GE employees shared a few reasons why Africa means so much to them.
For services cash process leader Linda Madondo, a Zimbabwean who now lives in South Africa, music has become a lifeline connecting her both to her Zimbabwean roots as well as her pan-African present.
“Growing up, we gravitated towards American R&B and hip hop and shunned local music. That soon changes when you leave your home and live in a foreign land. It was that ‘’not-so-cool’ music with the distinctive guitar, Shona lyrics and familiar beat that connected me to a home 1 120km away,” she says, listing greats such as Oliver Mtukudzi and Leonard Dembo.
“At the same time, South African music sure stayed with me, reminding me of college days (Doc Shebeleza), struggling days (Brenda Fassie), party days, and meeting-the-one-I-would-marry days. And now, Nigerian music does it for me, with the likes of Tiwa Savage, Davido, PSquare, etc. African music is cross-border, has heart, warmth, beat and rhythm. It connects you and refreshes your soul. It certainly takes me home.”
Abderrahmane Habbaina, a field service engineer for GE Oil & Gas based in Algeria, found particular meaning in his Berber culture, and also sees music as an expression of his love for Africa. Traditional Berber music is stylistically diverse, with Berber communities developing their own musical traditions, including the Mozabite, Tuareg, Kabyle and Chaoui peoples. Familiar names in Berber music include desert rockers Tinariwen.
Habbaina’s home town is Beni Isguen, a walled city in the heart of the Sahara built in the tenth century. “The seven old cities – Beni Isguen, El-Ateuf, Ghardaia, Bounoura, Melika, Beriane and Guerara – were together declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1982,” he says, referring to the M’Zab valley in Algeria. “People in my home town are a conservative folk with their own special traditions.”
Further south, Zenildo dos Santos, an operations programme specialist for GE Oil & Gas in Luanda, waxes lyrical about his own Angolan heritage and the love he has for local cuisine. He feels that his favourite dishes not only remind him of his home, but remind him of meals spent with loved ones.
“The mufete dish from Luanda Island consists of grilled fish, palm oil beans, cassava, plantain, sweet potato, accompanied by onion salad with vinegar, olive oil, chili peppers and a pinch of salt. It’s a dish that reminds me of where I am from and what we Angolans are all about. In Angola we would usually have mufete every weekend – usually by the beach or at a family gathering,” said Dos Santos.
He also recommended Angolan music. “Kizomba is one of the most popular genres of dance music in Angola. It is derived from Angola’s traditional semba dance, mixed with French-Caribbean zouk music. Kizomba is a more modern music genre with a sensual touch mixed with African rhythm. Unlike semba, kizomba music is characterised by a slower and usually very romantic rhythm. My favourite track of 2015 is Nelson Freitas’ ‘Something Good’,” he says.
Born and raised in Douala, Cameroon, general manager for West and Central Africa Ngu Morcho gets a lot of inspiration from the love he has for his hometown. “Douala is a great town because the music and nightlife create a true community culture and our fresh jumbo prawns are the best in the world, ” he says. “Douala is my small heaven.”
Nigeria’s Bisi Shonekan, a commercial proposals manager, found inspiration in the arts and community culture of her home country. “I am old school so I love Chinua Achebe,” she says, naming one of Africa’s most famous novelists. “His books visually capture the African being, its culture and convictions, with valuable life’s lessons interwoven to create beautiful stories.”
In Ibadan, a child is raised by the community. Everyone looks out for each other. There is contentment and general appreciation of and gratitude for things that count,” she says.
Living in Africa, whether moving between cultures and countries, or staying rooted in one place, means that there is always so much to love. Respondents were passionate about their national culture, but they also appreciated traditions, music, food and literature from elsewhere on the continent.
Jacqueline Karachi, a sales leader at GE Healthcare in Kenya, loves the melting pot of cultures she gets to experience in Africa. She loves Ugandan food – especially the homemade peanut sauces – and the sour, soft Ethiopian bread known as injera served with tibs, a meat stew. She’s a fan of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose most recent novel Americanah topped bestseller lists around the world, as well as former Kenyan ambassador Martin Kimani and Kenyan columnist Oyungo Pala. Sauti Sol, Gilad, and Mercy Wasike are her favourite musicians.
Does she love anything else about Africa? “I love Africa’s beautiful resilient people. It’s the place to be, as there is so much opportunity. Oh – and the 2016 Kenyan Olympic team!”