Monday, October 11, 2021

A Talk on Culture and Business Between Africa and Latin America

October 5, 2021 was a special day for me. I made a Zoom presentation to a conference organized from universities in Colombia titled International Summit: Regional Perspective on Africa and Latin America. The title of my talk was "Culture and Business: A Broad Perspective From Africa and Latin America."

For many years, I have been a cultural consultant working Africans and Americans. In the process, I published my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences and have been using it as my principal resource. 

In the past year, I have developed a particular an interest in the cultural dimension of business between Africans and Americans. An indication of this is a short paper I published, titled Culture and Business Between Africans and Americans. Then, Toyin Umesiri invited me to be one of the speakers at the Trade With Africa Business Summit that she organized and hosted on May 31-June 4, 2021. In addition, I recently published a book Chickens in the Bus: More Thoughts on Cultural Differences in which I elaborated my ideas further.

I was therefore generally ready to speak at the Summit on business between Africa and Latin America. I knew the issues I wanted to raise. However, I was not as conversant with Latin American culture as I am with African and United States culture.

I did some research on Latin American culture and was excited to discover significant similarities between it and African Culture. In my talk, therefore, stated that I felt Latin Americans and Africans would find it quite easy to do business with each other.

I did point out, however, that language differences are there and it is important for the Africans and Latin Americans to learn how to navigate them in order, for example, to properly market products.

However, I emphasized, because of the cultural similarities, the language issue would not be a major obstacle. If we can think of culture as a language, we can say that Africans and Latin Americans essentially speak the same language. 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

An Essential Guide for Intercultural Dialogue

I saw this lovely picture on the facebook page of Dr. Artika Tyner a law professor at the University of St. Thomas. Alongside it she had laced the following message: 

New book alert: This book is an essential guide for intercultural dialogue. Thank you Dr. [Mbele] for sharing wisdom and knowledge.

Dr. Tyner uses her vast academic and professional expertise to advance social justice. She is one of the African Americans who work towards connecting people of African descent, through programs such as taking people on study trips to Ghana.

Several years ago, Dr. Tyner discovered my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, and adopted it as a resource for the Ghana program. I am honoured that she has joined other professors who have been using this book for their Africa study abroad programs.

"Chickens in the Bus" for a Special Reader

I was delighted to present, on September 18, a signed copy of my new book,  Chickens in the Bus: More Thoughts on Cultural Differences, to this African lady.

Based in Minnesota, she has been, over the years, one of my most loyal readers. I made sure she was one of the first people to get a copy of my new book.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

At the 2021 Selby Ave JazzFest

Today, I participated in the 2021 Selby Ave JazzFest in St. Paul, Minnesota. I learned about the event from In Black Ink several days ago. In Black Ink offered a space for my books at the JazzFest, including my new book, Chickens in the Bus: More Thoughts on Cultural Differences.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The Print Version of "Chickens in the Bus is Available

Yesterday, August 31, I published the print version of Chickens in the Bus: More Thoughts on Cultural Differences. I published the electronic version about two weeks ago. If you have read my Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, you will find this little book an appropriate sequel. I wish to thank my daughter Zawadi Mbele for designing the cover and helping with formatting the document. 

To get a glimpse of what this book is about, you can listen to this video recording.

Monday, August 23, 2021

My Panel at the Trade With Africa Business Summit

Early this year, Toyin Umesiri, enterpreneur and promoter of trade with Africa, invited me to be one of the speakers at this year's Trade With Africa Business Summit that she was hosting on May 31-June 4. She wanted me to talk about my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences which she had read and interviewed me about. Here is the panel in which I made my presentation:

Sunday, August 8, 2021

My Book Cover Designer Passed Away

I am sad to write here that Barbara Pietrzak Nelson, designer of the covers of my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, passed away last year. If you have a copy of the book, you will see her name at the beginning, on page iv.

Barbara was a warm, gentle, and lively person who took a great and genuine interest in my work and always cheered and inspired me with her dreams of what an influencer I was destined to be. She was adamant about this, from the time she got to know me and designed my first Africonexion website and in subsequent months when she maintained it.

She sought to help me realize my dreams through the work she did on the website. Upon my request, she even made the green cover of my book a little lighter on the top than on the bottom. May she rest in Eternal Peace. Amen.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

A Reader Has Passed Away

Today, August 5, I decided to look at a post I wrote some years ago, "Book Reviewed in 'The Zumbro Current'," which I had published on my blog. The post featured a review of my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences. I then decided to look for information about the reviewer, only to discover that he passed away several months ago, from this obituary

I am saddened, especially because I never got to see him, even though he lived only about thirty miles away. Our connection is more than that of a writer and his reader; as the obituary says, Duane studied at St. Olaf College, where I teach, and he served on its Board of Regents. May he rest in Eternal Peace.

