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No Man’s Land – Kenya’s Women-Only Village

Umoja is literally a no man’s land in Kenya – a matriarchal refuge where men are not allowed. The village, founded 25 years ago by Rebecca Lolosoli, is meant to be a safe haven for women and girls who want to escape abuse in the otherwise patriarchal society of the Samburu people, in northern Kenya.

Rebecca, a member of the Samburu tribe, now serves as the chief matriarch of ‘Umoja Usau Women’s Village’. Having witnessed occasional violence as a child, she slowly came to the conclusion that some of the traditional Samburu practices were inherently abusive towards women. So she began to speak out against these practices, in favour of widows, orphans, and victims of rape, female genital cutting, and forced marriage.

Rebecca’s outspoken attitude was met with a lot of resistance. Things got out of hand when she spoke up for a few women who were raped by British soldiers training nearby. Men in her village beat her up, and her husband did not protest on her behalf. So in 1990, she led a female exodus and started her own village.

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These Burgers Are Made of Flies and They Are Amazingly Nutritious

Every year, during the rainy season, trillions of midges – small flies – rise from the water of Lake Victoria, in Africa, and fly in giant swarms that are said to be so dense they can suffocate a person. However, for the people living on the shores of the great lake, they are just a welcome source of protein.

Some bird species migrate to Lake Victoria during the rainy season so they can take advantage of this free feast. The flies create a sort of constantly buzzing living smog and cover every available surface as they break off from their mating ritual. But no matter how many of them are gobbled up by birds and other natural predators, there are always more than enough for the locals. As disgusting as eating flies may seem, the reality is they make up a huge quantity of biomass equivalent with large herds of big game. People living on the shores of Lake Victoria simply can’t ignore the nutritious protein flying all around them, so they catch the flies and cook them as charcoal-black fly burgers.

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Uganda’s Famous Rap-orters ‘Spit’ the News to Hip-Hop Beats

In a bid to get African youth interested in current affairs, Newz Beat, a Ugandan original news program features ‘rap-orters’ who rap headlines to hip hop beats.

Hip-hop is probably the last thing you’d expect to hear when listening to a news bulletin, which is exactly what makes Newz Beat so intriguing. Yahoo news reports that the show is quite relevant in Uganda, where the press faces lots of problems with censorship, and the youth aren’t too interested in what’s happening around them. A program that features ‘rap-orters’ instead of traditional anchors is actually quite refreshing.

The offbeat show consists of five-minute episodes aired every Saturday on NTV, just before the station’s traditional news bulletin. Each episode covers about four regional and international stories and is recorded in both English and the local language, Luganda. The show is broadcast on air, but since over 90% of Ugandan households don’t have electricity, Newz Beat is also distributed through video halls, where people can get together and watch it.

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The Real Planet of the Apes – The Liberian Island Inhabited by Chimpanzees Formerly Used in Animal Testing

Believe it or not, a real-life Planet of the Apes does exist in an isolated area located deep in the jungles of West Africa. It’s home to dozens of retired laboratory chimpanzees who were at one point used for medical research. These chimps are practically heroes – they’ve managed to survive disease, two civil wars and numerous medical tests and experiments.

The apes are former residents of The Liberian Institute of Biomedical Research (Vilab II) which played a pivotal role in developing treatments for ailments such as Hepatitis during the 1970s. It was shut down in the mid-2000s due to growing pressure from animal rights activists, and the apes were transferred to a remote Liberian island in the middle of Farmington River, to live a life of quiet retirement.

The island – known to locals as ‘Monkey Island’ – is home to over 60 chimps who only allow familiar caretakers to approach its shores. Their story was covered in a short documentary film called Island of the Apes made to promote the 2014 film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

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Ghana’s Hilariously Awful Hand-Drawn Movie Posters

The West African nation of Ghana is home to a subculture of artists who create outlandish versions of popular Hollywood movie posters. The art form was at its peak in the nation during the 1980s and 1990s, commonly referred to as the ‘Golden Age of Movie Posters’. During this time, artists would let their imagination run wild in order to create posters that would never fail to draw audiences to Africa’s dilapidated cinema halls. So they used their artistic license to add weapons, scenes and characters that didn’t even exist in the original movie!

The art form began to lose momentum in the 2000s, when Ghanaians purchased their own TVs and VCRs, causing several movie houses to close down. But over time, the lurid hand-painted posters have only increased in value. In fact, several Western art collectors are willing to pay thousands of dollars for them. Some of the artists who have been out of work for several years are now finding a new lease of life in reproducing posters of more recent movies for art aficionados.

