AFRASO Documentaries

Link to AFRASO Lecture Series

What the emperor saw on a morning drive – a short history of Indian educators in Ethiopia

  • Beschreibung: 

    A film by Girmachew Getnet & Sophia Thubauville, 2018

    The only African country to have never been colonized, Ethiopia developed its formal education system independently of former colonial powers. Nevertheless, Haile Selassie, under whose leadership the development of the education system began, involved several countries in the initial stages. From the 1940s onwards he hired teachers not only from Western countries but also from India to meet the demands of the rapidly expanding Secondary Education Sector. When Ethiopia enlarged its Higher Education Sector six decades later, around the turn of the millennium, again Indian educators were hired. Although Indian educators have played an important role in Ethiopian education since the beginning, documentation of this African–Asian entanglement has so far been lacking.

    The film takes Emperor Haile Selassie’s inspiring state visit to India in 1956 as its point of departure. It outlines the importance that Haile Selassie attached to education as a vehicle for progress, and suggests some reasons for why he chose Orthodox Christian teachers from Kerala to assist in his plans to expand the education sector. Most of those teachers taught English and the Sciences at secondary schools throughout the country. One of the first batch of teachers who arrived to Ethiopia in 1947, Paul Gregorius, not only became a central figure in India’s Orthodox Church but also returned to Ethiopia as an advisor to Haile Selassie. Indian teachers continued to arrive in Ethiopia under the succeeding socialist government, which tried to extend education to the masses. Political and economic turmoil at the end of the socialist regime finally led to a brief hiatus in the arrival of Indians in Ethiopia’s educational institutions. With the turn of the millennium, the current government began a new endeavour to expand the higher education system, and Indian educators are once more arriving in Ethiopia, this time to teach in the mushrooming state universities.

    In the short film, we hear from several people who share their insights concerning this part of Ethio–Indian history and relations: Dr. Asfa-Wossen Asserate, grandnephew and biographer of Haile Selassie; Rf. Dr. Jossi Jacob, professor of theology at Holy Trinity Theological College in Addis Ababa; Dr. John and Lissy Kunnathu, former teachers to Ethiopia; Dr. Hanna Getachew Amare, Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Hawassa University; Dr. Mohit Bhatara, Professor of Psychology, Hawassa University.

    The idea for the film developed during research conducted by Dr. Sophia Thubauville in the context of the interdisciplinary research project Africa’s Asian Options (AFRASO). Time constraints mean the film provides a mostly Indian perspective. Its main aim is to add individual voices and faces to the scientific research papers produced during that research. Recordings were done in Kerala in autumn 2017, in Ethiopia in spring 2018 and in Frankfurt in summer 2018. The film was sponsored by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

    Thanks to: Rf. Abraham Thomas, Dr. Abraham Verghese, Dr. Asfa-Wossen Asserate, Prof. George C. Verghese, Dr. Hanna Getachew Amare, Dr. John Kunnathu, Joice Thottakadu, Rf. Dr. Jossi Jacob, Dr. Mohit Bhatra, Lissy Kunnathu, Padmakumar K. S. and all the Indian and Ethiopian colleagues who enriched the research preceding this film.

    Acknowledgement: Centre for Interdisciplinary African Studies – ZIAF, Africa’s Asian Options (AFRASO) – Germany, Goethe University Frankfurt, German Federal Ministry of Education and Research – BMBF.

Afrasian Memories in East Africa

  • Datum: Oktober 2018
  • Beschreibung: 

