Friday, April 29, 2016

Reading Period 27: April 29 - May 5: Congo

Long Read: 

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, chapters 14-19

Short Read: 

"The Main Road Through the Heart of Africa" by Robert Draper (National Geographic)

Poem:

"Le debut de l'histoire" by Brigitte Yengo

Seule dans la foule
Un an.
Un an de lutte intérieure.
Un an de combat personnel et de désespoir.
Au-delà de toute ma désespérance de cette année-là, il y avait un être que j'avais méconnu... Une question pourtant : aimes-tu ?
Trente matins de tristesse.
Soixante journées de morosité.
Cent vingt nuits de larmes...
Et ce n'est pas fini. Je n'avais pas tout compté...
Chaque jour est un jour... Un jour comme les autres, un jour avec des heures uniques. Et pourtant les mêmes.
Passe un éclair; un rayon de lumière. On dit que l'on est heureux alors, on se sent mieux... Un rêve ?... Non, c'est la vie... Alors on se tait. Quoi ? Dans ce désert social, chacun porte sa souffrance ; on voit des mirages et on marche sans s'arrêter.
Je n'écris pas pour contester ou me justifier. D'ailleurs, contester pour contester, ce n'est pas encore réellement lutter ou affronter la vie et ses réalités. On dit que j'aime ce mot : « lutter »... c'est parce que je n'en connais pas d'autres qui puissent désigner la force d'action qu'il représente.

Creative Assignments:

If you are in the French class, you must choose this option. Do your very best to translate Brigitte Yengo's poem into English from French. Turn in two versions. Your first attempt, with X's to denote words you don't know, and your second attempt, after you've looked up some words.

OR

Illustrate the story of the flying tortoise that Ekwefi tells in chapter 11 of Things Fall Apart. You can do several scenes or just one, but you must use some kind of color and unlined paper.

Writing Assignments:

Watch this documentary, Congo: The Broken Heart of Africa. There is a second part that will show up in the right margin if you watch it on YouTube. Now write a short essay answering the question: If Congo has 23 trillion dollars in gold and diamonds, why are its people among the poorest in the world?

OR

The Igbo people believe in the concept of "chi." In the story, we're told about a conflict that Okonkwo feels: "A man could not rise beyond the destiny of his chi." (p 131, chapter 14) This made Okonkwo uncomfortable because he felt that his goals were out of line with his fate -- he wanted more than he was fated to get. Do you believe in the concept of "chi" or fate, as it is used by the Igbo? Do you believe that each person has a destiny? It's certainly not a popular idea in our time. In fact, we've been told by a lot of movies and stories that we make our own destiny and control our own fate. But on the other hand, we often hear that "God has a plan" and "Everything happens for a reason." So why is the concept of fate or destiny so strong, even though we rationally reject it? Do you find comfort in the idea that your fate is set? Or does that frustrate you? Write a short personal essay about this topic, using Okonkwo's situation and idea of "chi" to illustrate or contrast with your own.

Quiz:

1. Uchendu is Okonkwo's uncle but is referred to as an "old man." What does this tell us about life expectancy for the Igbo? How old do you think Uchendu may actually be?
2. What meteorological phenomenon do the people call "nuts of the water of heaven"?
3. Why do you think Achebe spends so much time side-tracking from the story to describe rituals and stories of the villages?
4. What song do the people sing when women die?
5. Why was the Abame clan wiped out?
6. What does Uchendu mean when he says "There is no story that is not true"?
7. What does efulefu mean?
8. What does the white missionary say about Mbanta's gods?
9. What plot of land do the villagers give the missionaries and what is the result?
10. What metaphor does Okonkwo use to express his dissatisfaction with his own son?
11. Who are osu?
12. Why did the clan decide to ostracize the Christians?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Reading Period 26: April 22-28: Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia

Long Read:

Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, chapters 8-13

Short Read: 

"How to Write About Africa" by Binyavanga Wainana

Poem:

Galaa Leged (Defeat of the Infidels) by Mohammed Abdullah Hassan

Somalia is famous for its poetry. The explorer Richard Burton said, in his book First Footsteps in East Africa: "The country teems with poets... every man has his recognized position in literature as accurately defined as though he had been reviewed in a century of magazines - the fine ear of this people causing them to take the greatest pleasure in harmonious sounds and poetic expressions ... Every chief in the country must have a panegyric to be sung by his clan, and the great patronize light literature by keeping a poet."

