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                                                        Ikechi Uko: Tourism's Giant Enterpreneur 

Ikechi Uko is a pathfinder. With passion and an ADE_3579unquenchable hunger for knowledge, he has signposted the Nigerian travel and tourism landscape with two trademark products, Akwaaba Travel Market and Naija Seven Wonders.

Many people do not like to stand beside Ikechi Uko. At close to seven feet tall, he makes a lot of people feel short and small. For those who lack the audacity of dreaming big dreams, they have another reason to keep their distance.  Perhaps, owing to his height, Uko keeps his ambition in the region of a skyscraper. If the goal is not large and complicated, he does not take a shot at it. Maybe it’s connected to his study of Geography at the University of Ibadan that has bestowed on him the capacity to navigate through tough topography. And the journey of his life has been through a bit of rough patches, but he has soldiered on, always keeping his eyes on the goal.

Arguably, one of the leading travel and tourism enterpreneurs, Uko became involved in the travel trade by happenstance when he was hired to work on a publication of tourism destinations by the late icon of Nigerian journalism, Alhaji Babatunde Jose. This project opened his eye to the goldmine in the sector and he has not looked back or done any other thing since. His love for tourism and travel was further fueled when he worked on the team of Happyland-Happyworld, one of the most promising tourism projects in Nigeria that did not quite take off. It would be the last time he worked for anyone. Between the Jose project and Happyland-Happyworld, Uko convinced himself that he had garnered enough knowledge to launch a solo effort.

His first attempt as a businessman was in publishing. The product, Travellers’ Weekend gave him the platform he needed to explore. A couple of years later, it transformed into African Travel Quarterly to embrace a bigger vision that encompassed the African continent. Uko was becoming better known at what he did, not only in Nigeria, but throughout Africa and around the world. What helped him to rise fast on the ladder of  recognition in the travel and tourism world is his hunger for knowledge. His appetite to consume information is ravenous.

DSC_0198The Akwaaba Travel Market which Uko established  as a platform for buyers and sellers in the African travel trade recently clocked 10 years. Uko recalled the initial challenge. For him, it was exciting because it was a new journey. He had no fear. There was nothing to lose. Organising the travel exhibition is like going to school all over again. It has not been a bed of roses. He learnt many instructive things, particularly about the attitude of Nigerians. “Every Nigerian believes he knows something about something, when in actual fact they have never really interrogated that thing. I see it manifest in so many areas.

We are all football coaches. We are all aviation experts. We are all political experts. We are all judicial experts. If there is a judgment, everybody has an opinion. I was doing something that was not done before. I was also learning how to do it. That was the most interesting thing. Everybody around me was a travel expert, despite the fact that they have never been to a travel exhibition.  That has helped to see how I see other citizens. There is a problem with the coach and I am seeing everybody telling Stephen Keshi who should play. That experience has taught me enough on how to judge some other things in the Nigerian environment. I have learnt from something that there was nobody to learn from. There was nobody willing to teach me. In the process, everybody had an idea on how it should be done. None of these ideas was tested. If you ever want to do anything in Nigeria, you have to take time out to learn it very well. I had no one to understudy.”

IKHis travails as a pathfinder aside, Uko loves the life he lives. He loves the travels, meeting people and the surprise of arriving a destination. In 10 years of Akwaaba, the last edition has been the most challenging. There was a lot to lose on account of the Ebola scourge which made countries and businesses that had booked space at the exbition to cancel at the last minute. Happening at a time that he had separated the exhibition arm from the parent company, he needed to make the corporate name stick on the mind of participants. At this time, Uko who has been working closely with his wife, Rita, all these years desires to expand the business beyond his immediate family. But what he refused to do is to copy how the travel fair is done elsewhere. He insists on developing a uniquely African type travel market. “I will enter any relationship that will help in achieving the vision. We are open to that but we have had offers where people want to buy the platform for political reasons and for some other things. That means it is no more a travel exhibition. It is probably an event. We understand this is a critical part of the whole industry which is a travel marketing platform so if there is any collaboration that extends the vision, that is why we join some international organisations like the IITF because we thought these are the sort of collaborations that we need. Locally, we have had some government agencies trying to partner or get involved. We are not interested in just doing events. We are interested in doing things that work.”

