South African comedian Trevor Noah has teamed up with the free language app giant Duolingo to help teach South Africa’s most popular languages.
Zulu and Xhosa are two of the country’s most spoken languages, as they are two of 11 official languages in the country and among the most widely spoken in homes.
Duolingo says it has teamed up with the Trevor Noah Foundation and its partner Nal’ibali, an organization that promotes multilingual reading, to create the courses.
Adding Zulu and Xhosa to Duolingo means there will be three African-language courses offered on the app. The Swahili course, which was added in 2017, has more than 363,000 active users, as reported in QZ Africa.
Trevor, who speaks five languages fluently including, English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Tswana, and Tsonga, says he’s excited that two South African languages will be offered on the app.
“Xhosa because I want to start learning it and speaking it fluently. And then Zulu, just so I can brush up while I’m not in my country,” he told Duolingo co-founder and CEO Luis von Ahn in a discussion about the new languages being added, but warned, “you’re gonna need a whole section in Xhosa just to teach people about the clicks.”
Xhosa, known as the “click-click language” is said to be one of the most difficult languages in the world for native English speakers.
Spoken in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho, Xhosa is one of many African languages that use click consonants. There are 18 clicks that get articulated in three different places: the back of the teeth, the roof of the mouth, and the side of the mouth, according to Translate Day.
In addition to Zulu and Xhosa, Duolingo announced that the Austrialnesian language Tagalog, Eastern Polynesian language Māori, and Haitian Creole will also be added to the lineup.
The languages will be offered to the world beginning in 2022.
The Tanzanian island of Zanzibar is seeking private investors to develop and manage nine of its smaller islands. According to the East African, the goal is to create high-end activities that will boost the economy and create jobs.
Zanzibar has already approved 30 new investment projects over the past 10 months. These projects are expected to bring over $172 million in revenue to the island and create more than 1,800 jobs for locals.
“This decision is based on the need for diversification to attract very high-end investors,” said the Zanzibar government, as reported by the East African. “Small islands surrounding Zanzibar are major assets that investors can capitalize for a win-win potential.”
The islands include the Unguja islands of Bawe, Pamunda A and B, Kwale and Chumbe, as well as the Pemba islands of Njao, Misali, and Matumbini.
Also available for development is Changuu Island. Commonly known as Prison Island and Tortoise Island, it is a top Zanzibar attraction that formerly functioned as a quarantine station and coral mine, and today is home to more than a hundred giant land tortoises.
Through the Zanzibar Investment Promotion Authority (ZIPA), interested investors are invited to submit proposals by September 16 for the prospective development and management of one of the islands or a plot of land on one of them.
The agreement would be a long term lease. Information provided should include data supporting the interested party’s experience and skills in developing and managing investment projects. Applicants should also demonstrate experience in environmental and biodiversity conservation as well as the preservation of cultural heritage.
The Afro-Guatemalan population is not a large one today. Although specific numbers are difficult to determine, it is reported that Afro-Guatemalans comprise just 1-2% of the nation’s people.
However, according to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, “Chronic under counting of Latin America’s Afro-descended population” as well as “biases inherent in self-reported ethnic identification, especially in a Latin American context where such categories are less diversified than in many parts of the world” allow one to deduce that actual numbers are likely higher than reported.
Buried and forgotten for almost 200 years, a cemetery of enslaved Africans who arrived in Rio de Janeiro in the 18th and 19th centuries has been turned into a museum.
Discovered in the 1990s during a renovation process of an abandoned house in Rio de Janeiro, the Museum of Pretos Novos Cemetery(Newly Arrived Blacks Cemetery Museum) now lies in Rio’s downtown area, and it is one of the most painful sites from the slavery era in Brazil.
Pretos Novos was the name given to the enslaved Africans who had recently arrived from the continent and disembarked in Rio de Janeiro. The so-called Cemitério dos Pretos Novos operated between 1769 and 1870, a few blocks from the old slave market, located in Valongo, a stretch of the Rio’s port area.
The enslaved African cemetery was built by the Brazilian government for burying enslaved Africans who arrived in Rio extremely ill from the terrible conditions on slave ships, and died in the first days after arrival in Brazil. It is said that roughly 30,000 newly arrived men and women were buried there, which makes Pretos Novos Cemetery the largest enslaved Africans cemetery in the Americas.