    Transregional interactions have produced complex cosmopolitan societies across the Afrasian Sea transregion. Individuals, communities, ethnic groups and nation-states exhibit a competition of memories as to who arrived in which territory first, who suffered more during certain atrocities, who participated or did not participate in which atrocities, who influenced which culture more, who made what contribution to whose culture more, or who should respect whose memory more and how. Such difficult and sometimes divisive dialogues are to be expected in a cosmopolitan space that has existed and constantly evolved across the ages. In such entangled spaces where shared imaginaries and memories of particular groups transcend the national scale or operate at a scale below it, it becomes imperative to investigate the complexities and tensions of scale (local, national, transareal, transregional, transnational and global). At the “Africa’s Asian Options” project at Goethe University Frankfurt (AFRASO), our main focus is contemporary relations amongst African and Asian societies across emergent Afrasian spaces. The film ‘Afrasian Memories in East Africa’ has emerged from our attempt at understanding imaginaries and memories that connect Africa and Asia, how these imaginaries and memories are produced and what they are used for within the Afrasian transregion. The film focuses on connective Afrasian memories while remaining sensitive towards connective Afrabian dynamics. Through interviews with various people, it delves into themes such as: the naming of the ocean, transoceanic trade, transculturality, colonialism, railway memories, identity politics, Kiswahili language politics, Afrabian solidarity politics, slavery memories and Bombay Africans’ Memories amongst others.

    This film project has emerged from a collaboration between AFRASO and Community Images. Dr. John Njenga Karugia from AFRASO at Goethe University Frankfurt collaborated with one of East Africa’s most renowned documentary film-makers, Ramadhan Khamis of Community Images, in producing this film. The filming involved extensive travel across East Africa, the Indian Ocean and India. The film was launched during an AFRASO symposium titled “Afrasian Entanglements: Current Dynamics and Future Perspectives in India-Africa Relations” at the University of Mumbai in June 2018. This film was sponsored by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

    Thanks to: Abdilatif Abdalla, Pheroze Nowrojee, Stambuli Abdillahi Nassir, Athman Hussein, Kuldip Sondhi, Ranjit Sondhi, Muhammad Mbwana, Mohamed Ali, Abdulrahman Bakathir, Mkuu Vae, Mbarak Abdulkadir, Hassan Mohamed, Amina Harith Swaleh, Kassim Mohamed, Dr. Kalandar Khan, Neera Kapur, Villoo Nowrojee, Siti Amina, Lorenz Herrmann, Athman Omar, Edwin Demla.

    Acknowledgement: Asian African Heritage Trust, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi Railway Museum, The Reef Hotel Mombasa, Siti & The Band – Zanzibar, Gedi Ruins Museum, Rabai Museum, Swahili Hub Mombasa, University of Mumbai – India, Dhow Countries Music Academy – Zanzibar, Centre for Interdisciplinary African Studies – ZIAF, Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform – FSMP, Africa’s Asian Options (AFRASO) – Germany, Goethe University Frankfurt, German Federal Ministry of Education and Research – BMBF.

    Special thanks to: Prof. Dr. Astrid Erll, Prof. Dr. Frank Schulze-Engler and Dr. John Njenga Karugia from the AFRASO Indian Ocean Imaginaries and Memories Research Project Team at Goethe University Frankfurt.

Small-scale Gold Mining: Chinese Operations in Cameroon

  • Untertitel: Small-scale Gold Mining: Chinese Operations in Cameroon
  • Sprecher: Ein Film von Katja Becker und Jonathan Happ
  • Ort: Cameroon
  • Datum: Oktober 2016
  • Beschreibung: 

    Ein Film von Katja Becker und Jonathan Happ (2016) in Zusammenarbeit mit dem vom BMBF-geförderten Forschungsprojekt AFRASO –"Afrika's Asiatische Optionen" (

    Over the last decade, Cameroon’s artisanal and small-scale mining sector has gone through several mutations thanks to the new policy which has attracted various international investors from Asia, Africa, Europe, and America. As from 2012 on, the involvement of Chinese entrepreneurs has dramatically accelerated the pace of progress in the sector. Some of them switched from other economic activities they were already pursuing in the country whilst the others, mostly mining professionals, moved from the Ghanaian gold mining business to Cameroon.

    Chinese entrepreneurs have gradually become main players in the gold mining operations, recording successes, while other actors, e.g. Koreans, went bankrupt and in many cases have sold their business capital to Chinese without any competition.