The Akwaaba Awards which is a critical component of the exhibition has become one of the most-sought-after and treasured reward plaque in the industry. But Uko does not see why a lot of people break their heads over the award. “If you make the award an event, it takes away from the exhibition, then we defeat the aim. The awards ceremony sets the stage and raises the energy that drives the exhibition. That is what creates the energy. We believe in starting strong. When we do that we can actually concentrate on the exhibition because our strength should be in the exhibition. We are not really interested in people who come for the awards and the glamour. Our concentration is on the business of the exhibition. If we are so focused on that, that’s when we sustain the process. Some of the brands that have won the awards have fizzled out. So we are more concerned about the exhibition and the value we create. We are so committed to that. An award ceremony alone cannot sustain the vision. Most brands built around awards do not survive. “

At each edition of Akwaaba, Uko measures success by the volume of trade transacted. At the 10th edition, he pointed at a hotel group that has sold 10,000 hotel rooms as a first timer. We have another group that sold products to 10-15 HOTELS AND we have some negotiations that I was involved in; an international hotel brand that brought a branch for me to manage. There are many others like the group from Dubai. I have a partner at Sheraton Hotels who had done some negotiations worth hundreds of millions of Naira. Probably, this year was when the business was done and almost every exhibitor told me that this is their best year. There were a few exhibitors and they enjoyed more attention and they could pick from the people that came and most of the people that came were hungry for results. For some of them, there had been no business for three or four months. One hotel investor had approached me that he was looking for someone to help him manage his hotel.”

This boom in business was not just noticeable in the hospitality trade only. The airlines too had testimonies attesting to a successful outing. The next stage for Uko is to gain global acclaim and he knows that he can only achieve this by allowing a measure of transparency in his operations and also to get good feedback. “We were thinking about the return on the investment. If the investor invests thousands of dollars coming to the exhibition, we ask how much they make from the contacts generated at the exhibition. The return on investments for most of our exhibitors have been very high. I jokingly tell them that I will ask for my 10 per cent. Everyone was willing to share with us. We have changed from the model of asking for the return on investment after 12 months to calculating the numbers of done deals.”

DSC_0200Akwaaba is Uko’s biggest project yet. The logistics that goes into its planning is mind-boggling and it is a surprise that he works with a close-knit team of family members and staff. To understand the giant leap that project has taken in one decade. “The budget for the first year was less than a million. But taxes and logistics were huge. One speaker’s flight ticket alone cost $10,000, that is business class, from Germany to Nigeria. It cost more to bring international speakers than to organise the event. That was why we didn’t bother to ask for sponsorship because we didn’t want to build the business around sponsorship. We wanted to build it on income and it was a difficult model but that is what will last. We are counting our own breakable points not by the profits we made at the end of the year but by the volume of business that we have done. At the first edition we had two countries, Sao Tome and Ghana. As at last year, we had about 15 countries that showed interest.

One thing that makes Uko particularly happy is the capacity of Akwaaba to attract very distinguished personalities from around the world. “We are the first to honour the guy who organised the World Cup in South Africa. After that, we started getting honours for the other people. When we did the Legends of Travel. We honoured Sir Dauda Jawara, the former president of Gambia and Captain Mohammed of Ethiopian Airline. We have honoured  the biggest Egyptologist in the world. We have two sets of awards. it is a duty for Akwaaba to add value.”

For a man who has set up a credible reward platform for high achievers, it is an irony that Uko has not been recognised in official quarters in his home country. He is, however, satisfied with recognition from folks on the street. “I won’t complain because everywhere I have been in Nigeria, people quickly recognise me and say ‘oh! you are the tourism guy promoting Nigeria’. Nigerians recognise the sacrifice that I have made and I am not in government and I don’t have government backing in this project and I have done it so well. I have also had some hostility from some Nigerians who thought I shouldn’t be the one doing what I am doing. People appreciate the contributions we have made. But to think that other countries have honoured me more. Other people may think I deserve more from home.”