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Welcome to Ifrane, Africa’s Little Switzerland

Ifrane is a small town and ski resort in Morocco, famous for its European style and its similarity to the tourist haven of Switzerland. Developed by the French in the 1930s, Ifrane is so reminiscent of the Swiss Alps that it is fondly referred to as ‘Africa’s Little Switzerland’.

The town is located at an altitude of 5,460 feet above sea level in the Middle Atlas region. Its neat red-roofed houses, blooming flower beds, lake-studded parks, and snowbound winters present a huge contrast to Morocco’s narrow, maze like streets and old, earth-colored buildings. It is truly a wonder that such lush greenery, cedar and oak forests, and pasturelands can even exist in the midst of the hot and dry climate of the region.

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African City Replaces Traffic Lights with Intimidating Robots

The intersection of Boulevard Triomphal and Huileries Avenue in Kinshasa, Congo, has two new additions – robot traffic policemen. These large robocops have replaced human police officers and traffic lights, and, believe it or not, they’re actually doing a great job.

At first glance, the robocops don’t look like much. They appear to be rudimentary tin boxes with attached tin hands. I’d say they have a scarecrow-like effect. But commuters have responded surprisingly well to the latest technology.

Demouto Motumbo, a resident of Kinshasa, said: “As a motorcyclist I’m very happy with the robot’s work. Because when traffic police control the cars here there’s still a lot of traffic. But since the robot arrived, we see truly that the commuters are respectful.”

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Meet Yacouba Sawadogo – The Man Who Stopped the Desert

Yacouba Sawadogo is an exceptional man – he single-handedly managed to solve a crisis that even scientists and development organizations could not. The simple old farmer’s re-forestation and soil conservation techniques are so effective they’ve helped turn the tide in the fight against the desertification of the harsh lands in northern Burkina Faso.

Over-farming, over-grazing and over population have, over the years, resulted in heavy soil erosion and drying in this landlocked West African nation. Although national and international researchers tried to fix the grave situation, it really didn’t really make much of a difference. Until Yacouba decided to take matters into his own hands in 1980.

Yacouba’s methods were so odd that his fellow farmers ridiculed him. But when his techniques successfully regenerated the forest, they were forced to sit up and take notice. Yacouba revived an ancient African farming practice called ‘zai’, which led to forest growth and increased soil quality.

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Fadiouth – A Unique Island Made Almost Entirely of Clam Shells

Joal-Fadiouth is a small fishing village located at the far end of Petite Côte – a stretch of coast in Senegal. Joal is situated on the mainland and Fadiouth is an island just off the coast.  A narrow, 400-meter wooden bridge links the two areas. Fadiouth is special – it is almost entirely covered with clam shells.

For centuries, the inhabitants of Fadiouth have been harvesting molluscs. They scoop out the meat and use the shells to construct almost everything, even the island itself. The millions of seashells accumulated over the years have been held strong by the roots of mangroves, reeds and giant baobabs. Empty shells litter the streets; you can hardly step anywhere on Fadiouth Island without hearing a cracking sound from under your feet.

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Say What? The Clicking Languages of South Africa

I had heard of African names with clicks before, like ǂXóõ, ǂHõã and !Kung, but I thought they were limited to just a few words. Now, after some research, I’ve realized that clicks are used quite extensively in many South African languages.

If you’re having trouble understanding the click and its use, think of it this way – it’s just like any other consonant used in the English language.

The credit for introducing clicks to a worldwide audience goes to singer Miriam Makeba, whose life has been celebrated on Google’s Doodles this year. In her 1957 hit single, Pata Pata, you can clearly hear clicks in the lyrics. “Everywhere we go, people often ask me, ‘How do you make that noise?’” she said during an interview in 1979. “It used to offend me because it isn’t a noise. It’s my language,” she clarified.

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Slum-Like African Resort Gives Rich Tourists a Taste of Hard Life

A Shanty is a small hut made out of old corrugated iron sheets or other waterproof material. It is a place of dwelling for the poor, often lacking in basic amenities like electricity or running water. To be living in one, you’d have to be going through an extremely rough patch in life.

Except of course, when your shanty is located in Shanty Town, and you’re just playing ‘poor’. Yes, as bizarre as it sounds, there are people in this world who think playing poor is a fun sport. And resorts like Shanty Town exist to help them achieve the experience.

Shanty Town is a part of Emoya Estate, a South African five-star luxury game reserve and spa. It comes equipped with corrugated metal huts that can accommodate up to 52 guests. Over here, the rich get to live like the poor. But no, not entirely like the poor. The environment is safe and the shanties are equipped with conveniences like running water, electricity and Wi-Fi. The interiors aren’t too bad either – the beds look clean and comfortable, there are refrigerators, televisions, tables, chairs and cabinets. Oh, and did I mention under-floor heating? Yes, they have that too.

