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Kenyas forgotten island of natural beauty and culture


The costal Kenya is believed to be where East Africa’s history of civilisation, colonisation and evangelism began. Tourists feel their journey for leisure is complete when they visit the region.

Mombasa and Malindi are the perceived Miami or Rio de Janeiro of Africa. But Lamu is the mother of them all. Insecurity has turned it a forgotten treasure and a no go-zone.

The beauty of Lamu, UNESCO World Heritage site, is beyond human imagination. The single main street town, supported by a number of two-metre-wide others, are the first attraction a visitor will always admire.

But off course, one has to be careful of donkeys as they and handcarts are the main transport in the town.

“Lamu is a small paradise on the Indian Ocean, and it has everything for research, leisure, business and even making friend,” a teacher Mohamed Osman said.

Besides being one of the oldest towns in East Africa, Lamu has two cars. Handcarts and about 3,000 donkeys are used for transportation of goods.

Lamu, about 350Kms north of Mombasa or 850Kms from Nairobi by road, is the headquarters of Lamu Archipelago, comprising  Lamu, Manda, Pate and Kiwayu and several small islands.

Historians believe the town, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, has been there from the 14th or 7th Century. Over 160-historic houses of similar ancient Arabic designs built of coral stones and mangrove timber, with ornate carved wooden doors, are some of the evidence making Lamu an historic site.

It has a diverse history of Chinese, Portuguese, Indians, Omani and others. Trading of mangroves, slaves, turtle shells, ivory and rhinos’ horns was done here.

During his visit to Kenya, US President Barrack Obama expressed his wish to visit Lamu after leaving the office.

“Lamu is a place I would be interested in visiting again, it is top on my list. I went there with Michelle after our engagement and I remember taking the dhow to fish, and cooking the fish right at the beach, it was remarkable,” Obama told Capital FM Radio.

Opposite Lamu town is Manda Bay, where the ruins of Takwa, a 17th Century holy city for Muslims, are found. All the doors of Takwa faced the Mecca. Also in Manda are the ruins of a Great Mosque and a pillar tomb, dating back to centuries.

Pate Island

Pate Island, comprising Fazah and Shanga, is one of the Swahili settlement schemes of great cultural heritage since the 8th Century. It has several historic sites, including coral walls, tombs, and three palaces.

It is in Pate where a Chinese navigator Zheng He’s vessel sunk in the 15th Century. Zheng led an expedition of 50 ships to the Indian Ocean between 1368 and 1644, and one of the ships sunk off the Ocean, in Shanga village.

Today, several facts tend to prove this theory. First, historians believe that the survivors of the vessel settled among the people of Lamu and inter-married with the local Banjunu tribe living in Pate. There are several half-cast people of Chinese features.

Secondly, Shanga village where most of the half-cast live, derived its name from the Chinese town “Shangai”.

“I have Chinese blood and if the Chinese government decides to take us to China, the way Israel took the Jews from Ethiopia, I will go,” Ibrahim Abdi resident of Shanga explained.

Culture and resources

Lamu has been a religious centre for Muslims in East Africa, since the 19th Century. It hosts annual celebration of Maulidi, in the third month of Muslims calendar. Maulidi is a significant event to mark the birth of Prophet Muhammad.

During the celebration, the locals organise series of events, including dhow and donkey races, traditional dances, art and craft competitions. Another event is the Lamu Cultural Festival to celebrate the preservation of culture and the archipelago.

“People from around the world and journalists participate in Maulidi. Hotels are normally full during the celebration, and  those who miss accommodations stay with friend,” A Muslim preacher Hassan Abdalla said.

Lamu is economically potential despite the insecurity. Tour attraction sites, Kiunga Marine Reserve, Boni and Dondori Forest Reserves, are some of unexploited resources.

However, the most important is the Lamu Port under construction in Manda. The Lamu – South Sudan – Ethiopia Transport (LAPPSET) corridor will link Lamu and northern Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia by a pipeline, road and rail.

A Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project, under LAPPSET, is ongoing and will cover about 3250Kms. The project was launched in March 2012, and a Chinese company was given the construction tender.

The discovery of oil and gas deposits in Lamu Basin in 2014, by an Austrialian company, Pancontinental Oil and Gas NL, is a milestone for the region.

 Insecurity    

Terrorism activities have left the people of Lamu traumatised and counting losses over the years. They have experienced several invasions and harrowing experiences from the fall of the Siad Barre in 1991.