A few years ago, Uko ventured into a major branding and public relations project for Nigeria called Naija Seven Wonders. The project started in 2010 and took two years to complete. Search parties travelled all over the country and members of the public were galvanised to participate in the project. Nothing like that had ever been done in Nigeria! In 2013, Uko returned again with Seven Natural Wonders of Nigeria. The idea is to update it every two years. He spent close to N50 million on the Seven Wonders project. “We didn’t get sponsorship. It was only Cross River state that supported us. For some others, we were even asked to pay them. I don’t own the site, I don’t benefit from the site but I just want to add value to it before the international community because I understand how tourism works. I have been on every major road in Nigeria and in every airline. We have been arrested by JTF and we have been captured by Fulani people in Plateau. We were in the middle of the Tiv riot in Nassarawa.  People sometimes ask who pays us and why we are doing this. This is what I have passion for.”

ikkWhere ever there is a travel exhibition, Uko is there. It is his classroom for knowledge. He has been at every World Travel Market since 1998. “I became a travel expert by learning to do what others do- go to travel exhibitions. I have been attending WTM since 1998 and practically every major exhibition. I attend all the workshops. We lack skills in travel and tourism. It is to give people an opportunity to learn from those who have done it well and learn. I read relevant materials. We have created a platform for people to take advantage of but people still come to ask me for help that is available to  them at Akwaaba. They ask for connections that they could have made at the exhibition. Akwaaba has succeeded in the goodwill. There is a group of people who have the knowledge and desire to see something like this. And Akwaaba has succeeded because of these people.”

Original source:

Bottom Photo: Ikechi Uko with African Diaspora Tourism Editor Kitty Pope


ronOn January 16, 2015 Rabbi David Baron, Founder of the Beverly Hills Temple of the Arts at the Saban Theatre led a Shabbat Service attended by 500 guests in observance of the holiday celebrating the life and work of the late Civil Rights Activist and Leader, Martin Luther King Jr.  Service Participants included:  Axel Cruau, Consul général de France à Los Angeles; Reverend Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D., Founder and Chairman of the Modern Movement promoting the Juneteenth holiday and Jazz Pianist and Trumpeter; Dr. J. Benjamin Hardwick, President of the Western Baptist State Convention of California; actor Gabriel Macht, star of the television showSUITS and Television Editor Ari Macht, both of whom served as Keynote Speakers; and actor Stephen Macht, who served as Event Producer.

Others who also participated in the service included:  Marianne Williamson, acclaimed spiritual author; 14­year­old opera singer Golda Berkman; Jazz musiciansJacques Lesure on Guitar, Teodress Avery on Saxophone, James Leary on Bass andCecil Brooks, III on Drums; and the Temple of the Arts’ Cantor, Ilysia J. Pierce and Music Director Sharon Farber.  Miss Israel 2013, Yityish “Titi” Aynaw delivered a video message honoring Reverend Dr. Ronald V. Myers.During the course of the service event participants lit 17 candles in memory of those killed in terrorist attacks in Paris recently as cellist Michael Fitzpatrick played a moving piece of music entitled “In Memoriam” written by composer CJ Vanston, while images of the 17 victims were projected onto a video screen above him.  Jazz Pianist Reverend Dr. Ronald V. Myers, along with the support of guitarist Jacques Lesure, saxophonist Theodress Avery, bass player James Leary and drummer Cecil Brooks, III, played a musicalized version of “Psalm 23,” supported by Narrator Loren Lester.  Singer Golda Berkman sang the song “Climb EveryMountain.”  Cantor Ilysia J. Pierce, supported by pianist Sharon Farber led the congregation in a rousing rendition of the anthem “We Shall Overcome” while all event participants locked arms and sang the song from the bimah of the synagogue.  Dr. J. Benjamin Hardwick, who once marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, delivered the Benediction.

Rabbi David Baron said “The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, and the example of Reverend Dr. Ronald V. Myers, whom we honored tonight at our service, are men committed to unifying us not diving us.”  Rabbi Baron presented Reverend Dr. Ronald V. Myers with a special menorah in recognition of his service to mankind.  To learn more about the Beverly Hills Temple of the Arts at the Saban Theatre, please visit

aain religiousIn the light of recent news of reigious conflict, Seychelles prides itself on having religious dominations as part of its culture, where people of different religions are able to live together in complete harmony.

The country’s Minister for Tourism and Culture, Alain St.Ange, said this when speaking to the eminent scholar and lecturer on Islam, Dr. Bilal Philips, and Mutah Beale, who was a former rapper, during a courtesy call at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Offices at ESPACE building yesterday.

Welcoming the lecturers to Seychelles, Minister St.Ange said they have come as ambassadors of the Islam faith at an opportune time when the world is preoccupied by the Paris attacks.

The Islam scholar and lecturer are in Seychelles to give lectures on themes such as “Islam branded” and “Thug life.” These lectures are open to members of the public regardless of their religious denominations.