Merced Guimarães dos Anjos, bought the house in the mid-90s where the bones were discovered, and said that she and her husband decided to open the place for visitors, when they found out that it was a former cemetery.
“We had never heard of a cemetery in the area where we bought the house. When we found the bones, we contacted local authorities. It was doomed to be forgotten for eternity if we had done nothing to preserve the place,” she said in a documentary about the museum that was released on YouTube.
The examined teeth of people buried in the Pretos Novos Cemetery reflects this diversity of Africans who were brought to Brazil as slaves.
“Enslaved Africans came from all over the continent to Brazil. It also indicates the huge dimensions of the slave trade carried out by the port of Rio,” said Ricardo Ventura Santos, researcher in the sector of Biological Anthropology at the Brazilain National Museum. He coordinated the excavation group.
The research work showed that the bodies were thrown in ditches and burned, and the place also functioned as a waste dump, indicating the treatment reserved to enslaved Africans. Besides human bones, some belongings of the “pretos novos” were also found, like food scraps and everyday objects discarded by the city’s inhabitants.
The analysis of the site showed that the majority of the remains belonged to children and teenagers. However, the first bone found in the archeological site was from a woman, in 2017. Archaeologists estimate that she died at about 20 years old.
One of the aspects that caught the attention of the researchers was finding teeth with signs of polishing, which is the result of a form of oral hygiene practiced by many African peoples.
By analyzing polish marks it may be possible to identify which species were used, where they existed, and thus where the person using them came from. The work continues, and they are still revealing more remains and seek to reconstruct other personal dramas that are part of one of the most painful moments in Brazilian history.
The Pretos Novos Museum is open for visitors, but only for scheduled groups to ensure safety during the continued pandemic.
To schedule a visit, you can visit here.
Racism, poor education systems and lack of opportunities bring problems that Afro-Brazilians have to face during their lifetime. However, there are some who challenge this and reach heights beyond those they have dreamed about. This is the case for Ingrid Silva, a Black ballerina and activist from Rio de Janeiro who is revolutionizing the professional ballet scene in New York.
The mother of a 1-year-old girl, works as a lead ballerina with the Dance Theater of Harlem.
Ingrid Silva gained global prominence by becoming the first Black ballerina to have her pointe shoes painted in her skin color. Seen during her performances in New York, the ‘afro’ pointe shoes have become so popular, that in 2018 they were sent for exhibition in The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
But, this Black ballerina has more to offer than dancing itself. She has also become an important voice for more diversity within the ballet world.
She is the co-founder of Blacks in Ballet, created with the purpose of highlighting black ballet dancers and sharing their stories.
“Every Black ballet dancer has a different background, a different path, a different story to tell, and that’s what Blacks in Ballet wants to share with the world,” Ingrid Silva told Travel Noire.
In 2017, she founded EmpowHer NY, a non-profit organization that aims to amplify women’s voices in matters regarding various areas, while fostering female sorority.
“We are a platform that generates opportunities for education and network for those aspiring to claim their own path.”
Last May, she returned to perform “The Movement of Motherhood,” now available on video on her YouTube channel.
Silva’s story is remarkable, indeed. It started when her mother, a house maid, decided to put her in a dance school in order to take her away from the streets at the age of 8. The dance school was part of a social project located in a slum in Rio de Janeiro.
“Although I have always been involved in sports, it was there that one of the neighbors introduced me to the social project called Dançando para Não Dançar (Dancing for not being in Trouble, in Portuguese), created by Thereza Aguilar. I didn’t think much of it, but I took the test and passed. I was only 8 years old. Little did I know that, later, that simple activity would take me to the United States,” Silva told Vogue Brazil Magazine during a past interview.
It was at this Dance School that Ingrid Silva’s life changed.
Seeing her remarkable talent as a ballet dancer, one of her instructors told her to send a video to the Dance Theater of Harlem School for a scholarship opportunity.
She got her place out of 200 girls who had auditioned when she was 19.
The next step was to find the means to survive in New York. Without knowing a word in English, she had to think not only about the classes, but also finding a job. She worked as a dog walker, nanny, at events, among other occupations.
Often times, she thought about quitting. Feeling upset and frustrated, she called her mother to share her feeling. Her mother’s answer was always the same, “Daughter, there is nothing for you in Brazil.”