    Through taking over those projects coupled with their greenfield mining initiatives, Chinese investors has gained the image of successful businessmen in the sector. As a result, their working style and techniques are gradually being adopted by almost all local and foreign investors. This is the context that spurred AFRASO researcher Diderot NGUEPJOUO together with the filmmaking crew UJUZI travel to Cameroon and shoot the 3rd AFRASO documentary. The film follows several active players in the major segments of the Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) in Cameroon: a Chinese investor; local entrepreneurs (member of Parliament, businessman, and middleman); workers, small operators in “Nguéré”, civil servants as well as the affected communities on their working sites.

    The film reveals that political elite and administrative authorities appear to favour the involvement of Chinese operators because they consider it beneficial to the State and local entrepreneurs (service providers, middlemen…), while traditional rulers and business people who did not partner with Chinese are less supportive of this presence.

    Furthermore, the positive impacts resulting from gold mining are reported to be enjoyed by Chinese investors and some local entrepreneurs while the communities are left with the impact of these activities such as land disturbance, water pollution, diseases...

    All in all, the movie tries to put forward the ongoing dynamics and contradictions that are taking place in the Cameroon's gold mining.

Malaysia for me is ... - African students in Asia

  • Untertitel: Malaysia for me is ... - African students in Asia
  • Sprecher: Ein Film von Melanie Gärtner
  • Ort: Südostasien
  • Datum: April 2016
  • Beschreibung: 

    Malysia for me is...

    Ein Film von Melanie Gärtner (2016) in Zusammenarbeit mit dem vom BMBF-geförderten Forschungsprojekt AFRASO –"Afrika's asiatische Optionen" (

    2014 stellte die malaysische Einwanderungsbehörde über 27.000 Visa für afrikanische Studierende aus – und damit 25.000 Visa mehr als noch im Jahr 2006. Der Film „Malaysia for me is ...“ thematisiert den „Boom“ der Anzahl afrikanischer Studierender in Malaysia. Vier Protagonisten aus vier verschiedenen Ländern Afrikas erzählen was sie nach Malaysia führte, was sie sich von dem Studium versprechen und vor welche Herausforderungen sie das Leben in einer anderen Kultur stellt. Der Film bietet einen Einblick in ihren Alltag und in ihre – positiven wie negativen - Erfahrungen mit Malaysia.

    Malaysia becomes an emerging supplier of higher education, aiming to turn into a global education hub with 10% of tertiary students coming from abroad by 2020. Having already established itself as a large supplier of higher education in South-East Asia and China, Malaysia has recently started to look out for new regions, which could serve as lucrative student providers. Africa with its rapid economic development, high population growth and the resulting increase of demand for quality higher education has become one of the new target regions for the Malaysian student recruitment.

    In 2014, the Malaysian immigration office issued more than 27,000 student visas for African nationals, which are 25,000 visas more than in 2006. The documentary „Malaysia for me is...” explores the recent “boom” in the number of African students in Malaysia. The filmmaker Melanie Gärtner and Alexandra Samokhvalova, a researcher in the project “Africa’s Asian Options” – AFRASO – at Goethe University Frankfurt accompany the four protagonists to get a glimpse into their daily lives. The four students, who come from different African countries (Namibia, Tanzania, Guinea and Chad), talk about their experiences of studying and living in multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Malaysia. Having different backgrounds, they offer diverse perspectives on the “phenomenon” of recent increase in the number of African students in the country. They also share their personal reasons – the so called “push & pull factors”, which helped them to decide in favor of Malaysia as their study destination. Kaiho and Jenny, students from Namibia and Tanzania, mention affordable tuition fees and relatively low living costs; while Youssouf from Chad stresses the importance of welcoming policies of the government and an international image of Malaysia as a forward-looking and peaceful Islamic nation as important reasons for him to choose Malaysia. The students also talk about their future plans and opportunities back home, which a Malaysian degree could bring. Besides, the film touches upon the issue of discrimination and negative image of African students in Malaysia, which the protagonists describe as one of the main challenges of staying in the country. Thus Moustafa, a student of Guinean origin, who has lived in Malaysia his whole life, explains how he fits into the local society and tries to play the role of a “stereotype breaker” in attempt to change the attitude towards Africans in the country. Despite stories about discrimination and other challenges of living in Malaysia, the students leave the impression of being satisfied with their living conditions and the quality of higher education. Moustafa even calls Malaysia his second home. Even though opinions about future growth of African students’ population in Malaysia differ among the protagonists, the film manages to show that Africans play a big role in the internationalization of higher education in Malaysia and will most likely continue to come in search for better chances in life at low cost.