Minister St.Ange said visits like this to Seychelles can ensure that people become more aware about what the Islamic faith is all about.

“We need people like you to visit our country and to promote unity through your teachings,” Minister St.Ange said.

There are Muslims who act in the name of Islam but in reality violate the principles and teachings of this religion, which Dr. Philips said one must not blame the religious denomination for it, but the individuals who are involved in such acts.

Dr. Bilal also thanked the Minister and invited him to join them at the inaugural lecture entitled “Islam under a cloud” at the International Conference Centre of Seychelles on Friday evening.

Also present for the meeting in the Minister’s office were the Principal Secretary for Culture Benjamine Rose; Ibrahim Afif, the President of the Seychelles Islamic Society; and other representatives of the Islamic society.


Source: ETN

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Tupac Shakur’s legacy lives on through his music and message and the legendary persona will be honored by the Grammy Museum with the “All Eyez on Me: The Writings of Tupac Shakur” exhibit. The exhibit will include the Versace suit he wore to the 1996 Grammy Awards, handwritten notes, lyrics, poems, interview and performance footage, and more. The personal items were supplied by Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur.

“It means a lot to me that Bob Santelli (the Grammy Museum’s Executive Director) and the Grammy Museum have chosen to honor my son with their upcoming exhibit of works,” said Afeni Shakur in a statement. “Tupac’s writings are an honest reflection of his passions for, and about life. His timeless messages have instilled hope for those who have little, and for others, they serve as a catalyst for change. His words continue to motivate and inspire new generations.”

The exhibit will be showing from Feb. 2 through April 22.




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Nigerias-high-speed-rail-rated-Nigeria’s high speed rail project initiated by President Goodluck Jonathan has been rated among the global top 100 world-class infrastructure projects by KPMG. The rail will connect Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Warri, Bauchi, Abuja, and Port Harcourt and will cost the country $13 billion, much of which will be financed with a loan from the Export Import Bank of China. The China Railway Construction Corporation has secured the contract to build the 3,218-kilometre network, which will be digitally operated using fibre-optic cables, radio communication and wireless services. The project is designed to cover 54 stations and will take 25 years to build.

Nigerias high speed rail rated as one of the best in the world 2In the report, The Infrastructure 100: World Markets Report, the KPMG panel of judges said the project “will remove heavy freight from Nigeria’s stressed roads, could save the country millions on road maintenance”. Other African projects on the list are: Khi Solar One (South Africa), Square Kilometer Array (South Africa), PRASA Rolling Stock (South Africa), Kudu Gas Field and CCGT Project (Namibia),Trans-Saharan Natural Gas Project (Nigeria to Algeria), Mombasa-Kigali Railway (Rwanda), KivuWatt (Rwanda), Jinja Bridge (Uganda), and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport Terminal (Kenya). In its note, KPMG said the report highlights key trends driving infrastructure investment around the world.
A global panel of industry experts identifies 100 of the world’s most innovative, impactful infrastructure projects showing how governments are coming together with the private sector to overcome funding constraints to finance and build projects that can improve quality of life – both solving immediate needs and planning for future societal demands. The report looks at infrastructure based on the dynamics of four key markets: Mature International Markets (like Canada, Australia, and UK), Economic Powerhouses (including the US and BRIC countries), Smaller Established Markets (like Chile, Sweden, New Zealand, Korea and South Africa), and Emerging Markets (including a number of economies in Africa).

airContinuing with its aviation technology leadership in Africa, Ethiopian, the largest and most profitable airline of the continent, is pleased to announce that it has acquired the first ever B-787 Dreamliner full flight simulator in Africa. The installation and build-up of the full flight Simulator is in progress at Ethiopian main Hub in Addis Ababa and the first pilot training in the B-787 flight simulator will start in March, 2015.

Ethiopian was the first airline in the world outside Japan to receive and operate the B-787 Dreamliner in August 2012. Currently, the airline is the largest operator of the B-787 in Africa. With the installation of the B-787 flight simulator, Ethiopian will be the first in Africa to give full flight simulator training for pilots on the B-787 aircraft.

CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group, Mr. Tewolde Gebremariam, said “We are continually investing in developing our training capability. With installation of the B-787 Flight Simulator,

we will be fully self-sufficient in providing in-house training for our pilots on the B-787 aircraft, which has become our core fleet on our mid and long range routes.