Here is the review he wrote:

Book Review: Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences

The Abner Haugen Library at Zumbro Lutheran Church has a copy of this extremely helpful book on cultural differences between Americans and Africans. It is written by Joseph L. Mbele, a Tanzanian scholar who currently is a professor of English at St. Olaf College. Anyone traveling to another country or continent would find this short book well worth reading. A few of the topics covered are: eye contact, personal space, gender issues, gifts, how “time flies, but not in Africa.” Both my wife Ann and I recommend this 98-page book.

-Duane Charles Hoven. "The Zumbro Current," October 2014, p. 7.

Friday, July 30, 2021

My New Book, "Chickens in the Bus"

Today I have reason to rejoice. I published a new book, Chickens in the Bus: More Thoughts on Cultural Differences.Ever since I published Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, readers have been asking me whether I was thinking about writing a sequel.

I had been thinking about that, and for the past fifteen years had been writing short articles intending to compile them into a book. Today, that dream came true.

I feel that Chickens in the Bus adequately complements my earlier book. I am relieved and I can now focus on other writing projects.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Beyond the Faribault International Festival

On July 10, 2021, I participated in the International Festival Faribault as an educator and author, as I have done over the years. One of my most memorable experiences was visiting the booth of the Czech Heritage Club. In our conversation, I expressed my interest in the folklore and cultures of the world, and they told me that there was an exhibition of the Czech heritage at the Heritage Center in Montgomery. This is a town in southeastern Minnesota, which I had visited some years ago. I was excited to hear about this exhibition and promised to go see it.

On July 17, I went to Montgomery and saw the exhibition. It was rich and enlightening, covering the history of Czechoslovakia and various aspects of Czech culture in its homeland and in the Czech diaspora here in Midwest USA. It was quite a delight to see books of Czech folktales--that is the folklorist in me speaking--and a display on the famous composer Antonin Dvorak, about whom I knew during my youth in Tanzania. I took many photos and hope to share some of them in the days ahead. My immediate plan is to incorporate Czech folklore in my Folklore course at St. Olaf College, so inspired am I by all these experiences, made possible by the Faribault Diversity Coalition and the Czech Heritage Club. I convey my deep gratitude to them.http://

Monday, July 5, 2021

My Neighbour, My Reader

Here is my neighbour Merrilyn McElderry, in the middle, and her granddaughter. I took this selfie two days ago, June 3, in Edina, Minnesota. A retired teacher, Merrilyn is an avid reader of my works. She adores my writings and eagerly follows my storytelling and other presentations. When she read my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, she wrote stimulating notes comparing African culture with Native American culture. She could do this easily, having worked in a Chippewa reservation for 15 years. What a blessing it is to have people like her in my corner.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Different Cultures, Different Perspectives, Different Conversations

On January 8, 2021, I conducted a faculty seminar here at St. Olaf College titled Different Cultures, Different Perspectives, Different Conversations. This was part of my contribution towards creating a more dynamic, diverse, and inclusive community on campus and beyond. The seminar was based on my book Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Patrick Hemingway's Birthday

Today, June 28, is Patrick Hemingway's birthday. He was born on June 28, 1928. What a coincidence of numbers. 

I called him and he answered the phone right away. Despite his advanced age, he has no problem remembering me and my voice. I had hardly greeted him when I said Happy Birthday. He sounded more lively than he has been for many months.

I thanked him for all he has done to help me in my study of Ernest Hemingway. We went on to chat about Ernest Hemingway, of course, and we focused in particular on the mystique of Hemingway and how Hemingway himself delighted in not just letting it flourish but also stoking it with his own imaginary tales which he passed off as true. Patrick mentioned Hemingway's alleged affair with Mata Hari story and I mentioned Hemingway's tale of a love affair and marriage with Debba, the Kamba woman in Under Kilimanjaro.

Patrick has always expressed his support and admiration for my efforts to articulate an African perspective on Hemingway. I am touched also, by how he likes my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, which he calls "a tool of survival" for Americans. He lived in my country for twenty five years and knows what he is talking about.

