Tag Archives: africa

Beyond Victoriana Special Edition Odds & Ends #7

This weekend, I’m rockin’ it out at New York Comic Con.  I’m there mostly doing the Day Job thing, unfortunately (though, if I can, I might wear my steampunk for Sunday.)

For anyone who manages to recognize me in my civvies, though, you’ll probably end up being filmed or photographed, if you’re looking fabulous and want to flaunt it.

In the meantime, enjoy the linkspam below. This edition features lots of interesting essays, some awesome postcards, and a video of my interview with Cherie Priest.

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#44 Magic in Post-Apocalyptic Africa: WHO FEARS DEATH Interview with Author Nnedi Okorafor

When my comrade-in-arms Jha Goh attended Wiscon this year, she asked me if I wanted anything. I only asked for two books, one of them being Nnedi Okorafor’s WHO FEARS DEATH. This isn’t a steampunk book, but I had read a bit about the setting: one with magic in a world where technology had crumbled and a vicious empire seeks to wipe out other tribes through genocide. Rebuilt societies + imperialist themes + magic = a book worth checking out. A couple of weeks later, I eagerly opened the package in the mail and read the following inscription: “I hope this novel takes you there and back again.”

“There” is post-apocalyptic Africa, in a land known as the Seven Rivers Kingdom, a land plagued by war and genocide. My guide is the strong and determined Onyesonwu, a young woman whose name translates to the title of this book. Her story, told in simple but engaging language, is her journey. Though she is hated because she is an Ewu–born from the rape of her Okeke mother by someone from the conquering Nuru tribe– Onyesonwu’s life changes drastically when she develops the ability to change into animals and even raise the dead.  Now, Onyesonwu must grapple against prejudice aimed at her because of her birth and her gender in order to master her magical abilities. But time is running short, because the Nuru armies are approaching her homeland–and a powerful magician is out to kill her.

Alongside magic powers and spirits, WHO FEARS DEATH deals with very tough, very real issues: weaponized rape, child soldiers, female genital mutilation. These topics are not sensationalized, but integrated into the harsh reality of the world of the Seven Rivers Kingdom. Nnedi also doesn’t shy away from portraying the messed-up perceptions characters have concerning these subjects too, like the poor treatment of Okeke rape survivors, who are shunned because they are “ruined.” Nnedi handles each subject upfront; the more violent scenes were not gratuitous and didn’t make me feel uncomfortable reading it, though I’ll give this book a trigger warning.

Yet Onyesonwu’s tale is much more than the harshness of her world. It’s also very much a story about women finding strength in themselves and in their friendships. It’s about sex used in all its forms: as part of violent oppression, intrinsic desire, and personal liberation. It’s about the mysterious spirit world where demons called masquerades walk the land and dragons fly in the air and tribes can manipulate sand storms (reminding me of the sand benders from Avatar: The Last Airbender). It’s also very much a coming-of-age story as Onyesonwu seeks to affirm her personal and magical identity. And the core strength of the book lies in its ability to take readers to places that are at turns dark, mythical, brutal and wondrous.

After finishing this book, I talked with Nnedi about her career and the challenges she’s faced when writing WHO FEARS DEATH.

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#38: “Sophie” Speaks–Art from Mary Sibande

Part of the “Sophie” collection by Mary Sibande

My work also looks at the ideals of beauty and femininity represented by examples of privileged members of society, and the aspirations of the less fortunate women to be like them. – Mary Sibande (source)

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#35 “Sometimes They Fight Back”: A Book Review–Guest Blog by Kevin Mullins

Sometimes They Fight Back:
A Book Review of Little Bighorn and Isandlwana: Kindred Fights, Kindred Follies

The reign of Queen Victoria, 1838-1900, was a time in which the world witnessed one of the most blatant phases of colonialism. Issues concerning empire were debated throughout British society, and the nations of Europe and North America instilled systems of vicious colonial rule over most of the third world. At the same time, in the United States, both civilians and armies were heading west and engaged in several wars with the Indian nations of the plains. This would be the final stage of almost three hundred years of armed conflict between the indigenous of North America, and the settlers who came to their land.

The view of stable colonial rule was interrupted every now and then with uprisings by “the natives”. These attacks were usually put down and “stable rule” re-imposed; however, there were a few moments when superior armies with all the training and knowledge of western civilization were beaten back by the “savages”. It is with these moments in mind that you should all read Paul William’s Little Bighorn and Isandlwana: Kindred Fights, Kindred Follies.

