Category Archives: Heritage

Interview with Imaginative Scientist Nyokabi Musila: What Science Can Teach Us About Art, Africa and Ourselves

Kenyan blogger Nyokabi Musila has a scientific mind and an artistic spirit. She believes science is a tool that can help us decide which questions to ask. While living in London, Nyokabi came to wonder: “What does Africa really mean?” She continues to return to this idea, exploring the representation of Africa and Africans in the arts.

Nyokabi is a pharmacist with a PhD in pre-clinical drug development and is currently based in Nairobi, where she has been working in a research team that has supported the development of Kenya’s first national evidence-based policy for pediatric care. Also, a columnist for a national Kenyan newspaper, she discusses the medicinal properties of food.

She nurtures her creative side by writing on various arts, including film, theatre and photography that reflect African realities on the blog www.sci-cultura.com, under the not-so-secret pseudonym, “sci-culturist.” One of her latest posts discusses photography and film projects on Nubians in Kenya and colonial legacies in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Here she shares her views on scientific thought, the arts, Africa and what she wants people to gain from her writing.

Why did you start the Sci-Cultura blog? What does Sci-Cultura mean?

I started Sci-Cultura for the very self-indulgent reason that I wanted to create a space where I could express my thoughts and also engage with like-minded people who were interested in the similar topics. I was bubbling up with stuff I wanted to say and blogging was the easiest outlet. In effect it is a public journal. I started off rather impersonal and factual but somewhere along the way, quite early on, I unknowingly started to inject more of me in my writing.

The meaning of Sci-Cultura is a bit like the blog itself – it has evolved, which I suppose is reflective of me as a person and what is going on for me. I’m sure you’ve gathered that I made it up. I wanted a name that expressed my scientific persona and that also incorporated a single word that captures the human experience. Cultura is the Spanish word for culture, which just rolled off my mind and I liked the ring to it. Overall, it is about the meeting of 2 worlds – science and the arts. I had initially planned for the science aspect to be obvious but found myself being led to a more subtle expression – the root of science is about seeking answers to questions.

Can you tell us about your background, and how it influences what you feature on your site?

I started the blog as a Kenyan living in London, England. Someone has said this before – when you land in Heathrow, you take on a new identity – you are labeled an African. I felt the drive to explore how being African was being expressed in the arts and to answer the question: “What does African really mean?” Continue reading

Advertisements

Thoughts From One of Our Readers

Writing in cyberspace, it’s easy to forget that your words are available to the world. We recently reached out to one of our regular followers and learned that we were receiving much love from Brazil. We decided to show our gratitude to “fejapimienta” and learn what his name meant, how he found our blog and why he kept coming back. Here Fernando shares his thoughts on Brazil’s African heritage, diversity and social justice.

Hello!

Your blog is just amazing. When I landed on it by accident I just thought: Wow! I didn’t even know African people got together to reveal a rich portion of their culture multilaterally, to show us online readers many many beauties of such a vast and diverse land!!

So, fejapimenta is the fusion of my surnames. My entire name stands for Fernando Januário Pimenta, and in Portuguese, my native language (as I am Brazilian, of almost completely Portuguese descent, but with a few black grand-grand-grand relatives in the blood line), “fejapimenta” can be read by a curious mind as “feijão (com) pimenta” which could be precisely translated as “bean[s] (with) pepper”.

You must know that here in Brazil we have very deep-rooted African cultural manifestations, especially in the estate of Bahia, but widespread in almost all other estates as well. Capoeira (fighting), umbanda, candomblé (religions), feijoada, acarajé, vatapá (the most delicious Brazilian food is African in its roots!), cachaça/pinga/aguardente (the word with the greatest possible number of synonymns in the Portugues language… they exist by the dozens!!) (–>a very alcoholic [40 GL] beverage derived from the sugarcane, originally produced by enslaved African people brought in cargo ships during the years of 1532 until 1888), samba/carnaval (music, festivity), and a dense and superb folklore, full of myths, proverbs,  and jokes, are just a few of the most known examples  and I, by the way, am very interested in knowing about them. We have many many words whose origin is iorubá, and several others directly linked to African languages and linguistic branches.

Here in Brazil it is a very common phenomenon for middle and lower class white people who study in public schools (unfortunately, but truthfully, recognized here as an educational failure) to have black friends, and vice-versa. As it happens, I myself am middle-class, and as I am sort of broad-minded for acquiring every kind of knowledge about the world and all its beauties, I happen to know and be friends with many black folks.

There are racist people in Brazil, as they exist practically anywhere. As there are xenophobic and close-minded people and fanatics and hooligans throughout the entire globe – let’s exclude the Eskimos and indigenous peoples (laugh 🙂 ) whose “social contracts” don’t tolerate by any means such examples of transgression of essential social values, of inclusion, of a person’s intrinsic worthiness as a human being.

So, I liked very much your blog. It supports diversity, and diversity is what makes the world so beautiful. It is a shame there are so many people who can’t comprehend it.

If we live in loneliness it is mainly because we never learned to communicate with our neighbour’s! All the time they could have shown a new world and brand new perspectives of life to us!

Thank you for asking! It’s jolly good to have a voice! I appreciate your work, it is fundamental for a pluralistic world to breathe free of moral restraints and hateful biases!

So long!

Visit Fernando’s blog at http://fejapimenta.blogspot.com/.