Creative Assignment:

Watch this video, which shows a man playing an Igbo flute, like Okonkwo's father would have:



Now experiment with your own flute, ocarina, recorder, tin whistle, or fife. Can you figure out some elements of this music that you can replicate? Do you think it has sheet music or is it improvisation? How would you make sheet music for it if you had to? What notes repeat and return? Create a video of yourself playing the flute or flute-like instrument in this style.

OR

Coptic art was religious art practiced by Coptic Christians. The Copts are a denomination of Christianity established in Alexandria by St. Mark and practiced in northeastern Africa. Take a look at this page about Coptic art and then create your own Coptic illustration. You must follow the symbolic rules of Coptic illustrations (from that page):

Large and wide eyes symbolize the spiritual eye that look beyond the material world.
Large ears listen to the word of God.
Gentle lips to glorify and praise the Lord.
Small mouths, so that they cannot be the source of empty or harmful words.
Small noses, because the nose is sometimes seen as sensual.
Large heads, which imply that the figure is devoted to contemplation and prayer.

Since we're studying Ethiopia, you may take as a model one of these paintings, and copy it:




OR

In chapter nine of Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo considers the folk tale about why the mosquito buzzes in his ears. Create your own version of the story by expanding the few sentences in the book with details and dialogue. You can add characters, descriptions of the setting, or anything you like while sticking to the basic idea. Imagine you are tasked with entertaining a group of children around a campfire, and tell a 300 word version of this silly story. 


Writing Assignment: 

Mohammed Abdullah Hassan (author of our poem for this week) was a Somali leader who established the Dervish state to combat the British imperialism that he felt was annihilating his culture and people. The British called him "the Mad Mullah." Research his life and write a 300 word essay about him with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. Your introduction must pose a research question: why was he called "the Mad Mullah"? Your conclusion must answer it. Cite at least one source at the end of your essay.

OR

 The Scramble for Africa was the invasion of Africa by European powers between 1880 and 1910. Over these years, 90 percent of the country was taken over, but the country of Ethiopia managed to remain independent. Write a 300 word essay about the colonization of Africa. You won't have time to get very specific, so let's focus the essay just on Ethiopia. Start with this research question: How was Ethiopia able to stay independent? Your intro must pose the question, your conclusion must answer it.

Paper:

Peer editing is due on Tuesday! If you need to exchange with a partner still, please take care of that in email. You'll need to print your partner's paper if you didn't get it on Tuesday. Bring your peer-edited version of the paper, along with your sheet, to class to exchange back. When you turn in your entire paper on the following week, you'll turn in your partner's peer-editing along with your final draft. Don't lose it!

Quiz:

No quiz this week. Keep reading!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Reading Period 25: April 15-21: Mali, Niger, Chad

Long Read: 

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, chapters 1-7

Short Read: 

Interview with Chinua Achebe, "The Art of Fiction No. 139" in the Paris Review.

Poetry:

"Love Apart" by Christopher Okigbo. I chose this because it reminded me of the Nut and Geb assignment.

Creative Assignment:

Write a poem based on Nut and Geb from Egyptian mythology. If you wrote a draft in class, revise it. If you are coming to this assignment for the first time, the exercise here is to think about poetry analytically in advance, rather than just writing from whim or inspiration. In class, we worked on planning out both the content and form of a poem in a thoughtful, analytical way.

All story is rooted in conflict, and the emotion that comes from conflict can be the great seed of a poem. What conflict is there in the story of Nut and Geb? What emotions might they experience from their separation? Would they ever fight? How do the earth and the sky interact with each other? How do they touch or reach for each other? In peace, in anger? After planning the content of the poem, think analytically about the form. If you're writing about two people, will you divide the poem in two parts? Will the poem be spoken from one to the other, or by an outside observer? Will the poem be a conversation? Write your poem based on Nut and Geb and then explain how planning and forethought went into structuring the work.

OR

Read about Trans-Saharan trade and caravans of camels (this article has a photo gallery linked from it) hopping from oasis to oasis across the Sahara desert to trade in salt, gold, and slaves. Create an illustration of a camel train, a desert Berber camp, or an oasis encampment, based on what you have read. Use color of some kind and unlined paper.

