Tag Archives: West Africa

Modern Griots Reviews: Birth of a Dark Nation


Imagine seeing the journey of the Black Atlantic through the memories of a centuries-old vampiric human. A DC IT specialist working at an HIV organization Justin Kena is privileged with this information when he falls for one named Dante. As he falls in love, he learns of the ancient indigenous Yoruba group, the Razadi, who are vampiric and witnesses to pre-, during, and post-slavery times in Rashid Darden‘s Birth of a Dark Nation.

Birth of a Dark Nation flips the script on traditional vampire tales from its shifting narration to its inclusion of slave narration and cultural rituals to non-Western views of the vampire to it as a same-gender loving story that confronts those who say it is a recent Western phenomenon. Darden’s previous work, Lazarus, Covenant, and Epiphany has centered on black LGBT experiences, and now he has taken that and extended it to black speculative fiction.

The story begins with a Razadi receiving orders from an elder to watch over Justin because he is considered the “key,” similar to Neo in the Matrix or any messiah-like character. Later, we are introduced to Dante, a street hustler, who Justin randomly notices and to whom he has an instant attraction. When Dante finally reveals who he is to Justin, Justin begins his transformation from the computer guy at a dead-end job to part of the Razadi family and leader in his community.

Continue reading Modern Griots Reviews: Birth of a Dark Nation

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Otherworldly Videos: Mami Wata Films (Lady in the Water/Nkiru)


The legend of Mami Wata is one that has traveled from the shores of different countries in Africa to the shores of shores of the different countries all over the world in which the African diapsora lives. The media production company 37th State has produced a short documentary and short film that explores the figures who has enchanted and also terrified many. The documentary, Lady in the Water, through various interviews, shows the different manifestations of Mami Wata across the diaspora and the claims over her existence. It was directed by Tolu Itegboje and produced by Bolaji Kekere-Ekun. Kekere-Ekun directed Nkiru as well. Nkiru, inspired by the Mami Wata story, follows a group of friends who mysteriously disappear on a beach after the appearance of a supernatural being, Nkiru. Enjoy!

“Lady in the Water”

“Nkiru”

The Mambos


I have mentioned mambo a few times on this blog and this will be another one. Did you know that the word for the high priestess in Haitian Voodoo is mambo? Mambo, which means “important words, matters, etc” or “conversation with the gods,” in the Central African language of Kikongo, is also used for the name of the Cuban music and dance. In addition to those usages, mambo is a greeting in Swahili (“how are things”) and “king” in the Zimbabwean Shona language. It may also be related to “Mumbo Jumbo” or “Mambo Jambo,” which came from the Mandingo word “Maamajomboo.” “Maamajombo” (“mamagyombo) meant “a magician who makes the troubled spirits of ancestors go away,” and was a name for a masked dancer in a religious ceremony. Later it was used in the 18th century for the name of a West African god. Several of these languages are part of the Bantu language family, which explains why the word shows up in them.

The above clip is from the documentary, When the Spirits Dance Mambo, which was produced by Afro-puerto Rican author Marta Moreno Vega. The documentary is named after the book of the same name. For more on West African deities in the Americans, read Denise Oliver Velez’s article on Daily Kos.

Mayda Del Valle- Mami’s Making Mambo