“Somali soldiers fled into Kenya in 1991 after the fall of Siad Barre regime. Many people were displaced and some took refuge in Malindi and Mombasa,” Mwana Amina, from Ishakani village, said.


Amina returned to her villages years later but to find a new wage of terror – this time by the Al-Qaeda affiliated terror group – the Al-shabaab.


The Al-shabaab has caused instability and suffering not only to the people of Lamu but also to visitors. The people here live in extreme poverty with limited sources of income.
 

Access to Lamu by road

From Nairobi, Lamu is accessed by road through Mombasa, Kilifi, Malindi, and Garsen in Tana River County. The route, all the way from Mombasa, is unsafe.


Mombasa, Kilifi and Malindi are the stronghold of the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a secessionist group in the coastal Kenya. The group has also contributed to insecurity in the coast.


Tana River is also a hotspot of frequent fights between farmers and pastoralists. The parties in the conflicts use guns.


Both the Al-Shabaab and MRC target non Muslims, perhaps to instigate a religious war, but Kenyans consider the attacks as normal acts of terrorism. In most of the attacks Muslims are separated from the targeted non Muslims.


“The Al-Shabaab attack non Muslim to cause religious tension. This is a psychological war to divide Kenyans on religious grounds and to make them fight,” Pastor Francis Maina of Mpeketoni said.


The current conflict and frequent terrorists activities in Kenya intensified after the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) entered Somalia 2011. The KDF went in pursuit of the Al-shabaab after several incursions, killing and kidnapping of Kenyans, tourists and aid workers.

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WeekendLife

Dr Lame Pusetso comes to writer’s rescue

20th March 2023

Multi award winning author of fifteen (15) books, Dr Lame Pusetso has put together a platform to empower local writers. Dr Pusetso is a President and Chairperson of the Executive Board of Kasapa Society.

She is also the Managing Director of Poeticblood Publishers and an owner of an online bookstore dubbed Mind and Soul Bookstores. Dr Pusetso has reiterated her commitment to helping upcoming authors, writers and poets in establishing their crafts and capitalizing on them.

In an exclusive interview this week, she said that she has put together a platform dubbed Botswana Literature Awards, which have fourteen categories.

When quizzed on what the awards stand for, Dr Pusetso said “writing as a form of art in Botswana is a skill that many have and have always been exploring. As a publisher, I have met different writers from all walks of life and some indicating that there isn’t enough motivation to keep going.”

In Botswana and according to the writer, there has been a limited representation of appreciation of authors. This is despite their efforts year in year out.

The whole intention of these awards really is to honor and recognize the hard work that local authors put in, when doing what they know best (writing).

“This is a way of appreciating their creativity and we will be doing this across all genres. The awards also act as a motivational tool to young writers who still have dreams of becoming best selling authors. Quite frankly, their works are of great importance and we cannot afford to let that slide like that.”

Dr Pusetso emphasized that all the winners will walk away with an award, a certificate and complimentary gifts to take home. “The two winners of Best Overall Author and Best Young Author will in addition receive book publication deals which includes book distribution and marketing for a year.

She gave a clearer picture of how authors can be a part of the literature awards.

“The awards are open to every author from the age of 7, must be a Motswana, and their book should have been published before or by 2022. For authors with more than one book, they are allowed to compete with only one book for one category, and different books for different categories.”

The young writer pinned hope on institutional collaborations, in order to stage the second edition of the awards next year, saying “We believe with these awards, the different institutions and stakeholders will show interest in helping nurture the literature scenario in Botswana.”

“It will also give authors hope and light to keep writing and penning down their stories for the benefit of all. We anticipate to host the next edition in 2024 with assistance from all interested parties.”

THE LITERATURE AWARDS CATEGORIES

Dr Pusetso stressed that there are fourteen (14) categories, and they are: Religious or Faith Based Book, Poetry Book, Children’s Book, Multi-lingual Writer, Best Collaboration, Setswana Novel, English Novel, Motivational Book, Best Young Author (7-13), Overall Best Author, Best Theory, Best Online Writer, Best Media Writer (Honor Award) and Honor Award (Long Serving Best Author).

EXPLAINING SPECIAL AWARDS

Best Media and Honor Award, Dr Pusetso said are not based on submissions but nomination by the committee. “For Honor Award, we want to appreciate the individual who has inspired the Botswana writing scenario over the years and even assisted numerous authors as both a writer and a community leader.”

The Best Media Writer award is meant to appreciate a journalist who is actively taking part in appreciating and helping authors in marketing, advertising and affording them a platform to showcase their works through their writing skills.