Writing Assignment:

The characters in Things Fall Apart use proverbs to express themselves. Choose three of the proverbs and explain what they mean. I don't want you to write just a short paragraph for each one and string them together. Pay special attention to the structure of your essay, especially to the introduction and conclusion. Remember that the introduction must not only introduce your topic but yourself as a writers, so it must grip and compel the reader to take an interest and read on. Remember that your conclusion must take the reader someplace new -- it can be a new interpretation, a personal connection, an observation, or even end with a question. How will you take this topic: the use of proverbs by characters in a novel about a Nigerian village, and make it into an essay I want to read? What can you as a person, as a writer, bring to this that no one else can?

OR

Read the interview with Chinua Achebe linked above in the "short read." Choose three interesting things from the interview to use in an essay about Achebe. Maybe you can find three things that show he was persistent, or three things that show his writing represented a new voice in literature, or three things that show he is an optimist. When you've decided what three things to include, write an introduction and conclusion to make an essay of it. Remember that the introduction must not only introduce your topic but yourself as a writers, so it must grip and compel the reader to take an interest and read on. Remember that your conclusion must take the reader someplace new -- it can be a new interpretation, a personal connection, an observation, or even end with a question. How will you take this topic: Chinua Achebe's interview answers, and make it into an essay I want to read? What can you as a person, as a writer, bring to this that no one else can?

Paper

Your first draft of 2000 words is due in class on Tuesday. Please bring two printed copies -- one for me and one for your peer editor. You may take into consideration my notes from your first half, or you may just press on and finish your first draft -- either is fine. Don't forget citations! It's okay if you do them incorrectly, just make sure you cite sources when you present information you've learned from reading books, web sites, or articles.

Quiz:

1. Name something positive about Unoka, Okonkwo's father.
2. Name something not so great about Unoka.
3. From the context of the story, what purpose does the kola nut serve, beyond just being food?
4. What happened to Okonkwo's first planting of yams?
5. How did Unoka die?
6. What is the Week of Peace?
7. Name two ways in which Okonkwo is similar to Wang Lung, the main character from The Good Earth.
8. What is Chielo the widow's other job?
9. How did Ikemefuna come to live in Okonkwo's house?
10. How did Ikemefuna die?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Reading Period 24: April 8 - 14: Egypt

Short Read:

"The Dragon" by Ray Bradbury

Poetry:

"Song of the Harper" from ancient Egyptian tombs. Three versions.

Creative Assignment:

Explaining creation is difficult, and the Egyptians had one of the most visually interesting and complicated creation myths of all. One challenging image to visualize, from their mythology, is that of Geb and Nut, the earth and the sky. Watch this video, which explains creation of the earth and some of the other gods. Here's another visual representation. Do a Google image search on "geb and nut" to see many other images of these two gods. Now create your own illustration. It can be abstract or realistic. It can look traditionally Egyptian if you want, or not.

OR

Read the Ray Bradbury short story, "The Dragon." The time-traveling knights encounter a dragon which is really a train. Write your own short story in this same form, bringing Don Quixote and Sancho Panza into the present day, to see what they make of some of our modern machines and modes of transportation. Your story should have two parts -- first part in the point of view of the characters from the past, and second part in the point of view of some bystanders or other people from the present. Try to write the type of dialogue Don Quixote and Sancho Panza would say, and put them in a situation the reader will find humorous.

Writing Assignment:

What is the "Arab Spring"? Do some research and write 250 words on the topic, citing your source material.

OR

We're going to be trying out some different forms of personal essays. For our first foray into the "open letter" genre, please first read this explanation of the different forms open letters can take, and then try writing an open letter. This time, you have choices. You can direct your open letter to a food or drink OR you can direct your open letter to a day of the week. 250 words.

