When I was still living in Newfoundland, Canada, I took a very unconventional and interdisciplinary study program in which I was joined by a small group of young people from a large variety of countries: Bangladesh, India, Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, Brazil, Germany, various parts of Canada incl. local Newfoundland. What an experience and what an opportunity to find out and understand how this world works. There was a lot of international exchange going on at Memorial University of Newfoundland & Labrador, that remote region, trapped in poverty, who would think… I took an additional course with people from the Caribbean, Colombia, more African countries, indigenous students of Canada, more Germans (they are everywhere), when the last thing I had planned to do in Newfoundland was take another study program. Well, my body signaled a ‘yes’ when offered the opportunity. I went with it against all logic, ignoring what people were saying and thinking about me and … it changed my life and understanding of this world.
Africa. I was sitting in our class room when we used the opportunity to ask some of our African fellow students what it is like for them to be here. A young man from Ghana immediately came forward saying “I don’t like it when people ask me if I am from Africa. What does that mean, Africa? It’s a continent of 54 countries, and there are people here who believe we still live in the trees. When I tell them that I have a drivers license and owned a car in Ghana they are perplexed. I am not from Africa. I am from a country called Ghana.”
Africa’s narratives need to change…
The stereotypical image
Africa – a vast continent – has essentially been depicted as a lands of war, infestation with infectious diseases, black magic, genocide, poaching, various forms of torture, extreme poverty and deep corruption. It is used as a garbage dump and resource base for more privileged parts of the world. While there is truth to all of this, there is a much bigger picture to these histories and much greater depth to that continent of deep-seated positive high frequencies which we are not supposed to know about, encounter and share. The beauty of the African continent is incredible and so is its transformation, the sense of community and the positive force and passion of people who want things to be different.
Finding out what really is….
People are opening their doors and inviting us into their families simply for cultural exchange, mutual learning, bonding and support. This is how we create a peaceful world of physical connectedness and understanding – dropping the images provided by media, institutional narratives, governments etc., replacing them with our very own experiences. Take a look at the Workaway profile of this young lady of southern Cameroon for example. Or check out the profile of Amr who cooks meals for poor and underprivileged people in Cairo, Egypt, and is inviting you to be part of his project. Opportunities to meet Africa and find out for yourself…
There is an obvious need to personally experience, to educate and to change the narratives about Africa. There are myriad languages, peoples, cultures, ecosystems and political situations. Stability and positive movements brought forward by local peoples are increasing by the day. The legal system is used very successfully and across countries to secure the rights of NGO’s like for example here, and to secure human rights in a more general sense – something many European countries are failing to achieve right now because people are blind.
Incredible initiatives already on sunbeings.org
Check out Two Rabbits/Astradhe, an organisation which provides education rooted in indigenous culture and traditions to local Baka people … or take a look at Warka Water providing clean water and much needed community infrastructure for indigenous Pygmy people – both in southern Cameroon and both with a strong focus on empowering the communities they work with. Both peoples have been driven off their lands, marginalised, forced into completely foreign ways of life and uprooted from their connection with lands and waters like so many other indigenous peoples across the planet. Conflicts with other local tribes were created intentionally. Rights were systematically taken away. Sustainable forest life which protects and enriches local habitats was criminalised, paving the way for multinational logging and mining corporations to move in, and for poaching to proliferate. These peoples are still much endangered today but initiatives like Astradhe and Warka Water are turning the tide. We have the power and much opportunity to rewrite these histories for the Pygmy peoples, for all the other indigenous peoples who had to face the same crimes, and for ourselves and our own memory.
The International Anti-Poaching Foundation which started as a small project lead by an Australian ex-military guy who was appalled by the level of poaching in various African countries, and a small group of local previously abused women which he trained and empowered – the Akashinga – has massively expended its scope and reach esp. during the last two years. The IAPF is now very successfully operating across Zimbabwe as well as in Mozambique and Botswana, reducing poaching by 80%. It is still an all-women, community-led operation where local people protect their own lands and constantly invest into further community empowerment. In the pilot area where the Akashinga started wildlife populations have increased by 400%. An incredible initiative rooted in care, transparency, financial efficiency and collaboration in sync with local lands, waters and living beings.
These are only some of the projects we already have on sunbeings.org. To see all you can click on the ‘Archive’ button, then go to ‘By location’ and choose ‘Africa’. The archive is a great way to search our website by geographic area, or by specific types of initiatives.
If you are aware of positive projects which empower communities, support the Earth and its beings, let us know.
African histories – take in some frequencies
In remote regions…
Old ways of being and authentic traditions have still survived and are lived every day. Examples include oases like Siwa in Egypt, and remote towns of the Algerian desert such as Illizi and Tamanrasset, or the Kabylie region southeast of Algier where Berber still speak their languages and fiercely protect and adhere to their rich cultures. I can’t wait to visit some of these places and to share with you what it is like to encounter these peoples. Here natural building techniques with clay, salt and sand are still common practice, and many needs are taken care of through local production and skills.
In case you find this blog post but are not subscribed to our newsletter, these are the wonderful and impactful initiatives we have just added to the website:
Music, dance & celebration
Saved By Music Foundation (Uganda)
Building skills, confidence & personal sovereignty in street kids & other marginalized children via music & education. Founded by local ex-street child. Brass band, musical tutoring, dance troupe, acrobatics team, arts & crafts programs & in-house bakery. Standing up for child rights, influencing policy. Driving social transformation in authentic Ugandan ways. Volunteer program.
