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Anne Elise Thomas

Egyptian composer, musician, and film star, was born in the early 1900s, either in Cairo or in the village of Abu Kibir, Sharqiya Province. There is confusion regarding both the date and the place of his birth. Two official identification cards in his possession listed his birth in 1910 but in the two different locations named above. ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s contemporaries have suggested that he was born sometime between 1896 and 1907 their suggestions are supported by reported incidents of his early musical life and encounters with important historical figures of the 1910s His early years were spent in the Bab al Shaʿrani quarter of Cairo where his father Muhammad Abu ʿIsa ʿAbd al Wahhab was shaykh religious scholar and caretaker of the neighborhood mosque ʿAbd al Wahhab was one of five children born to his father and Fatima Higazi his mother Early on ʿAbd al Wahhab was enrolled by ...

Article

J. Ayo Langley

In his lifetime (1866–1945), Duse Mohamed Ali, actor, historian of Egypt, newspaper editor, Pan-Africanist, Pan-Islamist, and promoter of African American and African trade and investment, was known to African American leaders such as Booker T. Washington, the principal of Tuskegee Institute, and Washington’s successor, R. R. Moton. He was also known to Arthur W. Schomberg, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the founding father of African American history, and W. T. Ferris, author of The African Abroad (1913). He was known to African nationalist leaders, public intellectuals, merchants, and lawyers, particularly to West Africans. His book In the Land of the Pharaohs (1911) and monthly journal The African Times and Orient Review, “a monthly journal devoted to the interests of the colored races of the world,” played an important role in increasing his public outside Britain.

According to his autobiography serialized ...

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Jeremy Rich

actor and comedian, was born in the town of Ouragahio, Ivory Coast. His family had high aspirations for their son, and later struggled at times to understand why he chose acting over a professional career. Bohiri used drying racks for cocoa beans as material to make makeshift stages. He watched other performers and rapidly became one himself, especially because he loved to make other people laugh. At the age of ten, Bohiri watched a play by Daniel Adjé that really caught his attention. From 1974 onward Bohiri aspired to be an actor as well At this point Bohiri had not yet even completed his primary education in Ouragahio Once he entered secondary school Bohiri began to perform in numerous theatrical competitions At a performance by comedian Hilaire Gomé Gnohité Bohiri was stunned by how funny the entertainer was With Gomé Gnohité as a model the young Bohiri ...

Article

Foluke Ogunleye

Nigerian actress and singer, was born in Ijan-Ekiti to a royal family. She completed her secondary education in 1963 and nurtured the ambition of training as a nurse. However, her plans changed when she joined Duro Ladipo’s theater company in 1963 as staff number forty-four and was immediately made the leader of the women’s group. Ulli Beier (Duro Ladipo’s mentor), encouraged Duro Ladipo to keep her as part of his troupe because of her talent and zeal for the theater—even if it meant marrying her. She later married Duro Ladipo in January 1964.

Abiodun Duro-Ladipo is best known for her roles in the epics directed by her husband. She played the role of the eponymous heroine in Moremi, the winsome goddess, Oya, in Duro Ladipo’s most enchanting play, Oba Koso just to mention a few For fifteen years Abiodun Duro Ladipo remained a prominent actress playing major ...

Article

Robert Fay

Although information about Dusé Mohammed Ali’s origins is sparse and inexact, Dusé claimed that he was born in Egypt to an Egyptian army officer and a Sudanese mother. In 1876 he was sent to England for an education. As a young man he took up acting and toured the United States and Canada before returning to England in 1898.

Dusé left acting in 1909 for a career as a journalist, publishing articles critical of British racism and imperialism in the Islamic Review and the New Age, a leading socialist literary journal. In 1911 Dusé published In the Land of the Pharaohs, a short anti-imperialist history of Egypt, much of which he was accused of plagiarizing. Nevertheless, the book enjoyed an enthusiastic reception among black intellectuals of the day.

In 1911 Dusé began to publish African Times and Orient Review While the publication failed to gain a ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

actor and comedian, was born on 18 June 1951 in Djatégnoa, Ivory Coast. Despite his fame as one of the most acclaimed Francophone African humorists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, very little is available about his early life. “Gohou” is Ivoirian French slang for a poorly educated rural person, similar to “hick” in American English. He kept his real name a private matter later in his career. Gohou himself repeatedly told interviews that his early life and background did not matter. Rather than be drawn into the ethnic and national political disputes that rent his nation in civil wars in the early twenty-first century, Gohou presented himself as the archetype of a struggling African everyman. However, he did reveal some details to journalists over the years about his background. His parents were poor farmers. In 1980 his studies were interrupted by an illness that slowly ...

Article

Isabel Morais

Mozambican film director, actor, screenwriter, writer, and lyricist, was born on 22 August 1931 and grew up in Lourenço Marques (present-day Maputo) in the former Portuguese-speaking colony of Mozambique in eastern Africa. Rui (also spelled Ruy) Guerra’s parents were Portuguese immigrants. As a teenager he wrote film reviews, shot films, and became involved in anticolonial and proindependent circles.