    “Malaysia for me is…” is a documentary film by Melanie Gärtner, which was produced in cooperation with Alexandra Samokhvalova, a researcher at the Frankfurt Inter-Center-Programme on new Asian-African interactions AFRASO (Africa’s Asian Options). With the support of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), AFRASO carries out research on various topics of African-Asian interactions, including migration of African students to Malaysia.

Just Another Chinese Guy

  • Untertitel: Just Another Chinese Guy
  • Sprecher: Ein Film von Melanie Gärtner
  • Ort: Südafrika
  • Datum: März 2015
  • Beschreibung: 

    Just Another Chinese Guy
    A documentary by Melanie Gärtner, 2015 (16min)in cooperation with the BMBF-funded project AFRASO (Africas Asian Options)(

    While media coverage on Chinese-African interactions commonly portrays them as a neocolonial political project; a look on the daily lives of Chinese people in Africa, who are trading, settling and forming communities, reveals that mono-causal explanations for the presence of Chinese people in Africa are misleading. Transnational migration is usually economically motivated, but Chinese people migrate to Africa for different personal reasons and come from various regions and social classes.

    The South African city of Johannesburg is a centre of China’s presence in Africa. Over the last twenty years, Chinese migrants have set up shopping malls in Johannesburg, where they sell Chinese consumer products to the local population and traders from South Africa and neighboring countries. In consequence, a Chinatown has been established in one of Johannesburg’s suburbs, where one can find greengrocers who sell goods that are grown on “Chinese” farms in South Africa as well as hairdressers and computer shops that are almost exclusively for Chinese. Chinese newspapers, clubs and associations also have their offices there.

    In “Just Another Chinese Guy”, the documentary filmmaker Melanie Gärtner accompanies Angus, a young Chinese, through Chinese Johannesburg. Angus recounts from his own life and the life of his friends. The audience is even introduced to Angus’ exceptional hobby: Playing bagpipes. With a focus on Angus’ narrations, the film presents a complex and emerging community. For Angus and his friends, Africa is not only symbolized by famines and poverty, but also represents a continent of opportunities that became their home. Angus’ friend Conny, for example, lives in Johannesburg since four years and has already established her own business. Angus admires her business model and Conny’s personality. For his friend Scot, Johannesburg is a chance to overcome the restrictions of Chinese society and to pursue playing bagpipes. For Andy, migration did not turn out very well and he would prefer to return to China as soon as possible. “Just Another Chinese Guy” depicts Angus’ role as a mediator between his friends, his family and the South African society, but also tells how Angus tries to set up his own way of life that differs from that of his parents and older siblings. The portrayal of Angus’ friends indicates that migration is experienced differently from person to person and shows that migration cannot exclusively be thought in categories like integration and assimilation. Angus, for example, perceives himself as South African. He is not a stranger in the South African society, but part of it.

    “Just Another Chinese Guy” is based on the cooperation between the documentary filmmaker Melanie Gärtner and Matthias Gruber, an anthropologist at Goethe University, Frankfurt. The film has been made within the research project Africa’s Asian Options (AFRASO) that is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Within AFRASO, researchers from Goethe University approach African-Asian interactions from transregional and comparative perspectives. Trading networks between Africa and Asia are one thematic focus of the overall project, which Matthias addresses from the perspective of Chinese traders in Johannesburg. Accordingly, trade is perceived as more than the exchange of goods and service. It also covers questions of mobility, migration and the development of communities.