Angelina Jolie's Passion For Africa
Angelina Jolie.

Angelina Jolie's Passion For Africa


Angelina Jolie's interview with Anderson Cooper.

By Jane Musoke-Nteyafas
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First published: June 23, 2006


The tides are changing in Hollywood as more A-list celebrities are taking on more humanitarian causes. In the process they are highlighting some of the darker issues which are happening in certain areas in Africa and bringing the necessary media attention these regions need. What the celebrities are bringing attention to is not new; we all know that Africa has had more than its share of problems for decades. It is a reminder that these things are still going on. The absolute horror of the plight of refugees worldwide, but especially in Africa is known, but dismissed.


Celebrity activism is not a new phenomenon. In 1985, done again in 2005, Bob Geldorf held the Live Aid Concert for victims of famine in Ethiopia, which raised over $250 million. In the same year, the song We Are the World written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, produced and conducted by Quincy Jones and recorded by a super group of popular musicians billed as USA for Africa was released. The charity single was produced to raise funds to help famine relief efforts in Ethiopia.

Celebrities Put Africa On the Agenda Again

What is different now is the fact that more of Hollywood's A-list activists are flooding more regions in Africa than Ethiopia. George Clooney's appearance on the Oprah show, after his recent trip to war-ravaged Darfur, attracted more media attention than any person who had ever talked about the atrocities being committed in Darfur. Oprah Winfrey herself has used her power and status to remind the world of the AIDS pandemic in South Africa and has also created the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

Irish rock band U2's lead singer Bono and Hollywood actor Chris Tuckers visit to Uganda was filmed in MTV's documentary, "Diary of Bono and Chris Tucker: Aiding Africa", where Bono advocated for Americans to "turn compassion into cash!" They also visited Ethiopia. Bono, who is perhaps the worlds most known celebrity ambassador who has leveraged his fame to bring international attention to African social ills, has also made stops in other African countries like Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Mali and Ghana.


Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys.
Image Source: keepachildalive.org

Grammy Award-winner and R&B singer Alicia Keys visited a children's health project she assists with funding in Mombasa, Kenya. She also went to Uganda on a four-day tour to support the fight against AIDS in Africa. Keys is one of several high-profile American celebrities supporting the New York-based charity, Keep a Child Alive (KCA), which provides treatment to parents and their children living with HIV/AIDS in Africa. In Uganda, the organization funds Masaka Healthcare Center and Kairos Medical Center in Namuwongo, which provide adult and child AIDS treatment services to families living with HIV.

British actor Ralph Fiennes founded a charity to ameliorate the poor and desperate state of affairs in Kenyan slums after the filming of the Constant Gardner in East Africa. Other celebrities like Mia Farrow, Danny Glover, Quincy Jones, Clay Aiken, Audrey Hepburn, Naomi Watts and Laurence Fishburne have also been heading African causes.

Angelina Jolie's Passion For Africa

One-on-one with Angelina Jolie: Angelina Jolie's interview with Anderson Cooper
One-on-one with Angelina Jolie:
Angelina Jolie's interview with Anderson Cooper.
Image Source: cnn.com

Tuesday June 20th was World Refugee Day. It was also the day that Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie's interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 was aired. Jolie, who has visited numerous refugee camps, was eager to discuss their plight. When Jolie first took on her role as Goodwill Ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, she faced a lot of criticism from cynical critics who thought that it was just a publicity stunt. But years later, Angelina Jolie has proved that she really is interested in the plight of the underprivileged, especially African refugees. Jolie has a special relationship with Africa which has nothing to do with soliciting paparazzi attention to sell her latest movie.

Unlike many other celebrities who use their charitable impulses for more media exposure and to promote their latest projects, Jolie is very knowledgeable about the subject of refugees from her own personal experiences and interactions with them. According to Anderson Cooper's blog on CNN.com, the Oscar-winning actress, who said she gives a third of her income to refugees and other causes, doesn't just talk the talk, she walks the walk. She has traveled to about 20 countries over the years as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and visited numerous refugee camps.

Angelina Jolie, baby Shiloh Nouvel and Brad Pitt
Angelina Jolie, baby Shiloh Nouvel and Brad Pitt.
Image Source: hellomagazine.com

In her first U.S. TV interview since her baby daughter Shiloh Nouvel was born last month, Jolie appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Tuesday 20th June 2006. The Hollywood actress talked about her family which includes Brad Pitt, Maddox, Zahara as well as Shiloh Nouvel, the trials of giving birth, her and humanitarian causes -- but the focus of the interview was the plight of refugees. During the two-hour program, viewers were taken to the frontlines of some of the most terrible humanitarian crises in the world.

According to the Post, Jolie tells Cooper she's inspired by the people she helps in her role as UN Goodwill Ambassador.

"You think, 'Jesus, the things these people go through'," she says. "I owe it to all of them to get myself together and stop whining about being tired and get there and get focused because, God, it's the least I can do with what they live with."

Africa ON CNN

In the 2 hour Angelina Jolie and Anderson Cooper interview, viewers were shown images of African women who had been viciously and brutally gang-raped over and over again for days on end and mutilated. They were struck by the plight of the Congolese, Sudanese and Northern Ugandan women and children refugees. The program talked about Darfur, the Congo, Northern Uganda and Anderson's trip last year to Nigeria. Jeff Koinange, CNN's East African correspondent, who was speaking live from a camp of displaced people in northern Uganda, mentioned how 100 miles from where he was there were major human rights abuses happening in Southern Sudan and on the other side women were getting raped in Eastern Congo (DRC). Then he showed refugees playing games and relaxing at the UN camp, which has become their home and he mentioned how at least for this one day they could forget their problems. Also there were images of abused women singing that they will not be broken. Glimmers of hope in the desperate situation.

After one has seen documentaries like Invisible Children and Uganda Rising, which cover the plight of the people of war-torn Gulu in Northern Uganda, one understands the importance of facilitating the victims towards getting their voices and messages out there, so that those who may not be aware of what is going on can help them. Most of the refugees are children. So while the focus of some critics seems to be on the amount of cash that CNN may or many have not paid for Jolie's interview and whether her interview was juicy enough for the media, it is our hope that the message that she has for the world, about helping others who are less fortunate may not be lost. Now the real challenge will be to get the necessary measures in place to alleviate some of the suffering.

Sources used for some of the above: www.wikepedia.com, www.cnn.com, www.Oprah.com, Associated Press

By Jane Musoke-Nteyafas
more from author >>
First published: June 23, 2006
Jane Musoke-Nteyafas, poet/author/artist and playwright, was born in Moscow, Russia and currently resides in Toronto, Canada. She is the daughter of retired diplomats. By the time she was 19, she spoke French, English, Spanish, Danish, Luganda, some Russian and had lived in Russia, Uganda, France, Denmark, Cuba and Canada.

Jane won the Miss Africanada beauty pageant 2000 in Toronto where she was also named one of the new voices of Africa after reciting one of her poems. In 2004, she was published in T-Dot Griots-An Anthology of Toronto's Black storytellers and in February 2005, her art piece Namyenya was featured as the poster piece for the Human Rights through Art-Black History Month Exhibit.

She is the recipient of numerous awards for her poetry, art and playwriting and is becoming a household name in Toronto circles. Please visit her website at www.nteyafas.com.