At the age of nineteen Guerra left Mozambique for further education in France, where from 1952 to 1954 he studied cinematography at the Institute of High Cinematographic Studies in Paris. Between 1956 and 1957 he became assistant cameraman and director on various French films. In 1958 he emigrated to Brazil, where he directed his first feature film, Os Cafajestes (The Hustlers, 1962), which was selected for the twelfth Berlin International Film Festival. The high point of Guerra’s career came when he directed the political and antimilitarist film Os Fuzis ...

Article

Tiffany Gleason

Beninese actor, was born Djimon Gaston Hounsou in Cotonou, Benin, on 24 April 1964. He is the youngest of five children (three brothers and one sister) and the son of Pierre and Albertine Hounsou. His mother died in 1989. He grew up speaking the local language, Gun, in addition to French and Fon.

As a child Hounsou desired to become a performer but he did not share this aspiration with his parents who wanted him to become a doctor or a lawyer At the age of twelve he was sent to France with his brother Edmond to attend school Just one year shy of graduating from college Djimon dropped out Shortly thereafter Hounsou found himself homeless on the streets of Paris For a year he endured this unfortunate situation but somehow while still on the streets he was discovered by the fashion designer Thiery Mugler Hounsou s tall ...

Article

Elena Bertoncini Zúbková

, Tanzanian actress, theater and film producer, playwright and scholar, was born in Morogoro District, Tanzania (then Tanganyika). She received her primary education in a Catholic school in Tanzania and later obtained a master’s degree in fine arts from the Yale University Drama School. In 1985, she received her doctorate from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, where she presented the dissertation “Politics and Theatre in Tanzania after the Arusha Declaration, 1967–1987.” She joined the Department of Fine and Performing Arts at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, teaching theater practice and art for social mobilization. She served as the head of department, associate dean, then dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, member of the university council and subsequently acting director of public service of Dar es Salaam University. She also taught at foreign universities; for example, in 2001 she was a ...

Article

Siphokazi Koyana

South African novelist, poet, playwright, storyteller, actor, and motivational speaker, was born on 27 August 1943 in Gungululu, a village in Tsolo, in the former Transkei, which is now part of the Eastern Cape province. Her father, like many others, was a migrant laborer who worked in Cape Town, about 621 miles (1,000 km) away from his family. When she was 5, she and her immediate family moved to the black locations outside Cape Town to better attend to her mother’s ailing health.

In 1959 Magona completed the junior certificate at Lourdes Secondary School in Mzimkhulu in the former Transkei. In 1961 she graduated from St. Matthews Teacher Training College in Keiskamahoek in the former Ciskei. In 1962 she taught at Hlengisa Primary School, Nyanga Township, Cape Town, before the birth of her first child in 1963 and her marriage in 1964. From 1963 to 1967 she worked ...

Article

George Ogola

Kenyan novelist, actor, and newspaper humorist and cultural critic, was born in 24 October 1954 in Nyeri, Central Kenya, a place he immortalized in his newspaper column, “Whispers,” as “the slopes of Mount Kenya,” a literal reference to the region’s mountainous topography. He was Octavia Muthoni and Elijah Mutahi Wahome’s first child in a family of eight children (two girls and six boys). Mutahi attended Catholic schools, a life that graced his writings. Baptized Paul, a name he later dropped, Mutahi became an altar boy at his local church and later joined the seminary, in what should have led him to joining the Catholic priesthood. Despite being encouraged by his parents to train as a priest, Mutahi dropped out of the seminary in 1972 because he found the institution too strict for his liberal ideas Instead he joined Kirimara High School for his A level education the last two ...

Article

Justin J. Corfield

A Nigerian playwright, and also an actor, theater manager, and musician—the film producer Michael Crawford described him as “one of the principal cultural presences in West Africa”—Herbert Adedeji Ogunde was born on 31 May 1916 at Ososa, near the city of Ijebu Ode, in the southwest of Nigeria. His father and his grandfather had been tribal chiefs of the Yoruba people. Initially Herbert Ogunde worked as a schoolteacher and then served as a member of the Nigerian police force under the British from 1943, before establishing a professional theater company in Nigeria in the late 1940s.

His initial work, like those of some of his contemporaries including A. B. David, P. A. Dawodu, and G. T. Onimole, was supported by the Christian Church. In 1944 Ogunde produced his first opera, The Garden of Eden and the Throne of God which was commissioned by ...

Article

Lara Allen

South African singer, film actress, and fashion model, was born on 2 April 1928, in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg. Rathebe’s mother was a domestic worker, and initially Rathebe was brought up by her maternal grandparents. When her mother remarried, Rathebe moved to the Johannesburg suburb of Sophiatown, where she went to school. Born Josephine Malatsi, she changed her name to Dolly Rathebe at the beginning of her performance career.