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Beyond Victoriana Special Edition Odds & Ends #5

This weekend I’ll be at ConnectiCon instigating havoc with my steampunk friends and helping out with several panels. On top of that, “Steam Around the World: Steampunk Beyond Victoriana” is making a comeback! I’m wicked excited to be presenting this panel again. For all attendees, feel free to stop in–

Saturday, July 10th
7:30 – 8:30 PM
Room Location: Check your schedules

And for those of you in the area, I will also be at the Steampunk Bizarre on Sunday for the steampunk meet-up. There should be some nifty artists presenting their work, so I hope to see some of you there too.

In the meantime, check out the collection of links for your viewing/reading pleasure.

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#27 The Pan-African Movement — Guest Blog by Evangeline Holland

Editor’s Note: This article was initially published under the pseudonym Sandrine Thomas. Since then, the author has requested to change the authorship to her original name Evangeline Holland.

Henry Sylvester Williams, one of the leaders of the Pan-African Movement. Image courtesy of 100greatblackbritons.com

The close of the nineteenth century saw a cementing of ideals among the African Diaspora. From history, we learn strictly about Jim Crow and the “Scramble for Africa,” which not only erases the humanity of black peoples of this period, but also pries their autonomy from their hands and paints them as victims of circumstance, or worse, passive receptacles of degradation. A deeper look reveals a surprising texture to the turn-of-the-century, where African-Americans, West Indians, and Africans exercised their rights as citizens of their respective countries while at the same time, working to forge a uniquely “African” culture on which to find strength and unity.

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#24 African Junk Artist Willie Bester’s Apartheid Laboratory

Soldier II

“Soldier II” 1994. Image courtesy of the artist’s site. Click for source.

“What I try to get behind is why it is so difficult for people to change from their old ways. It hasn’t worked out the way I imagined. People who thought they were superior before haven’t really changed. I try to find out through studying history what gives people the right to think that way. I try to find a solution, not to be disappointed, to reach an understanding.” – Willie Bester (source)

Junk art á la Mad Max takes steampunk one step away from Victoriana elegance and optimistic gaslamp cheer and one madcap dive bomb toward the realm of the dystopian. The gritty, industrial sense of steampunk isn’t seen in much art other than the tastefully rusted flash drives or the gentleman hobos with their finger-less gloves and worn-edged bowler hats. But the ideas of using found materials, D.I.Y. and re-structuring trash into art fit easily within the maker and punk tenants that steampunk has acquired.

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Beyond Victoriana Special Edition: Odds & Ends #3

I’ll be at ICON in Long Island this weekend and so I’ll be leaving a few tidbits for you to munch on while I’m out (by the way, my con schedule is easily traceable).

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Beyond Victoriana Special Edition: Odds & Ends #2

This weekend I’ll be at Wicked Faire (where will YOU be?) and so here is another edition of Odds & Ends to keep you occupied in the meantime.

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#13: Black Victoriana and Thensome

Kicking off my crazy February schedule, this week is Beyond Victoriana’s small contribution toward Black History Month.  In the United States and Canada, this is celebrated in February, but in England, this month is in October, so I guess I’m giving away my biases a bit, eh?  Now, a linkspam about African/African-American history would be easy to do. And there are many great black figures who lived during the Victorian Era who should be mentioned right now.

But instead, I’ll review an interesting book about a view of black history that I don’t hear about as often: a series of essays about the lives of both extraordinary and everyday Black Brits in Victorian England called Black Victorians/Black Victoriana, edited by Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina.

Book Description:

Black Victorians/Black Victoriana is a welcome attempt to correct the historical record. Although scholarship has given us a clear view of nineteenth-century imperialism, colonialism, and later immigration from the colonies, there has for far too long been a gap in our understanding of the lives of blacks in Victorian England. Without that understanding, it remains impossible to assess adequately the state of the black population in Britain today. Using a transatlantic lens, the contributors to this book restore black Victorians to the British national picture. They look not just at the ways blacks were represented in popular culture but also at their lives as they experienced them-as workers, travelers, lecturers, performers, and professionals. Dozens of period photographs bring these stories alive and literally give a face to the individual stories the book tells.

The essays taken as a whole also highlight prevailing Victorian attitudes toward race by focusing on the ways in which empire building spawned a “subculture of blackness” consisting of caricature, exhibition, representation, and scientific racism absorbed by society at large. This misrepresentation made it difficult to be both black and British while at the same time it helped to construct British identity as a whole. Covering many topics that detail the life of blacks during this period, Black Victorians/Black Victoriana will be a landmark contribution to the emergent field of black history in England.

Also check out her book Black London as well.

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