Meanwhile, the Botswana Literature Awards will be held on the 29th April and they are partially sponsored through the literacy grant. This is a grant under the Botswana National Library Services which falls under the Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sports and Culture.

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WeekendLife

Women’s Awards hit the ground running

20th March 2023

The second edition of the much-anticipated Women’s Awards Botswana will be going down on the 27th May 2023 in Gaborone at Travel Lodge. The organizers of the prestigious awards have announced finalists, with three nominees per category.

Women’s Awards Botswana is established to empower women and celebrate them from all walks of life and across sectors. The awards raise awareness for women to be granted equal participation, particularly in decision-making positions, as one way of breaking the gender bias.

They also seek to celebrate the outstanding achievements of women from diverse industries in Botswana. Taking a closer look at the categories, He for She award celebrates and shines a light on men who stand and support women.

These are men who advocate for inclusion of women, men who stand against GBV and men who promote any service that can better women life. Her Abilities award looks into women who have shown determination to keep moving and achieve any goal they have set for themselves, regardless of their disability.

Other awards are self-explanatory. They celebrate women in arts, culture and entertainment, agriculture, creativity, innovation and technology, tourism and hospitality, community impact as well as organization supporting women.

ORGANIZER SPEAKS ON CRITERIA USED

When speaking in an interview, Founder and Director of Women’s Awards Botswana, Bofelo Zebe, said in their first edition, they had fifteen categories, which was enough for a piloting project.

“But we left out many industries or lines of work. After the event, we received reviews and suggestions, and there was an intensive evaluation that led to us increasing the categories to eighteen for this second edition.”

He said the nominees were voted in by the public, adding that the finalists were judged by a panel with the support of votes from their supporters.

When shedding light on what winners take home, Zebe indicated that there is an award trophy, certificate and goodie bags for all categories but “we are working to have financial sponsors jump on board so that winners and nominees can receive monetary incentives. We are also busy at work trying to retain our previous sponsors.”

THE 2023 WOMEN’S AWARDS BOTSWANA NOMINEES

HE FOR SHE AWARD

Desmond Lunga, Tlhabo Kgosiemang and Christopher Seagateng

BEST WOMAN IN ARTS, CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT

Ditshupo Mosoboloko, Thanolo Keutlwile and Seneo Mabengano

HER ABILITIES AWARD

Koketso Seleke, Goabo Kgasa and Mumsie Odirile

SPORTS WOMAN OF THE YEAR

Naledi Marape, Ouname Mhotsha and Keamogetse Kenosi

WOMAN FASHION DESIGNER OF THE YEAR

Montle Rantatana, Lesedi Matlapeng and Trudy Bakwena

BEST WOMAN IN AGRICULTURE

Nomathemba Masuku, Basadi Molelekeng and Keolebogile Keabetswe

BEST WOMAN IN CREATIVITY, INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY

Marang Mbaakanyi, Didintle Moreki and Thandeka Palai

BEST WOMAN IN TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY

Masego Keleadile, Wapula Matshambane and Tshepo Phokoje

YOUNG WOMAN OF THE YEAR

Bridget Gothaang, Waone Makobo and Kimberly Matheakgomo

WOMAN OWNED SME BUSINESS OF THE YEAR

Suits Africa, Nomlu Nail Bar and Sunflower Desserts

BEST WOMAN OWNED BUSINESS

Prezlin Clothing and Dawn Bell Academy

FEMALE MUSIC ARTIST OF THE YEAR

Mpho Sebina, Dato Seiko and Priscilla K

BEST ORGANIZATION SUPPORTING WOMEN

Sekao Foundation, The Fighters Support Group and Single Mothers Living with HIV

BEST WOMAN WITH COMMUNITY IMPACT

Lebopo Bulayani, Nanzelela Chaitezvi and Kebadile Wasenda

MEDIA WOMAN OF THE YEAR

Poppy Sello, Keikantse Shumba and Kedi Lezozo

FAVOURITE PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR

Marang Selolwane, Palesa Molefe and Masi Sithole

BEST WOMAN IN LEADERSHIP

Naseem Lahri, Neo Bogatsu and Lily Rakorong

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WeekendLife

AMANDA BLACK RETURNS TO SELF WITH NEW SINGLE “NGUWE”

17th March 2023
Amanda Black New Single

“NGUWE” SETS THE TONE TO HER FORTH STUDIO ALBUM

Johannesburg, Friday, 17th March 2022- Amanda Black returns with her signature mix of Afro Pop, hip hop, R&B, and deeply-rooted Xhosa influences to deliver an inspirational message of returning to self and self-love  with her new single “Nguwe” .