Over the last 4 years, we have invested $ 80 million in expanding both the scope and scale of our Academy. In line with our 15 years strategic roadmap Vision 2025, we will continue to invest heavily on our Academy with the objective of increasing its annual in-take capacity to from currently 1,000 trainees to about 4,000 by 2025.”

Ethiopian already provides full flight simulator training for pilots on the Q-400, the B737, the B757 and the B767.

Ethiopian Aviation Academy is certified by the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority, the U.S Federal Aviation Administration, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and IOSA (IATA Safety Audit). The Academy has been providing training for pilots, maintenance technicians, cabin crew, marketing and leadership for the airline and other sisterly carriers in Africa for more than six decades.

Source: ATQ News

lucky yesAfrican Travel Times, Nigeria and West Africa’s only monthly travel and tourism magazine has announced the institution of an annual award. According to its Publisher/Editor, Lucky Onoriode George, the award is to annually recognize “excellence” in the travel and tourism sector in Nigeria, saying that a genuine and respected award in the industry was long overdue, especially in an industry that is service based.

He noted, “Asking the traveling public that lacks the technicality and experience of how the travel and tourism industry works to select the best hotel, restaurant, and even the best airline in an operating environment annually is wrong.” George posited that it is the process that differentiates the new awards from others, as awardees will be selected by professionals in the various subsectors.

For the 2014 inaugural edition, the magazine is recognizing organizations and individuals that made giant strides in the industry in the out-going year. “Based on the decision of our panel industry experts, the following organizations and individuals emerged winners,” George said.

God Is Good Motors - Best Emerging Transport Company in Nigeria

Eko Hotel & Suites - Most Supportive Travel and Tourism Organization

Carnival Calabar - Best Domestic Tourism Product

ABC Transport Plc - Best Family-friendly Transport Company in Nigeria

Other winners are:

Sally Mbanefo, Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) - Tourism Personality of the Year

Gov. Godswill Akpabio - For Transforming Akwa Ibom State into an emerging Destination in Nigeria

Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt - Most Resilient Performance Award in the Hospitality Industry

So far, some of the winners have received their awards in private while others have been notified and a presentation will be done at a later date.

Meanwhile, Mr. George said that from this year, the awards ceremony will form part of his publication’s annual travel and tourism dinner, a special event to bring together industry practitioners, suppliers, and related establishments.

African Travel Times hit the newsstand in 2011 and has grown to become the most widely and authoritative travel and tourism publication in Nigeria, with an online presence that can be accessed everywhere in the world.

African Travel Times, apart from being a core travel and tourism industry magazine, contains coverage that also includes “Insider,” a destination piece written from a local or native point of view, as well as fascinating people, which would profile a person of interest in the industry from any part of Nigeria and Africa.

Source: ETN

kp headshotAfrican Diaspora Tourism editor and  CEO Kitty J. Pope will be traveling to Johannesburg, South Africa to participate in the International Institute for Peace (IIPT) World Symposium: Cultivating Sustainable and Peaceful Communities and Nations through Tourism, Culture and Sport. The IIPT symposium is being held at the Emperors Palace in Ekurhuleni, South Africa on February 16 to 19 2015.

Delegates from more than 30 nations have registered for the World Symposium that will honor the legacies of the world’s three champions of Peace Non-Violent Resistance: Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Symposium, which is endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, will also commemorate the 50th Anniversary of African Union, 20 years of South African Democracy, and 50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Legislation in the United States. 

Pope will give a presentation on the importance of exploring and understanding black cultural heritage tourism in order to foster and promote world peace. She will also speak on the necessity of healing and reconciliation from the legacy of slavery is necessary for world peace. Traveling with Pope to South Africa is Ms. Naomi King, sister-in-law of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and also Dr. Babs Onabanjo, CEO of the AD King Foundation. Both will speak on the relevance of Dr. King’s non-violence principles in today’s world

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     Kitty J. Pope, worked as a lifestyle/travel magazine editor, before coming up with the idea of forming a black travel writers group and promoting black cultural heritage. After attending several Bermuda-launched African Diaspora Heritage Trails Conferences, she was inspired to create tools that would serve to promote black historic sites and cultural heritage as a tourism media product. She then went on to launch the International Association of Black Travel Writers (IABTW) and set up to promote and educate people about black cultural and heritage tourism.

