Saturday, April 30, 2011

Farida Bedwei: Definition of a Miracle

Born in Nigeria and growing up in Grenada and the U.K., Farida Bedwei moved to Ghana with her family in the late 1980s.  Developing cerebral palsy as an infant, she has achieved to become a top software engineer in Ghana, and now an author.

Her first book is a novel, Definition of a Miracle.  Precocious girl-child Zaara, on her family's move from England to Ghana, has to deal with life in a society where her cerebral palsy is not understood.

I went to a reading Farida gave at the end of February at the Goethe Institute in Accra, a frequent sponsor of arts-focused events.  The evening was hosted by Ghana-based writer Nana Nyarko Boateng, whose Writers Project of Ghana is promoting creative writing and authors in and around Accra.

I offered to shoot some photos of the event, and here are a few of the results.

Nana introduces Farida.

Farida reading.

A smile for a successful event.

You can buy her book on Amazon.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Burundi's Biking Bananas!

This little video of mine - about cargo bikers in the tiny African country of Burundi - debuted at the April 2011 Filmed By Bike weekend, a Portland, Oregon festival dedicated to short films about bikes and bike culture.

Check it out, it's zany and banana-licious.

I'm totally excited that I can call myself an independent filmmaker!

And now at least you know where Burundi is.

Many thanks to my friend, Mike Vogel, for cluing me in to the Filmed By Bike tradition and for kicking my butt enough to put something together for it.  Check out his own film, "Right Hook," which was nominated for the best-video award.  It's a hilarious take on what many bikers wish they could do to inconsiderate drivers.

Thanks for watching.  And, if you liked, do share.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Burundi Finally Makes Me Famous, Sorta

I'll finally swagger on the world wide web what I've been bragging about, to anyone in-person who will listen, for the last two months: I am an independent filmmaker with a short film debuting soon in an international film festival in the US!

That's real soon, in fact, next weekend April 15 - 17 at a yearly Portland, Oregon lovefest known as Filmed By Bike.  Portland's got a great bike culture and a great arts culture, and when those two get in bed together they make a freaky love child, a film fest dedicated to bike-themed film shorts.

After a raucous street party on Friday night April 15 with 3 evening sessions featuring the craziest of this year's crop, my little vid is gonna show during Shorts Program B, on at 5 p.m. Saturday April 16 (all ages show) and 9 p.m. Sunday April 17 (21+).

Here's the listing:

Burundi’s Biking Bananas | 2:55
Joe Lapp – Africa
Joe goes down into the heart of Africa and documents how much cargo can be carried by the simplest of bikes, including the speed-demon, daredevil banana bikers.

I lived in Burundi for just shy of a year back in 2009.  There, biking's about as much fun as one can have in a country near the bottom of the world's development list, and so I hit the pedals a lot.  Luckily, I also did enough documentary work on the local cargo bike culture that I could pull off my film festival debut.

To check out a few of the stills featured in my film, click over to my Burundi blog.  There's a post about the video, and plenty of blog entries about my biking adventures in Burundi's hills.

My friend Mike Vogel's got a fabulous short on, too, "Right Hook."  It's showing same times as mine, and also in the Friday night sessions.

If you're lucky enough to be anywhere near Portland next weekend (I'm stuck in Ghana), get your bike-shorts-wearing butt to FBB.  And this ain't your grandma's film festival, so be ready to live it up and cheer your (head) off.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tour of Ghana Starting Line Photos: Joe Ronzio

Though I couldn't stick around for the actual start of the cycling Tour of Ghana road race this past Friday, my photographer friend Joe Ronzio could.  He took some great shots of the riders as they waited, then rode out.

Joe's been using his camera to good advantage all around Accra, in fact.  For more of his photos from the Tour's start, and from around Ghana, check out his Flickr page:

Meanwhile, enjoy these teasers:

lineup and pre-race smiles
lineup and pre-race smiles
contemplating the task
contemplating the task
the start
the start

Monday, April 4, 2011

Who Knew? - A "Tour of Ghana" Bike Race!

This past Friday morning I dropped by the Accra sports stadium to check out the opening of the Tour of Ghana cycling race, running from April 1 to April 9.  Apparently, there are a lot more bikers eager to do a road race in the country than I ever expected.

Arriving an hour or two before the scheduled start, there were already dozens of riders checking over their bikes, teams setting out on last-minute warm-up rides, and makeshift support vehicles getting set for the race to begin.

The nine-day tour is being sponsored by Cowbell, a major brand of milk powder products manufactured by the Promasidor food company.  Since most of the riders appeared to be wearing Cowbell-logoed shirts, helmets, gloves, and biking shorts, it seems the company has taken its sponsorship duties seriously.

Or maybe they're just aiming for maximum advertising.  In any case, the jersey colors for the different teams were delicious - Strawberry-milk-powder pink for one team, Mocha-flavored-brown for another, a bright green same as the Choco-Malt flavor's packaging for a third, and so on.

The number of colors and teams was impressive, a bigger tour than I would have thought: 10 teams of eight riders each.

Apparently, yearly national bike races have a bit of history in the country, though one hasn't been attempted since the early 2000s.  "This day is historic for cycling in Ghana," Dennis Moore, Director of Communications for the Ghana Cycling Association, told me.  "Here all attention is usually on football, but today is the beginning of a historic uplift for Ghana cycling."

The inflatable Cowbell starting arch.

According to the press kit, here are the Tour's nine stages:

Day 1: from Accra west to the town of Mankessim
Day 2: Cape Coast (famous sea-side slave castles) to the coastal town of Takoradi
Day 3: Asin Fosu north to the Ashanti-kingdom city of Kumasi
Day 4: Kumasi to the town of Sunyani
Day 5: a ride around the northern center Tamale
Day 6: riding south just below Tamale, from Buipe on the banks of the Black Volta River to Kintampo
Day 7: two separate rides around the towns of Kumasi and Koforidua
Day 8: through the hills around Koforidua
Day 9: from the town of Mamfe through the hill station of Aburi and back to Accra

So good luck all you Cowbell-colored riders.  I hope to greet you at the finish line in Accra on Saturday.