I am happy to have talked with Patrick on this special day.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

A Tool of Survival

This is the most touching photo of my book Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences that I have ever seen. Abraham Thomas, a member of the Mto wa Mbu Cultural Tourism Program in northern Tanzania, posted this photo on Facebookk, describing the book as a valuable resource for tour guides. That it is so battered amply proves the point.

I am grateful to have written this book the way I wrote it, and always touched by what readers say. Ernest Hemingway's son Patrick, who lived in Tanzania for twenty five years, called the book "a tool of survival" for Americans in Africa.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Final Session of the Trade with Africa Business Summit 2021

This is a video of the concluding session of the Trade With Africa Business Summit 2021, which was held from May 31 to June 4. It was an enriching and stimulating five day experience. Summit organizer Toyin Umesiri, had requested me to talk about my book Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences.

I cannot express enough how grateful Summit participants were to Toyin for all the work she had done of organizing and running the Summit. I cannot express enough how much we all learned from the Summit and how valuable it was as a networking opportunity.

On a personal note, I was touched by how Toyin and other Summit participants received my presentation. The video exemplifies this, especially at the very end, when Vera Moore, CEO of Vera Moore Cosmetics,displays my book, telling everybody that she had just bought it. The videos of all the summit presentations, a veritable treasure trove, are available here.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Ms. Vera Moore - President & CEO Vera Moore Cosmetics

This lady, Vera Moore, surprised me today, during the last session of a five day Trade With Africa Business Summit. In the course of speaking to the audience, she raised a copy of my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultual Differences telling us she had just bought it. I was surprised by how she got it so fast. In any case, I apprecite the warm receptionn my perspective has encountered at the Summit. I am glad to have Ms. Moore as yet another reader

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

"Vita, Babel, Cauliflower" (Sarah B. Kamsin)

Vita, Babel, Cauliflower

(Poems by Sarah B. Kamsin)

Vita, Babel, Cauliflower is a collection of poems by Sarah Kamsin, a daughter of South Sudanese immigrants to the USA. The poems present experiences, memories, reflections, prescriptions, admonitions, fantasies, and dreams. It is neither possible nor wise to make generalizations about them, for each is unique, arising from an adventurous imagination.

Some poems reflect on the American experience, including the 2020 civil unrest in Minneapolis, but some hark back to Africa. In the latter category belongs “The Blue,” with these opening lines:

She told me once that she’d seen an old picture of her father in bell bottoms with hems torn, against mango trees, yellow dust of Africa beneath his feet.

 “Mama Picked Black Eyed Peas Leaves” alludes to Africa in the way it begins:

Mama picked black eyed pea leaves just like the ancestors did
to make stew mixed with all the old ways; these are the best of days.

The theme of the mother comes up again in “From the Remnants of War,” a poem that appears to refer to the wars that have ravaged Sudan for decades. With powerful imagery, it pays tribute to the inner strength and resourcefulness of the mother:

From the remnants of war you made a home for your children.
Sticks and stones that should have broken your bones instead became our homestead…

In some of the poems, there are touching reflections or fleeting comments on the meaning and dilemmas of life. “Self is Myth” is a good example of this, meditating on an individual’s identity, existence, and destiny. I found its opening line intriguing:

Self is myth. Memory, sentiment.

Later in the poem came these haunting statements:

Sojourner, traverse. Only if lucky, not if cursed, will you die in the place of your birth…

The theme of life as mysterious and intriguing appears as well in “Myriad Dreams” which starts this way:

As I lay in the hay on colorful tapestries,
I tried to conceive of the magnitude of life, inherent to this place.
If to be alive is the meaning of life I hold the hope that
reincarnation is reality, so then my soul may be reborn as a
    magnolia tree.

Notions of the absurd occur frequently in these poems, sometimes hinted at and sometimes laid bare, as in “Tightrope Ambition.” This poem contemplates the futility of certain forms of human action, a predicament stated also by the woman in the poem titled “The Blue:”

We’re like two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl

Along the same lines, a section in “Zero Dark Thirty” reads:

The Farm Keepers gone, I can finally admit it. I’m waiting for a
rain that won’t come.

Some poems project hope but others express contrary sentiments, such as “The Purple of You,” which starts on a sad note:

Losing you hit me slow like salt in an aged wound, like May
spring snow.

