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BBC – African Renaissance: When Art Meets Power Series 1 (2020) 3of3

BBC African Renaissance When Art Meets Power Series 1 3of3

Afua Hirsch shows Africa on its own terms, exploring the histories of Ethiopia, Senegal and Kenya through their extraordinary art, music and culture.

Part 1: Ethiopia
Afua Hirsch traces a proud 3,000-year history as significant as any civilisation in the west. A beacon for the black diaspora, Ethiopia’s story is one of defiant independence, of kings and communists, of a country that has survived catastrophe but bounced back, underpinned by a culture inspired by an ancient faith and devotion. At the heart of recent Ethiopian history is the complex reign of Emperor Haile Selassie. One of the most influential world figures of the 20th century, he was the midwife to African liberation and the generator of a global culture in Rastafarianism. Yet ultimately, Haile Selassie was a tragic figure. With renowned artist Eshetu Tiruneh, Afua explores the impact of the 1974 famine that led to the emperor’s downfall, and she talks to photographer Aida Muluneh about her return from exile to the dynamic new Ethiopia of the 21st century responding to the dark days of the past.


Part 2: Senegal
A French-speaking nation of 15 million people in the far west of Africa, Afua Hirsch discovers a country with a cultural influence far beyond its size, with dynamic film, fashion and hip-hop scenes that have fed off historic power struggles and culture clashes, both between ancient empires and against French colonisers. She traces the story of Leopold Senghor, a poet who became the father of Senegalese independence and redefined what Africa is. She explores cities with exuberant murals and street culture that respond to the past, and she meets internationally acclaimed choreographer Germaine Acogny, griot musician Diabel Cissokho and hip-hop legend DJ Awadi.


Part 3: Kenya
A state created barely a century ago, Afua Hirsch explores how the British spun an idealised stereotype while carving out a brutal empire. Afua reveals the extremes of life today, the urban sprawl and untouched outback, and a young population still pushing away the lingering darkness of the British imperial past. In an epic narrative that takes in railway building, Karen Blixen, President Jomo Kenyatta and the brutal British suppression of the 1950s Mau Mau Uprising, she charts how artists have responded to history happening around them. She meets acclaimed Kenyan painters Dennis Muraguri and Michael Soi and discusses the after-effects of the British colonial period and China’s growing influence as a new power in East Africa.

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