      IABTW, consisting of mostly travel writers of African descent from around the world serves as an umbrella organization that brings together professional journalists who share travel stories with black cultural heritage as a primary focus. After over five years’ of reporting up-to-date news, stories, events and information via the website, Pope launched the first ever African Diaspora World Tourism Awards (ADWT-Awards) and Travel Expo in 2013 where she serves as director and executive producer. The successful event held in Atlanta was attended by people from all over Africa and around the places of the African Diaspora.  Those who attended included several Ministers of Tourism, a former Premiere, heads of tourism, travel agents, museum directors, college professors, a few celebrities, clergymen, businessmen, government officials, scholars and other travel professionals and cultural heritage enthusiasts. adt-stacked-logo

      The ADWT-Awards consisted of a cultural heritage performance night, a Hall of Fame Luncheon in addition to the Awards Gala Ceremony and Travel Expo. The Travel Expo was the first time black historic sites and heritage trails from around the world came together to be highlighted under one roof as exhibitions. Movers and shakers in black cultural heritage tourism were honored and given awards, with the main award being the Person and Heritage Site of the Year. Similar to the World Tourism Awards, Pope used the awards ceremony to recognize and honor leaders who had made a difference in black cultural heritage as it relates to advancement in tourism.

        Now a very prominent African America cultural heritage travel journalist and a media partner for the African Travel Association (ATA), Pope is currently working to re-establish ATA’s Atlanta chapter in order to more effectively promote tourism to Africa. She is also using the 2015 ADWT-Awards event to help bring attention to the significance of black cultural heritage to the world stage.  A former college counselor and the author of the book Beside Every Great Man, she is the recipient of the 2013 Apex Award from Black Meetings and Tourism. Pope is a board member of the National Cultural Heritage Tourism Center and president of the Pan African Cultural Heritage Tourism Society, organizations dedicated to socio-economic empowerment through cultural heritage.       

       For information on her work, visit or  To learn more about IIPT, visit To register for upcoming conference, visit

Parveen Chopra of The South Asian Times writes that Dreadlocks Story is a documentary that explores how the matted hair lock of Rastas in Jamaica and Sadhus in India is a sacred covenant and a way to bond, to addresses freedom and misunderstandings and to promote a powerful state of mind outside the mainstream.

dreadsNew York: When I met Linda Aïnouche early this year, she was still trying to raise money to complete her documentary titledDreadlocks Story. But such has been her determination and focus that the independent filmmaker has managed to complete the film. To be released shortly, it is having its Dutch premiere in Amsterdam on November 1, 2014, in Rootical Vibrations, a cultural event that offers the Rasta experience through film, music and food, attended by her via Skype.

The 90-mintue labor of love, written and directed by Linda Aïnouche, reveals the hidden spiritual links between Jamaican Rastas and Indian sadhus. Dreadlocks Story opens up the history of Rastas. It goes into the history of the now smirked upon dreadlocks hairstyle and the roots of the Rastafari culture, which is entangled with the Hindu tradition in Jamaica.

The documentary was shot in France, India, Jamaica and the US with four different languages (French, Hindi, Jamaican Patois and English). It draws upon a part of Jamaican and Indian history. Linda has a PhD degree and is an expert on Jainism, having lived for long with Jains in India.

There are many misconceptions and judgments about the Rasta way of life, but few have taken the trouble to understand the why of what they do, says Linda in her statement about the film. “Hairstyle is the most universal and unavoidable form of body art. It is also one of the most interesting and commonly misunderstood. How and why can it be subject to prejudice and massacre?” she asks. Similarly, for Rastas, as for Indian sadhus, smoking cannabis (ganja) is a spiritual act, to open the gates of higher consciousness.

The Rasta movement began as slavery progressed. Rastafari pledges a response to African descendants to recover and rebuild their culture suppressed by brutal, stultifying European domination. In this context, it is an attempt for the survival of African culture and an upfront anti-slavery, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle.

British colonists ruled in Jamaica until 1962 and in India until 1947. Slavery ended in Jamaica in 1838 and Indian workers were brought to the island from 1845 to 1917. Both Afro-Jamaicans and Indians were kidnapped and sent to work on sugar and banana plantations throughout Jamaica where they forged warm relationships through their shared oppressive hardships. The history of Indian indigent workers in Jamaica reminds us that enslaved people have not come only from Africa.