In her late adolescent years Rathebe sang jazz standards as an amateur at private parties and in jazz clubs. In 1949 her vocal abilities and performance acumen were noticed by recording company talent scout Sam Alcock, and she was invited to audition for the second film to be made in South Africa with an all-black cast: African Jim (later retitled Jim Comes to Joburg Rathebe won the leading female role that of a nightclub singer Her performance launched her ...

Article

Abdul Karim Bangura

Paul Leroy Bastill Robeson’s character and worldview were the products of a complex mix of forces at a time when segregation was legal in the United States and blacks were being lynched by white mobs especially in the South It is within this historical context that Robeson was able to forge a revolutionary ethic from a religion that allows African influences through musical creativity that did not divorce the sacred from the secular Although he spent eight years in segregated elementary schools during his high school days Robeson had positive encounters with whites with the exception of a racist principal who hated him because of his outstanding scholarly and athletic qualities Consequently Robeson perceived whites on balance as individuals but he also realized that most of them did not welcome competition from blacks Because his father insisted on personal integrity which included the idea of maximum human fulfillment throughout ...

Article

Elisabeth Harney

Senegalese artist, painter, and actor, was born in Saint-Louis, Senegal. Originally trained as a stenographer, Seye is self-taught as a visual artist and actor. She participated in the much heralded Premier Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres in Dakar (1966) and, at the bequest of the Senegalese minister of culture, three years later in the First Pan-African Cultural Festival in Algiers, where she won a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) grant to support a training residency in Ivory Coast. Her residency led to a solo exhibition in the Hôtel Ivoire (1972), participation in the widely touring state-sponsored Senegalese Art Today (which opened in Paris at the Grand Palais in 1974), and a place within the festival of arts and culture called “FESTAC” in Lagos in 1977 She has enjoyed a broad ranging patronage from public commissions for the Ethiopian offices of the Organization of African Unity and ...

Article

Joel Gordon

Egyptian movie star and bridge master, was born Michel Dimitry Chalhoub in Alexandria on 10 April 1932 to parents of Lebanese Catholic origin. Joseph Chalhoub, his father, a successful lumber merchant, moved the family to Cairo when Michel was four. During World War II his business expanded. The family moved into an upscale apartment in the exclusive Garden City neighborhood. As a teen, Michel attended the Cairo branch of the prestigious English-language Victoria College. His parents frequented the fashionable clubs and casinos with the glitterati of Egyptian society. His mother, Claire, became a frequent gambling partner—Sharif has called her a “mascot”—of the notorious King Faruq, who would summon her at all hours to play by his side and who regularly visited the family flat.

Young Michel showed little aptitude for academics He was drawn to sports Via an uncle he developed an attraction to French culture and language He also ...

Article

Robert Fay

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, then under British Colonial rule, Michel Shalhoub was the son of a successful timber merchant. He attended private English schools in Egypt and then graduated from Cairo’s Victoria College. He converted to Islam, changed his name to Omar Sharif, and embarked on an acting career. Sharif achieved stardom in Egypt with Sina Fil Wadi (The Blazing Sun, 1954), which also starred Faten Hamama, whom he married. They had one child, a son named Tarek.

Sharif’s work caught the notice of English director David Lean, who cast him as Sherif Ali ibn el Kharish in Lawrence of Arabia (1962). The role earned him an Academy Award nomination, and catapulted him into international stardom. His smoldering romantic presence captivated audiences and made him one of the most successful stars of the 1960s. In 1965 Sharif again teamed up with Lean this ...

Article

Joel Gordon

Egyptian stage and screen star, director and playwright, was born in Cairo on 14 July 1898, the son of Abd Allah Wahbi Pasha, a senior engineer in the public works ministry. He later recalled attending his first play, Othello, in Sohag, the Upper Egyptian city where his father was posted when he was a boy. In 1912 the family moved back to Cairo, and Wahbi became drawn to the theater district and began acting. His father disapproved—acting was no profession for an elite son—and sent the boy to Italy to study electrical engineering. Undaunted, in Milan he attended a prestigious acting conservatory. By the time he returned to Egypt, in 1922, his father had died, leaving Wahbi with a substantial inheritance, which he utilized to pursue his artistic dreams.

In March 1923 he founded the Ramsis Theater Company The troupe would become home to many of ...

Article

Joel Gordon

Egyptian actress and publisher, was born in Tripoli, Lebanon, on 15 January 1898. She is also known as Rose al-Youssef. Yusuf’s mother died in childbirth and her father relocated to Alexandria, Egypt. Soon after, he traveled to Brazil, leaving Yusuf with friends, and was never heard from again. At age seven Yusuf ran away to Cairo, where she began frequenting the theater district. Aziz Eid, leader of an acting troupe, “adopted” her, teaching her to read and write and giving her minor parts. Her break came when she was fourteen. She filled in as an understudy playing a seventy-year-old grandmother and never looked back. Taking the stage name Rose al-Youssef (she would also be known as the Sarah Bernhardt of the East), she played with other leading companies, including the Ramsis Theater Company directed by Yusuf Wahbi, and became the first lady of the Egyptian stage.

In 1918 ...