Three Hundred Things:

Make sure you are signed up for the countries you want, and begin filling in six or seven things for each one. The format should be the topic, bolded, and then a paragraph, indented, containing information about the topic. For example:

Hangul
     The Korean alphabet has been used to write the Korean language since the 15th century. It was created during the Joseon Dynasty in 1443, and is now the official script of both South Korea and North Korea. It has 24 letters, but these are grouped into syllable blocks. It can be written either vertically or horizontally. 
It's that easy -- go! Do it! Let's get started on this project so it can be a glittering achievement by the end of the semester.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Reading Period 23: March 25 - April 7: Morocco

Short Read:

Selections from the Travels of Ibn Battuta, pages 41, 43-53 (Ibn Battuta travels from Tangiers to Cairo)

Poem:

"One Hand Isn't Enough to Write With" by Abdellatif Laâbi

"Next to Nothing" by Paul Bowles (American living in Tangiers in the 60s) Just read enough to get a sense of it, from this PDF replica of an actual copy. 

Writing Assignment:

Ibn Battuta was a Moroccan explorer in the 14th century, kind of an Islamic Marco Polo. If you believe his travel journal, titled A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling, or simply The Journey, he visited Africa, China, Russia, India, and many other places. It's unclear whether he actually did go to all the places he wrote about, or whether he just heard about them and wrote about them as if he had been there, but either way, his travels journal gives us an interesting picture of the medieval Islamic world. Visit this site to learn about Battuta's travels

Now imagine you are a game designer tasked with creating a video game based on Ibn Battuta's travels. Would you set it in the past? In the present with time travel? In the present entirely? Would the purpose of the game be purely educational, teach strategy, or would it be purely violent shooter? How would you incorporate educational elements in an entertaining game? For inspiration, watch this trailer for the game Unearthed: The Trail of Ibn Battuta. If you want, you can drop $5 and play the game itself. But for our purposes, you just need to watch the trailer. The game is rated T for Teen but the trailer is not terribly violent. Write a 300 word proposal for a game, including the title, the audience, a description of game play. If you want, you can draw up some screenshots.

OR

Take a look at this collection of images of the souk (or market) in Marrakech, Morocco. Write a 300 word first person description of a trip through the market, based on what you see and what you imagine you might smell, hear, touch and taste. Make sure you specify the time of day (or night!) and any weather conditions, and include all the senses in your description.

OR

Revise and rework the essay you wrote for your midterm. Some of you wrote absolutely great essays that need to be kept for future use. Don't let them wither away, hand-written, in a folder that may get lost. Get them into a Google document and save them forever. 

Creative Assignment:

Ibn Battuta was a Moroccan explorer in the 14th century, kind of an Islamic Marco Polo. If you believe his travel journal, titled A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling, or simply The Journey, he visited Africa, China, Russia, India, and many other places. It's unclear whether he actually did go to all the places he wrote about, or whether he just heard about them and wrote about them as if he had been there, but either way, his travels journal gives us an interesting picture of the medieval Islamic world. Visit this site to learn about Battuta's travels

If you look at his Wikipedia page, the maps are a completely unreadable mess. Choose a part of his journey that includes at least ten stops, and make your own map. You can start with a blank map or trace one onto a larger sheet. Illustrate in whatever way you choose. Use Photoshop or other computer graphic resources. You can use other resources around the internet to help you -- there are better maps and more interesting ones available. Be aware when you're Googling that his name is spelled about 8 different ways. 

OR

After reading this article about patterns in Islamic art, create a piece of art. It can be a posterboard with geometric cut-outs, a pen and ink drawing, a colorful painting, or whatever you choose. It can even be a copy of one of the pictures you see in the article. You could also write a computer program to produce it. Your art can be as simple as you need it to be, or as complicated as you can make it. A particular challenge would be to create a 96-pointed star, as referenced in the article. 

Paper

A rough draft of the first 1000 words is due on Tuesday in class. Please print it out and bring it with you. You must (MUST!) must cite your sources. That means if you got information from a book or article, you must include a parenthetical notation that includes the page number and author if it's a book or at least the author if it's an article. The purpose of parenthetical notation is to show you know your stuff and have the proof for what you're saying, and also to allow people who want to know more to follow in the footsteps of your research and expand on what you've said. If you don't cite your sources, you will not get credit for this draft. It's a ROUGH draft so don't worry over the wording and phrasing and transitions and details too much, but do DO DO!! DO do worry about getting your citations straight. This site will help you cite. I will also help you with formatting once you get them in there. At the end of your paper you'll include a "Works Cited" page with full info on your sources.