Available all digital platforms.

The single comes as Amanda  Black gears up to release her forth studio album, featuring new songs with her signature sound infusing R&B Soul and tribal African melodies. As she grows and discovers herself as an individual, a spiritual being and a musician, Amanda is on a journey of self-discovery. The music reflects on the better and more hopeful space she has come to in this journey, the single “Nguwe”  sets the tone and follows the theme of the upcoming album. The music is about falling in love with self , honoring yourself by self-acceptance. The overall theme and message is spiritual reconnection and trusting herself with her music.

Surfacing in 2016, that album was certified platinum a scant three weeks after its release and went on to earn Black numerous nominations and awards – including three South Africa Music Awards, two Metro Awards and a BET International Artist Of The Year nomination.

Most importantly, Amazulu’s mix of Afro Pop, hip hop, R&B, and deeply-rooted Xhosa influences secured Black a devoted fanbase that stretched right across the country. These music lovers quickly embraced her gift for telling authentic coming-of-age African stories through songs that touched on the universal experiences of love and heartbreak, of finding and losing yourself, of having hopes and dealing with fears.

But, in the background, Black was discovering that the road to becoming a fulltime artist wasn’t easy – even one marked by commercial and critical success straight out of the gate.

Of course, when she began singing in church as a child growing up in the Eastern Cape, and even when she studied Music Education at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Black never imagined it would all be plain sailing. She knew there was no guarantee that, when she boarded a Greyhound bus headed for Johannesburg, she would return home with a story of success to tell. Too many talented musicians from her home town had made that same journey but had never returned – an experience captured with poignant insight on “Bayile”, one of Power’s standout tracks.

Still, Black never expected she’d have to expend so much energy standing up for her artistic rights after she’d become one of South Africa’s most popular and awarded artists. There was even a moment when she thought, “what am I doing this for?”.  “The music industry is not what it looks like from the outside,” the 25-year-old says, with just a flash of emotion. “Becoming a singer is not what you imagine. It’s a lot harder and a lot deeper. At that time, I asked myself, ‘do you even still love music’. I truly didn’t know if I could continue to keep fighting to be treated with respect and fairness. There was a part of me that thought maybe music should just be a hobby – that I should just return to that happy place where I play my music and sing, for myself, my family and my community and it feels good.”

But, in spite of feeling helpless and hopeless at times, deep down Black knew that she still adored this thing called music; that the dream she’s always had, of doing something that can change the world and heal people, remained intact. And so she went to the one place where she knew she could move through the dark and into the light and start writing music again: home.

“My family is like my compass,” Black says, her words laced with gratitude and love. “They are always there to support me, especially my mom. Whenever I go home, it’s to recharge. I can honestly say that being there is like getting my superpower back.”

Alongside allowing her to feel the energetic power of her roots and the love of her family, being home enabled Black to make sense of the journey she’d travelled so far. She’d learnt to play and write on the guitar at 16 and, as part of reclaiming the purity of her love for making music, she returned to the instrument within the safety of home. “The sound of the guitar soothes me, and it reminds of when I would write and play music with no conditions, with no expectations,” she says. Black also began working with the beats and melodies that she has on her phone, freestyling lyrics with no judgement or editing, letting her spirit feel its way forward through singing and playing and imagining.

With a renewed sense of her creative being propelling her, Black returned to Johannesburg. There she embarked on process of making Power and establishing her new label Afro Rockstar, in partnership with Sony Music. Power is a mix of autobiographical songs – a highlight is the light-hearted “Egoli” – and others, like first single “Thandwa Ndim”, that see Black giving impactful voice to the experiences of women in the current socio-political moment.  The album features several love songs including “Lemme Go” and “Love Again”, and includes the stunning “Hamba”, a song about being thirsty for life, love, hope and happiness that features a chorus sampled from Margaret Singana’s “Hamba Bhekile” off “Shaka Zulu”.

Power sees Black once more working with producer Christer Kobedi and the album also has a special collaboration with keyboardist and producer, Kenneth Crouch. In the end, it’s an album of inspiration, of motivation and of integrity. As the next musical calling card of a South African global artist in-the-making, it’s breath-taking and is poised to bring Black back to where she belongs: performing  beautiful music for music lovers everywhere

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