs played on radio and television. K.O makes his nominee début as a solo artist in the categories of most gifted male video, most gifted duo/group or featuring video, most gifted hip-hop video, most gifted southern video and most gifted video of the year.

The awards take place on Saturday November 29 at Nasrec Expo Centre in Soweto.

“The quality of music videos we have seen over the past few years is testament to the way music videos are playing an increasingly important role in the promotion of African music,” says Channel O’s director Nkateko Mabaso.

“It is refreshing to see newcomers go against industry veterans in this year’s eclectic nominees list, and this proves that there is no barrier to making an impact on the music scene. The music as well as the videos produced on our African soil is of the same, if not even better, quality as that of those produced internationally and most of our nominees are no stranger to performing on global stages.”

Voting, which is free, takes place via and WeChat. Voters are allowed to vote up to 100 times on both platforms. Voting starts on Thursday at 7pm and closes on November 23 at midnight.

Full list of nominees:

Most gifted male  
Cassper Nyovest – Doc Shebeleza 
Davido – Aye 
Riky Rick featuring Okmalumkoolkat – Amantombazane 
K.O featuring Kid X – Caracara
Sarkodie – Illuminati

Most gifted female  
Thembi Seete – Thuntsha Lerole
Bucie featuring Heavy K – Easy To Love
Lizha James featuring Uhuru – Quem Ti Mandou 
Tiwa Savage featuring Don Jazzy – Eminado  
Seyi Shay – Irawo

Most gifted newcomer  
Dream Team featuring Tamarsha, AKA and Big Nuz – Tsekede 
Cassper Nyovest – Doc Shebeleza 
Emmy Gee featuring AB Crazy and DJ Dimplez – Rands and Nairas  
Diamond – Number One  
Patoranking – Girlie O (Remix)

Most gifted duo/group or featuring artist  
Uhuru featuring Oskido and Professor – Y-Tjukutja  
DJ Clock featuring Beatenberg – Pluto (I Remember)  
R2Bees featuring Wizkid – Slow Down  
K.O featuring Kid X – Caracara
KCee featuring Wizkid – Pull Over

Most gifted dance  
Uhuru featuring Oskido and Professor – Y-Tjukutja  
Davido – Skelewu 
DJ Clock featuring Beatenberg – Pluto (I Remember)  
P-Square – Personally  
Busiswa featuring various artists – Ngoku 

Most gifted ragga dancehall  
Buffalo Souljah – Basawine  
Orezi – Rihanna  
Jesse Jaggz featuring Wizkid – Bad Girl  
Patoranking – Girlie O (Remix) 
Shatta Wale – Everybody Likes My Ting    

Most gifted Afro pop  
Davido – Aye  
Mafikizolo featuring May D – Happiness  
Diamond – Number One  
Flavour – Ada Ada  
Iyanya – Jombolo

Most gifted kwaito  
Uhuru featuring Oskido and Professor – Y-Tjukutja  
Character featuring Mono T and Oskido – Inxeba Lendoda  
Big Nuz featuring Khaya Mthethwa – Incwadi Yothando  
DJ Vetkuk VS Mahoota – Khaba Lenja  
DJ Cndo – Yamnandi Into

Most gifted R&B  
2Face featuring T-Pain – Rainbow  
Jimmy Nevis featuring Kwesta – Balloon  
GB Collective featuring Brian Temba and Reason – Chocolate Vanilla  
Donald – Crazy But Amazing  
Niyola – Toh Bad 

Most gifted hip-hop 
Cassper Nyovest – Doc Shebeleza 
Khuli Chana featuring DA L.E.S and Magesh – Hape Le Hape 2.1  
Phyno – Alobam  
K.O featuring Kid X – Caracara  
AKA – Congratulate   

Most gifted Southern artist  
DJ Clock featuring Beatenberg – Pluto (I Remember)  
Cassper Nyovest – Doc Shebeleza 
AKA – Congratulate
Zeus – Psych  
K.O featuring Kid X – Caracara 

Most gifted West artist  
R2Bees featuring Wizkid – Slow Down  
Davido – Aye  
Burna Boy featuring D’Banj – Won Da Mo  
Olamide – Turn Up  
Dr Sid featuring Don Jazzy – Surulere 

Most gifted East artist  
Sauti Sol – Nshike  
Diamond – Number One  
Navio – No Holding Back  
Eddy Kenzo – Sitya Loss  
Elani – Kookoo

Most gifted video of the year  
Emmy Gee featuring AB Crazy and DJ Dimplez – Rands and Nairas  
Davido – Aye  
K.O featuring Kid X – Caracara  
Burna Boy – Run My Race  
Tiwa Savage featuring Don Jazzy – Eminado  
Dr Sid featuring Don Jazzy – Surulere  
Riky Rick featuring Okmalumkoolkat – Amantombazane 
Cassper Nyovest – Doc Shebeleza 
Sarkodie – Illuminati
DJ Clock featuring Beatenberg – Pluto (I Remember) 
AKA – Congratulate  
Diamond – Number One

Rhodé Marshall is the Mail & Guardian’s arts, culture and entertainment content producer. Follow her on Twitter: @rhodemarshall