What is the unique way of life arising from the cross-cultural mixing between the sons of African slaves, as well as African and Indian forced workers “under contracts” in the plantations?

Leonard Percival Howell, known as the First Rasta was the pioneer who spoke about Rastafari (1932). He empowered and promoted the belief that everyone is divine and equal through the figure of the Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. His first followers were mainly very poor, persecuted people. Jailed for two years by the colonial government, Howell wrote a pamphlet (1935) under a Hindu pen name, which showed commonalities between the lifestyles of Rastas in Jamaica and Hindu holy men in India.

In 1939, Howell became the first black man to purchase a piece of land called Pinnacle where he implanted a free, self-reliant community for his followers. Incessant persecutions followed for him and the Rastas. Pinnacle was destroyed by the colonists in 1958. The destruction of this autonomous society caused an exodus of Rastas throughout Jamaica. To wear dreadlocks became a mean of defiance and a blanket of protection against the Establishment.

ks are not confined to Jamaica but fly throughout the Caribbean and their diasporas. Although, since Jamaica’s independence in 1962, some accommodation has been made towards Rastas, this minority community’s struggle against prejudice and discrimination continues.

For her documentary, richly illustrated with archival material, stills and videos, Linda has interviewed experts such as Hélène Lee, author of The First Rasta (1999, 2005), Verene Shepherd, Social History Professor at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica; and Professor Ajai Mansingh and Laxmi Mansingh, pioneer researchers of the Indian presence in Jamaica. She has also tried to elicit responses from Rasta men and women from different generations on how they see dreadlocks, how they regard Hindu influences on Rastafari history.

Finally, Linda asks, “Who knows if without Indians, Bob Marley would have met the same success?!”

For the original article, go to

Source: Repeating Islands

alainIt is becoming more and more evident that Seychelles is undergoing a Cultural Revolution of its own. This statement was again echoed by Joseph Sinon, the popular artist comedian during the big open air musical show of Festival Kreol 2014 that was held at Au Cap during the festival's 'Dimans Kreol Borlanmer' (Creole picnic). This same statement has previously been aired by veteran artist Jean Marc Volcy and agin by different other artists during the last 15th August Celebrations on La Digue.
Thousands of Seychellois and tourists gathered at Au Cap in what was clearly the biggest group ever assembled for Festival Kreol 2014, and when Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture accompanied by Benjamine Rose, his PS for Culture were called on stage late in the afternoon of Sunday as the musical show was at its peak, Joseph Sinon reflected over the loud speakers that Seychelles was living a cultural revolution. "Never before have we musicians and entertainers seen such a cultural revolution and this has happened ever since Minister Alain St.Ange became the Minister responsible for Culture" Mr Joseph Sinon said.
He asked everyone to applaud Minister St.Ange to thank him for his commitment for the development of culture in Seychelles.
When he addressed the large group of revelers Minister St.Ange said that the Government of Seychelles remains committed to place culture in all its form at the centre of the development of the country. He asked the thousands present if they wanted the annual Festival Kreol to which the crowd screamed "yes." He said that some people are questioning why does Seychelles host events, whilst others ask why was Seychelles putting so much effort in continuing to develop sports such as football. Minister St.Ange said that it was the duty of the Government to look at the needs and and after the aspirations of the people and he said: "If I go forward based on the number of people present at Au Cap today we can say that we are on the right tract. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and today Seychelles is sending a very clear message that they want their Festival Kreol, and today I confirm to you all that the Government will stand by you" Minister St.Ange said to loud applause.
The Minister spoke about the need for everyone to embrace their Creole Culture and to show that they are not ashamed to be a Creole. He spoke about the need to see our country's culture showcased 365 days of the year with hotels being encouraged to serve Seychellois Creole meals, provide entertainment that showcases local music and dancing and that more of the creative artists should be invited to get their works of art into our tourism facilities.
When he ended his address Minister Alain St.Ange and PS Benjamine Rose were invited to join the large crowd who were screaming for them to stand with them. They both surprised everyone by jumping into the crowd from the stage and were greeted with loud applause.

Africas-Largest-Boeing-aircraft-order-by-EthiopianEthiopian is pleased to announce that it has finalized preparations to start flights to Dublin and Los Angeles starting from June 2015.

Ethiopian flights to Dublin and Los Angeles will be operated three times a week with the ultra- modern Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which offers unparalleled on-board comfort to passengers. The flights will be the only direct service connecting Africa with Ireland and the West Coast of the United States.