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Seeing Double in Nigeria’s Land of Twins

It may seem like you’re seeing double, but what you’re really looking at is twins, and lots of them! Welcome to Igbo-Obra, a farming community in the southwestern part of Nigeria, which proudly calls itself “the Nation’s Home of Twins”. The name is very appropriate because, as community leader Olayide Akinyemi states “there is hardly a family here without a set of twins.” The man knows what he’s talking about: he himself had 3 sets of twins and his own grandfather had 10 sets.

West Africa has the highest incidence of twins in the world, and this is especially true for the Yoruba people of Igbo-Obra, 5% of births being twins. It may not seem like a lot, but considering that the percentage is 1.2 in Western European countries and just 0.8 in Japan, it really is pretty unusual. Are they doing something special that makes women give birth to twins? Well, not really, except maybe eat lots of yams, like most other West Africans. It’s believed that yams contain a herbal equivalent of estrogen, called phytoestrogen, that may stimulate the ovaries to each produce an egg. Despite many people being skeptical about this theory, Akin Odukogble, gynecologist, claims that there are studies supporting the yam theory. However, there is no medical evidence to connect eating yams to having twins. The chief nursing officer at the Muyibi Yomi hospital believes that the explanation for so many birth twins is genetics: “if a family has a history of multiple births, this will continue from generation to generation”.

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Share Breakfast with the Long Necks at Giraffe Manor

How do you talk to a Giraffe face-to-face? By peeking out of the top-floor window of a very high house, of course. That’s exactly what the owners of Giraffe Manor, in Kenya, do. And you could too, if you went to spend a few nights in one of the 6 rooms of the old manor turned hotel.

The residents of this unique tourist attraction are the Carr-Hartley family, along with eight Rothschild giraffes, one of the rarest subspecies on the planet. The English-style manor was built in the colonial era and is part of a 140-acre estate in the shadow of Kenya’s Mount Kilimanjaro. Tanya and Mikey Carr-Hartley, both 41, grew up close to the house in Nairobi when they were children and always dreamed of owning it someday. So once they started a family of their own and the house came up for sale, they jumped at the opportunity. Since Michael’s family has been involved in the protection of animals for several generations, they do not mind taking care of the endangered giraffes. In fact, they love it.

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The Incredible Story of Tippi Degre, a Real Life Mowgli

Mowgli has always been one of the most-loved characters from children’s literature. I loved the Jungle Book cartoon movie when I was a kid and I must say it is a favorite even today. So when I heard about this real-life Mowgli character, I was fascinated.

Folklore and fairy-tales always mention that wild animals do not hurt the young ones of any species. But that theory hasn’t exactly been tested out in the real world, and there have been cases where babies were reportedly killed by man-eating lions or tigers. But that’s what makes Tippi Degre’s story that more special. Now 23 years old, Tippi is the only child of French wildlife photographer parents, Alain Degre and Sylvie Robert. Her parents’profession and their work in Africa made the young girl’s childhood unique, giving her the opportunity to interact with wild animals in incredible ways. She was named after actress Tippi Hedren, who is said to have kept fully-grown lions as pets in her home, and little Tippi was no different from her namesake, demonstrating early on the ability to form unusual bonds with the creatures of the wild.

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The Sacred Antogo Fishing Ritual, or How to Catch All the Fish in a Lake in 15 Minutes

Just beneath the village of Bamba, in the Northern part of Dogon country in Mali, lies a small, yet sacred lake, where fishing is permitted only once a year – during the unique ritual called Antogo.

In the past, Bamba is said to have been covered in lush green forests. The lake, which is considered to be sacred and populated with good spirits, used to offer tons of fish that contributed to local food requirements. But with changes in climate, desertification, and the passage of time, the region gradually became dry, infertile and inhospitable. The locals now face huge problems such as unavailability of water, but the lake still represents a precious resource to the local Dogons, but one which they exhaust every year during Antogo. The event is held on the 6th month of the dry season, generally in May, but the exact date is fixed each year by the council of wise men. Saturdays are market days in Bamba, and for the first three market days of the month wooden sticks are placed in the middle of the lake, acting as a signal, a warning that the ritual is getting closer. On the day that is finally designated as the day of Antogo, hundreds gather from all parts of Mali around Bamba’s lake. The 3 biggest groups are formed by the most respected and ancient families of various Dogon villages. The group from Bamba itself is usually the largest. These groups of people maintain a collective mystical silence, except for the wise who recite incantations and praise deities. When they are done speaking, the ritual itself – and all the magic associated with it – begins.

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