Reading Vita, Babel, Cauliflower is like accompanying the poet on her journey and being a witness, if not an eavesdropper. There are poems addressed to some third party, and we readers are just eavesdroppers. As I have said, these poems spring from an adventurous imagination. Reading them in succession, I saw the images embedded in them fluttering on the pages like butterflies. These poems are by no means the work of a novice. I sensed this when I saw the epigraph, lines from T.S. Eliot’s “Ash Wednesday.” A remarkable accomplishment as it is, this collection bears the promise of Sarah Kamsin’s bright future as a poet.

Vita, Babel, Cauliflower
is published by Kamsin LLC, Minneapolis, 2020.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Cultural Connections


Cultural Connections: Almost all of us trace ancestry to refugees 

Tani waa kuu muhiim adiga.  Fadlan aqri.

Ogeysiis!  Importante para Usted, por favor lĂ©alo. Please read!

Announcements brought to you by Cultural Bridges of St. Joseph, a committee of Central Minnesota Community Empowerment Organization. We are dedicated to ease your transition into our community.


by Juliana Howard

The recent decision  to change the name of this column from Refugee/Immigrant News to Cultural Connections got me thinking and doing a little research. One definition of refugee is “a person forced to leave his or her country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster.” Unless we are Native American, we can all trace our roots back to immigrants and in many cases, refugees.

My heritage is Norwegian on my father’s side, and Scotch Irish on my mother’s. My father’s mother Anna came to America when she was 5 years old. Her mother died aboard the ship. Like many Norwegians, they were fleeing agricultural disasters that had led to famine. In other words, they were refugees. My maternal  great-grandparents were escaping from the potato famine and cholera epidemic in Ireland. They too would  qualify as refugees.

There were cultural differences my parents faced in their marriage. My mom learned to make lefse and lutefisk but she balked at going to the Lutheran church because they only spoke Norwegian! Thus, I grew up Methodist but became Catholic when I got married, to fit in with my husband’s heritage. He is half-Chinese and half-German so I have learned to make his favorite rice and smoked herring, as well as dumplings and sauerkraut. 

Because of my white skin, I have been  privileged in many, many ways I have taken for granted all these years. Waking up to this privilege is painful and embarrassing. How can I be racist when my children’s spouses are Jewish, Chinese, Venezuelan and (now divorced) East Indian? Sad to say, and hard to admit, but white privilege has kept me in denial. But recent events have forced my eyes open. For starters, I just ordered the highly recommended book “White Fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism” by Robin DiAngelo.

Cultural Bridges has as its mission to increase understanding and build relationships with our neighbors who have landed here from another country. Some are brown, some are Black, some are white. All are welcome! says Cultural Bridges. We hope that changing the column’s name to Cultural Connections will broaden our mission. Because many new arrivals come from Africa, I suggest reading the excellent book by Joseph Mbele, “Africans and Americans; Embracing Cultural Differences.” Mbele, a Tanzanian, is a professor of English at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The book is at Amazon and you can explore his website and see the work he is doing at

contributed photo

Newsleaders, July 24, 2020

Friday, April 2, 2021

My Book Arrives in Abuja, Nigeria

March 2021 has ended on a pleasant note for me. My book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, landed in Nigeria. I had sent it to Jennifer Chinyelu Ikeaba-Obiasor, pictured here, who lives in Abuja. This could be the first copy to reach Nigeria.

Jennifer read the book and made the following observations at different times:

It is a great book with insight that will help both Africans and the Americans.

I identify with almost every aspect of the book. And it will be an eye opener to those from both cultures.

I recommend the book for every one to read because it is impactful.

Jennifer and I met online a few weeks ago as followers of Toyin Umesiri, a great promoter of trade between Africa and the USA, who interviewed me about my book and about cultural factors in business between Africans and Americans. Jennifer is an enterpreneur, founder and CEO of Chiblenders Green. Exploring global connections, she knows the importance of understanding other cultures. In the short time we have interacted, she has taught me much and I am grateful.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Africonexion at the KAN Festival, Tanzania

From 28 to 30 January, the KAN Festival is being held at the MS TCDC in Usa River, Tanzania. I asked Arusha resident Thomas Ratsim to represent me. He did last year, bearing the banner of my Africonexion: Cultural Consultants, which I registered in 2002 here in Minnesota.

Africonexion: Cultural Consultants researches and offers consultancy services on matters pertaining to role of cultural differences human relationships. We do this through publications, talks, and workshops. Our clients range from Americans going to Africa to Africans living in the USA, embassies, companies, colleges and individuals

Festivals are an opportunity to publicize the activities of Africonexion: Cultural Consultants, through books and conversation with festival goers, and it is also an opportunity for us to learn from these people.