But soon after, things started to change for the better, after she was noticed by the director of the Dance Theater of Harlem, Arthur Mitchell. Since then, Ingrid Silva has become one of the most prominent Black dancers, with several good reviews from dance experts who pointed her as one of the most talented dancers in the US.
Now, she is committed to promoting her book in order to inspire other Afro-Brazilians to pursue their dreams.
Photo Credit: Courtesy
“Dancing was able to take me to other areas that made me grow not only as a professional, but as a human being. My book is not just about ballet. This is the story of my life, which led me to be this woman who, today, is very sure about her importance and her place in the world”, said the Black ballerina.
The book was written during the pandemic, and it is only available in Portuguese.
After winning the right to be counted as part of Mexico’s population in 2020, Afro-Mexicans are still fighting for the right to protect their heritage. In a country where roughly 2.5 million people self-identify as Black, these communities are working to pass better legislation that protects the human rights to Afro-Mexicans.
“It’s extremely important that they count us as Afro-Mexicans,” said García, an engineer in the community of Cuajinicuilapa. “We’re of African descent – but we’re Mexicans because we were born here and we built this country.”
On June 8, 2021, the Mexican Federal Congress returned a reform bill with changes being presented by the Mexican Senate Culture Commission, which was sent to the United Commissions of Culture; Indigenous Affairs; and Legislative Studies, for its corresponding ruling.
Named ‘The New General Law for The Protection of Cultural Heritage of Indigenous and Afro-Mexican Peoples and Communities in Mexico,’ the act intends to recognize the right to property of Afro-Mexican and Indigenous communities over the elements that make up their cultural heritage, which is their knowledge and expressions.
In general terms, the reform is an attempt to harmonize national legislation with international legal instruments on the matter, trying to give a seal of “inclusivity” to minorities, demonstrating the recognition and respect deserved by Indigenous and Afro-Mexican people.
“We are convinced that with this reform is an act of social justice for our peoples. That is why it is very important, because we will be able to achieve reconciliation with ourselves, with those who are different from us and, of course, reconciliation with the entire Mexican society and that this is the turning point for the regeneration and rebirth of our homeland,” Adelfo Regino Montes director of Mexico’s National Institute for Indigenous People told Reporte Índigo, a Mexican news outlet.
In June, Afro-Mexicans achieved a very important victory within the Mexican political system. The Mexican Federal Government took affirmative action to include Afro-Mexicans in the country’s legislative branch. 37 Afro-Mexicans were elected as representatives under the rules of this new program.
Afro-Mexican cultural contributions
Despite the fact that Afro-Mexicans constitute a significantly smaller segment of the population than indigenous peoples (who make up 10% of the Mexican population), the Afro-Mexican contribution to popular Mexican culture, economy and industry cannot be overlooked.
Historically speaking, Afro-Mexicans, alongside helping advance the Mexican silver mining industry and develop farmland and sugar plantations during their slave days, were vital in overthrowing Spanish rule during the War of Independence. In fact, the second post-Mexican Revolution president was Vicente Guerrero, an afromestizo with possible Filipino ancestry.
Culturally speaking, much Mexican cuisine shows rich African influence, thanks to the use of peanuts, plantain (which arrived via the Canary Islands) and tropical fruits like cassava, malanga, taro and sweet potatoes.
However, the principal African legacy in Mexico comes undoubtedly from music and dance, from Veracruz’s son jarocho style of music (of which La Bamba is the most famous example) to the Danza de los Diablos along the Costa Chica and the use of the typically Afro-Mexican musical instruments guijada (a percussive made from donkey jawbone) and bote (a friction drum).
The carnival in Coyolillo, a town in the coastal state of Veracruz in Mexico, has origins that go back more than 100 years. It’s a non-religious festival that includes parades, dance, music, and food. But what many people don’t know is that it’s both a celebration and expression of Afro-Mexican culture.
Editor’s Note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.
Here is a list of flight deals to five destinations for less than $400 round-trip this august!
1. St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
If you’re looking for a quick and easy getaway on the beach, then St. Thomas is your answer.
The island is known for its gorgeous beaches and water sports such as sailing and snorkeling.
There are multiple flights to Saint Thomas for a less than $120 round-trip this August, including Washington D.C., Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.
Leaving Orlando will get you there for the cheapest at $93 round-trip, according to Skyscanner.