Travelers from Los Angeles and Ireland will be able to enjoy seamless and Convenient connectivity options thanks to Ethiopian extensive network in Africa covering 49 destinations.  Similarly, as the flights will be the only direct service between Dublin and Los Angeles, the Irish and U.S. travelling public between the two cities will greatly benefit from the opening of the routes.

“Our new flights connecting Addis Ababa, Dublin and Los Angeles will play a critical role in the expansion of trade, tourism investment between the fast growing continent of Africa, and the United States and Ireland. As the these flights will be the first and only direct air route linking Africa with Ireland and the West Coat of the U.S., they will bring these two seemingly far away cities much closer to Africa and will facilitate mobility and connectivity for businesses and the large African Diaspora community living in the West Coast of the United States.

In line with our Vision 2025 strategic roadmap, we are expanding our network and deploying the most technologically advanced aircraft as part of our commitment to our customers to provide them the best possible travel experience and connectivity options. Our flights to Dublin and Los Angeles will be operated with the B787 Dreamliner, which offers unmatched on-board comfort especially for such a very long haul route with its unique features such as greatly reduced noise, higher cabin air humidity, biggest windows in the sky and spacious cabin interior.” Said CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group, Tewolde Gebremariam.

With the addition of Dublin, the airline’s 11th European city and Los Angeles, its 4th point in the Americas, Ethiopian international network will cover 85 destinations across 5 continents.

Ethiopian is a Pan-African global carrier voted by passengers as the Best in Africa for two years in a row by Passenger Choice Awards, the most comprehensive survey in the industry. The airline operates the youngest fleet in the continent with an average of less than 7 years and currently serves 83 international destinations across 5 continents with over 200 daily departures.

Original Source Report:

Resting on the ocean floor, towering nearly 17-feet-tall, kneels a young Bahamian girl supporting the ceiling of the water on her shoulders. “Ocean Atlas” is the most recent work by underwater sculpture artist Jason deCaires Taylor, installed earlier this month off the western coastline of New Providence in Nassau, Bahamas. The work alludes to Atlas, the Titan of Greek mythology whose eternal punishment of holding the world on his back has inspired artistic renditions for centuries. Created with a high-density, pH-neutral marine cement engineered to last for hundreds of years, “Ocean Atlas” also serves as an artificial reef to foster local marine life.

Weighing 60 tons, “Ocean Atlas” is the largest single sculpture to reside underwater, according to Taylor. A local student named Camilla served as the model for the colossal girl, who gazes serenely at her surroundings, her head resting sideways on one bent knee, further propped up by her arm. During low tide, her reflection appears on the underside of the sea’s surface, creating an illusion of a mirror for divers. To place her carefully in site, Taylor had to develop a technique that involved lowering and assembling the work in smaller sections.

ocean bahamas“It was [created] using 3D scans and a layered mould,” Taylor wrote through email. “Once the individual sections were made, a series of interlocking keys ensured the pieces located themselves underwater. The challenge was to get each piece to not weigh more than 12 tons.” To aid marine navigation, he also affixed a solar light and flag to the sculpture’s apex.

Commissioned by the Bahamas Reef Environment Education Foundation in honor of its founder Sir Nicholas Nuttall, “Ocean Atlas” is part of an ongoing, environmentally friendly underwater sculpture garden that also includes works by local artists Willicey Tynes, Andret John, and Reefball. Its texture, designed to aid coral polyps to attach to its surface after spawning, encourages the colonization of reefs. Taylor intends for his work to draw tourists away from natural reef areas, which face environmental stresses from global warming, overfishing, and water pollution, among other threats.

“The aim was to show the vital role the local community and especially the younger generation have in conserving the islands’ natural resources,” Taylor wrote.

Previously, he has planted hundreds of underwater sculptures throughout the waters of the world that respond to environmental concerns and aim to relieve ocean stresses. His first and unprecedented underwater sculpture park was created in 2006, submerged off the coast of Grenada. Today, it features a ring of children holding hands, a man at work on his typewriter, and a still life of fruit. In 2009, he co-founded the Museo Subacuatico de Arte, home to over 500 of his sculptures, sprawled on the seabed off the coast of Cancun. “Ocean Atlas,” resting permanently in the waters of the Bahamas, represents a considerable increase in size from these previous works.


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