“Every strand of American music comes directly from Congo Square,” musician and trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis once said of this national treasure – the historic birthplace of jazz and Rhythm-‘n’-Blues. Situated in what is now the Louis Armstrong Park [left] in Tremé, the oldest African American neighborhood in the tricentennial city of New Orleans – at 2.35 acres, today Congo Square measures approximately half of what it was in its heralded 19th century years.
New Orleans, Louisiana [NOLA] is a major US port whose strategic location facilitates the trafficking of commercial goods between the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River system, which historically included trans-Atlantic cargoes of enslaved Africans. Congo Square was a gathering place Read More
“If you don’t own your masters, your masters own you.” On his B’Earth’Day [June 7th] in 1993, Prince changed his name to the unpronounceable ‘Love Symbol’ of his recently released 14th studio album following disagreements with Warner Brothers [WB], the label which originally signed him in 1977. It was a public act of rebellion against WB’s restrictions over him and his prolific creativity. Likening their contractual relationship to one of indentured servitude or slavery, Prince explained: Read More
Mazisi Kunene – freedom fighter, literary icon, Africa’s poet laureate, and South Africa’s first poet laureate – was born in Durban, in the modern-day province of KwaZulu-Natal on May 12th, 1930. Kunene championed African oral traditions, conveying their inherent value in his writings which were originally in Zulu before being translated into other languages. Read More
From ancient times to the present day, Africa’s collective imagination has to one degree or another been influenced by the leopard as a symbol of its cultural and spiritual potency. The black panther is the melanistic color variant of leopards in Africa, so perhaps the phenomenal success of the movie of the same name can be used as a current barometer of that potency. North, south, east, west, and diaspora – the leopard is a powerful symbol of African warriors, sages, magicians, priests, gods, goddesses, queens, and kings. In West Africa, sculptures from Ife and Benin portray the leopard as a symbol of wisdom. This statue from ancient North Africa depicting King Tutankhamun riding through the underworld on the back Read More
Queen Nyabingi is one of several likely inspirational fonts for Marvel’s comic book renderings of Wakanda’s Dora Milaje, an elite group of female bodyguards who will soon be slaying on the silver screen [2/16/18] in Ryan Coogler’s directorial rendition of Black Panther – the movie. Though fictional, Marvel’s African kingdom of Wakanda is geographically situated around the source of humanity’s genesis, which happens to be where the legendary Nyabingi greatly impacted history as well as our pathways to a pan-African consciousness. A real-life fusion of warrior-queen archetypes that arose in the ancestral Nile River mythologies of Khemet, Goddess Nyabingi’s spirit also lives in the diffusion of beats and flows that birthed hip-hop in today’s diaspora. Read More
The California sycamore in the meadow of the Topanga canyon hilltop rustled as if it had just spoken. Nya Okatsa’s back remained molded against the wizened tree trunk as the sudden jerk from Malik’s head in the cradle of her crossed legs belied the nonchalant sprawl of the rest of his six-foot frame on their picnic blanket. He squinted upwards, his eyes sorting through the noonday sun and shadow as the overhead canopy settled from the agitated mid-July gust that had just blown. Seeing the coy arch of Nya’s brows within her silhouette, Malik broke into a broad grin – unfazed by her confession that she’d been a tree-whisperer from birth. Read More
In African oral tradition we have a communication concept surrounding the power of the word to generate and/or aesthetize life. In BaNtu culture, this is referred to as Nommo. This same concept in Khemet was referred to as Hekau – “words of power” which were key to the alkhemical authority of god-as-magician. Often viewed as the female version of Djehuti (Khemet’s god of magical arts and foremost scribe of the gods) goddess Seshat accompanied Khemet’s widowed Queen Auset in guarding murdered King Ausar‘s reconstituted and mummified corpse to ensure that he would go on to become God of the afterlife. Read More
~ Posted in honor of African-American Music Appreciation Month, June 2017 ~
“The artist is meant to put the objects of this world together in such a way that through them you will experience that light, that radiance which is the light of our consciousness and which all things both hide and, when properly looked upon, reveal. The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly.” [Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss] Read More
The biggest night in show business is the annual Academy Awards show which pulls in a television viewing audience of 40 million (give or take). It’s where the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (founded in the 1920s) recognizes the merits of its most talented artists/craftspeople and honors them with a golden idol, a statue whose nick-name Oscar means ‘divine spear.’ The specter of Hollywood as an ideological battlefield where dreams and stories as cultural artifacts fight, bleed and die for acceptance in the dream factory run by mainstream [white] gods is not farfetched from the industry’s competitive, often cut-throat reality. Harsher still are the ironic implications of the Oscar award itself whose form Read More
Hwt-hr is the Kemetic version of Hathor, meaning ‘Mansion of Heru.’ Indeed, as Heru’s divine consort, Hathor is regarded as the sky in which he – as the sun god and “Djedi Sky Walker”/ Dancer – dwells. Hathor is worshipped as goddess of music, dance, beauty, fertility, childbirth, women, children and foreign lands who personifies feminine love, joy, motherhood, and nature in general. Women particularly aspired to embody this deeply loved goddess’s conjoined roles as wife, mother, and lover which gained Hathor the titles of ‘Lady of the House of Jubilation’, as well as ‘The One Who Fills the Sanctuary with Joy’.