Rwenzori Child Care Initiative (Uganda)
Holistic children, youth & women empowerment via maternal & psychological support, legal assistance, environmental programs, sustainable organic farming, dance, crafts, education opportunities, microfinance projects – rooted in local culture, founded & run by locals. Promoting gender equity. Developing relationships. Child sponsorship program. Volunteer program.
ConnectIn Groups & Tiltawein Siwa (Egypt & Netherlands)
Women empowerment, youth English & IT training, quality kindergarden in remote Siwa Oasis. Transforming community, creating gender equity & reviving quickly disappearing Berber/Amazigh artisan heritage, culture & craft skills. Providing much needed education deeply rooted in local cultural webs. Close collaboration with local Tiltawein Siwa/Women of Siwa organisation. Volunteer program.
Reconnecting with Earth
Gaarú – African Earth Jurisprudence (EJ) Collective (pan-African)
Incredible movement restoring healthy relationships between Africa’s peoples & with Earth after centuries of colonial harm. Restoring indigenous rights, cultural diversity, ecosystems & traditional methods of farming, medicine, seed storing, ritual, sharing & relationship with food, animals, water & land. Combination with adopted holistic methods incl. eco-cultural mapping, silence practices & community dialogue esp. with African elders. Reestablishing sovereignty & confidence, re-learning who we are. (Full website coming soon).
Much is happening in Congo…
DR Congo – some of the most incredible flowers are beginning to bloom in one of the most turmoiled countries on this planet. Much is unfolding in a place which can feel like the heart of hearts of this planet, and certainly of the African continent. The country is home to the largest remaining regions of rainforest in Africa. It is home to forest elephants, pangolins, parrots which are too often caught for illegal trade, gorillas and so much more.
Virunga National Park, an important protected region full of life, is immediately surrounded by conflict, strong poverty and a large population of millions of people. So far the park has been defended to a large extent from militias, poachers and logging corporations, but instability and tensions are intense and part of everyday life. In the midst of all this a wonderful business unfolded – Virunga Origins. The project is part of a larger Virunga Alliance which is working hard towards lasting change through community empowerment and true sustainability.
Searching for Bonobo in Congo is a blog which harnesses and conveys the experiences of two passionate explorers, researchers and conservationists who began their work in the TL2 region of the DR Congo rainforest, right in the heart of the country, in 2007 and have since discovered new species, created a national park, developed structures for law enforcement and faced the dangers of working and living in a place which is under constant threat precisely because of its beauty, precisely because of its abundance, its significance and its frequencies. All this happened in constant close collaboration with local communities, including military staff which when protecting nature can unfold all its positive aspects, and with other conservationists and national and international organisations.
The blog offers deep insights into what it means to protect this wilderness, to support the local, indigenous hunting-farming economies, to risk one’s life over and over for years. Most people don’t even consider going to the DR Congo, or some of the neighbouring countries driven by fear of diseases, parasites, militias, aggressive corporations, poachers, etc.. Can you imagine what it means to follow the calling to protect the rainforest with all its beings in the heart of Africa? Addressing and facing uncontrolled bushmeat trade, poaching, illegal logging, etc. Feel invited to find out. Terese Hart is ruthlessly and fearlessly sharing the answers to that question on her blog. It’s a rare opportunity and again shows how local people are the major part of determinedly changing destructive influences to their communities, traditions and ecosystems.
Transforming Africa’s narratives
All the above is showing that there is a much larger picture than what we are presented with through most media. In addition to that there are projects which are specifically aiming to share what Africa actually means, through music, art and story-telling. Here are two examples in the DR Congo:
MNKF CREATIVES is an initiative focused on quality story-telling. Deep, meaningful, honest stories which harness histories of place, tradition & people are produced and shared. Training in research work, collaboration strategies, story presentation is offered – turning story-telling int an art of capturing & conveying life. The project emphasises the importance of diversity of narratives rather than the fixation on few, stereotypical images. On the website (in French) you can also find an incredible photo series and poetry.
Music Beyond, Inc. transforms the country’s narratives and empowers its communities through music. Music is brought to youth in challenging circumstances together with the financial support needed to acquire instruments, spaces etc. Music Beyond collaborates with schools to strengthen music programs, runs a women empowerment program and offers mentorship, workshops, conferences, performance opportunities and support with album production and the distribution of the music through the project’s own platforms. The women empowerment program brings out the passion for creativity and sound in local women who are driven to take their lives into their own hands and build new structures and possibilities even under the most difficult circumstances. Confidence and stability are built step by step. Life situations change, communities transform.
Redefining philanthropy – last but not least what struck me about the Music Beyond project is its re-defining of philanthropy.. When I read this word on the project’s website my body contracted as this term has been so deeply hijacked. Most so-called philanthropists create a shiny surface of charity and saviourism beneath which the destruction of the planet and its peoples is organised, sponsored and perpetuated – not so here. The founder of the program is bringing her passion for music specifically and passionately to less privileged communities to share the opportunities and support she has benefited from and which has been denied most communities and peoples across the African continent.
A movement for change
LUCHA – Lutte Pour Le Change / Fight for Change is a nonviolent, decentralised citizen movement which formed in response to the refusal of international NGOs to search for and address the root causes of chaos, violence and poverty in the DR Congo. LUCHA demands transparency, security and equity, and pushes for an end to war and conflict, the reestablishing of dignity, true abundance & social justice by empowering the Congolese people and by holding local governments responsible for their actions. The movement operates based on equal/horizontal leadership so that everyone is heard and can come forward with ideas and steps to transformation. There is a strong focus on individual responsibility.